I just posted an article to LinkedIn about hitting the “700 episode” milestone. You can click the link to read it there and see all the fun pictures associated with it, or just read the copy below. In summary: Thanks for helping me get here.
Eight years ago, I launched my third and most successful podcast, Car Con Carne. As I type this, I’m putting plans together for my 700th episode.
I’m keenly aware that a lot of podcasters don’t get to this point. In fact, it’s not uncommon to see people fall off or quit producing shows within 6-12 months after launch. Some bail on podcasting because they weren’t aware of the amount of work involved. For people who’ve never edited or produced audio before, that work alone can be a dealbreaker. And don’t get me started on the struggles and time-consuming nature of guest booking…
Another issue is managing expectations. Ambition is great; but it needs to be balanced by a realistic understanding of the work ahead. Growing a podcast can be a slog; a numbing, frustrating, slog. It’s hard for a show to find an audience, and there’s no sure-fire blueprint to go from “zero to sixty.” The process simply takes more time than most hosts are willing to give.
It’s wrong to expect that thousands (okay, hundreds) of people will find a new show, listen to it and turn it into a habit immediately after it’s launched. Those potential listeners already have 3-5 favorite podcasts they religiously listen to. Beyond that, they probably subscribe to at least one music streaming platform. Maybe they also subscribe to Sirius XM. There’s a good chance they no longer listen to AM/FM radio, so at least there’s that.
Podcasters new to the medium may hear Stamps.com or MeUndies ads on their favorite shows and think ad dollars are easy to mine. Those thoughts quickly sour once those hosts realize hustling sponsorship money isn’t just hard; it’s near-impossible. Podcasts with numbers in the hundreds need to sell based on abstract ideas and concepts, and presumably small-but-passionate audiences… and that’s just for local ad dollars. The bigger the sponsor, the bigger the metrics needed. Fledgling podcasters just aren’t able to play the CPM game with agencies.
So how do podcasters get past that 6-12 month “fail point?” How do they look past the inherent challenges of launching a show to building an enduring audio brand? From my perspective, the most important thing a host can do is have a transparent passion and conviction for their show and the content they’re creating. That passion and conviction can be enough to embolden a host to power through the lean months and years, eventually getting to a point where things begin to “click.”
In general, passion and conviction are good predictors of a show’s success. A podcast created for the “right reasons,” a genuine interest and commitment in a topic or idea, will always be the safest bet. It certainly feels much safer than, say, a show where a creator tries to architect a show to accommodate a perceived need. (I can’t imagine there are any content stones left unturned in the podcasting space anyway.)
Again, managing expectations is critical. Mistakes will be made. It will take time, focus and effort to grow a host’s skills and audience. “Overnight successes” are rare; and when they happen, they’re most often attached to preexisting brands with money and history in the podcasting space.
There may not be quantifiable returns (audience, revenue, earned media) for a while. But if passion and conviction are there, so too should be the belief that those returns will someday come.
To be sure, growing Car Con Carne took a lot of time and effort and it was absolutely a slog at times. I remember tracking my monthly metrics in the early days thinking, “um, no one needs to see these numbers.” But I kept going.
I used to joke that Car Con Carne’s longevity was the result of my own stubbornness and sheer force of will. Less modestly, I can tell you that I kept the show going because I not only believe in it, I really enjoy doing it. It’s become my creative outlet, a chance to do radio “my way,” and a place where I can support and evangelize interesting people from across a variety of categories and interests. Passion and conviction propelled me to episode 700. If you happened to listen (or watch any of the companion videos on YouTube or Facebook), thank you for helping me get here.