5 Reasons Why Your Podcast Isn’t Growing
“Podcasting metrics are notoriously terrible.” – Jeff Ayers, Broadcasting, Death Wish Coffee Company
“Sure, downloads are fun to see climb — and of course that’s a helpful barometer to see the general trend of the show’s popularity. But because we are such a niche audience, that metric doesn’t tell as much as it might for advertisers looking at a show with mass popularity.” – Ryan Estes, Sr. Content Marketing Specialist, Frontline Education Company
“If I had to pick a [most important podcasting] metric, probably downloads. But the stuff you can’t measure (hat-tip to Drift VP Marketing, Dave Gerhardt) is just as important.” – Maggie Crowley, Director of Product, Drift
Even for veteran showrunners, analyzing podcast metrics is difficult. One of the most common complaints about podcasts — and fears before launching one — is that it’s really hard to measure their efficacy. The most available metrics we have — downloads, the number of starts vs. the number of streams, average consumption — don’t always paint the full picture of who’s listening to your show and, more importantly, why.
Even without crystal-clear analytics, though, showrunners can tell when their shows just aren’t gaining expected or desired traction. They know when their shows aren’t growing — they just might not know why.
The good news: most of the factors contributing to a non-growing or slow-growing show are fixable once you’ve identified them. Here are five reasons why your show might not be growing.
1. Your premise is undefined, irrelevant, or unclear
The first challenge in growing your show is attracting a baseline audience that truly cares about what you have to say. That’s the first — and most important — priority for every single showrunner: in order to have any hope of growing an audience, you need to first say something that matters.
If your show isn’t growing, maybe it’s because you’re…not.
Don’t misunderstand: you may be saying plenty that matters deep within the episodes of your show. You may feature guests who spill incredible tea, as the kids say, or whose stories can inspire and call an audience to action.
But if your show’s premise doesn’t clearly convey that to your audience, then they might not listen in the first place. Moreover, if you’re not clear enough with yourself and your team about what you’re trying to say and how you’re trying to say it, those nuggets of insight you glean will amount to little more than accidents. Tightening your premise gives you more control over your showrunning.
Too many B2B showrunners describe their podcasts as “a show about [industry],” or “interviews with [industry] experts.” Those vagaries aren’t enough to entice new listeners to give your show a try. In fact, they don’t even constitute a true premise.
A show’s premise is the combination of two factors: first, the topics you’ll explore, and second, the angle by which you’ll explore them. A good premise is focused, flexible, and fresh — it’s not trite, not overly general or prescriptive, and — importantly — it’s not something that another brand or showrunner could replicate.
So if your show isn’t growing, look first to the premise, because it’s the first interaction your audience will have with your podcast. If it’s too vague or undifferentiated (i.e., “a show about [industry]”), you can’t expect listeners to select it. If you overcorrect and spend too much time focusing on a hook or a gimmick, it may not appear relevant to your target audience. And if your premise is just plain unclear, listeners won’t give it their time.
2. Your intros are bad
If the golden rule of showrunning is to get listeners to the end of the podcast, the silver rule might be to get them to the middle. You can’t do that if you have bad episode intros.
Intros (and outros, for that matter) should never be afterthoughts in podcast production, but they often are. It’s understandable, particularly if yours is an interview show — you want to race to the “meat” of the episode, so you rush through the introduction or relegate housekeeping items like ad reads to the intro in order to get to the good stuff faster.
Don’t do that!
Your intro is the first interaction listeners have with your podcast. Don’t relinquish any of that precious real estate you’re renting oh so precariously in their ears. Use your intros for what they are: opportunities to hook your audience, so they simply can’t stop listening. That’s the kind of experience that will make your show a listener’s favorite, and it’s the favorite shows that benefit most from word of mouth marketing. That’s when you’ll start to see growth — but you have to say something captivating from the start.
3. You’re not marketing effectively
If you’ve created a podcast with an air-tight premise, exceptional insights, and mind-blowing intros, but no one knows you’ve created it, have you really created a podcast at all? An age-old riddle!
One of the most frustrating things about content marketing is watching brands create amazing content that they subsequently do absolutely nothing with. Perhaps more frustrating? Watching marketers then wonder why the content they’ve created isn’t gaining traction.
Producing a single episode of a podcast takes such time and effort, but it’s only the first step in showrunning. In order to grow your show, it’s imperative to promote your podcast as aggressively as you can. That does not mean simply inserting a link to the newest episode in a company tweet and calling it a day.
Fortunately, podcasts are enormously rich media. You can repurpose much of their content on other channels — as blog posts, via newsletter, on social media, etc. Leverage your existing marketing channels and pull out all the stops to promote your show and get it in front of listeners who’ll love it.
4. You’re focusing too much on the wrong metrics
If you’re concerned that your show isn’t growing, you might actually just be focusing on the wrong metrics.
It’s worth mentioning: not every show needs a massive audience. In fact, most B2B shows won’t attract one. But that doesn’t mean they’re not valuable.
Shows are excellent catalysts for spurring deeper engagement with superfans. Rather than focus on growing a huge number of relatively-interested listeners, consider instead pursuing steady growth with a smaller number of brand evangelists.
How do you know your show is resonating with a small but mighty group of the “right” listeners? You won’t be able to tell by examining downloads alone. Instead, look at a different metric: your show’s URR, or unsolicited response rate.
In short: if listeners are reaching out of their own accord to talk to you about your show, then you’re doing something right. If your URR is high enough, you might decide you actually don’t care about those other metrics that indicate accelerated growth.
5. You haven’t given yourself enough time to see results
What do you think are the core traits a good marketer needs to have? I’d posit creativity, for one, and business acumen, for another. A third?
Realizing results takes time. That fact can be difficult for marketers to grapple with, particularly when management teams demand reports that indicate instant success. But it’s worth it, particularly when you’re analyzing the reaction to a potentially pivotal project like a podcast.
So if you’re concerned because you just launched your first episode and your show isn’t trending yet…chill. And if you’re pitching creating a show to various stakeholders who might expect instant results, make sure to set expectations up front.
Almost nothing is an overnight success — podcasts included. But when you zoom out and really think about it, what will make your show successful is different than what will make any other show successful. That’s one of the beautiful aspects of showrunning. As you evaluate your show’s growth (or lack thereof), you don’t need to set expectations for millions of downloads and thousands of subscribers. Instead, you just need to make sure you’re saying something that matters and saying it well to the people who matter most to you. If you can do that, the listeners will follow.
A somewhat accidental marketer, I’m first and foremost a writer. I’ve spent a decade working with global brands to craft on-target content and streamline complex ideas into clear (and even…exciting?!) language. Now, I get to spend every day immersed in content and strategy here, as Managing Editor of Marketing Showrunners, at my company, Molly Donovan Content & Communications. I’m thrilled to be a part of this community of eager next-generation marketers and marketing showrunners.
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