Your top 10 podcast questions answered

Are you thinking about producing a podcast, but aren’t sure where to start? There’s a lot to consider and it can seem quite overwhelming. So, we’re tackling the top 10 questions we get asked about the podcast production process.

We discussed these questions in detail on Podcasting Essentials, so you might prefer to pop on some headphones and take a listen:

Before we get to answering your questions, there are two we suggest you consider first:

1. What is the purpose of your podcast?

Before you progress too far, it’s critical to clearly distil in a sentence or two ‘why’ you want to produce a podcast? What are your goals? What does success look like?

2. Who is the audience of your podcast?

Define exactly ‘who’ your listeners will be. Understand the habits of your listeners. Imagine who you’ll be talking to.

Once you have these answers, you can dive into planning all the other aspects of making a podcast – content, tone, voice, style, duration, frequency, production, distribution and marketing. There’s a lot to think about, so let’s get to the top 10 questions.

Question 1 –  How long should a podcast be?

A podcast should only be as long as it needs to be. Don’t waffle for two hours if you can tell the same story in half the time. It’s all about respecting the listener.

Editing is your friend. Thoroughly edit the content to ensure it flows naturally and remove the parts which don’t add value to the story. Finally, get someone else to listen, they may find something you’ve missed that could help tighten the episode and improve its clarity.

Is there a sweet-spot for duration? It really depends on your audience and their appetite for the sort of audio you’re producing. But statistics indicate that podcasts under 25 minutes will most likely to be listened to in one session. This is important because you don’t want to give your audience a reason to not come back to your podcast.

Also, keep in mind, a trend for shorter episodes is emerging as more daily news podcasts are being produced; plus, the overall production quality is increasing as creators invest more time in post-production to create broadcast-quality audio.

Question 2 – How often should podcast episodes be released?

When considering the frequency of releasing podcast episodes, our number one tip is consistency. If you choose weekly, release episodes at the same time and on the same day every week. Your listeners will expect and respect regularity.

Weekly, fortnightly or monthly – what’s the best cadence? It’s likely the more often you can publish episodes, the quicker you’ll grow an audience. However, you’ve got to be able to maintain the production schedule and you’ve got to have the budget, resources and energy to maintain a podcast at whatever frequency you choose.

If you can’t create an entertaining podcast every week, then do it fortnightly. If you can’t do it fortnightly, then do it monthly. One consideration with releasing episodes monthly is, when in the month do you release? If you choose a particular date each month, what happens when that date falls on a Sunday – would you want to release on a Sunday? Perhaps, the first Monday of each month makes more sense.

Listeners can lose track of when a monthly podcast is going to be released which can break our rules of consistency and regularity – it can start to feel more random rather than a regular podcast.

People have short memories. We’re so busy and exposed to so much that we forget. So, in order to be top of mind, releasing episodes weekly or fortnightly is a much better opportunity to stick in your audience’s mind.

Or for maximum exposure, you could always aim for daily!

Question 3 – In what style or format should a podcast be?

Our number one tip is to think outside the square and be creative.

We commonly use a combination of three formats in the podcasts we produce:

1. Interview format

This is the conversational style between two or more people which is very popular in podcasting. Some of the most downloaded podcasts in the world use this relatively simple format.

2. Narrative style

‘Serial’ wasn’t the first narrative podcast, but it was one that highlighted this documentary style of production to the masses. A scripted host links together a range of voices which can result in highly engaging and entertaining storytelling.

3. Interview narrative

If your production budget doesn’t extend to a full narrative style, the middle ground is an interview-narrative style. Usually a single interview, but scripting of a host is used to increase the pace and provide more polished and professional episodes.

Question 4 – What’s the best way to record a podcast?

Always aim for the very highest audio quality possible. It comes back to respecting the listener.

We always try to record in a professional recording studio – whether it’s our own, or by linking to studios for guests in other locations.

The Australian National University was involved in a research study showing a strong link between audio quality and credibility, which is another reason to aspire to produce as close to broadcast-quality audio.

