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Should you start a podcast in 2020?

It seems like everyone (and their grandma) started a podcast this year. And for a good reason. This year, 64% of Americans listened to at least one podcast.

They keep you entertained on long flights and daily commutes and offer a real reason to keep your headphones in so strangers on the train don’t talk to you.

As a creator, they’re a fun outlet for talking about big ideas and bringing extra attention to overlooked details. They’re also a reliable marketing tool and a proven way to further engage your audience and find a voice in your industry.

Ok, story time.

About a year ago, I decided to start a podcast with two friends. We were so sure that our idea was nothing short of genius. We made a logo, created an outline and a script and recorded and published three episodes before it all fell apart.

Our podcasting attempt failed for a number of reasons. We were unclear who was talking to. We couldn’t fully align on a shared vision. And lastly, our vision of success was far beyond our commitment to actually execute consistently. We saw a podcast as a tool promote our own projects and failed to identify how we could make an impact. The project became less about adding value and more about hacking business growth.

I can break it down into the three mistakes we made:

  • Overthinking small details instead of executing
  • Having a muddied vision of our goal
  • Not committing to show up consistently
  • Now knowing who our audience was

We didn’t have an established audience and were attempting to enter an already saturated niche full of content from people who had communities who supported them. No audience + unclear vision and messaging + not being fully committed to the project = a recipe for failure.

If you don’t have an established audience or loyal community who will follow you to a new platform, and the content you plan to create is in a very saturated niche, you’re going to need a bit of patience while you find your voice and your audience.

Some podcasters have the opportunity to work with production companies, in which case they handle promotion and driving traffic, but most who take the self-publishing route may struggle with finding an audience early on.

From a business and personal standpoint, podcasting is fun, casual and makes you more marketable. Podcasting builds trust with listeners. It lets you talk to a lot of people at once in a casual environment, during their downtime.

You can get your message across virtually uninterrupted, and there are a limited number of ways people can interact with you, making it not very troll friendly.

It also has a pretty low barrier of entry. You don’t need fancy mics or recording equipment to start a podcast. All you need to start is a voice and something to say. And maybe some headphones and a computer.

They’re great for storytelling in any capacity and you can follow a ton of different formats. You can partner with people like I did, or you can go solo and narrate your own stories. Whether you’re flying solo, with a team, or interviewing others, remember to keep the listener in mind and always add value

So should you or shouldn’t you start a podcast?

I’ll break it down further.

You should start a podcast if…

  • You have something valuable to say.
  • You have an engaged audience that wants to hear more.
  • You have a fierce passionate about the topic on which you’re speaking.

Don’t start a podcast if…

  • If you want to become famous and make a lot of money immediately.
  • You want to be trendy.
  • You don’t care about what your message and want to market a business.
  • You don’t have the time to show up consistently.

Remember; It’s not easy to fake enthusiasm on a podcast, and there’s so much good content out there that listeners can smell BS a mile away.

Ultimately, if you want to start a podcast and feel passionate about it, then do it. Record a few episodes and see what the response is. Maybe don’t purchase any expensive recording equipment until you’ve validated that people will listen to it. And even if people don’t show up at first (which they probably won’t), that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep going if you’re passionate about your message.

If podcasting isn’t the right move for you, don’t worry. There are so many other ways to engage an audience and build thought-leadership.