One of the biggest mistakes aspiring and early-stage podcasters make is to view podcasting as one single task.
There are loads of different things someone could be doing when they’re “podcasting”. This could be anything from learning to mix and master audio, to poring over analytics and chatting on social media.
If you come at podcasting with this approach, it might seem fun and interesting for a while. But, it’s unlikely to lead to the kind of success you were hoping for. After a few weeks or months of feeling like you’ve been busy working away on your podcast, disillusionment can start to kick in.
Why did your download numbers stop growing? Did anyone notice that new mastering technique you used in your last episode? Are those people who enthusiastically retweeted your latest episode even listening?
The next step here is usually to conclude that podcasting either “doesn’t work”, or that you’re simply not good enough to make it work for you. This is the sad part where so many potentially great shows die before they’ve even had a chance to have any impact.
If you’ve found yourself falling into this rut, the good news is that there’s another way. In this article, we’ll help you focus your attention on the one thing that matters above all else - creating great content.
It’s rare for new podcasters to try to break new ground. When planning your show, you might take a look at the most successful shows in the world and try to pick out the common themes and patterns.
The problem here is that there are still so many variables. One podcast has 20-min solo episodes, whilst the other has 2 hour-long interviews. One has extensive show notes, the other, bullet points. They all use different hosting platforms. There’s no clear and consistent episode naming etiquette. They’re all talking about completely different topics. Some shows even seem much louder than others.
There are so many variables here, because these factors (as important as they can be) are never the factors a podcast will live or die on.
The only single thing all successful podcasters have in common is that creating great content for their target audience is their number one priority.
Have a think about some of the podcasts you listen to, and why you give them your valuable ear time.
A podcast might teach you something new, or help you find answers to a problem. Or, it might entertain you, make you laugh, and offer you a bit of escapism from the grind of the real world.
Podcasters that hold their listeners’ attention in this way are creating great content. They’re doing something that’s aimed at making a certain group of people (their target audience) feel a particular way. These emotional reactions can be anything from laughter and awe to determination or resilience.
If you want your own podcast to grow and thrive, you need to make creating great content your priority. All other podcasting tasks are simply to support this.
It’s all very well me saying, “just create great content”. But that can be a bit like telling someone “just be great at football and you’ll be playing in the next world cup”.
Here’s where you need to strip everything back to what made you want to start a podcast in the first place. There are a couple of questions to ask yourself.
Remember, “helping” your audience can be anything from amusing them, to teaching them a new and valuable skill.
Naturally, your own unique background, interests, and personality play a big role in this. For example, there are thousands of generic ways to learn Spanish, but maybe you’re going to teach it purely by talking about your favourite B movies. Or, you’re going to help and support people going through cancer, because you’ve been through it yourself.
Maybe you’ve just run a marathon when, a few years ago, you couldn’t answer the door without feeling out of breath. Or maybe you’re a single parent and nutritionist, who’s passionate about building healthier food habits in kids.
Your uniqueness doesn’t have to be some grand noble story or rely on you being a master of some skill either. Your podcast could take the approach of a journey. This is where you’re going to do something, and you’d like the listener to come along for the ride.
This stuff is the framework. You’ll build everything else around it, in support. Your next steps are to take the overall theme or topic of your content, and decide on a starting point.
That could be something like, “Before we embark on this journey to find out why the Romans left Britain, let’s kick off by learning about how they got there in the first place…”. Or, you might have the perfect interviewee in mind who’ll give your listeners a good grounding in the topic you’re about to cover, going forward.
You might choose to theme your content into “seasons” of 6-12 episodes, where you focus on one area of your overall topic. Perhaps season 1 of your vegan podcast is focussed exclusively on fitness and exercise. Or maybe you’ll kick off your travel podcast with a tour around your top ten European cities.
Sure, your topic and episode plan alone can’t guarantee the aforementioned “great content” we’re talking about here. There are still other key factors, like episode structure, delivery, and audio quality. The good news is, we’re going to help you nail down all of these elements on the Alitu blog. For now, though, rest assured that by honing in on the things we’ve covered here, you’ll be most of the way there.
There’s still no getting around the fact that audio needs to be recorded then polished up to sound its best. Show notes still need to be written. Episodes still need to be published and promoted.
Fortunately, as podcasting matures, there are more and more options for getting through the work that you either don’t know how to do, or don’t really want to do.
A huge chunk of this is the audio work. Very few people get into podcasting because they want to become a sound engineer. The recording and production is a means to get your content out there. You want to do it well. But, do you need to spend loads of time (as well as trial and error) trying to master it?
One of your options here, is of course, Alitu. With Alitu, you can easily record your episodes (either solo eps, or remote interviews). It’ll do all the editing and production heavy lifting for you. Chopping out mistakes and arranging music and segments is easier than your average social media site. Complicated audio processes like Noise Reduction, Equalization, and Compression are handled for you automatically, without you needing to know a thing about how they all work. You can even publish your show from within the Alitu interface.
As for any of the other smaller tasks you don’t have the time or enthusiasm for, you might take the Homer Simpson approach of “can’t someone else do it?”. You can outsource pretty much anything on Fiverr these days. Or, if you have absolutely no spare budget at all, you can use a “skills exchange” with a friend who might be able to help you out. Just do what you can to make creating great content your ultimate priority. If all of the other minutiae gets equal time and attention from you, your podcast is going to be an uphill battle from day one.