A different way to learn: Podcasts in times where business is unusual

Written by Editor



By Koketso Mamabolo

The Topco and Top Women Business Unusual podcasts feature thought leaders with years of experience creating solutions to challenges they’ve faced in their sectors. Guests share how they went about solving problems and discuss ideas in a conversation that is as informative as it is natural. Starting when COVID-19 lockdowns reached South African shores, the podcasts have seen a whole host of guests sharing their knowledge with a diverse audience and are shared with subscribers in the Topco weekly newsletters

There was no way that the originators of podcasts could’ve known that sixteen years later their idea would spawn a phenomena which would begin when millions of people around the world suddenly found themselves stuck at home. Once authorities around the world made the decision to limit movement as much as possible, many had to find ways to entertain themselves.

In the last eight years podcasts have gone through two major shifts. The first came in 2014 when the Serial true-crime series went viral and inspired people from all over the world to start exploring the format. This wave included new listeners and creators. The second shift happened recently, and looks to continue as we go through a transformation process which futurist John Sanei has described as going from sadness, to strangeness and finally reaching the adventurous

This second wave of listeners and creators was sparked by the COVID-19 pandemic. Whether they were self-isolating, forced to stay at home or merely looking for new ways to create content and engage with an audience, the growth in the number of people listening to, and creating, podcasts has swelled in the past two years.

“The podcast market is going from strength to strength as the audience sees the value in engaging with long-form audio content. Podcasts are particularly popular among affluent segments of South African society. Something that augurs well for advertising revenue. As listeners numbers grow apace, the podcast advertising revenue segment is expected to be worth R302-million by 2023,” reads PwC’s 2019 Entertainment and Media Outlook report. 

Even before the pandemic, podcasts were already showing impressive growth among listeners. In their digital news report for 2019, Reuters found that, at the time, 43% of South Africans had listened to a podcast in the last month. With internet penetration sitting at 58% for a population of sixty million, it is clear that a large portion of people with access to the internet listen to podcasts.

PwC’s report notes: “Podcasts listeners are highly engaged. South African consumers find podcasts a fairly ‘sticky’ media format, with 80% of the audience listening to content through to the end. A majority also listen to a podcast within 24 hours of its initial download.”

But beyond the need to be entertained while we’re confined to our homes, why is it that thought leaders like former Google South Africa CEO Stafford Masie turned to the medium to have conversations with interesting people? 

The most obvious reason is how easy they are to consume. An audio-only format allows people to do other things while listening to a podcast, as they would with traditional radio. For professionals who spend most of their time at work, or commuting to and from work, the podcast format affords them a level of flexibility not available with videos or books. You can listen in the car, on a bus, while you exercise or do household chores.

A second reason, which ties into the first, is that podcasts are another way to share and consume information. The ease with which a podcast can be put together opens up the opportunity to spread ideas and start conversations. They can be focused on a particular subject, or cater to a specific demographic. For example, the Topco  Business Unusual Podcasts tap into the expertise and experience of thought leaders from a wide range of sectors. With the intention of learning, a podcast host is able to draw from a variety of people to discuss trends, and offer advice to others.

And by appearing on a podcast, guests are able to share themselves and their ideas to a wider, more engaged audience. They can do this on a platform that, like radio or a dinner table, accommodates organic conversations, which ultimately feels less impenetrable and more human.



Check out the Business Unusual Podcast series and find out what thought leaders have to share – here and here.

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