Whether you’ve only just heard of podcasts or you’re one of the 6% of U.S. adults who class themselves as an avid listener, podcasts are worth learning more about. Podcast content marketing can be a powerful way to build an audience for your business and there are a growing number of ways to monetize a podcast effectively.
The best news about podcasting is that now’s the time to get involved.
The podcasting industry has grown dramatically even in just the past few years. In 2018, the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference reported they hosted 550,000 active podcasts, comprising 18.5 million episodes. By 2019, those numbers had grown to over 750,000 active podcasts, and 30 million episodes. That’s a 36 percent increase in the number of podcasts being broadcast in a single year, boosting the available content by 62 percent.
Big media and tech companies have woken up to the opportunity this represents. At the end of 2020, Amazon bought Wondery, a podcasting network, for $300 million. Earlier acquisitions included Spotify buying Gimlet, SiriusXM snapping up Stitcher, and the New York Times adding Serial Productions to its portfolio. These companies see podcasting as big business – and you should too.
Podcasts are growing in popularity
Podcasting is evolving fast – very fast.
Indeed, looking at the numbers above you might think you’ve already missed your opportunity to capitalize on the trend. But before you rush to that conclusion, consider is how many people are listening to all those podcasts.
In 2016, over 50 percent of American adults reported having heard of podcasting, the first time a majority knew what podcasts were. The national audience for podcasts was estimated to be 57 million, about 17 percent of the population, following a trend of year-on-year growth from only 9 percent in 2008. The final key piece of data from 2016 was the revelation that podcast consumption grew in correlation with how mobile it became. The majority of listeners—64 percent—consumed podcasts on the go using smartphones or tablets.
In 2017, almost a quarter of Americans (24 percent) reported listening to podcasts on a monthly basis. By 2019, 32 percent of Americans listened to a podcast in the previous month. For the first time, more than half of American adults reported that they had listened to a podcast, and 22 percent listen to podcasts every single week. By 2020, more than one-third of Americans age 12 and over (104 Million) were consuming podcasts regularly (Edison Infinite Dial).
The number of competing podcasts is growing, but so is the audience hungry for more. In fact, drawing on Everett Rogers’ classic analysis of the stages of technology adoption, it seems likely that we are just at the beginning of the “Early Majority” phase for the adoption of podcasts as a technology. We’ve moved past the Innovator and Early Adopter phases, where the user numbers are, by nature, relatively small, and are now getting into a zone where the numbers are poised to grow dramatically.As an edupreneur, the audience growth for podcasts is particularly enticing, because podcast listeners are significantly more likely to be young, well educated, and social media savvy. Just the sort of people who enjoy participating in online courses and other types of learning experiences.
Your learners are podcast listeners
According to MusicOomph, the average podcast consumer is male, under 44, and around 56 percent more likely to be college educated than the general population. He also has a substantial amount of disposable income—podcast listeners are a third more likely to have an income over $75,000 and 45 percent more likely to earn over $250,000.
From the demographics we can see a significant overlap with the target audience of most online courses, which tends to be young, college educated males. These overlaps make sense given that both podcasts and online courses appeal to people who are committed to continued learning and are comfortable with new technology and ideas.
That’s why edupreneurs should be engaging now with the podcasting audience: podcast listeners are perfectly primed to be receptive to online courses, and have the disposable income to pay for them.
Keep in mind, too, that as we head further into the early majority stage, and then into the late majority stage, the demographics are bound to shift and expand. More and more people are likely to gravitate to podcasts as they become more widely appreciated and easier to consume. You’ll benefit from already having content and an audience as these newcomers arrive.
Capitalize on podcasting’s popularity
So, basically now is the time to start creating your own educational podcast because podcasting is on the early stages of going mainstream.
As already noted, podcasts exploded in popularity when listening went mobile. Cell phones and tablets continue to dominate the market, with the majority of users listening on Apple devices. However there are about 3.75 billion Android users worldwide (compare to 1.25 Apple iOS users), and they’ve barely gotten started listening to podcasts. As Android manufacturers invest in podcast players and distribution networks, expect the number of listeners to soar. (And, Apple itself seems to finally be taking podcasts seriously, so expect more growth through its channels.)
Third parties are also coming on board and changing the industry, noticeably Spotify. The popular music streaming app now distributes podcasts, after snapping up a couple of smaller distributors in 2019, with plans to buy out more. Spotify brings 286 million subscribers to the podcast market, and their user base is growing by about a third year-on-year. Amazon has also gotten into the game lately, buying podcast network Wondery as a way to compete against Spotify.
Smart speakers – think Amazon again – are also poised to change the way people access and engage with podcasts. Having a mobile audience was what got podcasting on its feet, but current trends show almost half of podcast fans listen to shows at home. Smart speakers provide a new, convenient way for end users to listen to podcasts on improved audio equipment from the comfort of their own homes.
Finally – and perhaps most importantly – Google started to show podcasts as part of search results in 2019. That means a podcast can play an important role in your overall search engine optimization (SEO) strategy, providing another way for your prospective learners to discover you and the value you offer.
Repurpose online classes for podcasts
As an edupreneur, there are multiple reasons to be excited about podcasting’s potential.
