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Podcasts: The Power of a Slow Story

PicStitch_Podcast Blog_2 12 15 If you were to eavesdrop on some of the NSTers’ conversations a couple of months ago, it’d be no surprise to hear us talking about the “Serial” podcast. New episodes would post on Thursdays, and we couldn’t stop talking about it on Fridays. Some might even call us “’Serial’ addicts.” So when we read how Adnan Syed – the incarcerated subject of the show – was granted the right to an appeal last week, we were amazed how one podcast had so much impact on the lives of everyone involved. 

Whether you listened to “Serial” or not, it’s important for PR pros, the members of the media and marketers to recognize the growing power of podcasts. According to Edison Research’s “Share of Ear” fall 2014 study released last month, roughly 94 million people listened to podcasts weekly in 2014, and the typical podcast listener listens to podcasts more than any other kind of audio content. With more people listening than ever, and real money to be made in a media landscape with disappearing ad dollars, it’s no surprise radio veterans and media outlets like TIME and CNN are flocking to podcasts.

Podcasts have the ability to move audiences and creators of successful podcasts, such as “This American Life,” “Radiolab,” “Startup” and “TED Radio Hour,” know this. Whether it’s for the sake of crowdfunding or to simply keep their audience members listening, it’s clear that podcast creators are exploring various ways to keep their audiences engaged, but what makes podcasts so appealing for consumers? After much research and thought, here are some of my reasons:

1) Podcasts are intimate: According to Matt Lieber, a former public radio producer and co-founder of Gimlet Media, Americans spend more than three hours a day commuting, working out and doing household chores that can be accompanied by audio entertainment. Our experience with podcasts is either in the car or with headphones, and it’s personal, both in what we listen to and when we listen to it. It’s really just you and your smartphone or computer, and lots of options.

2) The flexibility and access: This is partly because of the surge in smartphones, but finding and listening to audio has never been easier. We can pretty much get whatever podcast we want, when we want it. Similar to an audible DVR, we don’t have to worry about missing out on a live broadcast.

3) Quality over quantity: Given our rapidly evolving technology and thirst for more content, we’ve shown media and businesses that we want it all and we want it now, and we’re not likely to slow down on our own. Podcasts are training and educating us. Once listeners get through an episode they like, they might feel like they have a relationship with the narrator and trust the narrator will bring them another good episode. Why was “Serial” so interesting? Because we couldn’t wait to hear what happened next.

From automotive to beer enthusiast podcasts, there’s a podcast on almost everything. People, brands and organizations can connect and tell their story to a specific target audience they want to reach, whether this is through ads or interviews. Podcasts are the beginning of something new, it’s a wide-open playing field and I’m excited to see how this medium will continue to evolve.

Want to join the podcast bandwagon? I encourage you to check out Stitcher’s top podcast show list here. Warning: it’s addicting.

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