When it comes to marketing, podcasts play a different role than other forms of media, such as articles, videos, or photos. With the latter, people often click to see a single piece of content, with no expectation that they will return over and over. With podcasts, however, people usually return again for each new episode. That’s the big advantage of this medium: while fewer people listen to podcasts than read blogposts or watch videos, those who do keep coming back for more.
How can you ensure that they come back over and over again to listen to your podcast?
To do so, you have to strike the right balance between an overall theme that connects the entire show and creating episodes that are distinct enough to be different from each other. To understand what I mean, let’s look at two common mistakes people make when creating a podcast:
Mistake #1: The Podcast Episodes Are Too Different
Joe and Mike are good friends who are constantly cracking each other up when they get together, so they decide to launch a podcast. Not wanting to be restricted, they decide that the podcast will be about whatever they feel like talking about on the day that they record. For one of their early episodes, they decide to review the trailer for a new superhero movie coming out. Joe is a die-hard comic book fan, and Mike has an uncanny ability to impersonate several of the characters in the film. The discussion is hilarious and, as a result, the episode is shared on social media quite a bit. The episode’s download numbers go through the roof when one of the actors in the film tweets out a link to the episode. Joe and Mike are ecstatic.
For their next podcast episode, they decide to talk about their favorite craft beers. When fans of the superhero movie episode check it out, many of them decide that they are less interested in this topic, even though Joe and Mike are once again quite funny. The download numbers for this episode do not match those of the previous one, and the podcast never recaptures the momentum the got from the Hollywood star’s tweet.
The challenge that Joe and Mike face stems from the fact that people do not listen to podcasts in the same way that they listen to, for example, radio morning shows. When deciding what radio morning show to listen to, the primary factor for most people is the personalities; the topics that those personalities discuss are of secondary importance. If fans love Howard Stern, they will listen to him whether he’s interviewing Miley Cyrus, discussing the latest Dave Chapelle comedy special, or talking about the new Jordan Peele film.
By contrast, people seek podcasts based on the topic first; the personalities are secondary, but if they’re entertaining, listeners will return for them. If people tune into a podcast expecting to hear a true crime story, and instead they get life coaching, they will stop coming back. In other words, to get audiences to come back for episode after episode, podcasts need to be about something specific; they need to have a consistent theme.
Mistake #2: The Podcast Episodes Are Too Similar
Sally launched a podcast exploring the state of race in America. The format of her podcast was simple: each episode, three different guests joined her for a discussion of race in America. After a few episodes, it became clear that this formula wasn’t working. Because the guests were different each week, the conversations always felt fresh for them. For Sally and her listeners, however, there was a sameness to each discussion. While Sally was a talented host, when listeners got to the end of one episode, they didn’t feel a need to rush to the next episode because it would be so similar to what they just heard.
Sally realized quickly that she need to make a change. Instead of making each episode a general discussion about race, she decided to zero in on different topics. For example, one episode might be about race and college sports, while the next would be the portrayal of race in comic books, and another would be about the way different races approach hair. While the podcast continued to explore the topic of race, the episodes were now different enough that the audience could listen to several in one sitting without it feeling repetitive.
In other words, to get listeners to come back to your podcast over and over again, the episodes have to be connected by a theme, but differentiated around specific topics within that theme. Finding the right balance is key.
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