Podcasting connects with people in more personal—even more intimate—way than blogging, radio, video, and more. Here are 8 things that make podcasts different.
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1. Being authentic
There's a realness to podcasting that you don't get anywhere else. Writing is often edited. Video has a lot of production to it. Radio is very rigid. And similar issues exist with many other media.
You may watch every episode of your favorite TV show, but do you feel like you truly know the people you see on screen? Probably not, because what you see is an act.
Most of what people share in podcasting is their authentic selves. “Authenticity” is about being real, not about being fully transparent (especially not overly transparent).
2. Speaking directly to individuals
Most TV and movie content doesn't speak directly to the audience. Radio gets close, but since radio is live, the hosts often speak to a mass audience with terms like “all of you.” Plus, you probably never hear an audience member named unless they call in at that time.
Podcasts are different. They are almost always consumed via download within a short time after they were recorded and published. Even if a podcast has millions of listeners, most people listen by themselves, not surrounded with fellow fans. Thus, speaking to the listener as an individual makes it feel more intimate.
3. Building relationships
Good relationships are built on trust, and authenticity creates that. Not only will your audience feel like they know you, but they will often get to know you personally through various levels of engagement—social-network conversations, in-person events, direct correspondence, and such.
When your talk directly to your audience, and they're listening by themselves, it's easy for a small personal connection to mature into a relationship at varying levels.
4. Publishing consistently
You may hear bad husband joke, “I told my wife I loved her when I married her, so if anything changes, I'll let her know.” But I'm sure you know the importance of consistently reinforcing your love and commitment for each other. (In fact, here's a fun test. Ask your wife if she would rather have a dozen roses today, or one rose per week for the next twelve months. What about saying, “I love you,” seven times today versus saying it every day this week?)
Consistency is key to any form of “intimacy.” Friends who don't stay connected with each other often drift apart. Spouses who don't spend consistent quality time with each other usually feel neglected.
Because of the time-shifted nature of podcasts, it's easy for people to structure aspects of their lives around a podcast's release schedule, or to form regular patterns to their week. For example, I see and listen to episodes of School of Podcasting, She Podcasts, or Libsyn's The Feed every Monday morning. If they weren't consistent, my Mondays wouldn't feel the same. Likewise, one of my all-time favorite podcasts (That Story Show) is on hiatus, and now my lawn-mowing is not as enjoyable.
These daily or weekly routines start to establish a deeper connection with each new episode.
5. Taking content everywhere
Because podcasts are consumed primarily via download, most people can take those episodes with them everywhere, thanks to the proliferation of smartphones and other mobile devices. Audio consumption significantly trumps video consumption because we can listen in more places than we can watch or read. Many people will listen while driving, mowing, cooking, cleaning dishes, folding laundry, working at their jobs, and even using the restroom! These are places other conversations are either impossible or unwelcome.
6. Engaging with real people
Although podcasts can certainly engage with inflated personalities (especially in business-related interview shows), a lot of podcasts bring real conversations with real people. That could come through an interview, a cohosted conversation, or even the interaction you have with your audience.
You'll rarely hear radio shows refer to the same listener multiple times. But you hear this often in podcasts. Because of the more social nature of podcasts and the community around them, it's also possible for your audience to know each other.
Podcasting doesn't require a degree in broadcasting or any kind of professional training (although that can certainly help your communication skills!). Thus, many podcasters tend to be on the same level as their audience. More than authenticity, this makes you relatable as people see how much you are like them.
7. Connecting through social media
Podcasting is deeply connected with social media. Facebook, Twitter, and many other social networks are foundational to podcast engagement and growth. Many would even categorize podcasting as social media instead of broadcasting. This makes podcasting inherently more social (“us together”) than a broadcast medium built on broadcasting ideas (“me to many”).
8. Focusing on the niches
I'll take a risk and say that no great relationship starts like this, “Do you like breathing oxygen? ME, TOO! Let's be best friends!”
It's the narrow similarities that make deeper connections—in another word, the niche. The more niche interests you share with another person, the easier it is to connect with them (despite other differences).
Max Flight said this in Podcasters' Society:
I think one factor driving the intimacy of podcasts is that many have a narrowly focussed topic and target audience. In that environment, the producers and the consumers share a very specific interest. The conversations that result are thus more meaningful to those participating.
What makes podcasting and listening to podcasts intimate for you?
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Daniel, I hadn’t thought about all these reason, but they are so true! Probably why so many of us have fallen in love with listening and recording podcasts. I have a short story about people thinking they know you because they have heard your podcast. I was at a writer’s conference and one of the other writers kept asking me if we knew each other. I was sure we had never met, but she kept saying she knew me. When another writer mentioned that I have a podcast she said, “OH, that’s how I know you. I listen to your voice all the time.” I was so happy! I am a fairly new podcaster and my audience felt very small, but here I was with a group of new friends and one of them already knew me! Thanks Daniel for doing all that you do to help us out!
You’re welcome, Beca! And thank you for being a member of Podcasters’ Society!