When a specific audience niche wants to communicate to an audio medium, podcasts are the present generation’s answer where radio was decades ago. The podcast format today also faces stiff communication from other forms of tv, print, and digital media. Facing these circumstances, is podcasting still relevant?
Yes, podcasting is alive and kicking. Within a one year period from 2018 to 2019, the number of people who had listened to their first podcast was 20 million. Out of these multitudes, 14 million had evolved into weekly listeners. If these folks listen consistently, they are already a captured audience, looking forward to the next installment of the podcast.
Even young and middle-aged people have jumped into the podcast bandwagon. 40 percent of youngsters between the age of 12 and 24 tuned in to a podcast in 2019 compared to only 30 percent a year before.
Podcast producers are very happy that the demographics they have been aiming for, to take an interest in podcasting, are suddenly cupping their ears in that direction. This is the over 55 years age bracket. In 2019, 17 percent of them were avid monthly listeners, whereas, in 2018, only 13 percent of them made it a habit monthly.
The USA, which is a very important podcast market, is closely being observed by business trend-watchers. In 2019, more than 50 percent of Americans (165 million) had listened to at least one podcast, and two-thirds of these folks (over 100 million) had gotten infected by the podcast bug and continuously listened to at least one podcast every month. It is an increase of eight percent of faithful listeners over the previous year.
The most sought after age demographic for podcasts is the 25 to 44-year-old age group, which comprises nearly 50 percent of all podcast listeners.
Officials at Edison Research, a business trends tracking company, says this has been the most exponential growth in the podcasting industry since 2006, the year they started monitoring it.
What increased the podcast industry’s temperature to nearly boiling point was when the popular music streaming service Spotify joined in the fray and began offering podcast broadcasts in 2019. The company also purchased Gimlet Media and Anchor. Gimlet is credited with the success of the podcasts “Crimetown” and “Reply All“. Anchor is a toolmaker for recording and distributing podcasts.
Before, the availability of podcasts was limited to Google Play and Apple services. Because of the added influence of Spotify, 20 million listened to their first podcast in 2019, 14 million of which matured into weekly listeners.
Where did the word podcast come from?
Firstly, the word podcast is a merger of the words iPod and Broadcast. The iPod is a famous portable audio streaming device from Apple, which began in the early 2000s under the auspices of Steve Jobs. It started as a medium where music purchased from Apple’s Itunes could be played. Later, when podcasts started broadcasting, Apple was one of the pioneers that supported the rise of this new platform by allowing podcasts to be downloaded on iPods.
At present, Apple has announced the discontinued production of the iconic iPod Nano and iPod Shuffle, but other variants are still available. The podcast has come of age and can be played not only on the iPod but on countless electronic devices.
What was the first podcast?
Podcasting as an audio platform was first started by ex MTV video jockey Adam Curry and software developer Dave Winer. Curry had a program called Ipodder that gave him the capacity to download his radio broadcasts on the internet straight to his iPod. Other similar-minded individuals innovated on their pioneering work and the podcast was delivered into the world. Curry, today, is still podcasting “The Daily Source Code”, one of the top podcasts to this day.
Why is Podcasting popular?
Freedom of expression – that is one guarantee the US Constitution provides, but which regulated radio doesn’t enjoy. On the other hand, podcasting is not restricted by government handcuffs. The producers don’t even need a license to broadcast. The Federal Communication Commission (FCC) has very strict broadcast decency regulations that podcasters don’t have to adhere to. Profanity can be uttered; sexually explicit issues are discussed, and unconventional solutions or alternatives to long-held traditions or practices can be verbally suggested. Copyright Law is, however, still respected by podcasters. In conformity, podcast creators can also apply for copyrights to their work, theories, ideas, or for the format of their show.
One factor that also made the podcast so popular is that almost any entity – which runs the gamut from individuals to global organizations, can start a podcast. Several podcasts are run from home studios, while others are broadcast from inside sophisticated complexes.
While most podcasters hope to make money from their efforts, some of them don’t really care if their ratings are low because they have the luxury of producing their own podcast and no one can cancel their show, unlike in radio where low ratings mean eventual cancellation. Topics discussed range from the mundane to complicated scientific discussions.
