Admittedly, the title of this post is quite ambiguous. Just to clarify, I will not address the reasons why I have decided to start a podcast. Not this time, sorry! Instead, this post is about why I have chosen to do a podcast – or to be more specific – why I have chosen podcasting as a content-delivery medium. Without praising podcasting to the skies, let me summarize the set of reasons in support of podcasting that I could glean from my readings. Be warned, this might end up being a long post!
The whys and wherefores
Podcasting is a fantastic outlet for getting your independent message out.
As touched upon in my previous post (What is a podcast?), you can podcast about literally anything. You can air your ideas – share your passion, and much more – on any subject that interests you; including the unique and the hard-to-find content that radio broadcasts don’t deal with. You don’t have to go mainstream. On the contrary, podcasting is all about the niche. Whether you have hundreds or thousands of listeners,
it makes no difference to the non-existent programming lineup . . . [:] no sacrifices are required to appeal to anyone more than those who are interested in tuning in1. You can also speak freely, without control and restrictions (as long as you avoid, among other things, any infringement).
Podcasting provides a way to reach the world.
The freedom to talk about the topic of your choice is quite appealing, but the potential to reach tens of thousands of listeners worldwide is even more stunning. I have given seminars in front of dozens of people – sometimes hundreds of people were present – but I have never thought of, or even imagined, such a large attendance. You can also reach a brand new audience; a group of people who might otherwise never have known who you are nor what your subject matter is. Obviously, someone other than you and your great-aunt Aunty2 needs to care.
Podcasts are on-demand, which means you can listen to what you want, when and where you want.
Without contest, the strongest argument is
the power of walkaway content3. From a consumer point of view, the big advantage of podcasting is that it enables you to subscribe to, store, and consume this audio content when and where you please. Podcasts are definitively easy to access, as the delivery vehicle has been automated for the listener (see What is a podcast?). You are not tied to your computer either, as podcasts can be listened to on any device (smartphone, MP3 player…). This ability to consume media on the go is critical to many. As pointed out by Todd Cochrane3:
throughout the world today, individuals are driving to work in cars, sitting on buses, walking down the street, or waiting for a train while they listen to podcasts.
Cheap and Easy
You can podcast without breaking the bank: you don’t need to own a recording studio or to be rich to be a podcaster. There are some high-end producers4, granted, but because of the low cost of entry to podcasting, many people actually try it. Yet, low cost doesn’t mean any cost: whether you decide to start with the
gear you own today3 or you choose to build a semi-professional studio you will need a budget! At least if you are serious about it. Here is what Evo Terra1 has to say about
such a small investment:
Most podcasters will spend no more than a hundred bucks a month on their show — average over time — and that’s stretching it.Evo Terra
So, does this argument belong more to the “Cons” than to the “Pros”? Yes, but not necessarily. Several online guides claim that you can also
do it for next to nothing or
start a podcast on the cheap or even better
podcast for free. Maybe this can be a good place to begin with – if you are just getting started and you don’t know whether podcasting is for you – maybe?
As previously explained in The CogitActive Saga, I have chosen a different path; I will not come back on CogitActive’s guiding principles nor try to convince you on how committed I am. My point, here, is simply to address the fact that
Cheap and Easy can be, for some, an argument in favor of podcasting.
Anyway, a beneficial outgrowth of
Cheap and Easy is the incredible choices listeners have in the way of content: from general topics of interest to narrower topics that appeal to more specialized audiences. Further, most of podcasts are free. So enjoy your podcast(s)!
Last, but not least, I have repeatedly seen – so it must be true – that the simplest reason to podcast is because:
What makes podcasting unique?
It is apparent that podcasting is a valuable and convenient medium for sharing/consuming content. You can communicate with other people in a new and exciting way. You can… Wait. Wait a second. You can do that with other platforms as well, can’t you? So… Why not a blog? Why not a YouTube channel (or any other hosting platform for video)? Why a podcast? What sets podcasting apart?
Podcast is not a content medium that requires all of your attention, as reading a blog or watching a video would. Thus, you can actively listen and learn from a podcast while also doing something else at the same time. If like me you want to – have to – multitask and get as much done as possible, podcasts make it easy to listen while jogging, getting housework done, or going from one place to another. You can fit podcasts into your day seamlessly.
Furthermore, in contrast to watching a video or reading a blog post, you don’t have to keep your eyes on your screen when listening to a podcast. For instance, you can’t – should not – read blogs or watch videos when driving or jogging outside. With podcasts, you can!
Anywhere – really!
