Podcasts – Building an Army One Episode at a Time

By: Ian Burleigh

It’s an interesting world of entertainment that we live in, today. Between Netflix, YouTube, Twitch, a myriad of other streaming services, and good ole’ fashioned TV, we find that the majority of our entertainment is delivered via screen. When our eyes aren’t glued to a screen, we often find ourselves with headphones on, drowning out the outside world to the tune of our favorite jams. Speaking of music – can anyone remember the last time they found themselves in a car listening to anything but the music on your phone? When’s the last time you even had the radio on – let alone “talk” radio? While radio seems to inch closer and closer to its death, another form of conversationalist entertainment has burst onto the mainstream media scene – Podcasts.

A few Podcast stats for you to set the stage, courtesy of Podcast Insights:

  • Podcasts are becoming an entertainment mainstay
    • 64% of US population is familiar with term “podcasting”
    • 44% have listened to a podcast
    • 26% listen monthly
  • Podcast listeners are Active + Affluent
    • 45% of monthly listeners have household income of $75K+
    • 27% have a 4-year college degree
    • Subscribe to an average of 6 shows, listening to 7 per week, on average
    • 94% are active on at least one social media channel
  • Podcast listeners are diverse
    • 56%/44% Male-to-Female Ratio
    • 36% of listeners are Non-White

With these stats in mind, we begin to see that Podcasts are not just an entertainment option, but also an opportunity for content marketing – providing the hosts an opportunity to cultivate a loyal, active following predicated on ideas and points-of-view. Many of today’s successful podcasts are centered around a conversation – whether it be an interview between the host(s) and guest(s) or a current events conversation between the hosts. Joe Rogan’s “The Joe Rogan Experience” is a fan-favorite (to the tune of hundred of thousands to millions of listens/views) because of his interviews that give listeners a candid look into the minds of both Rogan and his guests. Successful podcasts are those that don’t focus on pandering to one group or another to gain an audience. Instead, they present an authentic POV from themselves and their guests, understanding that those who agree with or respect their POV will convert from a casual listener to an avid fan and follower – aka, part of their “army.” The concept of content marketing materializes when savvy podcasters are able to leverage their army of followers to generate revenue for themselves. One podcast that has done this brilliantly (disclaimer: shameless plug for one of my favorites) is The Brilliant Idiots Podcast.

Artwork Courtesy of LSN (Loud Speakers Network)

The Brilliant Idiots, created in 2014 by co-hosts Charlamagne Tha God and Andrew Schulz, is a weekly podcast that features Charla, Schulzy, and guests going back and forth over the pop-culture events of the week. The podcast is known for controversial views, jokes, and takes that leave you wondering whether the hosts are “absolutely brilliant or just a couple of idiots.” By design, it’s a podcast that simply isn’t for everyone. However, those that it is for find themselves waiting for the new episode to drop each and every Thursday. Understanding that they’ve cultivated an audience that actively chooses to tune in every week, Schulz and Charlamagne have used the podcast as a springboard for further personal successes.

Since the inception of the podcast, Uncle Charla has written and published two New York Times Bestselling books in Black Privilege: Opportunity Comes to Those Who Create It and Shook One: Anxiety Playing Tricks on Me. Schulz (aka King Hezzy) has co-created another weekly podcast, Flagrant 2: No Easy Buckets (a show loosely based on sports commentary and hot takes) and successfully embarked on a worldwide, sold-out, stand-up comedy tour. Both have been the subject of multiple interviews and guests on other podcasts of the same format. Because of the free content they put out to an avid and loyal fanbase every week, both Charlamagne and Schulz have been able to generate ancillary revenue streams – perfectly encapsulating content marketing done well.

Please feel free to share any podcasts you listen to below!

Twitter + IG: @ianburleigh2

LinkedIn: Ian Burleigh

This Article Has 18 Comments
  1. Jake Willard says:

    This article is full of good analytics and brings up some strong examples of the power of podcasting. I recently just started my own podcast in coordination with the Emerald Podcast Network about sneakers. Its called Knot Another Sneaker Podcast. Even though we’ve only produced five episodes, we’ve already been able to find a small niche market that has been listening and interacting with our podcast well. It’s a very powerful medium that has seen so much growth in the social realm over the years, and it’s very fun to follow along and see how it grows, both in general and within my own pod.