If you are one of those people who loves to talk, has a passionate interest in a specific hobby or subject, and have the time: have you thought about joining the hundreds of thousands who have created their own podcasts?
Sounds exciting, doesn’t it? Don’t you just love that you don’t need a license and no one can censor you for anything you say on the podcast? But you should be prepared for a lot of hard work, and think about how much the cost of starting one?
To make it easier for you, here are the guidelines in initiating your podcast:
- Choose an issue or topic.
- Create a name for your podcast.
- Have a design for your digital cover art and banner.
- Introduction and ending music.
- Selection of equipment for whether it’s a single host, dual host, multiple hosts, or a podcast with guests.
- Selection of hosts.
- Recording of audio and editing thereafter.
- Submission to Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and other podcast distributors.
Regarding the initial cost, this should guide you on the expense to start a broadcast from the range of the simplest equipment up to the peak of the most advanced podcasting gear.
For the barest equipment consisting of the computer, the recording and editing software, microphone, and headphones, and hosting, artwork, and music, expect a total low cost of $300 and a high range cost of $4,000.
If you would like to start your podcast with a little more flair by adding more accessories such as a pop filter, audio interface, mixer, microphone boom arm, and more, add either a low estimate of $400 and a high estimate of $1,500 for the extras.
So, finally this means you can start a podcast with the barest minimum of $300 or a maximum of $5,500 for a high tech podcast.
What podcasts are trending?
At this point, let me ask again: Is podcasting still relevant? It sure is, with so many people and groups wanting to start their own podcast and hundreds of millions listening to their own podcast niche of preference. There is always a topic or issue which any individual would want to listen to.
At present, there are over 800,000 podcasts available for listening and there are 54 million episodes among these podcasts that can be downloaded into the listeners’ electronic devices to be enjoyed immediately or to be listened to later in their downtime. In the first ten months of 2019, due to the low expenses related to starting a broadcast, a phenomenal 192,000 brand new podcasts were initiated. All these brave people really need to do is to talk and talk and to let others talk and talk – an essential element of a podcast.
Among those 800,000 podcasts, which are trending? Each selected podcast here has distinct qualities from each other.
- Keith and The Girl – No specific topic or issue. It is produced by Keith and his girlfriend Chemda. Its website proudly exclaims that nothing can prevent them from saying anything, not even the FCC.
- A Mysterious Universe – This is dedicated to subjects about deep space, the paranormal, UFOs, and more.
- Epidemic – A weekly podcast on the Covid-19 pandemic, guests include medical doctors and public health experts who update the listeners on the latest news about the virus. It is hosted by Ron Klain, an American Ebola Expert and Dr. Celine Gounder, an infectious disease practitioner.
- Left, Right & Center – As its title suggests, it is a weekly podcast wherein hosts Josh Barro and Rich Lowry discuss anything political that is Republican, Democrat, or anything in between or on the sidelines.
- Global News Podcast – Traditional British crispness and stiff upper lip style of delivering news from around the world. Under the auspices of the BBC World Service. A pair of 30-minute podcasts are aired every day.
- Spectacular Failures – The host Lauren Ober has the morbid task of narrating giant company downfalls of the likes of Toys “R” Us and Forever 21. It would be downright depressing if she did this every week. Why not an upswing in a company that almost went bankrupt, for a change?
- Blank Check With Griffin and David – This movie podcast discusses the film work of one director every episode. In one show, Hayao Miyazaki, the mysterious Japanese director of masterpieces Spirited Away and My Neighbor Totoro, was featured. Unfortunately, in mainstream theaters and streaming services, his works cannot be accessed except in his native Japan. Because of the attention focused on him in this podcast, by now, his movies might be streaming on HBO Max. And this episode assisted in giving the green light to draw eyes to foreign cinema – exemplified by the victory of Parasite, a Korean film, at the Oscars.
- Nice Try – A niche podcast on spectacular attempts in history for Utopian architecture and urban planning. Episodes like the attempts of Disneyland to recreate a fantasy world; Hitler’s endeavor in 1938 to redesign Berlin for a New Order; and a take on the suburban sprawl that started in the 1950s for the middle-class homeownership aspirations.
