Marketers and content producers have been combating the short-attention span audience for years now. When it comes to an article, they need a catchy image or headline that forces the viewer to click without thinking. Television viewers tend to fast forward through commercials while watching a show. So, advertisers present an attention-getting device designed to instantaneous, or they will load up the ad with engaging visuals that MIGHT make a viewer stop forwarding and check out the spot. If you're producing a podcast, you should consider whether you're doing things that could cause a new listener to bail way too soon.
If said listener already has a player loaded with podcasts, you're going to have to convince them to add your show to their queue. If he/she is a picky podcast consumer, it might be even more challenging to keep them. Here are a few ways you can turn off a potentially new listener:
A REALLY LONG OR CONFUSING OPEN
Most seasoned podcast listeners have developed their own criteria in what draws them to a podcast. Couple that with a short attention span, and you have a very small window to prove to them that you're worthy of their time. So, it's best to have your introduction provide the listener with a short and clear show description.
If your podcast plays music for an extended period of time before anyone speaks, a new listener could bail before they hear a voice. If it's still a separate piece of audio that doesn't sound like a typical intro (like a string of clips), it can be confusing.
If you don't have an actual open to the show, get one made. You can use services like Fiverr and Pond5 for music and voices.
LOW QUALITY OR INCONSISTENT AUDIO
If you have a high-quality, professional sounding introduction followed by the sound of a voice that is low-quality, that creates an instant and jarring disconnect. If there are other people on the program, make sure their audio levels are consistent with one another. Don't make a new listener constantly adjust their volume in order to hear the quiet and the loud hosts. Take time to edit and normalize your audio.
NOT DISCUSSING YOUR TOPIC OR THEME
If you're interested in new listeners, then make a point to respect their time. If you tell them that your show is about comic books, don't spend the first 20 minutes talking about pizza or wrestling. Also, don't spend too much time trying to emulate a wacky morning radio crew where you're just chit-chatting about each other and laughing about random stuff. Get to the show topic at hand!
One way you can improve your chances of keeping new lsiteners is by taking time to listen to your shows. Pretend like you have nothing to do with your podcast, hit play and see if your mind wanders. If you find yourself getting anxious or zoning out...you clearly have things to work on.
I ended my first podcast and started a new one for several reasons. For one, I wanted the opportunity to get a fresh start. While there were plenty of successes in that first show, I made some mistakes that I could not go back and fix. So, I wanted the chance to launch a new podcast and do some things right from day one.
Many of the mistakes I made were the result of jumping into podcasting too quickly. I could've avoided some problems just by doing more research and investing more time into planning. Nonetheless, I'm now able to pass these lessons on to fellow podcasters and clients. Here are some of the things I did wrong:
I didn't spend enough time on the concept
I guess you could say I made developing a concept harder (or maybe easier) that it should've been. On the upside, I understood that I couldn't pick a theme that would quickly limit the amount of topics I could discuss. The downside is I overcompensated. Instead of just talking about movies and/or TV shows...I opened it up to critique music, commercials and anything else I could squeeze into the content. I thought I could have listeners take an active role in those discussions. I would call it - The Critic Show.
I spent 3.5 years producing content for the Dallas/Fort Worth NPR affiliate, and everything we did at that station was audience-driven. I wanted to infuse that principle into my first show by pushing for audience participation. Little did I know how hard it was to grow audience and get them to participate in the program. Most people would rather just listen, so you need to have a large audience to get frequent participation from different people.
I shouldn't have uploaded my first episode
I've heard Cliff Ravenscraft advise people to record your first few episodes, but don't upload them. Instead, upload maybe episode 7 or 10 as the first one you present to the public.
You're likely going to make so many adjustments as you record those first few episodes, it could sound like a completely different show by the time your get to that 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th show.
This was true for me. I knew I wanted to have celebrity guests on, but I didn't think I'd be able to book them regularly. However, after my first six shows, I booked six guests. My guest for the seventh episode was Mayim Bialik of The Big Bang Theory. Suddenly, my "critic" show had become a tv/film interview program.
My format was all over the map
It's hard to believe I actually launched a show where I was the only one that talked almost the entire time. In my defense, I didn't really know how I could get a co-host.
My first show was a mix of commentary and audio skits. I soon asked myself, "What is the audience getting out of this? What's the reason they will keep coming back?" After thinking about that, I added a news/reviews segment.
Later, I understood the value of other voices and found ways to incorporate more people into the show. Over time, I realized that the interview was usually the segment that most people cared about more than anything. It was the only part of the show that stayed consistent throughout the two year run.
I changed the title of the show
Even though I heard experts strongly discourage people from doing it, I had to change the name of the show after the first year. By then, I had interviewed several guests, and I built different segments around each discussion to fit an episode theme. Plus, there was just something uncomfortable sending an interview request to be on the CRITIC show.
So, I came up with a creative way to announce that the new title would be Beyond the Screens. Lana Parrilla of Once Upon a Time was my guest. So, the opening of the show featured a "storytime" segment in which the narrator talked about a queen that declared The Critic Show will henceforth be known as Beyond the Screens...
And her people rejoiced.
I needed more frequency
A new episode of The Critic Show/Beyond the Screens ran the 15th and end of every month. I started to second guess that schedule after attending my first big social media/content conference in San Diego. I went into a podcast session focused on rules and tips you could apply to any podcast. One of those tips was this:
If you can...release a show on a WEEKLY basis (via the same day each week). Doing so increases the odds of gaining subscribers because they can count on your content to come out on a consistent basis. In other words, you become part of their routine.
Honestly, it took time to book those interviews. So, a few days rest was really good after all the work that went into them. However, the concept made sense to me. It was a key factor in deciding to end the show and start a new one.
My theme was still too broad
Despite changing the name and settling on a movie/television spotlight show, my concept was still too broad. Audience numbers would fluctuate because one day I would have a guest on who was known for doing something in the 1980s, and the next time it might be someone who's involved in something today. It wasn't a bad concept, I just worried that I was making it harder to grow a consistent audience. The hosting service I chose back then wasn't able to give me the most in-depth information on my downloads and stats. So, I was left to ponder and worry.
In September of 2013, I launched the Assembly of Geeks podcast with two co-hosts, an established format, and a targeted weekly schedule. In two years, the format and schedule have been pretty consistent. Not to mention, mistakes have been minimal. So, the way I look at it now is that there would be no Assembly of Geeks success without The Critic Show failures.