Everyone’s doing it nowadays! On the train to work. Walking to the shops. At the gym. They’ve got their ear phones in and they’re listening to … not music. Music is so ‘yesterday’. They’re listening to podcasts.
Podcasts have taken the world by storm. And why not? What a great way to provide entertainment and information to people in a format that is accessible and can be consumed when and where the audience wants.
Many have a massive following: I’m thinking Tim Ferris, Pat Flynn, John Lee Dumas.
- Podcast audiences grew around 25% in the past year
- In the United States, as many people listen to podcasts as use Twitter
- Around 2/3 of podcasts are listened to as people are ‘on the move’
- Weekly podcast listeners consume an average of five shows per week
- Major media companies are putting more and more resources into the production of podcasts to further engage their audience.
But anyone thinking of creating a podcast – and why wouldn’t you – needs to go in with their eyes open. While podcasting is more accessible than ever, with the smart phone continuing to revolutionise creating and consuming content, creating a podcast that stands out – attracting downloads and growing your business or reputation – remains a challenge.
But it can be done. We’ve done it. We’re the creators of the The Garret Podcast and we’re going to share our experience with you. So here are four steps, using The Garret as a case study, to help you create your podcast. We think these steps are critical to anyone thinking about launching their first podcast.
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Step 1: Focus
Define your idea
Yes, you do need a unique value proposition. Thousands – literally thousands – of podcasts find themselves on iTunes without an audience. Refine your idea and articulate how it is different from what else is on offer.
There are many literary podcasts out there, and so The Garret focused on interviewing the best writers about the craft of writing – not emerging writers, and not great writers talking about their latest book.
Identify your audience
If you don’t know your audience, you won’t reach them. Who do you want to listen? How will you reach them? What other podcasts do they listen to? Why will they listen to you?
The Garret launched Season 1 with Melbourne’s literary community in mind, with social media support lined up with four Melbourne-based literary organisations. The goal is to expand Australia wide after creating a solid core audience.
Know your competitors
Don’t launch a podcast without listening to your competitors. You can always learn from others, whether it is learning what works or what doesn’t. And once you are established, there may be opportunities to cross promote or collaborate on specific opportunities.
There is plenty of competition in Melbourne’s literary community, and so defining the idea in a way that did not replicate what anyone else was doing was important.
Step 2: Prepare
Pick your platform(s) and host
iTunes is the dominant platform by far, so don’t ignore it. Once you make it to iTunes, decide if you want to expand (for example, you may also want to be on Stitcher to reach those on Android and BlackBerry). You may want to consider a host that feeds directly into iTunes.
The Garret uses Omny Studio, which feeds directly into iTunes and provides tracking and measurement options.
Set your quality benchmark
Equipment to record and edit podcasts is more accessible (and cheaper) than ever before. But quality still counts. Boring content will always be boring content, and terrible audio means people will stop listening, no matter how good your idea or marketing.
The Garret edits every episode, and the boring, muffled, or otherwise compromised bits come out.
Defining responsibilities ensures each episode has adequate preparation and research, the right guests and marketing, and sounds like you want it to sound.
The Garret defined responsibilities as hosting, producing and editing, but there are other approaches.
Develop your brand
A successful podcast is like a brand. It has a personality, a certain look, social media platforms, and a way of doing things. You will also need a tag line.
Develop your collateral
Before you launch, have your logo and color scheme in place. Seriously, don’t skimp on what it looks like: your podcast will be judged alongside others.
The Garret uses a specific font (IM Fell Great Primer SC) and color scheme (black and white, with grey accents), and publishes black and white photos. This fits the brand, but also stands out from competitors.
Partner with influencers
Downloads matter, especially in the first few weeks when the iTunes algorithms (and Google, for that matter) track activity and either highlight or bury your podcast. Partnering with relevant influencers beforehand means your podcast has support on social media.
The Garret did this, partnering with the State Library of Victoria, Swinburne University, Readings Booksellers and Writers Victoria. This does not have to involve money, simply social media support.
Use social media to acknowledge partners and supporters.
Step 3: Create
Have a structure
Don’t publish a rambling conversation or unstructured interview, or anything else you might think of.
Each episode of The Garret has a beginning, a middle an end. Each episode has an intro to introduce the episode and/or guest, a break somewhere in the middle to preview the next episode or look back on a previous one, and an outro to wind up, thank listeners and remind them of what is coming up.
Edit your content
Not everything should make it to the final cut. Respect your audience, and respect the time they give you. Don’t waste it.
Market your episode
Each episode will be different. While your podcast has the same audience overall, each episode may have an interest group only interested in that specific topic. Identify them and try to reach them, wherever they are.
Step 4: Review
Measure your success
Once your podcast is published, tend it. Track your analytics. Understand not only how many downloads you get, but where they are and when they stop listening (some hosts provide these services).
The Garret changes week-to-week, mainly behind the scenes. It is a continual work in progress.
Just a couple of weeks into the first season and The Garret was ranked among and above some long-standing, prestigious podcasts.
Adapt when you need to
Be flexible. Not everything you planned will work perfectly. Continuous improvement is key. Just like a new sitcom, sometimes the first episodes aren’t the best. Encourage feedback, and act on it.
It won’t happen overnight. Building an audience, especially a loyal and engaged audience, takes effort and time. Encourage ratings and reviews on iTunes and social media. Find partners, whether they be for an episode or the podcast itself.
Reviews boost exposure – and also act as further encouragement.
To watch a podcast develop, check out what The Garret is doing.
Nicolas Brasch (co-founder and host of The Garret) is the author of more than 400 books, several of which have won Australian and international awards. He teaches professional writing at Swinburne University, is Chair of Writers Victoria, is the founder of the Spirit of Punk event, and the founder of Writers in Residence (a company providing writing services to the corporate market).
Astrid Edwards (co-founder and creative director of The Garret) is Director of Strategy at Bad Producer Productions, a content creation company that specialises in podcasts. Astrid also teaches professional writing at RMIT University and serves as Vice Chair of the Committee of Management at Writers Victoria.