What is a Podcast & How Do They Work?
Updated: Jul 19
Answers to the most common questions about podcasting
If you’re new to the wonderful world of podcasting, you might have a lot of questions about the basics, such as how a podcast works, or how you can get started.
We've provided some answers to the most common questions below, but if you're looking for a podcast production team to guide your new show, get in touch with us today to learn more about our podcasting services!
What is a Podcast? [A Basic Definition]
A podcast is simply an audio show that you can listen to on your computer or phone. They’re usually episodic, meaning each episode covers a specific topic. And they’re usually free to download and listen to.
Podcasts are usually around 30 minutes to an hour long, but they can be shorter or much longer depending on the format. You can also find video podcasts (called vlogs). These are less common, but rapidly gaining in popularity.
What is the Purpose of Podcasts?
Podcasts are created for all sorts of reasons. Some people use them to promote their business, share their story, or build a personal brand. Others use them as a way to generate leads or sales. And many people simply create them because they’re passionate about a particular topic and want to share their knowledge with the world.
What is the History of Podcasts?
The term “podcasting” was first coined by British journalist Ben Hammersley in 2004. He wrote an article for The Guardian predicting that this new audio format would be the next big thing in media.
The word “podcasting” is a combination of the words “iPod” and “broadcasting.” This is because the first podcasts were created to be downloaded and listened to on Apple’s iPod digital media player.
However, you don’t need an iPod (or any other type of digital media player) to listen to a podcast. You can listen to them right on your computer or phone.
When Did Podcasts Start Gaining Attention?
Podcasting has come a long way since its humble beginnings in the early 2000s. What started as a niche hobby for tech-savvy people has become a mainstream form of entertainment and media. In fact, podcasting is now one of the fastest-growing industries in the world.
Podcasts started to gain attention in 2005 when former MTV VJ Adam Curry created a show called Daily Source Code. It was one of the first shows to be downloaded and listened to on an iPod.
After that, the popularity of podcasts began to snowball. In 2006, Apple added a built-in podcasting app to iTunes, and in 2013, they added a dedicated Podcasts app for iOS devices.
Since then, the number of people listening to podcasts has continued to grow. In 2019, there were an estimated 32 million podcast listeners in the United States alone. This is up from 29 million the year before.
Why Did Podcasts Become So Popular?
Podcasts became popular for a number of reasons. First, they’re very easy to create. Anyone with a computer and a microphone can make one.
Second, they’re easy to consume. You can listen to them anytime, anywhere. You can even listen to them while you’re doing other things, like driving or working out.
Third, they offer a level of intimacy that other forms of media can’t match. Because you listen to them on your headphones, it feels like the person speaking is right there in the room with you.
Finally, they’re free. Most podcasts are available to download and listen to at no cost.
What Are the Different Types of Podcasts?
There are all sorts of different types of podcasts. Here are a few of the most popular:
Comedy Podcasts: Comedy podcasts are, not surprisingly, all about laughter. If you’re looking for a podcast to make you laugh, check out My Favorite Murder, The Joe Rogan Experience, or WTF with Marc Maron.
Storytelling Podcasts: Storytelling podcasts are similar to audiobooks or radio dramas. They’re usually fiction stories, but some non-fiction shows also fall into this category. If you’re looking for a good story, check out Welcome to Night Vale, The Adventure Zone, or Serial.
News Podcasts: News podcasts are all about, well, the news. If you want to stay up-to-date on current events, check out NPR’s Morning Edition, The New York Times’ The Daily, or BBC World Service’s Newshour.
Panel Podcasts: Panel podcasts are shows where a group of people discuss a particular topic. They’re usually lighthearted and fun, but they can also be serious and thought-provoking. If you’re looking for a panel podcast, check out My Brother, My Brother and Me or The Nerdist Podcast.
Repurposed Content: These are shows that repurpose content from other sources, like TV shows, movies, or books. If you’re looking for a repurposed content podcast, check out The Watch (formerly known as The Game of Thrones Podcast) or The GIST of It (formerly The Book Report).
How Do Podcasts Generate Money?
Podcasts can make money in a few different ways. The most common is through advertising. Many podcasts have sponsors that pay them to read ads on their show. These are usually short, pre-written ads that the host will read at the beginning, middle, or end of the episode.
Some podcasts also sell ad time to companies that want to promote their products or services. These are usually live-read ads, where the host will talk about the product or service as if they’re using it themselves.
Another way podcasts make money is through Patreon, a platform that allows fans to support their favorite creators with monthly donations. This is how many smaller podcasts make most of their money.
Finally, some podcasts make money by selling merchandise, like t-shirts, mugs, or stickers. If you’re a fan of a particular show, this is a great way to support them financially.
Recommended Read: 4 Ways to Start Monetizing a Podcast
What is a Podcast Producer?
A podcast producer is someone who helps to create and launch a podcast. They’re usually responsible for things like recording the episodes, editing the audio, handling behind-the-scene duties and promoting the show. This allows the host to focus their time and energy on interviewing their guests or coming up with great content.
If you’re thinking about starting a podcast, it’s a good idea to find a producer who can help you with the technical aspects of creating and launching the show.
What is a Podcast Network?
A podcast network is a group of podcasts that are owned or operated by the same company. Many networks will produce their own shows, but some simply host and promote other people’s podcasts.
Podcast networks can be a great way for small shows to get more exposure and grow their audience. It can also be a good way for established shows to make money through advertising or sponsorships.
Some of the most popular podcast networks include Radiotopia, Earwolf, and NPR.
What is an RSS Feed & Do I Need One?
An RSS feed is a code that allows people to subscribe to your podcast.
It’s what allows people to add your show to their favorite podcast app and receive new episodes automatically.
Every podcast needs an RSS feed in order to be distributed. If you’re using a hosting platform like Libsyn or Podbean, they will generate an RSS feed for you. You can also use a service like Feedburner to create an RSS feed for your podcast.
Are Podcasts Good for SEO?
Yes! They open up a whole new world to you in search engine results because they can display your podcast episodes if they are relevant to a search term. This essentially means that individual episodes of your podcast could rank for keywords on Google and generate organic traffic to your show.
For example, if a user typed in "murder podcast" into the search bar, Google first shows them a plethora of podcast series related to crime and murder, before any actual organic listings.
If you have your podcast episodes on your main website, then you might also receive backlinks to these pages, further improving the ranking, relevancy and authority of your podcast and entire website on a whole.
In short, podcasting is an excellent content marketing tool that can be used to boost a variety of digital marketing channels, which includes SEO.
How Can I Get Started?
Now that you know all about podcasts and how they work, it’s time to get started on your own show! If you need some help getting started, check out our post on how to start a podcast.
And if you’re looking for someone to produce your podcast, we’d love to chat with you. We’re a podcast production company that specializes in helping businesses launch and grow their shows. Contact us today to learn more!