As of 2021, there were over 14.6 million podcast listeners in the UK alone. This audience is rapidly expanding year on year as the popularity of podcasts increases, with data suggesting that there will be close to 20 million listeners by 2024.
So, with this in mind, are podcasts good for business, and can these impressive stats be translated into the corporate world? How can they help, and why are they good? The reality is that more businesses are recognising the opportunity of this format due to its potential for audience reach and ability to grow a loyal following.
Stats show that 63% of people have bought something a host promoted on their show. This figure demonstrates the opportunity that podcasts offer to businesses for increasing sales and making revenue. Given that podcasts are the fastest growing publishing platform of the moment, it makes sense that they are incorporated into the marketing mix.
How have podcasts become so popular?
Over the last ten years, podcasts have become one of the most popular forms of audio entertainment.
Interesting fact: ‘podcast’ is a combination of ‘iPod’ and ‘broadcast’, first coined in 2004.
Their success is due to a few different factors. There has been an enormous supply of content (although the business market is far from saturated), and demand for available audio has massively increased over recent years, particularly for news and information content. In addition, digital audio has hugely benefited from the lockdowns of 2020/21, as many people turned to podcasts for stay-at-home entertainment.
Despite reduced time commuting, many people listen to podcasts while at home. Now that restrictions have relaxed, many people continue to listen to podcasts while driving or travelling.
Podcasts continue to be most popular amongst younger audiences, with nearly 40% of UK listeners aged between 26-35 listening to podcasts weekly.
Why are podcasts good for business?
The number of podcasts is growing exponentially. As a result, there are more podcast listeners than ever before, representing an engaged, trusting, and captive audience - an excellent opportunity for businesses.
A recent survey showed that 71% of listeners had visited a podcast sponsor’s website, and 63% said they’d consider a new product or service advertised on a podcast they’re listening to.
Here are a few key reasons why podcasts represent such a good opportunity for businesses:
- It’s easy to get started. Compared to other forms of marketing, such as paid media or a PR campaign, a podcast can be simple to begin (more on this later).
- Build a personal connection. A podcast allows your audience to hear your voice regularly, and this format builds more trust than a blog post could.
- Increase traffic generation. As long as you’re producing consistent content, you’re likely to increase your followers who will probably subscribe to your podcast and recommend to their connections. In turn, this will increase your reach and improve traffic.
- Build brand authority. By adding an extra channel to share your knowledge and expertise, you are providing more ways for people to find you and hear your content. By combining this stream with your written and video content, you’ll cover all the bases to establish yourself as an industry leader. In time, you’ll become one of the go-to experts, and people in your field will respect and value your opinion.
- Increase brand awareness. An indirect benefit of podcasting is the resulting level of branding, which can be quite subtle but very effective. For example, you might have your company logo appearing alongside your company name and description. People will see as they listen, or even subconsciously as they scroll past!
What is the point of a business podcast?
If you’re looking to set up a business podcast, it’s important to understand its purpose. Just because podcasts have become so popular, it doesn’t necessarily make it the right channel for your business. It would be dangerous to jump right in without defining its purpose and your reason for using it.
Sometimes, a business will do something to make the company money, build brand equity, drive memberships, or benefit the community. The beauty of podcasts is that they can do several jobs at once - the challenge lies in deciding your primary objective.
What to include in your business podcast?
When thinking about what content to include in your business podcast, the good news is that you don’t need to spend lots of time creating dedicated content. Podcasts present an excellent opportunity for repurposing content that you’re likely to have already. If you have video or audio recordings, or even written blog articles, you can simply repurpose these into podcast episodes.
Consider different audiences and how you can appropriately rework content to appeal to listeners everywhere.
How much does it cost to start a podcast?
You can start to create your new podcast relatively cheaply if you can rework existing content. Aside from the cost-benefit, this also means that you can be flexible when experimenting with your format, presentation, and design, without needing to commit large amounts of time or money upfront. For example, you might simply take the audio used in existing videos or record the first episode using your laptop microphone.
If you are willing to invest money into podcast creation, the best place to start is with suitable equipment to improve your sound quality. By paying to host your podcast on a platform such as Libsyn or Blubrry, you will have a more reliable audio streaming service than simply hosting the podcast on your website. These sites also make sharing your podcast on networks such as Apple Podcasts more convenient.
How can businesses get their podcasts noticed?