But you don’t have to record everything in the studio. Location recordings might be the best solution in some circumstances. Just make sure you have the appropriate equipment for the environment.

For some guests, the only option will be to connect remotely over the internet. There are several software solutions to capture high-quality audio remotely and we’ve written a guide for recording remotely to help you achieve the best results.

Question 5 – What should be considered when developing a podcast brand?

 The visual branding of your podcast is critically important in helping discoverability and capturing the attention of your listeners. The two main elements are the name of your podcast and the artwork.

When naming your podcast, we recommend keeping it to as few words as possible, so it’s still readable when the artwork is viewed at the size of a postage stamp. One to four words will allow the words to stand out.

Ensure your podcast name isn’t ambiguous. If your audience can’t decipher what your podcast is about from its title, then you may lose potential listeners because you have been a little too clever.

Taglines can help explain what your podcast is about. They might not be readable on the artwork, but they can be helpful in podcast apps to accompany the name.

Artwork should be light and bright, which is especially useful for those scrolling through podcast apps at night. You want your artwork to jump off the screen when seen amongst many other podcasts, so use high contrast colours and don’t use images with too much detail because this will get lost at small-scale.

Question 6 – How do you get a podcast published on Apple Podcasts and Spotify?

Podcast apps like Apple Podcasts and Spotify don’t host any audio. Podcast apps index podcasts that are distributed by an RSS feed. But the good news is that there’s a range of podcast hosting platforms that make this really simple – plus they provide many more features like detailed analytics and embeddable audio players for your website.

We recommend the Melbourne based hosting platform Omny Studio – its tech is intuitive, the analytics are detailed, and the team is quick to respond if you have any questions.

Your audio is uploaded to a hosting platform, along with your artwork, title, description and other metadata, and the hosting platform creates a unique RSS feed. This RSS feed is then submitted to podcast apps like Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, etc. This only needs to be done once to get your podcast indexed, and then any new episodes uploaded to your hosting platform will automatically be published.

Apple needs to approve your podcast when you first submit it, so allow at least a week for this when you are planning your launch activities. You can hide your podcast, once approved, to await your desired launch date.

Many podcast apps such as PocketCasts and Overcast use the Apple index to populate their apps, so it’s really important to be on Apple Podcasts so you automatically reach as broad an audience as possible.

Question 7 – How many downloads should a podcast expect?

How long is a piece of string?

It’s surprising how often this question is asked after the podcast has been launched. That’s why we set expectations back at the strategy phase of producing a podcast.  We’d look at factors that will affect downloads such as the potential audience size, what marketing activities are planned and what partnerships and owned media you can leverage?

We produce podcasts for member associations that have a finite number of potential listeners. So, they look at the percentage of their database listening rather than the raw number. They also compare stats on activities like webinar attendees to the number of downloads of their podcast episodes to measure success.

As a way of comparing raw download numbers to international benchmarks, hosting platform Libsyn released statistics in March 2020 on average download numbers for episodes they host after 30 days following release. Just 136 downloads puts you in the top 50% of all podcasts. The full download statistics were:

  • 1,100 downloads = top 20% of podcasts
  • 3,200 downloads = top 10% of podcasts
  • 7,700 downloads = top 5% of podcasts
  • 20,000 downloads = top 2% of podcasts
  • 36,000 downloads = top 1% of podcasts

But it really is all relative to your potential reach and the amplification activities you undertake. For brands that are just starting out, don’t get despondent about starting with low download numbers because they will increase over time if you put in the effort.

Question 8 – How do I grow my audience?

Growing an audience is often an underappreciated step in producing a podcast. But it really should account for at least 50% of your investment and resources.

Start thinking about marketing and amplification opportunities right up front in the strategy phase. Think about your owned media that you can utilise – your databases, website, social media, newsletters, events, and any partners you can work with to promote your podcast.

When it comes to launching your podcast, make sure you have a plan in place to utilise as many of these marketing tactics as possible.