Not only is podcasting a new and exciting medium poised to take off exponentially, but podcasts themselves are great for producing or reproducing content. If you already have audio or video classes, you can quickly and easily turn them into podcast episodes. Similarly, you can turn podcasts into written content, distributing the same lessons or information in multiple ways across a number of channels.
It pays, as always, to think of everything you do as a production event, and to get creative with how you can repurpose content.
Turn a video into a podcast, then provide reference notes and distribute them alongside the audio. (Providing notes or a transcript also helps with search engine optimization.)
Use notes to encourage mailing list signups, and then turn them into weekly or monthly blog posts and/or newsletters.
Longer videos and podcasts can be cut and republished as quick sound bites containing core lessons or opinions to reach audiences with shorter attention spans, who could be drawn in to listening to a full episode.
Think about different audiences and how you can rework your content to appeal to both the listeners working out at the gym and those relaxing at home.
Start a podcast on a budget
Because you can easily generate podcast episodes using your existing content, they’re relatively cheap to create and produce, which means you can experiment with the format without committing to a large upfront investment in time or money. Strip the audio from existing video courses, or use built-in computer or smartphone mics to record your first episode.
If you do have money to spend, the best place to invest is in equipment that will improve audio quality. You can pick up a good entry-level noise cancelling lavalier for less than $50 (that’s the sort of mic that clips onto your lapel), or if you’re sitting at a desk get a good USB mic. Personally, I prefer a dynamic (as opposed to condenser) microphone because it helps to eliminate background noise. For a solid, medium-priced option, check out check out the Audio 2000 S106A.
If you’re recording your podcast using a video camera or smartphone, spend an extra $100 on a Saramonic SmartRig+. This device connects between the audio and video equipment and ensures that both sides communicate efficiently with each other, no data is lost, and your sound is recorded as clearly as possible. Whatever equipment you use, this clever gadget is a worthwhile investment.
Finally, even on a budget it pays to host your podcast on a reliable and reputable platform like Libsyn (where my Leading Learning podcast is hosted) or Bluburry (where I hosted the limited run podcast for the Learning Revolution book). These sites will provide much more reliable audio streaming than you will get by hosting audio files on your Web site and they will also make it easier to distribute your podcast through Apple Podcasts and other major networks.
Promote your online course through your podcast
Podcasts are an important way you can build confidence in your position as a subject matter expert. Even if your topic doesn’t lend itself well to being taught over a podcast, you could host a talk show with other educators or interview important figures in your subject area, review products, host phone-ins, or almost anything that will keep people tuned in and listening.
Think of your podcast like your own radio show. Consider how people consume audio entertainment, and how you can tie the format into your area of expertise.
A successful podcast will provide a constant stream of new content to drive visitors and engagement to your online courses, seminars, books, and other products or services. If you invite guest speakers or interview subjects to join you, you can also connect with their audience and use their social reach to publicize your podcast.
Keep in mind, too, that regardless of whether you launch your own show, appearing as a guest expert on other people’s podcasts can be a great way to reach your prospective audience.
Earn revenue from podcasting
Podcasts can also generate their own revenue, in much the same way as video content.
You can, for example, run ads. In fact, many of the podcasting platforms (e.g., Libsyn, Blubrry) offer options for incorporating ads into your podcast (though keep in mind that you may need to hit a certain number of monthly downloads to qualify for this option).
Or, you might seek out sponsors who are particularly interested in reaching people in whatever niche you serve. This is the path I’ve taken with the Leading Learning podcast, for example, and it brings in well into five figures in sponsorship income annually. (You do not have to have a big audience to pursue this option. Sponsors are much more interested in the quality of your audience – i.e., are they people likely to convert into customers – than the quantity.)
You can also choose to charge or solicit donations for some or all of your podcast content. Again, most of the major podcast platforms will offer options for selling subscriptions. Or you can solicit donations or ongoing support from fans through sites such as Patreon, which also facilitates tiered access based on membership levels.
Podcasting can cover its own costs using any of these methods, or even bring in additional revenue. And don’t forget the podcast will simultaneously develop your reputation as an educator and act as a promotional vehicle for your other products, referring even more revenue as a result.
For more on this, see The 7 Top Ways to Monetize a Podcast >>
The main downside of podcasting
At this point you might feel ready to jump feet first into podcasting, and there are many reasons to do so. Still, even as someone who dove into podcasting a decade ago and has recorded hundreds of episodes, I recognize that podcasting isn’t for everyone.
Arguably the biggest downside is that podcasting – perhaps more than most other media – requires consistency for success. Launching a podcast is one thing, sustaining it over the long term is quite another. You have to be willing and able to show up with new content on a regular – usually weekly – basis, and there’s no denying that can be challenging. My Leading Learning co-host and I have scrambled on many occasions to find content for an upcoming episode.
Of course, the big upside of consistency of that you will be continually engaging with your audience and challenging yourself to develop content relevant to your audience. Over time, this bolsters your expertise and leads to creating a valuable asset for your business.
In the end, my view is that the potential upsides of starting a podcast at this point outweigh the challenge of consistently producing content. Let’s face it, success at most things requires planning and consistency. Right now, podcasting is an area where having the discipline to do those things can pay off in a big way.
So, is it still worth starting a podcast in 2021? Definitely.