In recent weeks, everything has changed. Countries are locked down. Activity and movement are limited. People are stuck at home. With time on their hands, they want content. People want to stay informed, be entertained and find a remedy for their cabin fever.
Companies that can connect with customers and fans, especially those that can sell their products directly, are adapting to the current crisis. Brands are ramping up their social media presence, working with influencers and generating new content. And some are doing that with podcasts.
Podcasting has been around since 2004, but in recent years the medium has exploded in popularity and gone mainstream. Chris Hayes, the founder and CEO of ShoutEngine, a podcast hosting and analytics service, told us that the last two years have seen a surge in listeners. Some of the growth can be attributed to a rapidly expanding selection of podcasts that cater to every conceivable interest, hobby and niche. Podcast listeners tend to be very loyal – once they find a podcast they like, they stick with it.
Don’t know where to start? Check out our list of 10 Podcasts Every Leader Should Listen To.
Even before shelter-in-place orders came down, podcasts were an important business asset. They support media presence by drawing people to social platforms and they help circulate content via links and references. They also target an audience with undivided attention – people who are driving, at the gym or on airplanes. (Well, at least they used to do these things.)
ISSIMI, a Bay Area dealer and collector car enthusiast network, started The Carmudgeon Show podcast in 2019. Derek Tam-Scott, who co-hosts the show with Road & Track’s Jason Cammisa, says that from a business standpoint, “the addition of a podcast has allowed ISSIMI’s fans to connect with the enthusiasts behind the company. We’ve received lots of positive feedback about the quality of discourse, and it has certainly raised our profile and added to our credibility.” In addition to audio, ISSIMI podcasts are recorded on video and posted to YouTube, a doubling-down on content.
Content like YouTube videos, online articles and social media posts are increasingly important right now, but these forms of media require a screen. Podcasts, on the other hand, only require a speaker or set of ear buds. Podcasts allow people to multitask. They can listen to them while they’re working on their car, walking their dog or baking bread (if they can find yeast). Podcasting keeps your brand connected with customers and fans while they go about their lives. Once life returns to normal – and it will – podcasts will still be relevant.
We interviewed some of the experts in the world of podcasting, and here’s what they had to say:
- Mark Greene, host and producer of podcasts Cars Yeah! and Buy Sell Hold with Sports Car Market’s Keith Martin, has seen a 10% increase in listens over the past two months.
- Rob Kibbe, host and producer of podcasts The Muscle Car Place,
OPTIMA Search for the Ultimate Street Car Podcast and Fighter Pilot Podcast, has seen an increase in binge listening, with a 50% increase in listens for past episodes, as well as overall monthly growth of up to 10%.
- Matt D’Andria, who co-hosts CarCast with Adam Carolla and co-hosts Shift & Steer with Brad Fanshaw and Aaron Hagar, has seen a significant increase in activity on the shows’ social media accounts and a higher click rate on podcast links.
More people are on streaming platforms, browsing shows, trying new programs and interacting with content, making it the perfect time to start a podcast of your own.
How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love to Podcast
Chris Hayes, who has co-hosted successful podcasts such as “The Smoking Tire,” says that the podcasting space has become “saturated with low-quality content,” resulting in “podcast fatigue.” According to TechCrunch, by the end of 2019 there were 700,000 podcasts with 29 million episodes. If you’re going to start a podcast, you need a hook so you’re not lost like a whisper in a hurricane.
By talking to the pros, we’ve developed the following how-to guide for starting your own podcast. You could have a podcast up and running in a half hour, but like the old saying goes: garbage in, garbage out. A successful podcast requires planning. Start with these questions and guidelines.
Why Are You Launching a Podcast?
Before jumping in with both feet, ask yourself why you want to do this. What are your motivations? Do you want to better connect with your customers and fans at a time when they feel isolated? Do you want to inspire people? Teach them? Make them laugh? Answer these questions, and be honest with yourself. Podcasting is an intimate format that rewards authenticity. Matt D’Andria said that when he meets listeners, “they feel like they know me – it’s a friendship.” They have followed his builds, picked up on tidbits about his life and invested themselves in the stories he tells.
Who Is Your Audience?
Mark Greene suggests writing a two-page description of the listener you have in mind. Where do they live? How long is their commute (i.e., how long should your podcast be)? Are they old enough to be starting families? What do their weekends look like? Are they married? The list goes on, but figuring out who your audience will be allows you to tailor your structure and content for them.
What Does Your Audience Want and How Do You Deliver That Message?
This double-barreled question is related to figuring out who your audience is. Once you know who you’ll be speaking to, decide what your podcast will offer them and what will make your show unique. Rob Kibbe suggests starting out by “mimicking what you like.” If you listen to certain podcasts and enjoy them, consider adopting their format, but also try to think about how you will stand out within your field, which is how you hook listeners so they’ll stick around.
What Is Your Format?
