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Small businesses and their impact on Local Communities

Think of your neighborhood or local community for a moment. You come back home after a long day and you pass by your favorite bakery, which is right across the street. Every Tuesday and Friday, you stop at this local bakery to surprise your beloved ones with some delicious sweets. Now, imagine that there is no bakery or other local shop in the proximity of your home. Not fun, right? 

Local businesses create a sense of belonging, providing character and individuality to a community. They enable local farmers, craftsmen, professionals, and other service providers to make a living and give back to their communities. They cover a variety of industries and most important, they enable locals to make a living by pursuing their passions. Unfortunately, their value and contribution are most of the time underestimated.

In this post, we are going to place the focus on small businesses and their positive impact on the overall well-being of local communities. Remember, just because a business is categorized as “small”, it’s not necessarily as small as you think. They are classified as businesses with up to 500 employees.

Establish a unique community identity

A well-established community with a respected identity creates a sense of pride, self-respect, unity, sense of belonging and social responsibility for people, groups, and organizations in it. The visual impression of a community is very important for its prosperity and reputation. Whenever you walk into a large chain, such as Walmart, you have no clue what community you are in. On the other side, when someone walks into a small local business, it creates a more intimate and personal relationship between owners and clients.

Local job opportunities

People that live in small towns are usually limited in terms of finding jobs that don’t require travel and commuting. An increasing number of people leave their hometowns for better opportunities. This action does not have a positive economic and social impact on the well-being of a community.

Fostering local jobs proves to be extremely effective in lowering local unemployment rates in economically distressed communities. A small business that hires locally does not only prove that it cares about the community, but it also keeps business professional and authentic. Local employees are aware of their surroundings and have the right knowledge to make valuable recommendations for tourists and locals as well. Localwise is an innovative platform that enables locals to find a wide range of jobs in the proximity of their homes.

Community health

Besides contributing to the identity of a local community, small business owners can build healthy and long-lasting relationships among locals. They are more likely to know their customers by name, leading to personal relationships that can’t be replaced. It makes them feel part of a strong community that shows great care and involvement in its prosperity.

They can form casual relationships, such as merchant’s associations or mentoring. They inspire locals and educate them on best business practices. Small businesses within communities tend to adopt and implement worksite health promotion programs (WHHPs). Worksite wellness programs introduce preventive strategies that improve employee health, such as public events and volunteering. Another unique characteristic of small businesses within communities is that most of the time, owners know each other and promote their products or services through word of mouth and referrals. They care about the well-being of the entire community and of the small businesses part of it.

Less infrastructure and low maintenance

As expected, small businesses require less work and maintenance compared to your standard large corporation. Since they are mostly small and don’t have complicated infrastructure requirements, their environmental footprint is almost nonexistent. Most locally owned businesses operate in remodeled and repurposed older downtown buildings. This leads to less public services and infrastructure required.

Small businesses create a greater community impact than many realize. They have the potential to form long-lasting relationships among community members, create local job opportunities, improve the overall well-being and community health while building a strong local identity. Remember, the most efficient way to promote your business within a community is to become involved in your town while being responsive to the vibe of your community.

Why are Podcast hosting solutions so important for content creators?

Do you wish to share your podcasts to a broad audience? If so, that’s a great plan! However, before reaching that level, it’s important to be aware that podcasting is not as simple as recording some audio and simply upload it on major podcasting platforms, such as iTunes, Spotify or Google Play.

Instead, podcasters should look for a podcast hosting provider to get started. Choosing the right one can be a long and exhausting process since there are plenty of options with similar features and tools.

In this article, we’ll go over some of the major podcast hosting sites and we’ll stress out different reasons related to how important it is to go with a podcast hosting solution rather than uploading your episodes on your own.

What is Podcast Hosting?

