Should Your Business Start a Podcast?

“Hey, maybe we should have our own podcast,” thought every entrepreneur in America at some point over the last 12-36 months.

And why shouldn’t you? Podcasts are a buzzy growth industry—they are cheap to produce, and you can reach nearly everyone on the planet with almost no barriers to entry… in theory.

I subscribed to this narrative before launching my agency, Oxford Road, in 2013. In fact, I was working with talented small business owners and executives, helping them stake their claim in this modern-day audio goldrush.

We handled production equipment, digital distribution, brought in expert editors, producers of famous radio shows, even sponsors on day one. Everything required to make a podcast successful, right?

They all failed. For the same reason, most new ventures fail. People run out of the energy and enthusiasm to push through the dip to will it to succeed. It’s not that the talent was bad, it’s just that they didn’t have the time or energy to make it good. They were all successful running their businesses, and so, however much passion they had to drive this effort ultimately fell by the wayside.

That’s why I turned my focus to using podcasts to help brands launch customer growth programs through my ad agency. Helping business people become successful media stars is a much different proposition.

Back to you. How can you really know if launching your own podcast makes sense? Consider this; there are an estimated 600,000+ different podcasts available on iTunes. The average podcast devotee listens to six different podcasts per week. The growth rate of new shows and investment into new shows appears to be much greater than the growth rate of the podcast listening universe.

That means that to reach a new listener, you either have to get someone to listen to podcasts who has avoided the craze thus far or, you need to steal a listener from one of the other shows. Shows produced by the same people who make TV and movies. Shows hosted by people who are professional entertainers, or who have committed their whole career to revolve around a single podcast. This is a big ask, especially for a side hustle.

The key question to ask yourself is, “what is my ultimate goal?”

By what metric will you measure the success of your venture? If you’re thinking of this as a way to make money, forget it. With 600,000 podcasts and annual industry revenue projected somewhere between $300,000,000 and $500,000,000 (Sorry, these numbers are self-reported so there’s no way to prove at time of press) that means the average podcast made less than $10/week. You’d be better off with a paper route, or perhaps directing those extra hours into your core business.

So if you’re not in it for the money, here are some very good reasons to start your own podcast:

1.     Build Your Rolodex And Industry Relationships

One of the greatest benefits of a podcast is that it gives you a platform. You have your own show to invite people as guests. That means not only do have a chance to win the ears, hearts and minds of your potential audience, but your guests do too. This is a great chance to have a meaningful conversation with people who might not otherwise have a good reason to take the time to talk.

2.     Demonstrate Expertise

Hopefully, if you’re in the HVAC business, your podcast is not about your thoughts on the President, however unique they may be. Even if no one listens, the fact that you are so dedicated to your field as to take the time on a regular basis to create content around it, so other interested people can learn, demonstrates a real passion and you will get points for participation. Bonus points if you get an audience of any size.

3.     Love of the Game

Even if you are good, consistent, and committed, the chance of your show becoming something that can take on a life of its own is very small. That means there is beauty in taking on this type of challenge, knowing there may be no direct payback. If you can set aside income, forget building your Rolodex, and ignore the perception of expertise, then you’re probably doing it for the right reason. You’ve got something to say and the market will tell you if anyone wants to hear it. But at least you can try and enjoy the process. The best part is you might just have a better end-product, because you’ve got nothing to lose, and it’s all out of love.

So there you have it. If you are looking at it as an ROI tool, there are easier ways to make a living. But if you are inspired by the opportunity and can invest the time and energy without a direct benefit otherwise, then go forth and conquer. The world doesn’t need another podcast, but there’s always room for a person with something to say on a subject where they have value to add.

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