One of the biggest attractions of creating a podcast is that the medium is wonderfully accessible; on the most basic level, all you need is a microphone and an idea. However, while it may not be technically challenging, there’s more to launching a new podcast than just sitting down and hitting record.
There are many benefits to creating a podcast - including generating new audiences, engaging with your followers, and building a community - but you’ll need to seriously commit to it, and take the time to properly plan and prepare for your podcast before you’ve recorded your first episode.
Laying the foundations
Brainstorming a good idea for your podcast can be difficult and you should allow a good amount of time to thoroughly plan the outline of your show in advance. Think about what the purpose of your podcast is and what you want it to achieve, and ensure that the format and concept is a good fit.
If you’re creating a podcast for an existing brand, consider thinking outside of the box when it comes to creating content that will reflect the identity of the brand. If your goal is to gain new customers, then your content will likely focus on telling them what the brand stands for, but if your goal is to have existing audiences connect to your brand in a new way, then you can try different things like an interview show or fiction podcast.
Additionally, 50% of podcast “super listeners” - who listen to five hours or more of podcasts in a week - agree that their opinion of a company becomes more positive when it appears on a podcast, according to the Super Listeners 2021 report from Edison Research and Ad Results Media. This makes podcasting a great way for brands to engage with their customers, both new and existing.
One example of a brand that has experimented in the podcasting world is French petroleum company, TotalEnergies, which found success in creating a fictional podcast series based in a petrol station. The audiences reportedly felt more connected with the brand as they became attached to the authentic story-telling of the characters. This approach harks back to the original genesis of soap operas - so-called because the genre was a popular vehicle for product placements from cleaning companies.
This unique way of promoting a brand through a fictional podcast for TotalEnergie is credited to Binge Audio, a French podcast and distribution company, who work to convince brands that they can spread their message through podcasting.
“Fiction podcasts are a creative and unconventional way of telling a brand’s story,” says Soraya Kerachoui-Matignon, brand content director of Binge Audio, speaking at Podcast Day 24.
Another key thing to consider is how the idea of your podcast will translate over a long period of time. This can help ensure the audience you make at the beginning stays engaged, but also helps you reach new listeners in the future.
Sam Shetabi, creative director at Acast, advises to think ahead when creating an outline for your show, to ensure the idea behind your podcast will last beyond the first few episodes.
“I would recommend thinking about not just your first episode and only getting that far, but thinking of several episodes to get used to the whole idea,” he says. “Then think about what episode 20 is going to be, and how you are going to build on that looking into the future.”
Joby Waldman, managing director of Reduced Listening and producer of the award-winning Spotify exclusive podcast Decode, says that creating a podcast is a long, ever-changing journey, and advises that podcasters should treat it as such. He compares it to publishing a magazine because of the way they evolve and run continuously.
“Sometimes we think of podcasts a bit like a radio programme - as in, it’s a short series where you go in depth about something,” Waldman says. “It’s really important for that to exist, but in the podcast space, they grow for years so you’re probably looking at building up a catalogue.”
Alongside having a sense of discipline and consistency, Hannah Ajala - founder of We Are Black Journos and podcast producer at BBC World Service - says that you shouldn’t be afraid to take risks with the way you produce your podcast.
For example, Novel - a leading podcast production company in Europe - has an entirely separate 10-person team dedicated to just focusing on developing new ideas and concepts while the production team focuses on making them come to life.
At Podcast Day 24, Novel’s creative director of development Willard Foxton revealed that this has been one of the most important elements of the business’ strategy. It has seen much success after partnering with audio companies like iHeart, Spotify and Audible to produce quality shows including The Bellingcat Podcast and Call Me Mother.
“We don't say to our producers, alongside your job producing, you have to also come up with your own ideas,” Foxton says. “We recognise that development is a whole separate job. It's a whole different thing.”
“I'm a 42 year old white middle class parent, right? So that makes me great at coming up with things like parenting shows, but it doesn't make me great at coming up with things that are appealing to people that are on TikTok, right. So you need diversity in your team, you really need to have different viewpoints, different backgrounds, different nationalities across your team, and then find the most incredible stories you can.”
