PodSchool Podcast | How to make sure your podcast survives


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How to avoid the dreaded ‘podfade’

Podfade is the inevitable consequence of jumping into a podcast you’re not prepared for. And it happens when a show stops releasing episodes and fades into podcasting oblivion.

This is usually because the creator loses interest, realises their idea doesn’t have legs or because they seriously underestimated the amount of work it takes to release episodes consistently.

So how do you make sure your podcast doesn’t become another podfade statistic?

Apple Google Spotify

What are the statistics?

At the time of writing this, there are over 2.4 million podcasts in Apple Podcasts alone but only 21% of those are active (released an episode in the past 90 days).

That means the vast majority of podcasts on this platform have technically podfaded.

Some of these inactive shows are podcasts that were only meant to last a single season but most of them are podcasters who get a few episodes in and realise “This is a lot harder than I thought it would be!”

Podcast audiences take a long time to build, often much longer than you think.

And shows that are shouting about their ‘million downloads’ have often been publishing content consistently over a very long period of time to get there.

If you want to be one of those shows it’s essential to know what you’re getting into BEFORE you start so you don’t expect to have a million listeners and a million dollars after releasing three episodes.

How do your download numbers compare to other podcasts?


Podcasting isn’t easy

People often let their shows podfade because they don’t realise how difficult it is to grow an audience and maintain consistency.

If you’ve already started your show you’ll know how much work goes into creating each episode.  But if you’re yet to launch I want to take you through a few ways you can avoid the dreaded podfade…

Make sure you know what you’re in for

It’s incredible that if you have an idea, you can buy some equipment and get your podcast in front of an audience in a relatively short amount of time.

But getting your show started is the easy bit.

Keeping a podcast alive is the part that can be difficult.

The more you know about how long it REALLY takes to get each episode into people’s ears, the better prepared you’ll be.  And the more likely your podcast will survive.

How long does it take to put together a podcast episode?


Practice before you go live

People think if they record an episode they have to share it with the world straight away.  But you could be recording podcast episodes for years before you feel comfortable enough to press publish.

Not only will this time spent ironing out the kinks help you improve your presenting skills.  It will also get you in the swing of how much time you need to plan, present, produce and promote your show.

If you do a dry run over a number of weeks or months you’ll get a sense of whether this is do-able long term or whether you’ll be pulling your hair out by week two.

The content you create during your practice period also doesn’t need to go to waste.

If it’s strong enough you can bank those recorded episodes so when you do launch you’ll be way ahead of yourself.  Or if they’re not strong enough, at least you’ve rehearsed the content so you know what works and what doesn’t.

Having this in your back pocket will give you a buffer and decrease your chances of podfade because you won’t be working week to week.

The steps to release a podcast episode


Work out if you’ve got enough content to go the distance

One of the main reasons people’s shows podfade is that they run out of ideas.

Coming up with content consistently is incredibly taxing so the more you can do to set yourself up for success in this department, the better.

Before you start your show I suggest sitting down with a piece of paper and jotting down as many ideas as possible.

I often set myself a goal of 52 because that’s a year’s worth of content.

Obviously, that’s a big number to get to but if you start the process and find it pretty easy to get to 10 or 20 that’s a good indication you’ve got something there.

If you’ve written two ideas and you’re struggling to come up with a third maybe this isn’t the kind of show you will be able to do week in, week out.

How to find content for your podcast


Batch record episodes

Batch recording is the process of recording as many podcast episodes as you can ahead of time so you’re not trying to get everything done week to week.

This is only possible with content that doesn’t date so if your show is based on news or current events this might not work for you.

But if you can get ahead of yourself it will help you avoid the content stress and burnout a lot of podcasters face.

Why you should batch record your podcast


Choose a topic you’re passionate about

There’s a lot of time-consuming stuff that needs to be done around your podcast so you need to be passionate about your idea or it’ll be hard to keep going.

This is especially the case when you’re podcasting to no one.

Building an audience takes time and consistency and that means you need to be showing up every week even if no one else is…yet.

This can be difficult if you’re not doing something you love and that’s a sure-fire way to find yourself in the land of podfade.

How to come up with a great podcast idea


Don’t expect to make money

If you’re waiting for the dollars to roll in from day one you’ll be packing up your recording equipment up and moving onto greener pastures real quick.

You might be lucky enough to be one of the select few who monetises their show quickly but chances are it’ll only happen after you’ve been creating content for a long time.  If it happens at all.

