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Grow Your Show: 11 Insider Tips for a Successful Podcast
How to avoid podfade and create a successful podcast. Learn how to review your approach, stay consistent, and maximise the ROI of your show.
In 2018, Todd Cochrane (CEO at Blubrry, a podcast hosting platform) told Amplifi Media that 75% of podcasts that started earlier in the year weren’t in production by August.
This is a common problem called “podfade,” where the release frequency starts declining for various reasons. Whatever the goal of podcasting, releasing episodes consistently on a fixed schedule is difficult for all podcasters despite their best efforts.
Personal podcasts are often the products of people’s passions. But passion alone does not guarantee the success of a podcast.
Businesses may see podcasts as a tool for quick success. The reality of slow progress can come as a rude shock!
Media agencies are always on the lookout for optimizing their podcast production process to fit the limited client budget. Not letting shrinking budgets affect the show's quality is a constant struggle.
It can be difficult to admit your podcast is suffering from podfade, but once you accept it, you can begin thinking of a solution. On the other side of this problem is a successful podcast that can help develop your brand’s awareness, make money for showrunners, and delight listeners at the same time.
Here are 11 insider tips to revive a podcast and make it successful.
- Clarify the objectives for your podcast
- Review the content theme and agenda of your podcast
- Review how you record the podcast
- Make your release frequency more sustainable
- Review your podcast guest list to maximize your reach
- Research your guests well
- Start asking the right questions for engagement
- Promote each episode to get it in front of the right audience
- Release episodes consistently over the long term
- Get a solid sound setup for your podcast
- Improve the ROI (Return On Investment) of your podcast
1. Clarify the objectives for your podcast
If your objectives and goals for the podcast are crystal clear, you know what steps to take and when to steer your show toward profitability.
Set meaningful and reasonable goals
It’s not easy to translate aspirations into actionable goals. Individual podcasters may simply want to share their ideas with the rest of the world and make some money. Exchanging knowledge with experts is also a common intention among podcasters. Branded podcasts have their own KPIs.
It’s not uncommon for podcasts to have zero or very few practical goals. To keep the podcast running, you must first clarify and elaborate on what your goals are. What does success look like for your podcast? What indicators will you use to measure your podcast’s success?
Go beyond the “total streams” number
Avoid focusing on the “total streams” number because it shows only a small part of the complete picture. The larger the audience, the bigger the “total streams” number. But it does not indicate how your podcast has progressed toward its goals.
Low podcast numbers are fine for businesses who only need their podcasts to help make a few additional sales to make podcasting worthwhile.
You might interpret low streaming numbers as a failure of the podcast. However, when you look at other indicators - website visits, affiliate purchases, voluntary donations - you might notice that your podcast is not doing so bad!
So, it’s good to broaden your horizons and have a clear idea of what your podcast’s goals are.
2. Review the content theme and agenda of your podcast
Any new podcast must have a unique content theme to succeed i.e. it should give your audience what other podcasts don’t provide. Let’s see steps and best practices for refining a podcast’s content theme.
Clarify who your ideal listener is
Almost all business and monetization goals of your podcast need highly engaged listeners to fulfill them.
Ideal, highly-engaged listeners are those who can directly relate to your content. To identify them, start by answering these questions.
- Who would need the content you are offering?
- How important are these listeners? Are there other types of listeners who might listen to your show?
- What else would they need that you can provide?
- What else would they be willing to listen to you about?
The audience will reward topics of higher relevance with better engagement and are more likely to support your podcast in different ways.
Refine the agenda of your podcast
Your purpose for sharing information - education, entertainment, sales, etc - will help you structure the agenda of your show and help establish a coherent sequence of ideas. For example, a podcast sharing financial news will have the purpose of informing its listeners. But the agenda of a finance analysis podcast will include the analysis of events and topics in great detail.
Don’t talk only about your products/services
When you want your podcast to be seen as an industry voice, your podcast should focus on building value, not selling. Don’t let your product/service’s benefits be the major highlight in your episodes.
If you do that, the audience will quickly see that your podcast doesn’t particularly offer much value and shift their focus to another show that offers more value.
Don’t restrict your podcast’s theme to a single topic
A singular focus may save a lot of time producing the show but may not drive a lot of engagement. There are always tangential and adjacent topics to talk about. For example, a podcast about debt relief may not only focus on debt relieving strategies. It could also help inform the audience about insurance or other finance topics of their interest.
Add this restriction only if you have a very tight budget or it’s a strategic decision by the business team.
