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No. 004 5 Easily Avoidable Mistakes That Cause Most Podcasts to Fail
22nd April 2015 • The Showrunner • Rainmaker Digital LLC
00:00:00 00:37:58

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Most podcasts fail. It s unfortunate, but true. That might psyche some potential showrunners out before they even start. But savvy showrunners will recognize an opportunity to learn from the mistakes of others.

Obviously there are many possible mistakes can lead to podcasts failing. But there are some common ones that Jerod and Jon have seen over and over.

And what s encouraging is that many of these mistakes are avoidable — simply by knowing what they are, and knowing how to turn them into positives instead of negatives.

In this episode, Jerod and Jon discuss:

  • The incredible story about how Jon s daughter got into podcasting
  • Why not having a unique selling proposition can lead to disaster for your podcast.
  • What it means to find your voice (and why your podcast must feature it)
  • What true authenticity is in the context of podcasting, and why it s essential
  • The importance of actually launching your podcast strategically not just releasing it
  • Why we did not follow our own launch with three episodes advice with The Showrunner
  • The pros and cons of getting early audience feedback
  • What New and Noteworthy is and why it can be the key to a successful (possibly even a skyrocketing) launch
  • The basics of SEO for iTunes
  • Controversial (possibly illegal?) advice from Jon on how to get more ratings and reviews
  • Why consistency and reliability is key for long-term podcast success
  • Listener question: What podcast formats are possible beyond interviews and host/co-host discussion?

Listen to The Showrunner below ...

The Show Notes

The Transcript

5 Easily Avoidable Mistakes That Cause Most Podcasts to Fail

Voiceover: This is Rainmaker.FM, the digital marketing podcast network. It’s built on the Rainmaker Platform, which empowers you to build your own digital marketing and sales platform. Start your free 14-day trial at Rainmaker.FM/Platform.

You’re listening to the Showrunner, a podcast about podcasting that will teach you how to take your show from good to great. Ready?

Jerod Morris: When you listen back to old episodes that you’ve done either when you’re editing them or just listening to them — especially interview episodes — do you ever have moments where you think, “Man, I should have asked the follow up question there.” Like you didn’t think about it in the moment, so you didn’t ask. But then you’re listening back to it, and it’s like, “Man, I missed an opportunity for a good follow-up question.” Does that ever happen to you?

Jon Nastor: Yes. Many times, so I’ve stopped listening to them.

Jerod Morris: I ask you this because it happened to me in our last episode, and I was editing it up last night. You said something and I realized there has to be this whole great story there. I don’t know why, but I didn’t ask you a follow-up question.

You told us in the last episode about how your daughter started a podcast and how you helped her out with it. Every single time I’ve listened back to it, I found myself wanting a little more background, a little more backstory on that. How did that come about? What were the goals, and how did it all end up?

The Incredible Story about How Jon s Daughter Got into Podcasting

Jon Nastor: We met Pat Flynn last year and John Lee Dumas, actually, at a small, small conference in the Philippines, and my daughter was with me. She started a blog on our trip. We were on a trip for I think just over two months. She started a blog. She was blogging. It got around the conference, so people started talking to her about her blog and these funny stories she was writing.

John Lee Dumas started talking to her, “You should really podcast. You should podcast.” I had never even thought of that. Then Pat came over at one point, we were eating lunch, and he came over and sat with us, and he’s like, “Sadie, if you really want to start a podcast, tell your dad. He ll email me when you get home, and I will buy you all the gear to get you going” — which is amazing, right?

Jerod Morris: That’s awesome. Yeah.

Jon Nastor: I know. That’s what I said. So he did, and this is actually the gear I’m talking through. We got home then a couple of months later and she worked out what she wanted, the branding of it, and we went through the whole process right from the beginning. We named it. We came up with a really awesome format that she could come up with. She did a weekly show. She did 16 episodes, I believe. I think she’s already broke 10,000 downloads — which is amazing.

Jerod Morris: Wow. Really?

Jon Nastor: Yeah. She hasn’t actually done it now in two months it’s been. She stopped. She kind of ran out of what she wanted to do with that show, but she still gets around 1,500 downloads a month from it, which is amazing. She’s already working on another show. That show is called Between Two Worlds, and she was nine years old when she did it. She reads voraciously, so she did it about a book. She tore apart a book quickly and made it fun for kids, and then she did this format of ‘The Joke Store,’ and it was so adorable.

