podcasts, long-tail marketing, and stack overflow

2021-10-09

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~2 min read

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400 words

I’ve been listening to the Stack Overflow podcast recently. I guess I’m a little old fashioned because I started at the beginning and am working my way forward chronologically.

It’s like a time capsule! Jeff and Joel started the podcast before Stack Overflow existed. When it was just a project - one whose future was entirely uncertain.

As an engineer, I have never known the world without Stack Overflow and how fortunate I am for that! Among the many interesting observations I’ve had while listening to the show is that I am increasingly sympathetic to the objective of the site.

It’s not just about getting an answer. It’s about building a community to get questions answered. The status (i.e., badges and points) that’s associated with answering questions and the privileges that are awarded to individuals who are invested in the community all work toward the same aim.

Interestingly, while these mechanics are increasingly prevalent across the web, I’m starting to believe they’re disappearing into the background. Which leads to the second observation I’ve noticed - the more I listen to the podcast the more interested I am in participating in that community.

Said another way, Stack Overflow “paid” for some marketing back in 2008 (with Jeff and Joel’s time) and it’s still working today.

How many ad campaigns have this kind of long tail engagement?

Great advertising campaigns far outlive their initial run. This is what brand advertising is all about. Building positive impressions in the minds of customers increases brand equity and cheapens the cost of advertising in the future.

But that’s slightly (and perhaps importantly) different from what I think is going on with the podcast. The podcast is definitely an advertising expense. It took time (and money) to sit down, record, and host the podcast. But it’s cost is effectively fixed. The marginal cost to serve an additional listener is ~$0. Unlike most brand campaigns, however, consumers can find it and engage over time.

In the same way that Netflix’s catalogue focuses on evergreen content so that the each new customer benefits from all of the content produced previously, a company which decides to focus on podcasting (versus a print ad in the paper) is building a catalogue.

Moreover, podcasts can humanize what would otherwise be a faceless organization extremely effectively.

All in all, I am increasingly convinced that podcasts make for fantastic marketing (when done well)!


Hi there and thanks for reading! My name's Stephen. I live in Chicago with my wife, Kate, and dog, Finn. Want more? See about and get in touch!