Neil Patel

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What Is a Podcast?

A graphic that says "What Is A Podcast?"

Three out of four people in the U.S. are familiar with the term “podcasting”, according to Nielsen, which is thought to be a combination of the words “iPod” and “broadcast”. But familiarity and understanding are not the same. 

So, what is a podcast, exactly? Foundationally, a podcast is a type of consumable digital media, usually with a targeted focus and audience.

Defining a podcast is one thing, but the real excitement comes from realizing how it can be leveraged to benefit you or your brand. 

Did you know that there’s roughly 1 blog for every 7.8 people in this world but only 1 podcast for every 1,857 people?

Podcasts as a medium hold so much untapped potential. So, let’s uncover more about what podcasts are and how they work.

Key Takeaways

  • Podcasts attract highly engaged listeners actively seeking specific content. Because of their audio/visual components and inherent conversational nature, they can also be a great way to form emotional connections with readers and hold their interest longer than other forms of digital media.
  • With fewer podcasts than blogs, there’s significant potential to stand out.
  • From interviews to storytelling, there is a wide range of podcast formats that are well-suited to different audiences.
  • Podcasts help establish thought leadership, generate leads, and foster brand loyalty.
A pie chart on podcast penetration.

Source: Nielsen Podcast Insights

What Is a Podcast and How Does It Work?

Podcasts are a type of digital media that rely on audio/visual communication to relay information.

Here are three key elements that make podcasts unique:

  • Type of Media: A podcast is a type of content that allows creators to broadcast or stream their intended message to a target audience, leveraging audio or audio and visual communication.
  • Niche: Like a book or research paper, a good podcast has a targeted focus that meets the audience where they are.
  • Episodes: Podcasts are episodic, meaning the overarching podcast covers a central theme, and each episode covers variations on or parts of that theme.

Some have described podcasts as “the streaming generation’s answer to radio”.


So, how does a podcast work? On a technical level, the podcaster, or content creator:

  1. Decides on a podcast theme, niche, and message.
  2. Chooses a format.
  3. Plans and scripts episodes.
  4. Buys essential equipment and software.
  5. Records and edits each podcast episode.
  6. Decides on hosting platforms and services.
  7. Tapes or films themself “podcasting”.
  8. Releases episodes of their podcast one by one for download or streaming like a radio show or vlog.

What no textbook definition of a podcast will tell you is how they manage to capture the attention of viewers and listeners so easily.

Noelle Acheson puts it best in this powerful analysis: “Podcasts fill in the gaps in your days with intimacy.” Similarly to how FDR’s “fireside chats” brought a grieving nation together in WWII by connecting listener and broadcaster, podcasts can bring podcaster and viewer/streamer together intimately in a way that other digital mediums of communication simply can’t.

The takeaway? If you’ve been looking for a way to connect with audiences that feels authentic, friendly, and personal, then starting a podcast  just be the perfect way to do just that.

Now that we’ve explored what podcasts are and why they’re used, let’s explore how you can create a killer podcast to grow your online audience.

How to Create a Podcast

Creating a podcast is fairly involved, but once you’ve decided on what you’re going to say and set up your hosting platform, releasing content becomes second nature.

On a high level, here’s what’s involved:

  1. Define your purpose and niche
  2. Plan your format and brainstorm ideas
  3. Invest in good quality equipment
  4. Choose a podcast hosting platform
  5. Grow your audience
  6. Monetize your podcast

How to Distribute a Podcast

What good is the best podcast content if it’s not heard or watched by the right people? Not much! 

The aim of podcast distribution is to get eyes and ears on your content.

The easiest way to distribute your podcast is to choose an all-inclusive podcast hosting platform carefully. 

  • All podcast hosting platforms act as a content hub where your podcast episodes will live.
  • They also handle the creation of an RSS feed, which is crucial in getting your content picked up by popular podcast platforms.
  • The best podcast hosting services also handle the automatic submission of your podcast episodes to popular listening platforms like Spotify and Apple Podcasts.
Spotify's podcast hosting feature.

How to Market a Podcast

Podcasting is a growing, but potentially still less competitive form of reaching your audience than other forms of digital marketing.


