Way back in the summer of 2018, I introduced my audience, small that it was at the time, to a concept I called IHNI. No, I'm not making a judgment call about your convex belly button. My term IHNI is an acronym where the letters I, H, N, and I represent what I still think is the best way that serious podcasters like you can grow podcasting. Not just your podcast, but all of podcasting. Albeit slowly—one listener at a time. But it's a set of new listeners you have a lot more influence on than you probably know.
What Is An IHNI?
An IHNI can refer to either a podcast—the entire show—or a podcast episode. Most of the time, it's an episode or a select number of episodes. Much less often—though it's a joy when it happens—it's an entire podcast, where every episode is an IHNI.
The letters in the acronym stand for I Had No Idea. Specifically, they stand for those words in the following sentence: "I had no idea that that is what podcasts can sound like!" A sentence uttered by a person who, until you intervened with IHNI in hand, had decided they didn't care for podcasting. Or that podcasts simply weren't something they were interested in listening to.
Before you blame them, consider that they might have had a bad experience with podcasting previously. That is certainly possible, with 4 million podcasts in existence and Sturgeon's law applying to all things. Lots can go wrong with podcasting. Poor audio quality. Jabbering hosts. Uninspiring interviews. Bad attempt at playing at radio. Sometimes un-assisted podcast listening can be a lot like a carnival game—you're likely not going to get the big stuffed animal on your first try. If ever.
Perhaps they've adopted preconceived notions about what podcasts are without listening for themselves. Maybe they have an annoying friend who won't shut up about how much they love some celebrity host or pundit. A host or pundit that the other party finds markedly less interesting, and they're left thinking that's what podcasting is all about.
Or maybe they're really off base, assuming podcasts are something they have to pay for. Or that podcasts are nothing more than videos, live streaming, or something else that has little do with what podcasting is.
All of those reasons—and more—can cause someone to think that podcasting is something that is not for them. Because of those unfortunate circumstances, they have the idea—the wrong idea—that podcasts are something to be avoided.
But you and I? We know that they probably have no idea what podcasts can sound like.
So that's your job: Show them—don't tell them—what podcasts can sound like. You, after all, are a podcaster. Who better than you, after all, to be an excellent brand ambassador for all of podcasting.
No, not just your podcast. In fact, perhaps not your podcast at all. But for all of podcasting.
That sounds like a big job. But one that you, the serious podcaster, are up for. I know you are.
How IHNIs Make You A Great Ambassador For All Of Podcasting
Here's what I want you to do the next time you are with a friend or an acquaintance—or perhaps you're introduced to someone at an event—who has decided, for whatever reason, not to listen to podcasts.
I want you to help guide them on their journey, rising above your own self-interests as you look at this as a larger opportunity to help someone develop the podcast listing habit. Someone who currently has the idea that podcasts are not for them.
The best way to do that is to recommend they listen to an IHNI. The even better way? Help them find an IHNI on their phone, right there with you.
With a little bit of foresight on your part, this'll take less than a minute of their time and yours. And if you do it right, you'll get to watch someone's eyes light up and hear them say "I had no idea podcasts could sound like that!", which might encourage them to change their mind and consider becoming a regular podcast listener.
The trick to being very good at this is to always have IHNIs at the ready, at all times. You can't rely on sharing the podcast you're currently listening to right now. You're probably are actively consuming lots of podcasts —way more than the average listener. And at there's a very good chance some of them wouldn't make the best first impression. So it's important that you, as an ambassador of podcasting for the entirety of podcasting, have this process down pat. It's a big job, as I said before. But you're up for it!
Finding IHNIs To Recommend
There are lots of ways you can go about discovering and sharing IHNIs. One easy way to do so is via a three-part test. Sort of like a waterfall, or perhaps a flow chart. Three simple questions to go through until you get to a YES.
Question 1: Have you made any INHI episodes of your podcast?
Not just good episodes. I know you've made plenty of those. Not episodes you really enjoyed. You're not new to podcasts. Not episodes that got a lot of downloads, as your fans may not be all that similar to the person in front of you. And almost certainly not your most recent episode, though that is all to often the default.
No, I want you to be very real and honest with yourself as you ponder whether or not any episodes of your podcast would cause someone—someone who has already said that don't like podcasts—who listens to it to say "Wow! I had no idea that's what podcasts could sound like!"
So if you have one in mind, are you sure that episode will knock them out of their socks?
If the answer is yes, bully for you! You're the exception to the rule. I suggest grabbing the URL of that episode page on your website and making an easy-to-remember redirect via your hosting service directly to that episode. Something like PodcastPontifications.com/IHNI. Something easy for to remember in the moment and someone they can easily type into their phone to let them listen right there on your website. (No, don't send them to your home page and have them start searching around. That's problematic.) Make it simple for you to remember and for them to type.
f you're answer was no—and honestly, my answer is no—then proceed to question 2
Question 2: Can you make an IHNI episode of your podcast?
If you can... well, I'll tamp down my need to ask you why you weren't doing so already and simply say great! Produce and release that new IHNI episode and follow my instructions above. Though I'd suggest shopping that episode around to some people in your life who won't be afraid to burst your bubble—I'm @evoterra on Twitter if you want an honest evaluation—to make sure it actually is an INHI. I'm here to help!
But what if you can't make an IHNI episode of your podcast? I can't. Not with Podcast Pontifications, at least. If someone has decided podcasts don't have the kind of content they want to listen to, my monologues on the future of podcasting or ways to make podcasting better certainly aren't going to convince them otherwise. Yes, I put a lot of time and effort into making sure my episodes sound great and are valuable resources. But I doubt any podcast about podcasting isn't going qualify as an IHNI episode.
If you, like me, acknowledge that while you can make a great-sounding show, you cannot make an IHNI episode, then proceed to question three.
Question 3: Do you know of any INHI episodes of other podcasts?
Your answer to this has to be yes. If none immediately spring to mind, then you, my friend, need to break out of your own content bubble and get some more diverse and wonderful podcasts in your life!
When you do branch out and find that IHNI episode, save it. I use Spotify for this, because I never listen to podcasts via Spotify. (Though, according to The Creators report we just put out at Sounds Profitable, a shockingly high percentage of podcasters do use Spotify. Hey, don't blame me. Blame the data.)
But almost everyone has Spotify on their phone, which helps. I ask them to pull up Spotify in their phone as I'm pulling up Spotify on mine. I then show them the IHNIs—either the entire podcast like Twenty Thousand Hertz or some choice episodes of Love + Radio—saved in my Your Episodes folder. From there, it's super easy for them to search and find the name of the episode or the podcast they see on my screen in the same app.
Once they have the INHI episode on their phone, I try to get them to listen to it right then and there. It's amazing to watch someone's face light up when they discover that, yes, there are podcasts out there that are unlike what they thought podcasts were all about.
That's it. That's the way you become an excellent ambassador for new listeners, helping them say "I had no idea that's what podcasts could sound like" by sharing your INHIs with them.
With that, I shall be back next week with yet another Podcast Pontifications.
Podcast Pontifications is written and narrated by Evo Terra. He’s on a mission to make podcasting better. Allie Press proofed the copy, corrected the transcript, and edited the video. Podcast Pontifications is a production of Simpler Media.