I’m a huge fan of podcasts. If I’m walking the dog, doing the dishes or even just driving around running errands, you can bet I’ll be listening to the latest episodes of my favorite shows.
And I’m not alone. This year, 51% of people over the age of 12 in the U.S. have at least listened to a podcast, a 70% increase over five years ago, and more than one in five has listened to one within the last week, according to the Pew Research Center.
That’s an impressive growth curve for a new medium, but it’s even more compelling when you drill down into the demographics: regular podcast listeners skew towards the affluent and well-educated. Of those who have listened to a podcast in the last month, 53% have a four-year college degree and 41% make more than $75,000 annually, according to Edison Research.
Podcast listeners are clearly an audience that PR professionals should want to reach, but with more than 700,000 podcasts in the iTunes library alone — and that number is growing every day — finding the right show to tell your story is no simple task. The medium is still young, so there’s no SimilarWeb service for podcasts that can tell you how many downloads each show averages per episode, and while some media databases are beginning to list them, they’re woefully incomplete.
Finding that audio needle in the haystack
One place to start searching is the podcast platforms themselves. Both iTunes and Stitcher rank the most popular podcasts in subcategories. For example, in the laptop version of iTunes, select “Podcasts,” click on “All Categories” in the upper right hand corner, and you’ll see a menu of possibilities. Click on the category you want, click “Top Shows”, and you’ll see the top 200 podcasts for your area of interest.
But note that these categories are very broad. In iTunes, for example, the business category includes everything from news and investment advice to self-help gurus and get-rich-quick schemes. If you’re looking for shows that cover specific topics like AI, software development or IoT, you’ll need to do your own research.
Googling “best [category] podcasts” will get you more specific results, leading you to lists that helpful people have curated of their favorite shows (here’s a link to a list of our favorite podcasts for marketers and remote workers).
But that’s just the start. You’ll need to vet these podcasts before reaching out to them.
Sleuthing out shows
As you vet potential podcast targets, here are five key areas to examine:
1. Ratings and reviews: Ratings can give you a rough idea of a podcast’s listenership, but it’s not a perfect indicator of audience size. Ninety percent of podcasts have no more than 10 ratings, so if there are more than 10, that puts it in the top ten percent, meaning it may have a significant audience. Blockbuster podcasts like Guy Roz’ How I Built This or Planet Money will have many thousands of reviews, but these make up about 1/10th of a percent of all podcasts. Unless you’re shooting for the moon, you’re looking for podcasts with more than 100 reviews. That said, if your industry focus is very specific, a show could be relevant to you with less than 50.
As for the average rating, unless the show’s content or host is particularly political or polarizing, most reviews are positive, because if a listener doesn’t like a show, they will just move on to the next podcast without investing any more time. However, if a podcast has more than ten reviews and an average rating below 4, that could be a sign that something is amiss.
2. Social media presence:Podcasts have to market themselves, and, if they’re on the ball, they’ll have their social profiles listed on their website, which you can find via their iTunes description. If the show and its host(s) have large Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn followings, it’s a good bet that their podcast does, too.
3. Episode cadence: Don’t forget to look at the episode release dates. Make sure it’s still active, and that a new episode has appeared recently. You can’t assume that a show is alive just because it’s on a top 100 list. Podcasting is an asynchronous medium, so podcasts with relevant, useful content can rank high even if they haven’t put out new content for a year.
Second, check to see whether the podcast releases new content on a regular cadence. If episodes appear randomly or infrequently, that’s not a good sign. The best podcasts stick to a predictable schedule.
4. Prior guests: Not all shows interview guests, but if they do, check out who has previously thought it was worth their time to be on the show. If you see that competitors or executives from well-known organizations have appeared, you should probably add the podcast to your target list.
5. Production quality: Sound and recording quality matter. If the show sounds like it was recorded in a garage with an iPhone, it’s not likely to draw a large audience. That’s not to say that the podcast has to sound like it was produced in an NPR studio, but successful podcasters care about their sound, and as their audience grows, production quality usually improves as well.
As the podcast industry grows, specific tools for finding and evaluating shows will emerge to help communications professionals navigate them. Until then, you’ll need to do your own work to identify the best targets. But given podcasting’s large and growing audience, there’s no doubt that podcasts have to be a part of the media mix for any good PR pro. It’s well worth the effort.
Interested in how we can help your company break into your favorite podcasts? Let’s talk!
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