It’s not unreasonable to call Evo Terra the godfather of podcasting.
A podcasting pioneer, he launched his first podcast in 2004 before Apple Podcasts was even a thing. “There was iTunes, but iTunes did not involve podcasting at the time. That didn’t happen until the summer of 2005,” says Evo on an episode of Between 2 Mics.
These days, Evo thinks a lot about the direction of the industry, and is most concerned with how to make podcasting better. It’s a topic he explores on his future-gazing show Podcast Pontifications.
“There are lots of tools out there that make podcasting easy, but my question about these things is, ‘Do they make it better?’” Evo says.
It could be the question he was born to ask (and answer — at least, in part). No stranger to pushing the envelope, Evo sees himself as a “professional contrarian” and observes that he’s “always been doing weird things” with podcasting.
Based on our conversation, here are three opportunities for improving the industry — and some potential solutions.
1. Podcast hosting companies need to evolve
Podcast hosting platforms are a necessary tool for podcast distribution.
“Our podcast media [hosting] company remains the lifeblood,” says Evo. “Without them, we don’t have unlimited bandwidth. Without them, we don’t have RSS feeds. And sure, we could all go out and hand code an RSS feed, but seriously, who wants to do that anymore?”
Though hosting companies are crucial, Evo believes platforms need to improve.
“As much as I love my friends at the media hosting companies, many of which I’ve known for a dozen or more years, when you peel back what their service does, it’s not designed to optimize a podcast, but to simply fill out an RSS feed,” he says.
“They don’t help us not to make mistakes,” Evo explains. “There are lots of things they’re not doing. I think it’s because they’ve been doing it for so long. It’s very difficult for them to see any way other than the conventional way they’ve been doing things since 2004.”
Rather than build a new platform from scratch, Evo says the solution is to create “lightweight, easy tools” that lay on top of existing services.
“I’m not interested in going out and forming a new podcast hosting company,” he says. “Instead, I would like to help the podcast hosting companies understand the way people want to use their software, the people who aren’t yet using their software, why they don’t use their software, and ways to make their product better.”
A set of guidelines for users and future product development is key, Evo argues. That way the next time “a bright light bulb comes on in the podcasting world, it’s not a bumbling mess.”
2. Start with the podcasting fundamentals
There probably isn’t a podcaster out there who doesn’t want to grow their audience. But you can’t even explore the question until you hone the fundamentals of your podcasting process.
Evo says he frequently turns away potential podcast clients who tell him they want new listeners, but won’t prioritize fixing the holes in their podcast’s foundation.
“They’ll come and say, ‘Yeah, I understand all that, but how do I get more listeners?’” says Evo. “They have a tough time realizing there’s a process. It’s like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. We’ve got to develop a foundation first, then start working our way up.”
Evo says podcasters don’t have to limit themselves to his favorite software or hardware in order to create professional-sounding content. Any sort of dedicated podcasting equipment will do the trick — as long as it’s used correctly.
“You should be able to make a podcast of high enough quality without buying Pro Tools and a $400 microphone,” he says. “Just because I have a $400 microphone doesn’t mean you have to have one. You just need to have one that works properly.”
3. To attract more listeners, create better podcast content
Creating a better listening experience so that podcasters deserve a larger audience is important for growing the industry overall.
Quite simply, more appealing podcasts means more listeners. A study by Edison Research found only about 20 percent of people in the U.S. are regular listeners. Those numbers are on the rise, but there’s still a massive untapped audience.
“It’s going to entice them [to listen] if we make better content, if we make that content easier to find and easier to curate,” he says.
Evo is also big on helping introduce non-listeners to content they love.
“In order for us to make sure people have a good experience with podcasting when they first encounter it, we have to make sure that we’re exposing them to really good content,” Evo says.
Evo suggests going the extra mile when trying to get someone hooked on their first podcast. He physically takes their phone, searches for podcasts within their pre-installed podcast player and plays his recommendation for them to hear on-the-spot.
But hey podcasters, that probably doesn’t mean sharing your own show with them. To turn people into podcast lovers, Evo says it’s crucial to wow new listeners by exposing them to unique content they can’t find on the radio or TV.
“Have in your back pocket three or four shows that will blow their mind,” says Evo. “When people listen to something I suggest, I want the first thing that goes through their head after 10 seconds of listening to be, ‘Wow, I had no idea this is what podcasting can be! Now I want more.’ That’s what we should give them.”
For more useful tips from Evo Terra on how to improve and grow the podcast industry, listen to this episode of Between 2 Mics.Be sure to subscribe to get future episodes directly in your preferred podcast player.