Podcasting has recently experienced dramatic growth in Africa. It's development has been fueled by the rapid development and adoption of mobile technology, better and broader Internet access, the overload of available content and more 'downtime' caused by the pandemic.

To date, the majority of podcasters have invested their own time and money into their series because of a passion for their topic and a desire to share information and stories with others who share the same interest.

Here are the six most important things that brands need to know about podcasting before they go about it:

1. A podcast is niche, but it speaks culture-to-culture

Culture-to-culture doesn't mean Afrikaners speaking to Afrikaners, or isiXhosa to isiXhosa. It refers to petrolheads speaking to petrolheads, fly-fishermen to fly-fishermen, quilters to quilters, foodies to foodies and winos to winos.

This niche-nerdy-geeky characteristic is also the beauty of podcasts because radio (the other big audio-only medium) speaks to a far, far larger audience and, therefore, has to have broader characteristics and less focused on audience interests. It has a playlist designed to appeal to certain audience segments so that it can maximise its audience over the broadcasting day, be it with music or talk radio.

Whereas radio is a shotgun, podcasting is a laser beam.

2. There's no curating with podcasting

Unlike the traditional broadcast media, the podcaster is an independent operator who owns his channel, his content. The owner won’t dial back his views, opinions, language and content simply because the brand has an aversion to strong language or discussions about sex, religion and politics.

And they certainly won't warn his guests to do likewise or try and censor them. It's broadcasting free-style and there are no rules.

3. Podcasting lives in perpetuity

Radio largely exists in a linear timeline. Its programming is consumed in the now, largely because of how people have been conditioned to listen to it. In a way, the listener has to conform to the radio station's schedule.

By contrast, podcasts can and are live-streamed, but the majority are downloaded or streamed on-demand so that it is the listener who dictates the schedule, not the medium.

4. Podcasts have brand-friendly audiences

It's not an easy thing for cynics to grasp but podcast audiences view brands as 'patrons' of the podcast and podcaster. In a way, they regard the brand as supporting the art or the information that they get for free.

Podcasts, therefore, provide brands with an opportunity to convert a listener with a stronger emotional link than that forged by radio or television. 

5. Podcasting is not necessarily the best medium for all brands

Podcasting is at its most powerful as a medium when it talks to a highly niched audience. For example, someone making bespoke equipment for high altitude climbing needn't advertise on radio, which has a far broader and less niched niche, but rather on a podcast that focuses on high altitude climbing.

That's not to say that brands who do have a broad audience should avoid podcasting; they just need to select their podcast series carefully or curate their own. A good example is AMPD Studio by Old Mutual in Newton Johannesburg.

The financial services institution has a very broad audience but it wanted to build a profile and interaction with a younger audience. This, too, is a broad audience but Old Mutual narrowed its target to youth seeking to build careers in the entertainment industry.

6. Podcasts are about discovery

People listen to podcasts because they are passionate, fascinated and enamoured with the topic. They are there to learn and, for this reason, brands need to use a discovery campaign if they want to be successful when they embrace the medium. Not a sales campaign. Share the information first.

For more information, visit www.haveyouheard.co.za. You can also follow HaveYouHeard on Facebook, Twitter or on Instagram