Are Podcasts the New Video Content?

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image credit: HubSpot

Has podcasting gone the way of audio cassettes, walkmans, and other obsolete ways to consume content? The answer appears to be a resounding no. In fact, podcasting appears to have usurped the roles of infographics and video among industry discussions of multi-media branded content. I was among the 1,100 attendees at the recent Social Media Marketing World 2013 convention, and podcasting proved to be one of the most-discussed topics at the event.

A recent survey by by The Social Media Examiner (SME) of 300 industry professionals found that 24% of marketers intend to begin using more podcasts in the next 12 months; an 800% increase over the 3% who are currently utilizing the tactic:

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Image Credit: Frederic Gonzalo

Additionally, 32% expressed an interest in exploring the platform as a possibility. SME President Mike Stelzner recently stated in an interview that podcasting would in fact be among the hottest trend in branded content marketing in the year to come.While only time will tell whether brands actively implement the trend, or whether consumer demand will pace marketers’ interest, it certainly begs the question: are podcasts the new video content?

The Rise and Fall of Podcasts

Podcasts first burst into prominence around 2005, as consumer demand for audio files drastically rose. However, Facebook brand pages and talk of Twitter for business quickly took center stage among web workers, and savvy marketers wisely focused their attention on delivering visual forms of multimedia content to match the growing dominance of YouTube as a content sharing platform. Several prominent marketers have recently begun releasing branded podcasts, including Chris Brogan, Seth Godin, and Stelzner. As Jeff Bullas puts it, “where there is smoke, there is fire.” The possibility certainly appears to be worth exploring.

Podcasts are Mobile

As the world becomes increasingly mobile, the types of content marketing that are most-consumed will be those available on the go. Bullas has clearly mapped the soaring interest in podcasting to near-ubiquitous adoption of mobile technology by consumers. Mobile web traffic on data networks grew 70% last year; and mobile usage in January 2012 alone exceeded all web traffic in 2012.

While the average length of an American commute has remained largely unchanged since 2000, vehicle manufacturers are turning towards options for content consumption on-the-go. Over 90 percent of new cars sold in the US have an option for iPod or mobile device integration. Marketers have a built-in audience for their podcasts, and unlike visual content, the potential for consumption isn’t limited to times when a consumer can direct their entire attention to their smartphone screen.

Podcasts Support Multi-Screen Use

Content marketing for the future may have to support the needs of a consumer who pays much less attention. A late 2012 study by Google found that 90% of consumers move between devices to accomplish a single goal. Time online is typically spread across four devices; smartphone, tablet, PC, and television. The recent rise of shorter branded video content and Twitter’s Vine app support something that insights firms are discovering en mass: the modern consumer is quite distracted, and therefore has a much-shorter attention span.

It makes sense that consumers may opt for podcasts as a form of multi-media content that’s easy to-consume while engaging in the multi-screen use that’s become ubiquitous. While video demands attention, podcasts allow attention to be divided.

Auditory Content is Quality Content

While 40% of the population may react better to visuals than pure text, podcasting takes into account the estimated 30% of the population are auditory learners who retain and process information better if it’s heard. A quality podcast session takes into account the human need for storytelling and interaction just as effectively as a well-executed branded video. Finally, professional podcaster Pat Flynn recently emphasized the sticky qualities of podcasts that other forms of content may not be able to match: content marketers can inspire listeners to “lean in” with voice inflection, inject personality, and produce analysis of breaking trends perhaps more quickly than if utilizing video production.

Marketers have long speculated that in the future, the average consumer attention spans could shrink to the point where we have less than a second to capture interest. As mobile adoption continues to soar, it’s clear that smartphones and tablets aren’t replacing the television or personal computer; they’re being used simultaneously. The true power of podcasting could be connected to it’s value for a world that’s more distracted and plugged-in than ever before.

Do you think podcasting could outpace demand for video content?