How do you put your show on hiatus without losing a chunk of your audience?
Matthew: So this was a question that we got in through the website from Derek and to be honest this is something that I've wrestled with in the past as well with my own podcast, so what if you need to take a break from your podcasts? So for example, I don't know Derek’s situation, but I'm sure it might be quite similar. My own show, we were putting out weekly episodes. Sometimes life gets in the way, other commitments get in the way. So we made the decision to switch to fortnightly then we were able to get back to weekly and then we went a spell where it was almost monthly and there are certain points around the festive period or the summer holidays where you have to say to your listeners that we're going to take a month off.
so it's difficult isn't it. Colin, you're a big advocate of podcasting and seasons so this is something you might argue can help you to get around that sort of treadmill feeling isn't it.
Colin: I think so. I mean before we jump into the seasons stuff, I think it's the biggest… it's arguably the biggest problem I think people have with podcasting. The most common problem they have with podcasting. It's the thing that people get in touch with us more often than not about. It's like how do I keep coming up with ideas, how do I keep consistent, how do I keep regular? I just feel like I'm running and not keeping up with the schedule.
So even if you don't jump into seasons, you said the exact right answer there I think, which is to communicate with your audience. So many people get to the stage where they get up on a Monday morning and they think “oh, I should record a podcast this week, I'm just not feeling it. I'm too busy, I can't do it…” and they just leave it. And then they leave it the next week and then they leave it the next week and that's when the trouble starts. It's because listeners are going “What's going on? The last episode everything was normal. It was going weekly until then and now suddenly there's been nothing for three weeks…” but if you tell them what's going on, you just communicate… it might be that you're in that situation so you didn't say it on your previous episode but you say “do you know what, I do need to take a break” and you just record a quick two minute clip.
you just say “Hey folks, thanks for listening. Do you know what, we're going to take a break on the podcast for the next month or so. So today's date is blah blah blah. The reason is I'm struggling for time, what I'm going to do is I'm going to come back even bigger and even better, more motivated. Here's some topics we might talk about so stay tuned, don't unsubscribe. We will be back, we'll see you on December 25th…” That's a bad day [laughs]. But you know, communicate, tell people what's going on. Just tell them what's happening and then they'll hear that and they'll go “Ah, that's fine. I can understand that…” and they'll stay around and they'll not unsubscribe, or a few of them will.
Did you get any responses from that when you did that on your show?
Matthew: When we told them we were taking a break?
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Matthew: Yeah I mean we've got a pretty good active community so we're fortunate in that sense and everyone understands from our point of view, we're doing a podcast, talking about making audio drama but we're also making audio drama's and we've got to try and juggle it. If we never make audio drama, how are going to talk about making audio drama. Again, before we get on to the seasonal thing another thing that I should probably mention is just because you need to personally take a break, does that necessarily mean that your podcasts need to take a break too? What I mean by that is, if you have developed enough audience, there might be the opportunity to find someone in the audience that you know and trust, that you could get to maybe take over as a temporary presenter or ask some of your listeners if they wouldn't mind doing some interviews with people and your topic.
You might get a batch of these back and you could just put them out, so you're still getting stuff out there. Again, it's not possible for everyone but just because you need to personally take a break, there are still ways that you could get stuff out there. But again, make sure it's going to be good stuff. There's not point putting stuff out there just for the sake of it.
Colin: Don't do padding, absolutely. There's always easier ways to do episodes too isn't there. Maybe you normally do a 30 minute interview with somebody or an hour long conversation with your three co hosts and that is what's taking up the time because it's either just logistics of organising it or getting everyone together, whatever it is. Maybe you can just get together one time, spend an hour recording three, four, five ten minute topics and just get them all cued up and tell people “we're going on a break for a month and a half but we've recorded these responses to commonly asked questions or listener queries” or something like that and put them out. Schedule them for a month and a half or two months or whatever so you're still getting stuff out but you're doing it in an easier way.
Matthew: I like the idea of that, doing short episodes answering a question you've received in. Clever idea.
