In podcasting, an “Episode Zero” is the name given to a type of introductory or “pre-launch” episode.
It isn't essential to create an episode zero. But many podcasters do – and there's a few good reasons why it might be worth considering for your own podcast.
Introductions & Expectations
The first reason is really to introduce the show to first time listeners.
In an episode zero you can lay out the kind of things your audience can expect from the show.
Here, you want to make it predominantly about them. There's many other podcasts out there they could be listening to, so what are they going to get from yours? When hearing a podcast for the first time, listeners are constantly asking themselves “is this worth my time?”.
Topics of podcasts vary wildly, but generally, listeners are looking to gain something from their subscribed-to shows. That might be that they want to learn something, be inspired, get help with something, or be entertained.
Whatever benefit your podcast offers, be sure to make it clear to them in your episode zero.
Phrases like “you're going to learn…”, “I'm going to help you with…”, “We're going to simplify…”, “I'll walk you through the exact process of…”, can work really well, depending on your topic.
Credibility: Who Are You?
Of course, you'll still want to introduce yourself in the process of recording your episode zero. You're an integral part of the content, after all.
Again, there are variables depending on your topic and format. But commonly, new listeners will be asking themselves questions like;
- Is this person an expert in their field? If they're going to help me, what's their background and qualifications?
- Can I relate to this person? They might not be an “expert” as such, but have been through the same issues I'm experiencing now.
- Is this person on a “learning journey”, just like me?
The latter is common for interview shows where a host sets out to interview guests and learn about a subject. You don't need to be an “expert” to podcast on a subject, or feel the need to pretend to be one. Just be honest with your listener – that's the characteristic that matters most!
There's another reason you might want to do an episode zero too. If your first episode proper is packed with info, then you can lighten the load a little by taking this route.
I know that “packed with info” should be considered a good thing when it comes to podcast episodes.
But they still benefit from being focused and easy to follow. So if you've to first introduce the series as a whole, then yourself, then your first guest or co-host, then it may be a little overwhelming for the listener. It might also take a long time to get to the actual topic of the episode – and that's what people are hitting play for.
If you anticipate these issues yourself in episode 1, why not opt to stick the more detailed introductions in an episode zero? That way, your listener will find it easier to identify and work through. And you don't need to feel rushed either!
More Control over Your Launch
If you're someone who likes the thought of launching your podcast on a set day or date, then you should definitely create an episode zero.
That's because launching a podcast is more of a process, rather than a single button press.
Your podcast exists from the moment you sign up to a media host, create your show, and upload an episode to it.
But at that point, your podcast can't be found in iTunes/Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, or anywhere else podcasts are consumed.
It would be a bad idea for your “launch” to be at this stage, as nobody could really find or subscribe to your show.
Submitting to Directories
You can't submit to podcast directories in advance of this either, because you need to have at least one published episode to be approved.
There's also no set time for how long it takes to be approved and start appearing in podcast directories like iTunes/Apple Podcasts. It could be anything from 1-5 working days.
So if you publish an episode zero, you can submit to all these places in advance. You'll usually be approved and listed within a week.
At that point you can announce a date to launch your first “proper” episode (or 3), and start building some hype.
Be sure to compile all your show's links on a “subscribe” page on your website, and ask people to subscribe in their app of choice. Let them know that if they do, they'll get the first episode the very minute it's published.
An episode zero is an opportunity for you to set the mood and tone of the show, as well as show a bit of your own personality too.
If it's going to be light-hearted and humorous, then the same should be true of your episode zero.
If it'll be highly-produced with music, sound effects, and multiple elements, then absolutely demonstrate that as much as possible right out the gate.
However you envisage your show, do something that you feel best encapsulates it at this stage.
And remember, you can always update it or even delete it altogether further down the line. Podcasts evolve over time, as do people themselves. But do what you can in there here and now, based on your more immediate plans for your show.
Length of an Episode Zero
One of the most common questions in podcasting is “how long should my episodes be?”, and the answer is always “it depends”.
But with an episode zero it's easier to give some general guidelines when it comes to length.
Anywhere from 3-6 minutes is common. It doesn't look like you're demanding too much of a listener's time – because they probably don't know anything about you at this stage, and so, have no loyalty towards you.
Of course, you should never feel obliged to record any episode based on a time length recommendation. But try to be as succinct as you can in this one!
Think of it more as the blurb on the back of a book, rather than a full first chapter.
Need Any More Help with Your Launch?
Hopefully you're now more than clued up on the role of the episode zero in podcasting. You'll now be able to decide whether or not it's for you – and if so, how to do one.
There are many other factors involved in launching a podcast too though. Maybe you need more guidance on planning your content, or maybe it's the editing that's a big obstacle for you at this moment in time.
Whatever your struggles though, we have what you need inside The Podcast Host Academy – that's our membership site containing access to every course, resource, and ebook we've ever made.
If you're looking to launch a sustainable and successful podcast built on solid foundations, then we'd love to see you there!