Podcasts in 2019 are where websites were in the early 90s. Everybody wants one, but not everybody is sure why. Many brands understand that an educated, wealthy podcast audience is one worth going after, but they don’t understand how best to approach the challenge. They want to engage with audio in the same way they would traditionally engage with print. In other words: they want to use it to sell things. They expect to accomplish this by being brief, “catchy,” and to the point. They imagine a podcast to be something like an aural business meeting – one that should follow the same guidelines: “Get in, say what you have to say, and get out.”
Unfortunately, podcast audiences respond like disappointed lovers to this kind of utilitarian attitude. They simply yearn for more. Podcasting is, after all, a highly intimate medium, one where human-beings take precious reflective moments out of their busy days, looking for something to lift them out of the doldrums of the daily bus ride, the repetitiveness of the morning household chores, or the tedium of the doctor’s office waiting room. When they pop their headphones in, they are embarking on an inner vacation. They want to be inspired. They want to be transported through sound.
One of the best things brands can do to get their hands dirty in the podcasting sphere is to deliberately take an ‘experimental’ approach. Resolve to create work that people actually want to hear, first and foremost. Dive into the deep end of the content pool instead of wallowing around in the shallows. A great way to do this is to commit to an exploratory “season” of podcast creation: 6-9 episodes is enough time to road-test a concept with a target audience and get a sense of how your approach is being received. If — after that — you need to pivot, then by all means pivot.
Remember, podcast listeners are loyal listeners who subscribe, download, and – if engaged – will tend to listen to content all the way through. Why? Because good podcasts bring listeners on a journey. They allow people to lean into the soundscape of an environment and expand into the endless mood-board of the imagination. Brands need to stop asking “What can we bring to (or impose on) podcasting?” and start asking “what can we learn from podcasting?”
Anything less than this approach is a waste of the potential of this incredible medium.
Roger Nairn is Co-Founder and CEO of JAR Audio