The production aspect of the podcast can sometimes be what makes your show unique and make it stand out from other new competitors in the industry. This can apply to the sound design, editing, and the format.
Spotify’s Decode podcast provides track by track analyses of UK hip hop albums, and is a key example of a podcast that has used sound design creatively. The podcast has been praised for its use of sound effects and music to elevate the listener experience.
Since it’s an audio medium, Decode producer Waldman’s advice is to incorporate sound into the storytelling aspect of your podcast, and not be caught up in the words or facts.
“It makes the experience richer,” he says. “If you can find a way to use sound to tell stories then the listener will thank you.”
Unlocking the money pot
Thinking at an early stage about strategies for monetising your podcast is important too, as having a defined plan before you launch will make it easier to start generating revenue.
When thinking about how podcasters make money from their shows, the first thing that likely comes to mind is host-read advertisements for products like Squarespace, Manscaped or ExpressVPN. However, at the very beginning of your podcast’s lifecycle, securing these commercial relationships can be challenging.
According to Buzzsprout, you should ideally have at least 1,000 downloads per episode to start monetising your podcast in this fashion, or you risk losing audience engagement. You can start having sponsored content on your podcast through either partnering with ad-insertion platforms or reaching out personally to advertisers. Keep in mind, however, that it might be more difficult for advertisers to partner with smaller podcasts that are just starting out.
Shetabi says that you can only reach out to advertisers directly to endorse their brands when you start having a sizable audience. He says: “Believing in your brand can be really powerful and valuable but you need to have an audience before you’re able to do something like that.”
A potential way to start making money before you reach that point is to diversify your revenue through a combination of monetisation strategies. This can be done through a number of methods like starting a tiered subscription program via platforms like Patreon.
Ajala advises that if you’re looking to grow your download numbers as quickly as possible, you should play around with making your content live on several platforms at once so that you’re reaching as many new audiences as you can..
She says: “Sometimes you have to put quite a lot in just to get a bit out, but the results will be amazing because at least you’re investing in your art and making sure that it’s reaching so many people.”
You can also consider publishing it on YouTube to diversify your revenue. However, in order to be eligible to join the YouTube Partner Program and monetise videos, you’ll need to have over 1,000 subscribers and over 4,000 public watch hours in the last 12 months.
Public funding can also be an option to support your project from places like the Audio Content Fund - which has previously funded projects like Coming In From The Cold by Unedited, which told the story of Black British footballers. Public funding can help podcasters invest in things like press and marketing to make their podcast look more professional and allow them to focus on telling their story without worrying about generating income.
It’s also important to keep in mind that the goal for some podcasts may not be to make money from the show at all. If you’re producing a branded podcast, you may wish to focus on driving metrics like brand awareness, engagement, and customer loyalty. In this case, it’s worth focusing more on how to best market your podcast than on how to monetise it.
Branding, branding, branding
Although podcasting is an audio-first medium, establishing a brand with a specific image can help increase your visibility online and grow your podcast subscribers. Having a great design for your podcast logo or artwork can help you look professional and increase your production value.
To do that, you need to take the time to plan out the image of your brand rather than falling into cliches. Shetabi notes that there are some tell-tale branding signs that can give away the fact that you’re a new podcaster. This includes using the word “podcast” in the name, using a microphone or headphones in the cover art, and repeating the description over and over again at the beginning of every episode.
“Use your descriptions really wisely and really think about selling your podcast hard,” Shetabi says. “Rather than explaining that you’re a podcast - which everyone already knows - tell me what the content is.”
If you’re creating podcasts for an existing brand, make sure that you’re using your brand colours and logo in the artwork so that existing customers can easily recognise your content.
Ajala also emphasises the importance of taking your time to plan things properly so that you’re able to be comfortable in your own style and way of storytelling rather than absorbing trends.
“Never forget your why,” Ajala says. “In a society where we are scrolling through things 500 miles a minute… stay true to your brand.”