You know that familiar “awkward moment” is speeding toward you as the holiday functions and parties suddenly multiply across your calendar like chicken pox.
You’re standing there, about to take a sip of your drink, when like clockwork it comes:
“So … what do you do?”
“I’m a … I work on the internet. Have you heard of content marketing? I write and produce educational content for a tech startup.”
As the night goes on, and you field that question again and again, you begin to wonder if your words sound like Greek to the other guests, who of course have “normal” jobs.
They all seem to nod in dazed confusion at terms like digital commerce, software as a service, multimedia content creation, attraction strategies, and membership paywalls.
I’ve been that guy countless times, just trying to explain what the hell I do to a relative, and failing miserably.
But then something changed
One year, I mentioned that I was starting to produce podcasts.
Ears perked up, guests looked intrigued, and even my own mother wanted to know how to listen to my new show (we had to gift her a smartphone that year).
Another guy who worked in content marketing shared that he wanted to start his own show too, but was afraid that it was too hard, too expensive, and that his idea was already done.
He said “peak podcast” would spell doom for any that dare try.
A couple of years ago, the podcast contagion truly exploded, connecting millions of “… headphone wearers with educational, specialized, and entertaining on-demand audio content at the click of a Subscribe button.”
And it hasn’t let up, not even close
In fact, there were “… 67 million monthly active [podcast] listeners in 2016, up 40 percent over the last two years,” according to Hot Pod’s Nick Quah, referring to Edison Research’s annual Infinite Dial report.
It’s sure to prove even higher this year. Unlike 10 years ago when only 11 percent of the population had listened to one, now four in ten Americans have tuned in to a podcast.
That’s 112 million people, just in the U.S., who are looking for something good to listen to right now. Each of them has problems to solve, needs a good story to listen to, or just wants to laugh or cry.
Now, with the proliferation of bluetooth technology, increasing mobile usage, smart speakers, and connected cars and homes, even more audiences will be able to access your podcast just about anywhere they want.
But aren’t a lot of podcasts already clogging up the digital airwaves?
Why would you want to start a podcast now?
For the same reasons you would create any kind of content:
- To teach, to help, to be a guiding light in the wilderness
- To build trust, authority, individuality, intimacy
- To solve someone’s problem with your product
- To demonstrate your expertise
- To form a more meaningful connection with prospects of your writing business
- To entertain
- To tell a story that makes your audience the center of the universe for a minute
- To make someone laugh out loud awkwardly at a Denny’s at 2:00 a.m.
In the immortal words of the ’80s radio staple by ‘Til Tuesday:
And I’ll also quote my colleague Jerod Morris, of The Showrunner Podcasting Course fame, on what it means to sell something with your content:
“All of us who create content online sell something.
And no matter what you sell — a product, a service, an experience, information, an idea, yourself, something else — you need your target audience to know you, like you, and trust you before they’ll buy it.
Podcasting is the best way I have found to build the know, like, and trust factors online across a broad audience.”
But chances are you don’t think you can be the next Tim Ferriss, Marc Maron, or Bret Easton Ellis. Those guys get hundreds of millions of downloads and are featured on the front page of Apple Podcasts.
Why even try?
Oddly enough, each of their shows started out with the same thing in common. A desire to start interesting conversations — and no listeners.
“You can’t cross the sea merely by standing and staring at the water.”
Getting started isn’t hard, but getting good takes practice and perseverance
Like most content creation, podcasting is an iterative process that requires patience and flexibility.
The great democratizing piece to the low barrier to entry for podcast production means that almost any online content creator can start a podcast with relative ease.
With a $100 microphone, a laptop computer, some inexpensive sound-proofing, free editing software, solid web hosting, and your killer idea for a course, an interview, or a great story, you can be on your way to producing your standout podcast.
And even if you don’t have the resources yourself, you can always partner with someone who does. Offer your services as a co-host who can help think of show topics, or you could even offer to be an intern to learn the ropes.
The depressing part of the ease of podcasting is that too many hosts start out with poor audio quality, and pod-savvy listeners in 2017 have so many well-produced options, those podcasts unfortunately don’t tend to pick up steam.
Socially awkward holiday parties are now a lot easier
So now when I’m at that cringe-worthy, socially awkward holiday party, I feel pretty good about pointing someone at my podcast 120+ episodes in.
Most of the time, if they’re interested, they’ll pull it right up on their mobile and hit Subscribe.
It’s easier than dropping a business card in someone’s hand that will inevitably be lost in a sea of other cards, and it’s far more memorable.
And I have to say, with the coming innovations in both smart speakers and voice search, who knows?
I’m quite optimistic that some day our audiences will be able to say “Find me a podcast about X, Y, and Z,” and voila! Fingers crossed my show will be just what they want to listen to. Yours too.
Until then, here is a great resource for doing some research on podcasts that might match the topics you’re thinking about tackling.
It’s still a great time to start an indie, hyper-local, niche podcast. So what are you waiting for?
See you out there.