Friday, January 30, 2015

Give Podcasts a Listen
This is an observation that I've just stumbled across several times in the past few weeks, from different sources and while conducting research on very different topics. I mean, I wasn't looking for this.

And actually, "growing" wasn't the only word used. Another was "exploding".

Well, explosions are always interesting, so I decided to look closer and sure enough, it appears to be true. There were hints about this phenomenon starting back in about 2012 in publications like Forbes and the New York Times. Just whiffs, but more in 2013.

For instance, it's become an area of substantial growth on iTunes - both in terms of the number of new podcasts that are coming on line every week, and in the number of podcast subscriptions/downloads by iTunes users.

The main reason appears to primarily be that podcasts are now easily found and acquired by listeners using smartphone apps. In the early days of podcasting listeners had to jump through several somewhat geeky hoops to find a podcast, subscribe to it and then download it to their MP3 device or whatever. And, it was equally awkward/geeky - or more so - to create and publish the podcast itself.

So - podcasting was difficult and listening was cumbersome. Mainly for that reason, most podcasts themselves were geeky - about tech stuff. And, with those impediments, podcasting almost died.

Well, you know what Mark Twain said about the reports of his demise.

Check out this page listing some of the business podcasts on iTunes (there are four other subcategories just as big!):

...or how about literature:

...or hobbies:

Want to learn the guitar? Here you go:

The smartphone has solved the most geeky bits about podcast discovery and subscription with (a) apps and (b) browsers. So not only are the numbers of podcasts growing, but their scope has now expanded to include just about anything. In this resurgence of podcasting, comedy took hold first (desperate unemployed comics will take any audience they can scrape up, and they stumbled into a gold mine). Then, sports, education and religion (churches podcasting their services). But now the range of subjects is almost as varied as blogs.

Top 100 iTunes Podcasts as of 21 February 2014

And the podcasting side - the technology to create a podcast - has become just about as easy as blogging, too.

It's worth noting that podcasts are easily embedded into just about any website, so you've got the whole web population covered without doing anything more than that! It doesn't have to be consumed even on a smartphone. If you blog, consider podcasting!

Two things are significant.

First, "big" content providers are taking note. Traditional radio networks such as NPR have started to push podcast versions of their shows through iTunes and other platforms. PBS too. TED Talks has a podcast.

And when 
Disney World gets into podcasting it's noteworthy. Here's an episode about Disney World restaurants. 

And there are 
independent podcasts about Disney! That's pretty niche-ey.

Second, "big" advertisers are taking note. It wasn't long ago that it didn't matter how many listeners a podcast had, it wasn't going to get dollars from blue-chip companies, but that's changing - at least for the bigger podcasts.

For smaller podcasts, the more typical form of monetization is cross-promotion, which doesn't require an "okay" from any big advertiser. You promote your blog, for instance, and that's where you're monetized. Or, you promote a Kindle book you've written or your ecommerce store, your Etsy site, your eBay store, etc., and that's where you're monetized.

But here, to me, is what's most indicative of the significance of podcasting: Very successful bloggers have picked up podcasting. People like Pat Flynn, with Smart Passive Income, for instance, who's even created a 
podcasting tutorial. Pat hardly needed any more subscribers ( estimates Pat's blog is worth $25 million, but I doubt he'd sell it for that). Pat jumped on the "podcast revival" a few years ago, in its infancy, and as of 12/2013 he'd had 6 million podcast downloads. 

Some podcasts are privately distributed to paid subscribers, too - and that's no more difficult than setting up a paid membership website. This model works very well for some niches and for things like training people who work for a company or who work in a particular field.

Like any other form of communication, podcasting isn't "the" universal platform for everyone, every website, every topic simply because there isn't such a thing. But don't make the mistake of thinking podcasting is dead. It might be just the ticket for you - and the wonderful thing about it is that it's inexpensive and you don't have to shoot a single frame of video! :) 

Oh - and a few other things I discovered:

1. People will listen to much longer podcasts than the videos that they'll watch. That Disney episode above is 42 minutes(!) and many podcasts are an hour or more. People listen while commuting, while exercising at the gym, etc. Long is good!

2. Per minute of media, podcast file sizes are much, MUCH smaller than video files.

3. Podcasts are easily serialized and archived.

4. You can podcast and syndicate your podcast with nothing but a phone. You can do this live, or you can record anything offline, upload the audio file and shoot it out to iTunes or whatever. Check out and similar platforms. 

5. Podcast post-production audio editing is simple compared to video editing, even more so if you start off right with a decent mic. And audio editors like Audacity are not only free, they're much less demanding on system resources than any video editor. You can edit audio on your phone, for that matter.

6. Consider using a podcast to make your blog accessible to people who are visually impaired - and even people who are simply too busy to read it.

7. It's not difficult to find cheap or even free musical "stings" for a podcast (used for intros, outtros, topic shifts, etc. - which is one of the easiest ways to make a podcast more professional.

8. SEO is about content, distribution, links, etc. It's hard to believe that podcasting - especially a podcast that you distribute via iTunes or other syndication channels - wouldn't boost your SEO, especially when you add the "social sharing" capabilities that now exist, because podcasts can be shared just like anything else.

9. You certainly don't need a "broadcaster voice", although good mic position/technique is important to eliminate breath sounds, hisses, pops, etc. Being yourself, being personable and having an organized outline for your podcast are much more important than sounding like a radio personality. If it's live and you make a mistake, listeners are forgiving. Just make the correction ("Sorry! I meant to say 'the best bread'!") and go on.

10. Many video formats such as interviews can be repurposed as podcasts merely by editing the audio a bit. If you host your podcast on your blog, creating a post with a podcast along with relevant still shots can be just as effective as a video. 

Podcasting. Check it out.

Friday, January 16, 2015