According to a survey on podcasts from 2019, first impressions can make a significant difference. 70% of those surveyed said they chose a podcast based on its description, while audio quality was also important. Unsurprisingly, when it came to retaining listeners to the end of an episode, the most compelling factor was interesting and highly engaging content.
Therefore, as a business starting on podcast creation, it’s imperative to ensure that you look professional. Your description, which will sum up your content, is key, and it needs to state what you’re about concisely. You want to demonstrate your experience and expertise and state what makes your podcast different and unique.
Then, you need to make sure you deliver on your promise! Make your content engaging by loosely planning your discussion points so you cover the key messages. Having exciting people to interview is another way to make your content compelling. Aim to host guest speakers who will offer a different perspective for your listeners.
How can podcasts create business revenue?
Although podcasts are a fun and topical element to add to the marketing mix, any marketing activity needs to demonstrate its contribution to business revenue. As is often the case, it can be challenging to quantify contribution when reporting results in marketing.
The global podcasting market was valued at over $11 billion in 2020 and is expected to increase at an annual rate of 31% from 2021 to 2028. Unsurprisingly, businesses want a cut of the action.
There is no doubt that businesses worldwide are experiencing rising revenues due to the ROI in a podcast - the New York Times ‘Daily’ podcast brought in almost $30 million in revenue in 2019. Similarly, the Financial Times - now publishing nine podcasts a month - has tripled ad revenues across its portfolio. In 2019, The Economist saw a 50% podcast-based revenue increase. So how can businesses make money from podcasts? The answer lies in advertising.
We’re all familiar with the podcast format. It is usually bookended by an advert at the start and end of an episode, with another advert placed in the middle. However, these familiar read-through adverts have advanced with clever technology as the industry grows and more podcasts are beginning to use dynamic ads. This means having personalised adverts for each listener that change over time.
However, if you’re not a multi-million-pound company like the New York Times, it is likely to be difficult to generate significant revenue from advertising. This has led small and medium-sized businesses to look at methods beyond advertising to make money from their podcasts.
You might, in the first instance, still choose to run ads despite having a smaller audience. Many podcasting platforms, such as the aforementioned Libsyn and Blubrry, offer options for incorporating ads into your podcast (although you may need to hit a certain number of monthly downloads to qualify).
Alternatively, you might look for sponsors interested in reaching people in the sector or industry you serve. You don’t necessarily need a big audience to pursue this option, and sponsors will pay more attention to the quality of your audience – i.e., potential new customers – than the quantity.
In a method already employed by online news sources, such as Wikipedia and The Guardian, some smaller business podcast producers request a donation from their audience in return for the content created. Research carried out by US-based magazine, Variety, says one in five podcast listeners have paid to listen or donated money to a podcast, while 38% of survey respondents said they would pay for a news podcast. Similar levels of intent are displayed in Australia and Canada. Interestingly this level drops in the UK. This has been attributed to the ready availability of free podcast content from the public broadcasting sector.
The opportunity for smaller businesses is still there, though. The opportunity may become relevant as people develop long-term relationships with their favourite podcasts and want to support them monetarily. Alternatively, the podcast might be offered as part of a package when selling a product or service to a customer, encouraging loyalty to the brand.
Podcasts are also a powerful subscription tool. For example, The Athletic, which offers regular sports content behind a paywall, uses freely accessible podcast content as a lure to push website subscriptions.
Using these methods, podcasting can cover its costs or even bring in additional revenue. Plus, don’t forget the podcast will simultaneously develop your reputation as an educator and act as a promotional vehicle for your other products, referring more revenue as a result.
How to make your business podcast succeed
Simply put, the key to creating a successful business podcast is to stick with it. Invest your time in it, and don’t be disheartened in the early days. Show up consistently by releasing an episode regularly. For reference, experts say that it can take two years before the time/money investment starts to pay off.
Whether your podcast makes money (or sees listener growth), you’ll need to continue creating and posting content to see the return on investment through advertising, sponsorship, or listener contributions.
Initially, the money made may not be enough to justify the time spent - but don’t give up! Many businesses abandon efforts on their podcasts in the early days, usually because they jumped straight in without understanding why they are launching a new podcast. So if you’re planning to get involved, make sure you have a sensible strategy behind it, and the money should follow in time.
For businesses looking to engage their audiences on a more meaningful level, podcasts represent a real opportunity, but only if you take the time to think about what you’re doing and why.