In 2005, Apple integrated podcasts into iTunes, and Steve Jobs referred to the channel as being like “TiVo for radio”. 

He believed podcasts were going to revolutionise the way people listened to radio programmes, just like digital recorders and streaming devices had begun to change the way people were watching television.

It’s taken a while to truly take off, but due to factors like better accessibility and distribution, the popularity of IP-connected devices, and faster mobile networks – Jobs’ prophecy was pretty much spot on.

Last year, it was predicted that ad revenue was to top $220m – up 85% from 2016.

We’re previously talked about the benefits for brands on the blog, as well as heard from one of the biggest podcast networks in the UK. But what about when it comes to creating a successful podcast strategy, and what should creators keep in mind? Here are just six step that we think might help you on the road to podcast success.

Focus on what your audience wants to hear

Just because podcasts are growing in popularity, doesn’t mean brands should automatically jump on the bandwagon. First, it’s important to consider whether the medium would actually be of interest to your existing audience – and whether or not you could provide something of real value.

A podcast is theoretically just another form of content marketing, so creating a podcast on a whim would be like starting a blog without a content strategy. Which, unsurprisingly, could potentially lead to a muddled and decidedly unprofessional result.

In order to create a strategy, other areas of content will provide insight into what your audience is interested in hearing about. Delve into analytics (i.e. for social media or a brand blog) to determine what topic or style of subject typically generates the most interest and engagement.

Slack’s podcast, the Slack Variety Pack, is a good example of a brand using the podcast medium to deliver something of value for its audience. This is ultimately because it aims to promote the values its own company stands for, with the podcast created specifically to appeal to the sort of people who use or might be interested in using Slack.

Keep it subtle

Alongside creating a branded podcast, there are also opportunities for brands within advertising, and through the sponsoring of podcasts.

The key to success in both areas is subtlety, with understated brand involvement more likely to result in higher levels of engagement. This is partly due to the danger of consumer apathy – perhaps the audience might be put off if they feel like they’re being overly advertised to. That being said, it does also seem to be the case that listeners are willing to accept ads if they feel like they’re getting something of real value in exchange.

Perhaps then, I should rephrase that to say subtlety and relevancy in combination is likely to generate the most engagement overall. So, when it comes to advertising, brands should ensure that they are choosing a podcast that fits in with their organisation’s wider values. Likewise, brands should also ensure that their podcasts are not overly filled with brand messaging or product promotion.

If so, there’s no denying that branded content can result in greater brand awareness. One study by Prudential recently proved this – it found that podcast units were more than twice as successful in generating brand awareness than banner ads.

Create a space for discussion

One of the benefits of podcasts is that they help to create a greater bond between the brand or creator and its audience. This is because the act of listening to a podcast is much more deliberate and intimate than watching a video, for example. The audience will often create an image in their own mind of who they are listening to, with an often intense and sustained amount of attention required to follow along.

Due to this kind of engagement, it’s also wise for brands to set up an outlet for an audience to allow them to discuss episodes and interact with others. The most obvious place for this is social media. However, instead of using existing Facebook pages or Twitter accounts to prompt discussion, it might be more useful to create a standalone channel so that the content can be discussed without cross-involvement from other topics or advertising.

Another benefit of this is that fans can still refer back to it long after the series or even the entire podcast has finished. Meanwhile, creators will also be able to use it for promotional purposes. The popular Serial podcast is a good example of this. While Season 2 finished back in 2016, its Facebook page still generates likes and comments when anything is posted – which just goes to show how deeply invested the audience became.

Create additional content

While social media can be a great way to generate further engagement, additional content based on the podast itself can also help to continue this cycle. Think blog posts, video content, and even extra or bonus podcast episodes.

Alongside engaging an existing audience, extra content can also be useful for generating new listeners, and building positive word of mouth. Again, as podcasts are one of the most intimate forms of content, it is quite likely that satisfied listeners will be inclined to share or recommend the experience to others.

For the most successful podcasts, there could also be the opportunity to expand or move into other profitable areas of business. No Such Things as a Fish, which is a podcast from the writers of QI, has also published a best-selling book on the back of its popularity and success.

Work towards standardised measurement

There has been quite a bit of debate around success metrics for podcasts, with a lack of standardised measurement leading to networks creating their own (and therefore putting off sponsors in the process).

However, things do appear to be changing for the better. Last year, IAB announced new measurement guidelines, including an attempt to address how bad technology such as bots can artificially enhance listener numbers. Additionally, the guidelines state that measurement should begin after a minute of audio (rather than the very beginning), and a matching user agent and IP address should be considered the same person within 24 hours.

While the new rules do not guarantee clarity within metrics, it has helped to tighten procedure, as well as give brands and networks alike something more concrete to work towards.

For more content strategy tips, subscribers can download Econsultancy’s Content Strategy Best Practice Guide.