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Should I Downsize My Podcast During a Recession?

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A recession doesn’t have to be global or national to affect you. It can be personal. Everyone goes through tough financial times occasionally. If you’ve been podcasting for a while and, as they say, your “money’s funny,” it’s not easy to keep producing your podcast. You might have a lot on your mind and less freedom for creativity. Maybe you’re asking yourself, “Should I downsize my podcast?” Or, worse, quit altogether?

But the good news is that you probably don’t have to hang up your headphones. Let’s look at ways to condense some areas of your podcasting work, make them more effective, and focus on quality instead of quantity.

Here, I’ll look at three main factors that might be affecting you right now: mindset, budget, and time…

Time for Your Podcast

If you have to get a second job or give up time-saving expenses like childcare or dog-walking, that affects your podcasting work sessions. Here are a few things to make the time you have more effective, without abandoning your family.

Recording On Your Own

If you can’t sync your schedule with others on your team, podcasting solo can help you get work done. This doesn’t necessarily mean you should fire your co-host. It’s more a case of making some episodes that complement the rest until you can schedule recording sessions together. Assure your audience that your co-host will return, and focus on the topic and your loyal fans.

Use the Robots

AI tools can save you time. You can use ChatGPT to write show notes and social media posts. When you need to research a topic, ChatGPT can point you in the right direction for the top level of research. ChatGPT also helps if your predicament makes you feel gloomy or have trouble finding the right words. AI can never replace your unique voice. But it can help you find an upbeat phrase when nothing springs to mind.

Schedule, Don’t Double-Book

If you’re out of work, you might feel tempted to downsize your podcast because you should be job hunting. But podcasting can co-exist with the hunt for new employment if you’re smart about your time. You can build a wall around your podcasting work sessions so they’re more effective. Schedule podcasting work sessions on a calendar where everyone in your household can see them. Don’t do other tasks (like job searching) during those periods.

In the past, when I was out of work, I felt guilty when I worked on my podcast. Then, I decided my podcast was a good work sample for potential employers. A podcast shows your project management and presentation skills, to say the least.

Do you podcast about something you truly love? Your research, attention to detail, and enthusiasm might even help you get a job working in your topic’s industry.

Batch, Don’t Task-Switch

Batch processing can make your podcasting work sessions more effective. Since you don’t have to switch the kinds of tasks you’re doing, it’s easier to maintain focus and get more work done. Record several episodes at once, edit them at once, craft the show notes at once, upload them, and schedule them to publish over time.

Fixed Expenses: Podcast Gear and Hosting

When money is tight, spending any of it on your podcast might seem like a frivolous luxury. But this shouldn’t mean getting rid of things you use and enjoy. You’re the CFO of your own podcast. Find things that do double duty and eliminate single-purpose tools or services.

Podcasting Equipment: Streamline Your Rig

There’s a joke in the podcasting zeitgeist about how a podcaster finally turned a profit by selling all their gear. I’m not suggesting you throw the baby out with the bathwater. But consolidating your podcast setup may save you time and effort.

Maybe you have some recording equipment that you don’t, or rarely, use. Reverb.com, the musicians’ marketplace, is a good place to buy and sell second-hand recording equipment. Just don’t expect to get rich doing this. My husband has been buying and selling gear on Reverb for years. He doesn’t make money; he makes room for more gear. By trying different gear, he learns what he does and doesn’t need for sound design and composing music.

It makes sense as a podcaster to streamline the gear you need. Many folks go on a shopping spree before launching their podcast, then learn what they use after five or ten episodes. You might find that podcasting with a simple setup gives you more freedom. And, if you need to buy new gear, Reverb can help with gear that’s new to you, if not the market.

It’s worth adding that, in a worst-case scenario where you felt you needed to sell all of your gear, you can still get “good enough” sound from built-in mics on some phones and laptops, too.

Re-Evaluate Your Media Hosting

It’s not difficult to change podcast hosting services, and your audience may never notice the difference. This can be an easy way to funnel some funds back into your pocket.

But don’t choose a new hosting service based on price alone. It’s tempting to cancel a paid service and switch to a free one. With any free service, remember that you are not the customer but the product. Instead of looking to make cuts, evaluate the features your podcast host provides for the price you pay. For example, if you pay separately to have your show transcribed, find out if your current media host offers transcription services. If not, think about switching to a host that does for the same price. Even if the difference is as simple as an easier user interface, the time savings can relieve pressure. Use our free “hosting chooser” tool to see which of your much-needed podcasting features you can combine into one subscription.

If you have more than one podcast, you might consider consolidating your feeds or switching to a media host offering unlimited RSS feeds.

Podcasting in seasons can allow you to downgrade your subscription to a lower price tier for a few months while taking a break. Your hosting service would rather keep you as a customer than have you leave, anyway.

