With in-person events a distant memory and no end to Zoom fatigue, people are turning to a fast-growing medium: Podcasts.

With so many of us stuck at home, podcasting is becoming an easy-to-consume, “snackable” form of content. According to data on 12,000 podcasts, downloads by U.S. listeners in September 2020 increased 150% from the first week of this year.

But one demographic is being left out: Deaf and hard of hearing audiences. The problem isn’t that podcast hosts intentionally snub us. It’s a lack of universal design and foresight.

To see just how deaf-friendly (or not) podcasts are, we looked at a number of podcasts with a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) focus from Medium.com – 22 Podcasts to Increase Your Awareness Around Diversity and Inclusion.

Our tally? Only 12 podcasts provided a transcript, meaning there were 10 missed opportunities to truly connect with diverse audiences.

One sets the gold standard: Change Catalyst’s podcast “Leading with Empathy and Allyship” provides a transcript, captions, and ASL interpreters – for every single episode.

Of those 10 we requested transcripts from, sadly, only 3 responded back and are now working on a solution. We’re still waiting patiently to get a response from the other 7. Or should we?  

Deaf accessibility is often something a podcast host has never considered. Here are five important reasons why it should be a priority:

Reason 1:  If you build it, they will come

“People don’t know what they want until you show it to them.” – Steve Jobs 

Apple’s founder created the future, instead of waiting for customers to ask for it. No one knew they wanted a desktop inside their own house – until he prototyped it.

In the silent film heyday, actors didn’t utter a word. In 1927, a Warner Brothers producer famously scoffed: “Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?” 

Similarly, great content and powerful storytelling always attract deaf people. But unless it’s accessible, a huge market won’t even know podcasting is something for them to enjoy.

48 million Americans with hearing loss, to be exact. 

No matter how amazing your content is, when it’s inaccessible it becomes a missed opportunity to gain new views, new subscribers, new fans, new consumers and even new sponsors! Brand loyalty also takes a hit with the very brand-loyal deaf demographic.

In 2016, a Nielsen study confirmed this phenomenon: “Consumers with disabilities are loyal. Despite lower income, (they) spend more per trip and shop more often. They are also less likely to be swayed by coupons or deals.”

This loyalty must be earned, of course – you can earn it by ensuring full accessibility at your physical locations and digital platforms (like podcasts).

Reason 2: SEO, SEO, SEO

Audience segmentation is important if you want your content discovered: A sleep training consultant has a very different audience from someone who designs artisan coffee tables. 

But no matter what your niche is, search algorithms award you for making it accessible! 

A 2014 study by This American Life found that podcast transcripts increased new inbound traffic via search by nearly 7 percent. Accessibility helps build keywords and backlinks.

So if your podcast is about the baby sleep coaching strategies, uploading a transcript makes it 7 percent more likely that tired parents searching for help find yours – in the sea of other baby-related podcasts. 

Reason 3: Even when platforms lack accessibility features, you can take control 

In most cases, podcast host sites (such as SoundCloud, Spotify, Apple Podcast) do not offer a way to upload caption files or download a large transcript. 

Many podcast creators give up right here, thinking that if the platform isn’t designed for deaf and hard of hearing people, then their content doesn’t need to be either.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

There are many creative, cost-effective ways to make your podcast accessible. No matter whether you’ve already released 50+ episodes on your podcast library or are brand-new to it, we can help you make your content accessible to a wider audience. 

Are you ready to take your business, your knowledge, and your stories to the airwaves? Connect with deaffriendly CONSULTING for a personalized plan to make sure your digital content is getting read by this major consumer demographic because deaf audiences deserve as much access to this wider world as anyone else does.

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