A Comprehensive Guide on Podcast Growth Strategy

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It is predicted that there will be 504 million podcast listeners worldwide in 2024. The podcasting landscape is rapidly evolving, and with it, the strategies for achieving sustainable growth are becoming increasingly sophisticated. 

Podcasting is a unique medium that offers an intimate and engaging way to connect with listeners. Unlike other forms of media, podcasts create a sense of personal connection and trust. However, achieving this level of connection requires a thoughtful and strategic approach to podcast creation and growth.

In the world of podcasting, one-size-fits-all solutions rarely work. Each podcast is distinct, with its own target audience, content style, and growth challenges. That’s why generic tactics often fail to address the specific needs of different podcasts, leading to suboptimal results. 

A comprehensive and customized strategy is essential for sustainable growth. This involves understanding your audience, creating high-quality content, and leveraging various growth tactics that align with your podcast’s unique goals and audience preferences.

Throughout this guide, we will explore various aspects of podcast growth. By taking a holistic approach, you can ensure that your podcast not only attracts new listeners but also retains and engages them over the long term.

Why Are Podcasts So Unique?

The podcast is a unique medium because it creates an intimate and recurring interaction with listeners, similar to ongoing conversations with a best friend. This personal and engaging nature of podcasts distinguishes them from the more impersonal, transactional feel of blogs or the routine, scheduled nature of newsletters.

However, this personal connection demands a higher level of thoughtfulness and authenticity from podcasters. Because listeners often develop a strong parasocial relationship with their favorite podcast hosts, the content needs to resonate on a deeper, more personal level. This requires podcasters to carefully consider not just what they say, but how they say it, to ensure that each episode reinforces the connection with their audience.

Podcasts also bring some unique challenges, particularly in terms of distribution and analytics. Unlike digital ads or social media posts, where feedback and metrics are immediately available and highly detailed, podcast analytics are relatively basic, often limited to downloads and general listener demographics. 

This lack of detailed feedback can make it difficult for podcasters to understand exactly what works and what doesn’t, which parts of their content truly resonate with listeners, and why.

Given these limitations, podcasters must be even more diligent and strategic in their approach to content creation. They need to leverage whatever data is available, combine it with listener feedback, and continuously refine their approach to better meet the needs and expectations of their audience. 

This careful, considerate approach to podcast content can significantly improve listener engagement and also help build and sustain a loyal audience over time.

Start With Creating a Good Podcast

While rushing to increase audience size, many podcast creators ignore whether the podcast’s content is inherently appealing and relevant to its intended listeners. While the initial focus might be on reaching more listeners, the sustainability of audience growth depends significantly on whether the content resonates with those who do tune in.

Here, we should draw a clear line between marketability and marketing, which is a vital distinction.

  • With marketing, you can expose content that is already strong to the right audience. 
  • On the other hand, a marketability problem suggests a more fundamental issue: the podcast may not have a clear product-market fit. This means that even if the podcast reaches a large audience, it may not sustain its listenership if the content doesn’t meet the specific needs or interests of that audience.

The concept of product-market fit in the context of podcasting involves understanding and matching the podcast’s content and style with the expectations and preferences of its target audience. For example, if a podcast is aimed at professionals in a particular industry, it needs to provide content that is insightful, relevant, and tailored to the professional challenges and interests of that specific group. 

Without this alignment, the podcast may struggle to maintain engagement, leading to high attrition rates where listeners may tune into a few episodes but then drop off.

Therefore, you should initially invest time and resources into clearly defining who the podcast is for and ensuring the content is designed to serve the needs and interests of that audience effectively. This approach improves the chances of retaining listeners and also naturally helps with organic growth through word-of-mouth and listener recommendations, as satisfied listeners are more likely to promote the podcast within their networks.

How to Create an Appealing Podcast

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The answer to this is really simple – you need to define a show that uniquely resonates with a specific audience. Podcasters often have a vague or overly broad conception of their audience, which makes it difficult to produce content that consistently appeals to or meets the needs of any particular group. 

