Promos have multiple roles in the podcasting world. They're part mutual back-scratching service, part honoring podcasts you like, and part shameless self-promotion.
If podcasters believe that the audience of another podcast might like them too, they can suggest exchanging promos, offering their audience to the other podcaster as well.
There are also times when podcasters, just launching a new podcast, will play promos of their favorite podcasts as a sort of homage, but also to give their growing audience an idea of what they enjoy.
Whether it's about back-scratching or paying tribute, it's still all about self-promotion. This is a given because if you don't let people know about your podcast, no one is going to listen. Sure, you'll get a random listener here and there from iTunes or the other directories (maybe more if the name of your podcast is something that catches people's attention), but overall no one is going to notice you.
The fact is, you need a promo. It is your advertising. It is cheaper than banner ads (and likely more effective), and when done well it is one of your best marketing tactics.
When to Promote
The overzealous podcaster will put out a promo even before show number 1 is uploaded onto the server. The problem here is that podcasts are often growing entities, taking a couple of tries before they find their footing. Promoting before the first show is like claiming your kid will be valedictorian on the first day of high school. Even if you end up being right, who's going to believe you at the time?
Be patient. Get a few shows under your belt before promoting. After a couple of shows, you know how long it's going to average, you know better how often you'll be able to do a show, and you'll be able to make promises about your show with more confidence.
There are other times in your podcast's lifespan that you'll want to promote. We'll talk about those times later in the chapter, and more on promoting as a whole in Chapter 15, "Getting the Word Out."
Creating the Promo
Some people who find sitting in front of a mic and talking for an hour easy actually have problems when it comes to making a short, concise promo for their podcast. The promo must be entertaining, or at least engaging enough to catch the listener's attention, but it must still be true to your show; if your podcast isn't light hearted, don't make a funny promo.
People in the movie or publishing industry would call the promo your "elevator pitch." The concept is what you would say if you were in an elevator with a producer or publisher and you had 30 seconds to give a good representation of what your creative work is all about. Promos are the same. You can't go too long, yet you need to give a sense of what the podcast is about.
Considering how many podcasts exist currently, there's one more challenge: making your podcast entertaining. You can give a perfect representation about what the podcast is, but if that's boring, people are going to assume your podcast is also boring. On the other hand, if your promo is entertaining as well as informative, as Patrick McLean's Bob the Zombie promos are (refer to the opening page of the chapter), it will really stick in people's heads. After the initial Bob the Zombie promos, Patrick's podcast not only got more listeners (because podcasters wanted to play his hysterical promo), but Bob became a desired commodity as people asked Patrick to create Bob promos for their podcasts. Bob the Zombie (and therefore Patrick's voice and podcast) has been featured on Skepticality, TSFPN.com ads, and Geek Fu Action Grip.
What to Put in a Promo
A promo is essentially telling someone that your podcast is worth their time. This is a delicate balance to strike, because it's a pretty egotistical claim to make. However, there are some ways to get around simply stating that your podcast is the coolest thing to happen to podcasting since iTunes 4.9:
Another common sense warning: Don't get so wrapped up in making your promo entertaining, fun, and compelling that you forget the most important informationyour podcast's name and URL!
You would be surprised to hear how many podcasters forget this information in their promo. It's worse when they actually do their job and grab interested listeners who can't get to their podcast because they don't know where it is located.
When creating a promo, state who you are, announce your podcast's name, and provide your URL. Do so slowly and clearly so the people who are listening don't miss this information!
The real key to making a promo is for people to enjoy it. When Skepticality began its promo push with a spoof on the beer commercial "Real American Heroes," people played it on their podcasts simply because it was funny. The same thing happened with Patrick McLean's "Interview with a Zombie" series of ads he did for his own podcast, The Seanachai, and for The Sci-Fi Podcast Network.
Patrick paraphrases the classic advertiser Howard Gossage's quote:
Getting Outside Voice Talent
There are still websites you can go to for voice talent for little or no money. Madtown Aces (http://madtownaces.com/), for example, offers voiceover talent for openings, closings, bumpers, and promos. You can purchase services a la carte or as a package. You can get all the mentioned services for under $40.
If that's too much for you, try out RadioDaddy. People swap talents for free at http://www.radiodaddy.com, so you can easily get a promo, bumper, music and phrases, or anything else there. It's a popular site with many talented people available to help you out.
The rules for RadioDaddy are fairly strict: If you're not paying for the talent, you don't have a right to demand things, insist on a rush job, and so on. It's free, but you need to go through the correct motions. You will also need to be specific with what you want, the script, and so on. As the site says, the rules boil down to this:
"Be POLITE. Be COURTEOUS. Be PATIENT. Be APPRECIATIVE. PARTICIPATE yourself; even if only to comment. This is the only way RadioDaddy will be here for the long term."
What to Do with a Finished Promo
Once you have your promo finished and polished, you need to do a couple things before you email anyone. First, put it out on your feed. Any listeners you have who are podcasters might play itand these are people you might not have thought to contact personally. If you manually edit your feed, keep the promo as the first thing on the feed; iTunes has a feature where it plays the first item in a feed if you click a podcast. (This will not work, of course, if you rely on your blog software to update your feed.)
