Five Things That Derail Podcast Success


By Steve Goldstein 

In my work, I come across new podcast ideas in need of nurturing and other podcasts up and running in need on-going guidance. We have found five common factors in the development and launch process that contribute to a podcast’s success or failure.

Not having a fresh take, point of view or original topic – As the universe of podcast titles increase every day, clear differentiation is without a doubt, the most prime success factor. Being the 5th soccer podcast is not good but being the 105th well, good luck. That’s why a fresh take, a topic not overrun with a zillion other podcasts and a distinctive content approach is now more crucial to cut through. It is also why we see some podcasts that have been around for a while run out of gas and fade.

So much of discovery is about an instant visceral feel.

Not clearly positioning the benefit of the podcast – This is an essential companion with the first item. While scrolling through podcast titles, people make a decision about engagement in seconds. There are a variety of factors with the recipe including the name, overall appeal of the topic, clarity of the artwork, an enticing summary and description. So much of discovery is about an instant visceral feel. The connection is made or lost right away. Start with a great and memorable podcast name. Easy to say, but really hard to do.

Every good podcast needs an edge, and that edge is a great megaphone.

Not having a comprehensive promotional plan – Sadly creating remarkable content is no longer even close to a guarantee of success. Just standing out from the crowd of podcasts is herculean. Standing out from the noise of everyday life, the cacophony of ads, emails, TV, YouTube, notifications, the web, billboards, and social media is like winning Powerball. Every good podcast needs an edge, and that edge is a great megaphone – whether it is a large social media following, cross-promotion from broadcast radio, TV ads, or a podcast aggregator network . Being found is hard. Megaphones greatly improve the chance of success, but it is the precision of the message and frequency of the exposure that are critical and often overlooked.

Not respecting the listener’s time.

Out of 700,000 podcasts, the average listener chooses seven. Seven! Consider the odds yours will become one of the seven. Time is not a zero-sum game. Does the podcast constantly live up to its core premise and promise? In earlier days of podcasting, a lot of content was proudly long. That works for some, time is increasingly an enemy. People often choose content that fits a task such as working out or walking the dog. We like to design content with the end user in mind.

Not having a “high definition” map and plan.

Great TV series have an unmistakable story arc that take them from episode to episode and season to season. Good shows regardless of platform have a plan that is easy to discern. For podcasters, we see many remarkable examples of “high definition” shows where the quality of the storytelling, research, planning, talent and topicality take center stage. Sure there are a some that make it with their own renegade style and that is to be admired.

Podcasting is still so fresh that anything is possible. That’s great and exciting. But these five factors are becoming more difficult to ignore as key success factors.

It is getting harder to earn “ear bud” time.