To monetise effectively you need to be getting around 10,000 downloads per episode.

And while that doesn’t seem like much it’s actually a huge mountain to climb and would put you in the top 5% of podcasts (podcast download numbers are much smaller than you might think).

To make your show something that will last long-term it has to be something you’re happy to do for free.

If this isn’t your mindset you’ll be disappointed and nothing leads to podfade quicker than disappointment.

How to make money from your podcast


Be strategic when planning your show

Not every idea is suited to consistently releasing episodes every week so think about what suits you and your content.

Your show might work best in seasons where you release 10 episodes then take a break to plan the next 10.  Or your idea might work best as a single season and that’s it.

If you’re releasing your show in seasons you can also take a break in between to plan and record new episodes.

That way when you go live with the next season everything will be recorded and scheduled and the pressure on you each week will be much less.

If you’re going with this option it’s important to note that the best way to grow an audience is by releasing episodes consistently over time.

But, if this isn’t possible, releasing your show in batches like this will be better than not releasing it at all.

How to make podcasting easier with seasons


Be clear with your audience

Whatever you decide to do make sure you communicate clearly with your audience.

If you start out promising a weekly show and then disappear without explanation they’ll be pissed off and your reviews will reflect that.

However, if they know this is a single season, or that they’ll be getting 12 episodes and then you’ll be taking a break to create more, they won’t be disappointed.

There’s nothing wrong with dishing up your show in smaller batches or trying an idea for a season and moving onto the next one.

Just be open and honest with yourself and your audience, know what you’re getting into and you’ll be fine.

Got a burning podcasting question you’d like answered? Send me an email.

Want to start your own podcast but need a little help?  Download my “How To Start A Podcast” guide or sign up for my online podcasting course, PodSchool.

Got some time on your hands? Read the full episode transcript

Hello and welcome to the show. Today I'm talking about something a little nasty and that is the concept of podfade. If you've never heard of podfade it's basically just a wanky way of saying you've gotten over your podcast and you can't be buggered doing anymore episodes. This happens more than you'd assume considering everybody seems to be obsessed and in love with podcasts. But you would be amazed at how many podcasts there are out there and how few of those actually still upload episodes. I was reading an article on Amplify Media this week with the CEO of Blubrry, Todd Cochrane. Blubrry is a podcast host that a lot of people use to upload their show and they are waste deep in all the analytics. Todd was saying there are currently about 540,000 podcasts with about 2000 dropping every week. Last year, in 2017, of those 540,000 odd podcasts only 25 percent of them released a new episode. Which means 75 percent of all podcasts aren't really in production. Now of course within that number are some shows that just existed for a season so they were never designed to keep on releasing new episodes. But a lot of that number is people that got about seven episodes in and went "Bugger this!" If you've started the process of podcasting I'm sure you can understand how that happens.

If you are yet to start or maybe if you're just in the beginning I wanted to talk to you about some of the ways you can avoid getting a few episodes in and thinking "I've made a terrible mistake." One of the most important things is to know what you are in for. I try my very darnedest on this show to make sure I am super realistic and transparent about the work that is required to do your own podcast. I think that podcasting is fantastic and if you have got a great idea and you want to get it out there it's amazing that you can just buy a bit of equipment, talk into a microphone and have an audience but it is so important to know what you are getting into. There is really nothing worse if this is something you want to do than going public, telling everyone you know, getting excited and then realising "Oh my goodness I have to go back on my word because I didn't realise what I was getting into." So understanding the amount of time it's going to take and the input that it's going to require before you press publish on your first episode is my biggest piece of advice.

The way to do that is by practising. Often people think "If I record an episode I have to publish it" but you don't. You could keep on recording audio for years before you feel comfortable enough to go live. And the reason I suggest this is because it's really good to do a dummy run of more than one episode to see what the process is week in week out. You need to get an understanding of how much time it takes before you jump into the deep end. Once you realise "Okay this show is going to take six, seven or eight hours out of my week" you can start to factor in whether you've realistically got time for it.

You'll be surprised how long podcasting takes. I've had some shows I work on that take 10 - 20 hours a week to edit, organise, record, promote etc. It's not just a case of sitting down in front of a microphone talking and then publishing that. There's a lot that goes into it. So starting that process and practising before you go live can really help you make a smart decision about podcasting before you go live.