Second, place the promo on your site, welcoming anyone to grab it. Also, put it anywhere that allows you or your podcast to present audio in a profile. For instance, Podcast Pickle allows users to link to a promo (see Figure 14.1), and the blogging tool Blogger allows you to put an audio clip into your profile. If you have a MySpace page, add your promo to it.
Figure 14.1. Podcast Pickle allows for easy access to promos.
Keeping the Promo Up to Date
In some ways, creating promos for a new podcast is relatively easy. In fact, it can get harder the longer you stick with podcasting. After all, after 20 or 40 shows, you're going to realize that the "Hey, listen to my new podcast!" promo sounds a little odd coming from a veteran podcaster. You're also going to run out of podcasts to send your promo to, and people aren't going to want to play it on their podcast week after week.
After several months, consider making a new promo to reflect how your podcast has evolved. You'll have a better chance now of getting a podcasting colleague to make the promo for you, you'll have lots of shows to pull clips from, and you'll generally have a better idea of what you want to get across to people.
Send the new promo the same places you sent the old onesites that host promos, podcasters you think appeal to the same kind of people you would appeal to, and so on.
Be cautious, however, when deciding when to update your promo. Don't do it too often, or you'll overwhelm those you want to help you. Make a new podcast after a milestone episode (10 podcasts is not a milestone, by the way) or at the 6-month or 1-year mark. Make one to advertise a change in the podcast.
Remember to space your promos far enough apart so as not to deluge other podcasters!
Constructing a Promo Distribution List
Now that you have your promo, where do you send it? Here are but a handful of examples.
The obvious answer for where to send your promo is other podcasts. You want podcast listeners; who better to get to listen to your podcast than people who already listen to other podcasts? The first place to start is podcasts that you enjoy listening to. Many podcast listeners like similar podcasts, so identify the podcasts you listen to that are at least tangentially related to your show. Send the podcaster a polite note and ask if he or she would play your promo. It's more polite, by the way, to send a link to the promo instead of just attaching it to the email.
Are you part of a network? Do you think you would fit into one? Several networks exist to bring together similar podcasts, such as The Science Fiction Podcast Network (http://www.tsfpn.com) and The Tech Podcast Network (http://www.techpodcasts.com). Networks are a great way to cross-promote. If, for example, you have a tech podcast, then the podcasts in a tech podcast network would be good places to submit your promo. Some networks require their members to cross-promote other network podcasts by playing each others' promos.
If a network doesn't quite fit for you, consider just going to your area of Podcast Alley or another directory and seeing what podcasts are listed in your genre. Send a polite email and ask if they would play your promo.
Another way of going about this is getting in touch with popular podcasts and asking for "air" time for your promo. The feeling here is that if they have 10,000 or more listeners, there's a good chance that a handful of those people might be interested in hearing what you have to say.
Before you go firing off emails, get at least a little familiar with the podcast you're asking to host your promo. Some podcasts expressly state that they don't play promos for anyone, so if you send them yours, it will show that a) you don't listen to their show, or b) you assume they will make an exception for you. The first is rude and the second is egotistical, and this could backfire if the podcaster decides to let his listeners know about the "idiot" who sent him a promo.
Lucky for us, some people go sniffing out promos to find new podcasts to listen to. This is why it's important to list your promos on these sites:
The Brass Rings: Podshow and The Daily Source Code
Of course, the promotion everyone wants is for Adam Curry to play their promo on The Daily Source Code. His many thousands of listeners subscribe to a lot of new podcasts based on promos that air during his show, and having him put a kind word behind your promo is an extra bonus.
To get onto The Daily Source Code, which is part of Podshow, you have to jump through a couple more hoops than with most podcasters. First, make sure it's short. Adam doesn't like super-long promos. You must put detailed ID3 tags into your promo and then email it to firstname.lastname@example.org. P.W. Fenton will receive this, and he decides which promo goes where on Podshow (it may be DSC; it may not). Most of the shows on Podshow have massive followings, so if you're played on any of the podcasts, you're likely to have a boost in listeners.
With Adam Curry, it also helps if you customize your promo for his show. If your promo plays off one of his current hot topics, it will usually get played. This is true with any podcaster; if you go through the trouble of putting together a custom promo for a show, the person who does that show will be much more inclined to play it.
As an example, in early 2006, The Daily Source Code had a recurring bitThe Metrosexual Moment. It even had a cute little jingle. If you wanted your promo played, you could send in some comments about your "metrosexual moments" from your show. Or you could create a spoof promo for "The Heterosexual Moment," where you talk about your show, NASCAR, rugby, pulling one's finger, or something completely 180 degrees from the "Metrosexual" skit. If done in good nature and with some thought, it would definitely get played.
Chances are by the time this book is published someone else will have actually done something very similar. The point is, if you spend a little time listening to the most popular shows and then create custom targeted promos for those shows, you stand a far better chance of getting your promos played.
Finally, Podshow has created a web page where podcasters can exchange promos:
Although this site is not nearly as functional as Podcastpromos.com, it is still a good place to post your latest promo and to find other promos to play on your show.