One of the most commonly cited virtues for podcasting as a medium is its low barrier to entry; if someone wants to start a podcast, they don’t need much more than a laptop or smartphone. However, while that’s technically true, there’s a significant gap between being able to start a podcast, and being able to successfully run one on an ongoing basis.
In reality, it’s often quite hard to grow a podcast once it’s up and running, and one of the most common questions that I get asked by new or independent podcasters is how to get more listeners or more income for their show. It’s a question with no easy answer, but there are a number of approaches and tactics that podcasters may find helpful.
Last week, PodPod hosted the Podcast Growth Summit in London’s Barbican Centre - our first full-day conference which saw more than 100 people assemble to hear the insights from over 20 speakers. It was a fantastic event packed full of fascinating learnings (which you can read more about later this week) and even as immersed in the industry as I am, there were still a few interesting tips and strategies that I’m considering implementing on PodPod to help scale our own efforts.
However, the thing that most stuck out to me across the whole day was the importance of experimentation when growing a podcast. When you’re creating a podcast - particularly when you’re working with limited time or resources - it’s easy to get tunnel vision. One becomes so focused on getting the next episode out the door on time that you end up getting locked into a hamster wheel of content creation, expending vast energy going round and round without actually moving forwards.
With this in mind, it’s useful to take a step back and think about the broader strategy behind your show. What is your current approach to things like content, promotion and monetisation? Is that strategy still the best fit, or has your podcast evolved in such a way that means it’s less suitable? Have your goals shifted since you started the podcast? All of these things can prompt a change in how you create and market your show.
Podcasting is an inherently flexible medium. The accepted orthodoxy is that consistency and stability is the best way to build an audience that makes your podcasting part of their regular routine, but there’s no actual rules that say every episode of your podcast has to be the same length, released on the same day, or even about the same subject matter.
The thing about podcast audiences is that they’re very forgiving. People might come to a podcast based on the topic it’s covering, but they stick around for the hosts, and that connection means that they’ll be willing to give podcasters a surprising degree of latitude when it comes to changing up different aspects of the show.
This applies not just to your content but to your podcast as a whole. You’re free to change your artwork, your sonic branding, and even your podcast’s name whenever you want, if you feel that it could improve your show or help broaden its appeal. As Matt Deegan pointed out in his session on podcast discovery, your existing followers are unlikely to abandon your podcast over these kind of tweaks (assuming you’ve communicated them in advance), so there’s really not much to lose from giving it a shot. If it doesn’t work, you can always go back to your previous approach.
Podcasting is about creativity, and experimentation is the bedrock that true creativity is built on. If your current approach to your podcast isn’t delivering the results that you want, then don’t be afraid to break the mold, rip up the rulebook and colour outside the lines. Podcasting is a living, evolving medium, and the most successful podcasts are those that have the flexibility and the confidence to evolve with it.