First, it is a dedicated platform where you can store and distribute your podcast’s audio files. They offer a podcast RSS feed (like a playlist with all your shows) that enables you to submit to a bunch of podcast directories, including Apple Podcasts. Besides that, these hosting platforms usually come with analytics, web players, scheduling tools, monetization options and editing features.

A podcast is a sequence of audio files that are compressed into a single file. Most of the time, they require a lot of space and bandwidth to be stored. Personal websites are hosted by servers with limited storage capacities. For this reason, a podcast hosting site is a critical tool for storing files and sharing it with a broad audience.

Podcast hosting vs. Podcast directories

Podcast directories include services like iTunes, Spotify or Google Play. These solutions receive your podcast files, RSS (rich summary site) feeds and move them into their front-end systems. Such directories enable listeners to find episodes by downloading a podcast app, by searching for it on a computer or by listening to it on an Android or Apple device. Podcast hosting and directories platforms are interconnected. How does it work exactly? As a podcaster, you simply upload your audio files and as soon as the directory detects new shows, it downloads the files and transfers the latest episodes for the end user. In other words, podcast directories such as iTunes simply read the RSS feed that is created by your podcast host and automatically transfers them to the chosen platforms.

What are the main benefits of Podcast Hosting solutions and why do you truly need one?

1.   Quality

Unlike storing podcasts on your own server, hosting platforms don’t force you to choose between quality, speed and storage space. If any of these are left behind, the quality of your podcasts will likely be deteriorated. Hosting platforms come with inbuilt servers designed to host large podcast files while maintaining the highest quality.  

2.   Lower Storage Costs

To host a one-hour audio podcast yourself will end up costing you a lot more than uploading it on a host platform. Hosting solutions take care of cloud storage for you and it will certainly end up being cost efficient. However, if your plan doesn’t come with unlimited bandwidth and your audience keeps growing, you might have to upgrade or pay the extra fees. The good news is that podcast hosting sites come with fixed pricing based on your storage needs. Comparing storage pricing with monetization potential, you’ll certainly pay a bargain to use a hosting platform.

3.   It’s Faster

Unfortunately, people in general are not patient enough, especially when it comes to download speed. If a video or audio file won’t start in 30 seconds, most of us will simply leave it behind and move on. It goes the same way for podcasts. Too much buffering or low speeds will have a negative impact on the listener’s interest and willingness to wait. This way, you might lose them and one of your competitors might captivate them instead. Thanks to a fully dedicated host for your podcasts, you hardly run into such situations. Hosting sites provide unlimited downloads to your episodes and bandwidth or speed are not a challenge at all.

4.   It comes with Analytics

We live in a world where data is the new gold. With podcasts, knowing how long your listeners stay engaged, the number of downloads per episode, where they are located or from which devices they listen to your shows is extremely important. Most of these platforms come with an in-built data analytic tool. It enables podcasters to make quick decisions based on listener’s preferences.

5.   Security

Security breaches are a serious problem nowadays. While running a podcast, it’s very unlikely to afford your own security layers. It requires a state-of-the-art security system in place when hosting episodes on personal websites. On the other hand, hosting sites come with in-built security measures that are included in the monthly subscription price.

Top Podcast Hosting software’s

There are a lot of companies that provide podcast hosting services. Anyway, we’ll be looking at the ones which are user friendly, easy to use and that come with great tools and support.

–          PodBean

Many consider PodBean as the best hosting service provider out there. Among their plans, podcasters can opt for unlimited audio upload and bandwidth. Different design tools enable users to customize their own hosted website. The PodBean podcast player can be easily embedded into WordPress posts and pages. Its podcast promotion tools will automatically share your recorded content to all top podcast directories. The advertising marketplace comes with monetization opportunities, connecting podcasters with a variety of sponsors.

Pricing: Free with limited storage and paid plans start at $9/month with unlimited capacity

–          BuzzSprout

This one is much appreciated by beginners. If you are a newbie, you’ll find this one extremely easy to use. All you need to do is upload your media files and the automated system takes care of the rest. You don’t even have to press another button to share your files to other directories. If you don’t want to build your own website, they can do the work for you. The only limitation is that even their paid plans come with limited storage and bandwidth capacity.

