Listening to a podcast is a bit like going back in time. Sure, you have this digital arsenal of hundreds or even thousands of unique voices at your fingertips. But at the same time, podcasts hearken back to a simpler time — one that most of us never experienced — where the family would gather around the radio much the way modern families gather around the television.
Initially, I had a difficult time carving out the optimum time for enjoying a podcast, even though my recommendations list is lengthy. I generally listen to music, not podcasts, when I’m doing semi-mindless things like cleaning or exercising. And I put off trying to listen to them at work, for fear that something someone said might inadvertently wind up in my code! But given the increasing number of podcasts out there, it’s safe to say that podcast marketing is a trend worth exploring a bit more.
What’s Out There
On the surface, a podcast is a fairly simple thing. You record yourself talking about whatever your favorite topic of the day might be, then share it. Many early podcasts were little more than expanded versions of the news reports you might hear on the radio on your commute to work or school. The quality of the audio was decent, but nothing spectacular. Getting your podcast out there was a little tricky. But there were a bunch of services and platforms trying to capture people’s attention, both for content and for audience. Setting up a podcast didn’t have to cost you a lot of money, so lots of everyday people threw their proverbial hats into the ring.
As podcast audiences grew, bigger names picked up on the trend. Not surprisingly, NPR’s efforts made a considerable impact on the growth of the platform. When their popular radio program This American Life launched their spin-off Serial podcast, the true crime vibe caught the attention of millions of listeners. At the time of this writing, the season one set of Serial is regarded as the most listened-to podcast in the world, with over 300 million downloads.
This brings up another huge influence in the growth of the podcasting trend: Apple. Their free software — first iTunes and then its standalone Podcast app — streamlined distribution and made it easier for creators to get their audio into the hands of their audience. In more recent years, online platforms like SoundCloud and Podbean have streamlined the process even further, enabling creators to add their podcasts directly to their websites. (See where I’m going with this?)
What This Means For You
Podcasts are more than just a friendly voice in your ear; they are also a cost-effective way for you to put your own message out there. Whether you’re sharing your hobbies or growing your business, you will most certainly find value in jumping into the world of podcasting.
But how do you get started?
Starting a podcast doesn’t have to be complicated. With easy access to tools that will help you produce great audio, you can focus on what should actually guide your podcast: your subject matter. Think of your podcast content like blog posts. Have some expertise to share? A podcast like Radiolab is a great way to educate your listeners. Maybe you’re a writer who would use a podcast to share excerpts of your writing, like Tyler Knott Gregson. The possibilities are endless. And if you’re looking for something new to add to your podcast queue, may we suggest the local She Said Project Podcast, which happens to be launching this week via WILL/Illinois Public Media. (You don’t necessarily need a public radio tie-in to produce a successful podcast, but it can be a big boost in terms of gaining an audience!)
The Nuts and Bolts
Once you have refined your message, it’s time to get talking! While you don’t need fancy equipment or the perfect studio space, you would do well to purchase a standalone microphone (rather than using the microphone on your computer or phone) and find yourself a quiet space for recording. Especially if this is your first time as a podcast host, you might consider whether to invite a partner to join in the conversation with you. This often helps things flow more freely and feel less like you’re interviewing yourself. Inviting guests is another way to create a variety of quality content for your podcast.
Most podcasts have a snippet of music at the beginning and the end to tie everything together. There are lots of sources online for finding free or low-cost, royalty-free music. Ideally, you won’t have to do much in terms of editing other than adding music and possibly removing a snippet or two that might have gone off track (pardon the pun). Audacity is a simple and free tool to help you polish up your tracks. It is available for Windows and Mac.
When you’re ready to share your audio masterpiece, it’s always good to think ahead to things like branding. Similar to albums, podcasts also have artwork. You’ll want square thumbnails for individual tracks, as well as larger banner images for your website. Especially for a business podcast, you would do well to enlist the services of a graphic designer to properly modify your branding to suit your needs. Remember that this is likely the only visual presence your podcast will have, so make it great!
Lastly, you need someplace to store your audio files. If you have a website, you might assume that you should simply upload the audio there and share it directly. I would advise against this, as the increased bandwidth could potentially slow down the load speed of the rest of your site. There are many, many third-party choices for hosting audio files, from free providers like SoundCloud to paid services like Podbean. Some hosts also help promote your podcast for an additional fee. And almost all will have some sort of tiered structure related to how many listeners download your podcast. I personally have found lots of great things to listen to on Spotify, which is helpful for me because I’m already there for music. Sometimes taking your content to where your listeners already are can be a smart move. Wherever you choose to host the actual audio files, be sure to connect to iTunes and share your podcast on social media to maximize exposure and grow your target audience.
A Trend Worth Exploring
While it may appear daunting, podcast marketing is easier than you might think. And with the current growth in options — for both listeners and creators — podcasting is definitely a trend that’s on the rise. Podcasting can be a particularly great option for people who like the personable engagement to be found with YouTube, but maybe don’t want to appear on camera or do the necessary setup and editing work needed to create good quality videos. With podcasting, you can embrace the more personable delivery of your message in a format that is more user-friendly for creators. Whether connecting with fellow hobbyists or improving engagement with your customers, you owe it to yourself to give podcasting a try.