How would you describe a podcast to someone who’s never listened to one before? The Oxford Dictionary defines it as “a digital audio file made available on the internet for downloading to a computer or mobile device, typically available as a series, new instalments of which can be received by subscribers automatically”.
Podcasts have been around since the early 2000s, but it is only in recent years that they’ve become popular. As of April 2020, there were over 30-million podcast episodes in more than 100 languages. In the United States alone, more than 55% of the population has listened to a podcast, while in 2020 more than 100-million Americans have listened to a podcast at least once a month.
Podcasts are unique because of their intimacy – for example, imagine listening to the smooth, relaxing voice of Sir David Attenborough while he seemingly speaks directly to you about essential changes we need to make to save our planet. (Plus, you can’t watch a YouTube video while driving, but you can listen to your favourite podcast.)
Seasoned broadcast journalist and Flow Communications head of training Thrishni Subramoney says, “Part of the reason podcasts have become so popular is because we’re looking for ways to keep our minds occupied while our bodies largely stay in place. And this is an escape you can indulge in without having to park off on a couch.
“I started getting into podcasts last year, mainly as a way to cope with a long commute to work. I am quite an avid radio listener (I used to be a radio journalist, after all) and on shorter drives, listening to talk radio was a way to cope, but when I was sitting in traffic for really long stretches of time, I needed something more immersive, and podcasts were just that.”
Introducing Flow’s South Africa Untold podcast series
According to the Reuters Digital News Report 2019, the podcast is one of the fastest-growing sectors of media consumption in South Africa. It also reports that 43% of South Africa’s online population had listened to a podcast in the past month.
Flow Communications has introduced its own episodic podcast series, South Africa Untold. The series, developed and produced by us, celebrates South African attractions at a time when the global tourism industry faces arguably its gravest threat yet – the Covid-19 pandemic.
While the global community may not be able to visit these places in person right now, through South Africa Untold we can still explore them and introduce them to people around the world. This series brings together two of Flow’s passions – storytelling and tourism.
“I have yet to find a really good South African podcast that’s episodic and focuses on immersive storytelling, and that’s the gap we’re aiming to fill with South Africa Untold,” says Thrishni.
Advantages of podcasts
The beauty of podcasts and a contributing factor to their meteoric rise is the fact that you can do a number of things while listening to a podcast – working out at the gym, completing chores around the house or driving to work.
There’s a podcast for everyone
According to media research companies Edison Research and Triton Digital, as of 2020 49% of all Americans aged 12 to 34 listen to at least one podcast per month, compared with 42% in 2019. The wide range of topics available means there’s content for a variety of audiences, boosting the appeal of podcasts. Topics include anything from comedy, education or politics to health and fitness or science.
“We want to consume what we’re interested in, so rather than listening to three hours on the radio, which may consist of about an hour and a half of content that I really enjoy and another 90 minutes of stuff I couldn’t care less about, I’d rather listen to three episodes of my favourite podcast and know I’ll be entertained for the full three hours,” says Thrishni.
Podcasts can be monetised
Podcasts can be a revenue-generating stream for businesses and individuals. There are two main strategies associated with monetising podcasts.
Direct podcast monetisation is where podcasters profit directly from creating the content and granting subscribers exclusive access to podcasts – here, subscribers pay a subscription fee to access the content.
In indirect podcast monetisation, products or services are promoted on a podcast – the podcasts become a middle man between listeners and the products/services they could potentially buy through the show. One could promote T-shirts, a service offering or places to dine. Audiences loyal to a show may be ;more likely to try products that connect them with that podcast.
The future looks bright
The podcast industry continues to boom, and according to an annual report released by Deloitte, the global podcast market was expected to grow by 30% to $1.1-billion in 2020.
In South Africa, with its rapidly growing consumption of podcasts by the online population, the industry presents new business opportunities for corporate and individual brands alike, with less red tape than platforms such as radio.
Podcasting is an on-demand technology
A huge advantage of podcasts is that they are an on-demand technology, unlike other traditional mediums such as radio. For example, unlike radio with its ad breaks between live broadcasts or programmed content scheduled for specific time slots, podcasts can be any length and don’t need scheduled breaks. Listeners have the liberty of deciding what they want to hear, and when they want to hear it.
This means that if people subscribe to your podcasts, there’s an excellent chance they’re actually getting the information you’re providing, whether listening live or downloading it to their portable devices to listen to it at a later stage, anywhere in the world.