Successful Podcasting: Is There a True 7 Step Formula?
Today, a friend (@accarrino) posted the following tweet. It was from Mashable’s writer Brian Casel (@casjam). The name of the article was the 7 Tips for Launching a Successful podcast. But all of a sudden it sparked emotion out of me; I got peeved at this article and more peeved that it was on Mashable.
I read through the article, it made 7 points. While some of the points made sense, I felt this article told me nothing. Here is what it said in a nutshell:
- Choose a Topic you are Passionate about
- Brand Your Podcast
- Format and Structure
- Plan Your Content
- Record, Broadcast and Edit
- Grow Your Audience
- Monetize Your Podcast
I’ll tell you two things. First, if these seven points were true, I would be a podcast rock star. Second, half the “Successful” podcasters don’t follow these seven points.
Let’s delve deeper into these points to figure out if there is a successful formula.
Podcasting Dedication over Passion
While choosing a topic you are passionate about helps, I think choosing a topic you are dedicated on would be more efficient. I know nothing about basket weaving and can still be passionate about it. If I was more dedicated to putting together a basket weaving podcast, I will learn what it takes as I go.
One thing you have to remember about people: most of them get stuck into something they didn’t expect to do. For example: While I only have empirical data to back me up, most people I talked to that work as the companies’ social network professional were put there because the company was told to do so.
Dedication is someone who makes the extra efforts to get things done. I have seen many “Passionate” podcasters podfade because they didn’t have dedication.
I agree: a brand makes the site more credible. Geekazine wasn’t the top name on my list when I was putting together a brand. It was available with no bad search results in Google (heck, NO search results at all in Google – I created a whole new term).
At the same time I had a peer create a podcast with a name that screamed cool. PC / Mac Smackdown was the name of the show. It’s name was straightforward – arguing over PC or Mac.
Branding is definitely an important thing. Logos and tag lines are also important. Picking something that is niche may also work, but I have seen many niche podcasts fade that had great branding.
This is where I agree wholeheartedly. Oh, wait. Doesn’t Kevin Pollak do a Chat show that has no format or structure? Maybe their format is no format. The time format can hit two hours. Yet, this is a successful podcast. Why?
The only regular thing about this show is it does happen every week.
We all must plan. There is no real issue on this. Segmented podcasting is important so you can take a minute to reset and continue. Planning guests or hosts with show notes is always a good idea.
Recording, Broadcasting, Publishing
While I am a big Blue Mic fan, I gotta wonder – Is this a paid post? Big picture and one choice of microphone. Let’s just put it this way: If I was passionate or dedicated on podcasting, I would (and do) have a microphone connected to a mixer with compression and equalization. That, in turn, gets sent to a premium sound card for 24 bit sound.
I have a Blue Mic Snowball and I have used it for podcasting, but only when I was on the road and really couldn’t take an audio rig with me. There are shows that run off USB microphones, but most successful podcasters pay the extra money for a better home system.
I could go into a bunch of “What about” links that were missed from this part of the article, but that is excessive nit-picking; I’ll leave that sleeping dog lie.
This part is partially right. Participation is key in gaining new listeners. I had a forum on Geekazine for over a year and no one participated. Not sure why, because they participate in other ways.
Growing audiences require you to go where the people are. I can put together a show that gives away a million dollars, but if I put it in the deepest darkest part of the web, no one will see it.
You cannot sell Lemonade on the moon (just yet).
Is your show on iTunes? Is it on Zune? What about Stitcher – Zen Podcasting – Mediafly – Blubrry or one of the many podcast aggregates out there?
Most important: Does your podcast have a Twitter and Facebook fan page?
Don’t forget to PROMOTE your show. Go on other podcasts and participate. Go to the functions and get face to face with people, asking them questions. Networking is still the number 1 way I get my podcast name out there.
The Day in Tech History podcast is 7 days a week. I produce this 10 minute show to go out at 10:30 EST the night before so it gets queued up in a podcast catcher by the next day (or if you are not in the US, you can download it in the morning). I gave the podcast it’s own URL to go to, but it wasn’t until I started pushing through social networks and face to face networking that the audience started listening.
