People often launch podcasts because they want to be behind the mic. It's understandable: it's an exciting medium, especially right now, when investors and advertisers are beginning to pour money in. Yet two many podcasts are started for reasons that revolve around the creator, not the audience. While it's important to be passionate about the medium, and you should never start a podcast if you're not excited about it, that alone is not enough.
When launching a podcast, it's important to view it from the audience's point of view. To do that, you'll need a firm grasp on who the audience is. So the first question to ask when launching a podcast is this:
1. What community does this podcast serve?
In asking this question, you're not only looking at who the audience for your podcast is, but also what unites that audience. Are they entrepreneurs? Aspiring comedians? Buffalo Bills fans? Yacht Rock enthusiasts?
In traditional media, we're accustomed to grouping audiences by characteristics like age, gender, race, or income levels. With podcasts, it's helpful to think in terms of psychographics more than demographics. An exercise that can help crystallize your vision of the audience is the creation of personas — hypothetical people that represent segments of your audience. Here's a tutorial to help you create personas.
Once you have a vision of the audience dialed in, it's time to ask the second question:
2. What value does this podcast offer that community?
What is your podcast bringing to the table? Is it educating its community members? Is it entertaining them? Is it providing companionship? A successful podcast gives something to the listener — ideally, something that they can't get anywhere else. If the value that your podcast provides is unique, the better the chances of your podcast's success.
It's important to consider whether or not a podcast is the best medium for the value you provide. Audio is an ideal medium for some things, but not others. Just like some jokes elicit laughs when they're told out loud but groans when they're written on paper, some ideas are better expressed through text or video. It's not enough to provide value; it's just as important to provide that value in a way that it can easily be received.
It's easy for podcasters to get ahead of themselves; to focus on the “what” before first asking, “Why?” Even if you've been podcasting for a while, it's always a good idea to step back and take a look at things through your audience's eyes.