Series: Podcasting, pt4

Philip Morgan

(Readin' time: 5m 25s)

I got a late start with writing today, but let's see if I can wrap up this podcasting series anyway.

I want to touch on a few final points, including:

  • Seasons or ongoing or miniseries?
  • Publication questions: frequency, scheduling, etc.
  • Audience growth

Diamonds are forever. What about podcasts?

Should you start a podcast with the assumption that you will keep producing it "forever", meaning with no planned end date?

Again, I direct your attention to:

I know some folks--and some podcasts--that do feel like they will continue the same show with the same format for what feels to me like forever. So you certainly can do that.

It happens that my particular interest is in a type of marketing that has two effects: 1) it brings you great prospective clients and--critically--it also 2) gives you a vehicle for rapid cultivation of your own expertise.

The second aspect of the type of marketing that I favor means that the marketing itself is a learning experience for you. This has always been true of me and my life: if I stop learning, I quit, sometimes abruptly, and sometimes in ways that are hurtful to others. I regret the hurt, but not the quitting.

Recently in a weekly meeting of the January cohort of The Expertise Incubator, a participant said he was surprised that the program lived up to its name. He was surprised to find that publishing daily and planning and starting to execute on a research project has actually been an incubator for his expertise. To be fair, part of this comes from the structure of the program, and most of this comes from his willingness to embrace the program's challenges, lean into them fully, work really hard, and challenge himself deeply.

All this to make the point that more and more, I am personally leaning towards podcasts that have some kind of end point. The end point could be one of the following:

  • Planned based on an end date or total number of podcast episodes. Since you would make this plan at the outset of the podcast not really knowing where things might take you in the interim, you'll probably choose a simple round number like "I'll wrap up after 100 episodes" or "I'll do this for 2 years then wind it down."
  • Un-planned, but you'll know when to quit when you get there. This might be some variation of "I'll quit when I stop learning." Or more simply, you'll quit when you get bored.
  • A "miniseries", structured around something other than the podcast. An example of this is: This podcast is a sort of informal "curriculum" for The Expertise Incubator program. At the time of this writing, the podcast isn't done. I'll add more episodes. But when there is nothing more to say in the form of a casual curriculum for TEI, I'll quit updating this podcast and it'll just live at that URL until further notice.

The idea for a podcast that promotes a specific service or product (rather than just being lead gen or trust building or deepening your connection with your audience) is an idea I lifted from Brian Clark. A few years ago, he created this really interesting podcast for the launch of his hosting company. The podcast explained the worldview his new product related to, and this struck me as a great way to build interest and urgency around the launch of a differentiated product. I'd link you to this podcast, but I can't find it anywhere right now. Any readers got a link?

A fun sidenote on the topic of quitting. This might be my favorite episode of This American Life:

Frequency, scheduling, etc.

How frequently should you publish? Should you publish on a rigid schedule, or should you publish whenever a new episode is ready?

Spoken like a true consultant: it depends!

It depends on what you're trying to accomplish, and other decisions you make about your show.

Listeners who expect a new episode of The Daily at whatever time that publishes each day will be disappointed if the new episode is not there on schedule.

I know there's at least one listener to Offline who is disappointed if a new episode isn't there when he walks his dog on whatever day of the week we're supposed to publish. :) So even tiny niche podcasts can cultivate a loyal listenership that has woven the podcast into the fabric of their life and expects new content on a regular schedule.

So if that aspect of podcasting is important to what you're trying to accomplish with your podcast, then stick to a regular schedule.

I also have anecdotal data that podcasts that are published on the "Napoleon Dynamite Schedule" (see the aforelinked GIF) do just fine too. They attract a growing audience and generate leads and give people new options for thinking about things. The big-name podcast in this category is Hardcore History, and my friend Jonathan's Stark's Ditching Hourly podcast also fits this irregular publishing schedule and it does just fine in terms of organic growth and business impact.

So I can't make a case for you that a regular, precise schedule is better or worse than a "whenever I feel like it, gosh!" schedule. So just be thoughtful about it and go with whatever you think is best.

Audience Growth

There are probably ways to reliably increase the size of your podcast listenership with techniques that aren't about the content of the podcast. But I'm in a salty mood this morning, so you're going to get an unfairly harsh toke from me on that stuff.

It can all die in a fire as far as I'm concerned.

This might be my greatest flaw as a marketer, but I truly and really believe the ideals of The Expertise Incubator, which are:

  1. Anything you create in this program should be good enough to spread by word of mouth alone.
  2. Anything you create in this program--if you give it away for free--should be good enough that some would gladly pay real money for it.
  3. You should be willing to work daily for 2 to 3 years to make ideals 1 and 2 become true in your work. In other words, you should be OK with not living up to ideals #1 and #2 at first so that you can build up the skills you need to ultimately achieve those ideals.

This could pretty objectively be called an "anti-growth hacker" stance.

I think if you pursue those ideals with your podcast, things are going to work out fine for you, and you'll get the audience you need for your podcast to help your business.

I will add that I am warming up to the idea that if you adhere to these ideals to the best of your ability, you can add growth techniques (paid acquisition, some amount of SEO, other growth-ey stuff) as an accelerant. But the growth techniques can never, in my view, be a substitute for content that's good enough that some would pay for and good enough that folks eagerly tell their friends or colleagues about it. You can't cook a meal with a bottle of charcoal starter fluid. You need the charcoal, which is freaking great content. The lighter fluid just gets you a hot meal a little quicker.

I'll end with this link, which is Liston sharing how he used Overcast ads to land a high value client and increase his podcast audience: (the setup) and (the payoff).

I hope you got something out of this admittedly grotesquely long series about podcasting. I love talking about this stuff, so if you've got questions or comments, hit REPLY.