I’ve been producing a podcast (Publish, Perish or Podcast) for the past three years. We (myself and two co-hosts) have published a podcast every fortnight in spite of sickness, holidays and, in the case of one of our hosts, the birth of his child! We’ve tried our best to avoid all of the reasons podcasts fail.
While we have a very limited social media presence and no podcast website, our listener numbers have grown consistently. All by providing value and entertainment to our audience of Ph.D. and early career researchers!
Over the past few years, we have developed a global listener base.
We have had correspondence on our forum (hosted on an old website of mine) from Australia, The US, Germany, The UK, Sweden, and many more countries.
Although I don’t obsess over the stats, every time I log in I really like to take note of where our listeners are tuning in from…it makes me so happy every time!
That said, we do care that people listen in, we do care that we are creating great content for our fans and we do want to make sure all of our efforts are not going to waste! Eventually, I’d love to try and monetise our growing audience through advertising, affiliate links to services and plain old donations.
However, the money isn’t why I do it. And if you are starting a podcast purely to monitise you may be in for a rough ride. Though, as part of a content marketing strategy – a podcast may be just what you are looking for!
Here, I will share with you the main reasons I see podcasts fail and how you can combat them before even speaking into a microphone.
1. The content is boring
This is clearly the biggest one!
No one will listen to boring content BUT what’s boring for one person is absolutely thrilling for another! In the early stages of planning your content, you need to think about your audience and what they would want to listen to.
Typically podcasts are in a very specific niche and people start (and should start) podcasts about their hobbies or employment of which they have a lot of experience. This should give them an idea of what would be interesting for their audience. After all, it should be interesting for them too!
Content and episode topics aside, there are a few broad areas that can make the content “boring” and they tend to be simple fixes.
In my experience, people like a certain level of consistency. You can craft your podcast episodes to contain sections that will provide a journey for your listeners.
For example, we run through – news for the week, feedback from listeners, topic of the day, Science this (an on topic game we created) and an outro.
This regular set of sections helps us provide a “story” to each of our podcasts and also makes it fun for us to record. Each of our raw recordings goes for at least 1 hour and 15 minutes. And it always wizzes by because I’m having so much fun!
I also don’t record a podcast in the order that it ends up in after editing. I made a video about why that is here:
One person talking for a long time
Being a solo announcer on the radio or your podcast is one of the toughest things that you’ll ever do. If you don’t believe me, have a listen to your local community radio station and contrast that to the professional stations!
It’s like a skill that needs to be practiced, like everything else in the digital content world!
Being a solo host on a podcast is tough work but not impossible! Practice, listen back to your recordings and take voice lessons – seriously – no one wants to listen to a boring monotone voice.
The easiest way however to sound natural and conversational is to do exactly that…grab some people that you like speaking to and just talk to them.
A podcast is most effective when people feel like they have been dropped into the middle of a fun conversation. Choose co-hosts that have a different point of view than you on a number of topics and the conversations will turn into ear honey!
Topics are not talked about thoroughly
If you are starting a podcast you will be positioning yourself as an authority on the subject of your podcast. People don’t listen to podcasts to just hear what they would hear in a conversation with their friend. They want a deeper understanding of the topic and points that they’ve maybe never heard before.
Inviting guest experts onto the show is a really excellent way to grow awareness for your podcast as well as get in depth information on a subject without doing a load of research.
Growing an audience in any format is very difficult and podcasts are no different!
In three years, we have amassed over 31,000 listens and published over 80 episodes. The thing about these numbers is that each episode gets only 388 listens on average (according to soundcloud). That may not seem like much but the thing about growth is that it is not linear.
Think about the podcasts that you listen to or have come across – how old are they? Our three-year-old podcast is a baby compared to some others. I often think to myself “I’m pleased these people kept going” after I find their podcast on episode three hundred and something, 5 years after they started!
In today’s huge swarm of podcast’s you need to be patient and give your audience a chance to find you. Most people give up way before their podcast finds it’s devoted listeners!
Consistently producing content is your best bet in finding your audience – and that brings me to my next of the reasons podcasts fail.
I completely get why people are jumping from one podcast format to another – it takes hard work to produce a podcast and the results are not immediate.
It can be temping to produce 3 or 4, maybe even 20, and think that the effort is not worth it.
