Audio podcasting is an incredibly stupid idea — and why you still might want to give it a try

audio podcasting for businessSo, you’ve heard that audio podcasting is a fantastic way to leverage new media and expand the delivery vectors of your content strategy? It’s cheap! It’s efficient! It’s direct! It engages your core audience! Buzzwords!

Sorry, no it’s not. Most of the time, as a business strategy, it’s an awful idea. Here’s why, along with why your business could be the exception.

  • Audio podcasting is expensive. Yes, you can spend time to learn how to take advantage of cheap gear, how to use cheap or free software, and how to produce good audio — or you can pay someone else to do it for you (and we charge a lot). The fact is, to get a top-quality product, you’ll need to set aside and prepare dedicated studio space and carve out a lot of time. You can ignore this warning if: You have a background in audio production, radio or performance. Even if you just dabbled in college, you’ll be way ahead of the curve, and you’ll be much more likely to pick up the skills you need and run with them very quickly. Podcasting demands its own skill set, but it’s not rocket science.
  • Audio podcasting is a lousy way to educate people. Lectures may be the oldest form of education out there, but they’re also incredibly ineffective. Simply put, it might make someone feel good to listen to you talk about smart things, but the chances that anyone is going to learn anything is low. You can ignore this warning if: You happen to have a lot of audio content sitting around, from old recordings of lectures or speeches or something. Posting them as podcasts is a great way to repurpose that old material. It provides a free bonus gift on your website that you can flog, and everybody likes free things.
  • Audio podcasting isn’t particularly popular. A thousand downloads per episode is a good, high-performing number for you to build your show towards. By contrast, the same amount of effort should net you at least 50,000 Youtube views. Think of it this way: The audience for an audio podcast is limited to people nerdy enough to take advantage of the technology who also like listening to people talk (fans of NPR, conservative call in, Coast to Coast AM, shortwave or ham radio nuts) AND who have a reason to be interested in whatever it is you have to say. That’s not a lot of people. You can ignore this warning if: Your brand commands cult-like loyalty from your audience, and you’re a charismatic person. Even a couple of hundred downloads could be incredibly valuable to you, if you consider that each of those downloads represents a person volunteering to let you be a voice in their head. Marketing does not get more direct than that.  (If you want to attract attention and be popular, just skip audio altogether and go straight to video.)

OK, so I’ve popped your bubble and you don’t want to podcast any more, but you still have a hole in your marketing strategy and some money set aside. Now what? Again, this being the Internet, it’s always easier to grab someone else’s audience than build your own, and here’s where podcasting can be a profoundly powerful tool. Just use somebody else’s podcast!

Or try following Jesse Brown’s suggestion: “Find somebody who’s doing something cool on the Internet, for free. There are lots of them! They’re writing blogs and making games and writing code and making music or short films, or producing podcasts. A lot of them already have a lot of Internet friends, but most of them don’t have much money. Give them money. Give them money to keep doing their cool stuff, and ask them to tell all their Internet friends who’s helping them out. Do not ask them to tell everyone that you are the best condom or big box store or chicken purveyor out there. That … would be acting like a schmuck. Just pay them for being cool, and ask them to say thank you.”

Image credit: head-off

Meredith Matthews has been podcasting, producing and collaborating for 6 years from the venerable braindouche.net. When she’s not podcasting, she can be found consulting on and producing other people’s podcasts. When she’s not doing that either (which is most of the time), she is a freelance WordPress developer and general-purpose mercenary nerd. Her portfolios can be found at braindouche.com and hotgluemedia.com, but they’re both so woefully out of date you probably shouldn’t bother, and instead send her an e-mail at mer at braindouche.com. 

3 Comments

  1. Swede White 3 years ago

    Good points here. I think it is a wise idea for public speakers to record their audio and combine it with visual elements of their presentation to make a video for distribution. This can also be done with webinars. However, I don’t think booking studio time to record a quality podcast or video is necessary. With a proper hypercardioid or cardioid microphone placed correctly and the speaker close enough to it, a lot of room noise can be eliminated. That being said, I wouldn’t suggest attempting to record a podcast or video from a cubicle in the middle of an office. “Bob, line two,” wouldn’t really add to a message. The last paragraph is great advice.

  2. I disagree with just about everything that the author has told you about why you should not do podcasting and am horrified at her lack of knowledge at just how successful podcasting can be as a marketing tool. One thing she did leave out is it takes persistance and consisence. I have been Talkcasting, author calls it podcasting for over five years and used it to create an online platform from which i can sell anything should I chose. But my niche is Web 2.0 Gorilla Branding Training, a trademarked system for teaching others to brand themseslves online as I did.

    First of all, it is very inexpensive, actually free and some equipment that you can use for under $250.00. When I started five years ago I actually used my cell phone. Also if you run it like a radio show with guest interviews, you will promote yourself and your clients and friends.

    I actually won the 2009 National Small Business Administration Journalist of the Year Award and have accumlated nearly a million listeners.

    I have also created Pittsburgh’s First Online Radio and TV Network and started all of this with no money after I lost a very successful limousine business in the aftermath of Hurricane Ivan.

    Here’s a tip, both http://talkshoe.com and http://blogtalkradio.com are free services.

    If you’d like you can check out my network at: http://pplmag.com

    And I would be happy to answer any of your questions about succesful podcasting, but those of us in NEW MEDIA call it TalkCasting.

    You can find my contact info on any of my sights or by going to information section on my linked in profile for Joanne Quinn-Smith.

  3. Mary Pam Kilgore 3 years ago

    Podcasting expensive! I don’t think so. You can do podcasting expensively if you go to Talkshoe.com This website has been offering podcasting for free since 2005. They call it as a talkcasting. You can use your phone or microphone. It allows you to talklcast from anywhere at anytime. No expensive studio time needed. And the audio quality is great!

    Podcasting done in conjunction with other social and traditional marketing is a thoughtful addition. You can posit it on your blog, website, Facebook, Twitter. You would surprised who listens and lets you know.

    The problem with Podcasting is the same as other forms of online marketing, Taking the time to do it on a consistent basis. You have to plan what you are going to say, write an outline and actually do it. But if you take the time, it’s worth it.

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