It's commonly said that if a new podcast series reaches 7 episodes, this is the magic number where the show is more likely to keep going.
Podcasts that stop releasing new episodes are referred to as having “podfaded”.
Podfading is a common occurrence. While the reasons for someone giving up on their podcast can be wide ranging, they usually fall into one of the following categories.
- Lack of planning
- Unrealistic expectations
- Focus in the wrong areas
How To Avoid Podfading
As you'll see from the list above, it's all about sustainability and building on a solid plan.
You should know why you want to podcast, who you want to reach with your podcast, and why.
Our step by step guide to starting a podcast takes a really in-depth look at this. But in this article I want to pick out 8 key points that I think are enough to save almost everyone from having to podfade before they get past their 7th episode.
1 – Write a List of Potential Future Episodes
You've done the groundwork, you've identified your overall topic, and the people you want to reach.
Breaking this down into episodes is important for a number of reasons.
It stops you from sitting down at your mic and thinking “what am I going to talk about this week?”
Seeing a list of potential episodes also lets you focus on the direction of the show. Where are you going with it all? Does it flow logically for the listener?
2 – Block Out Time & Stay Sustainable
Knowing how much time you can dedicate to working on your podcast (not just recording and editing, but everything else too) is really important.
Choose a release frequency that's sustainable for you in the long run. That might be weekly, bi-weekly, or you might even want to consider Podcasting in Seasons.
Whatever schedule you choose, work out how much time you'll need each week to manage it.
Block out that time, and defend it like your podcast's life depends on it (it does!).
3 – Make Your Setup Easy & Accessible
Few podcasters have the luxury of a permanent setup or studio environment for recording. There's a decent chance you don't either.
This is where simplicity can trump having lots of sophisticated and complex equipment.
If recording an episode means spending lots of time setting gear up, then taking it back down again afterwards, you're at risk of losing your motivation.
The more gear in your recording chain, the more risk there is of not plugging something in or not switching it on properly too. Doing a great interview that you failed to actually record is a surefire way to put doubts in your mind about the future of your podcast.
If you're starting out, take a minimalist approach and ask yourself “what's the minimum amount of equipment I need to run this Podcast?”
4 – Don't Get Bogged Down By Editing
Editing can make your podcast flow better, as well as make it sound more polished and professional.
However, I'm of the opinion that editing should be used sparingly and not as a crutch.
This means being more mindful of the structure and focus of your episodes before and during the recording session.
As a host, treating your recording sessions as if they're live will hone and tighten up your presentation skills too.
Recording long meandering episodes on the basis that you can tidy them up in the editing process adds hours of unnecessary work to your schedule.
5 – Experiment With Formats
The beauty of running a podcast is that you're the boss. You don't have a team of producers and managers telling you what to do, and this gives you a lot of freedom.
Whilst planning is vital, there are certain things that should remain flexible. One of those is definitely your format.
Many new podcasters will declare things like “I'm going to do a 30 minute interview show”, but there's no need to nail that down in the early days.
Why 30 minutes? What if your conversation lasts 20 minutes, or 40 minutes?
Why just interviews? What if you've got something you'd like to discuss directly with the listener.
Yes, there's a case for familiarity, routine, and having your listener expect certain things from your show.
But at this early stage, any small audience you have won't have been listening for long enough to “expect” anything from your format.
Embrace these early days as an opportunity to try and test different things. Find out what feels right for you by doing it, rather than imposing unnecessary restrictions on your show.
6 – Look For Content Everywhere
It doesn't matter what you podcast about, or what kind of style or delivery you present with. Essentially, you're still a storyteller.
When you're communicating on a one-to-one basis with someone via audio, you obviously don't have any visuals to work alongside your message.
Rather than seeing this as a negative, look on it as an opportunity to get creative with how you convey the things you talk about on your show.
If your topic involves any kind of teaching, or relaying information, just repeating or reading ‘dry' data risks boring or losing your listener.
Instead, find examples and metaphors in visually relatable scenarios. That thing that happened to you in the shop yesterday, or the scene in the film you watched last week.
These little anecdotes really help to pull the listener in and engage them. It also makes planning and presenting the show much more enjoyable for you too, and can go a long way towards keeping you podcasting well after your first 7 episodes.
7 – Forget iTunes/Apple Podcasts Even Exists
Okay, the single most important thing you need to think about in relation to iTunes (or Apple Podcasts, as it's now called) is submitting your show there.
Once you've been approved and listed in there, have a look to make sure everything is displaying properly, and then forget about it.
That means no ‘New & Noteworthy launch plan' or anything else like that. You're creating content for your audience, not Apple.
If your entire strategy is based around creating the best possible episodes for your listeners, you will grow your audience.
We've got an article on how the iTunes rankings work, which cuts through a lot of the misinformation around them.
Podcasters who channel all their time into review swaps and attempting to climb iTunes charts are focusing in all the wrong areas.
Not only is this depriving their audience of their time and attention, it can lead to demoralisation when they don't see themselves featured in these lists.
Yes, getting featured and listed anywhere is nice, and won't do you any harm. But it (hopefully) isn't the reason you want to start a podcast, and shouldn't be at all relevant to the long term success of your show.
8 – Don't Expect Feedback
Just like being featured in a ‘top' list, or ranking highly in a chart, treat listener feedback as a bonus rather than an expectation.
This is especially true in the early days. It takes a long time to build an audience, and even when you do, hearing from listeners can be rare.
In the article I've linked to, above, there's some download stats, courtesy of media hosting giants Libsyn.
I have a podcast which hits over 3000 downloads within 48 hours of a new episode release, which puts it comfortably in the top 20% of shows on Libsyn.
Although it isn't anywhere near the numbers of the top 5% – 2% of podcasts, 3000 people is still a lot of people.
I'll get emails from listeners now and then, on average maybe once every month. So if you're getting 70 – 200 downloads per episode, it's unlikely your inbox is going to be bursting with feedback.
Don't get discouraged at this. Most podcast listeners are in the massive ‘silent majority' camp, and although they love what you do, they'll potentially never reach out to you about it.
This doesn't mean you're doing anything wrong, providing you've got a ‘contact' section on your website, and have pointed towards it at the end of your episodes.
Just keep putting out the best content you possibly can, and on the rare occasion you do hear from someone, be sure to make the most of it by taking the time to reply and getting to know them a bit more.
Launching a Podcast?
If you're in the planning stages and just getting started, our step by step guide on how to start a podcast will help set you on the right path.
Or, if it's ‘how-to' video courses, helpful resources, and live Q&A sessions with us that you're after, you might want to take a look at The Podcast Host Academy too.
Nowadays, that's the place where we work with podcasters to make sure they are on the right track from day 1. If that's something that's of interest to you, then we'd love to see you there!