If you’ve done your work upfront, push through the slow days and you’ll be rewarded! Here’s the top two things that I see people play about with far too often when it comes to podcasting:
What format will your podcast be? Do you want it to be an interview based podcast? Will it be a chat between a few people? Be a single person podcast? Will it be an audio drama?
Stick with one of these formats for a while. You can have guests on if you choose but if your podcast will be fully guest based, make sure that you are able o fill the guest spot for each of the episodes. There’s nothing worse than an opening of “Our guest this week has pulled out”. Is it best to put out nothing if this happens? I’m still not sure what’s best.
The ultimate podcast killer!
Create a publishing schedule and stick to it! Listeners don’t care about your excuses or whether or not it didn’t work out this week. Just like a cafe that opens and closes at random times – people will stop turning up!
That said, even though our publication schedule is absolutely set in stone, our recording schedule varies wildly. Sometimes we’ll record every week for a few weeks. Other times, we’ll miss out on a month of recording because our calendars don’t line up.
It doesn’t matter when you RECORD it only matters that you are able to PUBLISH when you say you will!
4. Bad reviews
You know you do it…you take reviews very seriously! We all do. It’s part of being human.
Social proof is a huge part of online engagement. More people listening get people thinking “Oh, this must be great!”. Bad reviews get people thinking “I won’t waste my time with this podcast”.
I do a call out at the end of every episode to go and leave us a review on where ever they are listening to our podcast. It really helps with search visibility and also when people see that you have seven 5-star reviews, and great comments, it helps to get them into the first episode if nothing else.
You can’t control what people are saying about your podcast online but you can do your best by avoiding the mistakes above.
Then, you’ll be able to get your coveted five start reviews!
5. Bad audio or editing
This mistake is probably the easiest to commit and the easiest to fix. It’s no longer good enough to put raw audio online and call it a podcast.
Getting introduction/outro music and “stingers” to go in between the sections of your podcast is relatively inexpensive and adds so much to a podcast! We got ours from an Adelaide Based Band (VoiceROM). An incredible duo that we owe our audio branding to!
Here’s a few simple things that you can do to stop your podcast sounding rubbish!
No matter the recording device you use. make sure the audio isn’t clipping. That means, if it is in the red as you speak at your loudest turn the levels down!
A top tip: Get people to talk into their microphones to the get the levels THEN turn them down even more. During recording people get very excited and talk louder than the soundcheck – guaranteed!
With multiple people speaking you’ll need to only make sure that they are not clipping. The final balancing I’ll do in post-production in my editing software of choice – Reaper.
All of the microphones I have used have had some sort of noise. The more expensive the microphone the less noise it has, but it still need to be removed.
Background noise takes the form of electronic interference, environmental noise and even mouth noise from the person speaking can be a distraction.
I use a plugin called izotope – RX Elements. It was recommended to me by a friend of mine who owns a recording studio. And I love it! It contains everything you need to get your audio sounding tip top. and has recently been updated to that it is even easier to get the professional sound your audience will thank you for!
Microphones and Microphone Quality
You don’t have to spend a fortune on microphones to get a good quality one here’s what is in my podcasting bag:
Audio-Technica ATR2100-USB Cardioid Dynamic USB/XLR Microphone – These microphones are a great beginner mic. They can go into the Zoom H4n portable recorder and can also record directly into a computer via USB.
Dragonpad USA Pop filter Studio Microphone Mic Wind Screen Pop Filter – Getting a pop filter is VERY IMPORTANT. It improves recording quality and will save hours during editing!
I’m a heavy editor. I have loads of edits while editing my podcast. Here’s what my timeline typically looks like after editing:
Each cut in the timelines is an edit where I have removed something. That means, I listen to the entire raw recording and make an edit time that I don’t like something.
TOP tip: listen through good headphones – you’ll hear a lot more than through even the best studio speakers.
I typically edit out these sorts of things:
- Mouth clicks – just before someone talks and has opened their mouth.
- Repeated things – it’s a weird quirk of conversation that we often say the same thing in different ways. I edit the best one in and remove the rest.
- Edit so each section ends on a high – sometimes the conversation can go on for too long. I cut the conversation where it has come to a natural conclusion and high point.
- Silences – sometimes it takes people to think about what they are going to say. I edit out long pauses and ums. But leave short pauses in because it helps the podcast sound natural.
There we have it! My top reasons podcasts fail!
So, please avoid the top reasons podcasts fail! If you have any more questions don’t hesitate to get in contact!
Happy podcasting my beautiful friends!