The pandemic's gift to podcast promotion
The pandemic has given us many things: including a new way to promote your podcast
In 2009, I visited Japan. It was my first time, and like many visitors there, I was thrust into an exciting world of bewildering things that I had never seen before, some of which I excitedly photographed.
This was the English-language tourist magazine, and the object of my interest was quite clear in this snap: a QR code. A curiously technical-looking thing: a binary computer printout with three big dots, shoved into this magazine ad with the beguiling phrase “get coupon”. Having neither wifi nor an urge for a Burger King, I didn’t.
The idea behind a QR code, a Japanese invention as it happens, is relatively simple: they’re a method of encoding a small amount of information, in this case a website address, into a small barcode-like thing that a phone camera can scan. But I wasn’t quite sure about the point of it and where they could be useful.
In Seoul, Korea, in September 2010, I, again, saw another QR code worthy of photographing. I suspect I did this because of the interesting colour layout and the way that the company had put their brand inside the QR code itself (which I didn’t think would work, but QR codes are built to have error correction, so it does). It still needed explaining, even to the Koreans, though — the text underneath tells you to scan the QR code with your phone camera to get the Double A game, a game about paper products.
The UK and the US, however, didn’t appear to get too involved with QR codes. And I could see why: they were pointless. What was wrong, I wondered, with just typing in a website address? Surely burgerking.jp/coupon or doublea.kr/game would be much simpler than fiddling with a camera?
On a visit to New York City, in April 2011, I began to understand the benefit. A QR code on the most mundane of things: a building permit. The QR code here isn’t a piece of mass-market advertising, but a direct link to this exact building’s work permit and details: something that would be much harder to make into a easily-writeable URL.
They might have been invented in 1994, but it took until 2020 for people to use QR codes as part of their everyday life.
Many countries, like Australia, have insisted on QR codes being used to “check in” to a cafe or venue, to aid in contact tracing efforts. The first thing anyone does when entering is to scan a QR code, as seen above at my local coffee shop.
Young and old, ‘technical’ or barely scraping by, we all have to use these.
In short, everyone knows how to use a QR code now.
What does this have to do with podcasts?
While it’s relatively easy online to link to your podcast’s website to help people listen to it, it’s not that easy offline. A poster, for example, is a difficult place to advertise a podcast.
Sure, you could make sure that the name of your new podcast, Real Talk, is as clear as possible on the poster. But there are three million podcasts out there, and quite a few are called Real Talk. You’re also making it harder than it needs to be to subscribe to your show.
Much better to add a QR code to your podcast’s poster, your business card, or your leaflet. Or the table you’ve hired at that conference, perhaps.
Here’s a QR code generator to help you get one. And here’s what one looks like. (Try it!)
Where should it point to?
Ideally, it should point to your website, where hopefully you have buttons for the big three (Apple, Spotify, Google) above the fold. That way, you’re in full control.
Or, you can be fancy and do something like the QR code above, which will take you to a web-page that works out what phone you have, and then open Apple Podcasts or Google Podcasts on the right podcast. (Here’s one for The Daily on Podnews — you can do one for your own site by searching for a podcast on Podnews and findng the “link to this podcast” link at the bottom). These are great, as long as none of your listeners want to listen to you on Spotify.
You can colour them and add your logo in the middle (as Double A was doing eleven years ago); or keep them black and white. Just make sure they have a clear white background, and a white border, as all of the above examples show.
QR codes can be super-useful for podcasts: especially as we move back into the physical world.
While the pandemic hasn’t been brilliant for everyone, at least it’s taught us all about the power of the QR code.