MediaMedia PlanningConsumers Seize Control, Part 3: “‘Lost’ Casts”

Consumers Seize Control, Part 3: "'Lost' Casts"

Podcasts plus "Lost" fanaticism equals opportunities. Simple ways to take advantage of podcasting.

Last weekend was a Lost Weekend for my family. We spent it watching all 23 episodes of the first season of “Lost.” After much prodding from friends, I finally decided to get on the “Lost” bandwagon.

When I first heard people talking about “Lost,” it sounded as if they were talking about a reality show, and I had no interest in watching. But I kept hearing and hearing about it. I had to check it out when three guys who work for me decided to create their own podcast (define) about the show.

So I bought season one, then spent almost 23 hours glued to the tube. I’ve since watched the first four episodes of season two, which means I’m caught up with the program. I’m hooked.

So are a lot of other people. Last week’s episode drew an audience of 22 million adults aged 18 to 49.

Those people aren’t just watching the show. They’re pouring over it, with an insatiable hunger for information about the program. They’re searching for clues to the mysteries the writers have piled into the script like lunch meat on a submarine sandwich.

They talk about it, in person and online. Dozens of forums and blogs are devoted to the show. They host thousands of pages of “Lost”-related content. They’re dissecting high-resolution screen shots of symbols seen in the show, which they’ve brightened and heightened to better see those symbols. They’re discussing topics as wide-ranging as Taoism and quantum theory and the Philadelphia Experiment and Skinner boxes, all tied to the plot. They’re having side conversations on “Star Wars” references in the show. People are really, really into this.

There are a number of “Lost” zealots in my office. Conversations among themselves and online led those three guys to create Lost Casts. Once they decided, “Hey, someone should do a podcast about this show. Why not us?” it took them no more than 30 minutes to set up a very simple Web site and lay out plans to record their first session. After each “Lost” episode airs, these guys get together and record a show that runs 30 to 60 minutes. In their show, they do an episode recap, discuss what’s happening in the forums, respond to questions from the podcast’s subscribers, and speculate on the plot.

They launched the podcast four weeks ago, in conjunction with the start of the second season. In that short time, they’ve heard from people all over the world. People subscribe to the podcast feed from places like Hungary and Spain, not just the U.S. They’re tapping into that insatiable thirst for information, speculation, and commentary about the show. Based on audience response, this was a niche that needed to be filled.

What does this “Lost” activity mean for brands? The type of fanaticism “Lost Casts” taps into, along with the new DIY method of broadcasting podcasting represents, creates opportunities. There are a couple very simple ways you can take advantage of podcasting.

You could sponsor an existing podcast. A number of brands have already seen this potential. GM, Best Buy, Whirlpool, and Unilever are a few current podcast sponsors.

You might create your own branded content. Heineken created a site called Heineken Music where it hosts lots of music information along with its Thirst competition. Thirst is a global dance music tour featuring well-known artists as well as up-and-coming local talent. Its first podcast is an interview with Thirst Resident DJ Daniele Davoli.

Interested in making podcasting work for your brand? First, find or create engaging content and make sure to engage your audience. If you’re creating a show, consider the following:

  • Make sure your topic currently has an online audience (forums and blog posts are a great indicator of a topic’s online relevance).
  • Reference the online audience by discussing what’s happening in forums, blogs, and other news outlets.
  • Give credit to your source, even if it’s some guy from a forum with an ID like “Merlin the Mystical 5763.” It’s a good move (promotionally speaking) to tell a source you’ve quoted him. Nothing wins loyalty more than making other people feel smart.
  • Your topic must be broad enough to stay fresh.
  • Make sure it’s fun, compelling, or both.

Don’t make a podcast into a 30-minute commercial. If you sponsor a show relevant to your brand (or create a program), you don’t need much more than a “brought to you by” tagline. If Baskin-Robbins’ show is about ice cream, anything more than “brought to you by Baskin-Robbins” is overkill.

Conversely, if Samson (a maker of microphones for podcasts, among other electronic goodies) sponsors a movie discussion podcast, a more detailed plug within the show would be appropriate. The host might say, “This podcast sounds great because I’m using a Samson podcasting microphone. It only cost me $79 at Send me an email, and I’ll point you in the right direction.”

Then there’s just dropping a :15 radio spot into a podcast. Word of caution: listeners are more likely to be loyal if you keep this to a minimum. A 15-second spot in a 30-minute podcast will probably be acceptable to your audience if the content is valuable to them.

More and more people and companies are experimenting with podcasts. If you’re like me, you’ve been asking yourself questions like: How easy is it to set up a podcast? What difficulties might I encounter? How can it help the brands I work on?

Start experimenting with it. Pick a topic you’re passionate about, get out your PC and a microphone, and push “Record.”

If you’ve already started experimenting with podcasts for your own clients or are using podcasts in an interesting way, I’d love to hear about it.

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