The Three Questions You Need To Answer Before Starting A Podcast
In my last article, I made the case that there are three different types of podcasters: The Hobbyist, The Corporate Podcaster, and The Entrepreneur. Each one has their place in the world of podcasting, and I believe every one of them belongs here. You might come into the world of podcasting for fun, and find yourself as an entrepreneur at a later time. You might create a podcast for the company you work for, and do something for fun in your off time. You may end up doing all three if you're in the game long enough.
In 2006 when I started, podcasting was still very much a pirate thing, and there weren't any 'rules.' Incidentally, there weren't as many podcasts out there either. Today, according to Nielsen and Edison, there are at least 700,000 live podcasts. You're free to take anything I'm saying with a massive grain of salt, but if the days of "If you build it, they will come' were ever a thing in podcasting, those days are long gone. If you want them to listen and subscribe to your show, then you need to make something people can find and want to listen to.
If you're a hobbyist, this may not be that important to you. That's fine. Podcasting can and should be fun. However, if you are a podcaster that wants a following, engagement, community, and a possible way to market a product or service down the road, then there are some things to consider.
To my mind, there are three questions that any podcaster who is serious about the craft needs to answer.
What's It About?
While this would seem to be an obvious question, it would astound you how many people simply turn on a microphone and just ramble all over the place. Full disclosure, I've done this as well. Go look at the descriptions of podcasts and see how many of them are a variant of "whatever I feel like talking about." If you look at the reviews, you may not see many. In fact, you may only see less than 10 episodes, the last one being more than six months ago. Why? Because they didn't define the show. If you can't describe the show, then you can't tag it correctly in Podcast Directories. You can't write a good description. You won't know where you should promote it, or you promote it in place that will have no interest at all in your show. If you can't do these things, then no one is going to find it.
Who's It For?
Do you know who your audience is? I have a client that uniquely found his audience. In fact, without this experience, he wouldn't have a podcast. He's a Civil War historian from the South, with a contrarian point of view from other southern Civil War' Historians' (quotes mine) you have actually heard of. He made a video explaining this on Twitter, and it went viral. He had a built-in audience of hundreds before he even decided to do a podcast. When he announced that he was thinking about it, his audience enthusiasticaly encouraged him. Ten episodes in, he's doing quite well, and he's leveraged it to drive people to a Patreon account that is pulling in over 100 a month. Not bad for a first time podcaster who's still learning.
He found his audience and a passionate one at that. Do you know who your audience is? What's your subject? What are you passionate about? Try testing it out as my client did. Post your idea somewhere on social media where you're comfortable with it. See if it travels beyond your followers. Does it engage with people who usually never engage with you? Does it get the attention of Opal in Toledo* who you've never met? If it does, you may be on to something. Test it out.
Why would ANYONE listen to this?
Of all the questions needing to be answered here, this one is possibly the most important. After all, there's a bazillion podcasts about podcasting or creative work out there. Why in the heck would anyone want to listen to mine? How am I different?
With over 700,000 podcasts out there, the market for every niche is filled in some way. Do some market research. Listen to the other people in your category. What are they doing? In the Podcasts about Podcasting category, most of the people I hear are about the marketing aspect and less about what appealed to me back at the very beginning. The appeal was the act of creating art for fun, for therapy, for a purpose, for any reason that floats your boat, and in direct opposition to the supposed podcasting 'gurus' who believe—in my opinion—that podcasting should be done by certain people with a particular purpose. I rebel against that philosophy, as any good pirate should. That is the podcast I wish to present to the world, and I think that's why people should listen. Find what sets you apart from the others in your space. That's your lane to occupy.
This is the very beginning of the process, but if you're treating podcasting as a serious venture, then you really can't afford to overlook this. Answering these questions provides you clarity. If you have clarity at the very beginning, then every other decision you make as you go through the process is less complicated.
Need Help? I can help you. I'll be hosting my first Twitter chat on Thursday, August 1st at 8pm Eastern Time. Follow @krisroley on Twitter, or search for the hashtag #AskRoley
I'm looking forward to you to sharing your answers, and answer any questions you have about podcasting.
If you're thinking about podcasting for the first time, share with us what you're thinking about, and if you can answer the three questions, please feel free to do so. I’d love it if you left a comment below!
* Opal's a real person who is a perennial candidate for Mayor of Toledo, and one of the more colorful (possibly insane) people you've ever seen. She is, however, adorable in her own way. Look her up, and you'll understand why "Steve in Toledo" just never works as well as Opal in Toledo will.