(By Ed Ryan) Six episodes. That’s why. They focused on a podcaster who cut six episodes then quit. That’s like resigning from a new job after one week. And when that happens the employee has usually figured out, “I made a bad decision. I can’t really do this job. It’s not for me.” That business will roll on without that employee. Podcasting will roll on without the podfaders.
No offense to Morgan Mandriota and Lester Lee who simply assumed they’d “be huge,” with their The Advice Podcast. I’m sure they are nice people, but maybe they were just giving bad advice. Or maybe they lacked the passion to be a podcaster.
You all know the passion I’m talking about. We’ve heard a lot of podcasts since we launched The Podcast Business Journal. It’s easy to tell the difference between the people who love to podcast from the people who just think they need to jump on the podcasting bandwagon because it’s hot.
Nobody that launches a podcast should “assume” they’re going to be huge. What you should assume is it will take a lot of hard work. What you should assume is your first six episodes will probably suck and your 100th episode will probably be a lot better. What you should have is a plan. Yes, it’s not a bad idea to write out your podcast business plan. Winging it because your computer came with a microphone will not land you on Apple’s New & Notweworthy.
Your plan should include consistently releasing your show, good quality audio, a clean website, a social media push, and a clear understanding of what you’re trying to accomplish with your show. Don’t be afraid to make tweaks and changes along the way. Evaluate how you’re doing every 90 days. Ask people you do not know to critique how you’re doing (remember your mom loves everything you do).
Unless you have a recognizable name or a network willing to spend marketing money on you, you should assume your audience will be small to start. And, you should take care of that audience right from the get-go. They call them P1’s in the radio business. They are your superfans, and they will help you grow by telling their friends. Nurture them. Ask them for topics. Mention their names on the show. Give them reasons to come back and share your show.
Keep in mind: small audiences can be valuable. If you have a podcast about running marathons, for example, you’re targeting a niche audience. That topic might not attract millions but it will attract marathon runners and there are a lot of products sold to marathon runners. Of course, those advertisers will want to hear a “spec” of your show and know you’re not going to disappear after six episodes. And, yes, you will need to make your own sales calls. That’s part of being independent.
In the radio world, on-air talent start out in small markets where there are fewer listeners. They set a goal to go to a medium market where there are more listeners. Then, if they are really good, maybe New York or Chicago or L.A. They also look for feedback on how to improve. At times, they receive feedback even when they don’t want it. They don’t quit after six air shifts because they’re working in cities most people haven’t heard of in Montana or Ohio. They don’t quit because they haven’t the foggiest idea if a single person is even listening to what they have to say. They focus on show prep and getting better the next day.
If your content is good, people will find out about it. Social media is helping make a lot of people stars today. If you learn how to use it, you can increase your listens and downloads.
Hopefully, the following example will give you some hope if you’re just starting out. My wife and I host a show called Beach Talk Radio. On our first episode we interviewed the local Chamber of Commerce Executive Director. During the interview my H4 fell off the table (perhaps I was nervous) and the machine shut off. So I turned it back on…and recorded the second half of the interview over the first half. That was surely frustrating and made me think, perhaps this isn’t for me. But when you have the passion to make something work, you keep at it. In August we will celebrate one year of our show.
Just because everyone can get into podcasting, doesn’t mean everybody should. If you don’t do it because you’re passionate about what you have to say, you’re doing it for the wrong reasons. The cold hard truth is that 99% of new podcasters will not be overnight stars. I know it’s not politically correct to say hard work pays off in a world where everyone gets a participation trophy but HARD WORK PAYS OFF!
I’ll never forget one of the first interviews we did for PBJ Spotlight when Glenn Hebert first got into podcasting about horses. He had FIVE listeners. Today, The Horse Radio Network has 18 shows and Glenn is an icon in the podcasting world. Well, at least I think he is.
If your content sucks, nobody will listen, and the medium will move on without you. But don’t be discouraged when you start reading articles that declare podcasting has reached its peak. Remember this: the haters have been predicting radio’s death ever since the CD was created (when was the last time any of you reading this listen to a CD?).
Radio is 100 years old.
Podcasting is just entering puberty.
Ed Ryan is the Editorial Director of The Podcast Business Journal and host of three podcasts: Podcasting For Radio Dummies, Beach Talk Radio and Fit Over Fifty. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or live at the beach every Saturday morning at www.beachtalkradio.com