The big news that shook the podcasting industry last week was learning that iHeart, one of the biggest companies in the podcasting and radio space, has been inflating download numbers by embedding podcast episodes into phone game ads.
Long story short, by embedding the podcasts in ads they were able to artificially inflate their download numbers. They could then use these numbers to sell and charge for advertising.
Some of the reactions in the podcasting space were a bit extreme, going so far as to claim that it’s a “major blow” to the credibility of podcasting as a medium.
Another commentator on the industry said something to the effect “It’s iHeart, nobody expects anything better.” on Twitter, sadly I think they deleted the tweet.
I’m far more with the latter person. iHeart is a company with a history of shady dealing inside and outside podcasting and this is nothing new. It may be big news inside the space, but outside of it nobody really cares.
And even within podcasting the majority of podcasters, the independents, basically just ignore them whenever there isn’t a flashy awards show or some new controversy.
iHeart’s advertisers may want a serious chat with management, but that’s between them.
More news about a big player from The Verge and Hot Pod.
CNN has laid off a bunch of its podcasting staff as it focuses more on its audio business.
This one sadly makes sense in the wake of the recent Discover/Warner merger as the new parent company is shedding expenses, including opting not to release completed movies, and pulling most of their animated content from streaming services.
And I’ll be the first to admit that podcasting probably doesn’t meet most of the metrics that large, merged companies demand in terms of producing cash-flow and profits.
There are other important functions a podcast can fulfil, but probably not those. I’ll expand on this in the last item today.
You can’t listen to this podcast (probably)
Here’s a very fun story, from Podnews again.
Kiln is an audio story podcast that uses geofencing technology so that you can only listen to it in specific places in Sweden. Namely the Swedish forest locations of the story, which is an exploration of Swedish mythology.
What can a podcast do?
As I suggested in the CNN story many large companies get into podcasting because they believe that there is an income stream to be found. And while this is possible it’s actually very rare.
The great strength of a podcast is in the ability to grow a personal brand.
As a podcaster, and a fan of podcasts, I’m very familiar with parasocial relationships. The idea that we feel closer to people who we know from their public personas. I definitely feel closer to the people I listen to on podcasts than I actually am.
But while is sounds a bit weird and maybe scary, these connections created with an audience are a powerful way to connect to people to your benefit. These podcasters I’ve mentioned have had to set those boundaries but have been able to build careers in work they love, because those listeners will follow them wherever they go, in a non-weird way ofc. I have people who I enjoy listening to who I have listened to at 4 different media outlets.
These people, podcasters and journalists, have created their brands through podcasting and created a following of dedicated listeners and fans.
And this is what a podcast does. By being yourself, by putting yourself out in public regularly, and being open and honest about what you believe and who you are, you can create an army of loyal fans and supporters.
These people may not spend money with you today, but they will tell their friends about you, their family and co-workers, and eventually they or someone they have introduced you to will become a customer.
And if they are already customers, but getting to know who you are they will feel vindicated in their choices, and support you in future endeavours.
So you see that a podcast won’t make you money today, or tomorrow. But by being part of an integrated marketing and branding scheme they will help you connect, and convert people into true fans.