Few years ago, I could have argue that the
power of walk away content3 belongs to podcasting only. However, with nowadays smartphones, you can watch online videos or read blogs, as easily as you will listen to podcasts. Yet, podcast might be the most mobile platform as it can follow you in any environment; in particular, where the other two can’t really go. This is possible because once downloaded to your apparatus, you don’t have to be connected (to any network) to listen to podcasts. This remains true even nowadays with a wireless coverage way better than it used to be. Let me tell you how valuable this was for me. I was working during long hours on tasks that did not require my undivided attention, so I could multitask (see above) and listen to podcasts. What I didn’t mention, yet, was that I was doing these assignments in the “dungeon”, i.e. the very basement of a building with limited or no network. With podcasts, that was not a problem.
In addition, as aforementioned, you can’t watch/read a video/blog in all circumstances (e.g. driving to work). On the contrary, it seems that there are no limits on to where people are listening to podcasts. I have read about folks – myself included – listening to podcasts while hiking, browsing the aisles of a grocery, or even working.
While blogging provides a platform for people to voice their ideas,podcasting adds volume and tone to that voice1
Another aspect about podcasting put forward by podcasters, as well as podcast’s listeners, is the personal nature of a podcast. Scripted or not, they are
mostly unedited, real, and from-the-heart commentary3. People can notice your intonation, the emotion in your voice; create an intimate connection. Moreover, as no skimming is involved, you are in your listener’s ears for thirty minutes or more. They are hearing you talking to them, one on one. As such, podcasting is just one of the most engaging forms of content delivery, and allows you to build a stronger relationship with your audience. With some of the podcasts I am listening to, I feel like I have been friend with the host for years. Each time I’m listening to his show, it’s like having a chat with him and his co-hosts. I am not as talkative as they are, though, and they never reply to my comments either (attempt at humor, here).
vlogging: video blogging; better known as YouTubing given the popularity of this sharing platform.
It might also be a more sincere form of communication as there is not nearly as much pressure as with blogging or vlogging to manipulate your content to go viral (see below).
Apparently, there is a lot less competition in podcasting than there is in blogging or vlogging. This argument is recurrent in articles, which aim at convincing you to start a podcast (with the help of the services provided by the author or his company, of course). For instance, here are the statistics reported by Buzzsprout in its Podcasting 101 Guide:
As of 2018, there are close to 50 million YouTube channels, 440 million blogs, but just over 550,000 podcasts listed in Apple Podcasts. That means for every podcast there are 800 blogs and 90 YouTube channels.
I have seen similar stats, more or less outdated, in other sources as well. So it must be true, doesn’t it? Yes, but once again, not necessarily. The fact that there are still far fewer podcasts than blogs and YouTube channels doesn’t imply that the competition is less fierce.
64 % (estimated 180 million) of American 12+ were aware of the term podcasting in 2018; compared to 22 % in 20065.
The question should not be how many podcasts are available, but how many people are listening to podcasts. Indeed, podcasting has certainly come a long way since 2004, and yet it isn’t uncommon to hear this question:
What is a podcast?2. I don’t know what the worldwide podcast listenership6 is, but here are some interesting statistics for American 12+ (USA only) from The Infinite Dial 20185:
124 million people have ever listened to a podcast.
73 million people listened to at least one podcast in the last month.
48 million people listened to at least one podcast in the last week.
Note that there are many other blogging platforms than wordpress.com or other video sharing platforms than YouTube.
How do these 73 million podcast listeners compare to the 409 million people that are viewing wordpress.com blog pages each month7 or to the 1.57 billion monthly active YouTube users8?
Therefore, to sum up, blogging and vlogging definitively are farther reaching than podcasting. However, podcasting continues to grow steadily, and as there are still far fewer podcasts than blogs and YouTube channels, podcasting might benefit from having less competition. To illustrate this point, I would like to oppose this quotation from Kreg Steppe1 about podcasting:
If you stick with it and make something that is interesting or entertaining, people will come.Kreg Steppe
To the one from Lisa Sabin-Wilson9 about blogging:
The idea that people will eventually find any content you write is a pretty big falsehood.Lisa Sabin-Wilson
Better user experience (NO ADS)
One would have to be blind (deaf would be more appropriate given the context) not to notice the following:
this podcast is brought to you by… or other kind of
after this message from our sponsor. Podcasters are not immune to the mermaid’s song; you can make (a lot of) money from ads and sponsors. My point is not whether you can – or should – monetize your podcast. My point is that while there are advertisements in podcasts, they are far less intrusive than those that have overrun the blogging and video sites. If any, they are short, most often host-read ads (as opposed to programmatic ads) and related to the topic of your podcast. No prestitial ad (those ads that block the content you actually want to access by loading first), no pop-up, no auto-play, no deceptive link, no slow loading time…
Another point that I want to put forward is the insidious ramification of this approach to monetization (advertising). To avoid any misinterpretation, let me first ask you few questions:
Did you ever read the exactly same content on different blogs?
