Podcasts – or an ode for Thursdays

Every week I fervently look forward to Thursday. On no other day of the week do I learn as much. On no other day of the week do I need more time for myself. Because, you see, that is when new episodes of my favorite podcasts are released. Even though I don’t have time to listen to all of the episodes that day, knowing that there is new content available again comforts me. After all, podcasts are the best kind of content.

The best of journalism and blogs combined

Technically a podcast is, in its simplicity, an audio file that can be listened to digitally for example on iTunes or SoundCloud any time. Much like there are all sorts of radio programs, the range of podcasts covers everything. And I mean everything. For example, the life of Julius Caesar has its own dedicated podcast.

People usually listen to podcasts in the very same situations they would listen to the radio or to music, i.e. on public transportation, out jogging, at the gym etc. The most significant difference compared to the radio or music is how packed with information a podcast is. Since they call for concentration, they aren’t very suitable as background noise while cooking or sitting at the office. The best and most popular podcasts combine the information of journalism and the personal feel of a blog. They contain many column- or even causerie-like elements, but especially American podcasts such as Freakonomics and This American Life feature carefully considered points of view and interesting stories. And to top it off, practically all podcasts are free.

Why do I like podcasts so much?

I like podcasts for two simple reasons. They educate and entertain at the same time. And like I mentioned in my previous post, teaching and entertaining are the two main criteria for good content. Some years ago I couldn’t have imagined to know so much about, for example, the manufacturing process of a cotton t-shirt or to laugh out loud to puns about French soccer teams’ names.

I also enjoy podcasts because it is easy to concentrate on them. The stream of sound soothes the brain and effectively blocks out the outside stimuli otherwise offered by smart phones and the rest of the world. I strongly believe that this concentration improves creativity, too: I have had many good ideas that were inspired by stories I heard in a podcast.

Podcasts went mainstream with Serial

Like many other things, we owe the popularity of podcasts to the United States’ cultural imperialism. The audio renaissance began in the US last year with the launch of Serial. Reaching a whopping 40 million listeners, Serial introduced the concept of seasons to podcasts: much like on television, one season of the show tells one story.

The first season of Serial investigated the 1999 murder of Hae Min Lee in Baltimore, and whether Adnan Syed, who was convicted for committing the crime, was actually guilty. Serial combined journalism and long form documentaries in a way we had never seen (or heard) before. The series analyzed small details in incredible detail. But the sharp storytelling made the series seem more like a detective story than a newspaper article. They have kept quiet about the second season, but it is likely to be released this fall.

Even though Serial was a massive hit, podcasts can still be considered a niche media. According to the recent study “The Podcast Consumer,” only a little under half of Americans know the term at all and only every third of them has ever listened to a podcast. In Finland, podcasts have long been marginalized, but they are on the rise. Yle has released its radio programming as podcasts for a long time. Marginality doesn’t, however, mean that podcast listeners couldn’t be an interesting audience for marketers. They are very loyal, since every third person that has listened to a podcast at some point has also listened to one in the past three weeks. On average, people listen to no less than six podcasts per week. The typical podcast listener is also more educated and wealthier than the average American. In Finland, too, podcast listeners are more likely to live in the trendy parts of big cities, but for example the fact that podcasts are the perfect thing to listening to while driving gives them tremendous marketing potential.

Corporate podcasts

Naturally companies have also started to produce their own podcasts. Podcasts suit especially expert organizations that have quick-witted performers, and whose business is based on some form of constantly updated information. Natural examples include economy, retail, sports and media.

For me the most positive surprise of the fall has been #rahapodi, launched in September, that is made by Martin Paasi, Miikka Luukkonen and Riikka Salmenkaita from Nordnet. It’s really pleasant to listen to Finnish-language conversations about the economy, where they look behind the scenes instead of reporting how well single stocks have been doing in the market.

Fascinated by the background of #rahapodi, I decided to ask the hosts about their experiences with the show. To keep my own opinions from impacting the story, I decided to publish the answers given by the three as is.

