The last few weeks, I've been doing a lot of podcast housekeeping- pitching sponsors, and reviewing the stats, and thinking about what's next for the Sound Off Podcast. As it turns out, it's going to be more of the same, which is a good thing. One of the biggest questions I get asked is: "Why is my show doing better?" Here are some of the conclusions that often come up.
Number 10: No Video Strategy
Have a video strategy that includes Youtube. That's it. That's number 10.
Number 9: You Are Impatient
Did you know that it takes three years to build an audience? It’s true, because Dave Jackson, who has been podcasting since 2004, told me so. Even if you have a big audience now with your podcast, because you are named Kim Kardashian – it is still going to take you three years to find that podcast audience. I see this all the time with actors, Youtubers and Instagrammers: They get a big audience out of the gate, and then the audience drops off because those initial people prefer to interact with the star on Youtube or Instagram or TV. But if they stick to it, over the course of three years, a true podcast audience will develop.
So if you want to start a podcast, give yourself a lot of runway. Like three years worth.
Number 8: You Thought It Would Be Easy
Wanna know what’s easy? Doing the midday show on a music station. You talk for a few minutes an hour, and all the elements are handed to you. Produced commercials, traffic and weather together, the music and promos… You have about 56 minutes of the hour taken care of. That’s why you hear the same midday person across many markets now. In podcasting – you don’t have any of that. You have to build most of it from scratch. You will need to produce all the necessary elements including the commercials (if you have any), the intro, the extro, and the music beds. You need to do some show research, show prep, writing, you need to produce the audio and make it sound listenable, and then after you launch it… you’ll need to market the show.
Number 7: Your Show Is Not Everywhere
I can’t tell you the number of podcasts I review who are missing from iHeart or Stitcher. And with countries like India offering a gateway to 1.4 billion people, it might be a good idea to be on Gaana or JioSaavn. Think of India as the same size as the United States… with an additional billion people. Yeah you want in on that. And don’t forget to submit your show to Tune In… it works well with the smart speakers. Don’t be like a radio company that takes its stations off Tune In to be on an app only available in the US. That’s stupid.
And finally don’t let your podcast host provider submit the show to Apple or Spotify for you. Do it yourself. It takes five minutes, and it’s a pain in the ass to rescue the show later should you have to move. You always want to keep your stats with you, not with someone else.
Number 6: You Don't Release Episodes Consistently
Ironic, I know, because I didn’t release an episode on time last week. But you need to be consistent with your releases. Those in radio know this better than any other, and it’s why radio people get famous. They are reliable and always there on time. What radio and TV people are doing is creating the consistency that allows for listeners to get in the habit of consuming their media. So, if you think you are going to release episodes whenever you want, and expect people to download it when you want them to? Not happening.
Mondays and Tuesdays are great days to get episodes out. Early in the week, people believe they have more time to plan their life out. By Thursday they are swamped. You can still release your episode on a Thursday or Friday – but you’ll have to market through a weekend when attention spans are on neutral. Best of luck with that.
And for those of you who do the “seasons” thing- unless there is someone honestly pacing the floor waiting for the new season of your podcast- don’t. Taking a random break is tantamount to pulling the plug on a bath and letting the water run out.
We shifted to consistent releases after I had a conversation with Aaron Mahnke, who has a number of hit podcasts, including Lore. He gave a really compelling argument to releasing your show on time, and in the end it's about respect for the listener and their time. When we shifted to consistent releases, we saw a 20% jump in our audience numbers. If you show the listener respect they will show it back to you.
Number 5: Your Podcast Looks Like Shit In The App
For the life of me, I don’t know why people put episode numbers in the title field of their podcast. I think they do it because Joe Rogan does it. There are ways to put to the episode number in there without using the title field. People are not searching for a show called Episode. I also see some people put the show title of the podcast where the episode title is supposed to go, and they think they are gaming the SEO gods, and they aren’t. They're making a mess of the podcast. I wanted to listen to a podcast the other day in the car, and every episode title had the word "episode" in it. I couldn’t choose the episode I wanted, because the word episode was causing the guest's name not to appear on Apple Car play. So I moved on.
Also, get some episode artwork. Spotify, Amazon and even some Apple apps are now using it. If you have a podcast that's about people – put the people in the show artwork. Get yourself a Canva account for free and take the 5 minutes to do some episode artwork.
