Friday, April 17, 2015

Keeping Up with The Jones'

Podcasting has grown up!  The industry marque of those with a podcast reads like a who’s who in audio media—Adam Carolla, Dan Patrick, Kathie Lee, Carson Daly, Dave Ramsey, Jim Rome, Danny Bonaduce, Clark Howard, Dr. Drew, and many others.  The  iTunes’ Top 100 Chart features numerous podcasts that have become household names while enjoying millions of downloads—Serial, This American Life, Freakonomics, Invisibilia, and many others.

Gone are the days, or very well they should be, when podcast production involved little more than plugging a microphone into a computer’s USB port and a host with the need for a hobby.  A well-produced podcast can attract large audiences and the list of advertisers seeking to expose their products to this engaged audience continues to grow.  Advertising rates are averaging $25 per one-thousand downloads and for hosts with a growing audience base, those revenue numbers can quickly add up to real money.  We jokingly advise our clients that if they are just looking for a hobby to switch to gardening.  It’s a relaxing way to spend your free time.  However, if you are seeking to generate your share of the growing sponsor dollars being spent with podcasters, it may be time for a critical self-evaluation to ensure your program is keeping pace with industry leaders and the higher bar being set today. 

We studied a wide variety of today’s successful podcast. Without exception, the successful ones, those enjoying large audiences and robust advertising revenues had a few things in common. For this blog, we'd like to focus on two of those commonalities. Each of the podcasts we examined are entertaining or informative in a unique way, well produced, and the combination of the two elements foster an appeal creating an environment where the podcast is able to go viral.  Elementary school math aside, in this case, one plus one overwhelmingly equals three. 

Let’s undertake a self-evaluation and compare how your podcast measures against the higher standards that have led to greater expectations from the listening audience.

Star Power. By this we don’t mean a podcast host must have a nationally recognized name in order to be successful.  Rather, does your content and on-air style have star power? It helps if the subject of your podcast is one-of-a-kind, but given today’s crowded field, that could be challenging. Develop a unique approach to the subjects you cover. If your podcast is informative in nature, go beyond the typical host and guest interview format. If story telling is your passion, use sound drops and effects to help your listener create a visual experience. Rob Cesternino, host of "Rob Has A Podcast", masterfully combines a unique topic with high appeal (reality television) with an infectious personality to produce one of the industry's most popular podcasts. So much so, that Rob won two awards this year at the 2015 New Media Expo-- Peoples Choice and Best Entertainment Podcast. Listeners of "Serial" were no doubt drawn in by the podcast's use of sound, interviews, and music. Those tools helped to tell what was already an interesting story. 

Production Value. Today's audio-on-demand listener is more sophisticated than those generated by the niche oriented podcasts of just a few years ago. "Serial" is a wonderful proof of the concept, if you build it, they will come. Each episode begins with the announcement "previously on Serial" followed by excerpts from past programs. The show's music theme instantly becomes memorable after just a few listens. The use production elements throughout the program helps to maintain a momentum that compels its audience to come back for more, episode after episode.

To compete with established winning podcasts in these areas, our clients are encouraged to use the following check list when starting or upgrading their podcasts.

Content and Style  
Is my topic unique or is it commonly available?
How will my on-air persona best compliment this subject or help to tell a story?
Does every quest pass the "who cares" test?
What audio elements can help to keep my listeners engaged?
Will the subject matter and approach motivate a listener to share my podcast with others?

Showbiz Appeal
Does my show open immediately grab the listener?
What type of music intro and voice-over announcer will be used in the show open?
Is it appropriate to use bumper music coming in and out of commercial breaks?
Will soundbites and audio effects help tell my story or keep the podcast moving?
Is the technical quality, and that of my guests, comparable with higher-bar industry standards?
Does my show close compel the listener to come back for future episodes?

These are exciting times for producers of audio-on-demand content. Just as high quality original programming has changed the way viewers consume television, podcasting is now enjoying a new level of attention. Today's industry leaders are successfully combining compelling content, on-air charisma, and a touch of showbiz production resulting in high value podcasts that easily make the grade for becoming viral. Whether you are launching a new podcast or upgrading an existing one, these are industry best practices we can all learn from.

About RadioLinx. RadioLinx Broadcast Marketing was founded in 1997 and specializes in syndication representation. RadioLinx Podcast Consulting assists terrestrial radio hosts and podcasters with the development of their digital distribution strategy and provides actionable consultation on how to grow a digital audience while enhancing the advertiser appeal of client podcasts. Contact RadioLinx at 480-993-3150,,