You Can Keep Expenses Low and Vary the Length for a Successful Podcast

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We know the huge hit that events are taking now. And we encourage everyone to register for next Thursday’s SIPA/AM&P/Connectiv webinar titled Coronavirus and Your Events: How to Make Decisions that Protect Your Business and the Safety of Your Staffthat will include our own Brian Cuthbert from Diversified Communications..


Like any national crisis, audiences are turning more and more to their news sources for information. And within that, publisher podcasts are experiencing serious upticks in listeners. According to a Digiday article this week, since Jan. 22, podcast network Acast reports that there have been 650 episodes which reference “corona” or “covid” in the episode titles. These have been downloaded 16 million times. A number of individual Coronavirus-related podcast episodes have had over 300,000 listens each, including one day (March 5) that had over 875,000 listens.


Here are some tips for starting a podcast:
 
Fit your schedule to your audience. "People get it wrong if they think they have to pump out a podcast every week," Riordan said. "You really need to think what your true podcast value is, what the audience is, and whether a [time-limited] series is a better fit."
 
Over-explain how to listen. There's still a gap in podcast awareness and listening, particularly among older audiences—who listen least, but like Facebook, will most likely be jumping more on board. "Podcast creators still need to explain to potential listeners how to find, subscribe to and download their show."
 
It doesn't have to cost a lot. For Stephanie Williford, CEO of EB Medicine, the annual cost of her EMplify is $6,500. She pays the hosts $500 a month, and they handle entire production. "They send us the audio file and we upload it to Blubrry which pushes it out to iTunes and Google Play." Another SIPA publisher, Spidell, does it all in-house. Editorial creates the content. Audio is recorded in Audacity, and production done in Audition. Then editorial and marketing review a draft.
 
Podcast length can vary to your audience. EMplify is 20 minutes because Williford believes her audience "has a short attention span and not a lot of time. They seem happy with that." Spidell's California Minute is actually 3-5 minutes. President Lynn Freer also said it just feels right for her busy audience, and the numbers—around 700,000 listens and counting and an average of 4,148 per episode—bear that out.
 
Celebrate your launch. "My biggest recommendation is to have a big bang launch, and I'm not talking about an ad on page 5," said radio futurologist James Cridland. "I'm talking about ads throughout the day on your website, a strap on your [publication] for the week."
 
Look inward for talent. "Firstly, use your brand and your talent," said Cridland. In listening to some of the SIPA member podcasts, I'm always impressed by the hosts, who are usually staff members. Kathryn Zdan of Spidell comes to mind. Ask your staff, in all areas, who might be interested in hosting. You never know.
 
Capitalize on your legacy brand. "There's a temptation to launch a new brand around podcasts, rather than using your legacy brand," Cridland said. "But if you do that you end up not having any heritage, and more importantly no points of difference from all the other podcasts out there."
 
Get some advice on selling ads or sponsorships. Cridland recommends approaching an agency that can provide specialist advice on how to sell a new podcast product to potential advertisers. "People who sell full-page ads in newspapers find it quite difficult to go out and sell audio, so having sales people and teams that understand the specifics of selling this kind of content is absolutely essential." This might be a question for the SIPA webinar.
 
Get the word out. "You can leverage it through social media, through newsletters, through making short-form videos," said Riordan. "And if you're an independent podcaster who can't lean on the 'network' effect', you can tap into communities and influencers in your genre."
 
Build off of your podcasts. EB Medicine has created "video" podcasts, which most of their competitors are not doing. It's just slides and text but still represents another communication vehicle. Spidell does a little product marketing now in their podcasts and then follows up with people who open that podcast with an email with more information on that product. "It has generated some revenue for us," Freer said, "enough to justify the time."
 
Check out the recent webinar on podcasts that Freer and Williford did here.

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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…