The lack of a distinct, resonant identity for a podcast can hinder its ability to attract and maintain a loyal listener base.

As a solution, you can use a strategy that includes two critical components: 

  • Audience targeting
  • Listener promises

Audience targeting

This involves identifying the specific group or groups of listeners the podcast is intended to serve. This step goes beyond basic demographics and focuses on understanding the interests, challenges, and preferences of these listeners. 

To avoid targeting too broadly (which dilutes the content’s relevance) or too narrowly (which limits the show’s potential audience to an unsustainable level), try categorizing the audience into three levels.

Core audience

  • The core audience consists of the most ideal listeners who are highly engaged with the podcast’s content. 
  • They are the primary focus of the podcast as they are most likely to consistently tune in, interact, and champion the podcast to others. 
  • They have a deep connection to the content, finding it highly relevant and often tailor-made for their interests or needs. 
  • Podcasters should aim to deeply understand this group’s preferences and pain points to keep them continuously engaged and satisfied.

Adjacent audience

  • This audience is larger in number compared to the core audience but is less engaged on a personal level. 
  • These listeners may find the podcast generally interesting or useful but aren’t as passionate or loyal as the core audience. 
  • They might tune in sporadically or when a particular topic catches their eye. 
  • Although they are less likely to convert into regular, devoted listeners, they represent a significant opportunity for expanding reach because of their numbers. 
  • Targeting this audience effectively involves striking a balance between maintaining the podcast’s core identity and broadening its appeal to capture these more casual listeners.

Transformational audience

  • This is the broadest group and includes anyone who might have a passing interest in the podcast’s themes or subjects but does not actively seek out or regularly engage with the podcast. 
  • This segment has the lowest level of individual engagement but holds the potential for high impact due to its size. 
  • They are the least likely to convert into regular listeners, but their sheer numbers mean they can significantly contribute to the podcast’s visibility and reach, especially through social shares, mentions, and occasional listens.

This structured view of the audience can help you understand where to focus your efforts but also inform how you can effectively scale your reach. 

For instance:

  • Content strategies can be fine-tuned to deeply engage the core audience with highly relevant and detailed content.
  • Promotional efforts might be broadened or diversified to attract the adjacent and transformational audiences through more general interest topics or high-level discussions that appeal to a wider audience.

Moreover, this can also help you allocate resources more efficiently, focusing on deep engagement and community-building within the core audience while leveraging broader marketing tactics to capture the interest of the adjacent and transformational groups. 

This multi-layered strategy ensures a balanced approach to growth, aiming for both depth of engagement with the most loyal listeners and breadth of reach to attract new ones.

Listener promises

Listener promises refer to the value or benefits that the podcast aims to provide to its audience. This aspect requires podcasters to articulate what their listeners will gain by tuning in. Whether it’s entertainment, education, connection, or inspiration, each episode should fulfill a specific promise to its listeners.

By defining clear listener promises, podcasters can create content that consistently delivers on those expectations, which can help improve listener satisfaction and loyalty. This clarity helps in aligning the podcast’s content strategy with its marketing efforts, ensuring that promotional activities accurately reflect the benefits highlighted in the listener promises.

Aligning Content and Marketing

The strategic insights gained from understanding the different audience levels (core, adjacent, and transformational) can be effectively translated into both content creation and marketing strategies. 

This alignment is crucial for the success of any podcast because it ensures that the efforts put into the podcast are resonant with and relevant to the intended audience, thereby maximizing engagement and growth potential.

Content strategy

Try designing episodes that cater specifically to the identified needs and interests of each audience segment:

  • For the core audience, content should be highly specialized and deeply engaging, often exploring niche topics or providing in-depth analysis that resonates with their specific interests.
  • For the adjacent audience, the content might be slightly broader yet still connected to the core themes to attract those on the periphery of the core group.
  • For the transformational audience, content could include more general discussions or introductory topics that appeal to a broader group who might tune in for occasional insights or entertainment.

