Podcasts have been around since the early 2000s. They have grown in popularity in recent years as more people have discovered the convenience of “listen anywhere, anytime” broadcasting and the wide variety of available content. Recently, however, something seismic has been happening in the podcasting world. Due to both the COVID-19 outbreak and a new corporate interest in the podcasting medium, the number of podcasts and podcasters has exploded.
Young people see podcasts as a way to broadcast their ideas and build a social presence. Comedians have realized the power of converting their public speaking skills into a more accessible mode of entertainment. Celebrities and influencers have descended on the podcast market. They have discovered that speaking directly to fans, and building a quantifiable following, can aid their career prospects and boost their revenue streams.
While iPhones bundling podcasting apps into their app inventory certainly helped increase the reach and power of podcasting, a remote-work culture and a thirst for more personal communication has fueled the growth of podcasting since 2019. With all this growth taking place, it is natural that entrepreneurs would be drawn into the fray, seeking to create a better podcasting environment, and building highly profitable companies in the process.
We spoke to Craig Hewitt, Founder of Castos, about these recent changes and how he developed his SaaS business – a podcast hosting and analytics platform.
The Smart Idea
“If you want to be a blogger, you can go to medium and start blogging right away, or use WordPress or whatever,” Hewitt says on our phone call. “And the barrier to entry there is low, which is why it’s so popular. I think for a long time, that was part of the reason why podcasting didn’t take off. It was hard.”
Hewitt started working on his first podcasting business while still at a regular day job. On his evenings and weekends, he created Podcast Motor, a service that helps people edit and optimize their podcasts, getting them ready for launch. After only a year and a half of part-time work, the business was turning over around $100K annually, and Hewitt moved into entrepreneurship full-time. During this period, he hit upon the idea that would add rocket fuel to his already successful business.
“I got an opportunity to buy a WordPress plugin called Seriously Simple Podcasting. And that’s how Castos got its start. We integrated with the plugin, which we still own and maintain today, and it’s a huge source of lead gen and visibility. Since then, Castos has evolved from being just for WordPress to about half of our customers using us to build and cast their podcasts. We became a software service hosting application for podcasts.”
Blogging vs. Podcasting
Hewitt is keenly aware of the differences between blogging and podcasting and why so many people find it hard to get started in podcasting. He noticed that, while many people might find the notion of using the correct microphones, editing software and hosting platforms easy, many non-tech savvy people give up at the first hurdle. And that was before they had learned about the marketing side of podcasting and the myriad ways in which one might need to improve one’s production values.
“We have people asking us like, ‘Hey, how do I publish my podcast to Apple?’ And like, that’s not how it works. Getting into this medium is challenging just from a tech adoption perspective, so we see it as our goal to lower that bar as much as possible through the products that we create. Then there’s the education and the resources we provide, all entirely free to everybody.”
Aside from the podcast hosting, preparation and analytics side of his business, Hewitt invested time properly onboarding people who signed up to his service. He created his Academy to help educate new podcasters. Still, he also created services such as regular phone calls with his team members, who themselves are usually podcasters who have seen it all before. “We walk people through how to get started on the platform and as a podcaster. Those are not the same thing.”
The Changing World of Podcasts
Hewitt’s products and services aim to lower the bar for entry into the podcast market, but with greater ease of access comes a shift in the podcasts being produced. Over the last couple of years, Hewitt has seen more and more corporate clients turning to his platform, and their interest in podcasting is not purely promotional.
Companies are interested in internal podcasting, for one. Podcasts aimed at employees explaining anything from diversity and inclusion to company values can be more easily consumed than binders full of paperwork. It is also shifting how CEOs communicate to their staff:
“A CEO town hall is the perfect example. The CEO has this message that they want to relate to the team, but they don’t want to drag everybody onto Zoom at noon Eastern Time, you know, they don’t want to write a five-page memo that nobody’s going to read. And so, the perfect way for them to relay this message is in a podcast. When I’m walking the dog, or I’m going to the gym, or if I’m commuting, I can listen to the CEO’s town hall and be tuned in on everything that’s going on in the company, and it’s not taking up more valuable time.”
With his platform’s ability to make podcasts private and “members only,” Hewitt has also been able to cater to the budding scene of online community podcasts, who are now looking to add podcasts as subscription perks. With all this change, we asked Hewitt what his best advice was for anyone looking to start a podcast, perhaps even SaaS Mag itself.
“I think that your choices are either to niche down hard to a specific angle of your topic or just to be very opinionated about your topic, you know? Speak to it with a different voice than anyone else. I think either of those can win.
If you’re a SaaS founder, I would ask yourself if your product is so awesome to the point of not having to do this kind of brand-level marketing. If that person exists, I’m really jealous of you, but for the others, [podcasting] would help you.”
To learn more about Craig Hewitt and Castos, you can visit his site here.