Is Podcasting the Next Thing? (Jim Karrh On Marketing)

by Jim Karrh  on Monday, Dec. 3, 2018 12:00 am   3 min read

We have all become accustomed to seeing other people wearing their earbuds or headphones while they are in an airliner seat or on an elliptical trainer. Increasingly, professionals in those instances are listening to a podcast rather than music.

Podcasting seems to have reached a kind of early adolescence as a new medium. In this column, I will share the implications for both listeners and businesses that might be looking to leverage the rise of podcasting.

First, let’s define terms. A podcast is an audio file, published online, that is part of some series that listeners can subscribe to at no charge. The term arose as listeners were using their iPods to access the programs. Podcasting enjoyed an inflection point in 2014 due to both content and distribution. That year National Public Radio launched “Serial,” a true-crime series that became a global phenomenon. Near that same time Apple installed the Podcast app in its operating system, so millions of iPhones had podcasts available on the home screen. Today there are more than 500,000 active shows on iTunes.

You can listen to specific episodes of podcasts individually or “subscribe” to a show you particularly like. When you subscribe, subsequent episodes will download automatically into your app or listening platform of choice (such as iTunes, Google Play or Spotify).

Awareness and listenership continue to grow, albeit slowly. According to the latest from Edison Research and Trinitron Digital, 60 percent of Americans have heard the term “podcasting,” up from 22 percent in 2006. Nearly a third of those 25-54 say they have listened to a podcast during the last month, almost twice the percentage compared with four years ago. Still, if you have not yet jumped on the podcasting bandwagon then you have company.

Part of the issue is the extremely wide mix of podcasts available. There is no uniformity in terms of length or format. A quick search on my iPhone Podcasts app might lead me to a 23-minute episode of “Quilting for the Rest of Us” (that would be Episode 195) or the bestselling author Tim Ferriss interviewing the legendary writer Cal Fussman for more than three hours (Episode 145).

As the medium moves from adolescence into adulthood there are implications for listeners, producers and advertisers. Listeners will tend to gather into a few broadly popular podcasts and lots of niche shows. Producers have the opportunity to engage with people who are highly interested in some area of expertise and passion — although with so many titles available, the challenge is finding that audience (or enabling the audience to find them). A few podcasters are making money from their shows on a standalone basis, but most use their shows “above the sales funnel” to build a following and develop marketing content.

There is also a “cool” factor. Even as a brand-new podcast host, I have been able to interview bestselling authors, an orchestra conductor and a former FBI hostage negotiator. Pretty cool.

What’s in it for advertisers, at least potentially? It is harder and harder to get consumers’ attention for more than a few nanoseconds these days. Podcasts offer audiences who are really into the content of the show and who have tight bonds with the hosts. The market rate for sponsorships seems to be in the range of $25-$45 per 1,000 unique downloads (but figures vary widely, and only the more popular shows are getting much traction from national advertisers).

Podcasting will not become a mass-consumption vehicle. It may develop into something akin to magazines, with a few notable and popular titles plus many smaller niche shows. That would serve everyone’s listening interests just fine. For all of you aspiring quilters, untangle those earbuds and give it a listen.

Jim Karrh of Little Rock is a consultant and professional speaker, a consulting principal with DSG and host of “The Manage Your Message Podcast.” Email him at and follow him on Twitter @JimKarrh.



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