Podcasting Hurdles: Overcoming Your “Support” System

Thanks to Bulldog Milenko (of the Bulldog Unchained Podcast) for this guest post, sharing his thoughts about his journey of podcasting. He offers some of the challenges he’s experienced, lessons learned and goals he hopes to achieve. We hope you enjoy his story and gain some ideas from his experiences.

Let me begin by saying I run a NSFW (not safe for work) podcast, which means the language and content sometimes displayed on my show narrows the spectrum of my potential audience. That being said, there is something about running a podcast which you know provides a good entertainment factor, and is also informative and engaging. I have been doing this show for over four months now, since February 2016, and I have met my fair share of roadblocks and hurdles. One of the largest being that of trying to get my “friends” to not only listen to my show, but share it, because let’s face it…the only way to grow your audience with next to no advertising budget is by word of mouth, which in the 21st century translates to “Share this on social media”.

I have approximately 800-900 followers on Facebook, as well as close to 700 subscribers to my actual podcast. My downloads and plays, however, do not reflect this, as I’m averaging 316 plays/downloads per episode. This is a combination of my Podbean stats and my RSS Feed stats. This is a pretty decent average, in my opinion, for a show that is only four months old with no advertising budget. However, I feel that it should be closer to the 500 play per episode mark at this point. Alas, without having money to advertise, I’m left to my own creativity to attempt to get the masses to share my show.

One thing I have learned from this venture is that you absolutely CANNOT count on your “friends” to wholly support you in your endeavors unless it somehow benefits them. I literally have approximately 20 people out of almost 900 who share my show for me. That is 2% of my Facebook network. Now, to be fair, Facebook has become very shady in their distribution of your status updates and content to your friends list. It is approximated now that when you post something on Facebook, only 35% of your friends and followers can see said post. This creates an automatic disadvantage for anyone, but more so for those of us who are content creators and distributors, which is why it is IMPERATIVE for others to share your posts. Otherwise, next to no one is seeing them.

Now for the real reason I’m writing this article. Some harsh lessons I have learned from doing my show are these:

1. People want to see you do well…just not better than them: If you do anything in life and do it well, you will start to gain a modicum of momentum and success. This is actually a turn off to even those consider your closest of friends. Whether it just be jealousy, indifference or a contemptuous malice and will to see you fail…people don’t want to see someone they know having more success than themselves.

2. People will scoff at your plans, dreams and goals: When I first started this show, I had a lot of “support”. Friends and acquaintances alike telling me “This is awesome!” or “Wow, you’re really onto something!”. As time has progressed, however, I find that fewer and fewer of my “friends” are listening to my show, and even fewer actually share it. And now that I’ve made it known that my ultimate goal is for my show to become my actual career and livelihood, there have even been those who flat out say “You can’t make money doing that”. Well, as of right now, I have 3 paying supporters who donate a whopping $16/month to my show. Now, while this doesn’t sound like a lot, and it isn’t…it does now pay for my monthly hosting fee, which is actually a financial burden that has been lifted from my shoulders. My goal, however, is to reach that 1,000-2,000 listener per episode mark, and if I could average just $1/month in support from those numbers…I could feasibly make this my daily job. I know it’s a lofty goal, but it is a real one, and one which I feel is absolutely attainable. And, there’s also the issue of potential business and corporate sponsors in the near future.

3. You can’t count on the majority of your “friends” to support you: No matter how much people say they support you, or they love you, or they believe in what you’re doing…the proof is always in the end results of their actions. And when there are no actions taken on their parts, it becomes apparent that you are, in fact, obviously on your own to make your show a success. Now, I have actually made some new “friends” through Podbean, and their “Podcasting Smarter” Facebook community. The guys from “Watch Talk Wrestling” podcast and I have teamed up to do heavy cross-promotion and support of each other. We have recorded promos (or stingers) to be played on each other’s shows, as well as promoting each other on our various social media channels. This is a highly beneficial and cost-free marketing and advertising strategy. It’s important when pursuing this to keep in mind that you want to find shows which are mutually beneficial to yours, and vice-versa.

4. When you gain success and notoriety, the vultures will circle: This may sound harsh, but it’s true. I have just recently experienced this as I am gaining access to better interviews and guests on my show. I have advertised a few said guests, and was instantly bombarded by “friends” who don’t listen to my show, let alone share it, about seeing if they could come be on said show with said guest. This, in my opinion, shows a complete lack of respect for me and the brand that I’m building. It would be the equivalent of building your own house…with very little help…and once you’re finished, people show up knocking on your door asking if they can live there. And even worse, once people realize that you’re actually gaining some notoriety with your show, they will try to tell you how you should run your show. My attitude is along the lines of “Thanks, but I did all of this without you thus far, you don’t get to ride along now”. And yes, it absolutely takes that kind of attitude and disposition to stay the course and maintain the integrity of the show that YOU’RE trying to create.

5. You must stay true to and have faith in only YOURSELF: You cannot count on anyone to make you a success. It is absolutely up to you to persevere and press on through any potential setbacks, roadblocks and/or hurdles. There WILL always be those who truly support and help you in your endeavor, but they are extremely few and far between. Stay true to yourself and your content. Most importantly…stick with it…don’t give up! I have seen quite a few podcasts fizzle out within a few months because people became discouraged when they didn’t reach those thousands of listeners immediately. This is most definitely a marathon, it’s not a sprint. Keep plugging away and sharing your content, and asking for help from your “friends”. If they share it, awesome! If they don’t, try not to get to discouraged by it, as you’ll find, they’re not really your target audience.

