Surprise #1: Total listenershipThe good news is there's room to grow and an opportunity to prove yourself.
As of June, 22% of people had even heard of "podcasting" but only 11% had ever listened to one. It seems these early adopters weren't all terribly impressed either. According to Nielsen/NetRatings, just 6.6% of the online population in July recently downloaded an audio podcast. That's about 9.2 million US adults.
Surprise #2. Specific demographicsThis is great news again - podcasting has hit the mainstream rather than the young early-adopter segment. Especially significant in the B-to-B segment.
According to Arbitron, podcasting listenership is fairly even across the sexes with women at 48%. Plus, only 32% of listeners are aged 18-34. At 45%, the biggest demographic slice of listeners is 35 or older, with 17% in the 45-54 age group.
Surprise #3. Listening platformsAny creative approach to podcasts should be done for dual platforms.
According to a May 2006 Podtrac survey, 56% of the audience listen via their computers instead of a portable device.
Specific tips on creating a podcast that works as a marketing tool
Many of the most successful podcasts resemble a cross between a regularly published email newsletter with several interesting articles, a personal blog with a strong individual tone, and a radio talk show with must-meet guest stars. So the best qualities are:
- Strong Voice - not just the sound but the style
- Steadiness of publication - not a one-off, but a continuing series
- Variety - different guests-stars, different "articles"
Some mistakes to avoid
Mistake #1. Shovelware
Don't just read your Web site content or email articles into a microphone. If your fans wanted that, they could go online to see it. Create fresh content that's interesting to listen to - guests, two-way conversations, rants, etc.
Mistake #2. Sales pitch
You may get a few people to download a podcast that's a lightly disguised sales pitch once… but chances are none of them will bother to download or listen to the next installment. Just as with email newsletters, the best-loved podcasts offer content the listeners find valuable and/or highly entertaining.
Mistake #3. Testing just one to start
As with email newsletters or drive-time radio shows, the most successful podcasts build brand impact from listener relationships over time. It's not a one-off medium. If you create only one, you may not ever get the audience or impact your podcast deserves. Or, if your single podcast defies the odds to become insanely successful, you may not be ready with a follow-up series in time to catch the wave.
Five more content and production rules:
Rule #1: Keep it short
The ideal length of a podcast is 10 minutes to 20 minutes. “If you go more than 25 minutes, you’re outside the average commute,” says Walch. Or past the average treadmill workout.
Rule #2. Don't drone from a script
Although some corporate podcasts are scripted, just as with the blogworld, anything with too many corporate communications editors involved can turn the audience off.
Rule #3. Copywrite your podcast title carefully
If you're hoping for iTunes traffic to discover you, as well as users on other major podcasting directories, remember you're competing with tens of thousands of other podcasts. Pick a name for your podcast that matches your content topic. People are likely to search for a particular subject (rather than a brand name) when they visit iTunes. (Note: This is just like any other type of search marketing -- it’s all about keywords.)
Rule #4. Schedule a calendar (ongoing or limited-series)
Many podcasting experts say the best frequency is weekly. However, if you're not sure if you're up to the work, nor if the audience demand will be there, you probably should start with a slower calendar. Podcasting as with blogging and email newsletters can be exhausting for the long haul.
Not sure if you're up to starting a podcast series that will go on until the end of time? It's a scary commitment. Our suggestion, try the waters first with a limited run podcast series. Just as with an emailed "e-course", a single-season TV series, or a novel with chapters, you'd have a story arc, and announce up front how long the entire podcast will be.
Each episode would be developed to play in context of the rest, and the entire series would be as evergreen as possible so newbies can start with podcast #1 at any time and work their way through the series at their own pace.
Rule #5. Best time of day may be nighttime
Many podcasting enthusiasts dock their iPods overnight and then listen to whatever's new the next morning.