Ever since Sarah Koenig and the Serial team crashed onto the scene in 2014, podcasts, formerly a niche form of audio media, have been on the rise.
The BBC declared 2018 the year of the podcast, but, whilst independent content creators have been jumping on the bandwagon, brands and marketers have been slower on the uptake, perhaps lured by the promise that video will make up 82% of all internet traffic by 2022 and focusing their efforts there.
Whilst it may seem counterintuitive to move towards audio - video killed the radio star, after all - content marketers are missing an opportunity by not including podcasting in their strategies.
A captive audience
The number of podcast listeners has almost doubled in the last five years to 6.1 million, with half of listeners under 35 - a notoriously difficult audience to capture due to the sheer volume of internet content that they’re consuming. Although this is a lower number than, for example, YouTube viewers or Instagram users, they are a truly captive audience with 85% listening to most, if not all, of the episodes that they download.
Compared to the way that people consume other forms of media - flicking through Instagram Stories at speed, or scrolling endlessly through Facebook posts - there’s an opportunity to spend real time with your potential customers if you can capture their attention with a podcast. For many people, podcasts make up the background of their lives - whilst out walking the dog, driving to work or making dinner - which means you can engage them at a time when they can’t be distracted by other forms of content.
An untapped market
Although there has been something of a podcast boom in the last few years, the number of podcasts is still relatively small compared to other forms of media that traditionally make up a content marketing strategy. There are an estimated 200,000 active podcast series available - compared to 400 hours of YouTube videos uploaded every minute - which means there’s a lot of listeners looking for new material, and a lot less noise to cut through when trying to make you and your brand heard. Of course, it’s not a guaranteed hit - as with all content marketing - but it’s easier to become a big fish in the small pond of podcasting than it is to try and conquer the world of YouTube from scratch.
A chance to show off
With podcast fans listening to multiple episodes of their favourite shows, launching your own podcast means that you have the potential to capture their attention for hours at a time - giving you a real chance to show off your brand or expertise. Of course, as with most content marketing, a hard sell isn’t going to win you any fans but there are plenty of ways to get across your message without going in for the sales pitch.
Consider using your expertise or business focus as the subject matter of your podcast, like Tinder’s 'DTR' (Define the Relationship) podcast about dating or Blue Apron’s 'Why We Eat What We Eat' podcast, which perfectly compliments their recipe box business. Alternatively, your brand values may provide some inspiration for a podcast, like Starbucks’ podcast 'Upstanders' all about ordinary people doing extraordinary things; if you’re struggling to communicate exactly what you stand for, audio could be the perfect way to get your message across.
If you really feel like getting creative, there may be a story you could tell that’s only tangentially connected to your business but which, if successful, could put your brand’s name in front of thousands of potential customers. For example, General Electric released a sci fi thriller podcast, 'LifeAfter' about a man who spends his days chatting online with his wife… who died eight months ago, reflecting on the company’s work in science and technology. McDonald’s even made a short series podcast about the how their revival of the cult classic Szechuan Sauce went awry - taking customer communication to a new level and potentially subverting a PR disaster in a fun way by partnering with The Onion for the show.
Similarly, if you’re not quite ready to commit to a full podcast series as a brand but have subject matter experts on hand, it’s worth searching out interview podcasts in your niche who might be interested in chatting about the work that you do as a way to dip your toe into the podcast waters. As with all content marketing, being useful and/or entertaining to your target audience is a surefire way to get them interested in your brand and keep them coming back for more.
With so many opportunities and the podcast boom showing no sign of slowing, now’s the time to jump on board and include podcasts in your content marketing strategy.