The cover image for this post is by Luke Chesser
This blog post was written by Jamie.
Anywhere that podcasters congregate, you’ll find people asking this question and ones like it:
- Where’s the best place to promote my podcast?
- Who do I pay to get listens for my podcast?
- Do I need to post about my podcast on Tik-Tok?
- What about Mastadon?
Each of these questions (and ones like it) dance around the same idea:
I want more people to download my episodes, how do I do that?
Putting aside the topic of potentially buying downloads (which I’ve written about before), the importance of a steady and reliable schedule (another thing I’ve written about before), and figuring out who the audience of your content really are (again, I’ve written about this), the most important thing to remember is that there’s no single magic bullet for getting downloads for your show.
A Podcast About Podcasting
There is no “one way” to promote your show on social and immediately get downloads. Like, there’s no app and there’s no service that is going to get you listeners out there.
I’d recommend that anyone who is interested in podcasting goes ahead and subscribes to The Feed. Whilst it’s produced by LibSyn, it’s actually about the industry and they provide average (mean and median) stats for shows hosted by them - enabling you to compare your show to others, if you want.
The above quote happens at around the 17:01 mark, but you’re going to want to listen in from around the 15-minute mark to get the fuller context.
Elsie has a very long history of creating very successful and long-lived podcasts and works alongside podcasters as part of her work at LibSyn, so she knows what she’s talking about. What Elsie says here also echoes a lot of the advice found in the many different podcasting communities that I’m part of
and some of the advice I’ve shared in the past, too
After this, Elsie then goes on to say:
Here’s my call to action to all of you, and something I said in the presentation: what you DO need to do is when you share your episode on social, I want you to do what you are asking them to do. I want you to go and press the button, press the link, tap on whatever it is that you ask them to do and then see what happens.
How hard is it? What’s your workflow? What problems do you see? Can you immediately listen to the show? Where’s the player? Is there a player? Did something pop up? If you tapped on an app that you didn’t have on your phone, what happens then? Have you done that homework?
Because the thing is, it doesn’t matter how easy it is to use a service that automatically crosses over to social if the link or the post is not helpful to actually getting somebody to listen to your episode.
Elsie actually expands on this even further after this point, but I’ll leave it as an exercise for the reader to listen to the rest of her advice.
I think that Elsie’s challenge is something that all podcasters should take. Go ahead and imagine what it’s like to be a random listener who happened to find your post on their social feed. What is your experience like of going from that post to listening to the episode? And if it’s a dreadful experience, go fix that.
What’s In A Download, Anyway
As Rob Walch (VP of Podcaster Relations at LibSyn) says:
A download is just the delivery of your content, from our system, to a person’s device. That doesn’t, and cannot, include a listen because we’re server-side.
By “we’re server-side” Rob means that podcast hosts exist outside of your listener’s devices and cannot see into their devices. You’ll see why this is important in a moment.
So we need to forget the idea that a download and a listen are the same thing. Podcast hosts (the people who host your content for you, and provide an RSS feed that listeners can subscribe to, in order to get your content) have no visibility over whether the downloaded content was listened to or not. They are literally in the digital storage and delivery business.
Imagine that you send a letter as recorded delivery; meaning that the person who receives the letter has to sign for the delivery, and the courier will let you know that it was delivered. The courier cannot tell you whether the letter was opened or read, just that it was delivered to the person it was addressed to and when it was delivered.
This is exactly how podcasting hosts work.
In that metaphor:
- you (the creator of the podcast) are the sender
- your podcasting host is the courier
- the listener is the the recipient of the letter
There are services like Apple Podcast Connect, Google Podcasts, and Spotify for Podcasts that measure in-app listening time, but your podcast host cannot measure this regardless of what they tell you. Apple Podcast Connect (et al.) can provide these stats because your listeners will be using the apps created by these services:
- Apple Podcasts feeds stats into Apple Podasters Connect
- Google Podcasts feeds stats into Google Podcasts
- Spotify feeds stats into Spotify for Podcasts
As such, without using Apple Podcast Connect (et al.) there is no way to get an accurate listener count. The reason I bring this up is to underline the point that a download is NOT a listen.
So How Do I Measure Listens?
Outside of using Apple Podcasters Connect (et al.) there’s no real way to measure podcast listening time. This is why engagement is way more important than downloads or listens.
In fact, it’s entirely possible for someone to download and queue an episode of your podcast for playback on their computer, but then have to leave the room whilst it’s playing without having paused it. At that point, have they downloaded? Yes. Have they played it? Yes. But have they listened? No. But Apple Podcasters Connect will log it as a listen.
This is why I’m in the Team Engagement camp.
Whilst podcasts are largely an on-demand and passive medium, engagement isn’t. So the real goal should not be to reach for millions of podcast downloads and thousands of hours of listening time, but direct two-way engagement with your community of listeners. As such, your social posts and episodes need to ask for direct engagement from the listeners rather than just be a link to where to download them.
Do you have an online group that your community of listeners can join? A Facebook group, Discord server, Slack channel, Mastason server, or anything similar is a great way to ellicit direct feedback and engagement from your listeners. It’s also possible to use that online group to gather content and suggestions for your show.
You might not even need an online group for your listeners to join either. You could set up a Speakpipe (or similar) so that listeners can send you audio feedback directly. You could also ask listeners to send emails with voice notes, or set up a phone number to call into. Or if listeners don’t want to share their voice, they could simply email, tweet, or direct message you with some feedback.
Promoting your podcast is way more than just
post on [insert social website here] and watch the downloads grow
and more like
set up a strategy for reaching out to and engaging with your community of listeners.
Personally, I have a feeling that most podcasters - specifically those who were drawn in via things like Joe Rogan signing a massive deal with Spotify - don’t really want to hear that marketing a podcast takes a lot of effort, but it’s true. And people way more knowledgable than me have said so.
And here’s the rub: this advice can be applied to any kind of online content creation endeavour, too. Do you write blog posts, create videos, share your photos and art work? This all applies to you too, you just need to change the words slightly.