Just like with any good blog or TV or radio show, popular podcasts come and go. Podfading is a term that Scott Fletcher from Podcheck Review coined to describe a discontinued podcast (see Figure 2.5).
Figure 2.5. Although fans may miss it, you can't deny the faded Reality Bitchslap Radio went out in style.
One of the earliest examples of a well-known podfader is My Pods' Forecast. In this unique and quirky show, the host would use his testicles ("pods") to predict the future through his patented method "the cup, the lift, the drop," where depending on which "pod" was in front of the other after the drop, he would get a yes or no answer. The host, who was from the U.K., predicted such things as the lottery, the stock market, and the Golden Globes. On his last show he used his pods to determine whether he should change the baby's nappy (diaper) or should he leave it for his wife to change. The answer was "leave it for the wife," and he was never heard from again.
Conversations with Podfaders
Even the most popular podcast can fade for any number of reasons. In this section we talk to some of the more prominent podfaders that have exited the realm of podcasting. In the next section, we tie together the lessons learned from these and other podfaders.
Catlas from the Catlas Podhead Podcast
This was a tech podcast released twice a week in which the host would talk about interesting software and websites. The shows were typically about 20 minutes in length, and the listener would almost always take away a few nuggets of valuable information.
Kevin from Next Gen Games
This was a tech podcast released twice a week that focused on video games. The host covered news and reviews of different video games with a heavy slant on the European video game market.
Landon from Landon Explains It All
This was a progressive Christian podcast released twice a week. Landon played some podsafe music but mostly focused on issues in the news from a progressive Christian perspective.
Brian from She Said, He Said
She Said, He Said was a couple cast released about once a week. They presented general chit-chat about life from the perspective of a husband and wife.
How to Avoid Burnout
When it comes to avoiding podfading, it is important to understand the reasons why people podfade. Based on our conversations with those just listed and many other podcasters, we've come up with five of the most common reasons for a podcast to podfade.
Lack of Time
By far the number-one reason for podfadivitis is a lack of time. Many podcasters talk about sleep deprivation and being up until 3:00 a.m. or later working on their show. There is only so long you can physically and mentally keep up such a hectic schedule before you burn out. It is very important for you to sit down and work out a schedule for doing your show. The next time you start doing a show, get out the stop watch and time how long it takes from prep work through recording through postproduction and posting of the show. Then plan your week/day accordingly.
What is very interesting is that many podcasters also talked about doing too many shows in a week. One thing to remember is moderation. If you feel like the show has become an anchor on your life, try reducing the number of shows you do. For example, if you are doing a daily show, drop back to Monday, Wednesday, Friday. Just make sure you communicate the change to your listeners. If you are not passionate about your show, it will come through to the listeners and they will move on.
Lack of Interest
This is the response we heard most from those who started podcasting just to podcast. After a while, they realized this was a lot of work and it just was not as exciting as when they started. The best way to avoid this is not to do a podcast unless it is about a subject that really interests you. If you love collecting all things related to Pug dogs and talking about that collection, then you have a subject you are likely not going to lose interest in. If you find yourself now lacking interest in your show but not wanting to give up on podcasting, reinvent the show. Nothing is stopping you from changing the focus of the show. That is the beauty of podcastingyou own the show. Granted, you may lose all your listeners, but chances are if you are losing interest in your show, most of your former listeners are probably losing interest too. Of course, you will want to change your podcast's name if the change no longer fits the current title. After all, you do not want a show called PugCast to be about collecting Persian rugs. In this case, we would recommend you start up the new show and then on the old show do a final farewell telling your old listeners that the show is being podfaded and giving them information about the new show. You will be surprised by how many people will follow you over to the new show even if they previously had no interest in the new subject.
Lack of Material
Some subjects are so niche that it is hard to find material to talk about. If you have picked a subject for which you feel it is hard to fill a show with quality material, you can do a couple of things. First, reduce the length of your show. There is nothing stating how long your show should be, and you are not locked into the length of previous shows. A 10-minute show that is packed full of information and is quick and snappy is far more enjoyable than a 30-minute show with only 11 minutes of material. Think about Episode 1 of Star Wars15 minutes of great information stretched out over 2 hours. Don't let your show suffer from Episode 1 disease.
The other thing you can do is invite guests who have knowledge in your subject matter. No one says you have to do it all yourself. Having a guest or two will help break up a show and often add additional insight you may have been lacking. Plus, guests often bring exposure to listeners/fans of that guest whom you might not have had access to otherwise.
Lack of Listeners
A lot of podcasters use the service Feedburner to track the number of subscribers they have for their podcast, only to find the answer is, "not many" (see Figure 2.6).
Figure 2.6. Subscriber numbers for a podcast (sometimes the truth hurts).
This is the one that causes the most frustration with podcasters, and very often the frustration isn't warranted. We talked to people who had 75 listeners and were happy with their listener base. We talked to others who had 750 and were very frustrated with the count. The fact is, as of December 2005, more than 90% of all podcasts, based on stats from Feedburner, had less than 250 listeners. This is a hard thing to avoid at first. Unless you are a celebrity such as Wil Wheaton, you are not going to come out of the gate with 2,000 listeners. The best way to avoid a lack of listeners is to give listeners something they feel they need to listen to and then market the heck out of your show. That is what this book is about. So keep on reading.
Lack of Funds
One thing early podcasters who were popular faced was high bandwidth bills. Many of these podcasters paid for their own webspace to host their podcasts, and the more traffic you have the more you're likely to pay to maintain that space. Since that time, services such as Libsyn (www.libsyn.com) and Podlot (www.podlot.com) have come along, offering unlimited bandwidth for a very reasonable cost. But beyond bandwidth there are other costs to look out for.
VoIP stands for Voice over Internet Protocol. You may also hear it referred to as Internet telephony or digital phone (from your local cable company). Without getting too techie, VoIP is basically a way of digitally making a phone call over the Internet, as compared to the analog method using the plain old phone system we grew up with. For more information, visit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voip.
Bazooka Joe of the Small World podcast interviews all types of people for his show. On one interview he made a call to the U.K. over POTS (plain old telephone system) and he racked up a $63 phone call. Joe does a daily show, and it doesn't take Will Hunting to do the math. The best solution to this particular problem is to look to Skype (www.skype.com) and other VoIP (Voice over IP) services.
Then there is the cost for equipment. It is very easy to go out and spend multiple thousands of dollars if you try to get the very best of everything, but that doesn't mean you should. Look at Dawn and Drew, clearly one of the most popular podcasts. They did their show with a $20 Logitech microphone for the first nine-plus months. Here is the best way to avoid the issue of lack of funds:
We will talk more about how to generate revenue for your podcast later in Part III of this book. Remember, podcasting is supposed to be fun, and if you are not having fun, then chances are you may wind up in the "Conversations with Podfaders" section of this chapter in later editions.