In our series we have presented the technical facets and content possibilities of podcasting. And we found out that a good audio format requires much more than just a working microphone. In this part we equip the podcast with the last missing features: In the form of five tips that should make every podcaster listen very carefully.
Our everyday life has received company. Company that has made itself comfortable in our ears and thus allowed media to get closer to us than rarely before. Podcast consumption has become routine for many people, we now consume it as naturally as television and radio. In our series we wanted to show that the presence of podcasts has become routine, but their production is by no means profane. On the contrary, the variety of formats, the flexible retrievability on various platforms and the special production conditions make podcasts a multi-faceted phenomenon. A phenomenon that no one who likes high-quality content can do without. Here are the final five tips that nobody should ignore.
1st tip: Serial podcasters live longer
Podcasts have developed a lot of dynamic content over the last few years. Compared to TV and radio, a wide range of presentation forms has emerged in the question of format. When it comes to the conception of a podcast, you are basically faced with infinite options. Only one basic question is completely independent of creative considerations: that of series and consistency.
Because this is the core where podcasts differ from common audio content. Because the "feed" that underlies every podcast implies a constant output of content that is based on regularity and habit. After all, podcasting is not just about viewing or downloading numbers, but about subscriptions and regular listeners. Serial thinking must therefore be central to all considerations. Platforms such as Spotify and iTunes prioritize regularly recurring content over more irregular content through their algorithms. This can be observed particularly strongly on YouTube, where Creators repeatedly complain about heavily slumping views after interrupting a constant upload cycle.
Regardless of the creativity and strength of a format, the concept is meaningless if it cannot be mastered week after week or at other regular intervals. Be it due to too much effort, thematic poverty or other time problems: If the series weakens, listeners jump off and switch to the one of the countless competitors. Thus, regularity becomes the number one ingredient to survive in the highly competitive podcast market.
2nd tip: All eyes on listening!
The first contact with a podcast is usually not by ear. A good audio design of the intro and content is enormously important, but the success of a podcast is often decided with image editing instead of audio editing. The cover plays a major role in whether the audience gives the content a chance at all. Three examples how it could work…
Homecoming is a fiction podcast that sheds light on the mysterious story of a company that wants to help American soldiers reintegrate into society. Everyone should hear the resolution for themselves, but tension and mystery should already be awakened with the cover: a wall of leaves hints at hidden intrigues, the unnatural, dim color scheme awakens uneasiness. And the producer, Gimlet-Media, has also found his place. The fiction format is teased by the design, the direction of the content is subtly but atmospherically conveyed. The focus is clearly on the content and the unexpected format.
The success of the podcast classic Fest & Flauschig is based on its celebrities Jan Böhmermann and Oli Schulz. And that's why they are also the centre of attention on the cover. Here, it is the people, not the content, that is presented as the main argument for the audience. The format is identified by the telephone as talk format, the casual pose of the two points to the casual format of "just talking". The cover picture is a logical consequence of the content objective, keyword "form follows function". The small Spotify logo in the upper left corner indicates exclusivity, but does not do so too prominently.
The podcast of the DAK, a German health insurance company, wants to stand out with its colourful design. The orange sticks out among other colour schemes, the rainbow colours only enhance the effect. The nonchalant title, which also introduces the health topic, and the emoji elements point to a young target audience. The health insurance marketing, which is often boring for young people, has developed into a potentially interesting media content.
The three examples show: With cover design it is possible to stand out, to address your target audience and to teaser content and format. Everything at the same time. Whoever gives away this opportunity with a bland advertising image also gives away his content – however good it may be.
3rd tip: First you read, then you listen
A podcast platform is a bit like a bookstore. First of all, the offer seems huge and confusing. Then you can narrow down your search field by selecting the genre and you end up in front of a somewhat smaller stack of books. After the inspection of the book cover follows the blurb, which should inform and give you an interest in the book. If you like it, it is only a short step to the purchase.
It happens similarly with podcasts, but here the description takes over. Attentive by a good cover picture, this short text is the best chance to inform about the offered contents in a short time and to address listeners in a targeted way. Content, tone and form of address can be chosen in such a way that the nature and target group of the podcast are already clear before the first word has even been spoken. The Spotify description of the podcast Herrengedeck provides an example of this:
“They live in Berlin. They make music. They are women. Three very good reasons, not to listen to this podcast. So you would think. But: There is a ban on hippie wreaths and pink glitter, we don't ride the Fixie folding bike to work and drink pfeffi out of the bottle (...)"