Do consider interviewing experts on your show
Interview podcasts are a great way to ensure you are not limited in your topics. While it’s possible to produce fantastic solo episodes, having expert guests on your show will help you leverage their networks for better promotion.
You will also save some time as you will not have to research and write the entire episode by yourself.
Finally, having a second voice encourages variety in your opinions and ideas expressed on your show.
3. Review how you record the podcast
When you review how you record the podcast, you can find time-saving opportunities and make the recording process a lot more efficient.
Live vs. asynchronous podcasts
The difference between Live and Asynchronous podcasts is that both the guest and the host must be available in a single time slot for a live podcast, but this is not required in Asynchronous podcasts.
An asynchronous podcast takes the scheduling issues out of your recording process by its very nature. If the guest is not free at the same time as the host, they can choose their own time of the day to record.
This means you can invite hard-to-book guests onto your podcast and those located in different time zones. Having a larger pool of guests to book means your podcast has a potentially higher level of audience exposure. Bigger reach translates to encouraging numbers and helps prevent podfade in the long run.
You might love to talk to your guests in a live conversation format because they’re easier to track for your listeners. But you have to opt for asynchronous conversational interviews if the guest is not free in the same time slot as the host or is located at a completely different timezone. This is possible with smart remote podcast software.
For example, the interviews recorded on Rumble Studio are asynchronous, so you create the questions and then invite the external speakers to answer them. You can send questions to your guest as text only, or you can record a human or synthetic voice before sending them over.
It is possible to create a very real-sounding dialogue by recording a follow-up comment based on what the guest says before moving on to the next question.
This also reduces the podcast editing time because each question and every answer is a self-contained voice block. These blocks can be dragged and dropped to change their sequence in Rumble Studio’s editor.
Many hosts lose interest in their podcasts because podcast editing can be so cumbersome. But with asynchronous interviews, the editing is a smooth and delightful experience, thus potentially preventing podfade.
Narrative style interviews
In a narrative-style interview, the host speaks to the listener, rather than the guest. The host introduces topics and ideas, then answers from one or more guests are played that serve as evidence of the points made.
The narrative format has many benefits:
- It’s great for storytelling as you have complete control of the direction of the narrative and the order of the ideas presented.
- It's easier to include multiple guests on the show, create more engagement with the community, and provide different perspectives for listeners to absorb.
A narrative-style interview with multiple guests becomes invigorating since each guest brings their unique viewpoint to the discussion. Better engagement means faster progress toward your podcast’s goals and a lower possibility of podfade.
Here, you just talk on a mic. This format can create a lot of work for you, as you have to do all the research and produce everything yourself. However, it can be very quick to release episodes like this as you’re not relying on anyone else. Therefore, this format saves time and can prevent podfade if interviewing doesn’t come naturally to the host.
Mix and match episode formats as per your convenience
You don’t have to stick to a single format. As long as you add value to your listeners' lives, you can juggle episode formats according to your availability and the availability of your guests. However, variability in your production process can create additional work for you.
4. Make your release frequency more sustainable
The key to avoiding podfade is a sensible release frequency and a standardized process to follow to produce each episode. Many podcasts that suffer from podfade have an unrealistic release frequency or a highly variable (non-standardized) production process.
Releasing your episodes at a pre-decided frequency helps listeners form a habit of listening to your podcast. This is one of the best ways to grow your audience, as you retain your listeners over the long term.
But to maintain a set frequency, you need a process that remains more or less the same for all episodes. A predictable process means a predictable time spent in producing each episode. Thus, uniformity makes it easy to plan and manage your recording schedule.
5. Review your podcast guest list to maximize your reach
While a low number of listens isn’t the end of the world for your podcast, you still want to maximize the reach on every episode to experience its benefits.
Invest time in curating your guest list
Selecting guests with large networks is a tried and tested strategy to increase the podcast reach. Their status and credibility rub off on you and your show; it boosts your image and helps turn your podcast into a brand.
But your audience won’t enjoy the show if guests don’t match their interests. The reach of the episode might be lower if guests aren’t very popular. So you have to find the right balance between inviting guests that are interesting to your audience and guests with massive network sizes on social media.
If you always invite guests who only agree with you, you won’t learn much and won’t find the creative stimulation you need to keep going. You would risk podfade.
Ask your audience who they would like to hear from
Your social media followers are also a great source of guest recommendations. You are giving them what they want. This will almost guarantee good stats for your episode.
