There's an old adage in business that says that work will expand to fit the time allotted for it. I think we could say something similar about complexity increasing in podcasting, though I haven’t yet come up with a clever idiom.
Complexity creep happens. Especially in creative endeavors like podcasting where we have at best a set of guidelines and maybe a roadmap, but not a clear, step-by-step set of instructions to follow.
I liken this to building things with Legos. Legos are, for the most part, simple plastic blocks. You start simple, adding blocks of various shapes and sizes. You keep going, exploring your creativity. Do it long enough, with practice and dedication, and you can build incredibly complex representations with those simple plastic blocks.
So too goes podcasting, where we start out with a simple concept. As we grow more confident in our ability with every episode, we add in more layers of complexity, exploring our own creativity and finding ways to make the content we produce on our podcast better.
Only it can be a vicious cycle for many podcasters who started out simple but now find themselves struggling to maintain and support a podcast that has gotten… well, too complicated.
When things in our lives get too complicated, it stresses us out. It's not good at all for our self-worth (“How did I let this happen?”), and ultimately we may decide to up and quit the show as a way to escape the complexity we put upon ourselves.
Maybe quitting and starting over with something new is a good thing for you. Or maybe you need a little help un-complicating your show. Not necessarily stripping it down to the basics, but stripping out the needlessly complex pieces that aren’t good for you or your audience.
Getting Down To Your Podcast’s Wants & Needs
The challenge you’ll face is one of making your show less complex without impacting your livelihood or your audience's enjoyment of the show.
Your first inclination is probably to seek out the areas of complication or consternation and simply remove them. And sure, that can work. But you run the risk of hurting your show’s performance if you start swinging wildly.
Alternately, you can start with an examination of wants and needs. Specifically, I mean your wants as a podcaster and your audience’s needs as the consumers of your content.
What Do You Want Out Of Your Podcast, Podcaster?
I suppose you could do these two steps in any order, but I like putting podcasters first. After all, you’re the most important listener of your show. And if the show isn’t fulfilling to you, you’re not going to keep doing it for long. Or you’re doing it for a paycheck. And if the paycheck is large enough, maybe that’s what you really want.
Maybe you can trace your wants back to why you started podcasting in the first place. The longer your show continues, it’s more likely to drift from your original desires. Not that that’s a bad thing. What one person considers drifting away, another might consider growth. I’m coming up on 2.5 years of producing Podcast Pontifications, and I can assure you that what I wanted out of this show has changed at least three times since I started. And I’m sure my wants will change again in the future.
What Do Your Listeners Need From Your Podcast?
I can't offer much help to you as you figure out our own wants, as those are personal. And if that frustrates you, you’re not going to like this next bit. Because now you need to ponder what your listeners need from your show. Spend some time with this, trying to put yourself in the shoes of your audience as you dig into their needs and how your show fulfills those needs currently.
Not what needs of theirs your show could fulfill, but what it's actually fulfilling for them right now.
Also, not what your audience wants from your show. Because your audience - the dedicated listeners who subscribe to your show and eagerly consume the content you have to offer in all its complexity - all want one thing from your podcast: more. So that’s not helpful. Or really all that important for this exercise.
Examining Your Podcast’s Elements By Wants And Needs
Now that you've got an understanding of your wants as a podcaster and the needs of your audience, you’re much better equipped to take a critical look at all of the elements of your show as you seek out needless complexity.
What do I mean by “elements”? The various sections and components that make up an episode of your show. Things like your intro and your outro, for example. Even something as simple and as innocuous as those items can become complex. And they don’t need to be. Take a look/give a listen to those consistent elements. Do they feel complicated? Do you want them to sound that way? Does your audience need them to sound that way? Is there a simpler way to convey the information in these sections that your audience needs that you want to do?
Maybe you're like me and you really don’t like doing interviews. But maybe unlike me, your show is based on interviews, and it’s the viewpoints that you and your guests discuss together that your audience needs. But is that what the audience needs? Or would their needs continue to be served if you had someone else do the interview, and you offered your insights during the episode in other ways? I faced this very dilemma on a former podcast I was co-hosting and decided to let someone else sit in the interview chair. And you know what? That show was better for it.
What about your production process? All the things that have to be done to make the show, from pre-production all the way to post-production. Do you want to do all of those pieces? They probably need to be done, but does your audience need you personally to do all of those pieces? Can somebody else do at least some of them?
Ask the same tough questions about your wants and your audience’s needs when considering collaborations with other podcasts or publications. Think about your wants and your audience’s needs when it comes to how you publish, when you publish, and even where you publish.
Removing Podcast Complexity With A Razor, Not A Hammer
You’re probably going to find lots of areas where you’ve added needless complexity to the process of making your podcast. Areas that don’t impact your livelihood or your audience’s enjoyment of your show, remember. Elements you could simply stop doing or modify so that they work better for your wants and your audience’s needs.
Staring at all these complexities, it’s normal to want them all to go away. Now, please. And while the goal is to get rid of all needless complexities for your podcast, you should take it slow and incremental.
Take away one needlessly complex element at a time, and let it soak for an episode or two. Then another. Then another.
Also, don’t make a big deal out of this with your audience. In fact, I posit to you that your audience need not know that you’re making these changes. If you want to share with them, that’s fine. But I’d counsel against making too much noise, and I certainly wouldn’t go on a five-minute rant about how stressed you are and how you’re about to unleash sweeping changes to the podcast.
That just scares people. Potentially scaring listeners away from your show. Not everyone is groovy with change. Listeners like consistency, so don’t shock them.
In the end, whatever changes you’re making will still give your audience what they need from your show. You’re protecting that. So there’s no real need to alert them to the changes coming. This is about what you want, and what you want isn’t really really something you want to crowd-source to your listeners anyhow.
This is about simplifying the process of podcasting, allowing you to make the podcast you want and the podcast your audience needs.
Do you know a fellow podcaster who’s struggling with an overly-complex podcast of their own design? Share this episode with them, along with a personal note of why you think they should listen. The only way Podcast Pontifications grows is when one podcaster shares the show with another, so I appreciate your help.
If you appreciate the insights to podcasting I bring you four days a week, please consider going to BuyMeACoffee.com/EvoTerra and become a member of the program. I offer a few small perks to members, so reach out to me if you have any questions.
I shall be back 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.