  2. Casi Jackson says:

    Thank you for sharing! I have just recently become an avid podcast listener within the last couple of months. I used to be very into listening to my own music while i’m driving in my car or walking to class, but lately I have found myself choosing to listen to podcasts over my own music. Some of my favorites include: The Morning Toast, LadyGang, The Viall Files, Straight Up with Stassi, The Bitch Bible, and Off the Vine with Kaitlyn Bristowe. I feel like when I listen to a podcast I am overall being more productive with myself, and I tend to learn more when I listen to podcasts. I feel like I am a part of a community in a way. Overall, I found your statistics about podcasting interesting and super helpful! Thanks again for sharing!

  3. Jill Niedermeyer says:

    Really interesting post, Ian! My team and I recently started working on a podcast for a campaign and it’s a lot more work than I anticipated. Sound is so delicate!
    I’ve recently become hooked on multiple podcasts and think that podcasting is a really interesting growing medium. I love that we’ve gone back to a more classic form of storytelling (like radio), especially as the world is becoming more obsessed with new tech like AI/VR/AR.
    Currently listening to: “Dirty John” sponsored by the LA Times

  4. Nuchwara says:

    Thank you for your post Ian! This is very interesting topic. I very like that you have presented the data showing the podcasts insight. This part of information would be very useful in terms of marketing research later on. I don’t listen to the podcasts myself before, however, after podcasts received a better feedback and become more popular, I have listened to couple of them and it is very useful and fun!. I have realized that nowadays the piece of information that is trendy would be found in Podcast first before any other mediums and it becomes up – to – date and no longer dull like it might be before. Overall, this post mentions a very good insight and very helpful.

  5. Carolyn Riesinger says:

    Hi Ian,
    Thanks for writing this! I think it’s so interesting that in a world where everyone is trying to create the newest and best technology, simple podcasts are becoming so popular. Over the last two years, I have become obsessed with podcasts and am always looking for new ones to start! I think podcasts are unique because they often have very dedicated fans who listen to them religiously. I enjoyed learning some of the stats about who mostly listens to podcasts.

  6. Erin Joo says:

    Thanks for the share Ian! On occasion, I have listened to podcasts during lengthy drives back home. Recently, I decided to listen to “My Favorite Murder”. Sounds strange right? That’s what I thought when I overheard a friend talking about the podcast so I just had to experience it myself. It was a very interesting and entertaining listen, but I am a bigger fan of Audible. I enjoy the convenience of listening to a book and the feeling of accomplishment when it’s done. I don’t get the same satisfaction from podcasts, but I am definitely open to taking more suggestions and giving another podcast a try.

  7. Colton Schang says:

    Hey Ian. I’m definitely going to check out that podcast now that you wrote about it! Podcasts have given another outlet for fans to stay engaged and listen to storytelling through audio. I think it’s interesting that people thought radio was going to die, but podcasts are a different flavor of a radio show with immediate access to previous episodes. Some of my favorite podcasts include the Bill Simmons Podcast, This American Life, Serial, Hidden Brain, How I Built This, StarTalk and Stuff You Should Know. Check them out. They certainly are telling of the types of things I’m interested in. I think the data you presented shows that clearly people are captivated by great storytelling. Audio storytelling lets the imagination dream up things that you can’t get from visual imagery.

  8. Molly Mair says:

    This blog post is insightful and relevant. I had no idea of the demographics of podcast listeners.
    I am inferring that podcasters leverage their podcast to get into or publicize other revenue streams, like books or tours from your example because most podcasts are free. I listen to A LOT of podcasts from The Daily and Marketplace to My Favorite Murder. It has been interesting to see how the podcast itself can create revenue through ad time, like The Daily. In the case of My Favorite Murder, they have blown it up. They started really small then came the live shows, tons of merch, they wrote a book, were intimately involved with the Golden State Killer search, and most recently created their own podcast production company. Personally, I think the MFM podcast has jumped the shark , but they have a huge, very loyal following. I am interested to see if podcast celebrities can make the leap from podcasting. It seems to work in the reverse order that celebrities get into podcasting. Ultimately, we only have so much time and headspace.

  9. Emily Gibson says:

    Ian,
    I loved the topic of your post! I personally have just begun listening to podcasts in the last year and have grown to love it. My favorite thing about podcasts in the variety you have to choose from. You can listen to ones that apply to your career field, religion, or just ones that give basic knowledge. My personal favorite, Whine Down, is created by one of my favorite music artists Jana Kramer. That podcast is just for my pure entertainment. I think podcasts have a lot to offer and give communicators a voice for what they are interested in. I think those numbers for podcast popularity will only continue to grow.

