#CoronavirusSA: Don’t… start a podcast #dearradio
by Paulo Dias (@therealptp) I often get asked for advice on how to start a podcast and, strangely enough, have fielded this request more during this time of isolation; I suppose people are getting used to talking to themselves with no one listening, pretty much like 99.9% of podcasts. My first piece of advice for people wanting to start a podcast is… DON’T.
- Don’t… start a podcast like any you’ve heard before
- Don’t… start a podcast that sounds like something from America
- Don’t… obsess over how many people are listening
- Don’t… start a podcast if you think you’re going to get rich
There are currently more than 1m podcasts available on Apple podcasts, compared to YouTube with 31 million channels; there is potential to grow — but it still feels as if everyone has a podcast, from Joe Rogan to John Vlismas to The Novel Coronavirus.
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Find your own wave
When I look at the roll call of podcasts, I’m reminded of this picture that was shared with me as an analogy for trying to get into podcasting right now — great wave but, if we all want to get on it, we’re not going to have a good time. So, it’s important to find your own wave, even if it is a little smaller or off the beaten track.
The most-obvious way is to really diversify your content but, even more importantly, is to differentiate how you distribute that content. Keeping with the wave analogy, Apple podcasts is where all the surfers are trying to be, so, even if your content is diverse, you’re going to be drowned out by the sheer volume on that platform. Spend as much time on your distribution strategy as you do on your content and technical setup. Where is your audience, do they understand podcasting — will that term put them off?
For an isiZulu podcast series for new moms, throughout the course of promotion on radio and social media, the term “podcast” wasn’t mentioned, nor was it even put on Apple, Stitcher or the like. All episodes went on its own website, and social media was used to drive people to listen. By considering who the ideal listener was and where it would be easiest for them to find this content, jumping into the wave was avoided.
There also exists great potential in using WhatsApp groups to distribute podcast episodes as voice notes. Find the audience in a place that they understand and they don’t even have to leave WhatsApp to consume.
Connection, intimacy & immediacy
What is you then need to get over in podcasting is the idea of measurement. Whenever somebody does a podcast, you naturally relate success in radio terms since they are both audio platforms — which is a very unfair comparison. If you’re starting a podcast, stop counting listeners: it doesn’t matter if you have 10 listeners; it doesn’t matter if you have 10 000. What I think we’ll see in this post-lockdown covid-19 world is that connection, intimacy and immediacy is much more valued by an audience, regardless of how many of them there are.
Maybe your podcast averages 30 listeners an episode — for all the hard work you put into it, that’s disappointing, right? Imagine a room that fits those 30 people. That’s a decent-sized room. Those 30 people come see you every week, no matter what and give their time to you and your message and hang on every word. They don’t leave until you are done talking and can often quote and repeat what you’ve said. Would you trade them for 3 000 people who happen to hear you in passing, in a shop, in an Uber, in someone else’s office and don’t even know your name? Who’s more valuable to you?
This mindset shift may help you produce content with a level of intimacy that you’ve haven’t previously tapped into. Take it as a challenge to talk to every one of those 30 people personally and you could see your podcast grow in engagement.
This brings us to our final don’t: don’t start a podcast if you want to get rich.
Not many podcast millionaires
Unlike YouTube, there aren’t many podcast millionaires and, since I’m an advocate for small audiences — small means no advertisers. Every podcast platform offers ad-insertion programmes but you’ll be lucky if you ever make back your monthly subscription.
Think of your podcast as a marketing tool, as a way to build your brand. What radio’s taught us is the value of the human voice — the companionship and trust we place in it.
So, use your podcast to build that part of your brand. You’re in people’s heads; they take you to work, in the car, on a run, to the toilet — that access is priceless so, when the time comes to seek out what you offer… they already feel connected to you in a way mailers, blogs and even videos can’t match. Alternatively, use your podcast to hone your craft without any pressure until you become someone who can offer expertise in “programming”, technical and distribution, and offer that real-world learning to organisations looking to invest in podcasting.
Any podcast I’ve done or currently do I consider a hobby. Some people play golf; this is what I do — I spend hours on every aspect of those podcasts and, when the time comes to offer the advice, I’ve learnt the lessons the hard way.
I’ve given enough “don’t”s; let me finish with a do — if you want to get into podcasting, do it, your way.
PS I assume we’ve watched AAAALLLL of Netflix at this point so here’re some podcasts you may want to sink your ears into (just some that have caught my attention but there are a million to choose from).
- Babies Behind Bars: From CliffCentral and internationally recognised, this series tells the stories of female prisoners and the experience of having their babies behind bars.
- Uncover: Satanic Panic: A pod-connoisseur recommended this to me. The Uncover series focuses on the Satanic Panic that happened in the 1980s in Canada specifically, centred on allegations against a family running a daycare centre.
- Conan O’ Brien Needs a Friend: I’m a fan of Conan from his Simpsons days and, for me, he can do no wrong. Each week he calls in a celebrity friend; through their chats, they accomplish nothing of note but are hilarious on the way.
- 60-Second Science: If you’re new to podcasting and the time commitment is daunting, take a listen— seldom 60 seconds but never more than five minutes, the content, unfussy style and format could get you hooked on podcasts.
Paulo Dias (@therealptp) is the head of creative integration at Ultimate Media. He works closely with the programming teams at leading radio stations to help implement commercial messaging into their existing formats. He contributes the regular column, “Dear Radio”, looking at the changing radio landscape in South Africa, to MarkLives.com
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