Disclaimer: Nordnet is not a Paper Planes customer, and Paper Planes is not a Nordnet customer. The interview was conducted completely from a fan’s point of view.

The story of #rahapodi

How did you come up with the idea of creating a podcast and why did you start making it?
Nordnet Sweden has been making podcasts for a couple of years now. Sweden’s Sparpodden has been extremely popular and has been awarded as the fifth best Swedish podcast and the best economy podcast (Svenska podradiopriset). Inspired by the impressive results, the concept was introduced in all of Nordnet’s countries of operation; Norway in the late spring, Denmark and Finland in the early fall. Even though the basic idea behind the podcast is the same in all countries, they all get to do their own thing, so content-wise we are free to do whatever we want.

What has been the best thing about doing the podcast?
It’s been great to notice that there is demand for a podcast that focuses on the economy, investing and saving, even though the concept of a podcast isn’t so a well-known in Finland just yet.

What have you learned while doing the podcast?
We have only done six podcasts so far, so we learn something new every episode.

The amount of background research varies significantly from episode to episode. Some subjects Martin and Miikka are already so familiar with that we don’t have to do that much research. Sometimes we have to do a lot more to get the facts straight.

For the flow of the pod it’s great to have two different personalities. It also creates a tension in the pod that helps to keep the listeners tuned in.

What kind of feedback have you received?
We have gotten a lot of feedback and it has mostly been positive. Based on the feedback there is an audience for rahapodi even though podcasts are a little less well-known in Finland. We have also gotten great topic ideas for the blog from the feedback. We also want the content to be what the listeners want it to be, so they get to have a significant influence on the topics and the content.

What is your podcast production process like?
Right now, the pod is produced by a three-person team, which includes the hosts, Nordnet’s financial expert Martin Paasi, and Miikka Luukkonen, who is in charge of partnerships, as well as event manager Riikka Salmenkaita, who works behind the scenes. The rest of Nordnet’s marketing team takes part in the brainstorming as well. Topics for the pod are brainstormed all the time, and we also take the feedback and topic proposals we have received from our listeners into consideration when planning the episodes. In each episode we try to talk about topical issues in economy and to focus more on some broader individual theme. The theme of each episode is decided on Tuesday, when the episode is also recorded. The episode is edited during Wednesday. When it comes to editing, for the moment it has been enough to edit out possible background noises from Martin and Miikka’s section, to add the theme music and the opening and end voice-overs as well as adjust the volume. The episodes are released on Thursday, which is when we highlight them on our social media channels in addition to our website.

How much time does it take for you to produce an episode?
The time it takes to produce an episode has gotten shorter as we’ve gotten more experienced. At the time it takes approximately a total of 12 hours for the whole pod team to produce an episode, if you combine the efforts of all participants.

Finally, generally speaking about content, which is something Nordnet creates a lot of. What kind of tips would you give to companies that want to get started with their content marketing?
We do almost all of our content marketing in-house. But we don’t use that term every day, since we have tried to above all change the way we work. Our theme this year was from sales to stories. We have increased the role of stories and other content such as the blog and videos in all of our communications. The part our clients play in content creation will increase.

We encourage all companies to get started and experiment. When the communication strategy is clear, it’s easy to create many different kinds of content that support business. It’s a good idea to choose some simple goal that acts as a guideline in what you do.

You have to be brave and have guts to try things out. Not everything works out for us either, but that’s how you learn. And sometimes what we imagine is going to be a big hit turns out to be a complete flop or the other way around. It’s really hard to write a complete content strategy before you have practical experience from what works.

It can easily take a year to change the way you work. You have to be prepared for that and not lose heart. If the company is used to doing things as they always have, nothing is going to change. You can’t copy the previous year’s campaigns in content marketing, you have to redesign the campaigns. This challenges the personnel, calls for a new kind of know-how and involvement.

Your own podcast?

 

It takes time and effort to make a successful podcast, but you should take the following four things into consideration already in the planning stage.