I did editing for it myself, and there are all these sound effects. Actually, there was this band we saw. We drove to Chicago last year to see this band called Koo Koo Kanga Roo, who my daughter fell in love with. She actually just emailed them and was like, “I’m starting this podcast, and I would love to be able to use some of your music.” They got back to her. We jumped on Skype. She told them all about it, and they actually wrote her all these different songs. They sent us eight different tiny little snippet tracks. She talked about The Joke Store and all the different transitions she was going to do, and they did all of it for her. It was amazing.

Jerod Morris: Wow. That’s really cool. That’s even better than I imagined that it was going to be.

Jon Nastor: It’s amazing. It blew me away the whole time. It was amazing. I can never thank Pat enough for doing that for her and then for me, obviously, and helping. Just the way she did it. She followed the steps, and it worked super well for her. She was kind of blown away by it and really daunted, obviously. She was looking at first when there were like 10 people downloading it and 15. She was cool with that, but then it was like, “Wow, you did 300 downloads today,” and she stopped looking, like she didn’t want to. She still gets emails from young kids and stuff. It’s adorable.

Jerod Morris: What a great story. We might have to have her on here for an interview and get the full story from her.

Jon Nastor: She’d love it.

Jerod Morris: Wow. That is great. Good. I’m glad I asked you that then. That’s really cool.

Jon Nastor: Me too, actually. I love this story. It makes me happy.

Jerod Morris: Yeah. What a great, great story. There will be more. There will be more to this story. That’s great. Let’s move on to the topic of this episode which is why most podcasts never go anywhere. Obviously, a big part of what we’re trying to do here with The Showrunner is teach you how to run an effective podcast, whether you already have one, whether you’re getting ready to start one.

The reality is that a lot of podcasts don’t go anywhere. They get started. They stop. We want to talk about some common reasons why that happens. In your mind, Jon, what are the biggest reasons why a podcast doesn’t go anywhere?

Jon Nastor: The biggest reasons? I would say that there’s the four big reasons that I see, and I’ve just seen hundreds of people that are trying to do it. The first one would be no USP, then just lacking of voice, failing to launch, neglecting what ‘New and Noteworthy’ can do for you in iTunes, and then being inconsistent, which I have mentioned before.

Jerod Morris: Which is really five, and those first two kind of go together. Let’s break those down. Let’s start with no USP. That’s very similar to what we talked about in the last episode. Break down the importance of that and why not having one can lead to disaster for your podcast.

Why Not Having a Unique Selling Proposition Can Lead to Disaster for Your Podcast

Jon Nastor: First off, I like how casually you said that’s actually five, because I have on the list one, two, two, three, four. That was a good cover up. I like that. No USP. This is entering a market, whatever your market happens to be, and go to the big market. Don’t ditch down too far at this point. Go to the bigger market. Voraciously listen to and consume the top 10 podcasts in that market.

There’s always giant gaps either between personalities of hosts, style of podcast, format of podcast, what it is they’re doing, and where they fit into that market. I don’t care what market you’re in. There’s gaps in that market. You need to uniquely fit into one of those gaps. If you cannot do that, all the rest of steps that we give you are not going to help you at all. It doesn’t matter how well you launch. If you don’t have that unique positioning in the market, I don’t think you will succeed.

Jerod Morris: Why not? Because you will blend in and you won’t stand out. There won’t be any reason for people to take notice of you. As more and more podcasts come out — like we explained on the last episode — it will continue to be a bigger and bigger problem of having some hook to get people just to listen. You’re right. If you don’t have that, then none of the rest of what we’re going to talk about matters. That’s how we wanted to bring this part back up again.

Let’s go on to number two then, which originally we had these together, but I think it’s important that we unpack them to talk about each one of them individually. It’s pretty obvious why your podcast can’t be boring. Just because you have a USP doesn’t mean your podcast won’t be boring. We have tried to have our USP here with The Showrunner, but if we’re boring and if we’re not that interested in the topic, the show’s going to be boring, which also goes along with hosts really finding their voice and having unique voice. Explain the importance of that.