You don’t need to stick to a single guest per episode
You can invite many experts and do a larger episode in the round table format. You need not worry about not being able to sync up everyone’s time. You can conduct remote asynchronous interviews and stitch them up together like it was a real conversation among experts
Use podcast matchmaking services
Matchmaking websites help connect podcast hosts and guests based on their relevance. You can explore such services if you have a hard time finding the right guests to invite to your show.
6. Research your guests well
You need topics that your guest and your audience are interested in. So, your guest research is a crucial step to help ensure higher listener engagement.
Use a guest application form to discover their favorite topics
Use a guest application form to ask the guest what they would love to talk about. Create a list to document all the topics you would like to talk about. Enhance this list by asking for topic/question suggestions on social media.
You could also dig through their social media presence and the content on the guest’s/company’s website. This will help find topics that they spoke about in the near past.
When you have too many topics, focus on your audience’s wishes
Uninspiring topics make for dull episodes, which could increase the possibility of podfade in the future.
When researching your guest for potential topics and questions, you need to please the desires of your guest and your audience. Then there are topics that you would be interested in talking about.
All three types will overlap in an ideal world, and your job will be much easier. But finding topics that are at the intersection of all three sources may not always be possible. If they are indeed distinct sets, prioritize questions your audience would be interested in.
7. Start asking the right questions for engagement
The best interviews are when guests talk freely, and the conversation doesn’t feel forced. You want to frame questions the right way to help facilitate that.
Start with a candid conversation before moving to more formalized interview questions.
Add some context before each question
When asking questions, try to add context to your scripted questions. For example, in an interview with a bodybuilder about recovery from intense workouts, you can ask a straightforward question: “What do you do to recover after intense workouts?”.
A common side-effect of intense workouts is DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness), which is a name given to intense localized muscle pain that can last up to 3 days if not treated. You can also modify your question to include a mention of DOMS.
The question would then become: “We know that the DOMS pain is a common problem in strength training. So how do you deal with DOMS after long or intense workout sessions?”.
Instead of simply asking a question, you add some context by mentioning the core problem.
Modulate your voice because listeners can’t see your face
Add relevant context through varied intonation and make every word sound like it’s a part of the dialogue. Listeners cannot see your face, so you have to act it out through your voice.
Arrange your questions in a logical sequence with a focus on storytelling
If your questions don’t have a logical sequence, it will affect what listeners take away from the episode. Try to follow a storytelling approach to ordering your questions, so it leaves listeners satisfied. You can also re-word your questions to highlight a specific emotion if required.
While editing a remote & asynchronous interview podcast, rearrange your questions and guest replies to find a logical storytelling sequence. You don’t have to invent a story to fit your episode. Instead, you have to find a sequence to your questions that lets your listeners experience emotions as a story would.
Rumble Studio makes it easy through drag-and-drop of audio blocks.
8. Promote each episode to get it in front of the right audience
You need to persuade people to listen to your episode that you worked really hard on. Typical motivations to listen to a podcast episode include:
- They have already been listening to the podcast and have formed a habit
- A person they admire is a podcast host or a guest on an episode. So invite well-known guests.
- Someone from their friend’s circle recommended they listen to an episode. So, ask your listeners to share each episode with their friends/colleagues or use your episodes to trigger interesting conversations with their network.
- They get a compelling reason to listen to the episode (e.g., through a social media post or trending topics)
This is not an exhaustive list but a good way to analyze how you can get more people to listen to your episode.
Keep listeners listening to your show
The easiest way to retain your customers is to ask them what or who they would like to listen to. When setting up guest questions, your effort is lowered, and you simultaneously get guaranteed listeners.
Add new listeners
Some listeners will inevitably leave. If you don’t want your podcast to die the slow death of podfade, you need to constantly get more people to listen to it. This ensures consistent growth and insulates your podcast from periodic or accidental fluctuations in demand.
Create your podcast promotion strategy
One or two weekly posts on LinkedIn can only do so much. Instead of relying on social media, make it a core pillar of your promotional strategy and develop other ways to support that pillar. Develop your promotions model that can help you gain traction consistently over a whole season of your podcast.
- You could conduct outreach to get your episodes linked to high-ranking blogs in your niche.
- You could also extract short clips of your shows and promote them on Instagram and LinkedIn.
- You could also appear as a guest on other podcasts. Make sure hosts mention your podcast name while introducing you as a guest.
