A talk about the future of podcasting in Belgium at #MFF19
We invited some interesting Belgian podcastmakers at our Meet The Makers open sessions at Media Fast Forward, the innovation event by the Flemish public broadcaster VRT. This session was hosted by both Pieter Blomme, co-founder of the Relaas podcast and audio storyteller at Chase Creative and independent podcast maker Eva Moeraert. They invited a whole table of other podcast makers for a talk about topics such as financing your podcast and diversity within the podcast scene.
Article by Helena Verheye, content marketer at Chase Creative
Seated around the table were Thomas Smolders from tech podcast Computer Club, Reine Nkiambote from Yaya Talks, Jan D’hont who makes podcasts for brands with Chase Creative and Wederik De Backer who’s also an independent podcast maker. Later on, Anthony Bosschem from Zwijgen is Geen Optie also joined the table. The first question that was asked was:
Who are you, what do you create and can you make a living of your podcasts?
Pieter: “We make the Relaas podcast, which has about 10,000 listeners per episode, allegedly the critical boundary in the Netherlands to introduce your podcast to advertisers. However, we don’t really have a loyal community tied to our podcast.”
Thomas: “Computer Club has about 1500 listeners per week on Spotify, which is a very consistent and loyal group. Proof of this is that we have a Facebook group of 500 people and one out of 7 listeners already bought a sweater for 40 euros. Advertisers come to us because we have a loyal audience, but we choose not to go for it. We would rather go to Patreon than to advertisers.”
Reine: “I started Yaya Talks together with Tracy out of boredom and frustration. We did not feel represented in mainstream media. Our target audience is mainly women with a migration background or people who are in touch with people with similar stories like ours. English and Dutch are the languages we mainly use in our podcasts.”
Wederik: “I’m an independent audio creator, specialized in audio-fiction, radio documentaries, and podcasts. I’m part of the Belgian podcasting ‘Luyster‘ collective, which features my ‘Plantrekkers‘ podcast. Together with Lucas Derycke, I’m working on this project for which we invite other makers to create one episode.”
Jan: “Chase Creative works together with organizations, companies, and publishers to develop, produce and promote podcasts. Some of our recent clients are: Mediahuis, Mediafin, KPMG, EY Belgium, ING Belgium and the City of Ghent. We are still producing several projects that we can’t tell anything about yet. Podcasting is one of the three services we’re offering, next to Social Strategy and Social Media Management. We work with teams of up to 8 creatives on one project, and today that’s profitable.”
What do you do to improve the reach of your podcast?
Thomas: “My main struggle is: how to promote podcasts on social media, which is mainly image-based? I still find this very difficult.”
Reine: “I use a visual soundwave with a piece of audio to promote our podcasts.”
Anthony: “I film the podcast and broadcast it as video. The marketing value of video is huge, so the combination of video and audio is important. Our best episode of the year was 2 hours and 20 minutes. It used to be bon-ton to say that people no longer have a long attention span. But this just isn’t right.”
Pieter: “We organize a live storytelling evening during which the audio is recorded. We notice our community mainly talks about our stories during this event, not really online.”
Reine: “We also go live sometimes, for example during the Festival of Equality. We recorded the second season of Yaya Talks before Tracy went to live abroad. The engagement with the audience during this live event was a nice experience. Sometimes we also do a Q&A on Instagram or ask people to send in questions. We left Facebook because we feel it’s outdated and our public isn’t on there.”
Eva: “In the past, I sometimes had resistance to video. But now I realized that video is an important part of promoting your podcast.”
Jan: “We try to draw up an audience development plan for each client. This ranges from publishing on the right platforms to social ads, media buying, and PR actions. We also advise companies to heavily invest in social video and advertise those on social media. Above everything, it’s important to look at the communicational strength of the brand (for example, a large newsletter, a newspaper or strong presence on social media) and to try to tap into that force. All of this to create a community around the podcast.”
Let’s talk about money! Who is working with sponsoring? Is that the most logical way of generating revenue?
Anthony: “We have 5 people who now work full-time for Zwijgen is Geen Optie. We pay the wages for three people with the donations we get via Patreon, we noticed this model works better than a paywall. A subscription on our platform starts with a minimum of ten euros a month. The salary of the two other people is paid off with a loan. Within five years, the loan has to be fixed. ”
Jan: “We do see opportunities with publishers. In a perfect world, you can sell good stories/series to larger publishers, who then find advertisers for it. Seems like it’s just a matter of time before there’s an opportunity for podcasting here. On the other hand: micro-payments would also be a good thing. I would be happy to pay for some podcasts. If you’d ask me for a small contribution in-app after a good episode, I would donate with pleasure.”
Anthony: “I do believe that working with sponsors can be done without substantive interference, but I believe the Belgian market is too small for sponsors.”
Thomas: “I rejected sponsoring offers. To go along with investors would take away the club feeling.”
Reine: “If we would work with sponsors, having the same ethical standards would be key!”
Pieter: “With Relaas, we had Albert Heijn as a sponsor for six weeks. They paid 1500 euro to be mentioned in 6 episodes.”
Thomas: “That’s peanuts, I wouldn’t have done that.”
Anthony: “This is exactly why it’s more logical for us to go for membership rather than advertisements.”
Where do you want to be with your podcast in 5 years?
Thomas: “I want to have more products derived from the podcast, but no sponsors. Maybe I would like to work together with a media company.”
Reine: “I’d like to keep things the way they are at the moment. We might be open for advertisement, and we’re open to sponsoring for sure.”
Anthony: “I’d like to have my loan paid off and start a ‘Zwijgen is Geen Optie’ hub in Amsterdam. This way, I’d like to build a bridge with the Netherlands and maybe even make something European out of it.”
Jan: “I’m hoping that in the coming years we will be able to convince companies to make podcasts with stories that people want to hear, not with content the companies want to say. I also think tech innovation should all go a little faster, so they’ll implement more podcast functions in the future, and get the copyright issues for music in podcasts cleared. Music labels could play a big role, if you see how TikTok is now being used to promote new music, this could also be done with podcasts.”
Wederik: “I’d like to continue what I’m doing right now. Being independent and do even more fun projects.”
Eva: “I want to make the new Serial of Flanders and get paid for every day working on it.”
Pieter: “With Relaas, I want to check out what Zwijgen is Geen Optie is doing and take some inspiration from it.
Why podcasting as a marketing tool?
No other medium can get you to keep you in touch with your target audience for that long. Podcasts also create new touchpoints with your audience, it can be listened to anywhere, while doing other things. If done right, podcasts can inspire confidence and authenticity. It lends itself well to marketing content, it’s a great way to convey opinions and emotions and you can also use the transcripts for SEO. The concept is also relatively new, so your brand will for sure get some attention during the launch of your podcast. And you can make a difference, worldwide there are over 500 million blogs, about 80 million Facebook business pages and ‘only’ 700,000 podcast titles, of which 250,000 are active.