By Clare McDermott published September 25, 2016

Podcasting Pioneers Explain Value of Audio Content and Rookie Mistakes to Avoid


As This Old Marketing approaches its 150th taping, Joe Pulizzi and Robert Rose wax philosophical about why podcasting is so powerful, and the rookie mistakes they now avoid.

A handful of marketing contrarians have been predicting a spike for podcasting for a few years. While a steep climb hasn’t materialized, audio content is rising steadily in popularity year over year. According to the Pew Research Foundation, the percent of Americans who had listened to a podcast within the previous 30 days more than doubled between 2008 and 2016 (9% to 21%). The numbers look better among younger Americans. A study by ypulse found 35% of Millennials ages 18 to 34 regularly follow at least one podcast.

35% of Millennials ages 18 to 34 regularly follow at least one #podcast via @ypulse. Click To Tweet The % of Americans who listened to a #podcast w/in previous 30 days doubled from 2008 to 2016 via @pewresearch. Click To Tweet

Is it high time for an audio revolution? The New York Times reports that many amateur podcasters are going professional as major media companies invest in this new form of digital publishing (May 7, 2016). Advertisers are getting in on the action too: They expect to spend $35 million on podcasts in 2016 (Wall Street Journal, Feb. 18, 2016). And even a few big venture-capital deals in the space signal that the industry may be poised to grow even more.

Ready to launch a podcast?

As content-heavy brands consider new channels, podcasting should be on the table, say Joe Pulizzi and Robert Rose, hosts of This Old Marketing. “Podcasting is different because it’s an extremely intimate way to interact with your audience,” says Rose, chief content adviser at Content Marketing Institute. “Joe and I share our family and personal lives on the show, and many times they are issues others struggle with. People come up to me all the time, asking about something very personal I’ve shared on the podcast. I think being in someone’s head when your voice comes through those headphones is a wonderful experience. It creates a connection that other mediums can’t make.”

#Podcasting is an extremely intimate way to interact with your audience says @robert_rose. Click To Tweet

All that connection, however, requires a good bit of work. It may look easy (“Hey guys, let’s record ourselves chatting about stuff and make a podcast out of it!”), but the pre- and post-production work is sizable. Pulizzi and Rose estimate that for each weekly show, they spend about four hours on research and four hours on production — or eight hours for every one-hour show.

Explains Pulizzi, founder of the Content Marketing Institute, “We want it to sound like we’re two guys having a conversation, but there’s a lot of background work involved. And the more care we put into it, the better the show is.”


As for measuring effectiveness, any podcaster will tell you it’s like being beamed to the earliest days of digital. Yes, you can see how many people downloaded your podcast via iTunes (the biggest aggregator by a large margin), but you won’t know how many listened or at what point they turned it off. And if you suddenly see a spike in downloads, it’s nearly impossible to tell whether the show was just that good or whether a change in iTunes algorithms was the culprit.

“The lack of podcast data is kind of shocking,” said Gina Delvac, the producer of Call Your Girlfriend, a pop-culture show for women. (Executives at Apple appear to be listening. In the spring, Apple brought seven leading podcasters to its headquarters to discuss their complaints, though the outcome of those conversations is still unknown.)

The lack of #podcast data is kind of shocking says @gdelvac. Click To Tweet

The most useful information, say Pulizzi and Rose, comes from reviews on iTunes and other player platforms, as well as tweets that begin to roll in almost immediately after a show is uploaded. The good and bad reviews, say the duo, help them improve each week.

The most useful information comes from reviews & tweets says @joepulizzi @robert_rose. #podcast Click To Tweet

Comparing to the early days, Rose admits he’s become more careful about how his opinions come across. “What I’ve learned is that when you have this platform from which to speak, your ideas can come across a notch stronger than you intended,” he explains. “So if you’re being a little snarky on air, it comes across as extra snarky. Don’t get me wrong … we still attack stupid ideas, but we’re more careful about criticizing ideas and not people.”

Tools and techniques

All their efforts require the right tools to execute a quality podcast. Here’s how they do it:

Studio and production

Pulizzi and Rose both say a high-quality microphone is essential. Many of the tools they use are either free or low-cost. They record conversations via Skype, use GarageBand (Rose) and Audacity (Pulizzi) for audio editing, and Rose buys stock music online for show openings.


