The future of podcasting is looking bright. I think it might be the next major wave of personal publishing. It could become the darling of advertisers who will see it as a way to reach legions of new buyers. I’m going to explain how we got here, and what you can do to ride that wave with your business.
When Did Podcasting Start, Anyway?
I became a fan of podcasting before it was such a thing. Initially, it was mp3 audio recordings of my favorite late night radio show, Idiot’s Delight with Vin Scelsa. Pretty soon, some folks that were smarter than me, like Dave Winer, changed things. They released a set of open technologies to publish and share audio just like other blog articles. Thus podcasting was born.
What’s interesting is that it never slowed down. Podcasting has grown more modestly than other media formats, but grown nonetheless. If you were an NPR listener, you most definitely hooked up with some of their podcasts over the years. Certain author and Tech communities loved them as well. Even @ev, created a podcast oriented company called Odeo on the heels of Blogger. He and his team got the idea for Twitter during that time and moved on with its development instead. That said, podcasting had lots of great mind power, but no huge breakout hits.
Over the last couple of years, podcasting has returned to popular conversation. It seems like someone is always talking about a new podcast they are listening to or coming up with an idea for a new one. It feels like there is a new swell in podcast activity. Not to mention resources for podcast creators and brand advertisers.
As it turns out, the swell had been building over the last decade. The audiences are now starting to become large enough for advertisers to care. All it took was a couple of hit shows, like Serial to inspire a new generation of content creators. Consider the content marketing boom, and it is the perfect storm for a medium like podcasting.
Why Are Podcasts So Successful?
1. Podcasts fans love to collect podcasts
Collecting, you say? Like baseball cards? Sort of. More like having a favorite band or author. Once you fall in love with one of their works, you want to hear their whole discography. You then graduate to listening to the bands that inspired them. Podcast listeners are no different. They like to set their pod catchers to download a mix of regular favorites and new finds.
2. Episodic Content
Podcasts are sticky. The short storylines allow for quick immersion into a new topic without being comprehensive. A regular publishing cadence keeps listeners returning; much like our favorite television shows.
3. They are tribal
Podcasts provide a way to bond with fans of your respective niche. A familiar host is an old friend that you get to spend time with. New ideas are available on demand. No more waiting months until your favorite conference comes to town.
Will Podcasts Lead to A New Wave of Personal Publishing?
I think so. Increased mobility has positioned smartphones as the control panel of our lives. They are becoming the center of entertainment and workplace interactions. They provide the single thread that weaves these experiences together.
Beyond this, I see two benefits for people with something to say (content creators):
1. The Tools to Create Great Podcasts Are Plentiful and Often Free
There is a high probability that if you are reading this, you own a smartphone. If you do, you likely have access to a high quality piece of recording software for audio. Do you use Skype to talk to colleagues? Skype is helps produce many of your favorite podcasts today. Need to edit those recordings? Tools like Auphonic make it possible for a small fee.
2. Podcasting Has An Ecosystem of Democratic Distribution Tools
For some time, the main option for podcast distribution was iTunes. That not the case anymore. Soundcloud, Stitcher, Podbean and many more offer hosting for creators. Some provide tools for listeners to find your show via topic affinities. Others like ACast, include rich analytics and monetization tools for creators.
Individuals creating specialized content are a threat to big brand dominance of the airwaves. Smart brands will try to create environments for content creators to build a platform. Streaming leaders like Spotify and Amazon have the opportunity to take the lead here. They could also get overtaken by more focused upstarts like Acast. Our new “radio” stations will be custom built and travel with us, in our pockets, on our wrists and in our cars.
With this in mind, what is stopping you from creating a podcast focused on your area of expertise? You could become the next star of my morning commute.
Over the last two years or so, I’ve had a hankering to write this article. The title of this article is also a nod to the great Chris Brogan, who included it on a list called “Top 100 Blog Topics I Hope You Write.”