Like most jobs, my work requires a little bit of travel every year. Since we moved down to Sacramento from Portland, I head back up to Oregon 2-3 times per year to see clients. I also attend 2-3 conferences each year, to keep abreast of what’s going on in the industry and to make sure I’m consistently able to deliver the best advice to my clients.
This year I had two conferences on the agenda. The first conference I had penciled in was one I’ve been trying to attend for several years: FinCon. FinCon is a gathering of bloggers, podcasters, YouTubers, reporters, financial planners, and others who produce or promote financial content. FinCon was held in Washington D.C. this year, directly before the second conference on my agenda: XYPN Live, which I just returned from this week.
Since starting the blog way back in 2015 I’ve learned a TON about producing content & blogging. But there are more than a few gaps in my knowledge base. FinCon is an opportunity to make connections with others in the field & learn best practices for producing all types of financial content. It’s been difficult to break away to attend in the last few years (especially with two kids under three at home). This year it was finally in the cards.
Since I think that devoting the time, money, and energy to attend conferences does benefit my clients and readers, I thought it’d be useful to share a few things I learned at FinCon this year. And how this experience has altered my plans for the blog and other content going forward.
I’ll start with a few high level observations:
Podcasting is Not Slowing Down
Currently there are 750,000 different podcasts. That’s incredible! There’s been a lot of talk about the market for podcasting becoming saturated. I’ve heard more than a few times that new podcasts being released today will have a much harder time finding devoted listeners than shows that launched just a few years ago. The argument is that people who are likely to listen to podcasts have already “found” their shows, and converting them to yours will be challenging.
I’m not so sure. One of the sessions I sat in shared a few really interesting stats about listenership:
- Of the 750,000 podcasts out there, there are currently around 30,000,000 total episodes
- 51% of the US population has listened to a podcast
- 70% of the US population is familiar with the term “podcasting”
- Listeners listen to an average of 7 different shows per week
- 80% listen to all or most of each episode
- 65% of listeners have been listening for less than 3 years
There isn’t a whole lot of data here to work with, but I do have a couple observations. First, this is a rapidly evolving thing. 65% of listeners have been consuming podcasts for less than 3 years. Sure, they have their shows they enjoy following. But a new show that’s hyper targeted around specific topics & interests shouldn’t have any trouble growing listenership.
Second, 51% of the population has listened to a podcast. But only 70% even knows what podcasting is. I’d expect this number to climb pretty rapidly in the next several years. Especially since 96% of the population owns a smartphone.
Finally, the stat that most surprised me: 80% of listeners listen to all or most of each episode. I couldn’t believe this. Personally, I’m probably around 60/40: I listen to all or most of about 60% of the shows I subscribe to, but bail early on the other 40%.
Whatever the format (20 minute, monologue, guests, scripted, etc.) I don’t see any way that podcasting will slow down over the next few years. Long form audio is simply too interesting a way to communicate compared to mainstream media. You get a better sense of the personality and communication style of the speakers, and have unlimited opportunity to dive into topics in sufficient detail, as opposed to short sound bytes on mainstream media.
Video is the Future
Bandwidth, bandwidth, bandwidth. Five years ago using video as the primary means to communicate was pretty expensive. Yes, we had FaceTime and Skype back then, but creating consistent video content was time consuming & the videos created were often grainy and shotty. Now, our smartphones allow us to shoot high quality video whenever, wherever we like. And what’s more, post production editing is available at low cost on the same device.
In terms of search traffic, Google search is still the far and away leader. YouTube (owned by Google, of course) is second, and growing rapidly. Facebook’s search share is growing too, meaning that posting video on both platforms has a good opportunity to be found. As more people around the world search for information via video, spending the time to build a following and rank in certain areas will no doubt be beneficial long term.
As with podcasting, video is an effective, and different way to communicate and connect with your audience. One thing I’ve learned from combining video, the blog, and monthly webinars is that presenting content from several different angles makes for a stronger connection to your audience. Each medium demonstrates a slightly different piece of your personality & communication style, which goes a long way toward strengthening relationships. This was echoed and confirmed by more than one presenter.
There Are A Ton of People Producing Financial Content
Fincon is a big conference. 2,500 people attended this year, which makes for a massive undertaking and requires a sizable venue. I can’t confirm this, but my suspicion is that about 30% of attendees were financial planners who produce content as part of their marketing efforts. The other 70% were content producers, bloggers, podcasters, social media personalities, and reporters.
A small portion of the non-financial planners were hobbyists, but I’d guess that the vast majority are producing financial content in an effort to make money. Whether it be through sponsorship, affiliate marketing, or pay per click advertising, most of this demographic has the intention of building an audience by sharing content on personal finance, and monetizing it over time.
As a financial planner I don’t have much of a problem with this. As long as the content being produced is responsible. (I won’t name names, but there are more than a few financial blogs/podcasts/shows out there espousing ideas that I fervently disagree with). What’s interesting to me is how much money some of these content producers are making. Several YouTubers & podcasters in the financial content space are pulling in seven figures from their content production, which completely blows my mind. Yes, they’ve been at it for a while, but that is a huge amount money for those who can build a following.
My Content Plans Are…Not Wrong
I’ve been pretty good this year about posting to the blog every Monday, week in and week out. Some weeks have been easier than others, but this consistency has been effective. Readership on the site is up substantially over the last six months, the email list has never been larger, and more people are checking out our website, social media pages, videos, and monthly webinars.
As I mentioned above, the combination of several different channels goes a long way toward building a relationship with your audience. This is something I’ve experienced first hand between the blog, videos, and webinars. And if I learned anything from the conference, adding additional channels can really help your case when done consistently.
Going forward, my content plans here on the site and elsewhere haven’t really changed as a result of the conference. They were more confirmed. And yes, I can confirm that I’ll be launching a podcast before the year is out. I also have a few other big announcements in store for later in the year, but I’m going to keep them under my hat for now.
Will I attend Fincon again in the future? Yes, probably. The crowd there is really on the cutting edge of producing financial content for the masses. I made some wonderful new connections, spent time with wonderful friends and old connections, and learned a great deal. Family & business obligations depending, I’ll be back.