Number 4: Your Audio Quality Sucks
I've actually run into people who have argued with me about this. They say, "It’s about the content, not the quality of the audio." Uh, the audio is your content- and it sucks. There are 2.7 million podcasts out there, and if yours is serving up some sort of echo-y, staticky stupidity, the listener will go elsewhere. You need to create a listening experience that people will enjoy on their headphones, or in their car, or on an airplane.
If you are producing your own show, learn about compression, LUFs, normalization, and mixing. I want to give a shoutout to The Insurance Podcast with Pete Tessier and Curt Wyatt, who are insurance guys but took the time to learn about compression and audio production. They have one of the leading podcasts in their field because they respect their listener and care about their show.
The other thing you could do is what I do: Hire people who know way more than me to produce the parts I don’t know. This podcast was making huge errors when we started out. Our first four episodes were poorly produced by me. Later they were over-compressed and too loud. We made the corrections after some friendly advice from one of the best in the business, Jeff Schultz, who worked at KFOG in San Francisco doing the imaging (and is now at Wondery making great podcasts). He said, "Hey. It’s a little loud. Pull it back."
Number 3: You Don't Have A Website
If you're in it to win it, you need a website. One of the best things radio taught me was that making your website your marketing hub is a good thing. You need to be found on Google, and having a podcast website will go a long way to getting discovered. If you think your Buzzsprout or Anchor website is home base – it is not. James Cridland spoke on this show about the value of Google and SEO. Take notes.
Make sure each episode has its own page, so when you have Matt Cundill on as a guest, Google understands that Matt Cundill was a guest on your show. Remember, every time you market your show on social media, send people to the website where there is an Apple badge for the iPhone users, a Google Podcasts badge for the Android and Samsung people, and Spotify because lots of people are into that. Anything beyond 4 is overkill. If you are just sending people to Apple Podcasts when they don’t have an iPhone – then it won't really work for them.
By the way, there is one exception to this, and if you follow the Sound Off Podcast on Instagram, you’ll see it. Instagram stories are a great way to get listeners one click away from the show on Spotify.
When you do social media, the less clicks to get them to the content, the better. And if you find websites a pain in the ass, there are a few solutions out there for podcasters. Our Network uses Podpage and it looks nice - see for yourself.
Number 2: You Don't Market Your Show Very Well... Or At All
Do you know who your audience is? Or where they are? Do you just put out a few social media posts for every episode and then you're done? Well, that might be the problem. Think of your podcast episodes as items in your fridge. Is it something that is stale after 24 hours? 72 hours? A week, a month, a year? Two years? Okay, well I don’t know anything in my fridge that makes it that long, but I know many of the episodes I record from two and three years ago are still getting regular downloads because people are discovering them through search. I can market them with the same vigor as if they came out last week.
I have the stats, and new people are discovering the show all the time. It’s not the same people who listen to the show every week. We churn listeners like any other media outlet does. Many people say they're discovering us for the first time, and see a wonderful back catalogue of episodes. Our biggest episode is the one with Tom Leykis, and his audience continues to grow as well. The episode I did with Tara Sands is excellent advice for anyone who aspires to become a character voice in anime. Both episodes with Sheri Lynch contain valuable information on becoming your own radio startup. Steve Reynolds' talent coaching isn’t going to change drastically over the course of a few years... I could go on, but you see what I mean.
The same way a radio statio music director is going to program Led Zeppelin on the radio station, I am going to do the same with many of the episodes. The back catalogue is strong. In fact, I read in Podnews that 47% of all podcast downloads were older episodes- So tell people about them. That means tweets, and IG stories, and Facebook and LinkedIn and a newsletter.
It also matters how you market. Maybe it’s audiograms and social media posts- and it doesn’t have to be a lot- but it should be consistent. And you want to hear something crazy? I am certain that some people just know and follow the show through their social media feeds, but haven’t listened to a single episode. I never watched Roseanne but I knew the characters and what the show is about. Marketing isn’t really about doing the homework. It’s really about being involved.
Number 1: Your Show Is Boring
Anything that you record, you can make better. Over the years, I'm certain that my live media game has deteriorated. I am only live on my Youtube channel every once in a while, but being able to produce and especially edit has been invaluable. And for those of you who do Youtube Live podcasts- Have you ever considered editing and producing around all that live audio to make a better audio experience? I know, time is money, but every click and every download counts. I did that a few weeks ago on another podcast, and you can view it here if you want to see the difference.
It's about respecting your listener, but not being boring. It's about respecting your listener, and not wasting their time. You really only have one competitor in podcasting, and that is your listeners time. So respect it.