Up and coming publishers are turning to podcasts to jump start their digital publishing careers. Podcasting provides the audience versatile and varied content through short audio-based episodes. They favor the medium because it requires very little in the ways of technology and production budget.
David Winer developed podcasts in 2004, but Adam Curry popularized the medium. Winer created the RSS, or “Really Simple Syndicating” to launch his show Morning Coffee Notes but due to Curry’s notoriety from his time with MTV, his program grew more influential, much faster.
Wired claims Curry’s audience grew from 500, 000 to over a million in just one year, thanks in part to iTunes’ support of podcasts in 2005. Now, it mainly appeals to people who look for content on the go. According to Shiva Bhaskar, “There are over 525,000 active podcasts, with over 18.5 million episodes produced,” as of 2018.
Thorpe claims in “Why Should Publishers Start A Podcast?” that a third of the world’s population listens to them:
Podcasts are taking off around the world due to better content and easier distribution. According to the Reuters Digital News Report 2019, more than a third (36%) of people around the world listen to a podcast at least monthly, and this rises to half for those under 35. In fact, listeners in the US now spend over six hours each week on podcasts, listening to seven episodes a week on average.
The Power of Podcasts
Podcasts provide the audience with personable content that plays into publishers’ strengths. The production cost pales in comparison to other personal media such as video streaming. The audio episodes also promote flexibility in content such as storytelling, news reporting, education, or opinionated discussion.
In “5 Key Podcasting Trends from the Digital News Report 2019 ,” surveyors asked listeners why they chose this specific medium. Listeners responded that they either wanted to stay up to date on topics of personal interest (46%) or learn about something new (39%). Researchers also found that young people ages 18-24 were almost three times more likely to consume podcasts regularly compared to their 55+ aged counterparts.
The storytelling aspect of the platform plays a vital role for publishers. Stories allow humans to shape the way they see and understand the world. Podcasts stimulate the imagination and portray the “richness of the human experience.” Shiva Bhaskar explains,
Storytelling appears to have evolutionary roots, as it can help foster cooperation amongst people in a society, and those who tell good stories, are often preferred social partners, and likely to have more children.
Publishers can take advantage of this aspect and insert themselves into the rapidly growing broadcasting platform. Shelley Seale states , “Podcasts are emerging as one of the most significant and exciting cultural innovations of the new century” because they afford an intimacy between audience and host that fosters a devoted fanbase. Podcasts allow viewers to put voices to their favorite works.
The platform provides hosts a way to interact with their viewers for prolonged periods: hour-long episodes fill the podcast world and let hosts thoroughly work through ideas in ways shorter media forms do not. They also don’t face the same criticism that promotional print material or video streaming does; “Podcasts also offer a potentially more trustworthy alternative to the plethora of false information out there.”
Though, starting out from scratch in a new medium intimidates some people, consistency in streaming helps ensure profit. Also, most episodes pause regular programming to play ads or promote brands. That influence aspect of the episodes opens up possibilities for secondary revenue. Owens claims, “Between 2017 and 2018, brand advertising jumped from 25 percent of all podcast ads to 38 percent, and this year it’ll likely overtake direct response advertising.”
Owens also explains that podcasts offer companies other streams of revenue besides just ads: businesses can “mine the podcast interviews for additional article content,“ as well as host live tours and drive listeners to subscribe to memberships, receiving profit from ticket sales and membership costs.
About 75% of publishers host some podcast, and the medium’s influence grows stronger each year. Podcasting pushes producers to build an audience in the growing digital market. The viewers get unique, quality content, and publishers get a new environment to capitalize on.