- Drunk Women Solving Crime – An innovative podcast attracting three audience niches at the same time – women, detective story enthusiasts, and comedy fans. Hannah George, Catie Wilkins, and Taylor Glenn, ladies all, also comediennes and writers – analyze true criminal cases that have captured the public’s imagination. Done in a wreckless comedy style, they share notes with different guests every week, including the listeners’ own personal mysteries.
- Get Sleepy – Think of this as the podcast equivalent of a sleeping tablet, cannabis oil, a massage, or anything that can make you drowsy and fall into a deep slumber. These half-hour episodes make use of New Age music, meditation, and mindfulness techniques to draw the listener into a peaceful sleep.
Now, what is the most downloaded podcast of all time? What are its qualities and appeal that has endeared it to hundreds of millions of podcast listeners?
It is the “Serial” podcast. Its episodes have been downloaded more than 250 million times since 2014 when it started. This podcast, which has won awards, uses the format of narrating a true story over the course of one season and blends the storytelling with investigative journalism. This style leaves the listeners on the edge after every episode and excites them to watch out for the next episode because the story has not ended yet.
Podcasting is a much sought after communication medium today, side by side with movie streaming on Netflix and HBO, internet video platforms such as Youtube and Vimeo, and social media platforms, including Facebook and Instagram. Other platforms have fallen out of use throughout the decades – cable, conventional TV and radio, cinemas. No one really knows what will be extinct eventually and what will rise up phenomenally.
Now, the question, is podcasting still relevant – in the future?
As long as there are listeners for specific niches; an array of podcast selections that will intrigue folks enough to listen, producers willing to finance podcasts; updated technology to enhance audio quality and the overall podcast experience, downtime wherein people on a train ride, waiting in a doctor’s office, or driving home cannot read or do something else; and the prospect of funding a podcast is profitable – the podcasting platform is here to stay for a long time.
Most podcasts are free, and that in itself is a big triumph for the listener. But most well-entrenched podcasts require high equipment, production time, and host/technical staffing costs.
To cover the costs, podcasts accept sponsorships and advertisements. Programs with more than 5,000 downloads have queues of companies willing to pay for sponsorship. Revenues from ads raked at nearly $500 million in 2018 and are expected to go over $1 billion by 2021.
Other sources of finances for podcasts are crowdfunding and donations (like for church based podcasts in the form of tithes).
Several entrepreneurs, seeing the potential of podcasting to earn money for them, have created podcast centered companies like Podcast Alley, which encourage advertisement revenue. Television and radio networks want some of the action too. National Public Radio, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, and the BBC have evolved some of their TV and radio programs into podcasts.
Corporations are also attracted by the wide reach of podcasting. They look at the format of existing podcasts and place ads in niches that encourage the purchase of their products. Some companies even go to the extent of creating their own podcasts, including McDonald’s, eBay, Johnson & Johnson, and Microsoft.
Podcast listeners also have distinctive habits that should be observed by podcasting financiers. Advertisements that are read by the host earn more trust ratings from the listeners because they want a trusted and familiar voice to keep up the flow of the episode, rather than to be rudely interrupted by a canned advertisement.
Another peculiar habit of listeners which augurs well for the podcasting industry is that 80 percent of all listeners finish an entire podcast episode up to the end. Whoever said that this entire generation has a short attention span is wrong. This means podcasts knock out other platforms such as Youtube when it comes to drop off rates for their audiences.
These typical behavior traits of podcast listeners reflect a positive outlook for the podcasting industry. Additionally, the smooth upward trend of podcast ad revenues has inspired marketers, podcast producers, and listeners alike. Profitable podcasts encourage more people who are specialists in their fields to create more podcasts and episode content, which in turn churn out more subjects that appeal to more listener niches.
Hernan Lopez, the founder and brains behind Wondery, the podcasting network that built the success of podcasts such as “Dirty John” and “Dr. Death“, has several positive messages on the continued growth of the podcast industry;
“Casual listeners became monthly listeners, and the monthly listeners became weekly listeners.”
He added, “for many years, people from inside and outside the industry have talked about the slow and steady growth. Now, they can’t say slow and steady anymore.”
Well said, Mr. Lopez. You are an ambassador and a prophet of good news for the podcasting industry. You have convinced us that podcasting is still relevant. As we see this promising audio-based industry grow, there are two things that are becoming crystal clear: people love listening to each other and folks just want to talk.