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Will We Ever Get Better Podcast Engagement?
Episode 6511th January 2022 • Podcast Pontifications • Evo Terra
00:00:00 00:08:10

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Few things make podcasters happier than a slew of emails from deeply

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engaged listeners filled with praise for their latest episode.

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Good work if you can get it.

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But should you expect and encourage it?

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Hello, and welcome to another Podcast Pontifications with me, Evo Terra.

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If there's a universal want amongst podcasters, it's that we want more

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engagement from our listeners.

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Trouble is, the feeling isn't mutual from the standpoint of our listeners.

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When you think about it, most listeners aren't able to engage with

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most of the content they consume.

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You got a beef with how Apple re-imagined Asimov's Foundation,

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who are you going to call?

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You want to tell the showrunner of Glow Up: Britain's Next Make-Up Star how much

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you enjoy and appreciate that last episode and have some suggestions for the next?

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You can't.

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There's literally no way for you to do that.

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Those shows wrapped production months, if not years, ago.

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You cannot engage with those creators.

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At least, you cannot engage with those creators while they are - while you are

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actively engaging with their content.

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That's a reality for every other piece of content you consume

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that is produced ahead of time.

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Every book, every movie, every album, every class or course you

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take, every blog post you read, every meal at every restaurant.

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Yeah, you could comment on all of those and your comments might actually make it

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back to the creator of those items, but at no time are you able to engage with those

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creators during the creative process.

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So why are so many companies trying to make it easier, and, perhaps, better

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for people to engage with podcasts?

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Is that something podcasters want?

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Or is this something we've been told that we want?

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And, arguably more importantly than any of that, is it something

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that our listeners want?

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I think that at least some of the perceived benefit, or the perceived

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need, I should say, on both sides of the equation stems from the

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podcasting versus radio fight that we made up two decades ago.

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And by we, I mean, yes, I had some culpability in that as well.

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We pitted ourselves against radio hosts from disc jockeys to sports commentators

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to politics and even interview shows.

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They, the radio side, were all limited by the power of their radio transmitter

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or the size of their syndication network.

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But we, podcasters, could reach anyone in the world, anyone around the planet, as

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long as they had an internet connection.

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But the one thing they could do that we could not?

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Take live callers.

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Now, back then, I, and quite a few others, had a foot in both of those worlds.

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I was hosting a weekly live radio show, as well as producing a few weekly podcasts.

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I know firsthand the joy of seeing a fully lit phone bank in the radio station.

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I also know the despair of seeing an empty email box when I've

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specifically asked for comments.

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So yeah, the struggle's real.

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So, should we podcasters give up on the idea of getting more engagement?

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Well, no, not necessarily.

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But it does lead me to two thoughts.

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Number one is engagement doesn't only mean instant live feedback

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during the creation process.

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Yesterday, you heard from Pat about how PodInbox aims to increase

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listener engagement using publicly available messages, much in the

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same way that reviews of your podcast are publicly available.

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Now, I think that's a really smart move because it's still inconceivably

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hard - two decades later in a world where almost all podcast listening takes

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place on mobile phones - it's still too hard to leave feedback or give kudos

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or anything other than just lean back and listen to your favorite podcaster.

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Thought number two is a bit more controversial, and it's

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listening - or reading or watching, sure - that is engagement.

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Searching through the podcast apps, finding a podcast or a podcast episode

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to listen to, subscribing to that show or following that show, all of

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these are forms of engagement that our listeners are doing right now.

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It's the kind of engagement, honestly, that podcasts are best set up for.

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Look, podcasters, we don't want notes in the middle of our

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recording or our editing process.

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That's not helpful right then.

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And that's also not the kind of engagement most listeners prefer either.

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No, I'm sorry, but the majority of your audience will not get

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any benefit from engaging more deeply than they already are.

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Podcasting is not live streaming, just like it's not live radio

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or live theater or other places where live engagement happens.

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It's not live, except for the handful of times it is live, obviously,

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but most of the time it's not live.

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So we shouldn't want that live feedback.

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Yes, it is very natural for us to want more engagement from our

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audience, but we serious podcasters need first to make sure we're giving

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our audience good reasons to engage with our content in the first place.

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With that, I shall be back tomorrow with yet another Podcast Pontifications.

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Cheers!

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Podcast Pontifications is written and narrated by Evo Terra.

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He's on a mission to make podcasting better.

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Links to everything mentioned in today's episode are in the notes

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section of your podcast listening app.

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A written-to-be-read article based on today's episode is available at

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podcastpontifications.com where you'll also find a video version and a corrected

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transcript, both created by Allie Press.

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Podcast Pontifications is a production of Simpler Media.