In June this year US President Barack Obama pulled up outside a humble home in East Los Angeles, via helicopter and secret service motorcade, to record a podcast in a garage.
The President was met by 52-year-old comedian Marc Maron who, hampered by drug addiction and anger management issues for much of his career, resurrected his media profile in 2009 by embracing and leading the podcast movement with his show WTF.
Why did the President take part in a garage podcast with someone who wouldn’t normally be granted a press pass to the White House? Because Maron’s free bi-weekly podcast has access to audiences that the mainstream media doesn’t.
For communicators and influencers, this podcast movement will become more important than radio. Not because it pulls bigger audiences (although sometimes it does), or because there’s money in it (although sometimes there is) – but because everyone can do it.
Apple estimates its customers listened to 7 billion podcasts in 2014.
Last year’s hit podcast Serial became the most listened to podcast in the world with an average of 1.26 million downloads per episode. Hipsters held listening parties for the final episode.
While having the President on your podcast certainly helps (Maron’s interview with Obama was downloaded 1.7 million times in a week), each episode of WTF reaches 220,000 listeners on average – around double the audience of Neil Mitchell’s top rating Melbourne talkback show.
According to Business Insider Australia, a weekly show on the lower end of the US iTunes Top 100 has the capacity to bring in more than $US250,000 annual advertising revenue.
Hamish and Andy, who have ruled the Australian podcast charts for some time, are now reselling their radio show to completely new advertisers after negotiating to retain the rights to their digital content.
Mamamia are getting involved, promising to provide a platform for more female voices, and Mamamia Out Loud will no doubt pull in advertisers.
Everyone can do it
Marc Maron’s interview with President Obama was recorded with two microphones and edited in Apple’s free Garageband software. A basic podcast hosting package costs $5 a month and there are many free alternatives.
After 10 years of podcasts being easily accessible through the iTunes store we’re now entering the ‘late majority phase’ of the adoption lifecycle. It’s no longer nerdy to talk about them.
Ok, yes, Australia is a bit behind.
It’s true that there are still a few barriers to engaging podcasts as a communications tool in Australia. Most of the heavy-hitters are US based and the biggest local podcasts are usually rebroadcasts of traditional media content. Many of them are terrible and it’s difficult to get information on audience figures.
Yet it’s growing, and there are legions of talented independent Australian podcasters that we’re now factoring into our media planning. There are podcasts available for every niche and highly engaged audience. It’s time to take them seriously.
Comedy publicists consider The Little Dum Dum Club (which attracts large audiences to its live shows) as staples, and the CUB and Lion Nathan marketing teams take the local Radio Brews News podcast serious enough to call in.
While the production values have room to grow, Chat 10 Looks 3 (hosted by Leigh Sales and Annabel Crabb) is already in the Top 10 after just 21 episodes.
If I was working with Australia’s new Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull I’d be knocking on their garage door.