Sometimes, you need a break from podcasting, whether planned or unexpected. Here are some tips for handling this with the least negative affect on your viewers or listeners.
Podcasts generally attract an American audience, but that's not exclusive. When a major holiday is approaching, consider announcing that you'll take a week off.
- Subscribers will often take trips and won't be able to download your episode, let alone listen while they're vacationing.
- When subscribers return, they are often behind in their podcast consumption and may skip old episodes.
- Some podcast programs will only download the latest episode, so subscribers may not receive anything but your latest episode when they return.
- Even if your audience doesn't take a break, too. They may need the time to catch up on your podcast or someone else's.
Also don't assume that your audience knows the holiday you're talking about. Independence Day, Memorial Day, Labor Day, and Thanksgiving are very American holidays. Other counties may have similar holidays, but probably not on the same dates. So explain the holiday so your international listeners will understand.
Life sometimes prevents us from podcasting. (Side note: life is always more important than your podcast.) If you usually publish on a consistent schedule (at least a particular day of the week), then you have four choices.
Podcast a previously-recorded, timeless fallback
Record an episode that you can have on hand to publish at any time. This kind of episode is best to be “timeless” and not tie to any specific event. But it will sound like fresh content to your audience.
Podcast an announcement
Release a short announcement to let your subscribers know that there won't be an episode that week (or however long the break is). Once you come back from your break, you can delete this old episode.
- This could be a standard and reusable message. For example, “We're unable to release an episode this week. Please check back next week.”
- Record something specific for that week. For example, “My cat vomited on my podcast gear, so we can't release an episode until we get this replaced. We hope this will be only a week or two.”
The most important thing is to let your audience know that there won't be an episode until whenever you return.
Rehash old content
If you have a lot of episodes, it's likely that your audience has forgotten the old content or not heard it at all. You could repost an entire old episode (we hope it's timeless), or post a “best of” selection of excerpts.
Do nothing and leave your subscribers wondering
Doesn't it bother you when you invite someone and they say they'll be there, but they never show up? It's even worse when they don't tell you that they won't be there.
Your podcast audience won't be quite so attached. But leaving them wondering where your episode is can cause unnecessary confusion and inconvenience (I've heard subscribers tell me they tried all kinds of things to “fix” their iTunes, but it wouldn't download the episode that I didn't release).
Many podcasts will take (usually) planned hiatuses.
- A TV-show podcast may not have episodes to talk about.
- Your podcast may be a miniseries and takes breaks between each season.
- The podcast could even be tied to a particular season due to whether or current events. For example, a gardening podcast or a podcast leading up to an annual event (though off-season content would still be great).
When you plan to have these breaks, make sure your audience knows ahead of time. You may even want to post something on your website to say, “Returning on [date].”
Sometimes, life really gets in the way and we can get in the habit of not podcasting. This is considered “podfading.” It's different from a limited release because podfading is never planned. It's like a pet you never feed that eventually dies from starvation.
You will not lose your entire audience if you podfade, but you may lose a portion if you don't let your audience know what's going on.
Even if you've decided to stop podcasting, give your listeners the courtesy of telling them with a short episode. Don't leave them hanging and wondering.
On the opposite side of this is when you post episode too frequently. Publishing episodes more often has great benefits to growing your audience by creating more great content.
But there's also a downside if you don't do it well or your audience doesn't expect a lot of episodes.
The default setting in many podcast programs (including iTunes) is to download only the latest episode from a single podcast. If you post your episodes too close to each other, then your subscribers may get only the latest one and not other recent episode before that. So your audience may not hear the full message unless you tell them to go back and get the previous episode. This inconveniences your audience.
The most common reason for doing this is to keep episodes shorter. But this hurts listenability because your message is split, and your shownotes will be, too. I've made this mistake and it was a pain to point people to two places to hear the full conversation.
If the content is good, your audience will probably be fine with a longer episode.
But there are good cases for splitting content:
- when you have want to give your audience the opportunity to comment or respond before your next episode,
- when your content is best segmented for better relevance (like my previous “podcasting and the law” series), or
- when you have a lot of content to spread across a lot of time.
Upcoming: relevant, out-of-the-box podcast ideas
I would like a future podcast episode to share out-of-the-box thinking for the kinds of podcasts that could go along with your passions and expertise, but may not be so obvious. For example:
- a divorce lawyer podcasts about how to protect your marriage from divorce, or
- a web designer (me) podcasts about how to podcast and have a great website.
Send your suggestions (even if they're fictional!), podcasts you know of, or your own experience!
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- ONCE: Once Upon a Time podcast
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