Marketing strategy

Campaigns and promotional efforts need to align with the value propositions identified in the listener promises for each audience tier. 

  • Marketing to the core audience may involve more direct engagement strategies, such as email newsletters, community forums, or member-exclusive content, which reinforce their connection to the podcast and encourage regular listening habits.
  • For the adjacent audience, marketing might include SEO strategies, social media engagement, or cross-promotions with other podcasts that share a similar audience but aren’t direct competitors. This helps to introduce the podcast to listeners who are likely interested but haven’t yet become regulars.
  • For the transformational audience, broader advertising strategies, such as social media ads or mainstream media mentions, could be used to spike curiosity and draw in listeners from this vast pool. The message in these campaigns would focus on the universal appeal of the podcast, emphasizing elements that are likely to resonate with a wide audience.

Each element of the podcast, from the topics and speakers to the marketing channels and messages, should be designed to appeal to the intended audience segment. Such alignment ensures that the podcast not only attracts but retains a diverse listener base by meeting their expectations and interests at various levels.

The Biggest Concerns Brands Are Facing

One of the most pressing concerns for brands is understanding the success of and measuring investment in their podcasts through measurable outcomes. 

Success in the podcasting realm often revolves around metrics that reflect listener engagement and brand affinity, which are somewhat more abstract compared to typical digital marketing metrics like clicks and impressions. 

Moreover, brands want to understand how much control they can exert over the content. This includes questions about the extent to which they can own the intellectual property of the podcasts and how they can tailor the content to align with their branding and marketing strategies.

Next, brands often have logistical concerns. They are frequently unsure about the time commitment required for podcast production, as well as the financial costs involved. It may be useful to mention that both time and cost may vary significantly, depending on the complexity of the podcast, the quality of production desired, and the length of the podcast series. 

Many brands lack a clear benchmark for these costs, which leads to a wide range of expectations. This lack of a baseline understanding can make it challenging to plan podcasting budgets and schedules effectively.

This shows a need for clear communication and education from podcast producers and platforms towards their potential clients. Agencies should help clients set realistic expectations and understand the nuanced benefits that podcasting can offer beyond traditional marketing metrics. 

Successful engagement in the podcast space requires a strategic approach, where understanding the audience and delivering content that resonates with them is as crucial as any other marketing endeavor.

Video Podcasts

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There’s a marked increase in adding video elements to podcasts. However, audiences tend to listen to audio-only podcasts for longer compared to video podcasts. The nature of audio content allows listeners to engage with the material while simultaneously performing other tasks, such as commuting or doing household chores, which is not possible with video content.

This flexibility often leads to higher engagement and completion rates for audio. As such, it’s a preferred medium for content designed to maintain listener attention over extended periods.

Moreover, while video can enrich the podcast experience by providing visual context and potentially enhancing listener engagement, it requires significantly more resources in terms of production and editing. 

Additionally, the engagement metrics for video can be misleading. Although video might attract more initial clicks, the actual engagement measured by completion rates is typically lower than audio.

On the other hand, the incorporation of video into podcasts offers substantial benefits in terms of marketing and audience engagement. This is especially true on social media platforms where visual content is more likely to be shared and can go viral.

With that in mind, including video should be aligned with a brand’s overall content strategy and audience engagement goals. For certain types of content (e.g. interviews or panel discussions) video could add a layer of authenticity and connection by allowing viewers to see the dynamics between hosts and guests. This can make the content more engaging and relatable, potentially increasing viewer investment and loyalty.

Creativity, Community, and Business

Creativity has a key role in podcasting, so brands should go beyond conventional formats to captivate and engage audiences. While listener numbers are a common metric of success, the real value of a podcast often lies in its ability to build a community of engaged listeners. This involves telling stories that resonate on a personal level and building a loyal audience that feels a connection to the brand beyond merely consuming the content.

With good storytelling, brands can provide more enriching and engaging content that stands out from the typical informational or conversational formats prevalent in the podcasting industry. This can entertain listeners and also deepen their connection to the brand, encouraging repeated engagement and fostering a sense of community.

