Confronting Your Podcast's Avatar From The Inside
If you make a podcast for everyone, you’ve made it for no one. So you focus, carefully defining your avatar. But in your refinement, you might have left out an important voice by mistake.
One of the pleasures of being an independent podcast creator is that you are in control. Assuming you're an independent creator, that is. If you're a part of a larger podcast making machine, maybe less so. But podcasting is still new enough that people who work inside or behind the scenes still have influence in the direction of a show.
Today I want you to think about the audiences your podcast serves. One is the avatar. For the unfamiliar, an avatar is the embodiment of your most perfect audience member who acts as a stand-in for your entire audience. That one made-up person has the attributes that many of your real and actual audience share. So you focus on that one person’s needs and most of your other listeners benefit.
The second audience is you. The podcaster. The creator. The host. Or I suppose some other role in the show. If you have any creative control, the show has to work (at least on some level) for you. And if not… well, I talk about that at the very end of this piece.
No Podcaster Is An Island
Troubles arise when we see those two audiences as distinctly different from each other. We know (or we should know) what we want as the creator. And we know (or we should know or we think we know) what our listening audience wants from our show.
However, when we overlap those two like converging circles of a Venn diagram, we find power in the overlap. The more those two circles overlap, the more power we have, if only because of the shared goals. But more importantly, because of the shared insights.
Your Podcast Is More Than Your Content
The things you say (or allow to be said) on your program are clearly important elements. And you probably won’t have a viable show if the content resonates with you but not with your audience. Conversely, if the audience is digging your content but you’re just not into it, then the risk of quitting or podfading is very real.
But there’s more to audience/host alignment than just agreeing on content. Things like...
The format of your podcast, from cold-open to fading outro music and all the parts between, has a lot to do with its success, failure, or stagnation. Chances are, the current format of your show is something you wanted. Something you then imposed on your audience.
Not that I’m suggesting you should poll your audience for their opinion on your format, you understand. But to think that your audience cares not about your format would be a mistake. Remember, the number of hours a month your audience spends listening to you is a but a fraction of the number of hours they spend listening to other podcasts. They may not be able to articulate their opinion on what format works best for them, but they certainly have preferences.
Instead of asking, just be in the audience. Yes, that means listening to your own episodes every time they come out just like a listener does. But it also means listening to other shows to see if there are new or better formats your audience is aware of... but you are not. That means launching Apple Podcasts, searching for your show, clicking through to your show page on Apple Podcasts, and subscribing to every single one of “You Might Also Like” shows presented because that list of other podcasts is built out based on people who listen to your show.
And just like that, you’re an active member of your audience!
Are you publishing new episodes on a cadence that works for you, for your audience, or for both? Yes, weekly is a common standard. But how true to that are you really? If you’re like me, you may get a little busy from time to time, and you may fudge your release by a day. Or maybe push it by a couple of hours. Look, reality happens, and you have to do what you have to do. Your audience will probably forgive you.
So long as you constantly violating the cadence isn’t the only predictable thing about your release schedule, that is.
That’s you putting your needs first, and you’d probably not like that if you were part of the audience. Thoughts like “What if I released an episode every five days?” or “Maybe I should drop a just-for-fun episode the same day I’m releasing my last episode of the month?” violate your established cadence, and require careful consideration before implementation. Yes, it’s important to scratch your creative itch. But humans are creatures of habit. Exercise caution before you introduce too much randomness or chaos into their mix.
If you’re finding it difficult to see a chaotic release cadence might negatively impact your audience, then your perspective is still from the outside looking in.
Your Podcast, But Not In Audio
I know you spend a lot of time, energy, and probably money making great-sounding episodes of your podcast. Encouraging, or at least enabling, your audience to consume your podcast without listening to the audio files seems anathema.
But it’s not.
Some people would love to listen, but maybe they don’t have the time. Yes, podcasting is the best way to consume content in “found time” moments, but it still takes time. Time your audience may not be willing to give, though they still want the content you make. Thinking from inside your audience with that perspective, you absolutely should accommodate.
With few exceptions, the waveform is not the most interesting part of your show. Soundwaves moving through the air to cause eardrums to vibrate is key to the podcast listening experience. But it doesn’t have to be the only way to experience a podcast. Strange as that sounds.
I’ll use this show as an example. As I record it, there as a live video stream. That live video is then lightly edited and re-posted on appropriate channels where video consumption happens. The audio signal is then used to create a completely re-written article posted on the show’s website and other appropriate channels, with no listening or watching required. And to wrap it all up with a bow, the article -- complete with a link to the fully produced audio episode -- is distributed via a newsletter. Oh, and it’s also distributed as a podcast episode to every podcast app and directory.
Why do I do all of that every day? Because I put myself in the position of my audience, and I know that I can’t always listen. Sometimes I like to watch live recordings. Sometimes I want to scan through text on a webpage. And somethings I want to take my time and dig deep with an article that’s sent to me.
I want to give my audience every chance to digest the things I have to say, however they want. To me, that’s part of being a creator.
What If You’re Not The Target Audience For The Podcasts You Produce?
It’s hard to make content that you don’t personally enjoy. If you’ve tried to be an advocate for your audience by being a member of your audience and you just don’t like it… you’re in a tough spot. The best way to get through it: insist on getting paid for your efforts. Paid from your audience? Paid by someone else? Doesn’t matter. Just make sure the payment you receive is enough to keep you making content you don’t personally love. Because we don’t all always get to do only things that bring us joy. Not in the real world, at least.
Three things before I sign off: One, BuyMeACoffee.com/EvoTerra is the best (and only) way to financially support this program. I remind you signing up for a recurring membership (it's like five bucks) entitles you to some special perks I’m just starting to roll out.
And if you know of a podcaster in your life who need to hear this episode or perhaps isn’t even been aware that Podcast Pontifications exists, please pick up the phone, send the text, slide into their DMs and ask them to check out Podcast Pontifications with a link to the show or this episode.
I take Fridays off, so I will be back on Monday with yet another Podcast Pontifications.