Podcasts? That’s so 2005, am I right? Actually, no, you’re not. While podcasts were the hot, new thing ten years ago, they’ve come back to the future in a big way. As Slate’s Andy Bowers said:
I’ll let you in on a secret. Podcasting is the Internet’s most unsexy success story, the tortoise in a never-ending race with fresh waves of hares. In fact, by common online measures, podcasting shouldn’t work at all. Consider:
- Internet audio is famously resistant to going viral.
- Podcasts are often long, requiring a time commitment far greater than cat videos or listicles.
- A hit podcast episode racks up downloads in the hundreds of thousands, while a viral video can get hundreds of millions of views.
- Podcasting’s growth has been slow, without the crazy spikes in popularity favored by Silicon Valley investors.
So why are podcasts so popular now that podcast subscriptions through iTunes topped 1 billion in 2013?
To me, the answer is that no technology exists in a vacuum (Except technology that actually is in a vacuum. I don’t know about you, but vacuum technology seems like it’s really advanced in the last couple of years). Drones weren’t very popular until cheap, tiny cameras were added to them. Likewise, podcast popularity exploded with advancements in phones, cars, and streaming technology:
Americans spend more than three hours a day commuting, working out and doing household chores that can be accompanied by audio entertainment, according to census data studied by Matt Lieber, a former public radio producer who co-founded the podcast company with Blumberg.
Smartphones and Bluetooth-enabled cars have made it easier than ever for listeners — who are still mostly men — to load up their favorite programs. And instead of the old way of downloading them from iTunes onto a computer and syncing with an iPod, listeners can grab shows straight from the Internet onto their smartphones.
The appeal of podcasts is easy to understand for listeners – it’s people we like talking about stuff we love. For business owners and marketers the draw is that podcasts are an increasingly cheap and popular way to package your content or simply reach your customers via podcast advertising, particularly for a mobile audience.
The resurgence of podcasting is another example of why you’re not always better off chasing the latest technology, but rather figuring out what works best for your business and how you want to communicate with your customers today.