The ultimate success of a podcast shouldn’t be measured solely by listener numbers or downloads. Instead, the focus should be on the quality of engagement and the strength of the community it builds. This community becomes a valuable asset for brands, as it represents a group of highly engaged individuals who are more likely to advocate for and remain loyal to the brand.

Podcasts as support for marketing and sales

Integrating creative storytelling with clear business objectives can significantly enhance the impact of podcasts. This way, content is engaging and distinctive but it also aligns with broader business goals.

Podcasts can be directly linked to sales and marketing strategies. They are an excellent tool for supporting sales teams, as they provide them with a continuous stream of content that can be used to engage prospects throughout various stages of the sales cycle.

Podcast shows could serve multiple purposes within a business context. They can be used to introduce prospects to a brand’s products or services, nurture leads by offering valuable insights or solutions, and maintain engagement with existing customers through regular updates and expert discussions. 

By aligning podcast content with the needs and interests of target customers, businesses can use this medium to effectively support and enhance their sales strategies.

Moreover, podcasts can serve as a platform for demonstrating expertise and thought leadership, which can be particularly valuable in B2B contexts where buying cycles are longer and decisions are often influenced by trust and credibility.

Growth Strategy

Online resources often claim to be universal fixes for podcast growth challenges and lean toward one-size-fits-all solutions. However, these generic tactics seldom deliver on their promises due to the unique nature of each podcast’s audience, goals, and resource constraints.

The effectiveness of a growth strategy depends on how well it’s aligned with a podcast’s specific objectives and the characteristics of its intended audience. It’s critical to understand the podcast’s target market, what appeals to them, and how they consume content. This understanding should then inform a strategic plan that leverages the unique aspects of the podcast and its audience.

Define your goals

Having clear, well-defined goals is a necessity. A strategy should be developed based on what the podcast aims to achieve (e.g. enhancing brand visibility, driving specific audience actions, or building a loyal community). 

Each goal demands different tactics and channels, so a strategy needs to be tailored but also flexible to adapt as the podcast evolves and audience insights become clearer.

Allocate resources

Needless to say, when planning growth strategies, you need to consider the budget and resources available. Many podcasts operate under resource constraints, which requires a more creative and focused approach to growth. 

Prioritizing tactics that offer the highest return on investment and making strategic decisions about where to allocate funds can make significant differences in a podcast’s growth trajectory.

Consider broader marketing efforts

The existing brand assets and channels should be leveraged to promote the podcast. This ensures that the podcast doesn’t exist in a silo but benefits from the synergy with other marketing activities.

Success and Metrics

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Public relations (PR) play a significant role in expanding a podcast’s reach. PR could dramatically increase visibility and attract massive audiences quickly by leveraging media exposure. However, such growth should be aligned with the brand’s broader objectives and the specific context of the podcast. 

For PR-driven growth to be successful, it must not only generate high listener numbers but also support the brand’s overall goals, whether those are increasing engagement, boosting brand perception, or driving specific consumer actions.

Moreover, it’s important to distinguish between superficial metrics (e.g. download numbers) and more substantive metrics that indicate genuine engagement and interest from the audience. Listeners who actually engage with the podcast content are more important than those who merely download episodes.

Other meaningful metrics are those that measure listener engagement over time, such as average listening time and listener retention rates. 

  • Average listening time helps podcasters understand how much of each episode their audience typically consumes, indicating the content’s ability to maintain interest. 
  • Listener retention rates provide insights into how well the podcast holds its audience over multiple episodes or even across different seasons, which is crucial for long-term success.

Together, these metrics show a complete picture of a podcast’s health and growth. They move beyond mere numbers to gauge the quality of engagement and the podcast’s ability to resonate with and retain its audience. This approach aligns with a more strategic perspective on growth, focusing on long-term engagement rather than short-term gains.

Engagement and Interaction

Introducing direct communication tools, creating interactive content, and leveraging listener feedback are innovative ways to increase engagement and interaction, and build a more engaged and loyal listener base.

