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Does Your Podcast Have Vertical Or Horizontal Appeal?

· Time to read: ~3 min

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(By Tim O’Brien) In my business, we analyze the media in many ways, but two of the most basic are to see media outlets as either vertical or horizontal.

What does that mean?

It’s like it sounds. If you are after horizontal appeal, that means you want the broadest possible audience. It doesn’t really matter their age, gender, occupation, or location. You want as many people as possible to listen. That’s horizontal.

If your podcast is focused on a vertical audience, then you likely have a much more defined listener profile. If you run a travel and tourism trade association, for instance, and you produce a podcast for members, then your primary listeners will be travel agents and meeting planners within the geographic footprint of the association. That’s vertical.

The vast majority of podcasters may tend to think of their podcasts as horizontal in nature. Even though some genres can be very niche, most podcasts I’ve heard seem to try to appeal to anyone who just might happen to discover them.

Keep an eye out for an increase in podcasts with a vertical focus.

As more companies and organizations embrace audio as a medium to communicate to their very defined constituents, and as industry media do the same, you will see more podcasts that are like audio industry blogs or audio trade magazines.

While some may not care at all about monetizing their podcasts, others may find that their podcasts bring with them a built-in revenue stream that doesn’t rely on CPMs as much because the kinds of advertisers they attract will readily understand the value of getting in front of certain audiences.

Going back to that travel and tourism trade association example, if I handle advertising for an island in the Gulf of Mexico, it might be worth it for me to pay a little more to advertise on a podcast that may only have 500 subscribers, the reason being that those 500 may control millions of dollars of potential revenue that could be directed toward my destination.

The cool thing is, you don’t have to always be “vertical” or “horizontal.” For Shaping Opinion, we tend to make decisions on this episodically. Our weekly Monday episodes are horizontally focused. Our periodic bonus episodes are always mid-week and have a more vertical focus, targeting sectors we value in other ways.

One question most podcasters may not ask themselves when starting out is, “Are we vertical or horizontal?” Knowing this is a good way to establish a framework for a lot of other decisions you may need to make.

Tim O’Brien is the producer and host of the Shaping Opinion podcast and the founder of the Pittsburgh-based communications consultancy O’Brien Communications.  He can be reached at 412.854.8845 or

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