In the audio version of this article, I started off with “Happy February, America!”, and I probably shouldn’t have. I want my episodes to be timeless, and I want them listened to (or read) by people all around the world.
But examining the data, I know that most of the downloads of that audio file will happen in the first few days of release. They also show most of my downloads happen right here in the US of A. So if a timely, country-specific message only alienates the minority of my listeners, that’s OK, right?
No. It's 2021, my dudes, and there exists a way to keep content completely relevant to the audience regardless of when or where they access our content. No foolin’.
As proof, I suggest you listen to the first episode of the podcast for Sounds Profitable. You already know that I’m editing the adtech newsletter of that name written by Brian Barletta. So you probably won’t be surprised to learn I’m involved in the strategy of his new podcast since strategic podcast consulting what I do.
Even if you don’t care (or don’t think you care) about podcast advertising, you need to listen to Bryan’s podcast. At least the first episode. It’s less than 30 minutes long. But allow me to explain why you’ll be blown away within the first few minutes and then have to keep listening.
Dynamic Podcasting != Boring Ads
Brace yourself, but there are eight points in the episode where dynamic content has been inserted. I know what you’re thinking: That’s a lot of ads to shove in a 30-minute podcast episode. And I’d tend to agree with you if we were treating all of those inserts like ads. But we’re not. I’d wager that you’ll only recognize the two “advertisements” in the episode that occur near the mid-point.
What about the other six insert points? We’re filling them with content, but not content you are likely to consider an advertisement.
We as podcasters have to stop thinking of our episodes as complete when we export them from our DAW. We also have to stop thinking of dynamic insertion as content that “breaks” or “interrupts” the listening experience of our audience. That’s outdated thinking that misses the point—and the befits—of dynamically inserted content.
If we instead think of our show’s “fixed” content and “dynamic” content working in concert with one another, we can assemble an episode that makes for a much better podcast listening experience. Which, I’d wager, is something all podcasters would really like to do.
So… how do you do that? Here are some ways we’ve strategized and implemented dynamic content for Bryan’s new podcast. Bear in mind this is the product of literally months of research and planning, with a load of up-front work with pen-and-paper (OK, a Google doc) and lots of behind-the-mic time recording lots of variants. Not to scare you off. It’s one-time work that is very, very worth it.
Keeping Podcast Episodes Timeless With Dynamic Content
The “base” episodes of Bryan’s show aren’t time-dependent. Neither are mine. And unless you’re intentionally making a show that follows the news or current events, you’re episodes are likely also timeless or evergreen.
Bryan is using dynamic insertion to make that timeless content time-activated. Some content in the episode is dependent on when the episode was downloaded. If you wait until later in the month to download the episode, a portion of the audio you hear will be different than the audio I heard when I downloaded it last night.
With dynamic content, you can say “Happy February” to your listeners, but only if they’re accessing the episode in February. Nice and clean, letting dynamic content time-activate your otherwise timeless content.
Personally Thank Your Podcast’s Supporters On Every Episode
It’s pretty common to have “supporters” of a podcast, and a common perk to becoming a supporter or member is getting a shoutout during an episode. Some podcasters fulfill that perk on one episode for that supporter, and one episode only. Other podcasters read out the names of all of their supporters during each episode. But thinking forward, the limitations of both of those approaches become obvious.
Instead of just reading out the names of all the people and brands that support Sounds Profitable—and thereby forcing every listener to listen to a roll-call on every episode—Bryan has decided to give each of his supporters their 15-seconds of fame. He’s writing and recording a short “showcase” message for each person or brand, and then letting the adtech platform insert one of those messages on each download.
That means the supporter showcase you hear will very likely be different than the supporter showcase I heard. Over time and as we each listen to more episodes, we’ll eventually hear the supporter showcase for all of them. Everybody gets exposure. But it’s a much more focused and therefore valuable exposure, I’d posit.
Stop Asking Spotify Listeners To Rate And Review Your Podcast on Apple
My issues with begging for ratings/reviews aside, there’s a very good chance that your listeners are not listening to you on a podcast app that even allows for ratings or reviews. And every time you tell a listener on Spotify or Audible to “subscribe to the show”, they’ve no idea what you’re talking about, because the action is called “follow” in those apps. And others.
Bryan is using dynamic insertion to examine the user-agent and then insert a relevant piece of content. So he might decide to ask for a rating if you download the episode on Apple Podcasts or with Spreaker’s app. But that same section might say “If you love what you heard, hit the follow button” for those Spotify or Audible listeners.
Dynamic insertion allows him to be laser-focused on the call-to-action he wants a listener to take, making it completely dependent on the app they are using to listen.
Making All Podcast Listeners Feel At Home
There’s a part in the episode where your country might be mentioned by name. Bryan has recorded something custom for I think six countries, with designs on recording more.
You could go hyperlocal with the same tech that he’s using for country targeting. Perhaps you’re having a meetup in a particular city you’re traveling to once it’s safe to travel again. Luck, science, and politicians willing, how cool would it be to tell to people in Nashville—and only people in Nashville—not just that you’re planning a meetup for listeners when you arrive for Podcast Movement in August of this year, but the name of the venue and the time of the meetup? You could keep them updated when/if plans change without bugging the rest of your audience who are too far away to make it.
Different Content For Podcast Subscribers vs Episode Streamers
Bryan has a clever way to determine if a download came from someone who’s subscribed to his show or if it was just a one-off download. The jury is still out on the accuracy of the assumption he’s making, but in theory and combined with user-agent analysis earlier, he can extoll the benefits of subscribing to (or following) the podcast with a message that only reaches those who are more opportunistic downloaders. For those of us subscribed, he might just thank us for being a subscriber. Or follower. Again, it’s customizable.
What Will You Do With Dynamic Content On Your Podcast?
I’m really proud of what Bryan is doing with dynamic content in his new podcast. I love how he’s exploiting adtech not just to flood his episodes with ads, but as a way to increase both the relevance and personability of the episodes for his listeners. That’s amazing fine-tuning that I think will take podcasting to even greater heights.
How creative do you think you could get if you thought about your show with dynamic content in mind? How will it change the way you approach assembling an episode, gathering and recording content, of course publishing a “base” episode?
My hosting provider—Captivate.fm, where I sit on the Advisory Board—is soon rolling out dynamic content capabilities. Chances are, yours is as well, as it seems to be the direction the industry is headed. Or perhaps you’re on a platform that’s allowed this for years, but you haven’t taken the plunge. Take it!
I plan on pushing hard against the edges of AMIE, Captivate’s dynamic tool, as soon as I can. I’m eager to see how my entire approach to Podcast Pontifications changes when I can make it much more personal and relevant to you, the listener.
One thing I know I’ll do first is find a way to give my supporters a voice on the show. So if you want in on that, go to BuyMeACoffee.com/evoterra and become a member. I'll be reaching out to members individually and letting them know how I’ll incorporate them into the show. I’m really looking forward to that.
Finally, please tell a working podcaster you know about Podcast Pontifications. And also tell them about the new Sounds Profitable podcast as well, because we’re really pushing the envelope with a new way to create podcast content.
I shall return tomorrow 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.