You will LOOSE More Listeners when you Monitize.
That may sound harsh, but it’s true. Just ask Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central. Nobody likes ads. We tolerate ads, but some purists think that podcasting should be without. Then again, some people think that a podcast should be free in all aspects.
Not even a non-profit status is free…
The more you monetize, the more people can turn you off. Ads are like breaks in the music at a dance club: It’s a good time to leave the dance floor.
Geekazine’s 5 Things to think about for your Podcast
No promises of being successful, just things I learned in doing this.
1. Make them Smile, Make them Think
What is your favorite show on TV that comes close to your podcast? Is it a late night talk show? Is it a right-wing bashing session? Is it the Office?
What do they do on the show? Do they talk? Do they sing? Do they tap dance?
When do they make you think about what they say? At the beginning? During an interview? At the end?
Do they make you want to talk about it around the water cooler the next day?
2. Be Comfortable
If you were sitting on a rickety old chair balancing a Big Gulp on your knee while holding a microphone and trying to do a show, chances are you are going to get a crotch-slushie sometime during your podcast.
If the microphone doesn’t work for you, get another mic or mic stand. The microphone stand I use for my podcasts was an old lamp arm I converted. It moves easy so I can continue talking without worrying about the mic.
Put your computers in spots you can get to. If you need to see the screen, put it so you can see it.
3. Push your show to all.
Like I mentioned before: iTunes, Zune, Stitcher. If you are doing video, then get it on Apple TV, Roku, Boxee. The 5 Tech Things You Should Know tripled it’s audience when I put it on Boxee as a stand-alone application.
Then you have Twitter, Facebook, Google Buzz, Friendfeed, Plurk, Linked In and hundreds more outlets I am not thinking of right now. Spread the word to 100,000 people and you might get 1,000 to listen. Out of those 1,000 – 1 will continue to listen. Grow it from there.
Finally, the face-to-face meetings make your show more personable. It works for politicians, why not make it work for you. When I go to an event like CES, I will get a 3o% increase in traffic. Attend events locally and come to a bigger event like BlogWorld.
4. Be a Loser – Spark emotion.
There are podcasts I recorded that I am not proud of. Then I got to listen to Matthew Lesko on a uStream chat. He found that once he turned into a loser more people noticed him. Out of the three businesses he started, this one stuck because of it.
While you don’t have to go to that extreme, you do need to have something that makes people stop and think. This morning I was at a store that sells used computer equipment. I was looking for that one cool piece of technology that I can have on the shelf. People can then see it and go “wow. That’s cool”.
Same thing for what I talk about. Even if I say something that is not on-base, if it sparks an emotion from a listener, then it did the job (Yes, that means Brian’s post did the job in a way).
5. Be Realistic
The one thing that bugs me most about Brian’s post is just the idea – If you follow these seven steps, you will be successful. I wonder how many people’s dreams and hopes were first started with that statement – Only to be crushed days, months or years later?
When you do your first podcast, you might get a rush of people or no one at all. Then your second show might see even less. It takes more than 21 shows to really start gaining an audience. It might take 50 or 100 or 500 shows before it “hits”.
If I had a big name radio or TV station behind me, those numbers might change. However, 100,000 people listening on a major radio station is about the same as your 10 people that listen to your show. Radio and TV are not as forgiving. They’ll knock your show off in 5 episodes.
If something doesn’t work, change it ever so little. Add a new idea and run it for at least 6 weeks. Change another part – maybe a microphone, computer placement, camera (for video), etc. Let the pieces fall into place – don’t just jam them in.
You can be dramatic in the change – like a name change. But that works only so many times before people move on. If it’s a dramatic change, make sure it’s well planned and executes on a timeframe.
With that all said and done, I hope everyone becomes successful in podcasting. Even me!
Dedication, Devotion, Education and Understanding. These are the four keys to doing anything. There are some shortcuts, but longevity is what you are looking for, then DDEU is what you want. Success will come down the long road.