Podcast Success Reinforces Old Lessons in Engagement


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The other day, my significant other told me I should start a podcast called There’s This Podcast …, which is something he hears a lot around our house. I love NPR, but sometimes, I just can’t deal with the news anymore. I turn to podcasts to keep me company while I work, clean, or walk the dog. I was excited to see that the Knight Foundation had done some research on people like me—calling us “super listeners” (which is a kind of nice thing to be called, when you think about it).

More specifically, the foundation talked to “28,964 podcast listeners, 18 years of age or older, who listened to at least one audio podcast from one of six sources: National Public Radio, WNYC, American Public Media, WBUR, PRX and Gimlet Media.” Those super listeners consume twice the content, prefer a subscription-based model and downloading and listening to content later, favor mobile content and listening on the go, prefer in-depth content, and are avid public media supporters.

But when this research popped up in my inbox, it was pitched as providing “lessons in engagement.” My mind immediately went to all the Facebook groups I belong to where fans gather to discuss their favorite podcasts—and any number of related topics—often with the hosts of the podcasts.

Personally, my podcast app is filled with true crime, some comedy, and a bit of history. For whatever reason, the true crime podcasts seem to have spawned the most rabid fans. I belong to discussion groups for Crime Writers On…, True Crime Obsessed, and My Favorite Murder. In fact, not only do I belong to the official My Favorite Murder discussion group in which “Murderinos” come together to talk about the podcast and true crime, but I also belong to spinoff groups for “Furderinos” and “Garderinos”—groups for people who love animals and gardening, respectively, as well as true crime stories.

Once, I was at an unrelated event where someone was talking about moderating Facebook groups and how she belonged to a group for a podcast she listens to. I immediately, and without hesitation, asked, “Is the podcast My Favorite Murder?” She said, “Yes! Are you a Murderino?” The other woman we were talking to was confused, so we filled her in. Later, her husband reported that she was listening to My Favorite Murder while cleaning the kitchen.

If you were to Google the term “Murderino,” you’d find a number of essays written by fans about their favorite podcast and what they get from it. You’d also find plenty of articles from professional writers diving into the phenomenon of a podcast about two women telling each other true crime stories, while swearing a lot and handing out advice such as, “Stay sexy, and don’t get murdered.” You would also find a lot of fan art.

Every marketer reading this wishes he or she had fans who are this engaged and evangelical. But it isn’t just Murderinos who want to tell everyone about their favorite podcasts. “96% said they had recommended a podcast to a  friend. Word of mouth was the primary means for podcast discovery for these respondents, with just over half saying the primary means by which they learned about new podcasts were recommendations from program hosts or friends and family,” according to the Knight Foundation.

The thing about podcasts is that they are a completely democratic medium. Anyone with basic recording equipment can start one and has a chance to find an audience. And if they get successful enough—which has happened to many indie podcasts I’ve listened to—they’ll get snapped up by a network.

Publishers are catching on. Several of the podcasts I listen to are associated with newspapers. Newsrooms such as those at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the Cincinnati Enquirer are catching on to the power of the podcast. But what it really comes down to is the old adage: “Content is king.” Podcasts are able to create in-depth, quality content for very specific and therefore engaged audiences. And fans can consume it all while on-the-go (Knight’s research found that 93% of super listeners listen to podcasts via smartphone). In other words, podcasts deliver the right content, to the right person, on the right device—a lesson every content creator knows is the key to success.  


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