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The Zombie approach to marketing

Podcasts are reaching boating audiences

While podcasting is in many respects as retro as you can get, I find that listening to something is more multi-dimensional because it involves the imagination. With TV, on the other hand, what you see is what you get.

Here’s a secret I’ve never revealed in public until now. I gave up reading books for pleasure at least 20 years ago. Instead, I elected to listen to books on cassette tapes, then on CDs. Now I simply plug my headphones into my Kindle and listen to books via Audible downloads. It’s just so much more pleasurable to sit back and let a melodious voice spin a story than it is to strain my eyes, hold a hefty hardback in my hands and turn the pages.

Meanwhile, my millennial daughter rarely picks up a newspaper or magazine or turns on a TV talk show. Instead, she gets much of her news and commentary by listening to her favorite podcasts on her smartphone. Since she’s young, it’s not a matter of comfort as it is in my case. Rather, it’s a matter of generational choice as it was in the 1930s when families would gather around big, boxy radios and listen to everything from murder mysteries to presidential fireside chats.

Simply put, podcasts are audio programs – think radio on demand – downloaded from the Internet. While podcasting is in many respects as retro as you can get, I find that listening to something is more multi-dimensional because it involves the imagination. With TV, on the other hand, what you see is what you get.

While marketers may be excused for generally being skeptical that audio has risen from the dead, it’s hard to argue with the facts. According to financial media analyst Barry Ritholtz of “The Big Picture,” a whopping 68 million Americans, nearly one in four, tune in monthly to podcasts, up from just 12 percent in 2013. These regular listeners, he says, “tend to be educated, millennial and male – and the genre is growing fast.”

The podcast demographic represents a particularly sweet spot for the recreational boating industry, which has been relying on an ever-decreasing number of baby boomers for far too long. A remarkable 77 percent of monthly podcast listeners are either millennials (44 percent) or gen Xers (33 percent), according to Edison Research.

Perhaps even more impressive, a prodigious 84 percent either have a graduate degree, a bachelor’s degree or have attended some college. That said, while the gender breakdown tends to skew male, the podcast audience is still a respectable 44 percent female.

Fans tend to listen while driving, traveling, biking, walking, commuting or working out. They appear to have one trait in common with recreational boaters. Both are multi-taskers. Show me a boat owner and I’ll show you someone who can do a lot more than simply drive a boat and chew gum at the same time.

One of these multi-taskers is Matt O’Hara, the owner of Freedom Boat Club of Lake George as well as the operator of Beckley’s Marina in picturesque upstate New York. He contacted me about a year ago to say that he had created a podcast for boaters called “Anchors Aweigh.” He hoped to “bring families and friends together and share experiences that would create lifelong memories.”

As a former sales manager for CBS Boston, O’Hara was keenly aware that if done right, “Anchors Aweigh” could create a community of like-minded listeners. It could also serve as a cost-effective marketing platform to drive traffic to both his franchise boat club and marina as well as burnish his own personal brand.


O’Hara’s strategy was to create the content first and think about monetizing it in the future. While his podcast is ad-free except for noting his Freedom Boat Club affiliation, he hasn’t ruled out seeking advertising support at the front and back end of each episode.

While it is unknown how many advertising dollars are going into boating podcasts, it does appear that advertisers have discovered the value of podcasts of late as ad revenue has skyrocketed from $69 million in 2015 to a projected $220 million in 2017. That may be a drop in the proverbial bucket as far as the advertising industry is concerned, but the trend is, as they say, on a decidedly upward slope.

O’Hara launched his first podcast in November 2016 and now has a roster of 24 episodes that are generally 30 minutes in length. Each episode features an in-depth conversation with a boating expert or industry leader and covers things like boating tips, tricks, and essential gear. He hopes that his listeners will find these conversations enjoyable and informational and be inspired to get on the water, stay on the water and bring other people to the water.

Some of his more popular podcasts have titles like: “From Training Special Forces “to “Training the Next Generation of Marine Technicians,“ “Work Hard, Play Hard,” “Designing a Boating Lifestyle,” “Our Big Adventure, Living Aboard,” and a five-part episode entitled “Learning from the Pros.”

O’Hara’s also used his podcasts to tap into an array of well-known industry experts including David Karpinski of Taylor Made Products, Diane Seltzer of of SureShade, Reagan Haynes of Soundings Trade Only, Scott Croft of BoatU.S., Kristin Frohnhoefer of Sea Two and Betty Bauman of Ladies Let’s Go Fishing.

These individuals not only bring solid content, they come with a larger platform to promote their podcasts to their respective audiences. O’Hara is also a strong believer in using social media including Facebook, Linked-In, Twitter and Instagram to grow the reach of his podcast audience.

It also goes without saying that O’Hara’s Freedom Boat Club colleagues including President John Giglio, Wanda Kenton Smith and Lisa Almeida have gotten ample airtime in support of O’Hara’s burgeoning career and pet marketing project.

While you are on the “Anchors Aweigh” iTunes podcast site make sure to check out the links to a number of other boating podcasts worth exploring including “World of Boating,” “Boat Radio,” “PodCastaway,” “It’s My Boat” and the granddaddy of marine podcasts, the ground-breaking but dearly-departed, “Mad Mariner,” whose first episode aired way back in December 2008.

In short, if you want to create a community to attract more customers in this brave new world where tribal loyalties are so pronounced, but you only have a modest marketing budget, then creating your own podcast or allocating some of your ad dollars to this medium may well be worth it.

Michael Sciulla

Michael Sciulla

Michael Sciulla is president of Credibility & Company Communications, as well as vice president of the Marine Marketers of America and a member of the board of directors of both Boating Writers International and the Marine Marketers of America. During a 28-year career at BoatUS he built the association’s brand as membership grew from 30,000 to 650,000, and testified more than 30 times before congressional committees.

This article originally appeared in the April 2018 issue.



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