Today is the first of a three-part miniseries, where I’ll show you how you can do better by your listeners. And that’s likely the ultimate goal we should all have as podcasters: growing our podcast’s audience to as many people who want to consume our content as possible.
But how and where people listen to podcasts is a lot different today from the way people consumed podcasts we started 15 years ago.
The impetus for this week’s series is an article recently published by Tom Webster, Senior Vice President of Edison Research, entitled Three Ways to Survive Podcasting’s Existential Crisis. And you know what a big fan of existential crises I am!
The main premise of the article is that newbie listeners, whom Tom calls ”rookies”, encounter and consume podcasted content much differently than podcasting veterans. And I don’t mean veteran podcasters, but veteran podcast listeners.
For the last 15 years, we’ve all assumed that rookies would change their behavior to the way we veterans engage with podcasts. We thought it was a natural, evolutionary process at play, but one with a defined end-point, where those rookies would eventually behave just like us podcasting veterans.
That's completely wrong.
And that’s not even how evolution works! Yes, rookie listeners will evolve, but they are evolving under a completely different environment than we did, so they’re going to look (and behave) vastly different when they move from rookie to a brand new version of a veteran. Because evolution is messy and out of our control.
Let’s dig into the first of three main takeaways from Tom’s article. We’ll deal with the other two in subsequent episodes tomorrow and the day after.
Be everywhere today’s rookie podcast consumers are.
The places that rookie podcast consumers are encountering and consuming content are vastly different than we expect and encourage. Most of us are still expecting a “traditional” podcast subscriber, and actively call for people brand new to our show to download an app, visit our website, or do something else in an effort to make the rookie listener into a regular listener on our terms.
But what rookies call “listening to a podcast” is often unrecognizable as podcast listening to us veterans. So rather than try and correct their behavior and lexicon (like we’ve been trying and failing to do for the better part of 15 years), we need to recognize that for the Quixotic effort it is. And we need to just stop.
Because we can't correct behavior that they don’t see as incorrect! Instead, we just need to adapt to this new reality.
The first step you need to take is to make sure your podcast and your podcast’s episodes are where these rookies are listening. Even if you don’t really consider that a podcast platform. You don't know where or how these people are listening, so your job is to be everywhere.
Yes, that means your podcast needs to be on all of the podcast platforms. Not just the big dogs like Apple Podcasts. Not just the new huge media players like Spotify and Pandora. I mean everywhere, including some new directories and apps that some podcasters have bees in their bonnets over. Yes, it’s your choice to exclude your show from platforms and directories to make a political statement.
But that's dumb.
I've called it dumb before, and I'm going to call it dumb again. Because you're not in control. You never were in control!
If you want people to listen to your stuff, you have to be where they are. And that means every single podcast platform where you can be. Period.
Yes, you also need to be on every social platform where you have a presence. Even if you suck at “doing social media”. I'm sorry, but the data proves that social discovery (and consumption) is on the rise. Rookies do not care about your aversion to updating the Twitter profile you haven’t touched since 2011.
Note: I'm not suggesting that you go rush out and launch a Tumblr page if you don’t have one currently! People report that they do listen to a lot of podcasts on Tumblr, so it’s certainly a worthy property. But only if you’re already there or are willing to build an audience there. A social media property requires care, feeding, and watering to make it grow.
For every social media platform where you are, have been, or know you need to be active, make sure that your podcast episodes are available on that social platform in an appropriate way. You can start with a few lines of text and a link to your episode, but there’s a lot more you should be doing. And we’ll talk about what “more” means tomorrow.
Yes, your show and your episodes need to be “search discoverable”. Podcast rookies behave like every other rookie group, which means they turn to search engines like Google to discover -- and then consume right there -- podcast content.
That means you can't get away with lazy behavior, like using a hastily-assembled episode description repurposed on your podcast’s website. Nor can you get away with lazy titles for your episode, like just using the guest’s name. If the most interesting thing about your episode is the guest's name, then that's a crappy episode that’s not worthy of being discovered.
Yes, that also means getting your voice heard on other podcasts. A great way to “market” yourself, your show, or the show you work on is by guesting on or contributing to other shows. People listen to other shows than yours, so get out there and talk about the things you're passionate about. Don’t do this as a blatant commercial. But it’s smart to prioritize being where people are already listening to other content.
And then finally, yes, you need to be hanging out to where listeners are hanging out. That means at real-life events as well as in online communities. Rookies are excited to talk about new shows they discover, just like veteran podcast listeners are excited to talk about the new shows they discover. So you need to be in places where people are talking about their discovered content. Again, don’t be a scuzzy marketer. Just be there and be a part of the conversation where and when they're exchanging ideas and information.
If you think all of this sounds like a lot of work; you're right. It is. You're going to need to do some work to keep up with the new way rookies are finding and consuming podcast content. Because, like everything, changes happen.
Tomorrow and the next day, I’ll give you even more work. Sorry about that. But you (nor I) can bury your head in the sand over this. This has to be done. You have to adapt to this new world.
So keep watching/reading/listening for the next two episodes to get the full picture.
Two things before I go:
- Go to BuyMeACoffee.com/evoterra if you’d like to support this show. I don't run (and have no intention of running) ads on the program, so If you like what I'm doing, buy me a virtual coffee.
- Check out the (slowly) growing Flick.group/podcastpontifications to talk directly to me and your fellow listeners.
I shall be back tomorrow with yet another Podcast Pontifications.