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Steve Goldstein: Why a Podcast Without a Strategy is Likely to Fail

Steve Goldstein’s Amplifi Media works with media companies and podcasters in developing audio content strategies. Goldstein writes frequently at Blogstein, the Amplifi blog. Steve can be reached directly at 203-221-1400 or sjgoldstein-at-amplifimedia-dot-com.


A few years ago, just about anyone could launch a podcast on just about any topic and be pretty confident there were only a handful of shows on the subject.

If you wanted to start a podcast about a niche topic such as knitting or poker, there were few, if any. A show about entrepreneurs? Why not? Even an adequate show could build a respectable following and establish a foothold in those early podcast days.

Those days are over.

Whether niche or mainstream, merely adequate content doesn’t cut it anymore.

Today, the bar on everything in podcasting is higher. A recent look in Apple Podcasts shows forty knitting podcasts and sixty poker podcasts. Now, if you want to stake a claim, your show must be notably superior with easy to recognize HVC (High-Value Content), a pretty big megaphone to gain awareness, and a good dose of magic beans.

No matter the topic, the explosion of choice among podcasts is real and daunting. It’s not just a podcast phenomenon. Many of the topics explored on podcasts are readily available on other platforms. There are sixty YouTube Channels about knitting, crocheting, and sewing. I lost count of the poker channels. I stopped at “wow.”

In those days of yore, launching a podcast wasn’t particularly sophisticated. Those with a big social following did better than folks dropping a few posts to a group of friends or followers. Today that feels far less like a strategy and more along the lines of hope and wishful thinking. Yet many podcast “schools” still rely on this stale and singular tactic.

The Truth Is Well-Funded Companies With Tools, Talent, And Resources At Their Disposal Often Fall Into A Similar Trap Of Introducing Merely Adequate Content Along With Vanilla Marketing

Frequently podcasters become disillusioned after a short period of time when the show isn’t delivering with fame and fortune.

It’s often hard to pin down why a show doesn’t connect. It might be mediocre content that listeners sample and reject, or more often than not, low awareness that the podcast exists. Either way, it ends in frustration.

This discontentment is not just the fate of smaller podcasters. The truth is well-funded companies with tools, talent, and resources at their disposal often fall into a similar trap of introducing merely adequate content along with vanilla marketing and are surprised and disappointed with unexceptional results.

In The Vastness Of Podcast Choice, Launching Another “Anything” Similar To Something Else Increases The Likelihood Of Failure

Three Critical Building Blocks

In the vastness of podcast choice, launching another “anything” similar to something else increases the likelihood of failure. Who wants to introduce the next podcast interviewing entrepreneurs? I hope it is not you.

Just because there is a lot of everything doesn’t mean there isn’t room for another terrific true-crime podcast or that another comedian can’t start a podcast. But without a clear differentiated content roadmap and a well-defined marketing strategy, the chance for success is more fleeting than ever.

That’s why we’re hyper-focused on the three critical strategic components to focus on for the win. They are: Creating high-value content, generating awareness that the podcast exists and driving trial. Each is its own monster of sorts.

Create HVC: High-Value Content

It’s imperative that you clearly understand the podcast’s value, its target audience, and what we call “WIIFL” – What’s In It For The Listener? Ask yourself, how will this show help people? It’s hard to imagine an effective show not designed with the end-user in mind, but the purpose and benefit are often not considered ahead of time.

Mediocre content is abundant. You’ve scanned past it on TV, punched away from it on a radio and hit the stop button on a podcast 20 seconds after hitting the start button. Engaging content is everything.  High-value content is hard.

The Podcast Graveyard Is Loaded With Great Content That Went Undiscovered

Generate Awareness

People will not find your podcast. The podcast graveyard is loaded with great content that went undiscovered and average content passed over. You need to get your show in front of people, and not just once.

Effectively growing your podcast goes beyond a social following or spraying some Tweets. The levers of foundational podcast marketing must include clear and incentive-oriented messaging with a solid digital marketing layer. You’ll need to determine an audience persona and the right paid and earned tactics to reach them.

Generating awareness is hard and so are the twin mountains of discovery and findability. Try Googling “podcast insider” and you will get everything from Eagles Insider to Federal Insider from the National School Boards Association and Fly Fishing Insider. You need stand-out content and proper marketing techniques designed to generate awareness.

We spend a lot more time these days focusing on strategic tactics to surface titles that are becoming an increasingly valuable part of the marketing arsenal.

Drive trial

To drive trial, you need a genuine reason to tune in. That’s not the same as awareness. The listener benefit needs to be front and center – and obvious.  Make it clear to the listener what your show, or episode is about and why it’s worth adding to their already packed queue of content choices.

Whether you are a big brand or little start-up, breaking through has become harder. Without a well thought-out strategy, your podcast is more likely to fail. In which case, you’ll need those magic beans.

Steve Goldstein

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