By Daniel Rowles and Ciaran Rogers

This book explores the question; “Can a podcast help your business?”

When you look at the ever-increasing number of new shows, many of which fail to attain their goals, it’s easy to see more risks than opportunities in podcasting. 

Take a closer look at the successful examples, however, and you’ll find that a well-designed podcast that provides value to its audience can grow a large, loyal community. You’ll see that such podcasts have a better return on investment than other forms of advertising.

So how can you add yourself to the mix and navigate the risks for a big reward?

From creating your concept to production, distribution, and earning, these blinks will give you the tools to reach your customers in new and exciting ways. 

The authors, explore these questions;

• choosing the right mic;

• other ways to generate revenue; and 

• finding out what audiences really wants.

As typical this book defines the best tried and true starting point by advising the read to define their goals clearly. 

The authors ask the following, “Are any two podcasts alike? Sure, there are lots of imitators out there, but we all know our favorites. They stand out from the crowd and the imitations pale in comparison. But what is it about the shows we love that makes them so successful?”

Another thought they ponder is, “what can you learn from these podcasts’ success if you want to flourish in an increasingly competitive market?”

The authors remind us that they all have clearly defined goals and if you expect to be successful then that’s something your show should have too.

Sometimes the book states the obvious like, “Your podcast should support your business, but this doesn’t happen by accident.” And, “If you want to produce a great program, you have to be clear about what it is that you’re trying to achieve. Put differently, you need to have an ultimate goal in mind.”

I like that the authors start with establishing some clear objective for the reader to consider like, “Are you looking to generate direct income from online sales, for example? Or are you playing the long game and looking for leads toward future sales? Perhaps you simply want to promote your brand without any direct, measurable financial benefit. Whatever your objective, clarifying your goals is the first step in designing your podcast.”

The authors provide a systematic, spelled out guide by telling the reader, “you’ll want to merge your goals with the content itself…. most people aren’t going to be interested in subscribing to a giant commercial – they want content. Just like commercials around a radio show, the draw is something of value. It can be a personality, a steady flow of interesting information, or even entertaining fiction.”

Here’s a critical thought from the authors I like, “Great content gains listeners’ trust. Content and goals go hand in hand. A podcast with great content and no clear goal isn’t going to achieve anything. A podcast with a goal but no value, on the other hand, won’t help you build a loyal audience. If you need any help when it comes to designing your content and goals, just think of your favorite podcasts. What are their goals? How did they earn your trust and support? This might just give you the inspiration you need.”

And here’s another great thought from the book, “If you want to make a popular podcast, you need to know why people listen.”

The authors remind us, “All top podcasts have one thing in common – they have engaged audiences. What is engagement, you ask? Simple. It means folks share your content and talk to each other about your show.”

All of this is interesting on its own, but how do you interpret the data? What do we really know about our podcast audiences and how do we communicate with them to get greater insights? What is the data or numbers telling you?

The authors remind us that our potential listeners are people like us who have limited time and, “The first thing they’ll want to know about any podcast is always the same: Why should I spend my time listening to this show?”

Therefore, “If you want people to listen, you need to add value to their lives. What’s the benefit to them? Is it to learn? To be entertained? To feel a social connection? This value is what keeps them connected.”

It’s also critical to know how they’re listening so you need to consider their lives and schedules – what activities do they use to catch your podcasts? So, the authors suggest; “Start by thinking up a number of different types of people to represent your audience. Now give them names and ask yourself: What are their goals? Schedules? Social media choices? Does your format suit, say, “Always-on-the-go Diane?” How about “Stuck-in-traffic Robert,” or “Short-attention-span George?” And; “You won’t be able to please everyone all the time, of course, but this approach will help you develop a strategy to deliver content that most people want, most of the time.”

Building an audience is all about helping listeners find you and giving them a reason to stick around. 

So, your podcast is up and running….”That’s the most important step, but there’s still a long way to go. What you need now is a fanbase. But how do you translate your idea into a large and loyal audience of eager listeners?”

I like that the authors address this critical element next, “Let’s talk about discoverability, or how easy it is for folks to find you. Discovery depends on factors like keywords and search engine optimization. If a person searches for your topic, you want to show up near the top of their list. For that to happen, you’ll need a good web page.”

