Podcasts are nothing new. While the medium was invented somewhere around 2000, Apple’s decision to add podcasts to iTunes in 2005 thrust a new light, and new subscriber base, onto the concept of short-form audio content. Commuters rejoiced, and brands were quick to find ways to capitalize on this new captive audience.

Fast forward over ten years, and a new medium has grown from this already popular content channel. Bolstered by a recent trend towards cord-cutting, and devices like AppleTV and Google Chromecast, video podcasts are staking their claim as not only one of the most engaging syndicated content forms, but one of the most popular. Many brands are looking to video podcasting as a new medium for promoting thought leadership. And they should – Convince and Convert reported that 21% of Americans consume podcasts (both video and audio). For context, 21% of Americans also use Twitter. That’s a big audience.

To help you learn from this awesome medium, I wanted to look at what the most popular video podcasts have going for them, and understand how you can apply this to your marketing efforts. According to Apple’s current rankings, here’s what I discovered.

TED Talks – Not Just a YouTube Phenomenon

Whether the topic is Business, Health, Science & Medicine, or the top-level TED Talks: Ideas Worth Spreading, the innovative video and live event series showcasing thought leaders has long been one of the most popular YouTube channels in history. And the content works just as well in podcast form too. TED does a lot of things right, both on YouTube and in their podcasts, but here are my big takeaways from their success:

  • The content is always engaging. Even if you aren’t excited about every topic, with subjects like “How I learned to read – and trade stocks – in prison” and “Your company’s data could help end world hunger” it’s hard not to find something of interest in their vast library of content.
  • Episodic content works as long as you stick with it. TED has the benefit of having literally thousands of videos at their disposal, but unlike the Netflix binge-watch strategy, Podcasting allows TED to release these videos over a longer span of time, and often automatically download new episodes to subscribers devices. The ability to automatically have your content show up in an app that many users see daily on their TV or mobile device is a big win for podcasting, and TED takes advantage of this by uploading at least one video per week, often more.
  • Diversifying subjects. In the top 20 podcasts I saw on iTunes, at least four of them were TED talks, but on vastly different subjects. Business was separated from Health, which was separated from Education. This allows people to hone in on their specific interests, and receive regular content updates only on what they care about. If your business caters to different markets, and you’re thinking of launching thought-leadership content, keep this in mind as your audience on iTunes grows.

Comedy – Syndicating Laughter

Stand-up comedy is an art form that seems to have stood the test of time – pun intended. From live events to televised specials, all the way though to several channels devoted to comedy on a round-the-clock basis, one thing is clear – we love to laugh. And networks pushing comedy on the masses have been quick to take advantage of the syndicated nature of podcasts. Comedy Central’s Stand-Up podcast ranked in the top five when I looked at video podcasts, and it’s not hard to see why. Every day my Facebook feed is flooded with John Oliver clips, and bits from Dave Chappelle’s latest standup special. Podcasting allows Comedy Central to deliver this experience on a weekly basis that users can subscribe to, and automatically receive updates for. All of their clips are short – clearly designed to be consumed alongside other media or during a quick laugh break – but consistent and readily available.

Comedy Central Podcast Screenshot

One of the big lessons I take away from this for B2B marketers is the idea of “snackable” content – Comedy Central in particular is taking bits of longer-form content and making them free on a scheduled basis, but the meat of the podcast is really to get people watching the longer standup routines available on their channel, or website. We’ve applied similar thinking with some of our longer interviews – offer a teaser with some of the more shareable nuggets of wisdom, and use this as an incentive to watch the full talk.

Brands that are creating longer-form content like webinars or feature videos could use podcasting as a way of offering tidbits of this content for free to a captive audience while still driving viewers back to the full feature.

All The News That’s Fit to Podcast

One of the first uses of radio technology was delivering news. Being able to broadcast a message about current events across the vast distances was an incredibly novel idea, and helped keep people connected with those vast differences were otherwise physically difficult to maneuver. Television was no different, with news broadcasts dominating the most popular time slots on this new medium as well.