  • For instance, incorporating a WhatsApp number directly into your content strategy allows listeners to send messages and feedback, and participate in conversations directly with the podcast creators. This approach not only makes the audience feel more connected to the content but also encourages active participation and community building. 
  • By integrating interactive elements such as live Q&A sessions, polls, and quizzes directly into episodes, podcasts can transform passive listening experiences into active engagement opportunities. This interaction builds a sense of community among listeners and makes them feel like a part of the podcast’s journey.
  • Podcasts should regularly encourage listeners to leave reviews, send emails, or participate in social media discussions related to the podcast. This feedback serves as valuable input for improving the podcast and also helps in making listeners feel heard and valued, which can significantly enhance listener retention and satisfaction.


If you want to retain listeners, your content needs to be of high quality. This is non-negotiable.  While marketing is instrumental in introducing new listeners to the podcast, the content itself is what keeps them coming back.

No matter how effective the marketing strategies are in drawing listeners, their engagement depends fundamentally on the content’s quality and its ability to resonate with them.

The podcast content needs to be compelling, relevant, and provide value to the audience consistently. This could be through informative discussions, entertaining narratives, or unique insights that listeners cannot find elsewhere. In other words, the podcast must meet or exceed the expectations set by the marketing, ensuring that once listeners tune in, they find a reason to stay.

Delivering value is crucial for ongoing engagement. This value can be educational, entertainment, emotional, or practical, and it should align with the reasons listeners choose to tune in initially. 

By consistently delivering on this value proposition, podcasts can grow a loyal audience base that continues to engage with the content but also becomes advocates for the podcast, sharing it within their networks.

To achieve high-quality content that retains listeners, you need to:

  • Understand audience needs: Continuously gather and analyze listener feedback to refine content according to their preferences and needs.
  • Maintain high production values: Ensure that the audio quality, editing, and overall production meet professional standards to enhance the listening experience.
  • Innovate content delivery: Experiment with different content formats, guest appearances, or interactive segments to keep the podcast dynamic and engaging.

Understanding Your Audience and Engaging With Them

Businesses and content creators can leverage various analytical tools to gain deeper insights into their audiences. By analyzing behavior patterns and preferences, podcasters and marketers can tailor their content more precisely, meeting the audience’s needs and interests with greater accuracy.

The shift from intuition-based decision-making to data-driven strategies enhances the ability to capture audience attention. In addition, it opens up new avenues for engaging with listeners in meaningful ways, based on real, observed behaviors rather than assumptions. 

Online communities, particularly platforms like Reddit, can serve as rich sources of audience insight and engagement. Reddit and similar platforms allow podcasters to directly interact with niche communities that align closely with their podcast’s themes or subjects. 

By participating in or monitoring these communities, podcasters can observe firsthand what topics generate excitement, controversy, or engagement. This direct line to audience interests helps in creating episodes that resonate more deeply and are more likely to be shared and discussed.

Moreover, content aggregation platforms can help podcasters gather and analyze content from across the internet. These platforms can provide a broader view of trending topics, viral content, and emerging discussions across various fields and interests. With these tools, podcasters can stay ahead of the curve, identifying up-and-coming trends before they become mainstream.

AI tools

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It’s no secret that AI tools like chatbots and advanced analytics can revolutionize content creation and audience engagement. These technologies can automate and refine the process of gathering and analyzing audience data, thus providing podcasters with deeper insights into listener preferences and behaviors.

AI tools can process large datasets quickly and accurately, identifying patterns and trends that might not be immediately apparent through manual analysis. For instance, AI-driven analytics can reveal which podcast episodes are most engaging, pinpoint the segments that keep listeners tuned in, and even suggest topics that are likely to be popular based on current trends.

Moreover, the integration of chatbots in podcast platforms can interact with listeners to collect feedback, answer questions, and provide personalized content recommendations. This direct interaction can help you improve the listener experience and gather valuable data that can be used to further refine podcast content and marketing strategies.