Pricing: Free plan with limited storage for 90 days. Paid ones start at $12/month for 3 hours of upload

–          Blubrry

This one is meant for new and experienced podcasters. It comes with a well-known WordPress podcasting plugin called PowerPress, making it easy to control podcasts straight from your WordPress site. It comes with other features, such as monetization options, podcast statistics, social sharing features and the list goes on.

Pricing: It starts at $12/month with 100 MB included

Final Thoughts

All in all, if you are an early podcaster or an experienced one, using a podcast hosting solution is the best way to connect with a broad audience and deliver high quality audio and video content.

At Streams.live, our mission is to create a dedicated platform for content creators, including podcasters. By looking more into other innovative solutions available on the market, we consider that our available features align with the needs of content creators and podcasters willing to stand out from the crowd.

Stay tuned for more!

What are the most popular podcast topics and how you can choose one?

Whether you’re just getting started in terms of podcasting or you are already an experienced professional, it might be tricky to come up with catchy podcast topics for your listeners. As a rule of thumb, podcasters should focus on their passions and expertise to deliver valuable and inspiring content.

In our previous post, we went over different ways in which podcasters can monetize their shows and episodes. This type of content is consumed by an increasing number of listeners around the world. To make sure that you stay on track, this article will cover the most demanded topics in terms of podcast consumption. Keep in mind that a good topic means nothing if the host is not passionate and enthusiastic while sharing it with others.

Before jumping into podcast topics, let’s go over some critical questions that you as a podcaster must ask yourself before making a final decision.

Who is your audience?

Remember! You are NOT creating content for you, instead you are doing it for your audience!

Even if it’s very important to create podcasts based on your passions and expertise, we are human beings and we can always adapt. Where possible, tap into unclaimed data regarding your listeners, such as demographics and interests. They might have a challenge to overcome that you didn’t know about. If that is the case, you can now do your research and act as a healer through your podcasts. And who knows? Maybe you’ll find out new topics that interest you based on your listeners’ needs.

What interests you?

If your audience is interested in a podcast idea in which you are not, there’s a good chance of burning out and losing listeners. For this reason, ask yourself how much do you care about a podcast idea?

Like other podcasters, you most likely have a job and other life responsibilities, meaning that you create content in your spare time. If you spend your free time on topics that don’t align with your goals and perspectives, it won’t last long until you realize it’s not worth continuing. Therefore, be aware that in the beginning you have absolute control over your prospective listeners. Your first podcast topic will bring together an audience that it’s worth creating content for in the future.

How can you stand out from other podcasters out there?

The reason why top podcasts on major platforms such as Apple Podcasts or Google Play have such an impact is because they are unique. To find your differentiator and stand out from other podcasters, try to narrow down a broad topic. If you are passionate about marketing, don’t talk about it in general. Instead, refine it to ‘eCommerce marketing on Shopify’ or anything else that aligns with your interests.

Now that we’ve covered some questions to ask yourself before deciding on a podcast topic, let’s go over some untapped ideas to get you started.

1. Discuss your favorite topic

You must have a favorite book series, TV show or movie series. If that’s the case, it might be a great starting point. You should be able to comment on plot twists and provide your listeners with personal views.

2. True crime

Just as dark tourism creates a real hype among travelers, podcasts covering true crime stories seem to be very demanded by listeners. Major podcasting platforms often have 3 podcasts about murder mysteries in their top charts.

In 2014, Serial started this true crime podcasting trend and it hasn’t dipped in popularity since. Numbers from 2018 show that it reached an impressive number of 340 million downloads.

3. Chat shows

Usually, these types of shows have multiple hosts with episodes including discussions on various topics. In chat shows, hosts tend to be influential people with strong personalities and beliefs. They are easy to listen and record, lasting for about 30 minutes to one hour.

