Podcast is the new black, some would say. Indeed, listening to podcasts has become a habit for many people. Dealing with a potentially endless list of topics, podcasts have not suffered the backlash of the end of the lockdown but rather, the pandemic seems to have consecrated them among the most appreciated and effective forms of communication for both personal and corporate branding. In this article, we retrace the steps that led to the success of this format and delve deeper into the steps to take to create, prepare and promote a podcast.
On February 12, 2004, Ben Hammersley, a British technologist and journalist, published an article in the Guardian entitled Audible revolution, which highlighted how the spread of MP3 players, such as Apple’s iPod, the availability of low-cost or free audio production software and weblogging represented the right ingredients for a new boom in amateur radio.
But what to call this new form of web- and audio-based communication – Ben Hammersley wonders – “Audioblogging? Podcasting? GuerillaMedia?”
This is the first time that the term ‘podcast’ is used. Over the years, it will establish itself as a word of common use, to the point of being chosen as the 2005 word of the year by The New Oxford American Dictionary.
Since that fateful February 12th of seventeen years ago, things have changed a lot: MP3 players have been replaced by streaming and smartphones, and the iPod, which has inspired the term “podcast”, has become almost historical memorabilia – partly resolving the controversy about the very name of the format, which some say gave too much credit to Apple.
This step forward technology-wise has actually facilitated the diffusion of podcasts, which have become more easily accessible, to the point of establishing themselves as one of the most effective forms of communication today.
In fact, the latest data show a leap in the use of podcasts, also thanks to the pandemic, which has forced many people at home, in search of new forms of entertainment.
The latest report on the state of digital by We Are Social and Hootsuite shows that every month 44.1% of internet users listen to podcasts (+3% compared to the previous year) and that the daily average time spent listening to a podcast is about 54 minutes. That’s not all: according to a study by Edison Research and Triton Digital, podcast listeners in the US alone have grown by 37.5% in 3 years.
Google Trends, as well, leaves no room for doubt (reference period: 2015-2020)
So, as we had anticipated when talking about the 2021 Digital Marketing Trends, these data open up to new possibilities in terms of both personal and corporate communication.
But what is exactly a podcast? How do we create it? Let’s see.
Table of contents
Creating, preparing and promoting a podcast: 6 things to do
Podcasts are on-demand audio content, often available as a series.
No matter how simple and immediate creating a podcast might seem, we can’t become podcasters overnight. In fact, like many other communication formats, preparing and promoting a podcast requires analysis and planning.
Here are 6 things to do to plan, create and distribute our podcast effectively.
1. Choose a focus
It will seem obvious but choosing a topic for our podcasts is not only the first thing to do but perhaps also one of the most difficult ones. In fact, the enthusiasm and the many things we could talk about could lead us astray.
So, let’s put ourselves in the shoes of our potential listeners. Let us ask ourselves why should they listen to us and what kind of added value would listening to our podcast provide them.
Podcasts are a much freer format compared to others but it is always good to do a podcast on a topic we are expert in. This will not only give greater authority and authenticity to our podcast but will also give us the confidence necessary to address that particular topic (and any subsequent discussion) in a broad and exhaustive way, thanks to our skills.
The chosen focus should not be too broad nor a topic that is quickly covered. In the first case, the risk would be to create a podcast about all and nothing, dispersive and without a real aim. We would end up being outclassed by other podcasts that go more in depth into that specific topic, which is part of our larger focus. Not to mention the improbability of being experts in everything. In the second case, the risk would be to create a podcast that only lasts a few episodes or to become repetitive in the long run, boring our audience.
For example, choosing Business as a topic certainly provides us with many prompts but, at the same time, it could be dispersive and not give our listeners a precise idea of the issues we deal with. Speaking instead of Business in the field of catering or sports, would give both us and our listeners a more precise framework.
Whatever our choice, the most important thing is being passionate about that specific topic. In fact, no matter how niche, a potentially interested audience will always be there. What matters is that they find, on the other end, a podcaster equally interested in talking about that topic with passion and dedication.
2. Plan and structure the podcast
Once we have chosen a focus, we must set ourselves a measurable goal to understand how to dissect this topic and the ultimate purpose of investing in this form of communication. Do we want to build a community? Get sponsorships? Starting a membership program? Or do we want to sell a product or service? Based on our goal, we will not only have to adopt KPIs to measure the effectiveness of our podcasts but also choose how to structure our podcast, whether as an interview, as a co-hosted or solo podcast.
In addition, we will also have to decide how many episodes to do, how long they should last and how often to release new episodes; whether to divide our podcast into seasons and whether or not to involve any guest speaker. To decide all this, let’s ask ourselves who our audience is but let’s also take into consideration the time and resources we want to invest in the creation of the podcast.
In this planning phase we will also have to decide the elements that make up our podcast, i.e., the opening theme, a spoken intro, an advertising interruption, a call to action, an outro.
Based on all this, we will have to create a calendar of the podcast episodes and related topics.
No less important will be the choice of the podcast name, which must be creative, descriptive, SEO-friendly, unique (always check that there are no duplicates) and representative of our brand, be it corporate or personal. Let’s also carefully choose the cover art (and all the other graphics), which must be in line with the theme of the podcast and the brand image.
