When and How to Change Your Podcast Format

Just about any podcaster out there from a big name to a small hobbyist has probably thought about changing the format of their show from time to time. There are many good reasons to do this ranging from revitalizing stale content to rebuilding an audience.

Whether you’re motivated by ad sales or simply spreading the word about your subject of choice, making a few seemingly minor changes to your podcast can have a dramatic impact on how your audience connects with your content. For example, adding a regular segment or doing a giveaway can draw a very different demographic to your show and encourage engagement.

With every positive, there is the potential of a negative. Your audience exists because something you do (or did) appealed to them enough to come back. It’s important to properly identify what works, what doesn’t, and what has the potential to bring your show to the next level.

When Change is a Good Thing

Sometimes, things just don’t work out the way you would like them to. You’ve poured your heart and soul into your show only to have it met with limited audience growth. This is a setback that too many podcasters face today with so much content being created around the world. Every minute, more video is uploaded to sites like YouTube and Blip.tv than anyone could possibly want to watch. If over 40 hours is uploaded to YouTube alone in 60 seconds, imagine how long it would wake someone to sort through all those videos for something interesting. The fact of the matter: you’ve really got to work hard to set your content apart from everything else.

Here at LockerGnome, we recently started changing the way we think about our YouTube content. Chris Pirillo, a former television host himself, has started presenting content straight from the pages of LockerGnome in a more organized and expedient fashion. The result is a dramatically different show that is both quick in form and rich in content. In addition, the daily program doesn’t overwhelm the audience with a constant stream of videos where one focused package can accomplish the same thing.

In general, podcasting is about creating a show that is capable of paying for itself. Whether you’re attempting to monetize your content with advertising, or building a brand through reputation and audience influence, cleaning up your show and organizing your content in a way that makes facilitating advertising and plugs easier can pay off over time.

The problem with podcasting is that audience growth flatlines unless some catalyst for growth is in play. For example, your show may be competing with dozens (or even hundreds) in the same niche. By making a few tweaks to your current format, you can revitalize and renew your content enough to convince an otherwise reluctant audience to take a look at what you have to offer.

When Change is a Bad Thing

Be careful, though. A dramatic change can alienate your existing audience. While one small adjustment can gain you a certain amount of new viewers, it can also serve as a double-edged sword that turns away your existing core following. It’s important to test the waters, but to remain consistent once a change has occurred. It’s always better to add than subtract from what you’re doing. While adding a new segment may disrupt you audience, taking one way can do so even more.

For example, if a segment that highlights viewer comments is added to your existing show, you should keep doing it unless an overwhelming majority of your audience speaks out against it. At that point, phase it out gradually and let the members of your audience know that you’re listening to their feedback. Nine times out of 10, they will ask you to bring back things you used to do rather than balk at something new for more than a few episodes.

If your show is starting to feel stale, and your audience has stopped growing, you may want to consider revitalizing and/or rebranding your show to capture a different and more active community. Don’t, under any circumstances, make any significant changes more than once or twice a year. Even if you have a daily show, a lack of consistency can alienate your existing community and drive it away.

How to Determine What Changes to Make

When and How to Change Your Podcast FormatSit down with the people you work with and make an organized plan of action. It’s important to compile a list of what works, what doesn’t, and what gives you a better potential for success. It’s important that whatever you do, everyone on your team knows why and how things are going to be done. This will enable them to adjust their work habits around getting your show released just right from the first episode to the last.

You might even want to poll your audience. Throw out a tester in addition to or alongside your regular content and actively participate in your community’s conversation. Use this information to determine whether or not you’re making the right long-term choices. After all, your audience is your best source of feedback. Keep in mind that the complainers will always be the loudest and first to speak up when they see something different. Don’t worry so much about them as being members of your community who contribute constructively on a regular basis.

Small Changes That Can Make a Big Difference

Even if you aren’t considering giving your show major overhaul, you might want to keep some smaller changes in mind to encourage engagement and draw some extra eyes (or ears) to your content.

For example, adding a viewer of the day/week/month feature can encourage your community to come out of hiding and join the discussion. This adds to your overall traffic and ranking in addition to giving those viewers a reason to come back for more. Giveaways are another great way to encourage people to hit the subscribe button.

You can find a few more suggestions for smaller changes that can make a big difference for your show in previous posts covering ways to connect with your audience and attract advertisers.

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