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The history of podcasts

by | Last updated Feb 6, 2024 | Published on Feb 24, 2022 | Content Marketing

In 2022, monthly podcast listeners in the U.S. will reach 125 million – about 38 percent of the population. Podcasts are booming – and prominent on streaming platforms. The history of podcasts goes back further than 2004 – but that’s when the medium was dubbed “podcasting.”

The Guardian reporter Ben Hammersly suggested the name “podcasting” for the burgeoning form of online radio programming in a 2004 article. The combination of portable audio file-playing devices, cheap recording equipment, and an acceptance of blogs as a viable content source combined to propel the trend. 

What is a podcast?

A podcast is an audio file that people can download whenever they like. In 2000, Dave Winer, author of Really Simple Syndication (RSS), enabled audio and video file attachments in RSS feeds. This made it easier for amatuer and professional broadcasters to post audio files – essentially downloadable on-demand radio shows. 

Today, there are hundreds of platforms where you can download podcasts, whose subjects run the gamut from how-tos, to celebrities interviewing each other, to cooking tips, to conspiracy theories and true crime, so much true crime. 

Podcasts can also be monetized. Based on the number of downloads, advertisers may choose to place ads during breaks in the podcast or as part of the podcast itself, with hosts reading ad copy during the episode. Some podcasts become so successful they’re purchased for on-demand broadcast on channels like National Public Radio or through satellite radio on Sirius XM.  

There are fiction-based podcasts, too, where performers read a script and sound effects are added – essentially the modern version of classic radio dramas. 

The history of podcasts

Podcasts were relatively unknown until 2005, when Apple’s iTunes 4.9 version update started supporting podcasts. Apple’s iTunes streaming revolutionized the way we enjoy music, so it makes sense the platform helped evolve how we listen to “radio shows,” too.

In 2018, Apple featured more than 500,000 podcasts in over 100 different languages. As of January 2022, there are over 2,405,491 valid podcasts with more than 61 million episodes, according to BuzzSprout. That’s a remarkable increase in popularity in a relatively short amount of time. While Apple remains a powerhouse as a podcast directory, there are other popular directories where audiences discover new podcasts, including:

  • Spotify
  • Google Podcasts
  • Stitcher

While the number of podcasts created might be huge, there’s a rapid trend of “podfading” for many of these ‘casts. Amplifi Media reported on June 25, 2019, that only 18% of 706,000 podcasts tracked added an episode in three months. Yes, most podcasts peter out rather quickly. Amplifi also noted that 44% of available podcasts have three or fewer episodes.

What is the future of podcasting?

Spotify initiated the trend of exclusive streaming of podcasts, notably with the country’s most-popular (and controversial) podcast, The Joe Rogan Experience. As directories look to take advantage of the growing popularity of podcasts, more exclusive deals are imminent. (And with that, look for some fallout, too, such as Neil Young and others pulling their music from Spotify.)

It’s rumored that Facebook will host podcasts on Pages in 2002, and allow for monetization. 

Pacific Content asked several podcast experts about what to expect in 2022, and most of them said subscription-based podcasting will not be the huge moneymaker large companies hope for, as people like their podcasts free and easily-accessible. However, there is room for “massively popular” podcasts, such as Rogan’s to benefit from exclusivity. 

While 2022 is likely to see growth in the number of podcasts, content fatigue may not be far away. The content popularity cycle seems to get shorter every year. 

Podcasting to market and grow your business

Businesses can use podcasts to answer questions, solve problems and talk with customers and prospects about the issues they face. There are many aspects of your industry where you’re the SME: subject matter expert. A podcast is an opportunity to convey your knowledge and help customers with their pain points.

A podcast is another mechanism in your marketing toolbox, and fits in nicely with a blog, social media calendar and email marketing. While a podcast may be more technically involved than other marketing tools, you don’t have to start from scratch content-wise.

