Welcome to post #2 in a 7 part series examining the top trends in social media for 2015, brought to you by @natureclicker (with much assistance from the rest of the internet). Check back to see #3 in the series.
2. Podcasts on Parade! At first glance, podcasts might not seem to fit within the traditional scope of social media, but what is social media if not nontraditional? Podcasts are on the rise in both for-profit and non-profit social media endeavors. Today, we’ll discuss what podcasts are, and take a look at some of the reasons why they’re trending in 2015. We’ll be running this post on a traditional Q&A podcast format, so please feel to ask any questions you may have at the end of the post! What is a podcast, anyway? I’m glad you asked! The word “podcasting” is hybrid of broadcasting and iPod. Although I’m sure Apple Inc. is happy to share such an association, podcasts have no direct development or production ties to the brand or the iPod itself, and you can listen to podcasts on any device that will play MP3s or other sound files. How are they related to social media?
Unlike other downloadable MP3 files (like music or audiobooks) podcasts have a distinctly social component, because they aren’t meant to be singularly consumed. Instead, podcasts carry an audience of subscribers (similarly to blogs), which leads to a continuing conversation between audiences and hosts. In many podcasts, audiences are encouraged to participate in the discussion through call-ins, emails, social media, discussion boards, or through direct requests. How does it work? Podcasts can be offered as free or paid downloads, depending on the author’s preference and (presumably) an audience’s willingness to pay for it. Listeners can choose to download single podcasts one at a time or subscribe to automatic updates through their choice of online or iOS and Android interfaces, known as podcatchers. Podcatchers, like Downcast, iTunes, Overcast, Instacast, Castro, allow users to find, search, play, sync, and subscribe to a variety of podcasts, which are categorized and sometimes ranked by users. Depending on the podcast, users can also listen to podcasts linked to the host’s site or blog. So, why are podcasts trending? First of all, podcasts are popular. In 2014, Apple Inc. reported that podcast subscriptions through iTunes surpassed 1 billion. These 1 billion subscriptions are split amongst over 250,000 unique podcasts with more than 8 million individual episodes, and presented in 100+ languages. NPR alone is averaging over 25 million downloads of its podcasts each month, while their podcast Serial shattered records for the fastest podcast ever to hit 5 million downloads.
According to the The Pew Research Center, the percentage of Americans who have listened to a podcast in the past month has almost doubled since 2008, from 9% to 17% as of January of 2015. The percentage listening in 2015 was up two points over 2014 levels (15%). Additionally, Edison Research reported that one-third (33%) of all Americans age 12 or older listened to at least one podcast in 2014. In the UK, Ofcom’s 2014 Communications Market Report revealed that 11% of those surveyed listened to podcasts or on demand radio every week. Awareness of podcasting is also growing. When measured by Nielsen back in 2006, 22% of Americans over age 12 had an idea of what podcasting was and how it could be used. By 2010, that number had risen to 45%, while 2014’s numbers reported 49% of Americans over 12 had heard of (but not necessarily used) podcasting. Podcasts can cover any topic, from the fringe to the mainstream, and those that rise to the top can attract huge followings of like-minded fans. With the internet reaching more people than ever before, and more traditional entertainment’s popularity dwindling, it’s clear that podcasts aren’t just for the tech crowd anymore. Whatever you’re interested in, there’s sure to be a podcast for it out there (and if there isn’t, start one!). 2. They’re productive. One of the reasons podcasts have become so popular is known as timeshifting. Timeshifting refers to the audience’s ability to listen to programs when, where, and how they want.
Unlike traditional radio, podcast listeners are able to choose to tune-in to their favorite program at 4am or 4 in the afternoon. Similarly to On-Demand content, they can pause and resume programs at will, and go back to re-listen to their favorite topics whenever they like. Timeshifting allows your target audience to tune-in and listen to what you have to say when they are the most willing and interested in listening. As someone that has worked in both B2B sales and non-profit membership acquisition, I can tell you first hand that finding a willing listener is half the battle, if not more!
In a November 2014 report from the UK’s Radio Joint Audience Research (Rajar), 23% of podcast listeners reported that they most often listened to content while “relaxing or doing nothing in particular,” followed by 22% of respondents that listened “during work or study,” 21% of listeners primarily tuning in while “driving or traveling,” and 10% were commonly engaged in household chores while they synced their favorite podcasts. Podcast audiences aren’t just listening to your message, they’re doing it on their own terms at a time and place that is good for them — and they’re listening to podcasts more than you think. For instance, 2014’s Edison Research Report found that for respondents who reported listening to daily podcasts, podcasts were 30% or more of what they listened to each day, more than any other type of audio available. What opportunities could this type of access bring you? What would you be able to achieve with an hour of subscribers’ undivided attention? What would that be worth to you, your cause, or your product? 3. Podcasts are practical. Maybe the best news about podcasts is that podcasting, and its associated opportunities and access, are free (or relatively inexpensive). Podcasting requires minimal equipment, and if you started right now, you could be posting your first podcast within the hour.
To podcast you’ll need a computer, a microphone, an internet connection, and most-importantly — something to say. On an even smaller scale, you can create, edit, and post a podcast from practically any smartphone. You’re in control of your podcast, so it can be 5 minutes long or 5 hours, although it’s probably best to err on the side of brevity. Paid subscriptions are possible, but podcasts are also frequently sponsored by companies seeking the same target market as its listeners — a development that is likely to continue to grow in 2016. All things considered, the podcast market seems to be a place where a very loud bang can be heard for very few bucks, which is why podcasts are a great choice for #2 in social media’s trends of 2015. Have you worked with podcasting in your personal or professional life? Is it something you’re considering for your business, or as a hobby? What benefits have you seen, or do you think you could expect, from podcasting?