If you're like me, you may have noticed an interesting phenomenon in the last six months: more and more of your colleagues have mentioned a business-centric podcast that you ought to check out. Or, perhaps you've overheard others talking about something they learned from a podcast. Is this the start of a huge new craze? Possibly, but possibly not.
"Unfortunately the current wave of podcasting is more hype than buzz," says John J. Wall, co-host of Marketing Over Coffee, one of the longest-running and most successful marketing podcasts. "I predict a crash in the number of new shows in about six months. As it always does, it will switch from 'We're doing a podcast!' to 'Yeah, podcasting didn't work for us' after one quarter."
We see a spike in new podcasts every now and then in part because entrepreneurs and small businesses want to market themselves and they see audio podcasting as an inexpensive, easy-to-learn cousin of video production. The speed of podcasting works for shows such as Marketing Over Coffee, as Wall is acutely aware: "We cover the intersection of marketing and technology, so it's an easy way to get information out there quickly."
While speed to market is an advantage that podcasts possess, production quality still matters: if you don't produce great stuff, people will tune you out.
Despite that, Wall isn't down on the future of business podcasting at all.
"The reality is that there has been steady organic growth for the past eight years, and that won't change. In spite of the press possibly turning against podcasting [once the current hype cycle is over], it will continue its steady growth."
Despite that likely progression, slow and steady growth hasn't left podcast with a dominant market share- or, more specifically, ear-share. Edison Research's Share of Ear 2014 report found that Americans spent over four hours a day consuming audio, but only 1.7% of that time was spent listening to podcasts. That's certainly not a massive number considering podcasting has been around since 2004. In fact, the term "podcast" was coined in 2004, but "audioblogging" has been around in one form or another since the 1980s.
Then again, perhaps it's the very fact that podcasting isn't as dominant a media type that makes it so popular with its biggest advocates. "Early adopters have a huge advantage with new marketing techniques. At Marketing Over Coffee, we are sharing inside tips with our friends. We really don't want them to spread quickly via every channel, as that would burn our advantage too quickly," says Wall with his usual affable candor.
While there are plenty of unknowns about the shape and form of podcasting's growth, Wall is optimistic that podcast lovers have plenty to look forward to: "There will be plenty of great new podcasts coming out in the next year. The people that realize that they can stake out a unique niche will be successful. Podcasting will continue to grow because people love listening to topics they are passionate about, and they can more easily find and consume that content than ever before."
There's no question that there's high quality content out there for consumption. Besides Wall and Christopher S. Penn's Marketing Over Coffee, there's Social Toolkit, Freakonomics, Six Pixels of Separation, HBR IdeaCast, and many more.
In short, podcasting is indeed on the rise--just don't expect it to be a meteoric one. And, maybe that's a good thing.