What It Means to “Find Your Voice” (and Why Your Podcast Must Feature It)

Jon Nastor: I think to not be boring is not so much making jokes and all that. It’s mostly about just being real, being congruent with yourself, and exposing a different part of yourself to people in a way that’s real. Obviously, when we say finding your voice, finding your voice isn’t positioning of a microphone. It’s not that sort of thing.

It’s really just being and talking about things that you are truly, really into. Don’t go into a market because you think there’s lots of money in it if you’re not into that market. There’s lots of money in golfing, but I couldn’t just go in and pretend to be passionate or even know anything about golf, so it’s not going to work.

You have to find that. You have to know that. You have to be willing to open up and say some stuff and talk about your stuff, you in certain ways. That’s, to me, what finding your unique voice is. That’s what resonates. You’re in people’s ears either in ear buds or in their car. It’s a very intimate relationship. If you’re just putting on some fake idea of yourself — this goes back to because you’re trying to be like somebody else in the market — then it’s going to show. Instantly people aren’t going to be able to engage with you on any real level.

What True Authenticity Is in the Context of Podcasting, and Why It s Essential

Jerod Morris: Yeah. The connection that is possible through a podcast is why podcasts are so exciting, why you and I get so enthusiastic about them. This idea, it’s about being authentic. People want you. That’s why they listen. If you’re not yourself and if you don’t reveal — again, authenticity is not revealing everything about yourself. It’s about revealing the parts of yourself that are relevant to an audience.

Obviously, the things that I reveal here on The Showrunner are going to be different from what I would reveal if I was doing a podcast about relationships. My relationship isn’t that pertinent to here, but what I’ve done as a podcaster, my history, my experiences, the things I’m confident about, and my insecurities — all of those things are relevant here. That authenticity is very important. Again, the idea here is why podcasts don’t go anywhere.

I think if you’re just good behind a microphone, you could probably pick out any topic, and for five or six episodes, fool people and talk about something on a surface level and get away with it. But to go somewhere, to build a relationship, and build a podcast that has a loyal audience for 10, 20, 50, 100 episodes, there’s got to be a depth there.

It’s not just a depth of understanding, but a depth of authenticity to how you bring the information to your audience that’s so, so important. Because number one, it will keep you motivated. Number two, it will keep your audience listening. Then those two things just feed on each other. That’s what helps your podcast actually go somewhere instead of not going anywhere.

One and two done. Now let’s talk about failing to launch, which is interesting, because I think when I first read this on your notes, ‘failing to launch,’ it’s like we’re talking about why podcasts don’t go anywhere. The podcast has clearly started, but you’re not just talking about getting episodes out there. You’re talking about actually having a strategic plan for it to succeed, right?

The Importance of Actually Launching Your Podcast Strategically — Not Just Releasing It

Jon Nastor: Yeah. The key part of it is for it to succeed. I think most people think about launching as getting that approval message from iTunes that you’re now available to millions of people — who might never find out about you. There’s a lot more to it. The way I have it is there’s a 12-step plan to it, that I can’t go through here before we’re trying to keep this under 30 minutes. It’s very essential. It’s a lead up to actually getting onto iTunes, and then it follows through to that first eight weeks, which is very, very, very important.

The one thing I do want to mention even if you don’t want to follow a 12-step plan to launch, the one key thing that I see people making the biggest mistake of — which we did with Showrunner for various reasons — but we failed to launch with three shows on day one.

Every time I see somebody do that, people with big audiences already and people with no audiences, I’m always thinking to myself, “I’m going to be shocked if this show really takes off the way it should.” Because launching with three shows, I’ve talked to so many people, I’ve done so much research in it, and I’ve tried it myself with different amounts of shows. The one show I’ve launched with three episodes on day one was Hack the Entrepreneur, and it’s gotten me here. That is something that’s very, very key.

Before you launch, make sure you have at least 10 episodes done. I had 22 done, in the can completely done. I had almost 10 interviews still that I could have edited into shows if I’d needed to. Day one was three, and then I didn’t even follow a schedule right after that. I just started throwing out … like I told you earlier, I did six episodes one week during that first eight weeks just because the momentum really builds in iTunes. It’s very based on how many downloads you can get.

They’re checking. Their algorithms are checking how many people are downloading how many episodes. It just makes sense that if on day one, people find you, and they can download three episodes as compared to just one episode that week. That’s three times as many downloads, which the algorithm...