This text is also available in German.
Christoph Soltmannowski is a journalist and communications consultant. He has been working with podcasts for years and produces various formats – including the ComCast (see below) by the Zurich PR Society and Press Association.
Podcasts are not only hip, they also bring effective long-term benefits and complement the bite-size communication that dominates social media – in the future, the importance of podcasts will grow further still. If you want to be successful, you should keep the following in mind: In no time at all – another new podcast! For impact and success, you need a long-term plan – and perseverance.
According to a study by the Hans-Bredow-Institute, around 35 percent of adults in Germany have already listened to a podcast by 2021 – and the trend is rising, especially among those over 51.
“Being there is everything” – but as so often, it needs a concept with a defined goal. And that must not be short-term. Getting started is easy and quick, but it takes patience and perseverance for a long-term operation. As easy and inexpensive as producing the first episode is – there are no quick wins in the podcast world. About three quarters of the 70,000 existing German-language formats bob along as “ghost ships” on Spotify and elsewhere – they were abandoned after a few episodes. This doesn’t make them completely worthless – but it also doesn’t seem relevant and useful when the last update took place on 2 June 2019.
Podcasts need to be relevant and useful: featuring unusual concepts and ideas – or people and conversations?
There are basically two categories of podcasts: those with radio-feature-like reports and narrative reports, which are usually scripted first and then delivered in audio form. These productions tend to be expensive, require a lot of preparation, and their long-term continuation requires perseverance and a black belt in storytelling.
The other category, which is at least as popular, includes spontaneous monologues on specific, topical issues – the most popular are dialogues and round-table discussions that take place in interview form. Such podcasts are easier to produce than scripted feature formats. The prerequisites are a motivated and competent host and equally competent guests – and of course the contacts and the power of persuasion to get interesting people to participate.
Podcasts can create a kind of intimacy.
If the guests and the topic are interesting and the conversation develops into a lively and open conversation, a podcast can create a kind of intimacy. The trick here is to strike a good balance. In the first conversation with the guest or guests, you should define what the topics will be – but you save the details for the conversation itself, thus keeping it spontaneous and fresh. The more live character, the more authentic the effect – and the more likely the listeners will get the impression of being there themselves. Occasional slips of the tongue and a few “uhs” don’t matter – on the contrary, the unfiltered character adds to the liveliness.
Podcasts can go into depth and may be long
Podcasts are best suited as an in-depth supplement to crisp, short bite-size topics. They pick up those who want to know more about aspects, specific knowledge or interesting people. Just as a 300-page book is not generally disregarded, you don’t have to consume the episodes in one piece. Podcasts by Joe Rogan, the world’s most successful podcaster (albeit one whose content is highly controversial), are often over three hours long.
Podcasts can remain present and have an effect for a long time.
Once a podcast has established itself, it has “come to stay”: Unlike articles in the print press, online newsletters and social media, podcasts remain effective and present for a long time. Those who have discovered a podcast format because of a current episode can still access older episodes.
Producing the episodes is only “half the battle”.
Tens of thousands of podcasts vie for the audience’s attention. Hundreds are added daily. Even if many quickly give up again: In order to stand out from the sea of podcasts like a lighthouse, a lot of effort – in terms of work or even financially – has to be planned right from the launch. Podcasts need strong accompanying media: newsletters, social posts, prominent and regular mentions in internal and external media as well as the usual classic PR and advertising. And above all, patience and perseverance: excellent content and word-of-mouth alone can only rarely generate reach mountains. Consistency is an important factor. If a new episode does not appear monthly, or even better, every other week, attention is quickly lost again.
Why only audio? The podcast of the future is also video.
Joe Rogan, the aforementioned podcaster with a 100 million Spotify deal, has been doing this for a long time: his talks have always appeared in a video version as well for years. Spotify, the most important platform for podcasts, bought Rogan’s format in 2020 for 100 million and also distributes it as a moving image. Filming a podcast conversation at the same time has about twice the effect with about 20 percent more production effort – so the format can also appear on video platforms, the actors get a face – and additional information, pictures or graphics can be inserted. Youtube follows Google closely as the second most important online search platform. Being visually present here can significantly increase attention and proximity. Short video clips cut from individual episodes generate content for social media – as content in itself and also as appetiser trailers for the podcast format itself – even if the audience then wants to consume this “only” in the audio version.
The photo (byFelix Aeberli) comes from the video podcast “ComSumCast”. It is offered by the Zurich PR Society and the Zurich Press Association as a supplement to the “Communication Summit”, the summit meeting between communication professionals and media workers.