By Joe Pulizzi published November 28, 2017

How to Develop and Grow a Successful Podcast

develop-grow-successful-podcast

Robert Rose and I just completed four years and over 200 episodes of our podcast, This Old Marketing. While far from the most successful marketing podcast on the planet, our one hour of weekly shenanigans has done fairly well.

Since we launched in November 2013, the podcast has been downloaded nearly 2 million times from listeners in 200 countries, while generating approximately a half-million dollars in direct revenue in sponsorship support.

this-old-marketing-podcast

But the best part is what we know about our listeners. Those marketers who regularly listen to This Old Marketing are CMI’s true fans … they are more likely to come to Content Marketing World, attend one of our master classes, purchase training, attend our webinars, engage in our content, and talk about us on social media.

At our recent master class in Washington, D.C., one of the attendees asked me to write an article about creating a successful podcast. And so, Mike, here you go.

The podcast should not be first

This Old Marketing was successful from Episode 1 because we already had an audience of over 75,000 email subscribers who opted to receive CMI content. Once we notified this audience that a podcast was available, a good percentage listened to it.

Now, I’m not saying you can’t be successful by launching a podcast first. John Lee Dumas was incredibly successful with his Entrepreneur On Fire podcast. Pat Flynn also accomplished this feat. But it’s rare.

Most successful podcasts started with an audience already in place. Just look at the ones you listen to and do your research. They probably started with a blog or a video series, or maybe a network or print magazine, or the podcaster was a published author with a following. If I were starting a podcast today, I would work for 12 months to build a solid list of email subscribers first, and THEN diversify the platform with the podcast.

#Podcast Tip: Work for 12 months to build a list of email subscribers then launch the podcast. @JoePulizzi Click To Tweet

Identify the content gap in the marketplace

This Old Marketing started with a simple phone conversation between Robert and me. We chatted for over an hour, ranting and raving about the news of the day.

#ThisOldMarketing podcast originated after a phone conversation the creators wished they recorded. @JoePulizzi Click To Tweet

At the end of the conversation, we lamented that we didn’t record it.

The next day we talked seriously about the fact that no resource in the industry regularly covered the news around content marketing. Sure, Adweek, Ad Age, Digiday, and others covered it on occasion, but no resource took all the content marketing news from all the sources and distilled it for an audience.

After talking to the staff about it and doing more due diligence, we had enough data to tell us a podcast could be successful if we executed it correctly and delivered consistently.

We were lucky to identify a gap that was truly needed in the marketplace. If five or more competitors already were vying for that space, we probably would have passed on the opportunity or tilted in a different direction.

Format and frequency

In the marketing industry, most podcast formats revolve around one host with a new guest every week. We wanted to do something different. Plus, we didn’t think we could accomplish our goal of delivering the most important news each week with variable guests.

Add to that, we wanted to make sure CMI’s point of view on content marketing was delivered consistently each episode. It made sense that Robert and I serve as co-hosts with a no-guest format.

And, just like any news program, we wanted a consistent format for the show. We believed that ESPN’s PTI (Pardon the Interruption) format, where the two hosts bicker over the news of the day, worked best for Robert and me. We thought it would be entertaining, plus the format would make sure we could cover multiple news stories in one show.

One of the podcast’s goals was to make sure that the audience knew content marketing had been around for a long time, and we needed to learn from these older case studies. That’s where the idea of “This Old Marketing” came from. Every week we would include one “older” content marketing case study.

History

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Although we’ve edited the format on occasion, it hasn’t changed much from the first episode.

  • Opening thought (from Robert)
  • News of the day (generally three to five stories)
  • Rants and raves (something each of us loved or hated from the week)
  • This Old Marketing example of the week

Initially the podcasts lasted around 45 minutes. Over the first few months, we added more to the introductions and more news coverage to go for 60 minutes every week.

As for the consistency, we didn’t feel we could be great by delivering a daily podcast. We simply couldn’t make the time with our travel schedules and other assignments. Plus, there wasn’t enough content marketing news for a daily show, and we were certain our audience couldn’t handle us on a daily basis.

We settled on a weekly schedule, delivering every Monday night via iTunes and Sticher.com.

Production

Robert and I quickly worked out who would do what for the show. He managed the content for the program. He created an Evernote email address where we would send all news stories and then select the stories for the show.

Later, as we gained popularity, listeners began to send stories and This Old Marketing examples through a Twitter hashtag (#ThisOldMarketing) and directly through email. We asked for this at the end of every show. Ian’s Maxwell House Haggadah example was used in Episode 209.

Robert also put together the introduction. At first, he read the introduction as we recorded the podcast, but, after about 100 episodes, Robert started to pre-record these five-minute introductions, adding music and clips. Frankly, the introductions might be the best part of the show.

All in all, Robert spends about two to four hours producing his part of each episode.