And another great point for any marketing message, it’s about more than, “slick design…. Your web page should also be regularly updated and contain meta-tags – snippets of text that describe what something is about – for each episode. Add these and you’ll make it much easier for people using Google to find and subscribe to your podcast.”

And here’s an idea that I never thought of or considered before, “Not everyone, however, will use a search engine to find podcasts on their chosen topics. Some people will check listings on their podcatcher – a program for downloading podcasts. To reach these listeners, you’ll need to add professional and enticing cover art and descriptions for these services.”

The authors remind us that we need to have consistency in our format which includes these possibilities; “A podcast can choose solo delivery, two-host banter, roundtable discussions, fiction, live recordings, and interviews. It can even mix them into a fairly predictable pattern. Maybe it’s a weekly show, but once a month there’s an interview instead of the usual roundtable discussion. But if you do vary the format, avoid confusing or disappointing your listeners. If Stacy is stuck in her car, ready to hear her favorite four hosts talk about her hobby, she’ll be annoyed to find the episode is a Skype interview that strays from the expected topic. That bad feeling can linger.”

The authors reminder us; “The best way to keep your audience onside is to base your formatting decisions on what your imaginary listeners would like. Would, say, an opportunity for a rare interview bring more value, or potentially drive them away by breaking with their expectations?”

This is a great thought to always remember in any business venture, “Your concept and internet presence will draw people in, but your consistent delivery will keep them while you steadily add more listeners.”

The authors explore this important topic next, “Branding and word-of-mouth recommendations will help you create the best podcast in your field.”

They address these important questions, “How fast can you grow? How do you get more than a trickle of new listeners? Are keywords and a web presence really enough? Of course not. To really build your audience, you have to take things to the next level.”

The authors introduce the importance of branding. The start of your show needs to make a good impression so the title, artwork, and a polished audio introduction will give a professional feel that will act like the cover of a book. It should be clear what the show is about from the very beginning.

And the end of each episode can be thought of as a branding opportunity so your listeners should hear a familiar tune and perhaps a teaser for the next episode.

The authors remind us the next thing is advertising. And the best ad for your podcast isn’t a paid ad – it’s word of mouth recommendations. Consider that and get people buzzing about your show and you’ll get free advertising and expand you listener base.

The authors remind us that, “Using the right tools will get you the highest-quality podcast with the least effort.”

I liked that the authors cut to the chase when they say, “When it comes to recording, the two most important factors are the environment and the microphone you’re using. Remember, even the best equipment won’t work well if you’re in a bad location. A kitted-out studio isn’t always available, of course, but you can use foam or a portable booth to transform a regular room into a quiet recording space. The key is to minimize both outside noise and reflected sound inside the room.”

Additionally, I found it interesting when the authors suggested, “… test the difference… Record a few words in a tiled bathroom. Then do the same in a closet full of clothes. The closet will sound much better because your voice won’t be bouncing all over the place.”

They then address which mic you choose comes down to what you need it to do. Lavalier mics, for example, are portable and work well for interviews. A USB microphone, on the other hand, can plug right into your computer and get the job done at a reasonable cost. Oh, and you’ll need that computer for interviewing people over Skype. Doing in-person roundtable interviews? Keep it low-tech and use a, well, round table with a portable recorder sitting at the center.

So, after you’ve figured out your recording setup, you’ll need to think about how you’ll do your editing. The authors remind us, “there are many programs out there. Essentially, these all do the same thing, but using them can be a bit of a learning curve. Cutting out random ramblings and removing some of the many “ums” and “ahs” can be a time-consuming business. Doing it without losing the natural flow of the conversation takes practice. It’s worth the effort, though. Every minute of the listener’s time is valuable. You don’t want to waste any of it.”

The content you deliver must never grow stale.

The authors remind us, “Every topic and every interview should fit the vision for your show. Your content is your value and quality beats quantity. A listener can switch to another podcast at any time. If you’ve crafted your episodes well, your audience will stay engaged and happy.”

