Are Podcasts a Waste of Time or Marketing Gold?

It’s a paradox. Podcasts are either the hot new thing or a clunky, outdated method of communication. Some brands are seeing great results while others wouldn’t even consider the tactic. So, naturally, it can be difficult to determine whether or not podcasts are a worthwhile endeavor to include in your marketing efforts.

I’ll admit it, my first inclination is to agree that podcasts are sort of outdated. I remember being intrigued by podcasts when I got my first iPod in high school, but I quickly forgot about them and never even thought about listening to a podcast until I graduated from college and joined the marketing workforce. Personally, I believe podcasts have some issues with their image, given that they are sometimes considered just another version of talk radio. And we all know what video did to the radio star. Plus, the rise of social media and its constant proliferation of instant communication made podcasts seem ever more outdated.

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The thing is, they’re coming back in a big way. Americans are listening to more than 21 million hours of podcasts every day, according to Edison Research. On top of this, the number of Americans who have listened to podcasts in the past month has almost doubled from 2008 to 2015, awareness of podcasting has doubled from 2006 to 2015, and the number of Americans who have listened to a podcast has more than doubled from 2006 to 2015. (Pew Research Center)

If podcasts are right for your audience, they could give your failing content marketing efforts the edge they need.

How Do I Know if Podcasts are Worth My Time?

If you do some research about the benefits of podcasts, you’ll find a lot of articles with polar opposite views covering everything from the strongly opposed “Why You Should NOT Start a Podcast” to the indecisive “Should You Really Start a Podcast?” to convincing “The Single Most Important Reason Why You Should Start a Podcast” (Yes, I reference each of these in this article). And each of these articles is valid, in its own right. Whether podcasts are a waste of time or marketing gold ultimately depends on variables that are specific to your organization.

One of the primary reasons that podcasts have a seat at the marketing table today, though, is because of content overload. Content marketing has taken over in such a way that content production is consistently increasing while engagement is decreasing. (Track Maven)

Realistically, people can only read so much and the majority of content takes the form of the written word. Diversifying content into different mediums allows content creators to stand out against a sea of blogs, white papers, and e-books. Podcasts are quickly becoming a favorite medium for marketers for this reason. They have also become an audience favorite for those who still want to consume content but don’t have time to put their full attention towards reading. These listeners often choose to play podcasts while driving, cleaning, jogging, etc.

Still, there are many marketers who believe that podcasts are not effective or useful tools.

Why Podcasts are a Waste of Time

If I’ve already convinced you that you should start your very own podcast, let’s take a few steps back and look critically at the reasons you should not start a podcast.

  1. It can be very difficult to get a full picture of your listener audience and their actions–whether they’re new listeners or repeat listeners, and whether or not they’re going back to your website or blog after listening.
  2. Podcasts take a whole different process and skill set than writing content does. If you’re not already familiar with the creation process and editing software, they can take a lot more effort. The standard steps include planning, production, scheduling interviews (possibly, if your podcast is in an interview format), post production editing, hosting, and distributing.
  3. It can be difficult to drive your podcast listeners to action. It makes sense in some ways that podcasts don’t see a ton of follow up activity—I already stated above that many people choose podcasts because they can be passively consumed while the listener occupies themselves in other ways. Additionally, taking action from a podcast typically takes a little more effort than other types of content where users typically have the ability to just click a link or button. Spencer Haws of Niche Pursuits gave the follow examples in his blog “Why You Should NOT Start a Podcast”; Out of 2,000 downloads of a podcast he sponsored, only 7 listeners went to the link offered at the end as a call to action and out of 7,724 downloads of his own podcast, the link offered at the end of the podcast has only been visited 70 times.
  4. Simply put, podcasts are not an ideal method to directly grow your business and they take time away from efforts that could do this. Given the extra time necessary to produce podcasts and the difficulties tracking listenership and driving this listenership to profitable action, if you’re looking for a marketing tactic that can be easily tied to increased revenue, podcasts will likely waste your time.


Why Podcasts are Marketing Gold

It’s clear that there is still a wealth of value in podcasting for a substantial number of marketers. So, it follows that 32% of marketers have a desire to learn podcasting and 23% planned to increase podcasting in 2015. (The Kapost Blog) For these marketers, there is value to podcasting that is distinctly different from business growth goals and direct action, such as the reasons listed below.

  1. Podcasts are ideal for building great brand awareness as Blog 10 - Graphic 3well as more humanized relationships with your audience. Listening to a podcast, as opposed to reading an article, for example, provides an element of human interaction that can help you gain empathy from and establish trust with your audience. You can build a podcast into a cadence that your audience looks forward to tuning into—there’s simply no better audience relationship than that.
  2. Podcast listeners don’t hate advertising. Research shows that 67% of podcast listeners don’t mind sponsorship messages—and even occasionally find them useful. This contrasts significantly with the mere 6% of TV viewers and radio listeners that feel this way. (The Kapost Blog) Don’t use this as an excuse to blast your audience with sponsored messages, but recognize that if your listeners value and trust you, they will be more willing to give ads a chance.
  3. You’ll gain access to a different audience through podcasting than your typical blog reader or video watcher. Of course, the exact audience will depend on your subject. Overall, though, some of the characteristics attributed to podcast listeners via research are: young (between 12-34 years old), tech savvy, educated, affluent, and social media friendly. (Maximize Social Business)
  4. Starting now will put you ahead of the competition. If other marketers are hoping to increase their podcasting efforts, it’s very likely that some of your competitors are already starting to build up their podcasts. It’s always better to stay ahead of the curve—and in front of those who are trying to reach your audience.
  5. Content marketing is not about direct revenue and business growth, it’s about relationships and thought leadership—both of which are established excellently by podcasts. Showing that you can conduct interviews and speak eloquently on pressing subjects will build the kind of thought leaderships that gets you invited to speak at conferences, connects you to other thought leaders, and demonstrates the value of your content and your organization.

Starting a Podcast and Doing it Right

Unfortunately—or fortunately, depending on how you look at it—my answer to the question posed in this blog is this; like most else in content marketing, it really depends on your audience and what you hope to gain from your efforts. If your competitors are podcasting, if your podcast would fill a gap in the current production of content, and if you genuinely are convinced you can produce something your audience will find valuable, podcasts are most definitely worth your time.


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Do you want to establish a brand voice that is sure to bring you podcasting success? Check out our blog Agile, Simple, Effect: Finding Your Voice and Cutting Through the Clutter. In the meantime, let us know what you think of this post in the comments.

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