Podcasting 101, Part Five

by Larry Matthews

In the second installment of this series, I explained that you should think of your podcast as a form of radio. The reason I chose that analogy is because, like music and programming that is broadcast on the radio, your podcast is competing with every other public form of audio for the ears of potential listeners.

Some people feel that terms like radio and broadcasting sound antiquated in this age of broadband wifi, subscription-based streaming services, and smartphone apps. A good friend and long-time public radio guru, for instance, has dropped the word radio from his vocabulary and how advises his clients, mostly radio stations, to use the word audio whenever they talk about their products or programming. But no matter what word you use to describe it, as a podcaster you are competing with everything else out there. Let’s look at some research and numbers from sources that have some credibility, such as Edison Research:

  • What’s popular in the podcast world? Music and comedy are on top. My author interviews are not, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t an audience for them.
  • The most popular podcasts on iTunes are shows from NPR. In 2012, This American Life held the #1 slot, and radio shows represented five of the top ten most popular podcasts on iTunes.
  • Recent surveys have found that about half of the people surveyed have either heard of or listened to Internet radio, however that is defined, and about half of those people have either heard of or listened to a podcast. About a quarter of those people listen to podcasts on their car radios — or, as they are called now, “vehicle audio devices” — every day. Intriguingly, over half of those people report that they don’t listen all the way through to the end, however.

There appears to be a huge overlap between audio-only podcasts and video podcasts, however one describes those. Furthermore, users do not appear to make distinctions between the two in terms of their listening/viewing habits. A listener who plays a podcast over a car radio may well describe the experience as listening to the radio. A viewer watching a YouTube video may well say she’s watching television. And who is to argue? Does it matter whether she’s watching on her laptop or home TV? She still has as many choices as she ever had. More, actually. Today, YouTube videos are competing with network broadcasts and streaming-service original series for our attention, just as the podcast producer of author interviews is competing with NPR for ears.

The issue here is not the delivery platform. The issue is whether the product — whether audio or video — offers listeners and viewers a worthwhile experience. If not, they’re gone. Audience research over many years has made one thing very clear: To the audience, it’s either good or it isn’t.

Know your audience, produce the best product you can, and hope you connect.

Happy listening — and viewing!

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