The rise and rise of podcasts: How to make them and what they are for – by Adam Batstone

Three thousand people recently went to the O2 in London to witness tall footballer Peter Crouch lark about on stage with a random collection of celebrities including Liam Gallagher and Katherine Jenkins.

Crouch Fest, as the event was billed, came about thanks solely to the existence of That Peter Crouch Podcast – a BBC podcast that features the genial musings of Crouch and a couple of BBC presenters. As the big fellow told the audience: “When I first agreed to do this, I didn’t even know what a podcast was and now it’s become massive”.

The former England and Liverpool striker will not be the only one who until recently was a bit baffled by the definition of a podcast. But in no small part thanks to the BBC’s constant plugging of its Sounds app, podcasts are entering mainstream consciousness.

Recent figures from Ofcom suggest six million people either download or stream podcasts every week, and a sizeable percentage of those are under the age of 40.

Podcasts aren’t new. When I was at the BBC I produced some of the first trials of the format for programmes like Click Online and Have Your Say almost 20 years ago. The audiences were small – but that was in an era before the advent of smartphones.

Now phones are ubiquitous and anyone can listen to podcasts wherever and whenever it suits them; on the train, in the car, while cooking or in the bath.

The spike in popularity has led to a production gold rush, with thousands of people eager to make their own. These range from the highly produced mass audience offerings to ‘man with an iPhone’ DIY podcasts.

Despite the fact it is easy (and cheap) to make a podcast, like most things of value it is worth investing time and effort to make something that sounds decent, will appeal to your audience and reflects well on your business or organisation.

While working in PR and communications I saw clients spend thousands of pounds on lavish corporate videos and glossy brochures which looked great, but begged the question: did they provide a good return on investment? The same should be asked of podcasts. In fact the key questions to consider before making a podcast are:

  • What will it be about?
  • Who will want to listen?
  • How long should it be?
  • How often should we make them?
  • How will it be promoted and distributed?
  • How much will it cost in terms of time and money?

If you think podcasts will instantly deliver a global audience of millions, think again. The real value is the ability to be able to produce targeted, niche content that will appeal to a clearly defined group. That may be for internal comms, analysts and investors interested in annual results or for a patient group with a common interest in the latest treatments for a particular medical condition.

The Beer and Pubcast, which I produce for the British Beer & Pub Association, is a B2B podcast aimed squarely at brewers, pub companies and the licensed trade. For a trade association it’s good means of communicating and involving members with campaigns and activities.

Podcasts can and should be fun to make. They provide a safe environment for people to practice their external communication and get used to a studio environment.

As Peter Crouch will vouch, podcasts have given him a new audience and profile which he couldn’t have dreamed of when he first agreed to record one. Increasingly organisations which make good use of this medium will find out the same.

Adam Batstone is a former BBC journalist turned communications consultant, and one of the Park Street Partners. He uses his broadcast and PR experience to help organisations with media training and making content. Find out more at or contact Park Street Partners.