What is a podcast? Q and A

What is a podcast?

It’s online radio, time shifted. A file is streamed, or downloaded, to a mobile device or computer and listened to at a convenient time and place.

What is the growth in podcasting listenership?

There were 2.6 billion podcast downloads in 2014, up from 1.9 billion in 2013.

In the US 17 per cent of Americans have listened to a podcast in the past month. That’s up two per cent from 2014 and up eight per cent from 2008.

So whilst more people are listening to podcasts, those that do listen to them are increasing their consumption.

Why is podcast listenership growing?

Two main reasons both related to technology: Firstly, the huge increase in the growth in use of smart phones and mobile devices; secondly, the increased practice of in-car listening via smart phones.

Why are podcasts addictive?

When you discover podcasts you suddenly realise you can make much better use of your time. Huge chunks of our lives are spent sitting in the car, in the train, the metro, the bus, the tram, out jogging, working out or cleaning the house. It has the power to turn chores into a pleasure.

Because many podcasts are listened to with earphones, the voice takes on a high level of intimacy and engagement. It’s not long before you start really looking forward to the next episode to hear the familiar voice of the show’s host(s). This feeling becomes quite addictive.

The actual production of podcasts has become more accessible. This means that there are shows that serve up niche content in formats that are free from rules.

People who love podcasts really love podcasts; a lot.

What are the Podcasting statistics?

The most reliable statistics come from Pew Research which focuses only on the US… so this is thought to be indicative of the growth in Europe and the rest of the world.

Overall awareness of podcasting is increasing at a modest pace, with roughly half (49 per cent) of Americans, aged 12 and up, aware of podcasting by early 2015. This is up only slightly since 2010 (45 per cent). This equates to 75+ million Americans aged 12+.

As smartphone listening grows, so too does web based listening in cars. As of January 2015, more than a third of US adult cellphone owners (35 per cent) have listened to online radio in the car. That is substantially more than the 21 per cent who did so in 2013, and nearly six times the number (6 per cent) who had done so in 2010.

Nearly 80 per cent of podcast consumers (responding to the survey), agreed that “when price and quality is equal,” they “prefer to buy products from companies that advertise on or sponsor” the podcasts they regularly enjoy.

Sixty-seven per cent of podcast listeners don’t mind sponsorship messages and occasionally find them useful, compared to only six per cent positive sentiment expressed for the advertising approaches of television or commercial radio.

Ninety per cent of these respondents indicated that they had taken some kind of action as a result of podcast advertising or sponsorship, and more than 40 per cent reported purchasing behaviours, which indicates that they are receptive to the right message, in the right context.

The podcast audience has migrated from being predominantly “early adopters” to more closely resembling mainstream media consumers.

Podcast consumers index very highly for social networking behaviours.

Two-thirds of podcast consumers have listened to digital audio files in their vehicles by connecting an iPod or other MP3 player to their car audio system.

Which podcasts should you listen to?

It all depends what you are interested in. So I can’t really advise. I started with some BBCRadio 4 shows all now issued as podcasts. My favourites from the beginning started with Business podcasts; I still listen to every episode of Peter Day’s World Of Business and The Bottom Line and have added to that The Economist and Freakonomics Radio more recently.

My own Bulgaria Now Podcast (bulgarianow.bg and available in all podcast players) is a weekly talk show that I host. The format is informal. I employ a loose structure so that I can develop topics wherever the guests’ conversation us.

Technology podcasts

Accidental Tech Podcast, The Talk Show, iMore Show, Let’s Talk iOS, Macworld, Mac PowerUser, Connected, Clockwise, Techcrunch Gadgets Podcast and Developing Perspective are all weekly shows I can recommend for tech geeks like me.

History podcasts

The Bulgarian History Podcast, Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History and the BBC’s World One podcast series are all podcasts that serve to bring to life the past. They continue to spark my recent interest in History. If only I had such great material to listen to at school, I would not be playing catch-up now.

Food podcasts

The Menu, BBC’s Food Programme and Cook The Perfect… will inspire and motivate you to get cooking — or try different styles of food when eating out.

Wine and beer podcasts

Wine for Normal People, Winecast; Beer Party Podcast, Beer Geeks Radio Hour are all fun. They’ve inspired me to include wine and beer expert related podcasts on the Bulgaria Now Podcast.


BBC’s Friday Night Comedy is my Saturday morning pleasure. WTF is one of the most popular comedy interview format podcasts in the US… but not always so great.

Biographical and Interview

This is a format I especially enjoy. The starting place for this genre is the BBC classic, Desert Island Discs — a radio 4 show with 3,000+ episodes broadcast since 1942. The oldest show that survives on tape is from 1951. Everyone has a story to tell and it really does not matter whether you’ve heard of the personality or not.

