The Biggest Problem Podcasters Have (And How To Fix It).

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(By Alex Exum) Reviewing the most recent number one podcasts on iTunes highlights a big problem most new podcasters will face today. Let’s take a look at the biggest podcasts for the last two months…


16 December 2018
Dr. Death (Prod. By Wondery)

15 December 2018
Phil in the Blanks (Prod. By CBS/Dr. Phil)

12 December 2018
Dirty John (Prod. By L.A. Times/Wondery)

09 December 2018
The Corp (Prod. By Barstoolsports.com)

06 December 2018
The Teacher’s Pet (Prod. By The Australian)

04 December 2018
Post Reports (Prod. By The Washington Post)

03 December 2018
Conan O’Brien Needs A Friend (Prod. By TBS/Conan O’Brien)

02 December 2018
Dirty John (Prod. By L.A. Times/Wondery)

30 November 2018
Conan O’Brien Needs A Friend (Prod. By TBS/Conan O’Brien)

26 November 2018
Dirty John (Prod. By L.A. Times/Wondery)

22 November 2018
Bag Man (Prod. By MSNBC/Rachel Maddow)

20 November 2018
Conan O’Brien Needs A Friend (Prod. By TBS/Conan O’Brien)

18 November 2018
Oprah’s SuperSoul Conversations (SuperSoul.tv/Oprah Winfrey)

Notice a theme here? CBS, TBS, L.A. Times, Washington Post, MSNBC. All the new number one shows are produced by big entertainment companies. How can the little guy compete with big players like Oprah, Dr. Phil, and Rachel Maddow throwing their name, advertising, and marketing dollars at their show? 

The short answer, the little guy can’t.

Individual podcasters simply can’t or won’t invest as much time and money in their podcast as these shows. The “big boys” have a marketing department, salespeople, and connections. They have established brands with an outlet to market directly to their audience. Most have a famous celebrity host who already has a large following. 

You, on the other hand, have a microphone and a dream.

The idea of flipping on a microphone and becoming the next Joe Rogan or Adam Carolla is appealing, but very unrealistic. This is an uneven playing field and you are running up hill from the start.

The number one question from new podcasters is, “How do I get more listeners?” The short answer is, “You need to spend money.”

Ninety percent of podcasters fail because they don’t invest in themselves. Sure, they bought a microphone, audio hosting, and put up a website. Welcome to the wide world of 90% of podcasters.  

Now the real work begins.

  • How many Facebook ad campaigns have you run? 
  • How many Twitter ad campaigns have you run? 
  • How many Instagram ad campaigns have you run?
  • Have you printed any real-world marketing materials (business cards, flyers, posters?)
  • Did you buy a professional show logo?
  • Do you have a press release or one-sheet about the show?
  • Did you contact local media requesting to be feature or interviewed in their newspaper, magazine, blog, etc.
  • Is your website properly designed to get listeners to subscribe to your show?
  • How many books on podcasting and radio have your read? 
  • Have you taken any training to become a skilled presenter? 
  • Did you submit your show to all the platforms (iTunes, Sticher, Spotify, TuneIn, etc.)
  • Did you LAUNCH? Was there pre-launch buzz or did you quietly upload your shows?
  • You want to make money, but have you figured out how to monetize something you are giving away for free?

How many can you check off? You had better believe that Wondery, Dr. Phil, Oprah, MSNBC, and the others HAVE. They have entire teams working behind the scenes five days a week producing and marketing their shows. 

You CAN Get on the Playing Field.

There is one area where we DO have a level playing field and that is in social media advertising. With as little as $5.00 you start advertising on sites like Facebook and be alongside big advertisers. Running an ad campaign can seem difficult, but the wizard tools on these sites now make it very easy and intuitive.

Twitter and Instgram allow you to boost your posts, and many content creators are finding success building their audience with pay-to-play posts. Although not as robust as Facebook, Twitter has shown to be a great platform for podcasters to build an audience.

Advertising does work, take it from a podcaster who has run campaigns. Don’t fall into the trap of advertising to get listens. A successful campaign must have a call to action, which should always be to subscribe to the podcast or your newsletter. 

Outsourcing is your friend. 

Writing great ad-copy and creating clickable graphics for your campaign is an art from. Unless you already work in advertising you probably shouldn’t write you own ads. If you don’t have graphic design skills, leave it to a pro. This is where outsourcing can become your best friend.

Again for as little as $5.00 you can hire someone to do it for you on sites like, Fiver, Upwork and Design Crowd. I have used these type of service with varying success; the old adage still stands: You get what you pay for. Try and avoid the cheapest freelancers and pay a little extra for one with great work samples and reviews. Sometimes spending only a few dollars more can make a big difference in the final product.

Even if the odds are stacked against you from the start, there is a lot you can do to increase your chances of producing a successful podcast. Invest in yourself and spend the time and money to market you podcast the way the pros do. 

Podcasting is a marathon, not a sprint. Put in the work behind the microphone and it will pay off in the long run.

Alex Exum is the host of ‘Live Talk’ Monday – Thursdays 7 p.m. PST at livetalk.live and thefringe.fm. Reach Alex by e-mail at [email protected]

2 COMMENTS

  1. Eight of 13… and three of them are the top three. The podcast does have a presence on all three of those platforms. For a little podcast in the desert, it’s doing alright – and I see where it could improve. Thanks.

  2. Outstanding perspectives with one thing missing: Many of the Podcasters not only “don’t pay for their podcasts” – they have a LOT OF MONEY already. Joe has talked about it MANY times, as have other prolific, “top tier” podcasters. Their program wasn’t and still likely isn’t their only gig. Something GIANT that all Podcasters should remember especially when comparing oneself to any of the people that come to mind.

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