Recently, I was having a conversation with a fellow podcaster. It had been a few weeks or maybe a few months since they'd put out a new episode of their podcast, and they were really questioning some of the decisions that led them to that point. In an effort to reboot their show—I've counted at least five other reboots by this podcaster in the last five years—they were bouncing a few ideas off me. I remarked to them that I'd also noticed they were in the process of rebooting their business life, further adding to their challenge and existential crisis.
I know that feeling. I've been through it way too many times. Heck, I'm going through it again right now as members of the Advancing Podcasting Community learned last week.
But back to my friend. I half-jokingly asked this unnamed podcaster the "what do you want to be when you grow up?" question, and their immediate response was what forms the crux of what I want to talk about today.
"The problem, Evo," they said "with people like us is that's the wrong question. We really should be asked, 'what do we want to be this year?'"
I think that answer has great implications for podcasters like you and me who have been making successful podcasts for a while. Or at least podcasts successful enough to keep them going for years.
I started reflecting back on my history with podcasting, which technically started in 2004, but had its true start back in 2002. That's been two decades of time. Two decades in which I've moved houses 11 times. I've raised a kid and now have grandkids. I've changed jobs five times, and actual careers four times.
I'm demonstrably not the same person I was in 2002. I'm not even the same person I was in 2012. And probably not even the same person from 2020. So the question of "What do I want to be this year?" is a rather compelling one for me.
Because if I'm not the same person that I was a year ago, doesn't that mean my podcast has effectively changed its host?
Are You A Different Podcast Host Today?
When a podcast gets a new host, changes are assumed. As is the case with any media property, really. If we ignore soap operas and the time when Hollywood swapped in Don Cheadle for Terrence Howard, major character changes or host changes cause major changes in format, tone, and the style of the show. It's one thing to sub in a guest host for a few weeks. But when it's a brand new person at the helm, things change. Everyone expects it. Even the diehard fans who hope nothing's going to change but fully realize that they will.
And so it goes in podcasting. Or so it probably should go in your podcast. If you're not the same person you were when you started your show, it's likely your show is very different.
But maybe that's not your lived experience. Maybe you are the same. Or maybe you have slowly incorporated changes from your life into your show as they happened, intentional or not. Maybe you've struck a chord and are making good money because of or with your podcast, so you've been happily cranking out revenue-generating episodes for a decade or more. Or you're just really good at compartmentalizing different aspects of your life.
I lack that ability. All of those major change events mentioned (and probably a few more) over my last 20 years are part of the reason why I've either been the host or the co-host of more than 20 different podcasts—and counting. Of the shows I've quit or dropped, some just weren't possible for me to continue based on things like proximity—the Bangkok Podcast needs and has Bangkok-based hosts—or for practicality—no rational person one wants to listen to a podcast about the dead and buried Palm Pree operating system.
For others, my attention and interest diverged greatly from those of the show, and sticking around and doing something cumbersome didn't feel right. For those, hosting the show moved from the fun column to the obligation column, and I don't really like doing things I don't find fun in at least most of the time.
Some were intentionally started as short-term projects. Although short-term could mean six episodes, 100 episodes, a particular end-date, or some of the predefined destination.
A few, like this one, survived by morphing through lots of different iterations, keeping pace with my changing interests. And yes, this show is eventually going to change. Again. Because keeping the fun-for-me-level quite high is important to me. Just as I've changed the show previously to keep my fun-level high.
Yet a lot of podcasts—some successful and some less-so—haven't changed much at all since inception. Their lack of change is due to a variety of reasons. Habit. Concerns about disappointing or turning off listeners. Maintaining an excellent cash flow. Fear of the unknown. Or perhaps the show is hosted by someone who actually knew what they wanted to be when they grew up.
Think for a moment about your own show and your journey through podcasting that brought you here today.
Think of all the changes you've seen in your life, from family to job to hobbies.
Ask yourself if you've changed. And if you have changed; have you changed your show enough to match the person you are today?
If not; should you? Would that make you happier? Would that re-energize you? Would that possibly re-engage your audience? And can you do it in a way that doesn't jeopardize the success you've already seen thus far?
You'll have to answer those questions on your own. You may not be as risk-tolerant as me. That's okay. If what you've been doing for your show for more than a decade is really working, then keep on keepin' on.
But if you look in the mirror and the person staring back at you isn't the same person you see in your head, it might be time to mix things up on your podcast.
I shall be back directly 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.