While we often think about growth of a podcast as a natural progression. Slowly, you’ll gain more audience. Or, with the right application of marketing strategy, you can accelerate that growth.
But that actually runs counter to the history of most things made for the internet. Most things made for the internet start out and end up with tiny audiences.
I think podcast pundits (Hi!) would better serve podcasting if we recognized that fact. Because not every podcast -- either from hobbyists or for businesses -- has designs on growth.
Most people who create content have no aspirations of having that content reach a massive -- or even modest -- audience. At its core, the internet is a communication medium. It was built to facilitate the publishing of information. You could argue that the true “superpower” of the internet is the facilitation that lets people exchange, text, images, video, audio, and have conversations about those items.
This communication platform, though global in nature, does not require the things shared be seen by the majority of internet users. There's no implied success built into the underpinnings of the way that the internet works. The same holds true for podcasting: There is no inherent need for a show to bubble to the top.
Of course, you may want to have your podcast reach a gigantic podcast. Great. Go for it! But on this episode, I want to talk about the merits of podcasting to a purposely tiny audience.
That tiny audience for your podcast could be just the employees of your company. That tiny audience could be just a circle of friends that get together monthly for a happy hour. That podcast might serve a tiny group of people all interested in one very specific, highly-focused interest that you have to be a little weird to deeply enjoy.
Maybe it's a local podcast. Maybe it's something that is so hyper-local that there's only a handful of people in your given city, your neighborhood, maybe only people in your apartment complex would care about.
But I can hear the confusion from here: “Why would I invest all this money in hiring a firm like Simpler Media if my podcast won’t be huge? Why did I buy this $400 microphone if I'm not going to reach a gigantic audience?”
My answer: We spend a lot of money on things that just make us happy. No ROI required or even anticipated.
Also, consider that there isn’t an inherent value equation between the money (and time) you put into your podcast and the size of your audience. Because unless you’re charging people to access your podcast or already have a big-enough audience to make meaningful money with ads on your show, you aren’t making more money when more people listen to your show.
And the reverse is more applicable: It costs you the same amount of money to produce a show that a person listens to as it does to produce a show that a hundred thousand people listen to.
There are many good examples of creations that are meant to stay purposely tiny. Take online communities and groups as an example. Yes, you can many communities that have built very large audiences. There are even a few podcast support and advice groups exist that have thousands of members.
But for every one of those big groups, you'll find dozens (maybe hundreds?) of much smaller communities that exist to only serve their tiny audience.
Look at newsletters as another example. In fact, there's a service called TinyLetter. It’s designed for tiny newsletters. That's it. That's its whole reason for being. To help creators make a tiny newsletter.
Keeping things tiny on purpose has merit. Sometimes we only want to beta release creations to a handful of people. And sometimes, we know that when our creations reach a very large audience, things change.
When the audience for something gets big, it changes the relationship between the creator and the audience, as well as the tone and tenor of the conversation amongst those who are consuming the content.
Bigger isn't better. Bigger is different.
And as much as I love change, not everyone does. Keeping your podcast tiny on purpose makes it more resistant to unintentional changes from outside forces beyond your control. When things get big accidentally, some of those changes can get a little squishy.
But remember: tiny-on-purpose doesn’t necessarily mean “private”. Making a truly private show comes with some technical challenges that, frankly, aren’t worth it for most people. That means you still need to make your tiny podcast available Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and the other key directories. It’s public, but you just care a whole lot less about discovery issues than anyone else.
Every day I come on this program and talk about ways to make podcasting better in the future. I’m as guilty as the next person at assuming better means bigger. It doesn’t.
You can -- and you should -- absolutely work at making your show better even if you don’t want to make it bigger. Call it pride in ownership or creation if you like. But know that you can make an excellent podcast and keep it’s audience small on purpose for yourself, for your business, or for your community.
There are ways to make podcasting work that do not require a gigantic audience. I would love to help you figure out how to do that for your business or organization. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and check out PodcastLaunch.pro (which I'm probably going to revamp completely in the next few weeks) to see a list of the services at my firm currently offers our clients.
I shall be back tomorrow with yet another Podcast Pontifications.