4. Global news

In the past 20 years, the way in which we consume news has drastically changed. Newspapers got replaced by the internet and keeping up to date is more accessible than ever. More recently, news podcasts increased in popularity and number of listeners. In response, BBC developed their own news podcast station, the so-called Global News.

5. Sports

Among various forms of sports media, podcasts are one of the most unique ways to deliver such content. Ranging from motivational content for gym addicts to inviting famous athletes as hosts, podcasts finally have a saying in the sports world. The Totally Football Show is UK’s leading football podcast with over 60 million listens and counting.

6. Food

We all have our favorite dish, don’t we? There is no shortage in terms of food podcasts. Restaurant reviews, new recipes and even weird cooking challenges are available on different platforms. A show about fast food and chain restaurant called Doughboys is perhaps the most successful food podcast out there!

7. Paranormal

Compared with ‘true crime’ podcasts, paranormal podcasts talk about things that may or may not have happened. It seems that an increasing number of listeners are eager to hear mysterious stories related to unexplained disappearances, alien encounters and everything in between.

All in all, the most important thing to remember before deciding on your next podcast topic is to ask yourself if you are truly interested and passionate about what you are sharing with your listeners. If you make sure that you enjoy it, good results will certainly come along the way!

Top 4 ways to monetize a podcast

In the past year, we’ve seen a considerable increase in terms of podcast consumption. As we speak, there are 62 million Americans listening to audio content each week. Around the world, there are 800,000 active podcasts with over 54 million episodes available. Due to a low cost of entry, a record of 192,000 new shows were launched in 2019.

This considerable increase in audio consumption is mainly due to innovative gadgets such as Amazon’s Alexa or Apple’s AirPods. As more people are attracted by this relatively new trend, content creators keep on finding effective ways to monetize podcasts. Even if there are many was for that, we couldn’t find a dedicated platform capable of accepting several income sources and methods.

In this article, the focus will shift towards common and efficient ways in which content creators can begin to monetize their own podcasts.

1. Podcast Sponsorships

This seems to be the most common way to monetize podcasts. Popular shows can generate thousands of dollars per month through sponsorships. However, some creators and listeners feel like including sponsorship slots within their shows can get annoying. For this reason, it is important to contract sponsors that can relate with the presented content in your show.

If you start a podcast today, do not expect sponsors to line up at your doorstep tomorrow. Like most things in our lives, it takes time to reach a desired level. First, begin to host free podcasts in a niche you are passionate and knowledgeable about. The key is to be consistent, to build a captive and engaged audience before monetizing content through sponsorships.  So, what are the common standards for Podcast Sponsorships? Based on the CPM (cost per one thousand visitors), content creators can monetize through sponsorship based on the number of downloads (listens). Therefore, sponsors will pay different amounts for Pre-roll, Mid-roll, and Post-roll slots.

Pre-roll – In this stage, the host will talk about the sponsor’s product or service for 15 seconds before jumping into the main content. To give you an idea, a 15-second Pre-roll generates around $18/1000 listeners.

Mid-roll – This one comes with more flexibility and is included around the 40 – 70% mark of the podcast episode. It lasts for 60 seconds and the host talks about a specific product or service, most of the time sharing a personal story where possible, covering some of the features and benefits. Sponsors are willing to pay more for Mid-roll exposure and it tends to generate $25/1000 listeners.

Post-roll – This stage represents the last call to action your listeners will hear. It lasts around 15 to 30 seconds and purchasing behaviors are influenced the most within this stage, because of the final call to action. For 30 seconds of Post-roll exposure, sponsors pay $10/1000 listeners.