3. Choose the tools, platforms and define the final details
Once we have defined the structure and look of our podcast, it will be necessary to get all the necessary tools for broad-, pardon, podcasting.
Since it’s an audio format, a professional microphone is the first thing to get: the sound quality must be excellent. Let’s also choose a recording and editing program that allows us to create our podcast according to the structure we have chosen. Among the best known are GarageBand (for Mac), Audacity or Anchor, launched by Spotify.
Then, let’s choose the hosting platform for our podcast. In fact, just like when opening a website, our podcasts also need a hosting site. Buzzsprout is certainly among the best known, as well as Captivate, Podbean or Transistor. Generally speaking, all these programs allow us to easily upload our podcasts, creating an RSS feed, and distribute them on the main directories (which we will see shortly). In addition, they provide listening and download statistics, as well as several tools to integrate the podcasts on other sites, such as WordPress, and to monetize them.
Once we have chosen all the tools, a good thing would be to do some rehearsals, at least at the beginning, to make sure we stay on schedule and to acquire greater confidence.
In general, it is always advisable to prepare an outline to follow during the exposition of the topics, so as to not to risk getting lost in too many digressions, devote more time to one thing rather than the other and to better alternate the interventions, in case the podcast is co-hosted or there are guest speakers.
This is also the stage where we have to choose the music and the various sound effects that we want to integrate into our podcast. Many hosting platforms provide their own library. Alternatively, we can take a look at Free Music Archive, Music Radio Creative or Songs for Podcasters.
4. Set up the promotional channels
While we fine-tune the details of the various episodes, let’s not forget about the promotion, which in any case we will have to carry on even when the podcast has been launched. It is therefore essential to decide right from the start which channels to exploit. First of all, let’s create a trailer of our podcast that briefly explains, perhaps with the logic of an elevator pitch, who we are, what our podcast is about, what those who will listen to it can expect and where they can listen to it. The trailer will be our calling card: an occasional listener is more likely to listen to the trailer first rather than to start listening to the episodes right away, especially if the episodes are long.
The trailer for The Friendship Onion, a new podcast on Lord of the Rings launched by Dominic Monaghan and Billy Boyd.
In addition to the options guaranteed by the hosting platform, we can also rely on traditional channels, such as social media and the website. In fact, distributing our podcast on other channels in addition to the dedicated ones will allow us to promote ourselves to a wider audience and to engage our public, encouraging interaction, debate and feedback on the various episodes. It will also allow us to launch teasers on future episodes and possibly ask our listeners which topics they would like us to cover and answer their questions more directly.
5. Submit the podcast to the directories
As mentioned, distributing the podcast on the major directories, such as Spotify, Apple Podcasts or Google Podcasts, is the best way to promote and spread our podcast.
In order to do this, it is necessary to have an RSS feed, which is usually generated automatically by the hosting platforms. Submitting the podcast to the directories is extremely easy: just click once on the appropriate button made available by the hosting platform. As soon as our podcast is approved, listeners will be able to enjoy each new episode, directly from the directory. Spotify, Apple Podcasts and all the other directories on which we have decided to distribute our podcast will be automatically updated with each new episode.
It may take some time for our podcast to appear in the various directories. For this reason, if we have planned a specific launch day, it is good to take these timings into account.
6. Promote interaction with listeners
Speaking of promotion channels, we mentioned how important it is to engage our audience before and after the listening.
In this sense, social networks are an excellent channel as they allow us, in an easy and direct way, to start a discussion, to collect feedback or ideas for future episodes.
Through our channels we can also tease our audience on subsequent episodes.
All this will favour the creation of a loyal community, to which, if necessary, we can also propose forms of subscription and membership.
The latest news from Spotify and Apple
The world of podcasts is in turmoil and more and more brands and people are approaching this form of communication. This is clearly pushing the big players within the industry to implement premium content.
In particular, the latest issue in this regard concerns the head-to-head between Apple and Spotify on the matter of subscriptions.
Apple plans to allow podcasters to monetize their work by letting them decide the price of the subscription to their podcast. In return, Apple will charge podcasters $ 19.99 per year and a 30% fee on the sale of each subscription – a percentage that drops to 15% after the first year.
Shortly after Apple’s announcement, Spotify launched its own subscription platform, stating that podcasters will not be charged any fees for using the subscription tools. Moreover, only starting from 2023 will Spotify charge a 5% commission. The sine qua non to obtain these conditions, however, is to use Anchor, the Spotify hosting platform already mentioned in our article. In addition, podcasters will have to choose between three cost tiers for the subscription: $ 2.99, $ 4.99 and $ 7.99. One thing to keep in mind, considering that Apple leaves podcasters the freedom to set their price.
Whatever our assessment of all this, it is clear that the business related to podcasts is only just beginning and that platforms will chase each other to offer listeners and podcasters increasingly engaging experiences.
Do you listen to podcasts regularly? What are your favourites and why? Do you think it is a valid tool for promoting a brand? Tell us what you think in the comments and contact us to learn about our communication and marketing services.