We've certainly come a long way since "podcasts" were just a thing that a handful of people listened to on their click-wheel iPods. Even though the name itself was born from the iPod, it has slowly but steadily risen into one of the dominant forms of entertainment on the planet today. Millions of people listen to podcasts all over the world on a daily basis, many of whom have never owned an Apple product in their life.
Podcasts are creating a great new opportunity for marketers and artists alike on a daily basis that has STILL yet to reach the apex of what is possible with the format.
It's the Wild, Wild West
One of the major reasons why podcasting as a format is so great for marketers and artists is because it's essentially an open range as far as the actual content is concerned. Because the closest relative to the podcast is the traditional radio show, let's take a look at some of the core differences.
With a radio show, you're essentially beholden to the FCC as far as the actual content you're able to create is concerned. There are certain rules and regulations that you have to adhere to regarding what you can say, when you can say it and more. The infrastructure of a radio show is also hugely expensive – if a show is not getting a certain number of listeners, it will not get the ad rates it needs to stay on the air. This can lead to a program getting shelved before it finds its audience.
With a podcast, however, none of this is a concern at all. Podcasting is cheap – all you technically need is a microphone, a piece of recording software (most of which is available freely online) and an Internet connection and you've got your own show.
Much like the rest of the Internet, podcasts are also completely unregulated, meaning that you can say what you want, when you want and how you want – period. Not every show will amass a following of millions of listeners, but it is very possible to cultivate a small but loyal following of "high value customers," aka the types that marketers love.
Keeping in line with just how easy it is to start a podcast, finding listeners is also incredibly easy. Many smartphones (including the iPhone) have a podcasting app built right at at the time of purchase, creating millions upon millions of potential new listeners each year. These users can also listen to podcasts just about anywhere – with advances like Apple's carplay functionality, the differences between listening to a traditional radio and showing in your car versus a podcast are minimal at best.
All of this leads directly into the next major reason why podcasting is the next great frontier for marketers and artists alike: as a medium, it's undeniably popular. WTF with Marc Maron (an interview-style podcast hosted by comedian Marc Maron). There are some network television programs that do not get 4 million viewers per month to put that into perspective.
Listeners Are Used to Ads
Perhaps the most important reason of all why podcasting is great for marketers and artists alike has to do with the fact that listeners are already accredited to advertisements. Podcast episodes naturally lend themselves to a variety of non-intrusive ad formats. Sometimes a host will do live calls for products and services before or after the show itself, leaving the actual content completely uninterrupted. Sometimes a podcast episode will feature a quick break right in the middle for ads, separating the content into two chunks.
It does not actually matter, as listeners are not "changing the channel" the same way they are when a radio show breaks for ads every 10 to 15 minutes. They understand that listening to (or even just putting up with) ads helps keep the content they love free by supporting the artists they want to hear. This in turn translates into big results for marketers, creating the type of situation where everyone wins from the top down.