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I reject the notion that a paid-for marketing campaign is the best way to grow a podcast. It might be a way to grow a podcast, I’ll grant you. But when your show’s growth has stalled, I don’t think your first reaction should be to reach for your wallet. Instead, you should try to understand why your core listening audience has stopped recommending their show.
Every episode last week of Podcast Pontifications was all about increasing your podcast’s “recommendability”. There’s no sense in throwing good money after bad, and if you don’t have the fundamentals down, then you’re probably wasting your time.
So… When Is The Right Time To Advertise?
I always like to do a little self-examination when I put ideas and questions like this out there. Looking back a the lessons and ideas from last week’s episodes (see the links in the prior paragraph to catch up), I think I’ve done—or at least made significant progress on—those items.
Roughly 10% of my audience—a respectable and statistically-relevant sample size, I’d say—has taken the listener survey I put up last week. I’m getting good feedback on what respondents expect from my show so I can deliver to them the unexpected. Evidence of that is coming at the end of the show, and I’ll expose a lot of that data to those in the Advancing Podcasting community, so get active in there if you want to learn more about how I’m eating my own dog food.
I've also made it easier for my most ardent fans to recommend to my show. I’ve always been committed to having the show everywhere people listen to podcasts—and yes, that includes YouTube. But recently I’ve changed how I announce new episodes on social media. Rather than a quick paragraph and a link, I’m now posting much longer “new episode” announcements, each of which should be more attractive to the algorithms and be more share-worthy. And I’m now asking for the people who subscribe to Podcast Pontifications In Your Inbox to forward the email along to someone who might want to read it. Always doable before, but I neglected to ask. CTA 101, Evo!
And I'm also continuing to master the craft of podcasting. That's a never-ending job, even for someone like me who’s been at it for nearly two decades. There’s always something new to learn or try out.
So maybe, just maybe, I am ready to start a paid advertising campaign as a way to significantly boost the audience of Podcast Pontifications?
I’m not convinced that’s the right thing to do. But I’m willing to be wrong.
Bring On The 800 New Listeners Per Month
Starting today, I’m trying out a system that reports to, at the end of a year, boost the listening audience of Podcast Pontifications to 10,000 listeners. That averages out to around 800 new listeners to Podcast Pontifications every month. Not clicks. Not impressions. Not one-time downloads. Actual podcasters who don’t yet listen to Podcast Pontifications.
And I’m going to get that by spending $5 a day on ads. Or so the theory goes.
Let me be honest and clear with you: I do not think this will work. I've run countless digital advertising campaigns for myriad clients over the decades, with budgets ranging from gigantic to tiny. There are many reasons why I got out of digital advertising back in 2014. Questionable and sometimes downright disappointing results is at the top of the list of those reasons.
With an attitude like that, it’s pretty clear I'm not the guy to implement this campaign. So I’ll play the role of client, reviewing and approving the budget, assets, creative, and technical implementation. But I won’t be hands-on with the actual day-to-day management and optimization of the campaign. Instead, I’ll let the system do what the system is purported to do. The best I can do is get out of the way.
And if spending $5 a day can get the audience of Podcast Pontifications to crest 10,000 listeners over the course of a year, it’ll be money well spent.
Total Transparency, FTW
I want you to get value out of this effort as well, but I don’t want to beleaguer the point. And there are lots of other topics important to working podcasters! So no, I won’t be talking about this every day on the show. Instead, my plan is to dedicate one episode per month as a check-in episode, detailing how the prior month’s efforts have borne fruit.
I’ll go into much more detail in the Advancing Podcasting community, with charts, graphs, and other sorts of tangible, real-world data shared and exposed on a regular basis.
But for now, I’m being a little vague about everything. We’re just now getting started, and don’t want you mistaking my test for a recommendation or thinking it’s a good idea to rush in. It’s rarely a good idea to rush into ad campaigns, so I don’t want to feed that. Once it is up and running, I’ll share the results with you. And then, if you like, you can follow along.
It bears repeating: I’m skeptical of the efficacy of this initiative. However, any good skeptic should be willing to change their position when evidence is presented. And I want to be a better skeptic. Let’s see what happens.
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You’ve Got Questions; I’ve Got Answers
“[I] would love to know how you will use the survey data to improve the show.”
An excellent question, Matt, and a way to unveil a new and occasional segment to the show! This idea, adding a Q&A section to the show, came directly from responses to the survey. So… like this!
If you’ve a question, please send it! Email me at email@example.com, shoot me a DM on Twitter (which is what Matt did), or post your questions in the Advancing Podcasting community. I’ll do my level best to make sure every question gets an answer, and I’d like to incorporate more of those into the actual episodes of Podcast Pontifications too, so keep ‘em coming!
And if you received any value from today's episode and my crazy experiment of spending $150 a month on something that I fully expect to fizzle, please return that value—value for value, as we call it—by going to BuyMeACoffee.com/evoterra and buying me a coffee. Or better yet, buying a membership that sends a virtual coffee to me every month.
I shall be back tomorrow for yet another Podcast Pontifications.