It started as a lark about his favorite TV show.
A decade later, Cliff Ravenscraft has turned podcasting into a full-time, lucrative business that reaches hundreds of thousands of fans (and customers) worldwide.
The Kentucky-based entrepreneur was one of the first to blaze a path that utilized podcasting as a full-time business model, quitting his day job as an insurance salesman in 2008 to focus on what was then a new way for Internet users to consume free, talk-radio style audio on demand.
Getting "Lost" with Podcasting
"My wife was obsessed with the TV show 'Lost,'" Ravenscraft told me on a recent episode of Nemo Radio. "She finally got me to watch an episode, and I was completely hooked."
Like many other fans of the runaway hit (it ran on ABC from 2004-2010), Ravenscraft began sharing his passion and theories about what was really happening on "Lost" online via his blog.
From Fan to Featured Expert
One of his theories ended up landing him a guest interview on a popular, fan-based Podcast about "Lost," and it drove so much traffic and attention to his blog that Entertainment Weekly ended up featuring him (and his blog post) in a story about the show's passionate fans.
"That was my introduction to the world of podcasting," he says.
Encouraged by readers to turn his blog posts about "Lost" into a Podcast, Ravenscraft recorded his first-ever episode in 2005.
"I got 500 downloads, and I was blown away," he says. "I realized I had this amazing way to educate, encourage and inspire people all over the world."
Building a Business with Podcasting
Over the next few years, Ravenscraft took a huge leap of faith - quitting his full-time job as an insurance salesman to start his own business as a full-time podcast producer and consultant.
- Ads and Sponsorships for specific shows and episodes
- Affiliate Marketing commissions for equipment and products he recommends
- Consulting, Coaching and Speaking fees
- Online Courses and Trainings
- On-Site Workshops and Trainings
He's also built an engaged audience, reaching tens of thousands of listeners around the world each week with podcasts on technology, business, faith, family and entertainment.
In all, Ravenscraft estimates he's recorded more than 3,600 podcast episodes for 30 different types of shows, reaching hundreds of thousands of listeners worldwide.
Why Podcasting is so Effective
"With podcasting, there's no screen time required," Ravenscraft says. "Nobody is appearing in your social media feed and distracting or interrupting you with a video or message."
Also, the engagement and attention level of a podcast listener is much more intimate, intense and ultimately valuable, according to Ravenscraft.
"In most cases, people are not just randomly coming across your podcast and listening to it," he says. "Where the real power is, is when somebody has found your content, and he or she liked it, and has clicked the 'Subscribe' button.
"When that happens, a majority of the people who find you, who go through all that trouble to search for and subscribe to your show, will listen to every single episode you produce. They will hear every syllable of every word you speak every time you put an episode out."
A 2017 study by Edison Research bears that theory out.
Of the 142 million Americans who listened to a podcast in 2017, 85 percent of listeners say they listened to all (or most) of an episode.
With that in mind, if you do a 60 minute podcast each week, your most engaged listeners literally have your voice in their head 52 hours a year, Ravenscraft says.
"Do you think you have any influence in their lives as a result?" he asks.
(Related: Cliff Ravenscraft's Top Podcasting Tips)
What To Put into Your Podcast
When it comes to using Podcasts to win new business, Ravenscraft says you must deliver real, legitimate value and content to your ideal audience.
"The stuff that people are paying you for in your coaching calls, the information people are paying you for in your books, put it out there for free in your audio podcast," he says. "Do it consistently, on a week-by-week basis, for free.
"If you give people an opportunity to hear your voice, week after week, while they're driving to work, walking the dog, whatever it is ... that convenience, plus the ability to be focused on what you are telling them, is invaluable."
The passive nature of podcasts, plus the intimacy of literally having your voice in someone's head, coupled with sharing free (and valuable) content, makes podcasting an ideal way to educate, entertain and inspire prospective customers and clients.
Once you build your audience, you can monetize your show by driving listeners to landing pages for additional training and product sales, inviting them to real-life events or conferences, utilizing ads or sponsorships, and so on.
A Long Way From "Lost"
With the advent of the iPhone and podcasting apps, access to and interest in podcasts is at an all-time high.
Edison's 2017 study revealed that 67 million Americans listen to podcasts monthly, up 14 percent from 2016.
Today, 24 percent of Americans age 12 or older listen to podcasts monthly. For context, 21 percent of Americans are Catholic. Thus, podcast listening is more common than Catholicism in the United States.
"Podcasting today is certainly much easier than it was in 2005," Ravenscraft says. "But it's still about finding that percentage of your audience who, after hearing your voice, your passion and your communication style, love listening to you and can't wait to hear more."