In last week’s column, I shared the findings from the Edison research report “The Infinite Dial 2019.” “The Infinite Dial” is the longest-running survey of digital media consumer behavior in the U.S. and tracks mobile behaviors, internet radio, podcasting, social media and smart speaker usage, among other channels.

One of the most significant takeaways was the continued explosion of podcast listenership.

According to the 2019 data, over 50% of U.S. consumers (12 and older) now consume podcasts, with a third of the population saying that they listen to at least one podcast a month. When the study looked at who were regular listeners, 36% of men and 29% of women said they’d listened to a podcast in the last month.

Podcasting seems less appealing to Americans over the age of 55. Only 17% of that population had listened to a podcast in the last month, while those in the 12-24 group were at 40% and those who fell between 25 and 54 were right behind that at 39%. Twenty-two percent of the total U.S. population listens to at least one podcast a week. What’s fascinating is that among the people who said they listened to at least one podcast a week, their average number of podcasts per week is actually seven and 14% said they listen to 11 or more a week.

In real numbers, what that means is that 20 million more people listened to at least one podcast a month in 2019 than in 2018 and 14 million more people listened to at least one podcast a week this year.

What does all of that mean for us in terms of marketing? It means that podcasting is a viable channel for you to explore, based on who your prospective customers are and how you can use the medium to educate and attract them to you.

As you might imagine (or know if you are a podcast consumer), there’s a wide variety of content available today. There are personality or celebrity host-based podcasts, topical podcasts that range from politics to true crime, fiction-based series and much more. There is a podcast for just about any interest, hobby, vocation or mood. When I look at the lists of most-downloaded podcasts, I have never seen a “sale pitch” podcast. Before you venture into these waters, you need to ask yourself some tough questions.

Do you have subject matter expertise in an area that your prospects and customers would find both interesting and valuable?

Are you willing to give away what you know to the listeners?

Can you sustain the effort? (Most podcasts are published weekly. Do you have at least 52 topics or ideas for episodes?)

Are you willing to make the investment of both time and the technology to do it well?

Do you have the resources in-house to produce the show or an outside partner to handle the technical details?

Who should host the show? Your CEO? A spokesperson? A celebrity or subject-matter expert in your industry?

What format would work best for your topic? Monologue? Interview format? Panel discussion?

Are you going to monetize your podcast by selling ads, sponsorships or even guest slots?

Many organizations are finding a weekly podcast to be an incredible way to build an audience, provide value, attract their sweet-spot prospects and to generate a great deal of content in one effort. Best of all, because you’re in your audience’s ear every week, you create a relationship with them long before your first face-to-face encounter.

But it’s a big commitment. Once you create an audience, they’re counting on you to keep showing up. Don’t commit until you’re confident you can sustain the effort.