Now that video podcasts have come into their own, it’s no surprise that news broadcasts are quickly inching up in the rankings here as well. Global National ranks in the top 10, and offers a daily, 22 minute summary of international and local news to Canadians. Similar news programs are popular on the US listings as well.

To me this is one of the biggest indicators that video podcasts are here to stay, and that businesses can benefit from this new medium by simply adapting their existing thinking to include this content type. News broadcasts are literally as old as mass communications, and yet they have stayed relevant by offering new and innovative ways to consume them. What existing content types are you using now that could be adapted into a more syndicated, weekly or monthly format? Could your talking head interviews become the next big podcast sensation? You’ll never know until you try!

¿Hablas español?

A quick perusal of the top 20 podcasts right now in iTunes offers me daily lessons on Spanish, French, and Chinese. All of these podcasts are under four minutes, and teach a very specific topic, syntax, or set of words, using visuals to help hammer home the concept. For most people, language education stops after high-school, so having an easy daily way to interact with a new language presents this learning material in a way that anyone can consume. Miss a day? Just watch it the next – every episode is under 15 minutes.

As many businesses adopt short-form educational content and post this to their website and social channels, a great number of them are neglecting a huge user base among the podcasting community. If your business is already creating how-to videos as part of your content marketing strategy, iTunes may be a great free venue to build an audience and credibility for your thought leadership.

Downward Dogging

Much like language learning, a number of the top featured podcasts on iTunes are monthly or weekly free yoga podcasts that give short practice sessions. While these sessions are free, they’re typically limited to shorter routines, and designed to encourage yogis to visit a main site to pay for longer lessons. YouTube is also full of examples like this:

If this sounds familiar, it’s typically what we preach for your social content! Use short-form teasers to encourage people to visit your site to engage with longer, more premium content. Numerous yoga studios take advantage of this medium for distributing their teaser content, and as you drift out of the top 20, that number only grows. And unlike YouTube, when a viewer finishes your podcast, there’s no related content to steal them away – just whatever call-to-action you choose to end the podcast with, like this:

And then a quick jump back to the podcast menu to consume more content!

Apple – Owning Your Channel

While this particular example is somewhat timely, I feel like it’s important to include it as Apple’s current first-place position in Podcast downloads has a lesson in it for every content channel. With Apple’s Keynote this week, the top billed podcast in iTunes is… you guessed it… the Apple Keynotes.

Whether this is a legitimate ranking or one that has been slightly skewed, Apple owns the iTunes platform, and thus has every opportunity to use it as a vehicle to promote their own exciting news. While your podcast on iTunes won’t have the same clout when you unveil a new product or service, don’t be afraid to take this stand with your other owned channels. Post product updates on your blog, and have that content intermixed with your other thought leadership or culture pieces. People who come back to your page over and over again are a captive audience – don’t be afraid to market to them now and then. Just don’t do it every day, and you won’t upset anyone.

Getting Started

Converting your video content into a podcast isn’t particularly difficult. Apple has some solid documentation on how to make it happen, and if you’re looking to share your content on another site like SoundCloud, it’s easy to syndicate your content to a subscriber base there as well. Videos created for podcast content are also excellent as YouTube content, but be aware that as part of YouTube’s content network, you’re subject to their tendency to recommend similar content, which means your viewers may find themselves watching a video from your competitor on a similar topic. Or worse, watching a video of a cute cat wearing a sweater, and never looking back.

As with anything, make sure you include a CTA in your podcast to take the next step – while you typically can’t link to anything, using a vanity url like “yourwebsite.com/podcast” and using that as a way to link to whatever offer you’re discussing is a simple way to make it easy for viewers to find you.

Have you experimented with podcasting with video? Let us know in the comments, and tell us how that went!

Jon Spenceley