Podcast as content form - not for all

Before hitching your wagon to podcasting, ask yourself - is it for me?

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Every 3 years or so comes a new “trend”, or what I call the flavor of the season. Right now, it’s podcast. Everyone’s jumping on the podcast/vodcast (video podcast) bandwagon. As always, the producers hope that it will pay dividends, and quick, thank you.

I don’t see that happening.

As way back as 2005, podcasts were touted as the “most happening thing”. We are in 2019 and podcasting is still getting there. That is the first red flag. No doubt, any new content platform dependent on technology also evolves as technology updates itself, and that holds true for the progress of podcasting.

It’s easy to get carried away with all the hype. Look around you today and you will invariably be greeted with advertisements, newsletters, and of course, podcasts…about podcasts. It’s being touted as “the next big thing” in content.

It’s not. At best, a podcast can be part of your multi-channel marketing effort.

As a standalone channel though, it may not always work. It is not inter-active. Its uni-dimensional format does not allow the creativity of an online video nor its “immersiveness”, or the inter-play of a mobile app. There’s also the danger of a podcast turning into a boring monologue (it’s not always that you can have a guest on the show, right?). It is also labor intensive and more often than not, the RoI is not worth the effort.

The only thing working in its favor? Because it’s a downloadable file, and requires only one of your sensory skills, you can listen to it at your convenience (in my books, a vodcast does not count for its nothing but digital video). Which could be a good tool for marketers for their messaging. Also competing in the same space as podcasts though are prerecorded and streaming music, streaming radio, recorded webinars, and, of course, audio books.

How about the business model? Like any other online medium, making money from podcasts is difficult. There are two tried and tested revenue models - sponsorship (advertising) and subscription. Both are dependent on traffic, or the number of followers. So forget any hopes of making a quick buck. Or money at all.

For your podcast to be make a mark, the trick is to cater to a niche market. So you could perhaps give tips on how to cook Mexican cuisine. Or how to use a particular IT service. But the problem is a niche market will fetch you only that much revenue. Try charging someone even $10 per episode and see what happens next.

The problem with podcasting is - it is a one-way communication medium. We live in an age where personalization is often stressed on. A podcast is not that. At best, it’s glorified audio file sharing.

There’s an interesting graphic put out by musicoomph.com, consolidating recent stats on podcasting. Though it pertains only to the US market, and tries to paint a rosy picture about the podcast market, go a little deeper and check out the stats: only 6% of as evolved a market as the US are avid podcast fans, while only 22% listen to some kind of podcast every week, and 32% every month. The space is already crowded with 700,000 podcasts vying for your attention.

No doubt the ad revenue around this medium has increased over the last few years - from about US $69 million in 2005 to $514 million in 2019. That’s chump change compared to digital video revenues which touched $16.2 billion in 2018, according to the IAB, and was expected to double by 2024 by others. By the IAB and PwC’s own reckoning, based on market trends and surveys by significant podcast companies in the US, ad revenues from podcasting will top $1 billion in 2021.

Podcasting will always be around but it will always be the poor cousin of video. As a digital audio content form, it has limited use for limited audience for limited purposes. For you to get into it depends on how niche you want to get.

Image by tzvika770 from Pixabay