3 Ways to Kill Your Podcast: Here’s What to do Instead for a Killer Show

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

There’s a killer on the loose – its victims are in the hundreds of thousands. Its prey – unsuspecting creators who had the purest of intentions when they started a podcast. The podcast community has dubbed it podfade, but this slow and silent killer comes in many forms. 

The hobbyist may just decide that it’s too much work and quit after a few episodes. The opportunist may have jumped on the bandwagon too soon without a well-thought-out plan. Even a professional can make a fatal error that slows growth, putting a podcast on the fast track to fade out. Is anyone safe? 

Here are three big podcast-killers to avoid, and what to do instead to keep putting on the best show ever.

Being inconsistent

The audience’s time is precious, and their attention spans are brief. Once listeners discover your show and make the effort to listen, they are going to expect to hear from you on a regular basis. Inconsistent publishing or pulling a disappearing act altogether can derail any progress you’ve made. 

While there is no exact science to the perfect publishing day and time, there is some evidence that certain windows perform better. Megaphone examined their data and found that episodes published on Tuesday at 5 AM had the most downloads, followed by 5 AM Friday and 5 AM Thursday. Their theory is that by publishing early in the day, an episode can reach the top of a user’s queue to get a jump on the morning commute. Weekdays are also the most popular (and proven) times to publish. Timing is everything, but it’s also relative. 

Podcast seasons and limited-run series are defying the notion that you have to be in your audience’s feed every week. Many successful podcasts distribute on a bi-weekly, or even monthly, basis. Taking a reasonable break, or allowing the necessary time for production and research between episodes can work in your favor to build anticipation. Just make sure to set expectations early, give listeners a heads up so they know why you’re MIA from their playlists, and generate FOMO between episode drops. 

Make it Killer: Consistency goes for promoting your episode too. Audiences don’t magically grow on trees, they are built. Your promotion game should be just as strong as your content game – post to your social accounts regularly. And speaking of FOMO, use the listener’s “fear of missing out” to promote the hell out of your show, generate buzz, and build loyalty. As risk-averse beings, we don’t know if something is worth our time or money unless we get a recommendation. Social proof such as Apple reviews, articles written up about your show, or user-generated content can all provide evidence that they are missing out on something good.

Not getting audio right

Discover Pods 2019 Trends Report, which surveyed over 1,200 podcast listeners and community members, found that 33% said that low podcast quality was still a challenge for the industry today. At the same time, an overwhelming majority of podcasters (98%) said that producing a quality podcast was a top priority for them. 

There is a science behind how our brains process audio, in radio they call it “theater of the mind.” Without relying on visuals, audio has the power to create strong, personalized images in our brains. Think about your favorite song, the sound effects in a horror movie, or the Taco Bell gong, the right sound can grab our attention and stir up specific emotions.

Poor sound quality will quickly turn off listeners, no matter how good the content. How your show sounds should keep context in mind, meaning where and how your audience is listening. Edison’s 2019 Podcast Consumer found that 90% of podcast listeners have listened at home, making it the most popular listening location. At the time they are listening they may be doing nothing else (70%), doing chores (59%), exercising or at the gym (44%), or commuting (33%). Podcasting is a very intimate medium – your audience may have headphones on. Imagine if you were on the other end of those earbuds, would you let you in?

A great-sounding show goes for your ads too. There are ways to preserve the content environment you’ve worked hard to create. First, create seamless transitions between your content and the commercial breaks. Read your ads if you can and make them fit into your show’s format. And finally, choose products that meet the needs of your audience (it doesn’t hurt if you love them too).

Make it Killer: In a sea of interview and conversational podcasts, sounding just like everyone else can be just as harmful to a podcaster’s long-term success. Get creative and think beyond the intro. A more upbeat music bed can set the tone for an ad break, archival clips or fair use audio can drive home a point. Using music in podcasts is tricky at best and decent licensing solutions still eludes the industry, but there are ways to build compelling soundscapes that make your show stand out for all the right reasons. 

Not listening to the audience 

Even if you throw caution to the wind and ignore everything above, you cannot forget about your audience. Repeat. YOU CANNOT FORGET YOUR AUDIENCE. You’re delivering something valuable to your listeners, right? Because, at the end of the day, we hope you’re doing it for the fans. 

Let’s start with your core audience. Those complete strangers who have written glowing reviews, tweeted your show to their followers, bought the products from your sponsors. They have been listening from the very start and show up week after week. Identify those people, engage with them regularly, encourage them to interact with your show, take your surveys, and give you feedback. Nurture this relationship first because they will be your barometer for initial success and will also be the first to tell you when they don’t like something.  

Now that you’ve built loyalty with your evangelists, what about those who have not found your show yet? They are much more elusive because how they listen to and discover content is changing. Cross-promotion is an effective tactic to get in front of other podcast fans, but what about the folks who aren’t on Apple Podcasts, or any podcast app for that matter? Edison compared the habits of veteran podcast listeners with the habits of rookies – people who have been listening to podcasts for less than 6 months. Turns out, new podcast listeners are more likely to stumble on your content through a Google search, social media, or Spotify (who only recently started to heavily feature podcasts). Being on every podcast platform may not be enough anymore, having a non-podcast presence as well is essential.

Make it Killer: Map out your listener’s journey from discovering your show to becoming an evangelist – make the experience immersive from start to finish. Create an on-boarding process for welcoming new listeners. Set their expectations and get them hooked with a high-quality trailer or a “start here” kit of your best episodes. Fan clubs, bonus content, discussion groups, and live events complete the experience and keep the engagement going beyond the podcast.

Putting out quality audio consistently, and knowing who your audience is? You’re killing it! Want more killer tips? Check out these resources:
Rules for podcasting responsibly
Podcasting rules you can ignore
Ways to future-proof your podcast

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