Networking to 40K Listeners: A Podcast Success Story

We recently had a good talk with the host of one of one of the most popular independent podcasters in the religion and spirituality category. Despite being a successful podcaster, he insists on keeping a low profile. For privacy reasons, we shall give this podcaster the pseudonym “Joe.” 

Despite being in an extremely niche, controversial category, Joe was able to average at 40,000 podcast downloads in less than 2 years of podcasting experience. With minimal investment, Joe was able to grow his podcast audience organically, with no paid advertisements.

Back to the start: He's just like you!

Just like many of today’s podcasters, Joe started off on Anchor, a popular free podcast hosting service. Many of the existing spiritual podcast in his niche are very theoretical and academic in style. Joe had a vision of creating a spiritual podcast that touches on the more practical, gritty side of things.

The first few months of his podcast was tough. Joe describes it as “talking to a dark void.”

Networking: The turning point of his successful podcast

We asked Joe what the greatest turning point for his podcast success was. His response was: Active networking and collaborating with other podcasters.

Never underestimate the power of a cold mail, because that’s exactly what Joe did.

So how did he do that?

Joe approached multiple podcasters within his niche through the podcasting communities, email, social media, including quality podcasters he admired within this category and space. Eventually, Joe landed a larger podcaster who was willing to have him on his show and promote his growing podcast a bit. This was the beginning of Joe’s success in podcasting.

A year in Anchor...and then out

After 1 year with Anchor, Spotify acquired the podcast hosting platform and implemented their changes within the company. These changes, however, did not go unnoticed to many of the podcast creators. Joe was one of the creators who was affected by this change.  His podcast episodes getting flagged by the platform due to its controversial topics and content. 

Podcasting was Joe’s passion project; and getting flagged down just because his episodes contained sensitive topics (that were SFW btw) was a restriction on Joe’s creativity. Joe took this as a sign and his cue to leave the platform for another.

Was his success fully creditable to his switch of hosting platform? No, not entirely. Below, we’ll take a look at other things Joe did right:

1. A burning passion that burns realistically

Joe’s mindset was faaaar from wanting and waiting to earn money doing podcasts. In fact, he does not want to do podcasting full time, since he wishes to keep his professional career identity as well.

Podcasting is Joe’s passion project; he has a message to share. The spiritual content is something he loves and strongly believes in, so Joe obtains his podcasting rewards intrinsically. More than that, Joe set realistic hopes and expectations for his show’s growth. 

2. A niche within a niche + knowledge

He knows exactly what he’s talking about and what kind of podcast he wanted to produce. As a podcast listener inside the niche himself, he knows what type of podcasts are existing in the space; and he knows what else this space is missing. In short, he found the hole in the market.

With extensive research and due diligence, Joe was able to consistently produce quality, unique content for his niche. This means he’s catering to a niche within his niche and has a much stronger connection with his listeners. 

3. Consistent, frequent publishing (quantified)

Joe held a consistent, frequent publishing schedule. He promises at least 5 episodes per week, of varying lengths. After the 1 year or so on Anchor, Joe has already accumulated nearly 800 episodes for his podcast.

“I found that having a frequent posting schedule is actually helpful for your podcast. Once you skip for too long, that takes a hit on your show,” Joe stated. This is a highly conscious podcaster who’s largely aware of certain urgencies in content creation.

4. Constant, active networking

As we have covered above, Joe credits his podcast success to his landing a collaboration opportunity with a bigger podcaster. This is achieved through the constant, active networking with many other podcasters within the niche on various forums, social media, and listening platform. 

You’re bound to get ignored or receive a bunch of rejection letters. That’s okay. It’s all part of the process of sending out cold emails; but when you land the creator who’s willing to have you on their shows and somewhat do a cross-promotion with you, you’re going to gain tremendously.

“Sometimes, I feel like I’m leeching on them. When I get on their show, I get some of their listeners to come over,” Joe states. However, now that Joe has reached a mid-to-high level of independent podcasting, Joe can now help other smaller podcasters get on their feet and launch their podcasts as well.

5. Honest connection with audiences

“At first, it felt like talking to a dark void.” Audience feedback, interaction, and reactions are often coveted by creators, because of the sense of purpose, direction, and satisfaction they provide. However, rarely do podcasters receive any audience feedback at all when they first start out their podcast- Joe experienced the same!

As you grow your show, you’re going to start receiving feedback, comments, and reviews from your listeners: Both positive and negative things. Joe is currently at a point where he gets to enjoy a strong connection with his audiences, and it has become one of his favorite parts in podcasting.

But, how did Joe achieve this? Apart from knowing his niche inside out, Joe also maintained an honest connection with his listeners. For instance, on days when Joe experienced burnout or creative block, he would honestly communicate this to his audience, fostering a pleasant, peaceful connection with listeners.

6. Letting go of non-value adding activities

Knowing when to let go is possibly one of the most important skills to have. As easy as it sounds, it really isn’t. Anchor was no longer providing as much value as it used to for Joe, and he knew it was time to let go of the platform.

Joe eventually transferred to a better platform that supported free speech, provided better tools, and quick technical support. Even with the loss of app compatibility, Joe is currently very happy with his new podcast hosting platform. 

This seemingly small change brought huge impact for Joe, and he was able to peacefully produce content for his passion project. 

14 Podcast marketing and promotion tips

Apart from networking and proper due diligence, you can further expedite your show growth by promoting and marketing your podcast.

We’ve put together 14 podcast marketing and promotion tips that have been tried and tested by podcasters. 

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If you’re looking for a solid team that can support you on your podcasting journey, Firstory is a partner you can rely on. Contact our team for any questions or to learn how you can get started fast!