Every time I read an article that says “Starting a podcast is easy”, a part of my soul dies. All you aspiring podcasters out there, podcasting is incredibly hard! If you think that you have a good idea and a sonorous voice, then think again, because you are not the only one out there.
Starting a podcast and building it up is an arduous task. Calling it difficult would be an understatement. I’ve never built a podcast, but I’ve had the privilege of talking to them. Creating and building up a podcast is much like starting a company. You need to have the right product, know the market, your competition, and most importantly, your customers. You also need to be at the right place at the right time and also need to be lucky.
Working hard to build anything isn’t in itself a guarantee of success. A series of factors need to align for your labour of love to truly succeed.
When I was working on building Podhead, I had to visit hundreds of different websites to link to their respective sites and also listen to them. While I was doing this, I noticed a lot of things, both big and small, which are detrimental to the success of podcasters.
You voice, front and center
I’ve spent countless hours looking at the websites of hundreds of podcasts and I can count the number of good ones on one hand. Folks, your podcast is your product. If it is not front and center then you are missing out on hundreds of potential listeners. Don’t bury your episodes, put them from and center. This is the thing that matters the most. All the other pages and fancy things come next. Platforms like WordPress and Squarespace have made the process of building a good-looking website a breeze. You can build a minimal and functional site in a matter of a few hours.
Talk to me
Your job doesn’t end with you recording and publishing an episode. You will have to talk to your listeners to solicit feedback. Search for and engage potential listeners. Scroll through Twitter, Reddit, Facebook, and where ever your audience is. Look for discussions relevant to your podcast and join the conversations. This is one of the best forms of advertisement you can get and for free.
One of the most powerful things you can do is to build a community of hardcore listeners of your podcast. It’s not easy and it takes time, but it’s worth the effort. There are a lot of simple things you can do to build a loyal community around your show. Newsletters are one of the best tools you probably aren’t leveraging. Create a newsletter to communicate with your listeners. Talk to them as human and not someone stringing words together. Offer them a sneak peek into your life as a podcaster, the creative process, and the frustrations.
The hit podcast “In the Dark”, successfully demonstrated how podcasters can leverage Facebook groups to engage loyal audiences as well as monetize. NPR has a Facebook group called, “Your Money and Your Life, which has over 45,000 members. A captive audience of this size is invaluable.
It’s not just newsletters and groups, podcasters are leveraging WhatsApp, Telegram, and a whole host of other platforms, big and small, to build communities.
There’s a whole wide world outside iTunes
There is no doubt that iTunes is the mothership of all podcasts but there are other important platforms. I, for one, am very hopeful about the potential impact of Google Podcasts on the medium. Today, there are growing audiences in India, South Africa, Philippines among developing countries and countries such as the UK, Canada, and Australia among the developed countries. In India, South Africa, and Australia, Android commands a market share of over 80%. Android has a market share of 44% in the UK, 46% in Canada and Australia.
That’s a substantial audience. Make it easier for people to find your show on both the platforms. Add Apple Podcasts and Google Podcasts buttons on your website and leave it at that. Don’t go overboard and clutter your page with 100 different buttons confusing potential first-time listeners.
Not just your show!
I was reading this post by Tom Webster of Edison Research. In the post, he wrote about the findings of a recent survey they did. Here are some really depressing numbers:
48% of people weren’t sure how to listen to a podcast.
37% don’t really understand what a podcast is.
65% don’t know where to start.
80% think that they don’t have a podcast app.
This was just in the US. Who knows how bad the numbers are in other markets. Your job as a podcaster doesn’t end with your show. You will have to be a cheerleader of podcasts, not just yours, and figure out ways to get people new to podcasts to listen to them. Think of yourself as a salesman of podcasts. You will have to sell the concept of podcasts, communicate why they should listen to a podcast, get them to install a podcatcher, and start listening. Not so easy right? Well, this is what you signed up for.
Respect the listener and his time!
This is the worst sin podcasters can commit. A couple of months ago, I discovered a podcast that seemed interesting. Due to various reasons, I am not going to disclose the name of the podcast. The show had marquee names as guests but the sound and production quality were terrible. It felt like an insult to the listener as well as the guests. The medium of podcasting has a lot of problems, but one thing we cannot afford is for good shows with potential fucking up. When a listener discovers and listens to your show, it’s your responsibility to deliver the best listening experience. The catalogue of shows in any given genre is ever-growing and if you snooze, you lose!
Good content first
Podcasters tend to focus on a lot of things which distract them from the main goal – make a good show. I bookmarked these tweets by Aaron Mahnke, creator of the hit show Lore because they just about sum up what a podcaster has to focus on.
Don’t put the cart before the horse. Advertising comes WAY later. Focus on making a great show and slowly growing your audience. It’s a long climb, so have patience.
— Aaron Mahnke (@amahnke) July 31, 2018
Buying an audience never works. It just gives you a bunch of empty chairs with no one in them.
Make great content, build a small audience, and ask them to share the show with friends. It’s a long, slow grind, and you’re going to need patience.
— Aaron Mahnke (@amahnke) July 31, 2018
Put yourself in the shoes of a listener and think for a second. Would you forgive these sins? Your entire world should revolve around making things easy for listeners. This singular focus will definitely yeild rich dividends.