Three priorities for podcast success

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We're still witnessing the incredible rise of podcast popularity. Here’s how to make sure your podcast stands out.

Sophie Knox

Let’s face it – if you could consume this article without actually reading it, possibly as an audio file, delivered in the dulcet tones of Stephen Fry, that would be your preferred option, right?

Many Australians would back me up.  

The annual Infinite Dial Australia 2021 study tells us that Australians aged 12 and over spend more than 12 hours per week listening to online audio. 

The same study reported that about 5.6 million Australians, or 26% of the population, are weekly podcast listeners. This is a whopping 53% increase over the 2020 study that was conducted before the pandemic hit.

Online or digital audio includes listening to AM/FM/DAB+ radio stations online, streaming services and podcasts. And golly gee whiz, we love a good podcast – Aussies listen to an average of five podcasts per week.

When the study was presented virtually by Edison Research president Larry Rosin this year, he observed 2020 was a year of change for listening habits.

Learn how digital audio is growing in Australia with this video.

One of the key observations in the report was that Australia is finally catching up to the US in terms of podcast consumption, despite awareness having generally been higher in Oz.

Larry Rosin suggested the jump from 25% to 37% of Australians listening to podcasts monthly is a sign that “big players in the podcasting space have put big resources behind the promotion of podcasting”.

Promotion may be one reason behind our increasing interest in podcasts and digital audio, but what else has changed in the last few years to make this format a more attractive option to consumers, media makers and advertisers? 

Living in a locked-down world has certainly given rise to this format – listening to your news, finding your escape in audiobooks and stories told through podcast apps have become the norm for many of us who used to consume media in more traditional ways. 

But how do you start a podcast, and succeed at it? Here are three ways to succeed at podcasting in 2021 and beyond.

1. Tap into video podcasting

Another interesting evolution has been the supportive fabric that transforms the podcast into a rich, multilayered content experience.

Have you noticed some of your favourite podcasts are now available as videos? Say hello to the podcast camera, a webcam made for capturing great footage for video podcasts. This format allows a marriage of the audio with the visual – in a way that showcases the facial expressions, the gestures and the emotion of interviewers and their subjects that sometimes fall away with the audio format of the podcast.

When many of Mamamia’s No Filter podcasts go live with a new episode, the audio file is supported by the release of a YouTube video, with a split-screen treatment showing interviewer Mia Freedman on one side of the recording studio, and guest on the other. 

What’s brilliant about this format is that the interviewer can share scenes from a movie or a piece of visual footage. In this interview with Julia Gillard, Mia shared the TikTok take on Julia’s infamous misogyny speech, so the viewer can not only enjoy the video reference itself, but also Julia’s reaction. This highly evolved use of media and its various formats can curate a feast for the eyes, the ears and the heart all at once. 

According to Podcast Insights, there are now more than 1.5 million active podcasts and this number is growing by the day. And 17% of podcasters now record video as well as audio – that translates to over a quarter of a million video podcasts. On top of this, 10% of podcasters live-stream their episodes. So as content producers, we need to consider adding video as a layer to our audio content as another piece in our multichannel puzzle.

Working in unpredictable production environments and creating content in uncertain times (did anyone say lockdown?), content producers are increasingly setting up their own recording studios. If you’re looking for the right equipment to kit up your own recording suite, check out these podcast equipment recommendations from WIRED, including webcams for video podcasts.

2. Digital marketing: would you like a side of support with that?

When podcasts hit an emotional nerve in the public domain or cover topics whose complexities cannot be addressed in a 40-minute episode, continuing the conversation with your audience in a meaningful way is an important content extension. 

Let’s take the recent series of HCF’s Navigating Parenthood podcast Heads & Tales produced in 2020–21. Season three was all about Imperfect Parenting and who better to make people feel better about not living up to expectations than Jessica Rowe, the self-described Crap Housewife

Jessica was our host for season three – her ability to be human, to be self-deprecating and to identify with many of parenting’s modern-day dilemmas made her the perfect conduit for this discussion with parents of all kinds, including sharing her own struggles with post-natal depression. 

Issues raised across the six episodes include using a sperm donor as a single parent, online safety for kids, coping with stress and making your own rules to balance work and life

To support some of the serious topics we produced articles like "Cyber safety for kids: Tweens and tech" that revealed interesting facts and insights about the issue, as well as expert advice to support parents. And those articles are primed for SEO so new audiences discover this article about cyber safety, digest the info and discover the podcast simultaneously because it’s included as a link on the page to encourage people to download and listen.

Given one of our goals was to broaden the reach of the podcast outside the HCF membership base, we used Jessica Rowe’s renown and platforms in a considered influencer marketing campaign. Jessica wrote a very personal piece about "Why there’s no such thing as the perfect parent" for the HCF website and she promoted this content on her own channels. Jessica also promoted the episodes in self-created posts that dial up her on-brand #craphousewife styling on her Instagram channel. 

HCF also announced the release of each episode of series three on its owned social channels with soundbites of key moments in each of the episodes, using the audio format to tease the listener with raw emotional grabs from each of the parents who generously indulge us with insights about their own parenting struggles. 

Outside your influencer campaign, consider advertising on Spotify and other audio platforms to expand your audience. 

3. Go the extra mile…

Just like any piece of content, ensuring the tone of voice meets your brand vision is important – with a podcast, this means making sure your intros and outros are consistent and fall in line with the general tone of the content. 

For the Navigating Parenthood podcast, we ensured Jessica was upbeat, friendly and relatable but also serious and considered when required.

Other ways to support the content experience of your podcast is to include complementary material in the show notes. And when you come to write the copy (the intro, the description copy for each of the episodes, even the episode titles) on each of the platforms (think Apple, Spotify, Omny), remember to research keywords to include the terms and phrases people are searching for in that topic area. It’s all about SEO, people!

Some audiences might like to consume transcripts of the podcast – and making these available for your hearing-impaired audience shows empathy and connection to a segment you might otherwise ignore.

Keen to encourage an interactive layer to your podcast? Why not set-up a phone number and a voicemail service where people can call in and ask questions or leave a message that you could feature in the episode?

And finally, podcasts may be an audio format, but we live in a highly visual world. Nailing your podcast logo and any other supportive design material is an important step in the creative content process. 

When it comes to best practice in producing your podcast, the list is long. But what’s clear now is that simply producing a podcast and publishing to a platform is no longer enough to achieve success in a very busy podcast marketplace. 

Supporting your audio file with other forms of media, promotion and advertising, and thinking about your production as a form of content marketing, will ensure your podcast gets into the ears (and eyes) of as many people as possible. 

Keen to chat about producing your own podcast for your brand? We are in love with podcasting and would love to help you make it a reality. Email us at Heads & Tales.

Sophie Knox, editorial director Heads & Tales