Your Podcast Should Not Be Like Neapolitan Ice Cream

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(By Dave Jackson) I got an email from someone who had been podcasting for two years. In the email (and I’m paraphrasing) it basically had these points…

You need a pre-existing brand, preferably from another medium (particularly TV) to be successful.

There were some who were able to breakthrough in the early days of syndicated podcasting just by doing episodes.

Now its virtually impossible to “breakthrough” if you’re starting now. 

If you look at this point, the person is pointing out why they were only getting 30-50 downloads per episode after two year. They also pointed out that:

My shows are technically well done and that I am a capable presenter.

I can do this on YouTube for free. I don’t need to pay to create episodes that strangers can ignore.

My Favorite Part of This Message

When I saw, “My shows are technically well done and that I am a capable presenter,” I just shook my head. “All I need is a good microphone and the ability to talk and I should be famous by now.”

Nowhere in the email did this person say, “I’ve spent countless hours on zoom with my listeners getting to know them.” It didn’t include, “I drove 150 miles to attend a meetup of what appears to be my target audience (COVID-19 aside). There was no mention of the effort they took to get to know his audience or find out what they want. I have said it before, and I will say it again. It is NOT the tech. Every year television shows, movies, etc are technically well done and use “Capable Actors” and yet some don’t make it to the end of the season. Why? The content. 

You Need to Be On TV To Have a Successful Podcast

This is not true. Do you remember the Kathy Lee Gifford podcast? It’s true. She had one. You can’t find it today. What about the Andrew Dice Clay podcast? Andrew was one of my favorites as I believe he thought he was doing radio and would do air checks about every 10-15 minutes, “You’re listening to the Dice Man” as if we pushed play in the middle of his podcast. 

Now being on TV or having a platform is just another way to connect with your already adoring fans. It makes it easier – true. But it’s not impossible to connect with your audience without a TV show behind you.

Only People In the Early Days Could Break Through

I will say they have a point. I mean how was Milton Berle deemed Mr. Telvsion? I have never found him funny. The answer he was on TV in 1948 and was up against a test pattern. However, even in 2005 there were people who didn’t breakthrough. Nobody got a free pass. You still needed to know your audience and give them what they wanted. In the early days of podcasting, people thrived on creating content that would NEVER be on the radio. Fast forward today and many people are doing all they can to sound just like the radio and wondering why they are not “breaking through.” They sound like something you can get any place, any time, anywhere. 

Nobody Likes Neapolitan Ice Cream

When I was a kid growing up, I was always sort of bummed when I went to a cousin’s birthday party and someone had purchased Neapolitan ice cream (which is 33% chocolate, 33% Vanilla, and 33% Strawberry). The strawberry and chocolate were never as good as a container where there was just ONE flavor (Breyers Strawberry is heaven to me). Plus, what if you don’t like strawberry? You’re getting it anyway!

When I looked at this person’s topics. One episode was somewhat about gardening. The next episode was about President Trump (I have no idea if he was pro or con, but either way you just lost a TON of your audience) and the next episode was something hyper-local that you needed to be there to understand. I don’t care what equipment you buy, and how well you speak nobody likes Neapolitan content. It’s easier to blame the podcasting space than to take a long look at your content under a microscope. 

Think of it in regards to music. Can you think of one person who loves Bluegrass, Death Metal, and Jazz? Even if we took something more realistic: Delta Blues, Electric Blues, and Jazz. For me keep the jazz and the out of tune guitar from 1940 that is “Delta blues.” I love electric blues. 

Breaking Through Has Many Shapes and Sizes

I interviewed two hosts from the Wealth without Wallstreet podcast for my podcast. In a year of creating their podcast, they tripled their revenue. They had a premade audience of about 200 when they started from an email list. They made a place for their community could come together and talk. They listened and got to know their audience and help them identify and solve their issues. They talked about these issues on their podcast. Their community ate it up. 

They are not a household name. However, they “broke through” to the audience that matters. The people who need their content. They listened to them. Gave them what they wanted, and encouraged them to tell a friend. It sounds simple. It sounds easy. It’s not, and that is why most people upgrade their microphones. Quit spending time learning new tech, and go spend time getting to really know your audience.  

Dave Jackson is a Hall of Fame podcast consultant who has been podcasting since 2005. He is the founder of the School of Podcasting where he helps you start your podcast and grow your influence. He can be reached by e-mail at schoolofpodcasting@gmail.com

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