2. Ask for donations

Asking for donations might be the simplest way to monetize a podcast. If you are confident that your content is valued by listeners, you are set to succeed in terms of receiving contributions. Of course, it will only come from engaged, loyal and passionate audiences. Monetizing through donations is a good way to avoid giving portions of podcasts to advertisers. The simplest and most common way to receive donations from listeners is by adding a ‘donate’ button to your podcast page. Before asking for donations, make sure that your followers are well informed and aware of where the money goes. To keep inspiring them, you’ll certainly need to invest in equipment and other tools to deliver better and better content. Therefore, create an authentic call to action that makes it clear where you’ll spend money coming from donations and for what purposes.

As a host, you can receive donations by simply adding a PayPal button or by creating a Stripe account and add it to your page. At Streams.live, we have well-established partnerships with both PayPal and Stripe and opening up an account enables you as a host to receive donations within the platform.

3. Paid premium podcast content

Let’s say that you have some audio content that you’ve worked really hard on. This can be a longer podcast that provides high-value content for listeners. This is where you can add another layer of monetization and create paid membership tiers. Of course that reaching this level will take some time before your listeners pitch in to access such content.

Price customization is under the host’s complete control and the available platforms usually take a small percentage from the revenue earned. With Streams.live, you can add this small percentage on the customer’s side, meaning that you as a creator will end up with nothing to pay in exchange. Usually, creators consider lessons, bonus series, exclusive interviews and more to fall under the ‘exclusive content’ umbrella.

4. Sell products during your podcasts

According to a recent study, 65% of US listeners are very likely to further look into a company they find out about during a podcast and 64% of them have actually bought a presented product or service they’ve heard about during an audio show. It seems that audio tends to be a successful medium for sales due to its intimate relationship it creates between brand and listener. Without any images displayed, listeners can only imagine what is presented during a podcast, making them eager to see it for themselves. The one-on-one relationship audio creates is much stronger and effective than a 30 second TV commercial. There are different ways and techniques for selling products within podcasts and these are:

  • Branded Podcasts

With this method, there is no need to pay for external advertising and you can get as creative as it gets with the narrative of your podcast. Starbucks is among those using this method and it presents several stories about ordinary people doing impressive things, to create positive change. Afterwards, the important brand is immediately associated with positive social causes.

  • ‘Supply & Demand’ Podcasts

To fully take advantage of this method, you need to know what your customers like. This way, you can build a podcast around a theme which meets their interests. With ‘supply & demand’ podcasts you can even sell affiliate products which you are not in competition with. It is a great way to form collaborations that create a mutual benefit.

  • Podcast Guests

If you are hosting podcasts, you can have dedicated sessions for guests. You can give them the opportunity to market themselves as a brand and be an authority in a given sector. As a host, you can simply negotiate with your guests and receive a percentage from every sale that takes place during your sessions.

At Streams.live, our mission is to create a platform that enables content creator to easily monetize their passions and hard work. By looking more into the podcast world, we’ve identified a gap in terms of a dedicated platform designed to accommodate several monetization methods. Our goal is to accommodate these needs in a user friendly and intuitive environment.

Loyalty Programs and Local Communities in Hospitality

Nowadays, there are millions of businesses in the world that focus on delivering different products and services for consumers. Keeping aside the variety of industries that businesses are part of, all of them want to retain their loyal customers and make them return in the future. It all started in 1793, when some U.S merchants decided to offer their customers copper tokens to be redeemed with future purchases.

Hospitality establishments, such as well-known hotel chains are expected to have a structured loyalty program in place for their frequent guests. Holiday Inn was the first brand to launch a ‘frequency’ program in February of 1983. This first-generation hotel loyalty scheme was allowing customers to redeem points and receive special flight prices in exchange. In today’s world, hotel-loyalty programs rely on distinctive experiences that can set them apart from competitors.

Today, we’re going to go over the major hotel loyalty programs around the world, and we’ll give more insights on how hospitality establishments can invite local businesses (communities) to be part of such programs by using our solution.