  10. Jared Myers says:

    I’m not so convinced that radio is “dying” so much as changing its business model, in much the same way that newspapers are. I’ve been a devoted podcast listener for about 10 years so far. The first podcast that got me hooked was “This American Life”, a product of WBEZ Chicago. NPR has been essentially podcasting before it was cool, hosting audio files of its programs going back for years. There is even an app that will search the archives for any term/topic and bring you NPR audio programs that have addressed it.

    When I think about radically successful podcasts, I often think of TAL, Serial, S-Town, TED Radio Hour, How I Built This, and so many others that are not only funded by radio broadcasters, but also often played over the airwaves before posting on podcasting sites. Within journalism more broadly, we are continually seeing new news podcasts, like The Daily from the NY Times.

    All in all, I really appreciate your thoughts on the topic, which is near and dear to my heart and consumption habits.

  11. Iyanna Soltero says:

    Ian, your post is so fascinating! I appreciate all the statistics you provided us. It surprises me that 45% of listeners are in high income households, but only 27% have a four-year degree. I think that the number will rise thanks to the millennial generation. Most students I know listen to podcasts, whether they be for educational purposes or just for fun. I’ve listened to some murder mystery ones myself. I liked your insight about the radio dying, but for people like me who don’t have an aux outlet in our cars, I listen to the radio religiously. I actually strongly dislike the late night talk shows, so it surprises me how much I like podcasts. I think that podcasts are more entertaining because you can choose which type of topic you’d like to listen to, unlike the radio. Thanks for your post!

  12. Destiny Alvarez says:

    Ian, thank you for writing this article! I myself, as a digital consumer, have become an avid listener of podcasts. I feel like you address a lot of interesting analytical points and the statistics show the proof. I mean the average podcaster is subscribed to 6+ shows? That’s a lot of listening time. I also think it’s interesting how it’s changing journalism. I spent time at the PNW News roundtable this past weekend in Portland, and several of the news organizations talked about using podcasts as a form of engagement with their audiences. I’m intrigued to see where this all goes!

  13. Mary Osborne says:

    I think podcasts are an undervalued tool for marketing. Everyone knows the most effective form of marketing is word of mouth but it’s really hard to do word of mouth campaigns. Podcasts are great opportunities because listeners feel like they know the hosts of the shows they listen to — they even might think of them as friends. As you said, podcast listeners tend to be affluent; brands should consider advertising on podcasts or even recruiting those hosts as influencers.

  14. Abby Wolff says:

    Hi Ian,

    I really enjoyed this blog post about podcasts. I personally love listening to them, and feel like they’re a good combination of entertainment and learning about new topics. Something I’ve noticed recently is how many paid ads play during podcast episodes. Like you mentioned in your post, content marketing is a huge aspect of podcasts. I understand they have to make money from sponsorship, but the total ad time is adding around thirty minutes to each podcast episode. Will this just continue to increase?

    Thanks again for sharing!

  15. Amador Nazarov says:

    This is one of my favorite posts right here. I feel like a lot of people listen to podcasts but don’t outwardly talk about them as much with their peers as much as they would with music, movies, tv shows. I think that’s kind of cool though. Usually with podcasts, you’re by yourself listening intently or half heartedly to a conversation of some sort. My thing with podcasts is if I am going to listen to one, it’s gotta be something authentic and new that I really can’t get anywhere else. I see stuff on Twitter, talk show hosts and all that, but podcasts are just different. If you guys have heard of Road Trippin’ and you’re an NBA fan, you should take a listen at the new and old shows!

  16. Holly Walden says:

    I recently got very involved in podcasts. I feel like I am actually learning something or getting a deeper insight into famous people’s lives. Sometimes I find myself only listening to podcasts instead of music. I think that podcasts are definitely the new way of getting information out there like radio used to be. But the best part about podcasts is that you can choose what you listen to unlike radio.

  17. David Gugliotti says:

    Good stuff Ian. Podcasts are quite the phenomenon. Some of my friends are huge podcast listeners (mostly those that travel frequently for work) but I only listen to one semi-regularly and I just jumped on it about 2 months ago. The demographics are interesting to see and if a business knows those stats they should seriously consider adding a podcast segment if it fits their mission.

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