For an online tool, podcasting is positively ancient, having started when RSS feeds first allowed the enclosure of audio files without too much trouble, around 2004.
A recent Edison Research survey revealed that the percentage of Americans who had ever listened to an audio podcast is 29%. Further, one in four podcast consumers reported plugging their MP3 players or smartphones into their car audio system “nearly every day.” Today, the public’s appetite for audio content continues to grow, as does the ubiquity of devices for playing audio.
My own foray into podcasting began in September 2005. Since then, I’ve produced hundreds of podcast episodes for myself and for clients.
I agree that podcasting is on fire today, since it appears to have been rediscovered. Why? Well, the gear and software for producing software keeps getting simpler to use and less expensive. Plus, more and more marketers and other communicators seem to be experimenting with multimedia, and that often means audio.
With all this happening in the background, the question I hear all the time is: “Should I be podcasting?”
My standard answer is: “I would never say that anyone should be doing anything.” But here are some questions to ask yourself if you’re considering a podcast:
Why would you produce a podcast?
Do you want to educate people, get better known in your field, or create a podcast as another plank in your existing content marketing platform? Are podcasts going to be produced at your conference, or before the event to build buzz? Are you interested in using podcast interviews as the basis for a book? Or perhaps you want to read a chapter of your novel each week as a podcast, as Terry Fallis did with his first book.
Yes, you need to know WHY. If you don’t know what you want to accomplish, how can you set goals and then measure your success?
Are you willing to commit the time, energy and budget that podcasting requires?
If you do all the podcasting work yourself, podcasting takes time. Trust me. You need to plan each episode, record (either just yourself or yourself and a co-host or guest), edit the audio, mix in any music or other clips, publish the audio file, write show notes and a probably a blog post, and monitor comments. Your method may vary, but that’s the general flow.
Before you even begin to work on your first episode, you’ll need to accomplish preliminary tasks that might include finding pod-safe music for your podcast, hiring someone to create “album art” to make your show attractive on iTunes, and selecting the gear and software you’ll need.
Unless you want to “podfade,” you need to produce your podcasts on a regular basis, according to what you’ve told your listeners. If you’ve promised a weekly show, produce a show every week. One of the best ways to prevent podfading is to podcast with a co-host. That’s one of the secrets to success of my favourite podcast, For Immediate Release: The Hobson and Holtz Report. Shel Holtz and Neville Hobson have made a commitment not only to their audience, but also to each other. That’s why their show appears every Monday.
As far as budget is concerned, you can start podcasting with a very small investment in a microphone for less than $100. Monthly hosting with a service like Libsyn is less than $10 per month for most podcasts. Audacity, a popular open-source audio-editing program, is free.
The main investment is your time. Sure, later you might buy a mixer, other mics and more feature-rich software, but you can get along quite nicely with the basics for now. Just promise me that you won’t use the internal microphone in your laptop for recording. You don’t want to disappoint your audience right out of the gate, do you?
If you work for a large organization, will your podcast get bogged down in a lengthy lawyer-driven approval process?
Be sure to get buy-in from leadership before embarking down the corporate podcast path, to ensure your content will be strong, and not completely watered down for fear of saying the wrong thing.
Are you comfortable working with audio?
If not, you may need to read some books on podcasting, take a course or workshop, or hire someone to do the technical work. Several of my clients are happy to leave the interviews and production to me, because they know I can do it more efficiently than they can.
Do the benefits of podcasting appeal to you?
From the listener’s point of view, the benefits of podcasts are many: podcasts are free, easy to consume, time-shifted and portable, can make their commute to work more enjoyable, and provide excellent learning, insights and entertainment that they might not find elsewhere.
From the producer’s point of view, a podcast can be a relatively low-cost way to dominate a niche, to establish thought leadership and to communicate with a select group. That’s right. Depending on the goals you’ve set for yourself, you may not need to attract a million listeners. You just need enough qualified prospects to listen to your podcast, to recognize you as an expert in your field, and to call on you when they need to solve a problem. And although audio is not easily indexed, podcasts accompanied by textual show notes can boost your search engine optimization efforts – another benefit.
Before we even called it content marketing, podcasts had become standard bearers of content marketing. (Here’s a quick slide show that explains content marketing.)
Let’s put it this way: If you’re eager to use multimedia content to communicate, and you can commit the resources to podcasting, then go for it!
Check out my Podcaster’s Checklist for a full list of things to consider as a newbie podcaster.
Interested in a podcasting workshop in the Toronto area? I’m planning one. Email me and I’ll let you know when the date is set.