Finally, if hosting costs feel like the straw breaking the camel’s back, you could set up a Patreon or Patreon-style alternative. Just like your hosting provider, your listeners would rather keep you around. Some will be willing to pledge money to have you in their ears. You can likely cover your hosting costs with the aid of only five or six fans.

Sound Effects and Music

You don’t have to use music or sound effects to bring your podcast to life. But there’s no doubt that they engage and motivate your audience. We have free and podsafe music resources: they’ll save you money and a trip to the copyright attorney’s office. We can also show you how to find sound effects that won’t break the bank. Make your podcast more immersive and exciting, and your audience will be likelier to make it a habit and share it with their friends.

a podcaster looking for money between the couch cushions

Variable Podcasting Expenses: Contractors, Advertising

Some of your podcasting expenses wax and wane over time, particularly if you podcast in seasons. Variable expenses require more creativity to reduce, but you can save money with them, too.

If your podcast depends on subcontracting your work to a freelancer, I won’t tell you to fire them. Your relationship with them may be what makes or breaks your podcast. But be upfront with the freelancers you hire. Transparency builds and maintains trust. If you’ve fallen on financial hard times, let them know. They may have strategies that can help.

You can make external expenses more effective, just like your time and media host. When you learn more about the jobs you pay someone else to do (i.e., graphic design, audio editing), it can help you communicate with your freelancer and put more of your unique stamp on your podcast.

Fun fact that the big money players don’t want you to know: many online education platforms are free through public libraries. How’s that for a clickbait statement? LinkedIn Learning is available with your login information from many local libraries; some have Gale Presents Udemy. These video-based systems can teach you the basics of marketing, editing, and more. They’ll do it as easily as Disney+ can teach you that we don’t talk about Bruno.

If you spend money advertising your podcast, ask yourself how much bang you get for your buck. How targeted is the advertising? Does it reach your audience? If so, how easily can the viewer get from the ad to your podcast?

Podcast cross-promotion may be a more effective way to grow your audience than paid advertising. All it costs you is time, effort, and goodwill. It can build your credibility with other podcasters. The audience you reach is already interested in podcasts about your topic. Your fans would probably love mixing and matching their listening time with your peers.

You might also consider doing some guerrilla marketing for your podcast. These methods are often free, but, when done well, can generate spectacular publicity.

Prioritize Quality over Quantity

Which would you prefer, lots of half-baked cookies or a few properly baked cookies? The same goes for podcast episodes. Instead of spreading yourself too thin and trying to make 52 episodes a year, make 26. Or produce twelve great episodes that your audience will share with their friends.

We all know that legacy media has been downsizing its podcast departments. They want to put quality ahead of quantity. For example, NPR is consolidating podcast RSS feeds into showcases, and promoting limited-run shows. Despite the podcast boom during the pandemic lockdowns, or maybe because of it, audiences won’t settle for poor-quality podcasts.

Make fewer episodes, better. There are always small things you can fix when it comes to planning and managing your podcast. Improve the sound quality of your episodes. Try an all-in-one podcasting software like Alitu or one of its alternatives, so you’re paying one bill instead of several. Alitu includes hosting, recording, editing, transcription, and a music library for one price. You can put all your eggs in one basket and pay for them, too.

Focus on your audience and what they want. If you and your audience truly love your podcast’s topic, there’s every reason to ask them for input. Telbee.io makes it easy for your audience to leave voice messages for you, and they have a free tier. Ask your audience questions about your podcast’s topic, and tell them you’ll include the most appropriate messages on the show.

Thanking your audience costs nothing and means everything.

Republish and Repurpose “Classic” Content

If you have a fair number of episodes and you’ve been podcasting for a while, repurposing your back catalog can give new audiences a point of access. Have you ever noticed how many compilation albums David Bowie released? Twenty-seven. It worked for him.

Maybe you have a favorite interview that’s worth re-posting. Or, maybe some of your old episodes have new meaning in light of current events. True, a lot of audiences binge-listen. But some don’t, and this is a good way to get your “greatest hits” out where new folks can catch up with your tenured fans.

You can also repurpose some of your content as blog posts and videos. This gives people who aren’t already podcast listeners an on-ramp to your ideas.

Another proven repurposing strategy is to produce a montage episode. If you can’t record much but have time to edit, find recurring themes in your previously released episodes and put them together to make new ones. Maybe there are golden moments from the audio you recorded originally that couldn’t make the final edit. Individually, these cutting-room-floor gems seem trivial, but combined with their mates and polished, they take on new meaning. As a season closer for David Tennant Does a Podcast With…, the last episode is a montage of “juicy unheard bits and out-takes.” Your audience can feel like they get a sneak peek behind the mic.

Should You Downsize Your Podcast? Don’t Make Yourself Redundant. Distill it.

You’ve probably heard the expression, “If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.” There are many ways to make podcasting less expensive while streamlining your process. Whether it’s a lean time for you, a national recession, or something bigger, good content delivered mindfully never goes out of style. Use this as an opportunity to try something new.

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