Podcasts are more popular than ever and the stats prove it. It’s also a burgeoning sector of the creator economy so if you’re thinking of starting one, chances are you’re not alone. However, let’s slow down a sec. Before you learn how to start a podcast, it’s vital that you get down to the “why” of it all.
Ahead, Leah Sutherland, Podcast Lead at Headspace Studio, details the nitty-gritty of podcasting. Chances are you probably didn’t think about at least half of these important questions, so pay attention and prepare to go back to the drawing board.
Should you start a podcast?
This is the number one biggest misconception I see. From creative professionals, artists, activists—anyone alive in 2021; they all feel like they should start a podcast. I want to challenge that notion. Just because you feel like you should doesn’t mean it’s the best fit for you. Ask yourself a few questions before you decide: Do you actually like the medium? Are you going to have fun making your show?
Do you have a clear vision of what the show is? Have episodes in mind? Are you willing to spend nights and weekends learning GarageBand or Audacity? Are you ready to be your own producer, talent booker, publisher, and social media manager? These are all parts of running a podcast that often gets overlooked—but what parts to focus on will largely be determined by what the goal of your podcast is in the first place.
What are your goals?
Are you looking to improve your comfort in interviews or with public speaking? Looking to drive traffic to your website or blog? Try to define what success looks like for you— and then revisit #1. Is this the best way for you to do that? For example, if you’re looking to increase web and social traffic to your existing properties, there are cheaper and faster ways to do that than starting a podcast. But, if you want to contribute meaningful conversations to your industry, explore a little-known niche within your field, or connect with other people who inspire you, then a podcast may be the way forward.
That said, take some time to inform yourself on the existing industry standards and protocols, especially if one of your goals is to have your podcast be a revenue stream for you. Most places buy and price out ad space on podcasts based on the number of downloads their show gets in a 60-day window. The minimum threshold for many ad agencies is 50,000 downloads per episode.
Chances are your show will not hit that at the beginning, so make sure your goals are reasonable and are actually serving you. If you’re doing the show to explore an interest and improve your mic skills (an internal rationalization), maybe judging the success of the show by downloads (an external metric) isn’t the best strategy.
What do you actually want to talk about?
Let’s revisit our friend “should” in question one. Maybe you run an incredible marketing agency… and feel like you should make a show about the best tactics to grow your business through various marketing channels. Between us, I’ve listened to this show and it’s boring. Forget what you think you should be talking about and ask yourself what you’re interested in. If your show is going to be industry-specific, what parts of your job or career excite you? You can’t fake passion anywhere, but especially on the mic.
How much time are you willing to invest in this?
There are a lot of soft skills involved with podcasting, and these are what separate the good shows from the great shows. How are your mic skills? Do you sound like you’re reading or do you sound natural? How about interviewing? Writing for audio? Editing? Scoring/music selection? These are all crucial elements of the medium and they are a lot of work.
Consider how much time you want to spend here before launching your show and remember that less upfront prep time going into an interview (hopefully) means longer editing time. Please, please, please, don’t throw unedited interviews on your podcast feed. I promise you they draaaag. And no listener wants to feel like they’ve just wasted their time. Which leads me to…
What are listeners going to get?
We just spent a lot of time talking about your goals but I’m here with a plot twist: your podcast is not (completely) about you.
I’m not going to go down the stats rabbit hole of our current attention spans or the attention economy, but podcasts are super retro compared to the social media creation industry. You’re not asking someone for 30 seconds of their life. You’re asking them to spend minutes, maybe hours with you. So what are they going to get in exchange for all of that time? You should be very clear going into a series about what the value proposition for the listener is.
Are they going to learn? Explore a mysterious topic with you? Laugh, cry, fall in love? They really can be that simple—but you have to keep the listener in mind. If you do, they’ll reward you with their time and loyalty for seasons to come.
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