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Podcasting gets listener relationship management

“Podcasting may seem like a reach medium — with significant audiences for the biggest shows — but it really shines as a depth medium. The most valuable quality is listeners’ deep connection to the voices and stories in their ears.”

As we stream towards 2020, podcasting is now a priority for tens of thousands of creators, publishers, and businesses — from indies to media and entertainment companies to Fortune 500 firms. Not all of these new entrants have a solid strategy, but as with previous waves of blogging, video, and social media, there’s a coalescing of attention and value in podcasting that is impossible to ignore.

Between RadioPublic and Podfund, we have a clear view into the evolving tactics and practices of podcasters — from enterprise, to studios, and across the long tail. They all face a missing ingredient in the podcasting ecosystem: the marketing technology to reliably grow and engage audiences.

As the stakes get higher and pressure mounts to differentiate, podcasters are still lacking tech-enabled solutions for marketing their shows to new audiences and for bringing listeners into a deeper relationship than an ad impression reflects.

To date, most podcast marketing has focused on three things:

  • Cross-promotion: ads for podcasts on other podcasts
  • Platform promotion: Vying for attention from Apple Podcasts, their charts, and featured rotation on other apps
  • Word-of-mouth promotion: direct marketing and PR

But these marketing strategies mostly guide podcasters to fish where they know audience already exists, rather than wading into the largest pools of discovery: on the open web and social.

Audience development tools exist in abundance in other domains — where platforms like Salesforce, Hubspot, Mailchimp, and Wistia lead a crowded field of “martech” solutions. But none of these services is built for podcasting, previously considered too small a market to tackle, and where RSS/MP3 and native app-based consumption create unique challenges.

To date, investments in podcast tech has understandably been concentrated at the bottom of the stack (hosting) and the top (players/apps). This makes sense in an industry where major platforms have not (yet) been driving monetization. Hosting solutions tend to build into adjacent adtech and analytics, since the lion’s share of revenue is still sourced, sold, and placed in the MP3 episode itself. And innumerable apps have taken a swing at improving discovery and monetization, with scant few making a real dent next to Apple and now Spotify.

The middle layer of marketing tech is missing, and my prediction for 2020 is we will see a wave of investment into the services and tools to manage the top and middle of the funnel for audience growth and engagement. At RadioPublic, we’re calling this approach Listener Relationship Management (LRM) and offer a growing number of solutions for podcasting to close the gap.

Podcasting may seem like a reach medium — with significant audiences for the biggest shows — but it really shines as a depth medium. The most valuable quality is listeners’ deep connection to the voices and stories in their ears.

LRM helps podcasters expand the range of listener touch points beyond the ad impression alone, diversifying revenue and business models to encompass other strategies such as crowdfunding, email newsletters, live shows, fan clubs, surveys, and experiments with personalization and interactivity.

The eternal tug of war between platforms and publishers will inevitably play out in podcasting, much as it continues to do elsewhere in digital media. But ultimately, we know it’s in the interests of creators and listeners to have a hand in shaping and managing the direct relationships that emerge from this most intimate of experiences — the spoken word moving at the speed of light and sound.

Jake Shapiro is co-founder and CEO of RadioPublic PBC and Podfund.

As we stream towards 2020, podcasting is now a priority for tens of thousands of creators, publishers, and businesses — from indies to media and entertainment companies to Fortune 500 firms. Not all of these new entrants have a solid strategy, but as with previous waves of blogging, video, and social media, there’s a coalescing of attention and value in podcasting that is impossible to ignore.

Between RadioPublic and Podfund, we have a clear view into the evolving tactics and practices of podcasters — from enterprise, to studios, and across the long tail. They all face a missing ingredient in the podcasting ecosystem: the marketing technology to reliably grow and engage audiences.

As the stakes get higher and pressure mounts to differentiate, podcasters are still lacking tech-enabled solutions for marketing their shows to new audiences and for bringing listeners into a deeper relationship than an ad impression reflects.

To date, most podcast marketing has focused on three things:

  • Cross-promotion: ads for podcasts on other podcasts
  • Platform promotion: Vying for attention from Apple Podcasts, their charts, and featured rotation on other apps
  • Word-of-mouth promotion: direct marketing and PR

But these marketing strategies mostly guide podcasters to fish where they know audience already exists, rather than wading into the largest pools of discovery: on the open web and social.

Audience development tools exist in abundance in other domains — where platforms like Salesforce, Hubspot, Mailchimp, and Wistia lead a crowded field of “martech” solutions. But none of these services is built for podcasting, previously considered too small a market to tackle, and where RSS/MP3 and native app-based consumption create unique challenges.

To date, investments in podcast tech has understandably been concentrated at the bottom of the stack (hosting) and the top (players/apps). This makes sense in an industry where major platforms have not (yet) been driving monetization. Hosting solutions tend to build into adjacent adtech and analytics, since the lion’s share of revenue is still sourced, sold, and placed in the MP3 episode itself. And innumerable apps have taken a swing at improving discovery and monetization, with scant few making a real dent next to Apple and now Spotify.

The middle layer of marketing tech is missing, and my prediction for 2020 is we will see a wave of investment into the services and tools to manage the top and middle of the funnel for audience growth and engagement. At RadioPublic, we’re calling this approach Listener Relationship Management (LRM) and offer a growing number of solutions for podcasting to close the gap.

Podcasting may seem like a reach medium — with significant audiences for the biggest shows — but it really shines as a depth medium. The most valuable quality is listeners’ deep connection to the voices and stories in their ears.

LRM helps podcasters expand the range of listener touch points beyond the ad impression alone, diversifying revenue and business models to encompass other strategies such as crowdfunding, email newsletters, live shows, fan clubs, surveys, and experiments with personalization and interactivity.

The eternal tug of war between platforms and publishers will inevitably play out in podcasting, much as it continues to do elsewhere in digital media. But ultimately, we know it’s in the interests of creators and listeners to have a hand in shaping and managing the direct relationships that emerge from this most intimate of experiences — the spoken word moving at the speed of light and sound.

Jake Shapiro is co-founder and CEO of RadioPublic PBC and Podfund.

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