Designing the future


Podcasts, Marketing, and the Future of Content Consumption

At some point, it seems that everything that is old finds a way to become new again. Take radio shows for example, with the introduction of the iPod in the early 2000s everyone suddenly had a radio in their pocket. Podcasts emerged as a new form of audio storytelling and covered everything from politics and sports to design and entrepreneurship. However, popularity in podcasts waned until a few years ago when audio storytelling hit a renaissance. Shows like “Serial” and “99% Invisible” became a point of conversation and more people turned to podcasts for information.

But what caused this shift?

Many people point to cars and the rise of connected devices. Drive-time commuting is increasing throughout the United States and with 44 percent of all radio listening taking place in cars, it’s easy to see how podcasts have found a home among commuters. On top of this, cars are becoming more connected. The majority of cars sold today have Bluetooth and USB adapters and all new cars are expected to be connected to the internet by 2025.

Accessibility isn’t the only thing contributing to the popularity of podcasts, though. The quality of production has also been a factor. A quick search on Google will give you results for how to make your own NPR-quality podcasts at home. 

We're seeing more and more brands jumping on board the podcast bandwagon. IBM and General Electric launched podcasts last year and you can expect to see more businesses following this trend in 2017. Part of this has to do with the rise of listenership that is expected in the coming years. Todd Cochrane, the CEO of podcast tracking and analytics firm RawVoice, estimates that there are around 100 million unique podcast listeners globally—a number that will likely grow alongside the increase in smartphone penetration.

(Source for charts: Edison/Triton Digital Infinite Dial 2016. Images: Chris Campbell)

(Source for charts: Edison/Triton Digital Infinite Dial 2016. Images: Chris Campbell)


Your Voice, Your Brand, Your Podcast

Think about your favorite podcast and how you’re drawn into the narrative in a couple of seconds. You remember the intro music, the conversational tone of the host, and the occasional annoying advertisement break. You end a podcast feeling like you’ve learned something new that you can share with your friends.

If you’re considering starting a podcast as a marketing tool for your brand, use your favorite podcasts as examples. While you build out your podcast plan, try to focus on your message, data collection, and promotional strategy.

The Message

Slack's podcast, "Variety Pack", is an eclectic mix of stories about modern day work. The podcast doesn't immediately try to sell you on Slack's service. Instead, it starts with a quick message about how Slack can change your working life forever. With over 2 million listens across its 28 episodes, Variety Pack helps expose Slack's brand to more people without being overly self-promotional. 

Ultimately, Slack's podcast allows the company to build relationships with new people and deepen existing ones by showing the human element behind their product. 

Perhaps you run an eCommerce store for independent designers. When strategizing what your podcast will be about, think about the stories that would be the most interesting to your customers. In the case of the eCommerce store, you might interview the designers you work with and share how they became involved in their line of work. 

A few tips for refining your podcast message:

  • Have a great introduction that sets up the stakes and grabs attentionNo: "So I was thinking of going for a walk. But I went home instead and watched my favorite show on Netflix". Yes: "The river churned beneath me. I was wobbling on one leg when the wooden plank snapped in half. As my bare feet hit the icy waters of the river, I felt an animalistic panic seize my mind. I didn't know how to swim".
  • Consider your tone. Is your brand friendly? You may want to have more conversational podcasts. Looking for a more professional feel? Keep narrations to a minimum and edit interviews to only include the interviewer's answers.
  • Know your sequence. Will your podcast have the same format everytime (Intro music, main story, ending) or will you create a saga that is broken into different episodes? 

The story you're trying to tell with your podcast is only a portion of your podcast strategy. If your initial ideas flop, you need to know what worked and what didn't. That's where data comes in.

Leveraging Your Data

Podcast consumption happens over a variety of different devices and platforms—making it very difficult to track who listens. Even with iTunes, you can't tell the total number of subscribers with 100% accuracy. iTunes' official statement on download information portrays how vague their tracking standards are:

“You may obtain subscription or download information from the server that hosts your podcast episodes. Contact your server administrator or web host for details on configuring podcast analytics.” - iTunes Department

However, if you're a good marketer, you're worried about the numbers. As you plan your podcast, consider these tools to configure your tracking:

Is Anybody Listening?


via The New Yorker

via The New Yorker

You've put the time and effort into creating a kickass podcast, but who is going to listen to it? Don't just focus on iTunes as a strategy. It might be the easiest way to get people to subscribe to your podcast, but if you want a loyal following you're going to have to mix up your promotional plan.

Try these unconventional podcast marketing tactics:

  • Get placed in a podcast directory. Podcast directories like PodcastLand let people vote for the best podcast and the winner gets featured on their site for an entire month.
  • Try Reddit. Search for any relevant subReddits related to your podcast and be thoughtful with the content you share or you may be banned for spam.
  • Partnerships in exchange for ad space. Find companies you personally use and offer to mention them in your podcast in exchange for promotions on one of their channels.
  • Share episodes on Quibb. It's a great platform for people to share industry news and content.
  • Link to posts on Quora. Find people who ask questions related to your podcast topic and direct them to relevant episodes.

There are a TON of marketing options available for you. If you get creative, the opportunities for generating interest around your idea are endless.

Where Consumers Go, Content Follows

Although we're fond of reshaping old technologies, it's important to be wary of future ones. Podcasts may be the trend of today, but we’re on the cusp of seeing new content forms tomorrow. Some speculate that if Silicon Valley gets its way and we see more self-driving cars on the road, podcasts may fall victim to other forms of content. If you could sit in a car and watch Netflix while stuck in traffic for an hour versus looking out the window and listening to a podcast, would you?

Where do you see marketing going in the future and how will people “consume content” in 2030?