But that doesn’t mean being seen won’t involve doing work. This is the work of podcast marketing, which aims to help podcast streamers not just launch into the podcast space, but also make their unique mark and grow their audience.

Here’s how to do that:

  1. Get to know your target audience and intended podcast niche.
  2. Create episodes that solve real problems, provide engaging insights, and meet your audience where they are.
  3. Develop (and stick to) a brand identity.
  4. Implement podcast SEO best practices.
  5. Collaborate with other podcasters.
  6. Leverage social media.
  7. Engage with your audience in meaningful ways.

Defining Podcast Success

As is the case with any form of digital marketing, reviewing the performance of your podcast regularly, analyzing what you find, and adjusting accordingly is extremely important. 

That’s because, when it comes to tracking podcast performance, “Every play, pause, and skip tells a story, so learning how to measure podcast performance is essential.”

Apple Podcasts' Analytics suite.

Here’s a snapshot of what you need to know about podcast analytics:

  • Podcast analytics are not just important, but essential for understanding your target audience. They also are key to helping you improve performance, because if you don’t know what you’re doing wrong, how will you fix it?
  • Strive to monitor metrics like downloads, demographics, episode popularity, and listener engagement.
  • Apple Podcast Analytics and Spotify Podcast Analytics are two major analytics platforms that can provide valuable insights.
  • Other analytics tools you might find helpful include Podtrac, Chartable, Podbean, Blubrry, and Castbox for deeper data.
Chartable's interface.

Types of Podcasts

No two podcasts are created equally. Not only because of the unique focus of each podcast, but also because of the wide variety of podcast formats available to choose from.

 Some of the most common types of podcasts include:

  • Interview-style podcasts
  • Narrative style podcasts
  • Monologue style podcasts
  • Conversational or roundtable-style podcasts
  • Repurposed podcasts
  • Hybrid podcasts
  • And much more
Types of podcasts.

Ultimately, deciding on the best type of podcast for your needs is going to be a matter of personal preference. That said, we encourage you to think about what format might best resonate with your target audience before deciding.

Benefits of Podcasting

The benefits of creating a podcast are too numerous to count! 

While there are both negatives and positives to podcasting, especially as a solopreneur or small business, for most people looking to grow a digital audience and turn visitors into longtime fans, podcasting offers more benefits than drawbacks.

By creating a podcast, you stand to:

  • Reach Engaged Audiences: Podcasts are known to attract listeners who are actively seeking content on specific topics. This may mean that by starting a podcast, you reach a more engaged and loyal following.
  • Target Niche Markets: Dive deep into specialized topics and tailor your content to meet the unique needs of specific industry segments or interests without losing your audience’s attention.
  • Establish Thought Leadership: Position yourself as an expert by sharing your knowledge and insights, enhancing your credibility & attracting the right kind of attention to your brand.
  • Create Valuable Content: Produce high-quality, evergreen content that can be repurposed into blogs, social media posts, or other media of communication, maximizing your reach and impact.
  • Generate Leads and Sales: Provide insightful and actionable content to attract potential customers.
  • Build a Loyal Community Around Your Brand: Foster a sense of community with regular episodes and audience engagement, creating a dedicated following that supports and advocates for your brand.

FAQs

How much does it cost to start a podcast?

The cost of starting a podcast varies widely, ranging anywhere from around a hundred dollars to several thousand dollars, depending on equipment, hosting, and production quality.

What types of podcasts are there?

Podcasts come in various formats, including interviews, solo commentary, panel discussions, storytelling, educational series, and more. Podcasts can also include only audio or audio and video.

What does a successful podcast look like?

A successful podcast consistently engages its audience, delivers valuable content, and shows steady growth in listener numbers and positive feedback.

Can you make money from podcasting?

Yes, you can monetize a podcast through sponsorships, ads, listener donations, merchandise, and premium content.

Conclusion

Creating a podcast can be a highly effective way to connect with your audience, establish thought leadership, and tap into niche markets.

Whether you’re looking to produce engaging content, generate leads, or build a loyal community, starting a podcast can significantly benefit your brand. 
Ready to dive into podcasting? Learn ten strategies to help your podcast rank.

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