7 Ways to Fix Your Podcast

Last week at Podcast Movement I presented “They Are Not Listening To Your Entire Podcast – 7 Ways to Fix It.”  I detailed compelling data from several sources which reinforce a trend in all media to relatively high abandonment rates. In general, there is significant attrition in the first seven minutes and many do not make it through lengthy podcasts.  Here are some top-line solutions to keep listeners engaged:

1.    Engage quickly – Great starts are critical.  Radio stations have learned to engage the audience right away or risk rapid loss of listeners to other stations. Podcast listeners are a bit more forgiving, but not much. Podcast creators must capture a listener’s attention or risk a stop, fast-forward or delete within two minutes.  NPR One sees movement away from their content by about 22 seconds, which is 18 words.  They are making a concerted effort to develop more captivating teases and compelling story starts.  Many podcasters start slowly, talking about the weather or their new pants and they need to determine whether they are connecting or repelling listeners.  

Malcom Gladwell in his great book “Blink” says people form opinions and unconsciously judge within seconds.  

2.    DWMT – Don’t Waste My Time – This is clearly related to the first item and something we hear more often.  People are busy and increasingly frustrated with meandering. Directness counts. Newscasts move faster, articles have become shorter.  Sure there is a place for shows that move more slowly and some podcasts are great at that, but in general the trend is toward respecting people's most precious commodity; time. Think about your own attrition with TV shows, print pieces, and aimless chatter on the radio or with podcasts.  

If it is an interview, ask your best question first.  Get to the point.  Your audience will appreciate it.  

3.    WIIFM – What’s in it for me – It’s a "selfie" world and people are interested in how things benefit them.  When a podcaster fails to make "eye contact," many listeners disconnect. Good content resonates on a personal level.
a.    Don’t fall in love with yourself – I have noted with many podcasters a tendency to self-indulgence and narcissism.  It is somewhat true of anyone who likes talking into a microphone. Many shows fail when they become self-absorbed. With podcasters, some assume since people have taken the time to discover, subscribe and download their content, the podcaster has license to be self-indulgent. That relationship can easily turn ugly if the host fails to deliver relevant content.  

4.    Prep counts – The greatest and most durable radio shows and podcasts have a content road map. Some say every hour of a show requires 2 or more hours of prep.  Good prep is about filtering content, researching facts, laying out strong questions and making sure they are plugged-in to key topics.  Public radio works their magic here. In general I find the bigger the show, the more prep they do. Howard Stern comes to his signature interviews with great questions which demonstrate that he and his staff have dug a bit deeper to bring original content.  He asked Larry David why he saw a psychologist in High School.  He asked Paul McCartney what the band was thinking when they named a song “Why Don’t we do it in the Road.”  McCartney let out a belly laugh and said no one had ever asked him that.  Be a prep monster.  

5.    Length counts – There is no hard and fast rule about length.  But there are good axiomatic policies.  “Go as long as you need to, and no longer.”  Here is another: “KISS – Keep it Short Stupid.”  

Editing counts.  The great Don Hewitt, who created and ruled 60 Minutes forever would watch a segment and then ask; “so what?”  Top “60 Minutes” reporters would go back and edit the story to make it more clear and crisp.    

6.    Freak Factor – There is a deep and growing sea of over 300,000 podcasts. Eric Nuzum from Audible calls it a "flea market." The ones that win have something notably different.  It is hard to win these days by being average.

A fresh point of view, great talent, production value – there are many ways to get there, but just another podcast about fantasy football likely won’t make it.  The hit Broadway show Hamilton is a hip-hop musical with an all ethnic cast.  It stands out as completely different which is why it is blowing the doors off Broadway records. The average Broadway show closes after 131 performances - estimates for Hamilton have it exceeding $1 Billion in revenue within a few years

Be different. 

7.    Audio quality counts -  The technical barrier to entry in podcasting is pretty low. But bad audio is tedious and a deterrent. Being off mic, too much ambient noise and poor editing are just a few factors that reflect poorly.  Listeners are accustom to great audio experiences.  Less is a potential tune-out.  

Those are 7 tips to fight the good fight against the tyranny of the stop and delete buttons. People use those buttons more than you might think.  

Steven Goldstein - Amplifi Media

I will be appearing on a terrific panel at the upcoming Morning Show Bootcamp on August 11 in Atlanta.  We will focus on radio's future.  In a separate session, I will be speaking on the development of effective podcast strategies for broadcasters.