Your podcast will only be as good as your topic ideas. So that means, “If you want to be the go-to source for your niche, you need to keep your finger on the pulse. That means searches, social engagement, and analytics. Knowing your audience means listening to them. Knowing your area means studying and learning. Is the new topic a bit over your head? Bring in an expert to talk about it.”

I think the authors state the obvious when they say, “The audience is there to be engaged, to learn, and to be entertained. This is the primary goal of every episode of your podcast. But you also had an initial reason for starting a podcast. Don’t lose sight of it. Perhaps you can break between segments with a sponsor message. Or you could ask for social media likes at the end of the show. You could even point listeners to show notes that contain links to your product or service.”

Tracking your listeners’ behavior gives you insights into their preferences. 

In this section I really like that the authors address these questions

  • Where does your podcast live? In your podcast app, right?
  • But where is it coming from when you click on it?”

And this is a critical point; “You need an RSS feed, and you also need web space to which to upload your files. You can host your own files, but this can get expensive due to bandwidth limitations. If a 30MB file is downloaded thousands of times, it can quickly add up, leading to unexpected bills from your provider.”

Fortunately, there are service providers designed to handle this sort of bandwidth requirements. And added benefit is that they come with useful tools to help you get to know your audience. The authors tell us; “A podcast hosting provider like Libsyn is well worth the monthly fees. It distributes your show across many platforms, pushes content to social media, tracks download stats, and has no download limits.” Makes me wonder if they’re getting paid to recommend them, so I didn’t like that.

They go on to say, “The statistics it provides are also valuable. Knowing your audience will help you stay on topic and engaged. Statistics tell you not only how many people downloaded your show, but where they’re from and what app or distribution platform they’re using.” This is good to know, but as you can see building your own podcast requires a lot of steps, thought, and preparation. Probably more than what the average person would expect. Don’t forget this all costs money and could be expensive if you’re not careful, so map out your plan before you start spending.

I like that the authors address the demographics and device types by asking these questions, “How large is your audience? Is it growing? Shrinking? In what countries? On what devices? Did certain topics or guests lead to a spike in traffic? Some services track not just downloads, but how far into individual episodes listeners made it. Are people not finishing episodes? If few people are listening all the way through, maybe it’s time to rethink putting those promotions at the end of the show.”

Of course, no podcast will be successful without a well thought out social media campaign. These stats provide great insight into overall audience numbers, but nothing compares to direct audience engagement. So, the best way to achieve this is by spreading your brand across various social media platforms. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and others can be used to get direct feedback from listeners and to engage them on topics of interest for future episodes, polls, and guest suggestions.

The authors remind us that social media can be a two-edged sword so be careful as to how you use it.

Another great topic address is how, “Your podcast has to create revenue if it’s going to support your business.”

As previously mentioned, producing a podcast costs money. You have costs for equipment, hosting, software editing, and websites to name a few; so, everything you need to keep your podcast running has a cost.

Lastly, the authors address the 3 main ways to generate revenues;

Selling ads – native or non-native

These can either be native or non-native. Native ads are designed to feel like a natural part of the show. Non-native ads are obvious commercial breaks.

Sell merchandise

This can be great for brand awareness, but beware because if the merchandise doesn’t move then you’re stuck with the expenses without the benefit. This area of revenue generation can be tricky. Remember some merchandise has an appeal shelf life.

Asking your audience to pay you directly for your content

This is an interesting approach I had not thought of before. The authors mention a company called Take Patreon, which is a subscription service provider that provides content producers with a steady and predictable income. In return for their monthly donations, listeners receive special rewards like merchandise or access to special content. If you succeed with this approach, this financial model has the potential to allow you to quit your job and become a full-time podcaster.

Final Thoughts

This is an interesting book. It provides the reader that is considering a career in podcasting a systematic method and approach to building a successful podcast business.

If you want a successful, profitable podcast business, then you need to know your audience and what they want.

Start with imaginary listeners to build a profile of who they are, then use social media and statistics to get a real sense of what they value.

Provide that value professionally and consistently to build trust.

Use loyalty to your brand to reach your goals and use demographic data to see what’s working.

Remember a good podcast has a symbiotic relationship with its audience.

Great podcasts build communities emerge around there brand – that’s a tremendously valuable asset for any business.

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