One of the things I love about being a podcast consultant is I get to share in someone's excitement about launching their first show. Another is getting an opportunity to share my knowledge with someone that might help them not learn certain lessons the hard way. Over time, I've discussed several different concept scenarios and production challenges, but there are some specific tips that I end up sharing with every new podcaster. Here are some examples:
Pick themes that create topics that last
One of the traps that podcasters fall into, is launching a show before they've fully fleshed out their concept. If the goal is to grow audeince/subscribers, your best bet is to produce a weekly show. That means, you need to have a theme that gives you 45-50 discussion topics a year. For example, a podcast dedicated to Saturday morning cartoons of the 1980s could be a short lived podcast. Once you run out of shows to discuss...you might have nowhere to go.
Think about the value to the listener
As a content producer, it's sometimes easy to fall into the trap of getting too caught up in what YOU think is a great idea. You have to take time to analyze what your show is offering to everyone else. As you develop episode content, ask yourself, "What is the listener getting out of this?"
More importantly, ask yourself what's in your show that is going to make someone want to come back and get more every week. If you have trouble really answering those questions, you need to go back to the drawing board or enhance your concept.
Pick a format and stick with it
I can never stress this enough. Once you decide what your show is going to be about, pick a format and stick with it. If producing a quality show that gains subscribers is the goal of the podcast...then don't just hit record, talk for an extended period of time and upload it. Instead figure out:
How many segments should this show have?
How many guests/co-hosts should be featured?
What's a reasonable running time for each segment?
For example, if your show is mainly focused on weekly interviews, it's probably best to make that a 20-30 minute show MAX:
2-3 minutes for production elements (opening/close/bumpers)
4-5 minutes for an introduction & quick chat with listeners
15-20 minute interviews.
If there's more going on, be smart about the amount of time you're going to spend on each segment. One of the most popular times people listen to podcasts is their commute to work, and the average commute time (one way is about) 30 minutes. So, if your show is running more than 45-80 minutes...it better be worth it to them.
If it's a business podcast, don't turn the show into an advertisement
One of the reasons businesses are looking into podcasting is that it helps reach new audiences. However, it's important to remember that the show itself is NOT a big commercial for your business. There's nothing wrong with saying your website at the beginning and end of the show, but everything else should be content that represents your expertise, your brand and your value. Let the podcast humanize your organization in a way that inspires listeners to want to know more about you on their own.
Get reliable hosting
If you're going to be serious about podcasting, use a reputable hosting service like Libsyn, Blubrry, Buzzsprout and others. Don't "host" your audio podcast with sites like Soundcloud or YouTube. Instead, post clips and previews of your show that encourage people to get more on iTunes or your webpage. Also, don't split your audience up by running your episodes on iTunes/Stitcher/etc. and on YouTube. You want people to get it from places where they can subscribe to your feed.
Make the LOGO a priority
I once heard a speaker at Podcast Movement say, "If you have a $500 budget to launch your podcast, spend $350 on a logo. The logo might as well be the sign out in front of your store. It is something represents you and your show. Once you produce one, make sure you can still read the text when it's 125 x 125. When iTunes shrinks it down, you want people to still be able to read it. Take a look at this great guide to podcast art.
Put YOUR stamp on it
I love listening to Chris Brogan point out how many podcasts sound exactly alike as a means to remind people to not be like everyone else. The podcasting realm is a crowded space, and if you sound like everyone else, you can't stand out. One great way to stand out is good production/audio quality and following the advice listed above. After that, think of ways to put a creative or unique spin on your presentation.
Consider warm-up episodes
This is advice I wish I'd known when I launched my first show. Now I can share it with you so you don't learn it the hard way. You should consider recording your first five or six episodes, and then launch your 7th, 8th, 9th or even 10th podcast as the first one that you share with the public.
The main reason is that it is very likely that the seventh episode will sound very different than your very first. As you listen to those first shows, you'll add, remove and tweak things as you move forward with the show. Working out some of those kinks early will allow you to make a good first impression when the public hears the first episode you upload to the internet.
The race for audience tends to be a marathon (not a sprint)
Many podcasters think that since there are millions of people on the internet, it should be easy for thousands of them to find and listen to their show. It doesn't take long for producers to realize that is not the reality.
According to Libsyn's figures in June of 2015:
The adjusted average of podcast downloads are at 2,150.7 downloads per show
The median 50% of podcasts average about 158 downloads per episode
They view any podcast that gets 500+ downloads per show to be a successful podcast.
It takes time, effort, strategy and consistency to build an audience. However, it's important to be thankful for any number of people who take time out of their day to listen to your content. Some of the tips I've shared here should help you launch your show with the full potential of growing a listenership.