Podcast makers Ariana Baborie and Laura Larsson address their potential audience in a very specific way. The two play with the cliché of the “just talk” podcast, which is mostly started by male members of the media landscape in hip Berlin. Here they promise a new approach to an old format with a self-ironic look. The description is deliberately not aimed at everyone: less media-savvy and older people are not the target group. The references cannot and should not be understood by them, Herrengedeck addresses a young and urban target group.
Another example is the brand podcast of the cyber security provider McAfee. He describes his podcast Hackable? on Spotify like this:
“We see lots of movies and TV shows where hackers can infiltrate our lives with just a few keystrokes. But is it real? We’re here to find out. (...)”
Hackable? chooses a much broader approach. The fundamentally complex topics of cybersecurity and digital data security are associated with a low entry hurdle, as the entry with the mass products film and television shows. It would be easy to approach this topic as a niche product for software developers, instead the potential audience in the text is arbitrarily large. What's more, the format and aim of the show are revealed.
The question is not which of the two texts is "better". Rather, it is enough to note that both descriptions perfectly describe the objectives of their podcasts. Herrengedeck would like to get involved in the „just talk“ genre and take the male competitors with a unique selling point, but not open up new target groups. Hackable? as a content marketing product is aimed at new customers and aims for a broad audience, coupled with added value in terms of content. What a cover often only tears at, the descriptive text brings to an end.
4th tip: Social Media
Social Media is now an integral part of any publishing strategy. And podcasts need to consider all possible channels, too. These include your own website and the possibilities offered by the various podcast platforms – but also Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn. All channels have their own peculiarities, but they can be used for more than just a short reminder post for a new episode. The inclusion of listeners, as well as insights behind the scenes, have just as much room there as additional content or sources that were not addressed in the podcast. A good example of this is the true crime podcast Mordlust. Although it does not have its own website, it regularly informs about new episodes via Instagram. There is also additional content on the crime cases and a few atmospheric pictures of the producers. There were almost 700 comments on a post that asked the community for new topics.
Anything goes. For special episodes, the podcast Die Ratsherren also provided the video material of the recording and uploaded it to YouTube. Basically, the distribution on different platforms also broadens the visibility. And interaction in turn increases the involvement of the audience and thus the connection to the podcast. Insider tip: The iTunes charts reward above all comments and star ratings. A little shortcut to get to the top of the charts…
5th tip: Planning IS half the Journey
A good podcast is the sum of numerous individual parts. Podcasting is good sound engineering, editorial content work, the serial planning of a format and a good social media strategy. How strong the individual components are is often a very individual decision. But one thing is always needed: a good plan. Because without it the upper four tips go into the digital dustbin.
Because as we have also found with Content Glory: Without good planning, any good content is worth little. And for good planning there are a lot of opportunities in podcasting. These sample questions need answers:
- What message do I want to convey?
- And how do I build up this message over a series?
- How many episodes do I need?
- How long should a podcast episode be approximately?
- Do I need more than one season? How would I like to draw attention to other content offers or lead magnets?
- What content do I want to refer to where and how? What resources can I invest in production?
- And how long do I have them at my disposal? Which platforms do I use?
- How do I advertise my podcast?
To these questions one could easily add dozens more. But the heart of the matter is that all these questions must be answered before the first microphone is even positioned for recording. This can lead to a long conception phase. And, of course, planning must not be allowed to stand in the way of creativity in recording and content concept.
Ready, set, go!
In our series we wanted to approach the phenomenon of podcasting. And there was a reason for that:
First of all, the medium has long since made it into everyday life and for many people is part of the normal media mix. And yet the podcast is far from receiving the analytical attention it deserves. On closer examination, one can discover a complex and multi-layered medium that contains its own peculiarities and subtleties. Because if you get caught behind a microphone just because of the hypes, you will have little success and will be out of breath quickly. Only with a better understanding of podcasts is it possible to produce good podcasts yourself and to take advantage of the huge possibilities of storytelling.
Secondly, this thing is far from over. While the audio format has already established itself among young people, many older people still hardly know about its existence, as you can see in part one of our series. Yet the barrier to entry is low, if the smartphone finally asserts itself in the older target group. So there is still a huge market to be covered. At the same time, new providers are pushing into the market. Here too, the last word has not yet been spoken.
The time you can still start a podcast is far from over. Precisely because podcasts reward the courage to enter a niche, companies can also discover this type of communication for themselves. One thing is clear: content and inbound marketing have already found their perfect partner in podcasts. The playlist of the everyday soundtrack is far from being full. You just have to fill it.
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