Using Podcasts to Engage, Inform and Entertain

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Soft guitar music starts, then a female voice: "Instead of going, 'What is the desired response from the targeted audience you're trying to reach? How do we generate that desired response? How do we measure that desired response? That's really what we're looking for and what we should be looking for as marketers.' But instead it's about a list of tactics and a list of stuff that we've done to prove our value."

A male voice hums in agreement. Then a moderator comes on: "Welcome to Endless Coffee Cup, a regular discussion of marketing news, culture and media for our complex digital lifestyle. Join Matt Bailey as he engages in discussions to find insights in the latest headlines and deeper understanding for those involved in marketing. Grab a cup of coffee, have a seat and thanks for joining."

Yes, welcome to Bailey's Endless Coffee Cup—this episode is titled "Sexy Data"—and the new-sexy, listen-for-a-while world of podcasts.

Longform, says Bailey—a keynote speaker at SIIA's Business Information & Media Summit, Nov. 14-16 in Fort Lauderdale—should have a place at the table. If that takes the form of a podcast at a coffee shop table, then so be it. And it needs to be "at least an hour because both of us"—the initial co-star is Sue Grabowski, founder of the agency Grabowski & Co.—"felt that not enough conversation is happening. We're writing articles that are short, we're tweeting. When was the last time you sat down over coffee, with no time constraints and just had a conversation?

"If you look at numbers on podcasts, it's been increasing over the last four years," Bailey continued. "They have sort of been a closet industry, and now they're gaining. My favorites are an hour. At 30 minutes you're shutting down when they're getting interesting."

What's also interesting is that in an age where our time is being crunched, hour-long podcasts can still seize part of the day. A colleague here listens while crunching data. Bailey listens in his car. Others, I'm sure, are listening behind those ubiquitous earphones I see on the Metro.

Like anything else, the key is content. The Gilmore Guys podcast has become so popular that they sell out big theaters. Publishers Weekly has podcasts on themes from copyright to Comic-Con to, of course, authors. You can download a Kiplinger's Personal Finance Podcast on a site called LearnOutLoud.com Slate takes on politics, law, sports, parenting and more, and says that their podcasts have "millions of listeners." Overdue is a podcast about the "books you've been meaning to read."

Done well, podcasts can bring in a new audience and further engage your existing one. They don't take as much setting up as a webinar or online course. Their casual nature puts listeners at ease and lets them enjoy without a fear of missing something or not taking notes. It's entertainment with a purpose.

The idea for Bailey is to take that casual nature of the networking conversations we might have at conferences—at the late-evening bar perhaps—and transfer it to podcasts. "The best conversations are ones that don't end," he said. "Something important is on the table and there's not complete agreement. You think it through, explain, defend, push each other's buttons. It's about helping people ask better questions and be better marketers."

Podcasts started to get popular at a time when Comments were losing their luster. Yes, we want you engaged but no, your comments might not add much to the discussion. It's like an audience Q&A after a good talk—if not moderated well it can actually detract from the proceedings. Podcasts usually don't take questions; they raise them.

True to his words, over an hour later, Bailey draws his discussion with Grabowski to a close. "So look past the headlines, get the context of the information and... don't be afraid to ask why," Bailey says.

"Yeah, take a step back and ask the whys," agrees Grabowski.

"That's in the can for our first episode," he says. Laughter. Cue the music. Moderator. Subscribe. Share. See you next week. Out.

Ronn Are you subscribed to the SIPAlert Daily?
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Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 and SIIA in 2013 as editorial director…