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Not Your Dad’s Podcast: 7 Ways Podcasts Have Changed with Thoughtbot’s Lindsey Christensen

You know who’s been podcasting since before podcasting was cool? Thoughtbot.

It almost feels impossible that podcasts have been around for nearly 15 years. When many hear that, their first thought is, “wow, really?!” That’s because they still feel new, in part because podcasts have come a long way. And so much has changed since they began.

From technological advances to cultural shifts to changes in the way we do business (just to name a few), today’s listeners demand a different kind of podcast. And businesses—the smart ones anyway—have learned to adapt to the marketplace and bring modern audiences what they want. 

Product design and development consultancy thoughtbot has been all-in on podcasting for nearly a decade. Creating and evolving multiple shows over the years, they care deeply about using the medium to take everything they learn and share it widely. 

“...there’s always a better way to work, and our job is to find it and share it with as many people as possible,” says Lindsey Christensen, thoughtbot CMO. 

In my first ever Lindsay + Lindsey podcast, I was thrilled to record an episode with the gifted tech star, picking her brain about all things podcasting. Thoughtbot’s had a front-row seat to how the medium has evolved. Plus with one podcast named Giant Robots Smashing into Other Giant Robots (which Lindsey happens to co-host), how can they not be genius?!  

As a marketer, it can be tempting to jump into a new initiative because it feels shiny. But planning, wisdom, and perspective are everything. That’s why it’s 100% worth your time to absorb these seven nuggets from my interview with Lindsey about how podcasting has changed and where it’s headed. 

Not Your Dad’s Podcast

Podcasting might still be good ol’ fashioned audio, but today’s podcasts don’t look much like their predecessors. Let’s take a peek at some of the exciting changes in the world of podcasting. 

Competition is smoking like never before.

The podcast scene continues to grow as a massive number of new podcasts and episodes are birthed daily. To date, there are more than 850,000 active podcasts out there and 30 million individual episodes. That’s a lot of content vying for attention.

“Right now, as podcast owners or hosts, we’re very much in this fight for attention from our audience,” says Lindsey.

In addition to the explosion of new shows, there’s also competition in the platform arena. With the acquisition of Gimlet Media, Spotify has started gaining serious momentum (and listener share). Along with Apple, of course, all kinds of podcast listening apps are continuing to pop up. The more places to listen, the broader the reach. And more listeners means demand for more great content.

There’s so much to see and do (and listen to!).

“People have never been more distracted, whether it’s blog posts or articles or books or podcasts or Tweets,” says Lindsey. “We’re in an age of microcontent...because it’s so hard to get [and keep] people’s attention.” 

This distraction epidemic certainly poses challenges for marketers, but it also pushes us to get creative and create better content. Gone are the days where you can put out mediocre stuff and expect audiences to respond. And getting noticed takes some ingenuity. Podcasters have to think outside of the box for ways to reach, engage, and keep listeners coming back. (That’s one of the things we’re SUPER passionate about here at Casted, btw.)

Customers can demand a lot more from you.

In today’s on-demand, instant gratification world, we know that customer expectations have never been higher.

“When it comes to everything from audio quality to the actual content, the customer is king,” says Lindsey.

Listeners know what they want and they aren’t afraid to ask for it. Or, even more likely, they aren’t afraid to go somewhere else to find it. That’s why it’s never been more important to do your homework and be an amazing listener. Constantly be checking in with your target listeners to find out what they’re looking for and how you can best dish it up.

It’s time to get personal.

With great podcasts being built on conversations (the heartbeat of our business here at Casted), they’re inherently personal. Conversational audio simply draws you in, giving you that coffeehouse chat vibe that makes the listening experience feel truly intimate. The more podcast owners and marketers can leverage this intimacy and really humanize a brand, the better.

No matter what industry you’re in, people want to do business with people. Like actual humans. And what better way to showcase that humanity than through a brand podcast? Being in someone’s earbuds, after all, comes with serious privilege and proximity.

Great podcasts build great teams.

More and more brands are realizing the power of podcasts as incredible recruiting tools. Raving podcast fans make for great additions to the team since they’re already familiar with and fired up about the brand.

“We’ve gotten amazing people added to the team through our podcast,” shares Lindsey.

Podcasts aren’t an island anymore.

For years marketers who ventured into podcast territory tended to treat episodes (and even entire podcasts) as siloed projects. They’d go about their business of crafting and executing broad marketing strategies without really integrating or considering how their little podcast might fit in. [Cringe.]

Whether it’s integrating an episode into a social campaign, targeting a new audience, or creating a series aligned with brand goals, thoughtbot excels at strategically leveraging their podcasts (yes, they have THREE fantastic ones!) as part of the broader strategy. There is so much power and opportunity wrapped up in this approach. Embedding your podcast into your entire marketing strategy means wringing all of the goodness out of your podcast efforts to support, or even drive, your marketing and sales goals.

Hosts matter (in a big, big way).

Putting real thought and strategy into choosing a podcast host hasn’t always been the norm. But the most successful podcasts today put serious time and attention into choosing the right person (or persons) to sit behind the mic.

“Hosts make or break your podcast. This is about being personal and human and creating relationships, so who’s going to do that for you? Maybe they’re on your team or maybe they’re not,” shares Lindsey.

As podcasting continues to dominate as a powerful marketing tool, I’m sure we’ll see the evolution continue. But no matter what changes, we know this. There’s a human-to-human connection that happens through podcasts like no other medium. And the last time I checked, humans weren’t going anywhere. 

As the first podcasting platform built for B2B brands, Casted is bananas for helping marketers squeeze every last drop of goodness out of their podcasts. Our platform makes it easy-peasy to manage, activate, and measure your podcast so you get results (and the boss stays happy, too). Wanna hear more? Hit us up for a quick demo anytime! We’d love to show you around.