Adam Batstone is a former BBC News editor who helped produce some of the BBC’s first podcasts almost 20 years ago and now works with organisations and businesses who are keen to make their own podcasts. We are delighted he has written this piece about podcasting for us.
Finding ways to speak to reach your audience, whoever they may be, can be hard in an increasingly noisy world where people are besieged by an array of different messages from multiple sources.
Against that context it is important to be aware of any new opportunity which can differentiate your communications and help you to speak directly to the people that matter to you. Podcasts are a good example of a format which is engaging, affordable, effective and fun to produce.
The rise of podcasts
Consider some recent statistics which illustrate how podcasts have become an increasingly popular choice for millions of people in the UK:
- Ofcom report that six million adults listen to podcasts every week
- Half of podcast listeners are under 35
- People who subscribe often listen to the whole podcast
- 65% of podcasts are listened to via a smartphone
- 30% of podcasts are listened to while travelling
It was very different in the early 2000s when I helped make some of the BBC’s first experimental podcasts for programmes like Click and Have Your Say. The audiences were small and limited to early adopters who had bought iPods and were interested in anything that was new.
But despite the small audiences the attraction was obvious. Podcasts reached a global audience with no distribution costs, there was no rigid programme format dictating what was ‘right’ and there was a degree of informality and interactivity which meant they sounded different to normal radio.
Almost 20 years on and podcasts have finally come of age. And while some podcasts now boast huge audiences and have made stars out of their presenters, I think the measure of success is producing something that is tailored for a specific audience.
I recently produced a podcast for a drug company which was probably only listened to by fewer than a thousand people. But for those people – most of whom suffer from a rare lung condition – the podcast was highly valuable as it gave a voice to patients, doctors and researchers and addressed a subject that was critical to their lives. For the company who sponsored it the results in terms of reach and engagement were far better than panel events, a brochure or corporate video.
Producing a podcast
There is no doubt that podcasts can be very effective but many people are understandably put off by the prospect of making one. How do you start when you know nothing about recording, editing or distribution?
The truth is anyone could make a podcast themselves. Record something on your phone upload it to the internet and hey presto! You’ve made a podcast.
But despite technology making recording and distribution possible, there is no technological substitute to a good idea, a passionate speaker or an experienced editor. As podcasts become mainstream audiences are less willing to tolerate ‘amateurishness’ in terms of dodgy recordings, poor or non-existent editing and pointless content.
Podcasts do not need to be expensive to produce, but if you are committed to dipping your toe in the podcast pool it is worth doing it properly to ensure you make the most of a format which has never been more popular.