However, make sure not to rely on data-driven approaches alone. Rather, aim for a balanced strategy that also incorporates creative intuition. 

While AI and analytics provide the tools to understand what content performs well, the creative intuition of podcast creators is crucial in telling compelling stories and engaging discussions that resonate on a human level.

Iterative Approach

Continuous validation and adjustment based on listener feedback and engagement metrics are integral to success, which calls for an iterative approach. This goes beyond the initial steps of defining a target audience and crafting content that resonates with them. 

It involves a dynamic process of listening to the audience’s reactions, both qualitatively through feedback and quantitatively through engagement data, and then using this information to refine and enhance the podcast.

Creating content that initially appeals to the target audience is just the beginning. Podcasters must establish mechanisms to regularly gather listener feedback, which can be achieved through direct communications like social media interactions, listener surveys, and comments on podcast platforms. 

Additionally, analyzing engagement metrics such as download numbers, listen durations, episode completion rates, and frequency of listens helps in understanding what content works and what doesn’t.

Based on these insights, podcasters should be willing to tweak their content strategy. This could mean adjusting the topics covered, changing the format of the episodes, or even altering the release schedule to better suit the listening habits of the audience. The goal is to create a feedback loop where listeners’ responses directly influence future content, making the podcast more aligned with their expectations and interests over time.

Bonus Insights

Finally, here are a couple of insights that can help you beyond everything we have covered so far.

Community building

Slack and Discord are excellent for engaging with and expanding an existing community where communication and interaction are already active. However, starting a community from scratch on these platforms shouldn’t be done simultaneously with launching a new podcast. This could divide the focus and resources, making it difficult to gain momentum in both areas. 

Building a community requires consistent engagement and content delivery, which might be challenging to sustain on a new platform without an initial audience base.

Priority channels for a limited budget

Focus on platforms where podcast listeners are already present and engaged. Invest in podcast-specific platforms that cater directly to the audience demographics of the podcast to maximize the impact of your promotional spend, ensuring that you reach listeners who are most likely to be interested in their content. 

This approach is particularly effective for those working with limited budgets, as it allows for a more concentrated and effective marketing effort.

Podcast website

  • For brands, integrating the podcast into an existing company or brand website can leverage the established traffic and maintain a cohesive digital ecosystem. This integration helps funnel visitors from the brand’s primary website to the podcast, enhancing discoverability and consistency in branding.
  • For independent podcast creators, a dedicated website could serve as a central hub for all podcast-related content. This website would house episodes, show notes, additional resources, and perhaps a blog to deepen the audience’s engagement. 

A dedicated site also provides a professional appearance, boosts credibility, and offers full control over the content and branding, which is crucial for growth and monetization efforts.

Podcasting Is a Marathon

Podcasts have a key role in building brand identity and establishing deep, lasting connections with audiences. Unlike other forms of media which might provide quick and fleeting engagement, podcasts have the unique ability to cultivate a dedicated community over time through consistent, compelling content.

This sustained engagement is crucial for brands looking to deepen their relationship with their audience, turning casual listeners into loyal brand advocates.

However, this also means that podcasting requires a long-term commitment. Creativity is essential for maintaining listener interest over the long term. The key to successful podcasting lies in the ability to continually innovate, keeping content fresh and engaging to prevent audience fatigue.

This requires a deep understanding of the audience’s interests and preferences, coupled with the flexibility to adapt content strategies in response to changing listener dynamics and market trends.

Due to the crowded nature of the podcasting space, differentiating one’s content can be challenging yet essential. Audiences now have a plethora of choices, which makes it more difficult for any single podcast to stand out without a distinctive appeal.

Exploring new content formats that go beyond traditional interviews or discussions may be a good path to take. Incorporating elements of storytelling, interactive media, or even gamification could enhance listener engagement and offer a unique listening experience. This not only helps podcasts to distinguish themselves but also cater to the diverse preferences of a broad audience, broadening their appeal and potential reach.

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