It’s now been three years since we decided to gently dip our toes into the Canadian podcasting game, with a couple of original productions and sponsored content created with our clients and partners. It’s been great fun but in that time, to be honest, I haven’t seen much innovation or bold ideas in this space, at least above the 49th parallel. Canadians tend to be late adopters of new media but, if you have something to say, don’t let the industry’s sluggish start deter you from starting your own podcast!
Let’s get right to the bottom line first: If you think you’re going to get rich from podcasting in Canada anytime soon, think again. Making a lot of money quickly is not one of the three reasons listed on this post. As far as I can tell, the very best paid podcasters in the nation are making somewhere in the neighbourhood of $500 per episode. Annually, this amounts to a modest part-time gig.
(Before I continue, it’s important to note the exceptional case of the publicly-funded CBC, which has a competitive advantage in podcasting and other media industries vs. private sector actors. I’ll just leave this here: #AdFreeCBC.)
There are many factors that explain why there isn’t much cash in Canadian podcasting. Some of the more obvious: that risk-averse media establishment; similarly cautious advertising buyers who aren’t yet sold on the power of podcasting; part of a new $595 million Canadian government media fund that will only be accessible to those producing what the feds’ panel deems to be quality journalism; and of course that public broadcasting giant that sucks up some of the few ad dollars are available.
So, if there’s so little money on the table, why should you podcast, and why are we pushing forward with our podcasting service for business?
1. Next level native content
Perhaps it’s easier to reframe what a podcast is: think of it as an audio blog. Today, almost every content marketer will recommend entrepreneurs write on a regular basis, whether it’s on their own website, social media or in a journalistic context.
There are both qualitative and quantitative arguments for blogging regularly: increasing media capital by keeping an organization’s spokesperson at the forefront of conversations in their industry, and creating a trail of online keywords that will lead readers to the organization’s website (or SEO – search engine optimization).
Similarly, podcasts are just one more media tool, with a relatively low barrier to entry, that allows entrepreneurs or other public people to share their wisdom with their communities. Those podcast descriptions, transcripts or complimentary blogs should consider SEO, the organization’s public relations goals and entertainment value, all at once.
An effective marketer will aim to position a organization’s spokesperson as a resource within their industry. What better way to access the insights of such a thought leader than through intimate conversations, downloaded automatically onto your device and playable through your earbuds? Short of hypnosis or perhaps emerging augmented reality (AR) technology, I can’t think of a more intimate form of communication.
I would go so far as to say that, eventually, we may regard podcasting as perhaps the most effective advertising medium.
We’re also experimenting with different forms of podcasts aimed at addressing different organizational goals. We now offer short recruiting podcasts to append to job postings so that prospective employees can get a sense of who their bosses and colleagues could be, and what the office culture is like. Wouldn’t you want to hear from your future colleagues before accepting that offer?
We’ve yet to tap into the full potential of podcasts but for now, industry experts who are bursting with insight and can hold a conversation in long form are ideal for this medium. The financial risk can be about a tenth that of producing video content, and your audience has access to your raw knowledge. If you that industry leader, start a podcast before your competitor does!
Still need convincing? Check out the excellent Canadian Podcast Listener study (summary) by industry experts.
2. Media cross-promotion
Because there is a relatively low barrier to entry vs. video content, I suspect podcasts will emerge, like blogging, as a creator’s media base, of sorts; the raw ideas that will fuel larger media projects.
Podcasts work very well as compliments to books or television programs. In fact, we’re seeing more and more large-scale media deals originating from the world of podcasting. Like with native content for business, podcasts lend a certain intimacy to the relationship-building process and, from a technical point of view as a media producer, they also serve as excellent auditions for emerging talent.
While I encourage anyone with insight to share their views with the world, podcasting can certainly weed out those whose views are, shall we say, underdeveloped or lacking in substance. Even many media professionals would find it difficult to carry an in-depth conversation for an hour or two in podcast form, while being entertaining and informative.
It’s an accessible medium but doing podcasting right is far from easy. Experts or others with mounds of information to share are perfectly suited for podcasting, assuming they are trained to share that information in a compelling manner. Our media coaching can help but ultimately a podcast can only be as sustainable as the ideas of its creators.
If you, potential podcaster, haven’t been discouraged thus far, this final reason is most compelling: if you are truly passionate and informed about an issue, if your insights are unique, and if you can help make the Internet a better place, then sharing part of yourself with the world through your voice is your duty. If you’ve been turned off by partisan, sensationalist or otherwise restrictive forms of media, if you feel that the thing you need to tell the world can’t be explained in a social media post or short blog, you will feel at home in the world of podcasting.
Prepare your podcasts thoroughly and keep point-form notes by your side but write little script (save for topic or guest introductions, announcements and ads). Think about structure and storytelling. Read up on speech laws or broadcasting codes in your jurisdiction. Don’t be afraid to edit or redo that line so that it’s delivered just so.
Take the time to plan out what you need to communicate but do not over-plan: the art of podcasting is to balance insight with entertainment. Your best moments will be spontaneous.
As we gradually become more conscious of the negative consequences of screen time (see our working Thinkbait document for more, including links to clinical research), old school radio in the form of podcasts will certainly become a more popular form of media. Because we do things a bit slower in Canada, there is still time to be an early adopter (podcasting legends like Marc Maron are on their 1,000th episode and Montrealer Mitch Joel is nearing 700).
Though the industry in Canada is still in its infancy and resources are limited, quietly launching your project now could be a good long-term investment: work out the kinks, find your voice and format, and then hopefully in a couple of years, Canadian media innovators will have pushed the market forward. If you have an international following or if your business reaches several foreign markets, the podcast is an even more valuable marketing tool at your disposal.
Just ask yourself this one question before hitting the record button: what do you have to say that hasn’t been said?