If your podcast is rolling along smoothly, you may wonder how to gauge success. This is a matter of individual preference. You can aim high and set a goal of several thousand downloads per episode or set a more modest goal of a few hundred downloads. If your podcast is locally based, or focused on a specific community, your downloads may be fewer, but you could gain local recognition. The point is, just like everything else about podcasting, the podcaster makes the decisions, including what counts as "success."
One thing all podcasters want is more listeners. How do you gain audience members? The most important step is to make sure your podcast feed is listed at podcast aggregate sites, also known as podcast networks. These are Web sites that offer a list of podcasts, complete with information and a link to the RSS feed, for people who are interested in subscribing. Listing your podcast on multiple networks will increase the likelihood of someone finding out about you.
Another important way to publicize a podcast is to target the people most likely to be interested in it. If you have a podcast about poker, and you are a regular at a poker message board, you could include a link to your podcast in your forum signature. Often, small community sites sell banner ads at very reasonable rates. This can be a great way to expose your podcast to the target audience. Just don't spam people -- that's more likely to turn them against you than get them interested.
It is possible to profit from a podcast, but it isn't easy. For most podcasters, putting out a weekly or monthly show is a labor of love. There are a few ways to wring some cash out of your podcasting enterprise, however:
- Sell the podcast itself. You can set up a Web store to charge subscribers for each episode. However, a pay-per-listen podcast is competing with thousands of free podcasts. The content would have to be very compelling to convince very many people to shell out cash, so very few podcasts profit with this method.
- Sell advertising. The business model used by radio won't work, however. If you insert a commercial into your podcast, listeners can easily skip over the ad when playing back the show on their computers or MP3 players. One option is to get sponsorship for the podcast, or even separate segments of the podcast. Instead of "Edna's Scrapbooking Podcast," your show could be called "The Southtowns Craft Superstore Scrapbooking Podcast, with host Edna." Or each podcast could feature "The Southowns Craft Superstore Tip of the Week."
- Web advertising also drives profit for some podcasts. This requires extra effort, because once someone subscribes to a podcast, it is downloaded directly into their RSS reader. They might never see the website again. The key is to tie the podcast into a blog or Web site and mention it frequently during the show. This will drive click traffic to the site and hopefully create some advertising revenue.
- A select few podcasters are popular enough that large media companies pay them to produce podcasts. The Sirius Satellite Radio Network is one company that does this.
Next, we'll look at the equipment that you'll need to record podcasts.