Using Email to Build a Viable (Fiction) Podcast Business, Part Three.

Creating value across channels

As podcasters, it is easy to view our audio feeds as the single most important tool for communicating with our fans and listeners. After all, we are podcasters and podcasts are one of the most intimate forms of entertainment on the planet.

But our feed is not always our most effective communications tool.

  • Can we segment our podcast to reach our most engaged listeners in the feed? No.
  • Can we build profiles of what content our individual listeners are most interested in? No.
  • Can we reach our most engaged listeners with a clear call to action they can easily find and respond to when they are at their desks? Nope again.

Email can do all of these things, which is why it is such a critical tool in the arsenal of successful full-time podcasters.

What content to share via email?

I’ve covered this earlier in this series, but this is the question that every podcaster keeps coming back to. Creating content for yet another channel can seem daunting to the point of overwhelm.

What content do I need to create? And how much time will that take?

The answer, as in most things, is “it depends.” Every audience is different. And while I can’t give you the answer, I can give you an approach that will help you find the answers that will grow your podcast business.

Our success is determined by how well we create value for our listeners in every channel.

Email is just another channel for creating value. And just like the journey to find what worked in our podcasts, the same will be true for every new channel. Email brings new opportunities to learn what our listeners will find of value in this medium.

How to know what listeners find of value in email?

I have a rant, stolen from Steve Pratt, about what to measure. I don’t care if we are talking about podcast stats, email, or social, there is only one thing that matters and it’s not impressions, downloads or opens — it’s engagement.

Engagement is what tells you that content is working.

For email, I am paying attention to what content is of interest and to whom by tracking who clicks on what type of content and how frequently they do so.

And I also pay very close attention to many replies I get — people actually hitting reply in their email client and writing me a note. When this happens, I know I’ve hit something out of the park.

So what content does work?

I can say that just updating fans on new episode releases is not enough. There’s nothing wrong with posting an episode announcement, but the value quotient is pretty low. This information already exists in their podcast app of choice.

It’s no surprise that a common next instinct is to share more of the content that goes into our podcasts. It could be behind the scenes content or stuff that just didn’t make the final show. And this can be great, but sometimes it isn’t as well received in a new medium as we expected it to be.

Our listeners define what is of value, not us.

I create fiction shows. I don’t have interviews to share or too much audio that ends up on the cutting room floor. I can’t release the “uncut” or “extended” versions of our shows as they would be unlistenable. Instead, I had to really think about what content might our listeners be excited to receive.

Do we post scripts? Do we have to write new fiction stories? Do we share a log of our production status and process? Do we do audio breakdowns of episodes?

So we experimented. Some were instant successes such as the audio breakdowns and others, not so much. Our idea to write a short story anthology series was a ton of work and quickly proved it was not of interest to all but one or two people. So we doubled down on what was working, stopped what wasn’t, and continued to experiment.

One of the most successful things I tried was to share my mental health journey. It remains one of the cornerstone of our email newsletter to this day, much to my surprise when I wrote the first short update.

Here are some examples of the types of things you can explore, and this is just the beginning.

  • Create something to delight your fans with automation! See earlier in this series for more on this.
  • Share something personal, not about the show, but about YOU. People want to support creators more than they want to support shows.
  • Behind the scenes photos and videos from creating a new season.
  • Shows and content produced by other people that you actually enjoy and listen to. You are already a tastemaker your listeners trust and you can use that to help them find other shows and things they will also love.
  • EXPERIMENT! Have a crazy idea? Try it and measure engagement to see if it resonates.

How to build your list?

I have to start with what may seem like a ridiculously simple statement.

Make it super easy for your most engaged fans to join your newsletter.

The most common mistake is that no-one knows about the newsletter.

  • Can people find where to sign up for your newsletter on your website?
  • Does your newsletter have a link to a web version that can be shared via social?
  • Does your newsletter provider have a forward to a friend feature that you can enable?
  • Do you have a link to your newsletter in your show notes?
  • Have you mentioned you have a newsletter on your show (as audio in your podcast)?
  • When promoting your newsletter, are you actually excited about the content they will find there? Are you selling the benefits of subscribing?
  • Do you share your newsletter in social?

Get the word out and make sure to sell the BENEFITS of signing up for the newsletter. There has to be something exciting. It can’t just be updates on new releases and a few random photos of your cast and crew recording.

Setting Goals for you List

The 30-year-old version of myself, steeped in the world of digital strategy, would have been adamant that that we start with strategic goals. We would build charts, get data on our audience and then build the epic plan for email domination.

But the 50-year-old creator and realist in me now recognizes that every new channel is a journey and exploration is needed.

No one, no matter what their literature espouses, can give any of us the perfect road map to copy and paste our way to success. The path to a healthy future podcast business requires that we experiment with new ways to bring value to our listeners, supporters and fans.

And sometimes, this requires an external spark. For me, that spark was meeting Chris Vasquez from AWeber at a conference in 2019.

My podcast business would not be where it is today if I hadn’t met Chris. His passion and excitement for using email to promote podcast growth led to us jamming on a few crazy ideas that today form the cornerstone of our email program.

If you don’t yet have an email provider, I always recommend checking out AWeber and their free plan as a great place to start.

Disclaimer: AWeber is a partner and sponsor of the Fable and Folly Network, but they did not have any input into this article series.

Sean is the co-founder of Fable and Folly and a co-creator of Alba Salix, Royal Physician and Civilized. He can be reached via Twitter or email.

Sean is a brand marketer, podcaster and co-founder of Fable and Folly. https://fableandfolly.com/