Colin: But yeah, to go over the seasons stuff quickly. You find loads of materials around seasons on the website. If you just go on to thepodcasthost.com and search ‘seasons' in the top right hand search box you'll find it there. We'll link to it in the show notes as well. Show notes are at podcraft.net/708. But I mean, seasons I think they help with that whole treadmill problem like your just running to keep up with your schedule for a few different reasons.
The first of which is planning I think is the big one because it means that you can plan out say 8, 10, 12, 15 episodes all at once because you just choose a topic. You choose like one of our previous ones was monetization. So I said “I'm going to talk about monetization on season 6” and I just sat down for an hour and I just wrote down all the different aspects of monetization that I could think of. I spent a bit of time fleshing them out, putting four or five different bullet points in each one and by the end of that I had a plan for a season which had, I think there was about 7 or 8 episodes in it and that was that plan done.
Then every week I just sat down, I just pulled open that plan and I spoke for 30 minutes and it was easy because there was no procrastinating over choosing a topic, over planning it out or for doing a bit of research. All of that had been done ahead of time.
So once you've got that, you can do that batching as well so once you've got that plan I mean you can batch those. You can record three or four of them at once and that makes the whole keeping up with your schedule so much easier.
Next beyond planning you've got obviously the fact that you're working towards the end. So you're working towards an actual legitimate break and it makes much more sense to do a break between a couple of seasons doesn't it. You finish a season of a TV series and you expect there to be a break before the next one comes out and there's just something really motivational actually about you working towards the end of a season. Like we were working towards the end of this season just now. Once we finish this we've done 8 episodes, answered 8 questions and that feels quite significant. You've finished a chunk of work about one topic and we're working towards that.
So it motivates you to get up and record those episodes every single week and we're working towards that break as well so we know we're going to take a rest for a few weeks. Re cooperate, evolve it , ask for feedback from the audience, think about what we're going to do next time and be really excited about starting the next season because it's a new topic, it's something new to talk about. It's something that your listeners have maybe inputted into as well.
I think there's a bunch of reasons that seasons are great but yeah here's just a few of them. Go on and get more on the articles on the website if you want to know my full arguments about them.
Matthew: Yeah and I suppose like if you aren't doing seasons and your dealing with different topics, it could be completely disconnected from one week to the next. You could review your back catalogue and work out some seasons going forward. You can always make the change cannot you.
Colin: Absolutely yeah. You can stop at any point and say “right, we're going to start… that was season 0, those first 100 episodes. Now we're going onto season one, or even season two” whatever you want to say. There's plenty of examples of that. Micheal Hyatt is a pretty high profile podcaster who did that. He stopped on his 100th episode and then said “right, we're starting again, we're going to a seasons format and we're now starting season 2. Episode 101 is the first episode of season 2.”
So yeah it's never too late to move on to that format.
Matthew: It's never too late.
Colin: Never too late [Laughs]
Matthew: Maybe one day for my own show we'll get round to that.
Colin: But do you know, the communication thing still stands with seasons too so you still need to make it clear that “this is a season on this topic, this is how many episodes it's going to be” and on the last episode of that season say “right, thank you so much for listening through this season.” Give them a call to action, whether you want to ask for feedback, suggestions for the next season, whatever it is but tell them how long your taking a break. Tell them when you’re coming back and that cuts down massively on any unsubscribes or anything like that or even people that find your show during that season break. That's probably the biggest concern, people that are brand new to your show. They find you, they see that you've not put anything out in 3 weeks, but if you explain why in that most latest episode, they're going to listen to that and they're going to find out why. They'll maybe go back and listen to the rest of that previous season.
So final thing I'll say on that is we've got resources on this stuff in the community to. So in fanfission.com that's our community based on all the work we do at the podcast host and we've got some resources in there recorded webinars on how to run seasons. All the different ways you can use seasons as well and also we're doing a lot of support and helping people create seasons. Actually move to that approach. Like in the forums, just chatting people through what their topics might be, what their plans might be, all that kind of stuff.
So if you need some help with this, by all means pop over to the community. Join us in there and we can talk you through it all and help you get the most out of it.