Well-known Hospitality Loyalty programs

With the nine largest hotel-loyalty programs consisting of nearly 350 million members worldwide, it is clear how this trend developed over the years. Hotel and resort chains are doing their best to differentiate themselves and provide loyal guests with unique and tailored experiences. Before jumping into more details, it is important to keep in mind that guests will value a hotel-loyalty program based on 4 factors: 1. The number of hotels that are part of a chain 2. Benefits that are most important for a guest 3. Destination (some chains have more luxurious properties based on location) 4. The type of hotel or resort that a guest is looking for (boutique, budget, ultra-all-inclusive and so on).

1. Marriott Bonvoy

This loyalty program provides guests with the richest benefits in the hotel industry. Members are entitled to earn points by choosing to accommodate at any of the 6800 locations in over 150 countries. In terms of earning points as a member, Marriott offers its guests different ways for that. For instance, famous banking companies such as Chase and American Express allow their customers to transfer rewards on their Marriot Bonvoy account. Besides that, both companies issue branded Marriot credit cards for personal and business use. Clients that opt for branded cards will receive a sign-up bonus and Marriott points are earned and ready to be used in any location right after every purchase. Referring a friend is also a great way to earn points without much effort. However, Marriott Bonvoy members will earn points whenever they spend money at any participating location, regardless of which credit card is used. For every $1 spent, members receive 10 Marriott points in exchange. These points can be redeemed for various products and services, such as: free hotel/resort stays; room upgrades; lower room rates; holiday packages; car rentals; gift cards; donations; special airline prices and more.

2. IHG Rewards Club

Similar with Marriott’s loyalty offering, IHG Rewards is as well a diverse and rewarding program. Flagship hotel chains such as InterContinental, Crown Plaza, Holiday Inn Resorts and many others are part of it. With more than 5,600 participating hotels worldwide, this program is divided into four membership categories: Club, Gold Elite, Platinum Elite and Spire Elite. Depending on how often you stay at participating locations, the likelihood of upgrading your membership increases. If not claimed within 12 months, earned points are set to expire, but the good news is that points can be transferred between two designated member accounts for $5/1,000 points transferred.

Members part of the IHG Rewards program can also earn points by spending money at nearby shops and dine locations/activities. How does it work? Users can simply search for local activities and vendors from their accounts and verify if businesses reward them with points that can be spent within the IHG group. For a helicopter tour that cost $250 in New York, IHG members automatically receive 1,000 points that can be redeemed at any hotel or resort that is part of the chain. Booking tours and other experiences are booked straight from the account, replacing the need of accessing the partner’s website.

3. World of Hyatt

Very similar with those loyalty programs mentioned above, this one stands out by including respected luxury hotel chains, such as Park Hyatt and Andaz (luxury boutique hotels). The feature that stands out the most in this program is targeting the highest tier members. They get a free night award and two suite upgrades just by reaching this status. Compared with other programs, earning points within World of Hyatt tends to be somewhat difficult. With a single transfer partner (Chase) and one cobranded credit card, you can already see the limitations. This limitation is given by their exclusive establishments and therefore by their rigorous earning criteria’s. One nice feature available is the Points + Cash bookings. It allows guests to get discounted room rates and pay with their points part of the total amount.

Oveit as a Loyalty solution for Hospitality and Local Communities

By looking at these well-established loyalty programs, we’ve identified that our solution can be a great fit in a hospitality environment. Keeping aside the valuable insights coming from guest’s behaviour and preferences, we want to introduce decision makers to our idea of Economy as a Service. After talking to professionals from the hospitality industry, we concluded that tourist destinations struggle with fragmented experiences and therefore have a negative impact on the end users (guests). By fragmented experiences, we want to say that local vendors and businesses in tourist destinations don’t have a common accepted currency and purchase behavior can be affected because of that.

With our solution, hotels and resorts are to act as owners of local economies. Instead of just making recommendations for nearby attractions and experiences, our solution enables guests to make purchases in a defined economy with the same payment tool used for completing purchases within hotels and resorts. It addresses the issue of fragmented experiences and it contributes to a fast and secure purchase behavior.