By Michael J. Mika
Special to Delaware Business Times
Smart speakers such as Google Home or Amazon’s Alexa have boosted the popularity of podcasts, and marketers are taking notice.
The podcast burst onto the digital media scene in 2005 with the advent of iPods and iTunes. Now, thanks to Alexa, Siri and Google Assistant, podcasts are moving beyond morning commutes and exercise routines
and into the living room.
So who is listening?
Forbes Magazine recently reported that last year more than 112 million Americans listened to a “net cast,” either in their cars or smart speakers in their homes. Last month, Buzzfeed launched a new morning briefing, Reporting to You, made for smart-speakers. Amazon and Google smart speakers account for more than 16 percent of weekly total listening hours for NPR member station streams.
Thirty-eight percent of millennials ages 18 to 34 listen to podcasts, according to Edison Research. Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) found that the industry brought in $119 million in 2016 and was projected to bring in $220 million by the end of 2017.
These realities have pushed some businesses to consider if podcasts should be a part of their overall marketing message.
Antoinette Blake, a Delaware blogger and podcast host for AAU Global Production Media Group, said the increasing ease of streaming audio content has made it easier for people to jump into podcasts. But the content is what keeps listeners coming back, she said.
“I think podcasting is now becoming a more popular platform because content has become more varied and it is more informative and entertaining,” Blake said.
A quick internet search for Delaware podcasts — especially those hosted by businesses — reveals a graveyard of projects started in 2005 but abandoned after a few years. That fate befalls many podcasts, according to Steve Lubetkin of Lubetkin Media Companies in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. The company serves as a multi-platform producer of audio and multimedia podcasts for regional businesses.
He said businesses often look in-house for someone on staff who is technically savvy and interested in the idea. But if existing duties still take precedence, he said, the podcast won’t get the attention it needs to succeed.
“Too many people think of podcasts based on stereotypes from media. It’s not about millions of downloads but rather about having a conversation with select audiences,” Lubetkin said.
He said podcasts can serve different needs. “I went to an event where there was a panel discussion. Talking heads is not exciting video, and to put it on website will not get many views. But with a podcast an interested person can listen to it anytime,” he said.
Delaware government agencies are also dabbling in podcasts as ways to communicate with citizens.
Paul Weagraff, director of Delaware Division of Arts for the last 13 years, said the agency has hosted a podcast since 2005. Delaware State of the Arts WILM has been hosting a radio show since at least the mid-1980s. Weagraff decided to rebroadcast the show as a podcast when he came on in 2006.
“It just seemed to be a natural fit to take the weekly radio show that could continue in perpetuity through podcast.” he said
Weagraff said they create about 40 original broadcasts a year and record them with the WILM radio technicians. He said other civic agencies interested in podcasts should first fine-tune their message.
“In our case we want to promote what’s happening in the art,” he said. “People participate in the arts, not the division. That’s our goal and so we do the research and line up the right people for interviews. Also try to make it time-sensitive.”
If you’ve already got a podcast, Blake said, consider video casts to communicate with clients and customers.
“YouTube is never going away,” she said “Live stream interviewing involving others is one way to make sure you attract the next generation. I think business should look at adding it to their marketing platforms.”
Jake Ruddy, president of Delaware/Maryland office of PCS, a computer services resource company, and current president of Technology Forum of Delaware, recently launched a video blog on LinkedIn.
He selected LinkedIn because that is where his audience is. “I’ve written email newsletters for many years, and also written articles on LinkedIn, but I started to see video on LinkedIn and wanted to give it a try.”
Ruddy keeps his weekly videos to two minutes or less and after he picks up an idea, he rehearses in his car with mobile phone and after a few tries, publishes it. He’s received positive feedback and said the videos make LinkedIn a lot more personal.
“I’m a geek by trade and viewers can see my personality through the videos.”