Things I've Learned From My Failed Podcast
Updated: Jun 25, 2020
Many of you won’t know this about me, but a couple of years ago, I had a podcast. Well I actually had a podcast in two different iterations, each with a different co-host.
I started the podcast back in mid-2018 with a masters student from my lab. We called it the Cognitio Podcast, and it was dedicated to talking about our experiences in STEM, particularly as women. Each episode ran for around 45 minutes, and was a general discussion of our opinions on the chosen topic for the week. But then life happened, my co-host finished her masters and moved away, and we didn’t get more than a few episodes in. We also didn’t find much success, and I think we got a little disheartened when only friends and family were listening, without attracting many external listeners.
But I really enjoyed making the show, and I’d gone out and invested in a good mic, a premium podcast hosting platform, and was in the process of designing a website for it.
So I decided to keep the podcast alive, and enlisted my friend and former fellow honours student Chloe to revive the show with me at the end of 2018. We ended up making just three episodes, each being a bit shorter at around 20 minutes long. Our first episode was about our experience with imposter syndrome, our second about the concept of cognitive dissonance, and the third about public speaking. We had a really good dynamic and I truly believe that if life hadn’t gotten in the way again, the show could have been really great and sustainable long-term.
But life happened once more, Chloe got into a veterinary science course over in Melbourne (because she’s just that incredible) and I just let the podcast once again fall by the wayside.
I’ve had discussions with a few of my female friends in STEM about reviving it a third time, but nothing has ever really arisen from those chats.
However, I feel like to revive it once again it would need a complete overhaul, as things have changed a lot on the podcasting scene since I last did it. But I did learn a lot of things throughout this failed podcasting experience, so I thought I’d share a few of them with you here!
Make sure you’re filling a niche or a gap in the market when you’re putting a project like this together. I feel like one of the reasons the podcast wasn’t overly successful was because there are a lot of people out there these days giving their opinions on being women in STEM, what was making our voice unique? At least in the first iteration of the podcast, we didn’t provide any ground-breaking ideas for change, instead it was just our experiences without any follow-up. In the second iteration of the podcast, we tried to gear it more towards what the audience would need, with tips, tricks and ideas for change, which I think was why I feel it could have been more successful given time.
If you’re passionate about something, that’s great! But you need to channel your time into making it successful and not get carried away in stuff that doesn’t matter. What I mean by this is, I spent a lot of time making sure we had good branding, setting up a website, monitoring our analytics, buying the equipment we needed, but not much time really thinking about what would make it a good podcast at its core. I was so passionate about it, I became blinkered to what it needed to truly be a success. It wasn’t until Chloe came on board that we really began to think about how to make this podcast something that people would actually want to listen to, not just something friends and family would occasionally tune in to. If I were to do it again, I’d take it one step further, maybe do some market research with my potential audience through Instagram and Twitter, listen to similar podcasts out there and take notes about what works and what doesn’t, and really sit down and think through what I want to achieve and what my podcast is adding to other people’s lives.
If you’re going to commit to doing something like a podcast, make sure you’ve planned out that you have enough time for it. This was something that really got in my way, because in both iterations, we were all so busy and finding the time to record became tricky. Then I also needed to edit the audio recordings, and organise all the other things that went along with it. Plus, doing a podcast with another person gave the extra challenge of not only having to fit it into my schedule, but theirs as well. If I were to redo making this podcast, I’d pre-record well ahead of time instead of doing it the week of or the week before, and have a bank of episodes stored, so that if I or they were busy one week, it wouldn’t matter so much and there wouldn’t be so much pressure to pump out episodes.
Make sure you find a platform that is right for you. I think a lot of the things I wanted to achieve with my podcast, I’ve managed to instead achieve through Instagram. These are things like sharing my experiences, creating a community, and sharing stuff I’ve learned along my journey into science. Although a podcast would've been fun, I do think instagram has lent itself well towards achieving these goals also.
Make sure to cross-promote your content and create a good social media presence. One of the things I tried (and failed) to do was to create a social media presence for the podcast. I did make a Twitter account, but honestly, I feel like things can get easily lost in the Twittersphere given how fast paced it is. I feel like in hindsight I should've focussed my attention on promoting the podcast on other platforms, like Instagram. Furthermore, posts that I repeatedly posted to my personal social media accounts received a ton more listens than those that I just left to gather listens on their own, so if I were to do this again, I would make sure to cross-promote on my personal pages to really bring attention to the fact I actually have a podcast.
Don’t be defined by your analytics. It really stung when people weren’t tuning into the podcast as much as I’d have liked, but it was something I enjoyed doing so it shouldn’t have really mattered to me as much as it did. Sure, it’s great to be appreciated for your work, but it’s not the be all and end all so long as you love what you do.
I do think I might revive the podcast one day, but I haven’t yet decided how I’ll go about doing it. I want to put something out there that’s unique and adds something to the world, rather than just another podcast similar to every other one out there. I’m still waiting on the inspiration to strike me, but once it does, hang onto your hats!