Music podcasts

Early days for this one, but I think they could be set to grow in popularity if the music business succeeds in enforcing paid for subscription music services. We may witness the removal of signed artists from the freemium and ad supported streaming music networks. There’s a whole world of open source, copyright and good music available awaiting discovery for free. Try Bugcast for this genre.

The huge increase in number of podcasts to choose from feels like it shares some of the the energy found in many niche blogs. Usually the podcast hosts come from outside the radio sector and, I like to think in the same way that Bulgaria Now Podcast aspires to do, they strive to deliver content in a natural “say it how it is” approach. Free speech, without the corporate and political constraints, is an alluring recipe for popularity.

How will the future of podcasting look?

It’s continuing to move mainstream. One recent example is how Spotify are now including podcasts on their popular freemium music platform platform. I’m sure this service will open up to other podcasters in time.

The forthcoming Apple Music App is expected to integrate podcasts into their new streaming app. Other popular music streaming platforms such as SoundCloud and Stitcher have recently become proactive in promoting podcast subscribers to their player apps across iOS, Android and Windows mobile devices.

Improved accessibility to the content mentioned above is further enhanced by the Apple Watch, and other smart watches. The watch is a highly effective and useful remote control device — it’s just easier to control podcasts, and music, using the Apple Watch player glance function.

I expect the rumoured Apple TV, with a new platform of apps, to also provide another venue for podcasts and video podcasts. We have to wait a little longer to see what comes along.

A substantial boost in the future growth of podcasts is coming from exactly where AM radio started — the motor car. Apple Car Play and Android Car Play have undergone useful upgrades whereby they integrate the mobile device with the car. Both systems, all operating wirelessly, will be an important new feature for most new vehicles sold from late 2015.

I predict that the integration of the phone to a car’s user interface will make streaming radio and the selection of podcasts even more accessible. The general shift to more generous 4G data allowances will boost both podcast streaming and downloads even more.

Improving the user experience of accessing, and then discovering podcasts, has come a long way. I predict the improvements in the future will deliver the boost podcasters are looking for.

Will the money follow the podcasts?

Much depends on user adoption — but already businesses are directly supporting podcasts for its quality demographic.

Investors are beginning to see the effectiveness of talk show “native advertising”. These targeted sponsor reads, usually less than every 20 minutes, by the host, help a listener connect to the sponsor’s product or service.

Some businesses are using podcasts as a way of informing clients about themselves, their expertise and their products and services. In short, it’s a modern sales method to bring prospects into the sales funnel.

Several new podcast networks are being established. For example, Gimlet Media who used Start-Up podcast to build an audience as they figured out how to set up a network. They attracted significant investor funding. But other networks, such as Relay.fm and 5By5, do a good job in building both listeners and advertisers.

I’m new to podcasts what podcast player “podcatcher” do you recommend?

You’re after the sweet spot between usability and functionality. You want to have an invisible download experience you don’t have to think about.

Some apps like SoundCloud and Stitcher work across all platforms and are hugely popular (both are free).

iOS:  Podcast App (in iTunes) Apple’s hugely popular podcast app is now a free pre installed app. It’s a great place to start. It’s the most popular app for listening to podcasts. You can then move onto one of the independent podcatchers I list below. They have more advanced features and offer a better user experience for regular listening.

Overcast (freemium). Free, but the upgrade to smart speed and sound boost is well worth the modest cost. The Apple Watch interface works well. I use this one most. Other paid for podcatcher apps I can recommend are:  Downcast, Castro, Pocket Casts and Instacast 5 (freemium). SoundCloud (free) is doubly useful if you like music too.

Android: Pocket Casts, BeyondPod, Podcast Addict (freemium), Doggcatcher, Player FM (free for now). SoundCloud and Stitcher complete the top choices for Android users.

Should my business sponsor and/or create a podcast?

The multiplicity of choices in the media platforms, the devices and the pathways to the consumer show no sign of slowing down. Content producers, advertisers and digital marketeers are facing up to two huge new challenges; Ad blocking software and incidental social news on Facebook.

The mobile radio domain, that we call podcasting, brings an opportunity in the face of an internet where ever more ads has ruined the experience. There’s a better world where advertising, in the form of in-show sponsorship reads, do not detract from quality content and listener enjoyment. Our mobile devices have all the properties required of providing immersive and all consuming audio, when other visual media is either not an option or has, in its desperation, ruined the reading experience with too may ads.

Now is the time to switch on to podcasting. Podcast sponsors have an effective medium for attracting, and retaining, new customers from listeners who are keen to support them. Join the growing group of podcast listeners today and find out why people who love podcasts, really love podcasts; a lot.

(Photo: Maurice Rodin/freeimages.com)



Lance Nelson

Lance Nelson from Bulgaria Now Podcast episodes in conjunction with http://www.sofiaglobe.com http://www.bulgarianow.bg Contact Twitter: @bansko