These 5 Things Will NOT Grow Your Podcast


(By Dave Jackson) There is a saying in the weight-loss world, “If you’re not hungry — food is not the answer.” Still, we find ourselves staring at the fridge when in reality we are not hungry — we are bored or stressed.

The same can be said of podcasting. Here are some items people are spending time on that do nothing to grow their audience. If your show is not growing, these are not the answers.

Asking For Subscriptions Before You Deliver Value

I listen to a LOT of podcasts, and they all beg me to subscribe. Someone asked me, “Have you ever subscribed to a show because someone asked you to?” I thought about it, and the answer is no. I subscribe to a podcast when the content matches the title, their audio quality is not distracting, they get to the point, and they deliver value.

My point is, don’t spent five minutes at the beginning of your show (when you haven’t delivered any value) begging for subscriptions. Deliver undeniable value first, and give them a reason to subscribe.

Sending People to the Haystack That is Apple Podcasts

I hear people say “Find this show in Apple Podcasts.” I don’t think they realize that what they are saying is “Use a not-so-great search tool to find me among the 660,000 other podcasts.” That number will be close to 700,000 by the end of the year.

Think of a car radio. You have a dial with stations up and down as you scroll. When you find a station you like, you set that station as a preset. Apple gives you a “preset” by giving you a link to your show.

Instead of making people search for you, send them to your website and place “Subscribe” links to Apple, Google (80% of Europe is on Android), Spotify, etc. You can include directions on what to do with these links, and (if you’re using Facebook) you can use the Facebook pixel to start your marketing process. It’s the difference between saying, “Find my station on the radio dial,” and “We’re preset number four.”

Asking for Reviews to “Help Us Be Found”

I hear this over and over: “Please leave us a review in Apple Podcasts it (typically one of these)”:

— helps us get found
— helps to grow the show
— pushes us up the charts.

In some cases I cringe as they ask for reviews but not for a subscription (even though we just said people rarely subscribe because you ask). A subscription will do more for you in Apple Podcasts than a review.

In an article by Daniel J. Lewis, he says, “Ratings and reviews may help Apple notice your podcast more, but this is most likely cross-compared with your actual audience growth (subscriptions, plays, and downloads).”

What reviews amount to is social proof. If someone is searching a topic in Apple podcasts and they see two shows, and one has five reviews, and the other has 15, they may look at that show first.

Just realize reviews have nothing to do with chart position. VP of Podcaster Relations at Rob Walch has tested and confirmed the “Top Podcasts” list is almost 100% based on the number of subscriptions over a period of time.

Maybe a better thing to say is, “Do you know someone who might like this episode? Can you take a second to share it with them today?”

Obsessing Over Chart Position

When I was a corporate trainer, at the end of class my students would evaluate myself and the course. A fellow trainer would sweat bullets doing this at the end of class. I did not. Why? Because I did the best I could for the class. I typically wouldn’t change a thing.

More and more services are popping up that will email you your chart position from all the different countries. I knew this was a bad idea when I saw it. Why? Because podcasters love to obsess over stats, and this was just another stat to obsess over.

Sure enough, a few times a week now I will get an email that is something like this, “You were #178 last week in (insert category/country), and now you’re #208. Is there something wrong?”

Or my favorite, “This morning you were #97 in your category and later in the afternoon I see you’re down to #137.” (So they are checking multiple times a day.)

First of all, being at the top of the charts does not bring thousands of downloads. I know podcasters who were on the front page of Apple iTunes and got a few hundred downloads, not the thousands of downloads, they expected.

So when you drop a few chart positions, ask yourself, “Did I do the best I could in the last few episodes?” If the answer is “Yes,” then that’s all you can do. The charts are the charts. Some people are scanning them and buying subscribers, but would be much better off taking the time they spend staring at the charts and use it to make content that inspires people to share and talk about their show with their friends.

Staring at charts and stats does not make them grow. Focus on your audience, not the charts.

Upgrading Your Equipment

If it ain’t broke don’t fix it. We’ve heard this, yet people still obsess over the technology. I hear where people will switch from a Heil PR40 microphone to an Electrovoic RE320 when both are good microphones. The Samson Q2U and the Audio Technica ATR2100 are very similar microphones. Changing from one to the other is a waste of money.

I always want to ask, “Did someone in your audience say the audio was bad?” If you are using any of these microphones the answer is going to be “no.” Still, we obsess over sound quality.

Now there are times when this is needed (when you try to record four people with one Blue Yeti — that’s not going to sound good), but most of the time if you’ve done some homework and understand recording levels, you are 100% fine.

Have you ever heard someone say, “You’ve got to listen to this podcast!” and when you ask why they say, “It just sounds soooo good, it’s like butter for your ears!” Nobody says that, but they will tell you about this new podcast and its excellent content.

One would think this would lead people to focus on the content, but instead, we focus on bit rates and sample rates.

Dave Jackson is a Hall of Fame podcaster and consultant. He started the School of Podcasting in 2005 and potentially has helped more podcasters with their podcast than any other human on the planet. Find him at


  1. Thanks Dave – I typically switch out my call to action each week with four different items. Would you say that is a good practice or would it be best to rotate them every three weeks – or does it matter?

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