Podcasts could learn something from OKCupid

After ten years of working in radio and podcasts there are two things that come up when podcasters and radio producers gather. The first question is almost always — where is the open bar? Then, once a drink is secured I usually hear one of these two questions:

  • How do I make more money with my podcast or show?
  • How do I get more podcast listeners and grow my audience?

I sip my own drink and usually say improve your craft. There is no shortcut to growing your audience. Quality trumps short term tricks, but better packaging and marketing will encourage someone to give your show a try. Your show has to provide ongoing value to convert a new listener into a fan.

Take time and read the articles and features at Transom.org. There are hundreds of interviews, tutorials and reviews from some of the best producers in the business. You’ll find articles covering the basics, story structure and getting good quality tape for a remote interview. I know spending time with Transom will make you a better podcaster. Do it.

So how does online dating relate to growing a podcast audience and making more money? I think both rely on a killer profile and stellar first impression. I can’t help you get a date on OKCupid or Tinder but read on if you want to reach a new audience.

Make a great first impression

There are 250,000+ podcasts vying for listener attention. The first 3 seconds of your episode are the audio equivalent of swiping through selfies on OKCupid and Tinder. When we listen we make a snap judgement and decide in seconds if something is worth our time and attention. Is the sound pleasing? Too loud, too soft? Are the voices enjoyable? Is the production quality good? Is the content relevant?

Imagine a friend sends you this text “I know you love Sarah Michelle Gellar, you have to check this out!” You do love SMG, are interested, and click the link to play the episode. Give it a try.


What do you think? I love How Did This Get Made it’s a hilarious show with talented hosts, but would you sit through the first 2 minutes of this episode? I doubt it, maybe if I begged you to. It’s a funny show, you just need to sit through the first few minutes of each episode before it gets good. Now compare that HDTGM episode experience to this Surprisingly Awesome episode…

Which episode is more likely to hook a listener and keep their interest? To grow audience podcasts must work to attract the 80% of the population that aren’t monthly listeners. Converting that new audience means we must focus on the first experience people have with podcasts and right now it isn’t great. Podcasts compete with 6 second Vines, an 8 second Snapchat or a 15 second Music.ly and those apps nail the first experience.

Podcasts need to spend time thinking about what the first 0–15 seconds for first time listeners is like so we can get people swiping right not left. When the first two minutes of an episode is filled with ads, host banter or terrible intro music it isn’t inviting someone to listen. Podcasts are intimate and the format allows people to talk for hours about topics that listeners love. Once you are hooked it can feel like you are part of a conversation with a friend. We need to hook more listeners.

Dynamic podcast publishing and ad insertion solutions like Dovetail from PRX give podcasters a powerful toolkit to tailor the experience for each individual listener. With Dovetail ads can be inserted, removed and changed per episode and download. Publishing flexibility combined with apps that can interact with those systems will result in better experiences for first time listeners.

We make it possible to flirt with listeners

At RadioPublic we are committed to operating a platform that fairly values creators’ work, respects users’ privacy and information rights, and benefits all. We help listeners discover, engage with, and reward creators of stories, podcasts, and other audio. We bring listeners and creators closer together while keeping podcasts open and decentralized and free of gatekeepers.

We’re working on ways for you to flirt with a potential audience, giving listeners a great experience and you the ability to create a long term, meaningful relationship with listeners.

If you a podcaster and want to flirt with an audience please get in touch. I can be reached at matt@radiopublic.com.

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