Build a Podcast That Lasts

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I look at the microphone. Guilt rises in my chest. I turn away.

For the past four weeks, I’ve intended to sit down and record the next episode of my podcast, Content Conversations, but I just can’t seem to do it. I make excuses and prioritize other tasks while the microphone languishes, gathering dust on the edge of my desk.

At the end of the fourth week, I stage an intervention and reach out to journalist Michelle Gately, who runs a small business podcasting academy.

Michelle is a podcasting pro. since 2017, she’s launched three podcasts, recorded more than 100 episodes, and helped many small business owners record their own audio content. She’s positive, passionate, and experienced; surely she could help me out of my rut?

Here are a few of the key lessons I took away from our conversation.

Fall in Love with the Medium

One of the red threads that ran through the conversation is Michelle’s passion for podcasting. Her every comment is filled with enthusiasm for the medium.

Her first – and longest-running – podcast, Better Words, is driven by her love of young adult literature; she wants to share the work of talented Australian authors with an audience of book lovers.

The idea for Predator, her true-crime podcast, on the other hand, came about while working as a journalist for a regional newspaper.

“The case happened in my home town when I was five. My mind kept coming back to it,” she says. “My editor had reported on the case back in the day, and I knew some of the police officers involved. Eventually, I realized that I had to share the story.”

She explains that this drive propelled her to learn more about scriptwriting and editing while researching the case – initially outside her regular duties – because she was interested in the case.

“I love podcasting,” she says. “I launched my third podcast, Content Etc., for my business because I know it’s a format that connects with my audience.”

The Takeaway: If you genuinely love the format and your subject, you’ll find it easier to keep going. If you’re just podcasting because everyone else is, you’ll never stick to it.

Mix Things Up

If you’re feeling stuck, it may be time to make some changes to your format or process.

“Maybe you’ve recorded some solo podcasts, and you didn’t enjoy the process. Try switching to interviews or bringing a co-host on-board to see if that helps,” she says.

Michelle herself has covered a broad range of formats. Better Words is co-hosted alongside her friend Caitlin Toohey and sees them interviewing authors about their work. Meanwhile, Predator was a structured investigative journalism piece, while the third, Content Etc., is a scripted solo podcast.

“They’re all very different. Although I enjoyed producing Predator and I’m incredibly proud of the project, I don’t think I’ll do something like that again in a hurry. It required a lot of editing and I got sick of hearing my own voice. I know every episode word for word!”

The Takeaway: Conduct experiments to see if you can reignite your enthusiasm.

Be Kind to Yourself

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, that can have a significant impact on your creative output.

“We all have so much going on in our lives, from writing blog posts to updating Instagram – and that’s without things like running our businesses, caring for our children, and having social lives. You might need to make life easier for yourself.”

For example, when the Better Words podcast began, she and Caitlin had committed to recording one podcast a week. That became untenable in 2020, and Michelle decided to streamline earlier this year.

“There’s a lot of scheduling involved with that podcast,” she explains. “To make sure the show is topical, we research upcoming book launches, contact publicists for advance copies, read each book, and then arrange a time to interview the author.”

And that’s on top of other admin tasks, such as promoting the podcast on social media and managing the show’s website.

“We recently took several steps to make that process easier,” she explains. “We shut the WordPress website, for one thing. We moved the podcast to a host that builds a webpage with minimal input. It was a job we didn’t need to do.

“We’ve also moved towards recording seasons rather than weekly shows. Now we might record once a fortnight – or less. When we have six shows in the bank, we’ll start releasing them while we record the rest of the season. It takes some of the pressure off.”

And if you’re worried about what your audience will think: Don’t.

“It might feel like a big change to you, but your audience is unlikely to notice. We’ve not had a single complaint since reducing the frequency of the Better Words podcast.”

The Takeaway: Don’t beat yourself up. Reduce the frequency or take a break if you need to. It’s better than sharing weak content.

Simple Steps to Improving your Audio

“One of the biggest mistakes we made when starting Better Words was buying microphones before we’d decided on the format of the show, Michelle says. “If you’re interviewing people online, you don’t need to invest in a set of studio mics.”

She explains that she and Caitlin now have a microphone each, and they record from home, with a blanket over their desks to soften any echoes. They have also stopped recording conversations over Skype and started using a platform called SquadCast (affiliate link).

“I don’t think our audio quality has ever been better – and it’s much simpler than before,” Michelle says. “We don’t need to ask our guests to record audio at their end – the app records input from all participants as separate tracks and combines them. Not only does it mean the sound quality is better, but if my internet connection drops out for a moment, it carries on recording, so there’s less glitching. It also streams directly to the cloud, so I’m no longer worried about losing the recording.”

The Takeaway: Simple adjustments to how you record your podcast can make significant differences to sound quality, so don’t get hung up on fancy equipment.

Remember: You’ve Got This

“If you hear that another podcast in your niche is getting 10,000 downloads a month, you might be struck by imposter syndrome,” Michelle says. “Try to ignore it. Download figures are a bit of a vanity metric, much like your Instagram follower figures.

“I always ask business owners why they’re recording their podcasts. Is it to raise brand awareness, to generate engagement or to increase mailing list sign-ups? Those are the stats you should be looking at. If you have 10,000 downloads but no one signs up to your mailing list, you’re not achieving your goals.

“Instead, look at your objectives and measure your performance against those. If your ambition is to get 20 email sign-ups and you got 30 this month, you’re achieving what you set out to do. It stops you from measuring your success against other people’s.”

The Takeaway: Identify achievable goals to help you stay focused and stave off imposter syndrome.

When I ended the call, I picked up my pen and start rewriting my plan for season two of Content Conversations. I’m finally ready to return to my microphone.

Lucy Mowatt

Lucy Mowatt is the founder of Method Marketing, a content marketing consultancy in the UK. She has worked with a wide range of brands, from travel and leisure companies to insurance brokers and legal firms. She is also a lifestyle blogger and social media influencer, creating digital content about the best things to do in her local area.

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