I handled the post-production. Robert recorded directly to his laptop wherever he was in the world, while I did the same. We both used professional microphones, which is about the most important thing you can do. I use an Audio-Technica AT2020USB and cannot recommend it highly enough. It plugs directly into the computer and can be taken anywhere (I travel a lot with it, often recording from hotel rooms). My recommendation is not to spend time building a studio and just find a quiet room and get a great microphone.

#Podcast Tip: Forgo building a studio. Find a quiet room & a great mic like @USAudioTechnica. @JoePulizzi Click To Tweet

While Robert uses GarageBand (Mac user), I use Audacity for PC. Audacity is a free and easy-to-use program. Robert and I talk via Skype to record the show, but we record our individual tracks separately.

Once completed, Robert sends me his MP3 file and I merge the two in Audacity. It’s really easy – just import the MP3 file into Audacity and make sure it’s synced. I almost never need to adjust the timing since we use a vocal countdown to hit record for each episode.

After the episode is recorded, I paste each of our files into the template (that includes the up-front and back-end music), save the file, and then export the file as a WAV file.

I take the WAV file of the episode and run it through another free program called Levalator. This makes sure that all the audio levels are even so Robert isn’t louder than me or vice versa.

Use a free tool like @levelator to make sure all audio levels are even, says @JoePulizzi. #ThisOldMarketing Click To Tweet

levalator-program

Then I import the WAV.OUTPUT file into Audacity, add Robert’s new intro and output as a final MP3 file. The process takes 60 to 90 minutes.

Distribution and integration

Once the podcast’s MP3 file is complete, it is published using Liberated Syndication (Libsyn). In this program, we add tags such as the episode title and metatags, and then publish on iTunes and Stitcher.com. (We later added distribution on Soundcloud and Google Play, but this needs to be done separately.) Libsyn starts at about $10 per month, depending on usage.

Libsyn also provides the download stats and a dashboard, much like you find in Google Analytics (iTunes doesn’t provide any data).

From there, I notify the editorial team, so it can prepare the show notes for publishing on the CMI blog. We decided that Saturdays would be a good time to distribute the show notes because that gives the editorial team time to construct the textual content, verify the links and images, and allow for uploading and approving the content into our WordPress platform.

Publish your #podcast show notes on your blog for extra promotion, says @JoePulizzi. #ThisOldMarketing Click To Tweet

We found approximately half our audience subscribes to our podcast in iTunes and Stitcher. The other half waits until Saturday when the show posts on the CMI site. About half our overall audience subscribes to CMI’s daily email, which promotes the show notes on Saturday.

Summary

While there is never one way to execute a successful content initiative, I believe our success was tied to the following factors:

  • CMI had a fan base of followers who were open to checking out the initial podcast. It would have been much more challenging to build an audience from scratch.
  • Finding a content gap where we could offer something truly differentiated was critical. The news coverage worked. We were able to save our audience time every week and told them what we thought was the most important news of the week.
  • Audio quality is critical. Spend the money and get a microphone that emits a professional sound. Don’t skimp here.
  • Integrating the podcast into our weekly articles and email newsletter was essential for success. The podcast shouldn’t sit outside your other content marketing efforts. Find a way to weave in the content to everything you do.

For other great resources on how to start a podcast, check out this post from Pat Flynn and this amazing resource from John Lee Dumas. Good luck!

Please note: All tools included in our blog posts are suggested by authors, not the CMI editorial team. No one post can provide all relevant tools in the space. Feel free to include additional tools in the comments (from your company or ones that you have used).

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

 

Author: Joe Pulizzi

Joe Pulizzi is the Founder of Content Marketing Institute, a UBM company, the leading education and training organization for content marketing, which includes the largest in-person content marketing event in the world, Content Marketing World. Joe is the winner of the 2014 John Caldwell Lifetime Achievement Award from the Content Council. Joe’s the author of five books, including his latest, Killing Marketing. His third book, Epic Content Marketing was named one of “Five Must Read Business Books of 2013” by Fortune Magazine. If you ever see Joe in person, he’ll be wearing orange. Follow him on Twitter @JoePulizzi.

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  • Adam P. Newton

    What a fantastic podcast tutorial! It’s good to know that doing high-quality work doesn’t require a high-end studio setup. As always, it’s the content that matters.

    • http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/ Joe Pulizzi

      Thanks my friend!

  • Chris Handy

    This is fantastic, Joe. It’s a great mix of tool specifics and strategic advice/examples.
    There’s is only one point I would argue with here: many are not writers first and are just better at producing spoken word content. I wonder if those people would find the hurdle too daunting and never *just start*.

    • http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/ Joe Pulizzi

      True…although there are many wonderful content creators that could help that person edit. For example, this post was heavily edited (thankfully) by our amazing CMI team.

      • Chris Handy

        I agree. When you have help, the barriers come crashing down. Great stuff. I’ll miss the show and am looking forward hearing about your next adventure.