This Old Marketing uses Libsyn to host and publish the show to the major players like iTunes, Stitcher, and SoundCloud. Libsyn also offers podcasters an RSS feed (essential to distribute the show to aggregators) and an HTML5 media player so listeners can tune in right on your website (rather than through a mobile player like iTunes). Libsyn’s competitors include Blubrry, Spreaker, PodOmatic, and SoundCloud.

The podcasting paradox

After scores of shows and over a thousand hours of work invested, Pulizzi and Rose say the medium is their favorite of all the ways they reach their audience. Why? Because people often listen to podcasts while they are doing something else — and paradoxically, it means you often have their undivided attention. “People listen to us while they are running, on the subway in the morning, while they are doing dishes. You capture them at a moment when they are not in front of a screen or otherwise distracted,” explains Pulizzi.

Even so, both Pulizzi and Rose warn that podcasting isn’t for content marketing beginners. “You need to have an audience first before you launch a podcast,” says Pulizzi. That’s because getting attention on podcast aggregators is too difficult for new entrants. Instead, Pulizzi and Rose say, podcasting should be a diversification strategy for brands already pumping out great content.

Podcasting isn’t for beginners. You need to have an audience first says @joepulizzi. Click To Tweet

This article originally appeared in the August issue of Chief Content Officer. Sign up to receive your free subscription to our bimonthly print magazine.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

Author: Clare McDermott

Clare McDermott is the editor of Chief Content Officer magazine and owner of SoloPortfolio, a Boston-based content marketing provider for professional service firms.You can follow her @soloportfolio.

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  • Bill Widmer

    I LOVE podcasts. I hope to be able to add them to my repertoire soon – but I have a lot more learning to do before that happens!

    Claire, you mention it’s not for beginners, and you need an audience before beginning podcasting. How do you know when it’s right to start? Is there a magical number, a level of engagement, or a gut feeling?

    Thanks for sharing! 🙂

    • Joe Pulizzi

      Hi Bill. You can start a podcast before building an audience, it just takes a lot longer. Our success was fueled by the fact that we already had an email subscriber list, and then many of those people started to listen to our podcasts.

      There is no right number, but I would want an email database of 10,000 before starting the podcast. That said, many podcasters, like John Lee Dumas, started their podcasts without a database and have done just fine. Just more difficult in my opinion.

      Hope that helps.

      • Bill Widmer

        Hey Joe,

        First of all, it’s an honor to hear from you! I couldn’t believe you responded yourself, given how busy you must be. Thank you!

        An email list of 10,000 sounds incredible to me. I know you guys are mostly for big-ish businesses, which I definitely am not. My biggest audience subscription is 34 people to my blog and counting (70% of which are highly engaged). But I just started a month ago, so I have a long ways to go.

        Love JLD by the way, listen to him every day. Thanks again, Joe!

        • Joe Pulizzi

          Be patient and rock on!

  • Bruce McDuffee

    Hey Bill, I started a podcast in November with virtually no audience. I think I had less than 30 subscribers. I chose podcasting because I feel it is an intimate way to share expertise and build those relationships. Joe is right, it is slow going when you start from scratch, but my audience has been steadily increasing. My niche is manufacturing marketers which is pretty small in the big picture of things. So far my podcast has logged 5906 downloads which I think is ok. Thanks to great guests like Joe, it is really working. I say jump in and do it. Let me know if you want to chat more about it.

    By the way, it is a lot of fun interviewing experts and well known personalities like Joe, Lee Odden, Scott Brinker not to mention all the enthusiastic practitioners, consultants and even a couple of government agency folks. I even just interviewed David Meerman Scott last week, what a blast!

    Granted it is hard work and takes time, but I believe it will payoff for my audience and for my business.


    • ClareMcD

      Hey Bruce: Thanks for checking in and offering insights about growing your audience. You mention a great point: Interviewing folks who themselves have an audience is a great way to grow numbers. Congratulations!

      • Bruce McDuffee

        Thanks Clare!

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