About the author: Bulldog Milenko is the creator of Bulldog Unchained Podcast (http://bulldogunchained.podbean.com). You can also find them on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/bulldogunchained.

Where Should I Host My Podcast?

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Podcast Hosting Considerations

When you have a podcast, your media files need to be hosted somewhere reliable, so they’re served up smoothly to your audience. New podcasters are sometimes surprised to learn Apple doesn’t host podcasts…you’ll need to submit your podcast’s RSS feed for iTunes and other directories.

Most podcasters use podcast media hosting services, due to the convenience of having an experienced third-party maintain the server environment (plus the added features that often come along). We’ll share more information on the options and what to consider in podcast hosting.

Website Hosting v. Media Hosting

There are many affordable web hosting services available, but they are not designed for hosting podcast media files. You may run into bandwidth issues if your podcast becomes popular…simply having the content there may not be a problem, but being able to serve it up quickly to 1,000+ listeners may be (see more below regarding bandwidth).

Many podcasting experts have researched this with web hosting companies with the conclusion that you will run into problems if your podcast becomes popular. Either the host will ask you to switch to a dedicated service, which is typically more expensive than paying for separate media hosting, or downloads will become super slow or stop working. Media hosts are specifically designed to handle the specifications and growing needs of podcasters, as well as to offer features like download/audience statistics.

Hosting on Your Own Server

If you are experienced in IT you might think about hosting your media on your own server. However, very few podcasters do this due to the cost effectiveness and efficiency of third-party hosting. If you choose to host on your own server, you will need to manage growing bandwidth needs, deal with hardware maintenance and failures/redundancy, backing up your data, anti-hacking and DDoS attacks, etc. Even many large businesses with extensive IT departments and big server capacity are using third-party services when they podcast for internal communications or marketing.

Third-party hosts will handle security, anti-hacking, backup, server redundancy, etc. Different hosts offer different pricing plans and features (many permit a great deal of customization and the ability to use your own domain, so you can full brand and control your podcast). The other advantage of third-party hosting is additional features that you get (see more below).

Hosting Considerations: Bandwidth and Storage

Bandwidth and storage space should be top considerations when evaluating hosting options. As a quick example for storage: if you do a one hour audio podcast three times/week, you will need around 200MB storage space in a week (800MB-1000MB in a month). If you publish a video podcast once per week at 500MB for each episode, you will need 2GB space in every month. You may quickly find that you need to pay more for your ever-growing podcast storage needs unless you have unlimited storage.

Bandwidth is a way of measuring internet traffic. Every time someone downloads an episode of your podcast, it uses bandwidth. The bigger your podcast files, the more bandwidth they use. The more people who listen to your podcast, the more bandwidth it uses. If you have a one hour audio podcast in MP3 at 60MB file size and 1000 people listen to your podcast, it will use 60GB bandwidth… 10,000 people listen to your podcast will use 10 times the bandwidth.

If you choose a host that limits storage or you pay directly for storage, for example hosting directly on Amazon S3 cloud servers, be aware that costs will go up as you grow. There are very affordable options with third-party hosting services for unlimited bandwidth and storage (for example, Podbean’s unlimited audio plan is $9/month).

What should a podcaster consider when selecting podcast media hosting?

Reliability: network reliability and redundancy (at Podbean, we use a Podbean and Amazon Dual CDN environment to achieve high reliability for worldwide clients/listeners)
Bandwidth and storage space limits
Ability to auto-generate a RSS feed that is compatible with popular podcast players and apps, such as iTunes, Google Play etc.
Ease of use of tools/interface
Support for the type of setup you want (Can you use your own domain? Do you want a host that offers an integrated site? Do you want embeddable podcast players?)
Extra features and options, such as statistics and monetization (and costs, if applicable, associated with these extra features)

Know the commitment your hosting company has to podcasters and the industry: how long have they been around, are they investing in new features and innovating solutions? Over the years, there have been many hosts that have come and gone and others have moved their focus and stopped supporting the latest technology. Make sure to find out how you can redirect your feed if you use your host’s feed and later want or need to move.

Additional Podcast Hosting Features: The Extras Can Make a Difference

Though you should not count on a host as your main source of marketing and promotion, some hosting providers also have podcast directories and may help with listener discovery. For example, at Podbean we have a large directory and feature rotating podcasts each week on our home page. We also send emails to listeners with accounts about suggested content and have suggested topics and featured shows in our apps.

Most hosts will offer statistics about your downloads and audience (geography, clients/platforms they’re using for listening, etc.). Website statistics do not provide the information you need and most podcasters minimally want to know their download numbers.

Monetization is something you may want to consider, especially after you’ve developed great content and a dedicated audience. Podbean provides premium content options where you can charge a fee for select content or memberships (no upfront fees, a simple 15% revenue share).
Crowdfunding is another popular way of raising funds. Until recently, podcasters could use general crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter or Patreon or have a simple “donate” button, but Podbean now also offers a podcast-specific platform for monthly donations (open to any podcaster). Podbean is also working on an innovative way to help podcasters with advertising—stay tuned!

Mobile apps can provide another means of listener discovery and offer you additional features. For example, the Podbean app can be used to record and publish episodes as well as manage basic features of your podcast while on-the-go.

Video podcasting is supported by some hosts. While the majority of podcasts are audio, some podcasts have a visual focus or wish to publish occasional videos. Podbean offers HLS for video podcasting for a better viewer experience.

Deciding where to host your podcast media files is an important step in setting up your podcast. We invite you to join our Facebook group, Podcasting Smarter, for discussions about this and other topics for podcasters at all stages. For more information about Podbean hosting, you can review our podcast hosting features.