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Why isn't my podcast growing? That’s a common refrain often heard among various podcasting communities. The inference is that, at some point, the show was seeing good (or at least some) audience growth, but then it hit a plateau.
Rather than answer the question, the common approach is to try and fix the problem. Without really understanding the problem. Because we are nothing if not impatient.
The Marketing Band-Aid For Podcast Growth
When facing flatline audience numbers, many podcasters turn to various marketing tactics as a way to get more exposure for the show and therefore get more people listening to the podcast. And sure, it’s quite possible that an application of solid marketing techniques could help your show reach more people.
Perhaps you do need to spend more time on and with your social media, either working on the quantity or quality of your posts.
Maybe you need a big-name guest who’ll then share the episode with their big fan base, and some of them will check out the show and get hooked by your mad interviewing skills.
Or maybe you need to focus on a provocative and timely topic for an episode, getting your show as part of the zeitgeist on the latest thing.
It could be that you need to guest more on podcasts, because podcast listeners listen to other podcasts, right?
There are all sorts of people finding success using podcast advertising, buying ads on podcast apps or other podcasts. And now Spotify makes it straightforward for podcasters to spend relatively small amounts of money to advertise in the app. Maybe that’ll work?
Well.. maybe some of those talk tactics will work for you. Heck, maybe all of them would work for you.
But then again, they might not. Unfortunately, chances are none of them are going to solve your plateaued audience problem, podcaster.
Ripping Off The Band-Aid
After working in advertising and marketing for the better part of two decades, I’ve seen many—if not most—marketing-as-growth-solutions fail to attain and sustain ongoing growth. For every advertising-keeps-growing-my-audience success story you’ve heard, there are countless flops that people would rather forget about.
Let’s face facts: If it were easy to grow the audience for your podcast month after month by implementing a few marketing tactics, wouldn't you have already done that? And if it were really as simple as following a recipe of tips and tricks, wouldn't every podcast see their audiences grow every month?
But they don’t. Like yours doesn’t. Heck, like mine doesn’t.
Getting To The Root Problem Of Podcast Growth
No, I don’t think you should turn to marketing when your show hits a plateau, no matter what that plateau is. Maybe your show is stuck at 100 listeners. Or 1,000. Or 100,000. Is that it? Is that the number you have to be satisfied with? Maybe. Depending on how niche your show is, you might have reached your core audience already. That’s entirely possible.
But I don’t think it’s likely. I think it’s more likely that your core audience has stopped recommending your show to other people.
That's it. That's the reason.
Because if your core listening audience were continuing to recommend your podcast to other people in their lives, you wouldn’t see a plateau in your podcast’s growth.
Word of mouth is how discovery happens. Not just in podcasting, but for every other form of media too. Yes, of course, we’ve all seen the big, glitzy, and cost-prohibitive media campaigns unleashed on the world to help launch television shows, albums, movies, and yes, podcasts.
But we're not talking about launch. We're talking about maintaining consistent growth month after month for an extant show. If you’re not seeing consistent growth month over month, then the simple fact is that your audience is no longer recommending your podcast to other people.
The question becomes why? Why has your core audience stopped recommending your show to the people they encounter in their lives?
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Boosting Your Podcasts Recommendability
Last week, Tom Webster, Senior VP of Edison Research, delivered an outstanding keynote presentation to kick off Podcast Movement 21. He addressed this issue head-on with his talk and gave three ways to increase what he calls the recommendability (I love that word) of your podcast. They are:
- Know what your listeners expect so you know how to deliver the unexpected.
- Make your show easy to recommend.
- Master your craft.
I’m going to dedicate the next three episodes of Podcasting Pontifications to unpacking each of those concepts. Because while it’s true that your audience is to blame for your show’s growth, each of those three concepts Tom suggests can right the ship, correct the course, and get your core audience back to doing what they used to do: recommending your show to other people in their lives.
Prior to that, I have an odd request of you. I'm researching sexy and sex-positive podcasts for a new project, and need your help. If you listen to any podcasts that either focus on or occasionally produces episodes that center on sex, please let me know so I can add them to my survey.
Send me the podcasts you're most passionate about (see what I did there?) via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or shoot me a DM on Twitter. I’m not easily offended, so feel free to send me whatever you’re into. I don’t kink-shame. I also will not be sharing who made the recommendations, so feel free to let your freak flag fly. Or if you prefer the more-tame stuff, that’s groovy. Send it my way!
Finally, if you got any value out of today's episode, please return some of that value by visiting BuyMeACoffee.com/evoterra and buying me a virtual coffee. Or 12 virtual coffees.
Tomorrow we’ll dig into the topic of knowing what your listeners expect so you can deliver the unexpected. Because I shall be back tomorrow with yet another Podcast Pontifications.