In short, I think there are some lessons podcasters—or perhaps better stated as all of podcasting–can learn from Apple TV+.
A quick reminder that there are only two more episodes after this episode before I take my Long Winter’s Nap. I’ll be back in a few weeks, but feel free to dig deep into the 500+ episodes if you feel the need for a fix while I’m away.
With that, let’s get into the four lessons Apple TV+ can teach podcasters and podcasting in general.
1. Make A Manageable Amount Of Bets
Big companies—including Apple—make a lot of big bets, knowing only a few will pan out. But Apple isn’t flooding their service with a dozen new shows every week. They’re taking a much more measured—and manageable—approach.
Yes, it’s important to have new content released on a regular basis. Even podcast audiences want more new stuff. But new content isn’t the only factor in success. It’s not even the most important thing for a producer/publisher/podcaster to focus on.
So make a smaller number of bets. For example, you can bet on a new genre. Go deep and really learn that genre. Once you’ve figured it out, expand. And then push out to a new genre. One you’ll have to learn, figure out, and then expand upon.
This is of obvious benefit to podcast networks looking to grow the network. Or a podcaster looking to create their own quasi-network by starting a new podcast. Though even podcasters who don’t have designs on making a new show or starting a network can apply some of this lesson when planning out new episodes. That takes some serious thought, and there’s always the danger you’ll go too far away from what your audience wants. But it might teach you some things.
2. Invest For The Audience You Have
It’s unlikely that you have $200 million to spend on creating a new show that most people don’t like. Or more precisely, it’s unlikely you rake in $20 billion in profits each quarter so you can afford to drop $200 million on a brand new series that only gets a 37% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
But Apple is making a different play. They know that the shows they create don't have to appeal to everyone. Heck, they don’t need to make shows that always appeal to the majority of their paying subscribers. As much as they’d love to see all of their shows earn a 90% or higher rating, it's not important to their success. Or even the success of the show.
A 37% rating on Rotten Tomatoes may qualify as a flop. But it’s a flop that seven million people really enjoy. And seven million sure sounds like an addressable audience. An addressable audience that wants more shows just like that, please and thank you.
(And for the record, I’m among the seven million enjoying Invasion!)
3. Implement Diversification Of Creativity
Audiences are fickle and have varied tastes. Tastes that change on a whim and are often unpredictable. Who knew the world would fall in love with a show about soccer that really isn’t about soccer, right? And who would have predicted the same company would also take on one of the most epic of science fiction epics of all time?
It’s precisely because they know that the shows they make don't have to be a hit with the entire subscriber base that they can embrace and fund such a wide swath of creativity. Creativity that lets them create content for all sorts of people. They don't need to appeal to everyone with one thing, or one type of thing.
That’s a bit tougher on a podcaster, especially for a podcaster who isn’t pumping out multiple titles. But there is a possible takeaway that can be applied to just about any podcaster’s promotional efforts, a constant area of struggle for most podcasters.
Where else can you create content that serves a subset of your audience? Or perhaps gets a creation of yours in front of a new audience? A new audience who you can cleverly and carefully entice to become a consumer of your podcast.
4. Play Up And To Your Strengths
The soccer-show-that’s-not-about-soccer aside, it may be hard to get two people to agree on which shows the like and don’t like on Apple TV+. But one thing we can all probably agree on is that the shows they produce are visually stunning.
Apple has a reputation for both design and attention to detail. And yes, much of that has been eroded in recent years thanks to the butterfly keyboard and the stumbles of the Apple Podcasts app. But even with that damage done, quality design is still a big part of Apple's brand. So it’s no surprise the shows they produce and release on their flagship OTT product are simply gorgeous to watch. The content of any given show may not be up your alley, but rest assured the episodes are going to be quite pleasing to your eyes.
The parallel for podcasters here is to know what it is that you are great at, and then lean into that with everything you’ve got.
You don’t have to be amazing at everything. You don’t have to make a product that checks every single box so that every single person who gives it a listen is instantly hooked.
But if you can consistently hit a quality note again and again with every episode or new show you make, you will become known for that, which in turn will build you a loyal following over time.
A nota bene on all of those ideas for podcasters: I don't have any special insight into the actual playbook Apple TV+ is using to build shows and grow their service. I imagine the way they decide to greenlight or make a show is completely different than the lessons I brought to you today.
But nailing what Apple does wasn’t my goal. Passing along some new ways for you to think about your podcast, your episodes, and where you fit in the larger world of podcasting was my goal. And hopefully, that helped you.
Thank you for Podcast Pontifications. It has been helpful and given me plenty to think about.
You are quite welcome, ReverendErik. I appreciate your support.
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Two more episodes to go before I go on my Long Winter's nap! But ahead of that; I shall be back tomorrow with yet another Podcast Pontifications.