It’s a good time to be selling ear buds (or ‘headphones’, if you weren’t born in the noughties). Not long ago we were waxing lyrical about the growing audiobook market, so it is only appropriate to follow up with a view on the other audio fad that has crept into our lives via our ears.
To call podcasting anything less than a pop culture phenomenon would be an understatement, as these days it feels like everyone who owns a headset and mixing desk is creating one. According to data gathered by Radio Joint Audience Research (RAJAR), podcast listening is rising each year in the UK, with 24% of people aged 15 and above surveyed in Q1 2017 confirming they had listened to a podcast at least once, up 5% compared with Q1 2013. Hop over to the other side of ‘the pond’ and the stats are even more astonishing, where 44% of the US population has listened to a podcast as of March 2018. No wonder content producers and advertisers are eager to stake their claim in the space.
Cracking the code to podcasting’s surge in popularity is not complex. iTunes and Spotify have certainly played a big role in putting them on our radar, but the appeal of podcasts doesn’t solely boil down to the increased availability of streaming sites. For one thing, in a world where we’re beginning to experience screen exhaustion thanks to the rising number of smart devices, podcasts feel like a breath of fresh air – the ability to enjoy a content format where you’re not required to stare, scroll down or swipe left can be an unexpectedly therapeutic experience. Second, podcasts are a form of content perfectly suited to the times we live in, where fewer people have the patience for appointment broadcasting and prefer to dictate their own schedule for media consumption, which often takes place during commutes or business travel.
But what is arguably more compelling is that, with such an overwhelming scope of podcasts available and the diverse formats they cover (news, educational, conversational, fictional, comedic, etc.), there is no rigid formula or structure they need to abide by. For example, interview podcasts tend to favour flexible and free-wheeling dialogue, as opposed to the more scripted Q&A we are used to in traditional broadcasting.
It should come as no surprise then that more businesses are viewing podcasts as a marketing tool with great potential. But while some entrepreneurs will want to jump on the ’podwagon’ purely to boost traffic generation and brand visibility in short timeframes, the key benefit is the ability of the podcast to engage with an audience on a deeper level in a way that a web page or a brochure never could. A speaker with an individual presenting style, who publishes new content at regular intervals, talking about issues that the audience recognises and identifies with, is what makes podcasts authentic and personable.
That’s not to say that every business should get podcasting right away – it’s an intimate medium that requires a degree of discipline and should seamlessly tie in with a brand’s identity, rather than feel like a clunky add-on. But for those ready to commit, it represents an innovative opportunity to expand the potential channels for a company’s integrated marketing communications. And those who get it right will have listeners coming back for more.