How often will your podcast air and how many hosts will you have? The first question depends on your content and time constraints. If your content is research-heavy, a daily show will be impossible; a weekly or bi-weekly makes more sense. News-related or conversational podcasts can be more frequent, but you still need to allow time for your day job and everything else that’s important in your life. Single-host podcasts are more conducive to storytelling or a talk-show format with guests. Two or more hosts can be used in either situation and allows for more open-ended conversation with or without guests.
Every weekday on Cars Yeah!, Mark Greene asks his guests generally the same questions. He says this approach “makes them feel comfortable because they know what to expect.” Rob Borrett, producer and host of Lotus’ the US LOT Sessions podcast — which was launched during the U.K. coronavirus lockdown — begins with notes on topics he wants to cover and lets the conversation unfold organically. Decide what sort of approach you’ll be most comfortable with, and use talking points as a springboard for conversation. Many podcasts revolve around interviews with guests using remote technology, and now is the perfect time to interview people. People who would typically be difficult to schedule interviews with are stuck at home just like you. Chris Hayes suggests using Apple’s FaceTime to conduct interviews because of its good audio quality. You can also use Skype and Zoom, but he advises against Google Hangouts because its audio quality is the worst of the bunch.
Equipment (Mic, Laptop, Hosting)
You can be up and podcasting with minimal investment, and right now audiences are more forgiving of lower quality sound. Many of the seasoned podcasters we talked to said you can get started with a single microphone and a decent laptop (many prefer Mac). Once you’re up and running, you can add additional mics to record in stereo and simplify editing tasks like equalizing audio levels. Mark Greene notes that free software, like GarageBand, is acceptable and useful, but other programs like Adobe Audition or Audacity are more powerful. In terms of editing, some hosts prefer a straight-through recording while others like to edit out the “ums,” “uhs” and mistakes that are inevitable. Lastly, you’ll need to have your podcast hosted on a platform like iTunes, Spotify or Stitcher. A simple service like RSS will disseminate your program to multiple platforms, while other services like Hayes’ ShoutEngine handles distribution and provides the analytics required by the Internet Advertising Bureau once you take on sponsors.
Keys to Success
The number one key to success is consistency. Every podcaster told us that consistency is what hooks an audience and keeps them coming back. People will work your show into their routines. (Tuesdays and Thursdays are considered to be the best podcast days. Avoid holidays since people are preoccupied with other tasks.) Next, practice and planning are essential for success. Podcasters we talked to recommend recording a few episodes before releasing your first show. This will help you get into the groove of speaking on a recording and give you backup content if an interview falls through or if you run into an unexpected scheduling conflict.
Now more than ever, podcasting can help you connect with your customers and fans in a new way. This guide will help you get started, but we understand that launching a podcast that reflects well upon your brand is a daunting task. Kahn Media has years of experience with producing podcasts and we know how to best leverage the medium.
Get Started Now
Dan Kahn, founder and CEO of Kahn Media, co-hosted more than 100 episodes of the “Cars for a Living” entrepreneurial podcast with Rob Kibbe from 2012-2014, and later produced the Petersen Automotive Museum’s top-rated “Car Stories” podcast for nearly three years. Our team also helped bring live podcasting to the trade show space when we pulled live shows into the MagnaFlow booth at the SEMA Show, and we continue to work with many of the top podcast producers on the scene today while also producing content for several top shows.
“Adam Carolla was the first person to really make podcasting mainstream,” Kahn explains. “When his terrestrial radio contract ended on a Friday, he told his audience they could keep listening to him the following Monday by downloading his podcast. The pivot was seamless and he carried over a huge chunk of his original audience. He offered continuity in the format of his talk show and it quickly became one of the top podcasts on iTunes, and eventually the most downloaded podcast in history.”
Since that time a lot has changed, including the rise of grassroots production, live shows and video podcasts, as well as services like ShoutEngine that make it easier for just about anyone to create a show and distribute it to the major apps and services. But just because you can make a podcast, doesn’t mean you should.
Kahn agrees with the other podcasting veterans we interviewed. “Before you start, make sure you have a clear vision of what you’re trying to achieve,” Kahn continues. “Clearly identify your audience, your message and your hook – why people should invest their time in listening to your show.”
Once you do launch, be prepared to market the show like crazy – there’s a lot of competition for listeners, and it takes a lot of work to get your podcast in front of the right audience. Promoting the show on your own social channels is a start, but seeding it into potential listener feeds with targeted paid digital marketing campaigns can give a huge boost. If your format includes interviewing guests, ask them to promote the show on their social channels as well. This type of content is also a perfect fit for email marketing, so drop it into your newsletter and post it on your website or blog.
If that all sounds overwhelming, or like too much work – it doesn’t have to be. Kahn Media offers a range of services from simple podcast promotion to recording, editing and production to complete turnkey marketing programs that integrate podcasting with email marketing, digital funnel campaigns, social media, talent booking and more. We even handle fully produced and hosted programming to drive brand awareness and site traffic. If you have questions or even if you just want to chat about your own podcast idea and how to execute it, reach out anytime at Podcasting@KahnMedia.com. We’re happy to help!