I fell in love with podcasts through the investigative series Serial. I’d never heard a story told in an audio format like that, and it immediately captured my attention. Then I had the opportunity to work with The Globe and Mail reporters Hannah Sung and Denise Balkissoon to promote the podcast Colour Code, an in-depth look at race in Canada and The Globe’s first major foray into podcasting.

It was a success, and was named one of the best podcasts on iTunes for 2016. Soon after, The Globe released The Risk Takers, an entrepreneurial-focused podcast for Small Business Month.

In 2017, I wanted to explore more of what we could do with this storytelling platform. Enter Lab351, an incubator programme that provides our staff with 90 days to focus entirely on one project. Our teams from marketing (me), advertising (Rosalyn Morris), and editorial (Lori Fazari and Cliff Lee) researched a sustainable business model for podcasts.

The Canadian Podcast Listener Study, the first research of its kind in Canada, aimed to gather fresh data about podcast listeners' habits, interests, and motivations.
The Canadian Podcast Listener Study, the first research of its kind in Canada, aimed to gather fresh data about podcast listeners' habits, interests, and motivations.

We worked with Ulster Media and Audience Insights to commission The Canadian Podcast Listener: A Landscape Study. This research, the first of its kind in Canada, helped us answer the most pressing question: How many Canadians listen to podcast? What are their listening habits?

Here are some things to consider, if your organisation plans to create podcasts in 2018:

1. Know your goal. Before turning on the mic, outline your podcast goal to help define your success metrics. Metrics can mean whatever success looks like to your organisation, from ratings to downloads. This helps create accountability and manage expectations.

2. Understand your intended audience. Knowing whom you want to connect with will help shape the content and your promotion plans. Is your podcast a value-add to current subscribers or a tool to create a new audience?

The Globe and Mail's hit podcast Colour Code had broad thematic appeal, with an in-depth look at race in Canada.
The Globe and Mail's hit podcast Colour Code had broad thematic appeal, with an in-depth look at race in Canada.

3. Create a theme. If you were to sum up what your podcast in about in one sentence, what would it be? Considering your intended audience, what will your podcast theme offer them? Defining what listeners will get out of time spent with your show will help you create a podcast trailer, and will keep you on track when creating episodes.

Your theme should give them a reason to tune in and listen repeatedly. From the Canadian Podcast Listener study, we know 24% of Canadians listen to podcasts on a monthly basis for the following reasons:

  • 54% to be entertained.
  • 47% to hear interesting stories.
  • 43% to learn something new.

4. Consider run time and frequency. Since you’re not dealing with traditional programming time slots, your podcast can be however long it needs to be to create engaging content. But a key concern is frequency. Keeping and growing your audience requires a somewhat regular schedule. (Although some, like S-Town put all their episodes up simultaneously).

Be realistic. Do you have the time, resources, and budget for seven episodes or 27 episodes? Pace the content out accordingly.

5. You must promote. A strong promotion plan is essential to meet your podcast goals. Begin promoting by leveraging your existing audience, including social channels, Web site, newsletters (internal and external). Early adopters will help get the word out. Show guests can promote the episodes that feature them. And, if you have a budget, paid social promotion is a quick and easy way to get a campaign up and running with great targeting capabilities.

The Canadian Podcast Listener Study found that regular listeners, who listen on a monthly basis, discover new shows in multiple ways:

  • 37% from Web sites.
  • 35% from friends and family.
  • 35% promotion for a show on social media (35%).
  • 27% from another podcast.

Read the complete Canadian Podcast Listener Report.