Okay, let’s set the scene:
You’ve just launched your very first podcast (congrats!). You love getting behind the mic so much that it doesn’t even bother you when downloads are, well, a downright pittance. You’re new to this, so you’re not expecting Joe Rogan stats. So, onward you go, producing and publishing content.
But after eight episodes, the numbers are still quite small. After 15, they’re about the same. And thus, the pessimism takes root. You may release one or two more episodes, but your heart just isn’t in it anymore. And eventually, you pretend like the whole thing never even happened.
And just like that, you’ve become another victim of podfade.
What is podfade?
Basically, podfade is when someone starts a new podcast and, after a handful of episodes, slowly or suddenly stops. Recording ends and the feed gets stale. It’s a pretty common phenomenon. In fact, podfade happens to about 75% of podcasts.
Sleep With Me host Drew Ackerman, points out a majority of podcasts don’t even make it past the first episode. Less make it past number eight, and even fewer pass 21.
Often, people stop because their listener numbers are low — so low that turning their podcast into a side gig will be quite difficult, let alone making it into a full-time thing.
But if you’re going to start a podcast, there’s one very important thing you need to know.
Building a large and loyal audience takes time
Unless you’re already famous or a social media influencer with a large following, you simply won’t see overnight success. If by a few episodes in — or even 30, 40 or 50 — you don’t have hundreds of thousands of downloads, don’t be discouraged (or surprised). That’s normal, and there’s still hope. Lots of it.
Jen Briney, for example, started her podcast Congressional Dish in 2012, but she didn’t see her number of listeners explode until 2015, after participating in a Reddit Q&A. Today, the podcast earns her about $7,000 a month. Fun fact: For the entire first year of Congressional Dish, Jen didn’t monetize the show at all. She didn’t want that sort of pressure.
Eric Siu’s podcast Growth Everywhere averages approximately 80,000 downloads a month (about 2,600 a day). But Eric says it took him ample experimentation and over three years to reach that point. In year one, it got nine daily downloads. In year two, that increased to 54.
“The reality is, you’re probably not going to be seeing huge numbers in the early days,” says Matthew McLean in a blog post for The Podcast Host. Rather, it’ll probably take you a few years to gain traction.
Even media mogul Gary Vaynerchuk started off with no audience at all. For the first 18 months of WineLibraryTV, the video series he launched in 2006, barely anyone watched. Though no longer active, that YouTube channel eventually gained more than 36,000 subscribers. And Gary? Fourteen years later, he has 8.6 million followers on Instagram. (You probably know the rest of the story…).
So, in short, don’t give up. If you’re passionate about your podcast, keep recording. The world needs your voice.
And if you want to “turn it into something big,” here’s the secret: consistency.
The 3 main ways you should be consistent with your podcast: Timing, topic, format
1. Stick to a regular schedule
Choose a time and day to release your episodes and commit to it 100%. Don’t be flaky.
“It doesn’t matter if your podcast comes out each week, every other week, or once a day,” says Pat Flynn. “As long as you can get into a rhythm and groove so that your audience knows what to expect.”
Sure, there are recommended times and days to release an episode, but the most important factor is showing up when you say you will. Of course, there is some wiggle room. Your listeners understand that you’re a human and things happen, whether you need to skip a week or change the publishing date completely. Just communicate clearly and be transparent. Occasional changes are perfectly fine, but don’t make it a habit.
“If you’re burnt out and need a break, don’t just disappear,” says Rachel Smith, from Captivate, a podcast hosting, analytics and marketing platform. “Podcasts thrive on reliability, consistency and routine. Failure to properly communicate with your listeners risks losing them altogether and you’ll have to fight to win them back.”
2. Provide relevant content
People started listening to your podcast for a reason — because they like what you’re talking about and want more, more, more. If your podcast is about food and you suddenly start interviewing random influencers about their beauty routine, your audience will get confused. Eventually, they’ll probably unsubscribe. I mean, imagine if you showed up at your favorite pizza restaurant and they were only serving sushi. Would you come back?
Amy Woods of Content 10x says “if you are not consistent with your messaging, you could end up confusing potential customers by burying the reason they come to you in the first place.”
This doesn’t mean you can’t diversify the types of guests you feature or change things up once in a while. You just want to ensure that you tailor each episode toward your target audience in some way.
3. Follow the same (or a similar) structure each episode
Again, your audience likes to know what to expect. If your podcast has a particular format, stick to it as you can. You’d be surprised at how much listeners fall in love with a specific segment.
For example, each LadyGang episode starts off with a section called “Good Week, Bad Week,” during which each host shares their high and low points of the week. I wouldn’t necessarily stop listening if they removed this part, but I’d be pretty disappointed. And no one wants to bum out their audience.
Consistency is the key to engagement, the golden ticket for podcasters
It is, quite frankly, the perfect podfade antidote.
When you commit to a publishing schedule, your podcast will become a part of your listeners’ routine. They’ll look forward to the time and day you publish, and perhaps they’ll even schedule their workout or commute around it. Tuning into your show will become just another habit, like brushing their teeth — they won’t forget to do it.
Each time you show up for them when you say you will, they’ll trust you a little bit more. And the more they trust you, the longer they’ll stick around. If you fail to show up at your promised time or publish content that’s all over the place, they’ll start dropping like flies, which is the exact opposite of what you want.
For your show to grow, especially to the point of monetizing it, you need actively engaged listeners. Listeners who keep excitedly showing up. That’s what podcast sponsors (and networks, if that’s your goal) want to see.
Plus, engaged listeners will be so excited about your podcast they’ll tell everyone they know about it. And word-of-mouth is, arguably, the most powerful marketing tactic there is.
So go on, keep podcasting! You’ve got this.
Abby Wolfe is a writer, editor, and content strategist based in Portland, ME. She’s the creator and host of the Sounds About Write Podcast. Abby is an obsessive reader, cat lover, and chaser of ocean waves and fall foliage. This content was produced collaboratively with PodReacher.