Podcasting in 2017: The end of the beginning

This is the fourth year of Podcast Movement, the biggest podcast conference in North America (if not the world), and the energy in the sessions, exhibition rooms, and in the hotel hallways seems to be focused on launching the world of podcasting into its next era — one where the 60% of Americans who are aware of podcasts grows into 100% (or maybe 90-95% if we're being a bit more realistic).

Podcasting still has a niche feel to it. It's something that requires a bit of explanation at the dinner table or a helping hand when a friend wants to finally download their first episode. But there are dozens of burgeoning startup employees, seasoned entrepreneurs, and veteran new media folks at Podcast Movement this year who have big ideas to make podcasts as ubiquitous as YouTube. Those ideas have ranged from a call (plea?) for podcasts to finally get their 'got milk' moment — asking attendees to not just sell their own podcasts but to push podcasting as a whole medium into the popular consciousness — to more curation on distribution platforms — mood-based playlists, anyone? — in order to further discovery of new content and cater to the needs of listeners.

Get started with podcasting

If you've considered launching your own podcast, either for your publishing house, bookstore, or your own books, but you haven't started, it's time to get on the bandwagon and go full throttle. Over and over again, presenters have stressed the power of a podcast to create intimacy, engagement, and loyalty with your audience. And the technological barriers to entry are minimal. Got a smartphone, a quiet room, and some basic audio editing software? Then get podcasting.

Build your audience

For those who have dabbled in podcasting and are ready to take it to the next level, here are a few takeaways to consider when building your audience:

  1. The top methods of discovery for podcasts are word-of-mouth and recommendations through:
    1. social media (particularly Twitter);
    2. friends;
    3. podcast apps;
    4. other podcasts; and
    5. articles in the media.
  2. Consistency is key for building engagement and loyalty, so, no, don't publish one episode whenever you can get around to it. Create a set schedule and stick to it.
  3. Make sure you're on all the popular platforms (e.g., StitcherTuneIn, etc.). Just being on iTunes isn't enough, though it's still the #1 place for reviews and ratings.
  4. Help your listeners figure out how and where to listen to podcasts. Very few podcasters have smart speakers, like the Amazon Echo or Google Home, on their radar, since it's a relatively new platform for podcasts, but it's likely to keep growing. 
  5. Written transcripts and good metadata (hey, just like with books!) is hugely helpful for increasing discoverability.

If you're interested in podcasts, particularly as a creator or producer, check out the #PM17 hashtag on Twitter for more interesting takeaways and discussion. (And give The BookNet Canada Podcast a listen while you're at it!)