One of the most difficult things about podcasting is content. This was the great blogging dilemma of yesteryear when every man and his dog was jumping in and starting their own blog. Exactly the same thing happened - people started blogs and realized "Oh! You've actually got to populate this with content?" Content is a huge huge part of the podcasting process and it can be the thing that has podcasters pulling their hair out. The way to get around this is to sit down and put pen to paper and see if you can nut out a lot of ideas. I often suggest seeing if you can jot down 52 ideas which is a full year of shows. This is obviously only possible with an evergreen show rather than one that's topical (because you can't plan ahead with that). But if you set yourself a goal of 52 ideas and you get to 10 or 20 pretty easily you've probably got an idea that has legs. If you've only got a couple of ideas down and you are searching around in your brain for more and coming up with nothing that's probably a good indication it doesn't have legs to be a show that goes week in week out forever. It.

The next thing to think about is batch recording. This is banking up as many episodes ahead of time so you're not working week in week out. This is of course only possible with evergreen content that doesn't date so you can't do this if you're talking about the news of the day but if you can get ahead of yourself and the content is evergreen you won't be stressing if life gets in the way, or you have to take a break. You also won't be pulling your hair out every week. Batch recording can be the difference between you enjoying the process and feeling like you're on top of it and feeling like you're pulling your hair out and you want to throw it in. So to avoid that feeling try and be as ahead of yourself as possible.

Also, make sure the content is something you are passionate about. You have to WANT to do the show otherwise it'll feel like a chore. There are so many things around the show that are laborious and time-consuming but that stuff becomes do-able if you love what you're doing. You have to be passionate about your content, not only for your own sanity but also for your audience. They will never enjoy or buy into a show where it doesn't feel like the person who's hosting it is really invested. Your passion is the thing that will help to build a loyal following because your passion will be infectious. And people like hearing people talk about something they're passionate about.

Podcasting takes a huge amount of energy and it's so important you are passionate about the content otherwise it'll feel like working a job you're not getting paid for. And you probably won't be for a while if at all. Yes, you could be one of the select few where you are monetising from day one but chances are that's not going to be how it works. You have to go into this with the content first and the money second. It has to be the kind of project where you'd do it for free because chances are you're going to be and if all you're doing it for is money you'll be bitterly disappointed.

So how can you avoid or plan to combat podfade? Burn out often happens because you've overcommitted. That's usually because you start a show and think it has to go every week forever. That kind of weekly commitment is huge. That's why you should batch record to try and get as far ahead of yourself as possible but if you think you might not make it every single week then plan for that. There are other ways to release a show...

Some podcasts exist purely in seasons, so they come out and do a show for six, 10 or 12 episodes then come back a year or a few months later and do another season. You'll notice Gimlet's show Start-Up does that. They started with their own startup story and then they started to do seasons on other businesses. So that can give you a bit of time to wrap a bow on that season and then plan the second season.

Think strategically about what you want to do and then plan out those episodes. You can even record them and get them all done before they go live so you're not scrambling each week. Also if you do seasons there doesn't have to be more than one. There can just be one story or one season and that's it. You just need to think about the content and what works best for that.

Just think about it before you get started because often people jump into the deep end and then realise "Oh my goodness! I have to keep releasing episodes forever!" and that can breed a lot of stress and anxiety. Be smart about it. Be strategic. Look at the content you've got and think about the best way to present it both for the content and your sanity. There's no reason you can't do one show and then start a totally new show creating small projects rather than one forever project.

Just make sure whatever you do you're clear with your audience. Don't come on and say that this is going to be a show that goes forever and then six episodes in disappear. Make sure your audience know what to expect and when they can see you back in their feed or if your show is just going to be a small package they can enjoy and then move on. A show like S Town is a great example of this. It still rates really well because it's a fantastic podcast but it exists in one season only. I'm sure people would love for it to come back but the story is done and there's something to be said for leaving something as it is. If you've got an idea that would wrap up perfectly in one season then it's best to do things that way.

I hope that's helped you think a little bit more about pod fade or pod burn out and how you can potentially avoid it. It is a big commitment so the more you can do to be as educated and aware of what you're jumping into beforehand the better off you'll be. If you want to check out any other episodes of this podcast you can scroll through the feed in this app or head to PodSchoolPodcast.com. I've also got a contact page there as well where you can ask me a question and I'm more than happy to answer it on the show. If you're finding these tips useful please leave a review and a five-star rating in iTunes or your favourite podcast app. I'll see you next week and until then, happy podcasting.

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Discover all the tools and tech you need to get your podcast started. Plus get access to my weekly podcasting tips delivered straight to your inbox!