Are Podcasts a Viable Form of Marketing?

In a shocking twist, I discovered this week that podcasts suffered a dramatic listener decline during lockdown. But we’re doing nothing all day. That can’t be right, can it?

Figures vary, but tells us that, as the pandemic took hold, listener numbers were down by 20 per cent.

Well, this is 2020, and nothing lasts forever. Yes, with the new tier system we may be returning to WFH (if we ever left) and forgoing our daily commuting. But listening figures have actually been on the up from as early as April.

BBC recorded a record 136 million plays of on-demand radio programmes in Q2. By the end of May, a fifth of all 16 to 34-year-olds had listened in the last seven days.

Meanwhile, Spotify continues to push its podcast offering, matching BBC Sounds and Apple – up from 24 to 37 per cent in 2020. With such erratic trends in listening figures, I find myself questioning…

Should we be doing more podcasts?

Part of the inspiration for this week’s Write52 was my own podcast recording experience. Earlier on this week I had the pleasure of meeting up with Ben Porter of York Creatives. We hid away from the perilous outside world in an upstairs container at Spark, York.

This was the second podcast I’d ever been invited onto – not for want of trying with others. Case in point: Northern Power Women asked me to send in some clips after the 2020 A-levels shambles. My clips were never used. Sob. Here’s one below instead. Bitter, moi?

Prior to York Creatives, I chatted with Nick Bramley on his Impact Sessions podcast. You can watch it back here – the most haunting part is around 24:35.

Be open to change because you never know what’s coming round the corner.

Wish I could do that with lottery numbers.

But I digress. From a personal perspective, I have found my brief experiences to be:

A personal challenge

As writers, we can rely on the backspace key if something doesn’t come out quite right. In a podcast format, you have to think on your feet. Certainly, some hosts may be more liberal with editing, but if you trip over time and again, people might think you’re not such an expert.

A cross-channel asset

Every podcast I’ve been on has been filmed (bar that which must not be named, above). That’s a whole other permanent asset you’ve got to add to your arsenal. Mr Bramley’s takes pride of place on my LinkedIn profile, and so too will York Creatives’. Unless I look fat.

These can enhance your portfolio if you’re used to one medium. Prospects will get a feel for how you conduct yourself, how you react under pressure, and ultimately, what you’d be like to work with.

skydiveAn extra dash of authenticity

You can’t awkward-laugh on a blog post. Podcasts are stripped back, and we are laid bare for all to see. In an age where authenticity means everything, it’s wonderful to see the face behind the brand.

I can think of countless examples where I’ve thought, “well I never” when listening to people I thought I knew. Bethan Vincent’s The Brave is a great example.

A learning curve

With most podcasts taking a question-and-answer format, they’re a great way to look at topics from another point of view. Ben and I discussed our approaches to time management, while Nick challenged my views on emojis.

Podcasts stir up a debate, and crucially, allow others to offer their two cents. More engagement, more coverage. Boom.

To host or to guest?

Naturally, I can’t speak from experience as a host, but I have interviewed many people before, including:

  • Kevin Keegan
  • Ferdinand Kingsley (you might know his dad, Ben)
  • Simon Schama
  • That blond tit from Made in Chelsea. Only kidding. Nice fella. I forget his name.

If you’re going to host a podcast, you open yourself up to so many learning and networking opportunities. Any interviewer worth his salt will do his research first, which gives the old brainbox a meal before you even hit the studio. Once you’re in there, you’ll hear anecdotes and industry expertise. I can only imagine that’s why Jeremy Paxman is so clever.

kevin keegan

Can anybody do it?

Advances in technology have made podcast recording and distribution pretty simple. Buzzsprout, for example, will allow you to upload two hours for free each month, which it then shares onto networks like Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

Of course, a professional studio recording is going to sound more polished than a natter on an iPhone. But in theory, if you’re serious about it, you can add a podcast string to your marketing bow.

If you’re a guest, on the other hand, this will open up new doors. At Podcast Motor, the folks suggest trying a little of both – giving you experience as an orator and listener. Being a guest is a marketing exercise in itself, not just in terms of promotion, but for research. A good host will know what your audience wants to hear.

What the stats say

The 2020 Reuters Digital News Report backed up the abovementioned listening figures, but it also raised another key point: half of us say we’re gaining a deeper understanding of subject matter with podcasts.

Coronavirus-themed podcasts have skyrocketed in popularity, suggesting a wide-reaching thirst for facts, not fake news. In Germany, Das Coronavirus-Update shot to the No.1 slot in the charts.

Podcast genres that proved most popular in 2020 were:

  1. News and current affairs
  2. Specialist – health, business, tech
  3. Lifestyle
  4. True crime
  5. Sports.

That’s great news if you want to host or star on an industry podcast. These are most popular with 25 to 34-year-olds, though this trend is the same across the board.

Millennials are the biggest consumers, but Generation Zs are a close second. (Note – ‘Millennial’ does NOT mean young person. Millennials could be 39. Zs were born after 1996.)

This is heartening news for those who continue to target 25 to 39-year-olds, while it also paves the way for the next generation. That’s essentially a spectrum of anyone born from 1981 to present day to target. Happy days.

Listeners are also an affluent audience. According to Music Oomph, podcast listeners are 45 per cent more likely to have an annual income of $250,000 or more.

Give it a go

The beauty of podcasting is that it’s relatively low effort, compared with, say, writing a blog post. (Always outsource your blogs to your friend Ms. Lingo.)

This is particularly true if you’re a guest – I do not envy the editors who have to painstakingly bleep out profanities. Turn up, chinwag, distribute and bam.

But even if all you’re doing is using an iPhone, it’s relatively low-risk. Like any brand-building, you can make improvements as you become more established. Better still, you can leave it to the experts.

Remember: supporting content trumps all others

I’m not going to bore you with marketingspeak like ‘omni-channel’ so I’ll keep it simple. Supporting content helps to increase brand awareness – you can distribute podcasts differently, and reach new audiences.

Audio shouldn’t replace blogs, infographics or anything else. It should complement them. In BrightonSEO terms, this is known as “supporting content”. And it’s the best way to keep your audience entertained, informed…hell, it’s the best way to keep them guessing.

Mic drop.

Katie Lingo
by Katie Lingo
15th October 2020