5 Steps to a Successful Podcast

With advances in technology and more ways to listen than ever before, podcasts are on the rise.

A study conducted by Edison Research in May 2014 found that 1.7 percent of the total time Americans spend listening to audio was spent listening to podcasts.

Podcasters have an opportunity to discuss niche topics of interest, and podcasts often become labors of love for many entrepreneurs. When time and effort are put in, podcasts can truly take off and monetize quite well.

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Here five steps to successfully launch a podcast:

1. Start with a mission.

Just like anything else in business, a podcast should be underlaid with a specific purpose.

For example, Itamar Zur and Idan Hershko, co-founders of the successful year-old podcast series Startup Camel, began with the mission of showcasing the exciting high-tech scene in Israel to the world. Driven by this purpose, each show gives an inside look at budding Israeli startups.

Passion is a good place to start when looking for a mission. After feeling lost about the direction of his career, Dan Feld started Prologue Profiles, a podcast series that interviews young entrepreneurs about their success.

“Make a show that you want to listen to,” Feld suggests. “If you're feeling it, others will feel it too.”

2. Craft a clever name.

With the overall mission of the podcast in mind, brainstorm names for the show. The name of the show should grab the target audience’s attention and be relevant to what the show is about. Ironic or clever names can help to show the flavor and personality of the podcast.

“While the name is important, don’t let it hold the show back," Hershko says. "If finding the perfect name is a struggle, go with the best brainstormed option and start the show. Execution is more important than perfection.”

3. Secure interesting interviews.

The best way to attract listeners to a new podcast is through interviews with relevant and compelling interviewees. But securing quality interviews can be difficult for a startup podcast.

To overcome this problem, the people behind Startup Camel tapped into their personal and professional networks, asking their friends and contacts for favors. After a few interviews with big-name startups and professionals, the show took off.

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If possible, in-person interviews are better than those conducted over the phone or Internet. Face-to-face interviews not only improve the audio quality, but they also help the interviewee feel more comfortable and be more engaged and personable in the conversation.

Before publishing an episode, Zur suggests sharing the edited interview with the guest and asking for their feedback.

“This way the interviewees become part of the creation process, which makes them want to share something that they've also worked on,” he says. “This method has proven highly successful and saves us money otherwise spent on paid media.”

Influential interviewees can organically spread the word by sharing the podcast with their followers on Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms.

“A good chunk of traffic comes from the people who I interview, as they share it with their networks,” says Mario Schulzke, founder of IdeaMensch, a community that features interviews with entrepreneurs. “Make it easy for them to do just that, especially via social media. Give them soundbites from their own interviews to share.”

4. Produce high-quality audio.

Getting featured on the iTunes New and Noteworthy podcast list is key for a show to gain listeners, downloads and recognition. One of the ways to assure not getting on the list is to deliver poor quality audio. Not only should the content of each episode be interesting and valuable to listeners, but the technical aspects of the podcast need to be top notch, as well.

“Learn how to edit,” Feld says. “A show that has at least some level of production value and that shows a respect for the listener will help you stand out in the crowd.”

Startup Camel, for example, features fun musical interludes throughout each episode.

The audio should be clear and videos should be well lit. Audio and video edits should be clean and professional.

To attract listeners, content should also be created and uploaded with search engine optimization in mind.

“Optimize your content for search engines, especially as it relates to the names of the people you interview,” Schulzke suggests. “This won't drive a lot of traffic in the short run but can be a huge part of your traffic in the long term.”

5. Attract sponsors.

Once the podcast gets rolling with active listeners and regular downloads, the next step for many podcasters is to monetize the show so it can grow. Corporate sponsorships can help fund the project, bring in more listeners and make owners a profit.

With a strong following, sponsors will be eager to partner with the show to spread the word about their products or services. Sponsorships typically require the host to talk about the sponsor’s product or service at the beginning, middle or end of the show. When choosing sponsors, pick those that resonate with listeners and appeal to their interests.

What podcast tips have you learned from the industry? Share them in the comments section below.

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