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Making a podcast with high “recommendability” takes… a lot. A lot of time, as you know. A lot of effort, often from lots of different people. And a lot of skill, either from you or from the team of people it takes to make the podcast.
However, many podcasters don't feel the need to put much time, effort, or skill into their show. In fact, I'll go out on a limb and say most of the millions of podcasts available fall into that category, either created purposely to be and sound low-effort, or by creators who take a “good enough” approach.
Not-shockingly, most listeners aren’t keen on recommending podcasts created by hosts who can’t be bothered to master the craft of podcasting. And yes, podcasting is a craft. And like many other crafts, the tools and technology of that craft are becoming more accessible. Broadly speaking, of course.
But as the access bar lowers for tech and tools, it doesn’t mean the bar for skill-acquisition has been lowered. Quite the opposite, in fact. Some facets of the skills necessary for podcasting—the ability to tell an interesting and engaging story, for example—aren’t going to be solved by technology anytime soon.
Making The Commitment To Podcast Mastery
None of us like doing self-assessments. Because frankly, none of us are any good at it. But if you’ve been podcasting a while, you likely know which aspects of the craft you’re just going through the motions on. If there’s an area where you feel your skills as a podcaster are lacking, then there’s a good chance some of your loyal listeners also see or hear that lack of skill. They’re quite forgiving because they’re your loyal fans. But that could be what’s holding them back from recommending your show to others in their lives who may be as picky as they are.
The good news is that there are ways to improve and master specific skills necessary for podcasting. You can take a class on making better-sounding audio, advanced interview techniques, improving your writing skills, and just about any other aspect of podcasting where you may be lacking. I’m connected to some highly skilled individuals who offer very specific training, either in a group setting or one-on-one, to podcasters who need to up their game. Please reach out and I’ll help you find someone.
I recommend avoiding the 101-level stuff, as you’re probably past that. If, in fact, you are past that. If not, and you find yourself going through the motions on just about every aspect of podcasting, then you may need more of an overview course.
Also, resist the temptation to invest in new or different gear. OK, you might need to upgrade, but that isn’t where I suggest you start. Many amazing podcasts are created with modest tech and tools, perhaps the very same tech and tools you’re using. New mics, new DAW, new apps… none of them are going to make your show better on their own. Your cash is likely better applied in other areas. For now.
Getting An Outside Expert Opinion
Sometimes, you don’t know what you don’t know. You may think that you’ve mastered the craft of podcasting. You may think that you’ve made it easy for your most ardent fans to recommend your show to the people in their lives. And you may think you know exactly who your podcast is for and understand how to deliver the unexpected to them.
You may have done all of those things, but you’re still not seeing meaningful growth. This means your hard-core fan base still isn’t recommending your show. That’s frustrating, I understand.
But… are you sure you did all of those things? None of them are simple bandaids. Heck, it took me several hours to set up a listener survey yesterday, and that was little more than copying and pasting questions provided by Edison Research. This stuff is hard. And if it doesn’t feel hard, then you’re probably not doing it correctly.
So have someone else look at it. Not someone on your team. And not a random stranger. Just like businesses hire outside consultants to evaluate their business processes when warranted, so you too should engage an outside consultant to ensure you’ve not made some missteps with your podcast.
Hire someone to analyze the data from the survey. You’re too close to it. Pay them to connect the dots between what your listeners want and what you’re actually delivering. They very well may identify interesting data trends that you overlooked.
An auditor/consultant could interview some of your hard-core fans and get more honest feedback from them. Fans want you to keep on doing the things that made them a fan in the first place and may gloss over some issues when engaging with you. They won’t feel quite so inhibited with a third-party who’s been hired to make the show they love better.
If kicking out the cash for a skilled auditor or consultant isn’t an option and you are confident you’re doing everything you can (or want) to do to get your audience to share your show but they still don’t, then you may need to be content with what you have.
You have an audience. A loyal one who loves listening to your show. Whether you count them in the hundreds, thousands, or hundreds of thousands, they are your audience. You may have reached your niche and will only see modest audience growth for your podcast over time.
Is that enough for you? It certainly can be.
But if not, then maybe it’s time to try something else. A podcast doesn’t have to be forever.
What About Advertising & Marketing?
I can think of a few people reading this and seething right now because I haven’t extolled the virtues of marketing campaigns, either paid advertising or effort-intensive promotional campaigns as a way to bust through stalled growth.
Yes, I know many successful podcasters who see great success growing their shows with marketing campaigns. I said as much in the first part of this series, you may remember.
But before you start throwing money down the promotional chute, please remember that it’s no substitute for fixing fundamental problems with your show's recommendablility factor. Spending money to market, advertise, otherwise promote a podcast that even the most ardent fans can't be bothered to recommend seems rather unproductive to me.
Speaking of unproductive things yesterday, I mentioned yesterday that I was eating my own dog food had created a survey so I could learn more about you, the listener of Podcast Pontifications.
Thank you very much to nine of you. Yes, nine. Nine is the total number of listeners like you who have, so far, taken five minutes and completed the survey. If you are not among the nine, I would greatly appreciate it if you would please take the survey. I know you’re busy. But it’s the end of the week, as I don’t put out episodes on Friday, so perhaps you’ll have some time to fill out the survey in the next few days? This survey. This one right here. Yes. This one. Don’t make me use the blink tag.
I’m already seeing some great—and frankly, surprising—data and suggestions. Rest assured I’ll be making adjustments to Podcast Pontifications based on those answers. Yes, I want your input as well. PodcastPontifications.com/survey is where to do it.
Aside from that last little bit of public shaming, did you get value from this short series on improving your shows’ recommendability among your most rabid fans? If so, please return that value—we call it value-for-value—by vising BuyMeACoffee.com/evoterra and signing up for a recurring monthly virtual coffee purchase .
Thanks again to Tom Webster from Edison Research for his inspiring keynote presentation at Podcast Movement 2021 that teed this up nicely for me. You should be reading or listening to Tom’s weekly newsletter and podcast, I Hear Things. Yes, I’m recommending it!
Now go fill out the listener survey for Podcast Pontifications. And I shall be back on Monday with yet another Podcast Pontifications.
Podcast Pontifictions is written and narrated by Evo Terra. He’s on a mission to make podcasting better. Links to everything mentioned in today’s episode are in the notes section of your podcast listening app. A written-to-be-read article based on today’s episode is available at PodcastPontifications.com, where you’ll also find a video version and a corrected transcript, both created by Allie Press. Podcast Pontifications is a production of Simpler Media. Find out more at Simpler.Media.