Look at your existing content for episode ideas. You may have downloadable content assets and blog posts that you can pull from to create an outline for episodes. Take recent challenges your customers faced and talk about how you helped to solve the problem. 

One thing that separates podcasting from other marketing tools is your prospects can listen to your expertise on the go. They’re not reading emails or blog posts while they’re driving the car or walking the dog, but they are very likely listening to something – and that something could be your podcast. 

Creating your podcast

First, decide what your podcast is going to say and how it’s going to be said. Is this a solo podcast with you talking about challenges your customers face? Are you going to include guests that are also SMEs in your industry or your clients’ industries?

Next, just like your other marketing tools, you need to determine goals. A podcast can be a time-consuming prospect that will also include some costs, recording/editing equipment and production, for example. 

Rather than learning every in and out of podcasting yourself, it’s possible to work with a third-party that already has podcasting expertise. Just as there are thousands of podcasts, there are also lots of podcast producers that will guide you through the process, such as where to host the podcast and how to distribute it. 

You’ll also use your existing marketing channels to promote the podcast. This may include a dedicated website or a landing page on your existing site. If the podcast is the business, it makes sense to have a website for the podcast, which can include information on episodes, a brief biography of the creators/hosts, links to social channels and more. Yes, it’s popular to say, “Wherever you get your podcasts,” but if the podcast is part of your business, you want it to have a home that you control.

Your existing blog, social channels and email are also good avenues for informing your customers about the podcast. 

Savoir Faire gets into podcasting

Savoir Faire principal Stephanie and content strategist Corey had each been working on personal passion projects for years before deciding that the podcast format suited both ideas. In 2021, they partnered on developing a set of “podcast twins” to launch in 2022.

The Forty Drinks Project

When she turned 40, Stephanie devised this idea: to have forty drinks with forty friends in forty different places and to make each drink have some symbolic connection to their relationship. She took pictures of herself with each friend and wrote about that friend, their relationship and what they meant to her. She blogged about the adventure and extended her birthday into a yearlong adventure. 

Ever since, Stephanie has been captivated by turning “the big four oh,” and how people deal with the inescapable onset of “midlife.”  The podcast captures conversations with people about their life experience around turning 40.

“This birthday often comes wrapped in larger life changes, whether it’s a newfound search for meaning, accepting your mortality or shedding all those choices you made because some external authority told you you ‘should’,” Steph says. Plus, we’ll catch up with some of the original Forty Drinks friends to see how they’re doing.”

The Family Twist Podcast

The impetus of the Family Twist podcast is the ongoing journey of Corey and his partner Kendall as they navigate life with a brand new family, with a twist. Kendall went from being an adopted then orphaned only child, to having six siblings and living birth parents virtually overnight, all thanks to the magic and accessibility of DNA technology!

Kendall and Corey share their adventures (and misadventures) moving across the country to build relationships with Kendall’s newly-found family. The first podcast episodes dig into Kendall and Corey’s story – including how they moved 2,700 miles to be close to the new family. Get ready for some jaw-dropping, pearl-clutching twists – and don’t forget the tissues. (There are laughs, too.)

They also interview other people with fascinating family stories to help us and hopefully others maneuver through their own family twists.

Don’t post and forget it

Once you launch your podcast and regularly publish episodes (listeners appreciate a consistent release schedule), there’s still work to do. Just like your other digital marketing efforts – blog posts, emails, social posts – you want to analyze performance and adjust where needed.

Fortunately, many podcast hosting platforms have great and intuitive analytics tools built-in. When you’re ready to start planning your business’ podcast, contact us with any questions or pain points. 

Footnote: Savoir Faire moved into a 1890s Victorian home as its global headquarters in late 2021, and part of the renovations of the building included a dedicated podcast recording studio. Podcast production and marketing is now one of Savoir Faire’s offerings for small businesses. 

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The history of podcasts – Savoir Faire Marketing & Communications

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