By MATT BLOIS
Danny Ozment, the owner of Emerald City Productions in Franklin, started working on podcasts mostly because the ones he listened to sounded bad.
He was working as a recording engineer, operating an independent studio. He spent most of his time recording music, but knew his expertise could help podcasters as well.
“I would email people who I listened to and say, I love your show, but your sound sucks. Please let me help,” he said. “I started to do it for free because I just loved podcasts. Then I started to get paid for it, then I learned more about it. Then it really quickly became half my business. Now, it’s almost full time.”
Ozment helps small businesses all over the U.S. create their own podcasts. He said his clients use podcasts to promote their brand, find new customers and attract talented employees.
That could be a good strategy considering the growing number of podcast listeners. According to a recent report from the polling company Edison Research, most Americans have now listened to a podcast, and about a third reported listening to a podcast in the past month.
Big companies like Netflix, UPS and Goldman Sachs all make their own podcasts, and now Williamson County mortgage brokers, churches and health care companies are all making podcasts. Many started using the medium in the last year.
And, yes, Home Page Media Group has a sports podcast.
For media companies, podcasts are the product. For many small businesses, Ozment said podcasts are a marketing strategy. They create a trust bond between the listener and the host.
“If you’re a Realtor, if you’re a lawyer, if you’re a small business … people don’t hire you until they know, like and trust you,” he said. “After a few hours of listening to someone, being in their ears, literally millimeters from their ear drums, that bond gets created.”
Chris Thomas is the owner of Made South, a Franklin company that celebrates Southern culture through events and podcasts. His company’s podcast network includes three shows all dedicated to Southern culture.
He estimated that the podcasts, which have some advertisements, only account for roughly 5 to 10 percent of his company’s revenue. However, they also push people toward the company’s events.
“We are a small business. If it’s not making money, if it’s losing money, it’s just a hobby,” he said. “But then also … I want to build a loyal, dedicated audience for these programs that we’re releasing and creating every week. Yes, I want to use those as they grow to promote the events that we do, to promote the other things that we do.”
The company releases podcasts on a weekly basis, and it’s a way for Made South, which hosts a few events each year, to remind potential customers about their brand more frequently.
Before starting Made South Thomas worked at Dave Ramsey’s company for more than a decade. Ramsey gained notoriety as a syndicated radio host, and now Ramsey Media has its own podcast network with six shows.
The company first released “The Dave Ramsey Show” in 2004. The podcast has an audience of about 300,000 unique listeners.
Executive Vice President of Ramsey Media Brian Mayfield wrote in an email that business seeking to produce a successful podcast should think about the audience first, and the money second.
“(Listeners) want to be entertained and informed, and there are more than 650,000 podcasts,” he wrote. “Don’t try and use a podcast as an infomercial – this audience has already been identified as the most over-marketed group of consumers in history. You won’t get a second chance if they feel like they are being sold a product or service.”
Nonprofit organizations and schools are also using podcasts to achieve their goals. Brentwood Academy started releasing a podcast in 2017. Assistant Director of Communications Jeanne Natwick said it’s been an effective way to keep the school’s community connected.
Brad Kinnison hosts a podcast for the Battle of Franklin Trust with Sarah Falck, which tells stories about the Civil War. The podcast serves the organization’s educational mission, but also keeps potential donors engaged.
“We wanted to provide our followers and our supporters with something that they find valuable, that they can routinely engage with on a regular basis,” he said.”It’s education that helps tell the narrative of our nation’s history, but also does it in a way that people remember the Battle of Franklin Trust is providing this for you.”
The low cost of creating a podcast makes them attractive marketing tools for small businesses, but Kinnison said on of the biggest challenges is be measuring their impact.
The service he uses shows where the downloads are coming from, and how many times an episode was downloaded, but it’s difficult to know whether that translates into new supporters for the organization.