Chat with me about growth marketing for podcasts, and it won’t be long before I utter the phrase “Podcasts tend to get the audience they deserve.” Those eight words have become part mantra, part axiom for me. Because they do accurately represent my overarching worldview of podcasting.
Other podcasting pundits often say something along the lines of “podcasting is a slow burn” or “you need to be in podcasting for the long haul.” And while I agree with both those statements, both come with a presumption that success if one just puts in the time.
But you and I know that’s not always the case. Or even likely the case, if we’re honest.
So at the risk of sounding too depressing for you to continue (which I hope doesn’t happen), let's return to and unpack my axiom: Podcasts, tend to get the audience they deserve.
This Is About Your Podcast. Not You, The Podcaster
Yes, you are inexorably wound together with your podcast, I get that. But for this axiom isn’t about you, the podcaster. For a moment, take “you” out of the consideration, and look instead at the product. The thing your making. The podcast itself.
I know you dislike reductionist thinking, but your product—your podcast—is content. And it’s that content that people will judge as worthy. Or not. The content of your podcast is what they decide to make a part of their lives. Or not.
But content is a broad topic. Yes, of course, the quality of the content matters. But this too needs further reduction and examination.
Is the sound quality of the content exceptional or just par for the course?
What about the quality of the conversations? Are the conversations that make up your content fun and interesting? Or are they incredibly compelling?
What about the quality of your podcast packaging? The episodes, the show, the website, and the supporting properties that make up the whole… package? Was that packaging created with the utmost care? Or is the association between the parts much less tangible?
This Is About Your Show’s Actual And Potential Audience
Like any content, your podcast needs to fit neatly in the lives of your audience. The better fit, the stronger the connection and the less likely it is to be broken.
The length of your episodes has a lot to do with ensuring a good fit for your audience. They decide whether it’s too long or too short. Or did you choose a length for some other reason? Like how long you want to talk, or how long someone told you a podcast episode should be?
How often are you asking your audience to listen? Produce episodes on an infrequent or not-frequent-enough cadence and they may step out on your show, looking for more content to keep them satiated. But the opposite is also true, and having too much content from your podcast may force them to make tough decisions on the other media they’d like to consume.
Does the audience like the people behind the voices on your podcast? Do they generally like the host(s), guests, and any other contributors who appear? Or in the case of the host(s), does that “like” border on fanaticism?
Does the audience find the show so compelling that they can't help but recommend it to others? Or is yours just one of many podcasts they listen to on a regular basis?
This Is About Tending, Not Trending
The operative word that brings this whole axiom together is the second word in the phrase, “podcasts tend to get the audience they deserve”.
Tend means that neither success nor failure of any given podcast is a foregone conclusion.
But tend also means that it’s possible with a relatively high degree of accuracy to predict the success of stagnation of podcasts based on the characteristics mentioned above. At least over a large enough sample size of shows. Predicting the success of any given show is difficult, to be sure. But taken on mass, our predictions will probably have more hits than misses.
That’s because the word tend allows for external pressures and serendipitous events that live outside your control. I've seen shows suddenly find a much bigger audience when breaking news from the real world collides with a big PR push the podcast has implemented, allowing the podcast to ride the wave generated by the news cycle. Some would chalk that up to a solid strategy. But luck plays a part.
Similarly, I’ve seen shows find a much bigger audience when their marketing efforts finally hit the right notes with the right publisher/property/message. But I’ve also seen exceptional, high-quality, even critically-acclaimed podcasts with healthy promotional budgets fall flat. Either because the timing just wasn't right, the marketing just didn't work, or when the audience's attention shifted to something else.
You Say “Podcasts Tend To Get The Audience They Deserve” Like It’s A Bad Thing.
If you hear me recite my axiom to you, it’s not necessarily an indictment. Unless, of course, it is an indictment. Like if you know there's more you could be doing. Or if you know there's a disconnect somewhere in your processes. Or if you feel like you are just going through the motions. If those are true, then yeah; feel free to take my axiom as an indictment.
Does your podcast deserve a bigger audience? That’s a decision that lies in the relationship between your podcast and your audience. But I stand by my axiom: Podcasts tend to get the audience they deserve. You can try to buck the trend, sure. Or you can examine the relationship between your podcast and your audience and adjust accordingly.
Keep the great content coming, Evo!
That I can do. Dave. I appreciate your support!
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I shall be back tomorrow with yet another Podcast Pontifications.