How serious are you about improving and growing your podcast?
In this miniseries, I'll explore the different labels used to describe podcasters.
The labels “amateur” and “skilled” do indicate quality. So while it's okay to stay in one group and own it with pride, I do encourage you to seek to move into the “skilled” group.
What are amateur podcasters?
The late Steve Jobs once referred to podcasts as “amateur hour” in one of his last Apple keynotes. But don't let the term “amateur” be demeaning. Instead, consider it a way to describe where you might be now, but not where you're staying.
1. Amateur podcasters accept where they are
They may not be content with where their podcasts are, but they often don't consider how they need to improve and grow themselves.
2. Amateur podcasters have vague or no goals
If an amateur podcaster has goals, they're often rather vague, such as growing or monetizing.
Vague goals look for vague successes.
For example, if an amateur podcaster says merely, “I want to grow my audience.” Then if they get even one more person listening, then they accomplished their goal. But did they really want only one additional listener?
Or if they say merely, “I want to monetize my podcast,” and they make 3¢. Then they monetized their podcast.
3. Amateur podcasters ask broad questions
I often see the same overly broad questions asked in online podcasting groups. For example, “How do I grow my podcast?” “What's the best microphone?” “Who is the best podcast host?”
4. Amateur podcasters say “good enough”
There are big differences between being resourceful under limitations and quitting when something seems “good enough.”
When something is “good enough,” it probably actually isn't.
5. Amateur podcasters want free options
Yes, there are many budget constraints on podcasters of all types. There's nothing wrong with using free options. But I think looking for only free options can indicate commitment levels.
For example, Anchor currently hosts almost half of all valid podcast feeds in Apple Podcasts, but more than half of those shows have 3 or fewer episodes. And there are more 1-episode shows on Anchor than the total number of shows any other podcast-hosting provider hosts. [Private data via My Podcast Reviews.]
The first time I revealed this data in “What New Data Suggests about Podcast-Hosting Customers” from December 2018, I suggested that the tool itself is not creating dead shows, but the extremely low barriers to entry (and with very little education) was probably making it easier for low-commitment people to start podcasts.
Does simply paying for something help you be more committed? Perhaps. Or maybe more-committed people are already willing to pay for stuff.
6. Amateur podcasters are jealous of others' success
Spotify has been making some big moves in the podcasting industry. They started getting disruptive with the recent announcement that The Joe Rogan Experience will soon become exclusive to Spotify—not simply be on Spotify, but be only on Spotify and nowhere else: not Apple Podcasts and not YouTube.
Amateur podcasters might be jealous of this, thinking they deserve some of that money or attention.
7. Amateur podcasters practice when it's convenient
Concert pianists don't become that by working on their art only when it's convenient. They practice over and over, often beyond physical comfort, let alone convenience.
You'll probably see that in almost any other field of art.
But you won't see amateurs among great artists.
8. Amateur podcasters want things to be easy
A lot of great things have been forfeited because getting them was “too hard.”
You make things easy, either by investing in better tools or investing in better skills.
What are skilled podcasters?
I think the pandemic of 2020 has revealed the true skills of many people. For example, look at many of the top broadcasters who suddenly seemed like amateurs when they had to broadcast from home.
But you can also look at the skilled broadcasters and see that they simply adapted and continued. For example, Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me and Ask Me Another are both recorded usually in front of a live audience, which brings great natural energy with it. But I've found those shows equally entertaining even recorded from the cohosts' homes. There are many other shows with similar skills.
It's okay if you consider yourself an amateur podcaster—we all were at some point. I only don't want you stay that way.
1. Skilled podcasters pursue personal growth
A skilled podcaster will often introspect before seeking external growth. They'll find ways to improve their planning, their communication skills, their tools and processes, and such.
2. Skilled podcasters have “SMART” goals
You might consider it cliché or overly used, but I still think the “SMART” goals approach is highly applicable and valuable.
Here's how I define “SMART”:
Listen to “How to set and achieve SMART goals for your podcast” for more information.
3. Skilled podcasters seek specific answers
Instead of asking broad questions like, “How do I grow my audience?” skilled podcasters will search for answers first (because skilled people often know how to find answers on their own). And when they do ask questions, they're usually specific.
For example, “My podcast gets 100 downloads per episode. I have an email list with 1,000 subscribers and a 25% average open rate. My podcast is about pet-grooming. If I have only $100 to spend, should I buy ads in Overcast, an industry website or publication, or sponsor another podcast in the pet industry? Or should I spend it somewhere else?”
4. Skilled podcasters say “what's next?”
Constant growth is a signature of skilled people. It's not a lack of contentment or even an obsession with outdoing themselves, but a motivation to always improve.
So whether it's finishing an episode, reaching a milestone, or accomplishing a goal, skilled podcasters will seek new innovations, milestones, and goals.
5. Skilled podcasters invest for results
Whether spending time, energy, or money, skilled podcasters will see it as an investment they hope will result in some kind of improvement. That could be directly measurable, like spending $100 to get 150 new subscribers. Or it could be more intangible, like upgrading your tools so things are easier, faster, better, or remove a frustration.
6. Skilled podcasters celebrate and learn from others
Back to news about The Joe Rogan Experience, I think skilled podcasters would be looking for what they can learn from Joe's success and how they can apply that in their own situation.
Applying lessons doesn't mean imitating (do we really need more “____ on Fire” entrepreneur-interview podcasts?), but it means adapting and interpolating for your uniquenesses. Sometimes, you might even decide to do the exact opposite and you could have even greater success!
7. Skilled podcasters train and practice diligently
Every great artist became great with diligent work. They practice, learn, or refine daily. They work hard. They push their limits.
8. Skilled podcasters want labor to be worth it
Cliff Ravenscraft now lives by an inspiring line he heard from one of his clients, “I don't want easy; I want ‘worth it.'”
You've probably heard this idea said in different ways, such as “If it's worth having, it's worth waiting/working for.”
The difference isn't in how much labor there is, but in why skilled podcasters are doing it.
For example, I once replaced the alternator in my car. I had never done that before. It wasn't easy and I didn't even have the right tools for it. But it was worth it to me because it mean spending only 25% of the money it would have cost for an auto shop to do it for me. And it actually took me less time, too!
If you've already launched your podcast and want to become a skilled podcaster, I think Podcasters' Society is the best place for you to improve and grow!
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