How many worthless blog posts or videos are you going through when looking for a specific information?
Have you ever been fooled by a deceptive title?
Even though valuable content and useful utilities are still there, nowadays, there is too much crap on the web. The problem goes beyond the debate over content quality versus content quantity or the idea of publishing content for the sake of publishing. For too many people, the incentive for blogging or vlogging is no more about sharing their ideas. No need to be a genius to figure out that the driving force behind much of the disrepute online is money. I am not saying that money is evil and that content creators should not be rewarded (paid) for their work. Ads remain the source of funding for just about everything on the internet. The problem is when you aim at producing content in order to make money, and not the other way around: make good content first, and ads would produce the revenue you deserve.
Here goes. All sorts of nefarious tricks are being leveraged to obtain as much traffic, or to make as many clicks, as possible. Original contents are hijacked and republished somewhere else (hence, seeing the same exact web posts again and again). Think also about the nutty content recently found on YouTube Kids, not mentioning the unspeakable crap, and far more dangerous fake news. Consider the crappy clickbait and their eye-catching headlines:
that you won’t believe,
that will shock you or
that will blow your mind. And so on… In fact, the more outrageous, the better!
Please forgive me this impassioned argumentation. Could you feel the frustration in my (blogging) voice – without the volume and tone (that would add podcasting)? If not, here is my raw emotion going with it: yes, I am exasperated! Anyway, I (want to) believe that podcasting is not – yet – affected by this aftermath. Maybe, this relatively new medium is still powered by passion and fun – not money – maybe?
Easier to produce
I found several time this argument: it is far easier to produce a podcast than a video or other form of online content. This is not hard to comprehend – sound is your only consideration. Unquestioningly, a video will require more time to produce than an audio podcast as it combines picture and audio. Ironically, however, I have seen on many occasion that, when shooting a video, audio is arguably more important than video image quality. I will not discuss this subject at any greater length – don’t worry. I will just point out that for either audio or video, you need some specialized equipment and skills. For that matter, a blog should be easier to produce than a podcast. However, writing is not that easy, especially when it involves writing in a foreign language. No need to point out that I am not a native English speaker – please be indulgent with my English!
To sum up, easier doesn’t mean easy, as stressed by Patrick Allan10:
It’s easy to assume that podcasts are easy to produce because they’re audio only, but don’t be fooled.Patrick Allan
So many reasons in favor of podcasting from the points of view of either producer or consumer, but which ones apply to me? Pretty much all of the above (except for the
Cheap and Easy, obviously). I could not but notice the predominance of arguments from the consumer point of view, though. In fact, I was a podcast listener before to become (hopefully) a podcaster. There is no doubt that my (positive) personal experience with podcasts has a lot to do with my choice; as does my not-so-positive user experience with blogs or YouTube. Besides, the topic of my podcast does not require a video support, and on the contrary, audio will be a better way to share my expertise and my passion. Indeed, I believe that podcasting is perfectly suited for the angle I have chosen for my own podcast. Why? Simply because podcasting is probably the best storytelling medium! I could rationalize further, but it is time to conclude.
To recap, I have chosen podcasting over blogging or vlogging, and hope to release my show in the not too distant future. Now, you may wonder why, after choosing podcasting, I started a blog, especially knowing that I am not a natural born blogger. Don’t worry, I will soon provide you with an explanation, but in the meanwhile, I hope you enjoy reading this post.
1 Tee Morris, Chuck Tomasi, and Evo Terra (2008) Podcasting For Dummies – Second Edition. Indianapolis, Indiana: Wiley Publishing. ^
2 See What is a podcast? ^
3 Todd Cochrane (2005) Podcasting – The Do-It-Yourself Guide. Indianapolis, Indiana: Wiley Publishing. ^
4 As previously stated in The CogitActive Saga, I aspire to produce a top notch podcast, with NPR sound quality, high-end content and all the bells and whistles. ^
5 Edison Research (2018) The podcast consumer 2018 ^
6 I have found here that
36% of the worldwide population is listening to podcasts, but I could not find anything to substantiate this claim. ^
7 WordPress.com (2018) How many people are reading blogs? ^
8 Omnicore (2018) Total Number of Monthly Active YouTube Users (last updated: 1/24/18) ^
9 Lisa Sabin-Wilson (2017) WordPress All-In-One For Dummies – Third Edition. Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons. ^
10 Patrick Allan (2017) How to Start Your Own Podcast. Lifehacker. ^