In our IndiePod Census, we asked over 1,200 independent podcasters about their personal experiences running a podcast.
One of the biggest stand-outs from the results was that respondents selected ‘having the patience to play the long game and showing up consistently for the long haul’ as the most essential ingredient to success in podcasting.
A massive 35% of respondents said playing the long game was the number one factor, followed not-so-closely by good planning (19%) and good equipment (14%).
While it might not be the most exciting piece of advice you’ve ever been given – and it’s certainly not a quick win either – patience and consistency are crucial in podcasting for several reasons.
Let’s look at those reasons and what you can do now to nurture long-term success with your podcast.
Why Patience is Key to Podcasting Success
Here are just a few reasons why playing the long game is crucial to success in podcasting:
It Takes Time to Build Trust and Loyalty
As a podcaster, you hear this all the time: What makes podcasts different from other mediums is the intimacy and loyalty you can build with your listeners.
This loyalty makes podcasting attractive to advertisers, so will ultimately determine how much money you can make. If you have a highly engaged audience, relevant brands will be keen to tap into it – even if you’re talking about a relatively small pool of people.
But, of course, loyalty isn’t something you can achieve overnight. You need to give listeners your time and lots of great content before they’ll be willing to buy into your podcast brand.
For many people, listening to podcasts is part of their daily routine. They need you to show up consistently, producing regular content that they look forward to hearing if you’re going to build that trust.
And this isn’t purely about new episodes, either. Consistency over time builds up a large back catalogue. New listeners will often binge through these episodes when they discover your show, and it’s during these marathons that they turn into hardcore fans. You simply can’t achieve that when you’re still working on your second or third episode, so keep going.
There’s No Silver Bullet When it Comes to Growth
If you follow any of our advice on how to grow your podcast, you’ll know there’s no single platform or tactic that will bring you podcast success overnight. Podcasts very rarely go viral, and any ones that do, don’t enjoy the limelight for long because they’re probably getting attention for the wrong reasons.
Growing your podcast takes time, and requires a multi-channel approach to reach a wider audience. And while this can also be frustrating advice for those who want to grab at podcast fame quickly, it’s actually a positive aspect of the medium. Slow, steady and consistent growth means your podcast won’t be impacted by a single platform dying off or suddenly dropping in popularity.
TikTokkers may be able to achieve instant fame just by starting a new fad, but where’s the longevity in that? And what happens if, tomorrow the social media platform is banned in your country?
Podcasting is About the Process, Not Just the Outcome
If you ask any successful podcaster, they’ll tell you they enjoy doing what they do. Podcasting is just not sustainable for anyone who doesn’t love the whole creation process.
So again, if you’re a quick-win kind of content maker, you’d be better gunning for platforms like TikTok or Instagram, where pulling a few tricks can help you rise to the top quickly.
Successful podcasters care about the content they create and the niche they’re in, so they enjoy the process as much as seeing their download and subscriber numbers rise.
Listeners also know when a host loves what they do. The care and attention they give to their content and production filters through the earbuds and makes it such a joy to listen to. You can’t fake it with podcasting.
Those Who Seek Quick Wins Lose Interest Quickly
Podcasting has a low barrier to entry compared to other mediums, so it’s not hard to start a podcast. But sustaining it past the first ten or so episodes? That’s another kettle of fish.
A while ago, some numbers emerged that implied podcasting was on the demise because there was an 80% drop in new shows in 2022. But in reality, what happened was that every man and their dog started a podcast during the pandemic because they had the time to do it. Only a small minority made it past the first few episodes.
If you’re a creator who thrives on seeing instant numbers and getting instant recognition for the work you’re doing, podcasting just isn’t the gig for you.
As this Twitter thread explores, sustaining a podcast beyond a year or 50 episodes is considered a high hurdle, so if you can get past that, you’re onto a winner.
What Can Podcasters Take From This?
So, what can you do with this information as an independent creator building your podcast?
The key takeaway here is simply to embrace the fact that there’s no overnight success in podcasting. The sooner you accept that, and focus on enjoying the process of making and sharing your content, the better your chances will be for long-term success. If you love making your podcast, your audience will love listening to it.
Obsessing over episode download numbers (which are not a key indicator of success nowadays) won’t get you very far in this industry. The only thing to obsess over is quality: So how can you best serve your listeners and deliver value for them in that next episode?
And if hitting that 50-episode mark sounds like too high a hurdle for you right now, don’t worry. You don’t need to go and work on making 50 episodes, you only need to focus on one – your next one.