Podcasts Must Inform But Don't Forget the Entertainment Quotient

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On a recent webinar titled Podcasting for Publishers: How Podcasts Can Deliver Qualified Leads and Bottom-Line Revenue for Minimal Investment, Lynn Freer, president of Spidell Publishing, told about running into a tax accountant listener at one of her events. He kidded her about his wife wondering who that woman with the great voice is who he's conversing with every Sunday morning.

Turns out it's Kathryn Zdan, host of Spidell's SIPAward-winning podcast California Minute, but the only conversing belongs to Zdan. However, the man does listen religiously to the podcast, which coincidentally, gets released every Sunday morning—at 9 a.m.

"People want humor, lively, interesting, the whole enchilada," Freer said about podcasts. "If you have a speaker with a great voice, which Kathryn has, they just love it."

Earlier in the podcast, Stephanie Williford, CEO of EB Medicine whose EMplify podcast averages more than 2,500 listens an episode, also talked about the importance of having an entertaining host. "Some of the feedback from listeners was that it's too scripted. So we want to make it more conversational. Listeners want to be entertained."

While EMplify has been successful—including also winning a SIPAward—Williford believes it can do even better. So when the two physician hosts told her that they prefer the scripted nature, she decided to go with a new host. "The new podcast host will be more entertaining and conversational," she said.

Here are more highlights from the webinar, which can be viewed here.

Podcast length can vary to your audience. EMplify is 20 minutes because Williford believes her audience "has a short attention span and not a lot of time. They seem happy with that." California Minute is actually 3-5 minutes. Freer also said it just feels right for her busy audience, and the numbers—around 700,000 listens and counting and an average of 4,148 per episode—bear that out.

It doesn't have to cost a lot. For Williford, the annual cost is $6,500. She pays the hosts $500 a month, and they handle entire production. "They send us the audio file and we upload it to Blubrry which pushes it out to iTunes and Google Play." Spidell does it all in-house. Editorial creates the content. Audio is recorded in Audacity, and production done in Audition. Then editorial and marketing review a draft.

Reasons for doing it can also vary. Williford knew that her audience already loved podcasts—"they're always on the go"—and would be receptive if the quality was there. She also knew that her competition was doing them. "We made it free because of usability," she said, "We were hoping to reach new people who would trust us and like us." Freer now finds that "education is what [her audience] wants. Everybody has to have continuing education."

Added value is good. Williford sees value for both subscribers and non-subscribers. "It's a big lead gen and brand-building effort, and also adds value for our subscribers." Although she doesn't have exact numbers, they have "seen an increase in our renewal rates and revenue since we've launched it. We think it has played a significant role based on feedback we get." One move that Freer does to give subscribers more value is to give them free access to transcripts.

Build off of your podcasts. EB Medicine has created "video" podcasts, which most of their competitors are not doing. It's just slides and text but still represents another communication vehicle. Spidell does a little product marketing now in their podcasts and then follows up with people who open that podcast with an email with more information on that product. "It has generated some revenue for us," Freer said, "enough to justify the time."

It's good lead gen. Both companies use the podcasts for lead generation. Spidell has also done a Salvation Army Listener Drive where they contribute money for every new name that people send them. From the Sunday morning email Spidell sends, they get feedback on likes and dislikes and further questions that people have.

Again, you can listen to the podcast here.

Ronn Are you subscribed to the SIPAlert Daily?
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Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 and SIIA in 2013 as editorial director…