Podcasting is a lot closer to traditional broadcasting than you might imagine. Audio productions spanning back almost a century were recorded in much the same way an audio podcast is today. Video productions including television shows (both pre-recorded and live) have also been done in almost entirely the same way that video podcasts are done today. What sets the two apart is simply the method by which they are distributed.
This only adds emphasis to the general point that audio and video productions should evolve over time in order to maintain the interest of the audience. No one can watch the same episode of a typical TV show over and over without eventually losing interest. By keeping every detail of your broadcast the same over a period of months (or years), you’re actually building a wall that can either keep the audience in, or potentially drive it out.
Consistency is very important. Changing everything and anything about your production at the drop of a hat is extremely ill advised. However, change can also be an essential component to your success as a podcaster. Consider every successful podcast you subscribe to that has been distributing regular content for more than a year. How many of them are exactly the same? Your list is probably very short, and for good reason.
Why is Change Important?
Evolution is the key to keeping things fresh for both you and the audience. In the world of podcasting, profit typically comes after a long period of growth. It could take your podcast over a year to gain a large enough audience to parlay your content into something profitable. During that time, it’s essential to maintain the attention of your new viewers as they discover the show. This attention can directly impact discovery as they tell their friends and social followers.
Even small changes can make a world of difference when it comes to the bottom line of your podcast. You’d be surprised just how quickly your audience will grow when you do one or two things a little differently.
Good Change Vs. Bad Change
Viewer counts mean very little to the long-term value of a production. By making the right changes, the quality of your audience can put you in a much more comfortable position as a podcaster.
When considering what you should (or should not) change about your show, the important thing to consider is whether or not what you’re doing is working. Keep an active line of communication open with your audience. Listen to what it has to say and weigh its opinion with the goals you have in mind for your podcast. Remember, the show is still your show at the end of the day, and no one knows what direction your show should be headed more than yourself.
That said, there are also some statistical tools that can help. YouTube offers an incredible set of analytical tools that allow you to track the age, gender, and geographical dynamic of your audience. In addition, you can see where in your show the audience members tend to lose interest.
For audio and independently hosted podcasts, companies like Podtrac can give you relatively good statistical data by creating a middle-man URL that listeners pass through before they download the actual episode.
You can also use something like FeedBurner to track your listener and viewer data. Some Web hosts also offer their customers relatively good tracking software at the server level.
Why is Too Much Change a Bad Thing?
Changing things too much can drive away traffic. It’s important that you pace changes and take the time to explain why they’re being made to your audience. Simply shifting your format and surprising your audience with it can do a lot to upset it. Confusing your viewers is one of the hardest things for them to get over.
So, when you make changes, do them gradually. If your long-term plan includes major format alterations, take a moment to explain what’s going on to your audience. It’ll appreciate it more than you know.
Once you try something new, it’s important to give it enough time to play out before shifting things any further. There are times when something you do will be absolutely opposed by your audience, and that would be the one and only time it’s okay to quickly reverse your decision.
Remember, you may have invested your money and time into your podcast, but your audience has invested its attention.
Making changes to your podcast is an important part of establishing a long-term business plan out of it. After all, unless you’re a dedicated hobbyist, you’re building a business. Turning your content into cash allows you to continue making new content for as long as you would like to. Advertisers are looking for more than viewer numbers to buy into. They want to relay their message as part of your own. Your podcast has to be something that advertisers are willing to endorse.
You can possibly avoid advertisers and sell your own products through your content. T-shirts, hats, bumper stickers, and other miscellaneous merchandise can fund your podcast if your audience is enthusiastic enough to pay for whatever it is you have to sell. Some podcasters have a company on the side that deals in retail or manufacturing of other products. Like, for example, the owner of an art store might do a podcast about art and mention their store in the show notes.
Your show is your own, and viewers will come and go. You can’t make everyone happy, no matter what you try. Be advised, though, that the vast majority of people who will comment on your content are going to complain because people that simply like what you do will tune in and enjoy it without ever speaking up for or against whatever it is you do. This is a fundamental truth about the Internet. The best way to find out what works is by combining viewer feedback with analytics. With a little patience, and a lot of luck, you can turn your podcast into a money-making machine that could put a lot of extra cash in your pocket.