Not every experiment works. At least not the way you want to do. Successfully deployed tactics sometimes have a shelf life and you start to notice their effectiveness waning over time. Best practices are often eroded by the winds of change. And what you read in a book published last year was probably written the year before that, making that advice out of date well before it reached your brain.
Of course, I'm being a little disingenuous with these blanket statements, because there are plenty of time-tested methodologies and truisms you can almost always count on. Even in podcasting. But at some point, you're going to find that something you thought was a staple of your process is no longer delivering for you or for your podcast.
And if you're like most podcasters—me included—you'll keep doing that thing, comfortable in your own conviction that it's the right thing to do. That whatever deficiencies you're currently experiencing are just a momentary blip and soon enough things will snap back to where they were before. Or where you think they should be.
Maybe they will. But maybe they won't.
It took me the better part of two years to recognize that my approach to Medium wasn't working. No, wasn't working isn't strong enough. It took me the better part of two years to recognize that my approach to Medium was stupid. That's better.
You see, two years ago I was seduced by Medium's Partner Program. A plan that, if not promised then certainly intimated, the possibility of fat stacks of cash coming my way if I'd just "meter" my articles when I posted them on Medium.
As you know because you're reading this right now, I write an article for every single episode of Podcast Pontifications. Not a "companion" article. Not episode details (ugh, show notes). But a full-fledged article that covers the exact concepts I explored during the recording of the podcast episode, expanded and reformatted for people to read instead of listen to.
That article is posted on my website. It's emailed out to those of you who subscribe to my free Podcast Pontifications In Your Inbox service. I recently started emailing that article to my supporting members. And I've been posting the complete article to Medium as well.
Why Medium? Lots of reasons. Not to mention the fact that Medium was and perhaps still is a preferred reading destination/platform used by many people. And lots of human curation takes place on the platform, a fact I've noticed from years of being a user of Medium, both as a regular reader and as a content creator. I knew the platform well, and I was confident my deeper articles would be just the kind of thing that would resonate with Medium's "premium" users, resulting in a nice little income stream.
Yeah. About that...
Any given month, I was lucky to make enough money from metering my articles to cover the $5 monthly cost of my own subscription to Medium's premium service. And it's not like this plan started working well for me and then stopped: It never really worked for me.
But I was caught up in the idea that it might work. And I was seeing my follower count on Medium rise rapidly through the program. Yet during all that time, my coffers remained free of anything more than a handful of monthly dollars. Like one hand. And more coins than paper money.
For two years that was my lived reality. Two years of me dutifully importing my story to Medium and checking that "meter this story" box every time.
But all that changed this weekend, when I spent many hours of pain un-metering hundreds of articles, because why would that be something you'd want to let an author do in bulk, right?
Snark aside, why did it tame me so long to figure out what I was don't wasn't working? One word: momentum.
An Object In Motion Tends To Stay In Motion
Momentum is typically something you want in a time-intensive, creative pursuit, like podcasting, It's a lack of momentum—or at least the inability to quickly achieve momentum—that contributes to so many novice podcasters burning out after just a handful of episodes.
We need momentum in podcasting. We need a force pushing us or carrying us along once the machine is underway. It may be hard for you to remember what it was like when you first started podcasting, but I assure you it was incredibly hard for you to keep going after the initial excitement wore off.
And here's a dirty little secret: The more podcasts you start from scratch during your career, the faster your initial excitement will run out. That means you have to start looking to achieve momentum in your procedures and practices much quicker, as it's the only way to keep you going.
But momentum on its own can push you in a direction that is off the beaten path. Momentum doesn't recognize when the environment in which it exists changes. Momentum is resistant to suggestions or evidence that a tactic may no longer be working. Momentum is what carries your car over the cliff when you fall asleep at the wheel.
But momentum doesn't have total control over you as a podcaster. You have agency, so you can pump the brakes or crank the wheel or take some other action when you find that momentum is working against you. Or at least not working out the way you wanted it to.
The trick is having enough bandwidth—and foresight—to analyze the effectiveness of the momentum you've developed. Analysis that isn't too quick to jump at the small fluctuations, but also doesn't take you two friggin' years to figure out when something just isn't working.
To do that you have to know why you are doing as much as what you are doing. You have to know the difference between foundational tactics—processes that produce results that by their nature are difficult to quantify—and promotional tactics that can quickly show diminishing results. And are designed to be dropped quickly.
It's very easy to conflate the two. Even for seasoned podcast pros like me, obviously.
I shall be back tomorrow with yet another Podcast Pontifications.