About 10 years ago, in June 2005, Apple began supporting podcasts through iTunes and the rest, as they say, is history. The popularity of podcasts has ebbed and flowed since then-most recently flowing as popular programs like Serial, NPRs Fresh Air and the TED Radio Hour attracting masses of listeners on a regular basis. Marketers haven't been immune to the trend. While audio has, perhaps, been overshadowed by a rush to the development of video content over the past several years, savvy marketers haven't overlooked the opportunities that podcasts present-both for spreading their messages to large audiences to promote products, services and cause, and for sponsorships (ads placed within the podcasts).
Lex Friedman, EVP of Sales for podcast firm Midroll Media says: "I think the growth of podcasting today is fueled by listeners who are eager to have something to latch onto that's unfiltered and uncensored," he says. "It's sustainable because advertisers are appreciative of that kind of captive audience."
Nate Teplow is marketing programs manager at Continuum Managed IT Services, with offices in Boston and Pittsburgh. Teplow is the host and producer of MSPradio and uses podcasts regularly in his marketing efforts. "I think podcasting is one of the most under-utilized channels in content marketing," says Teplow. Podcasts, he says, provide an opportunity to reach new audiences who can listen to content while doing other things-e.g. driving to work, mowing the lawn or working out at the gym.
"No other content marketing channels can really compete with that," he says. "They all require a user's full attention to consume." Additional benefits, he says, include a less cluttered marketing space for podcasts than, for example, for blog posts. In addition, he says, podcasts provide an opportunity for listener intimacy-there's just something very personal about listening to the voice of the podcast host.
Friedman agrees. In fact, an element of success that Friedman points to for marketers is the value of having ads read by the podcast hosts themselves. This implied endorsement, and the trust the hosts have generated among their audiences, make consumers more likely to not only be attentive-but to take action. That means, of course, that podcasters need to be selective in choosing the products and services they choose to promote within their podcasts so as not to erode the trust they have built among their audience members. Listeners are, after all, the holy grail of successful podcasting. Without them podcasters don't exist.
NPR Digital Services has done some experiments with podcasting to determine what really resonates with listeners. Eric Athas, with NPR, shared what they learned in a recent blog post. What resonates? These are the types of podcasts that NPR's research suggest generate the most social shares:
- Audio explainers. Helping to make sense of a news story for listeners.
- A "whoa" sound-sounds that provide unique listening experiences. One example: the sound inside a hummingbird's chirp, currently at about 77,000 downloads.
- Storytellers-not just the subject of the story, but the way the story is told.
- Snappy reviews-creative twists on the traditional review delivered in compelling sound bites.
Another big benefit for busy marketers is the speed and efficiency at which podcasts can be produced and ready for distribution. "We have a weekly half hour radio show," says Teplow. "I spend about 30-45 minutes prepping questions and then 30-45 minutes recording and editing segments." It's content that can also be multi-purposed he notes. "We publish the podcast, post it to our blog, and we transcribe the recording, which comes out to over 5000 words per episode. That's all quality content we can use for ebooks, white papers, future blogs, etc.
Podcasts Generate Results
Most importantly podcasts work as a marketing tool both for those distributing the content and for those placing advertisements within podcasts that target their audiences. Friedman says that there has been a definite surge in the popularity of podcasts over the past year. "We're just seeing continued growth," he says. In some cases, he says, downloads have doubled with hosts seeing hundreds of thousands of downloads per podcast episode.
Those numbers represent value for the podcaster-and for advertisers who wish to promote their products and services through popular podcasts, reaching niche audiences who tend to be highly engaged. "Over the past year we've worked with maybe 200 active advertisers on our shows," says Friedman, who adds that renewal rates are more than 90%. For marketers the loyal listeners that high quality podcasts can provide is more than worth the effort say those who are already leveraging this high impact, low cost communication tool.
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