9. Release episodes consistently over the long term
We all know that once they start listening, they are likely to keep listening. You can take advantage of such habit-forming tendencies by simply releasing episodes at a fixed frequency and not straying from that schedule.
If you are struggling due to a lack of motivation, you could listen to some of your favorite podcasters to fire you up.
Produce episodes in batches
You don’t need to follow the produce-release-produce-release sequence for your podcast. You can set aside a large chunk of time to only produce all episodes in a season at once and then release them over a set schedule. Batch-recording your podcast this way will help maintain consistency because you would have multiple episodes ready for release and your release schedule will stay on track.
If time is your problem, consider asynchronous/remote podcasts
Here’s a generic process for producing asynchronous interview podcasts:
- Plan all your episodes and record their questions at once
- Snd it off to your guests so they can record your answers. All episodes would be recorded essentially in parallel. In the meantime, you can focus on planning for a second season or focus on something else that’s important to you.
- Edit, enhance, and stitch the episodes together when you receive answers from all guests
This saves time and lets you release podcast episodes like they release episodes of a TV series. Rumble Studio makes executing such asynchronous podcasts fast and easy.
Asynchronous podcasts also help with many other advantages:
- It’s easier to combine answers in the editing phase because you have enough time to clean up your takes and redo them if necessary.
- Often when the guest and host accidentally talk over each other, the recorded sound is not clearly audible. Asynchronous interviews help get rid of such awkward moments because the guest and the host have to record individually and can use multiple takes.
- Your episodes are not slowed down by not needing a common time slot between the host and the guest. Each of them can record their parts independently.
- Guests have more time to think their answers through and can also use multiple takes.
- Guests who are too busy to sit down for a full podcast interview now have an option to record their responses in their own time. You can target hard-to-reach guests through asynchronous interviews.
If budget is your problem, consider buying equipment that fits your budget.
10. Get a solid sound setup for your podcast
You can have the most expensive recording equipment but if there is a lot of background noise in your environment, it’s going to be hard to edit it out.
Likewise, the best quality recording setup is not going to be able to save a speaker who isn’t clearly audible. Clear speech and intonation are both important; editing doesn’t fix everything.
Here’s how our CEO at Rumble Studio, Carl Robinson defines the quality of sound for a podcast:
“It doesn’t have to be great or exquisitely produced. It needs to be intelligible. If it’s an effort for the listener to understand what the speakers are saying, people are going to switch off. The beauty of podcasts is that people can listen to them while doing other stuff.”
Tips for great sound quality in your podcast
Work on these 4 key areas to ensure great sound quality:
- Get a location where you can schedule your recording sessions with minimal disruptions from the routine environmental sounds.
- Set up your equipment and test them to ensure that they deliver great sound before you start recording
- Do some vocal warmups before the start of each show.
- Invest in your editing skills so you feel comfortable and get the job done quickly.
11. Improve the ROI (Return On Investment) of your podcast
A large number of podcasts are business endeavors - made either by agencies for business clients or by in-house teams of companies. In such scenarios, there’s always pressure on your podcast to prove its worth. The business team won’t want you to spend time creating a podcast that has no value. Your podcast could come to a sudden and swift end.
To prove your podcast’s value to the business team, you could create a full audio marketing funnel based on the podcast and use that to calculate the ROI of the podcast.
Create an audio-first content funnel
Converting each episode into short clips can help promote the podcast and establish a brand for your company. You can extend that brand to social media by creating content specific to each platform. Creating blogs or description pages on the podcast website can help capture SEO benefits.
Likewise, you can expand your podcast into other channels and derive your ROI from the stats of that medium. For example, you can have a video podcast and measure brand exposure through engagement on those videos.
You can transform your entire marketing funnel into an audio-first funnel. Each episode can become the single source of truth in your content marketing ecosystem. This will make the podcast a crucial part of the marketing instead of it being a small, last-ditch initiative.
As your podcast begins to grow in importance, it minimizes the chances of the podcast being shut down due to a lack of resources and this helps combat podfade.
There are several reasons and factors that will slow you down. The only way to get to a successful podcast and make it immune to podfade is to take each obstacle as a challenge and try to overcome that obstacle.
If you are not consistent yet, focus on quantity. Once you establish and maintain a regular release schedule, start refining your content theme and review the guests you will invite. Make sure you invite famous guests because you can then take advantage of their networks.
Also, if you are creating a podcast for a business team, you have to show some success with your show so that the business team doesn’t shut down the podcast due to a lack of ROI.