1. Branding
Create a recognizable sound logo and/or theme music and sound world. Even though the sound logo and theme music take up at most only a few percent of the length of the whole podcast, they create a sense of anticipation and an emotional attachment in the audience. Also, if you have several podcasts back to back on your podcast list, it’s always good to know which one is starting.

2. The audience
Think how and where you’ll find your audience. If you already have a large audience, promoting the podcast in your own channels may well be enough. In other cases you should be prepared to work patiently, because there are no other obvious channels for promotion. Think about where your target audience is and try to be seen there.

3. Guests
Not many of us have something interesting to say week after week. Many popular podcasts are completely or at least mostly based on interviewing interesting guests. By highlighting new people you can also find new audiences for your podcast.

4. Dialogue
The best podcasts also engage the audience to make the podcast. In its simplest form this can mean collecting feedback and topic ideas on Twitter or, for example, making random drunken calls to listeners, like Tim Ferriss in a particularly funny episode.

The best podcasts ­– tips for all kinds of listeners

 

If you want to give podcasts a shot, here are some of my favorite podcasts listed in alphabetical order. Even the old episodes make for excellent listening. The links take you to the podcasts’ home pages, but all of them are also available on iTunes.

Brett Easton Ellis Podcast
The podcast of the author who triumphantly illustrated life in the 80s is based on interviews, but its most interesting part is Ellis’ ceaseless analyses of movies, music, TV shows, popular culture and literature.
Length: 60-90 min
Frequency: once a week

Football Weekly
The Guardian’s soccer-themed podcast combines strident analysis with extremely funny banter. I often laugh out loud at their stuff.
Length: 45-60 min
Frequency: two times a week

Freakanomics Radio
The podcast of a pair of super successful journalist/economists, that tries to bring a scientific point of view to everyday things.
Length: 45-60 min
Frequency: once a week

Maailmanpolitiikan arkipäivää
For the past few years YLE’s classic radio program has revolved around the situations in Syria, Ukraine and Greece, but it still remains the most interesting and comprehensive Finnish-language podcast.
Length: 20-30 min
Frequency: once a week

Planet Money
This podcast examines economic theories through everyday phenomena in an interesting way. The concise and superbly produced episodes are an easy way to get to know the world of podcasts.
Length: 15-20 min
Frequency: two times a week

#rahapodi
The podcast hosted by Nordnet’s experts features easy-going discussions about saving and investing in vernacular.
Length: 30-40 min
Frequency: once a week

Reply All
Interesting and ambiguous documentaries that are in one way or another connected to the internet (although sometimes the connection is quite loose).
Length: 25-30 min
Frequency: once a week

StartUp
StartUp, which just started its third season, moves on a very meta level: the show’s first season was about the founding of a podcast production company called Gimlet Media. In the second season we got to know the story of a startup called Dating Ring, and the third season apparently focuses on Gimlet again.
Length: 30 min
Frequency: once a week

The Bugle
Comedians Andy Zaltzman and John Oliver host the by far funniest podcast I’ve ever heard. Unfortunately The Bugle apparently ended in August due to the success of John Oliver’s TV show (at first they meant to cut down the frequency to once a month, but they haven’t released new episodes in two months).
Length: 30 min
Frequency: possibly once a month, previously once a week.

This American Life
A legend in the world of podcasts and for many their first step into the world of podcasts. A strongly societal documentary series whose episodes depict the American life and quality of mind.
Length: 45-60 min
Frequency: once a week

The Tim Ferriss Show
In his show investor and author Tim Ferriss interviews celebrities and other successful people to deconstruct the ways and teachings every one of us could learn.
Length: 60-150 min
Frequency: 2-3 times a week

On hiatus or canceled, but still worth a listen: Mystery Show, Serial and Invisibilia.

I apologize for the lengthy post. It’s easy to write about a topic you love. If I got even one reader to open iTunes and look for podcasts I think it was worth it.

Are you interested in creating your own podcast? There are several of us at Paper Planes who are into podcasts, so we would be happy to help you get started. Give Ville a call so we can talk about it in more detail.