Marketing Turnaround - 2018


Internet Radio and Podcasting

By Gail Z. Martin

Back in the Old Days, radio signals broadcast through the air, and you listened on an honest-to-goodness radio. Internet radio—and its cousin, podcasting—fulfill the same function, but use different technology. They use computers and the internet, and because there's no real 'broadcast' involved and thus no FCC, it's opened up radio to a whole new generation of hosts and audiences, expanding far beyond what AM/FM and satellite radio ever imagined. Sometimes referred to as 'webcasting' and sometimes as 'internet streaming radio', we're talking about the same thing, radio you can listen to through the internet on your phone, tablet or computer.

It's easier than ever for someone with a good message and the gift of gab to reach a world-wide audience, without the need for a broadcast license, frequency assignment, expensive equipment, transmitter or any of the old barriers to entry that used to keep radio locked up in the hands of a few.

By way of definition: When I talk about 'streaming internet radio' I'm referring to a live broadcast. 'Podcasting' can refer to either archived (recorded) episodes of a show that was originally broadcast live, or pre-recorded shows that are released on a schedule. There are pluses and minuses for both, which we'll explore. Both internet radio and podcasting can be a fantastic way to grow your audience and influence while creating and extending an indelible brand.

Blog Talk Radio

Out of all the internet radio sites that come and go, Blog Talk Radio (BTR) is the granddaddy. It's the place to find hundreds of shows on all kinds of topics, from business to lifestyle, and over the years, the site has refined its technology to make live streaming radio easy and inexpensive.

When internet radio and podcasting began, producing a good show required a set up worthy of a small radio station, including microphones and soundboards. In the decades since then, not only have computers and software gotten much more sophisticated when it comes to recording capabilities, but so have sites like Blog Talk Radio. If you decide to get into internet radio in a big way and make your living from sponsored shows, you might want to eventually consider upgrading your equipment. But the beauty of internet radio is that you can get your feet wet and start building an audience without investing in special equipment.

An all-in-one site like BlogTalkRadio.com has got you covered. BTR has an online 'studio' that makes it easy for you to host your shows. When you produce your show through BTR, they take care of the technical stuff like hosting and servers. All you need to get started is a laptop with a good microphone and a high speed, reliable internet connection. BTR makes it easy to live stream and to record your shows and archive them, then promote them via social media and upload them to sites like iTunes. When you're getting started, having a one-stop site that integrates seamlessly with all of those functions means you can focus on creating great content, gaining finesse as a host, and growing your audience.

Because BTR is an established hub, your show becomes immediately easier to find. They've got measurement capabilities built-in, as well as the ability to integrate paid advertising into shows and to create monetization streams for podcasts. Many listeners looking for new shows go to BTR first. It's a great way to get up and running and get noticed without having to become a tech geek.

One of the most exciting things about internet radio is that without the high costs of entry for traditional radio, anyone with a passion for a topic, a computer and a good internet connection can have a show, no matter how niche the audience. Since the production costs are so low, it's up to you whether you plan to eventually make money off your show through advertising ad sponsorships, or do it as a labor of love (and promotion).

Self-help is a big topic for internet radio, but business shows are also very popular, along with financial issues, empowerment, current events, religion and lifestyle issues. Think about your area of expertise, the brand you want to build and the audience you want to attract, then consider the types of topics and guests you would be most comfortable hosting. Decide whether your commitments and preferences lend themselves to being in front of a microphone and a live audience at the same time on the same day each week, or whether you'd be better off pre-recording shows when time permits for scheduled distribution (podcasting).

If you discover that being a radio host is what you were born to do (or just that you're good at it and enjoy it), you can trade up to sites like BBSradio.com that offer live engineered remote internet broadcasting and hosting. BBS takes the do-it-yourself out of internet radio, giving you the virtual studio crew to produce an even more professional product. As with BTR, BBS does both live streaming radio and pre-recorded podcasts, and also enables recording the live shows as podcasts and syndicating them to increase exposure. Unlike BTR, BBS will also handle sound levels, call-ins and running pre-produced commercials, as well as post-broadcast editing.

Both BTR and BBS have social media capabilities built in. They make it easy to upload links to new shows on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn and other sites and offer the capability for live interactive chat boards. BTR also has a Facebook-like comment capability on shows in their archive. These capabilities open up opportunities for hosts to really interact with their audiences on the main site where those conversations become part of the show's advertising and built the like-know-trust factor.

Many if not most hosts will also create a Facebook page for the show, and integrate it into their website. If you make the commitment of becoming a radio show host, you want maximum visibility for your show. That means advertising your show through social media to gather listeners and attract potential sponsors who can underwrite your show and provide a stream of in-bound advertising income. Highly successful shows with large audiences and strong sponsorship can become a full-time paying job for the host.

Podcasting

The name 'podcasting' dates back to the time when indie recorded shows would be listened to on an iPod. Times and technology have changed, but the name stuck.

As mentioned above, 'podcasting' can either refer to episodes of a previously live-streamed show that have been recorded and archived for download, or shows that are intentionally pre-recorded for later distribution.

Podcasting has enjoyed a recent surge in listenership because the episodic on-demand nature of the media suits today's lifestyles. Listeners can catch an episode during their daily commute, or listen all day at work depending on the job. Unlike live radio, podcast episodes are always available, so there's no need to work around a broadcast schedule.

Shows can range from five minutes long to an hour or more, depending on the type of content and listener interests. Some podcasts feature a single host discussing themed topics, but many shows feature one or more guest, as well as listener call-ins.

In addition to BTR and BBS, Libsyn is one of the long-time best sites for podcasters. Libsyn (originally short for 'liberated syndication') is a podcasting hosting and distribution site. It has excellent integration with social media and syndication platforms, as well as a podcast app for mobile users, making it easy to store and distribute your podcast, and it offers hosting packages in a variety of price points.

You don't get the bells and whistles that come with BTR and BBS, but if you're already experienced with the production aspects and just need a good hosting/distribution site, Libsyn is worth a look.

Not only do podcasts cater to the same range of interests as streaming internet radio, but there are other niches that have found a welcoming home in podcasting. Many fiction authors have embraced podcasting to produce serialized audio dramas, either with a single narrator or with a full cast of characters like the old-time audio dramas.

Fans of TV shows and sports can live their dreams of creating a never-ending discussion and analysis of their favorite topics with a dedicated listener base. Whether it's cooking, crafts, do-it-yourself projects or something else, if you're passionate about a topic, podcasting might be a perfect way to connect with others who love what you do. That following might be the launch of a brand new career. Your show's structure is limited only by your imagination.

Excerpted from The Essential Social Media Marketing Handbook

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Gail Z. Martin owns DreamSpinner Communications. Contact her at Gail@GailMartinMarketing.com