In late May, all the leading players in the world of podcasts — networks, hosts, aspiring podcasters, and of course, fans — descended upon Nasvhille, Tennessee to attend the inaugural PodX convention. Some of our favorite Patreon podcasters made the trip, along with the Patreon team, to learn more about the constantly expanding audio industry and its community.
Are you thinking of starting a podcast or putting your audience growth into overdrive? PodX is the place to learn more about best practices and honing your craft, says Patreon’s Katrina Estrella. “The podcast community is surprisingly tight-knit. Podcasting can be a very isolating experience, as the creators constantly have headphones on and are editing,” Estrella says.
“Podcasters really enjoy conferences like PodX that are focused on the creators. It allows them to get together with other podcasters and share their experiences or bounce ideas off of.”
Our team spent three days on the ground, meeting other podcasters, listening to panels, and discovering new trends within the industry. Estrella and Patreon’s Creator Success Team Lead Laura Benson share four takeaways from their time there.
While it’s still young, the advertising industry is growing at a rapid pace. Recent research predicts ad revenues for podcasts to double by 2020, going up to $659 million. The most popular type of ad? Those read by the host as it doesn’t interrupt the listening experience.
“It is much tougher to earn a living as a podcaster than I thought. Also, discoverability is quite a challenge for many new podcasts,” says Benson about the pain points of monetization explored at PodX.
So what can you do? While advertising can move the needle on monetization, make sure to stay on brand. Using an ad that doesn’t represent you and your mission as a host, may turn your subscribers off instead of driving revenue.
“You have to be careful about what you pick so that you don't sacrifice your voice, vision, and brand of your show,” says Benson. “Additionally, with the difficulty of advertising, a few folks mentioned that there are just smaller deals being made. They aren't making as much per ad as they were a few years ago. This is most likely due to the saturation of ads in the space.”
Since the money to be made within advertising continues to be in flux, make sure to diversify your revenue streams and leverage your subscriber base through Patreon, for example. Once your fans see that you’re trying to put more content out for them, via tiers or a live show, they will flock to support you.
Collaboration is at the heart of growing and retaining your audience. Partnering with other brands, sites, or big-name guests can help increase your credibility. So, meeting other podcasters within your niche, whether in-person at PodX or through the Internet, can help you expand your reach to a broader audience.
“Seek out people making similar content or covering a topic in a related niche to work with your network and grow your audience substantially,” says Benson. “[Collaborate and invite] them onto your show. Live shows are a great way to get listeners involved too.”
Surrounding yourself with a supportive community can help you see the gaps within your content too. If you’re a fan of another podcast host, reach out to them to have a conversation about collaborating, promoting each other’s podcasts, or for advice on new trends.
Nurturing your community and making them feel like they are part of your creative process will yield loyalty and authentic engagement. It’s essential to spend some time getting to know your fans — selling is loving, after all. It’s important to make it personal and ask questions.
Estrella shares that Hamilcast is an excellent example of being close to your podcast community. Makes sense as podcast host Gillian Pensavalle says on her page, “The Hamilcast has the best listeners in the world, and I will challenge anyone who says otherwise to a duel.”
“[At PodX,] they accidentally had a bunch of inside jokes, which made new listeners get FOMO and want to become a Patron or join the Discord community to be part of the fun,” says Estrella. “This type of interaction only comes with genuine relationship building with the existing community, so continue to invest in that.”
Engage your audience through Facebook groups, personal Q&A videos, behind the scenes content, and valuable content regardless of their tier. Listen to your community and let them tell you what they want to see.
Your perspective is unique in a lot of ways — tell a story through your lens. Just like other media, storytelling is vital. Your audience needs a reason to continue tuning in every day, week, and month. Nail down your podcast mission and an outline of the season as you start to dip your toe in the industry.
Once you have your topic and a tentative roadmap for your season, reach back out to your audience via social media, newsletter, or wherever they are. Ask them what they think, what they want to see, and how often. Consistency in both timing and quality content will make you stand out within your community as a reliable creator.
Make them enthusiastic about what you’re creating, manage expectations, and move forward. It’s all about building community — just like at PodX.