Dave Jackson is a podcast consultant who helps people plan, launch, grow, and monetize their podcasts. He began podcasting in 2005 and launched the School of Podcasting, which has more than 2.7 million downloads. He’s the author of the book Profit From Your Podcast and is a featured speaker at events. In 2016, Dave joined Libsyn, which is one of the largest podcast hosting companies.
In today’s episode, we’re going to discuss Dave’s journey to podcasting and three of his key strategies to hosting a successful podcast.
Dave’s Journey to Podcasting
Dave began his journey as a teacher and taught in the corporate world for about 20 years. “The great thing about being a teacher is you get to help people all the time,” Dave said.
While he loved teaching, he wanted to find a new way to help people beyond the corporate world. A friend told him about podcasting, so he googled it to find one and a half pages of results. Podcasts weren’t big at the time, but as he continued to do his research, he realized the shift towards podcasts was going to be a tectonic shift in the future.
Dave went back to school to get his degree and started a podcast, while also working other side jobs to help support himself until he could build a big-enough audience to make money with his podcast. What really got him hooked on the idea was his first voicemail from an audience member. Someone from Germany reached out to him to let him know how inspired he was from his podcast. That’s when Dave realized he could teach through podcasts and help people from around the world.
“I got to help people, and I [thought it was] the best thing ever,” Dave said. “That’s when I decided I was going to launch the School of Podcasting. I just knew if I waited long enough, it would catch up.”
Since then, podcasting has grown exponentially with more than two million active podcasts and more than 48 million episodes as of April 2021 (Source: Podcast Insights).
In 2016, Dave joined Libsyn where he helps customers with questions about building their own podcast. He’d been a customer for Libsyn for 10 years when he gave them a call. He told them he had bad news and good news. He was out of a job, but it meant he was available to work for them. He also told them about his podcast, School of Podcasting.
His podcast wasn’t just a way for him to make a profit or to help his listeners. It also helped him get a job. He has been hired three times because of his podcast. His podcast gave him an opportunity to show people he knew what he was talking about. “Our podcast isn’t, in many cases, our business, it’s our business card. It’s what allows people to get to know you without making a giant commercial,” Dave said.
While Dave works at Libsyn, he continues to host his own podcast at the same time. With years of experience in the podcasting world, he has learned many lessons and key strategies we should implement in our own podcast. Here are three of them.
Focus on a Specific Niche
The biggest mistake Dave sees podcasters make is trying to be everything for everyone. People often want to start a podcast with a very vague goal in mind. For example, someone may start a podcast with the idea to interview people with interesting stories. But what are those interesting stories? What is going to make someone want to listen to us over others?
If we don’t bring in an audience, we don’t have a podcast. Generic and wide-ranging goals don’t work 99% of the time. If we want to host a successful podcast, we need to focus on a specific niche audience.
Dave said that people often come to him with a goal to get sponsored, but sponsorships only happen if we have a large audience and can get massive downloads. And we only get massive downloads, if we are speaking to a specific group. We want to appeal to the needs and wants of a target audience. If we aim to meet the needs of everyone, we will end up meeting the needs of no one.
Even if we host a great podcast with a specific audience in mind, it can still be really difficult to get enough downloads to actually make money off a sponsorship. Instead, Dave recommends going even further and directing our podcast to an ever-smaller audience. “You don’t have to have a ton of listeners if you have a hyper-niche show,” Dave said.
If we have a very direct, niche audience, we can get sponsored by other companies who have a similar audience to us. They will choose to sponsor us over others because we have such a specific audience that their product or service will resonate with.
For example, Dave had a client who ran a podcast called Special Mouse, a guide to the Disney Parks for guests with health issues and special needs. She didn’t even have a thousand downloads in an episode, and yet she got a sponsor. Why? Because there was somebody in Florida that specialized in transporting people with special needs. The sponsor knew Special Mouse would reach their audience because it was such a hyper-niche.
In our podcasts, we should get personal.
Dave explained that one of the biggest business tectonic shifts that have happened over the last decade is the shift towards podcasts. Podcasts have become easier and easier to create. Technology exists that allows anyone to create a podcast. This is both good and bad. While podcasting has gotten easier, it also means the number of podcasts out there has increased. We can find a podcast on just about anything so why is someone going to choose to listen to our podcast over the millions of others out there?
“Why are you doing this? How are you going to be different [from] the other people you know?” Dave asked. “You have to have [something] that’s going to set you apart, that is going to make a difference. You have to share a little bit about yourself if you really want people to connect with you.”
This doesn’t mean we have to reveal our darkest secrets or tell our audience everything that goes on in our days. It means we have to show our personality. We have to show what makes us unique. Sometimes this means sharing our hobbies or a funny story that happened during our day, but it has to be something that relates to the topic of our episodes.
“If you can share stories about your life that help accentuates whatever point you’re trying to make, you do two things: you make your point, and you allow your audience to get to know you. You start to build that relationship,” Dave said.
Talk to One Person
We should talk to one person when we talk on a podcast. This means referencing our listeners as “you” instead of referencing a group of people as if we are speaking at a live event.
Most people don’t listen to podcasts with others. It’s often an independent activity. They don’t sit down with a group of friends on a couch to listen to an audio-only file while staring at the wall. They listen to podcasts while they’re driving, cleaning, or they slip in headphones and listen to a podcast while they are at the gym.
64% of podcast listeners listen to podcasts while on the road (Source: Semrush Blog) and 76% of Americans drive to work alone every day (Source: Brookings.edu). 59% of people listen to podcasts while doing housework or chores, and 87% of podcast listeners said podcasts are enjoyable because they can listen to them while doing other things (Source: Semrush Blog). This means, when someone is listening to our podcasts, they are often alone. Our podcast episodes can feel a lot more personal because of this as it will feel like we are talking directly to the listener.
“When you do a solo show, number one, do not follow the advice of a YouTuber and start off with ‘Hey guys,’” Dave said. Instead, we should talk to the listener as if it is a one-on-one conversation with them. At the end of the podcast, we can thank them for listening, not “thanks, everyone.”
“I have people tell me all the time, ‘I always kind of feel like you’re talking to me’ and I would say, ‘It’s because I am,’” Dave said. Podcasts are a great way to connect with our listeners since it is such an independent activity. We can take advantage of this personal “conversation” and make sure we talk to them specifically, not a general group of people.
Thank you so much Dave for sharing your stories and insights with us today. Here are some of my key takeaways from this episode:
1. Our podcast isn’t just our business, it can also be our business card.
2. If we want to host a successful podcast, we need to focus on a specific niche audience. We don’t have to have thousands of listeners to be successful if we can really narrow down our target audience and serve them well.
3. In our podcasts, we should get personal. There are millions of podcasts out there so we need to find what makes us unique and share it so our listeners will choose us.
4. We can share stories about our life to help get our point across and allow our audience to get to know us and connect with us.
5. We should talk to one person when we talk on a podcast. This means referencing our listeners as “you” instead of referencing a group of people.
Connect with Dave
If you want to learn more about or connect with Dave, you can:
-Find him on LinkedIn
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