The ABC’s 2019 Podcast Survey highlighted that word of mouth is the number one discoverability driver at 71%. This is followed by recommendations via podcasts (58%) and social media at (48%).

In all promotional activities, direct traffic back to your website – and make sure you embed an audio player for each episode on your website. Not everybody has listened to a podcast before, so you want your podcast to be their first podcast experience, so make it simple for them to listen on your website.

Include on your website, badges and links to major podcast apps and encourage listeners to subscribe in at least Apple Podcasts, Spotify and Google Podcasts. At all times, your website should be the one central source of truth.

Prior to launch and even post-launch, try to find ways to broaden your reach as much as possible. Traditional PR is a great way to get articles written about your podcast.

When posting in social media, use audiograms (short video excerpts from your podcast) to attract attention rather than posting entire episodes.

Look to collaborate with other podcasts that share a similar target audience. You could be interviewed on other podcasts that are similar to yours. You can also pay for ads in some podcasts – and host-read ads are an effective way to get existing podcast listeners to try yours.

It can be hard work, but if you keep promoting your podcast through as many channels as possible, your audience will grow.

Question 9 – What ROI can a brand expect from its podcast?

ROI is such an important question when considering any marketing activity. But we flip this question on clients and ask what is the opportunity cost of not having an audio strategy or a podcast?

With podcasts being such a fast-growing medium, and with listenership increasing year on year, while the use of some social media platforms like Facebook is decreasing, we believe all brands should at least consider having a podcast as part of their content marketing mix.

Rather than a specific ROI, we talk more about the broad benefits of a podcast because ROI is individual to each organisation. Many podcasting benefits are intangible, but there is no doubt the value is high.

Some of the benefits of podcasting include:

  • Increasing brand awareness
  • Reinforcing your expertise as a thought leader
  • A rare opportunity to have long-form conversations with your customers and prospects
  • The intimacy of the medium makes your brand highly memorable
  • Ability to humanize your brand
  • Build loyalty with existing customers, leading to higher retention and referral rates
  • The on-demand nature means you can communicate with your audience when it suits them
  • Provide information of value and entertain your customers – something they will thank you for.

Look at the number of digital and communications agencies now latching onto podcasts to fulfil 360-degree communication strategies to their clients. According to Westwood One’s Podcast Download Fall 202o Report, two out of three media agencies have discussed advertising in podcasts. From a listener standpoint, the same report showed that 4 out of 5 weekly podcast listeners have taken an action after hearing a podcast ad.

Podcasting, like any new technology, is something that people are latching on to, they’re being informed and entertained, it’s why people are loving it, and turning to podcasts in exponentially growing numbers.

There’s longevity in podcasting, there are opportunities to grow affinity, awareness and loyalty. It’s also an opportunity to surprise and delight.

Perhaps yours is a bit of a stuffy brand, or predictably stuck in TV or radio or maybe you’ve done little to no promotion at all. If you manage to produce a great podcast, that actually educates and entertains, this approach can go a long way to changing audience perception and the way they interact with you.

For more proof of the returns from podcasting, we look to the growth of podcast advertising dollars which according to the IAB’s Podcast Advertising Revenue Study grew by 48% in 2019 and despite COVID-19 is expected to reach $1 billion in 2020.

And the Podcast Conversions Benchmark Report by attribution company Podsights showed that from 1.2 billion impressions, the average return on every dollar of ad spend was more than doubled with an average of $2.42.

Additionally, the same benchmark report which studied 532 campaigns from 232 brands and total ad spend of $28m, showed that podcast advertising converted significantly better than social media.

Question 10 – What other questions do you have about podcasting?

We know we can’t answer all your questions in this one blog, so this is your opportunity to ask us any questions that you have about podcasting. We’d be more than happy to talk to you and help wherever we can.

 

Nick Schildberger and Nicole Goodman provided more detail on these podcasting questions on Podcasting Essentials. Listen to the full episode here.

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