The public is more and more enthused about podcasts. The COVID-19 Pandemic added to this enthusiasm. Nico Leuenberger, the founder of «Podcastschmiede» and co-president of the «Podcast Club Switzerland», reveals in an interview, why podcasts are interesting for companies and organizations.
Nico Leuenberger is founder of «Podcastschmiede» and co-president of the «Podcast Club Switzerland». Due to his ten years of experience as a radio reporter on radios such as Radio 1, Radio 24, or SRF, he learned that there is hardly any story that cannot be turned into an exciting narration. At the beginning of 2019, Nico founded the agency «Podcastschmiede» to tell thrilling audio-stories for organizations and companies.
Nico, the first podcasts were released approximately 20 years ago. In your opinion, how did the medium of podcasts change for companies in the last years?
For most companies, podcasts were not on the agenda for a long time. In the beginning, only a few enterprises engaged in podcasts. The breakthrough was in 2014 with the true-crime podcast «Serial». This is when the medium blew up for the first time. Ever since it grows continuously. Meanwhile, companies only discovered this format a few years ago. Thus, these are exciting times. At the moment, many companies realize the opportunities of podcasts.
What exactly are the chances that companies gain through podcasting?
The chance to generate a lot of attention. Nowadays, the social media environment is changing rapidly. While I can reach thousands with one post, many people only skim over its content. Podcasts are episodes of 20-minutes to half an hour and most hearers consume the entire content. This is a huge chance to present yourself as a company. One can show the outside world one’s image, worldview, and stories. For example, the «Chrut und Rüebli» podcast from «Migros» that we produce, provides such an opportunity. «Migros» gives their consumers tips and, thereby, presents what they think about sustainability. Additionally, a podcast can spread information outstandingly. Thus, it can call attention to important issues. We are doing a podcast for the «Schweizerische Herzstiftung» to try to educate people prior to an attack. With this podcast, we had the opportunity to bring the topic to the public eye with the help of affected people. Thanks to this combination of information and emotional attachment, the hearers can internalize the topic more easily. Just like this, an enterprise or an organization can transport its information and concerns, in a way that would not be possible with a flyer or post.
There are many different organizations and companies. Which ones do you recommend podcasting?
Podcasts are especially suited for companies that deal with a topic that concerns and addresses the general public and is too complex to just point out in a social media post. Podcasts allow to address something in-depth. That way, one can thoroughly present, explain, and easily emotionalize an issue. A human voice is able to transport much more than a blog. This enables us to give voice to facts, numbers, or information. All this is possible during the entire broadcasting time. This is a huge potential.
You mentioned the «Chrut und Rüebli» podcast for Migros. Hence, are podcasts only suitable for big companies and corporations?
No, not by any means. Small companies and startups can also achieve something with the help of podcasts. For example, we currently work on a podcast with an extreme niche topic that lives in its own microcosm and does not reach a broad public. While this podcast won’t take the charts by storm, it will reach a niche audience and supply them with information. Of course, it cannot be denied that the possibilities are much bigger for well-known companies with a big budget. Meanwhile, funding is most of the time more complicated for SMEs. Nevertheless, we try to create something beautiful for everyone. To keep down costs, we may only give instructions or construct a concept.
What attitude and expectation should a company bring along to enable the success of their podcast?
One should have a certain eagerness to experiment. Podcasts are not uncharted waters, but one or two things still have to be discovered. One has to be willing to engage in something new and have some fun while doing so. Additionally, you have to live with the knowledge that we cannot guarantee that your podcast is going to succeed. We cannot promise exact downloads.
«Podcasten muss niemand, aber die Chancen sind nicht von der Hand zu weisen.»
Is there a critical point in the development of a company, where podcasts are necessary?
Podcasting is no must, but the opportunities are indisputable. Podcasts are the ideal platform if one has excellent stories to tell. Of course, videos are also a good alternative to present oneself emotionally and narratively to the public. However, their production is much more time-consuming. In a nutshell, if a company realizes that they have emotional stories to tell, it is appropriate to start a podcast.
We talked a lot about the chances of podcasts. Did you have any clients for whom a podcast was the wrong method?
So far, no. However, it did occur that a customer wanted more downloads. We had to explain to the client that one cannot directly equate podcast downloads with Instagram views. For example, Twitter already reports a post as viewed if a user quickly scrolls over it, which is not comparable to listening to a podcast. It is much easier to generate thousands of views with a post. If companies are not aware of this, they may get disappointed. However, we educate companies on this as soon as possible.
You can see impressions from the «Podcastschmiede» in our picture gallery:
Are there any topics that are not convertible into a podcast?
Everything that visual is a big challenge. There is no picture accompanying a podcast. The medium meets its limits if I want to explain complex diagrams. Additionally, it is challenging to promote products that are primarily bought for their looks. It is not impossible, but it particularly requires creativity to transfer such things into an audio format.
You addressed the limitations. Where do these lie for the podcast format?
One limitation is clearly the reach. A podcast is never going to gain the same reach as a social media post. While it is possible to read a dozen posts during lunchtime, one can at the most listen to one podcast. Additionally, it is technologically enormously difficult to address a target audience with podcasts. Today, one can place advertising systematically. However, this is not yet possible with a podcast.
Speaking of the target audience, today, many are concerned about the short attention span of different generations. Do you think podcasts are really the right tool to reach a target audience?
Especially with young people, podcasts provide a big chance. Approximately 60 percent of young people listen to podcasts. One definitely reaches this target group. However, it is challenging that there are currently 4.5 million podcasts. Thus, no one waits for my podcast. You have to offer very good content to stand out. Additionally, it needs a lot of work, from production to distribution.
Isn’t the market swamped with podcasts?
This is a constant risk. At this point, I like to make a comparison to bookstores. There are much more books than podcasts. Nonetheless, people are still writing literature. YouTube also has an endless number of videos, but the number of uploads does not decrease. Therefore, I think that podcasts are not harmed by their multiplicity. However, one has to offer great content to stand out.
Welches Merkmal unterscheidet Podcasts von anderen Formaten?
Die Durchhörquote ist der grosse Unterschied. Podcasts werden, fast von A bis Z konsumiert. Bei einer Podcast-Folge von 30 Minuten hören oftmals 70% und mehr der Leute die ganze Episode durch und das zeigt, dass die Menschen an solchen Inhalten interessiert sind. Da muss mir niemand mehr weismachen, dass die Aufmerksamkeitsspanne der Menschen zu kurz sei für Podcasts.
«Gerade bei Seniorinnen und Senioren sind Podcasts noch nicht verbreitet.»
Hat das Format Podcast schon alle seine Möglichkeiten ausgeschöpft oder gibt es noch Luft nach oben?
Nein, die Möglichkeiten des Formats Podcast sind noch lange nicht ausgeschöpft. Wir haben grosse Bevölkerungsgruppen, die Podcasts noch nicht konsumieren. Gerade bei Seniorinnen und Senioren ist das Format noch nicht verbreitet. Nur 20-30 Prozent von ihnen hören Podcasts. Dabei wären sie gerade die perfekte Zielgruppe, da sie in der Regel wahrscheinlich viel Zeit haben, um die Podcasts in voller Länge zu konsumieren. Auch bei der Intensität der Konsumation gibt es noch Luft nach oben. Viele hören Podcasts nur einmal pro Monat oder pro Woche und da glaube ich, dass noch deutlich mehr möglich ist. Podcast-Experten aus Deutschland rechnen nicht mit einer Verdopplung der Konsumation, sondern mit einer Verzehnfachung.