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Spotify Begins Testing 99 Cent Low-Cost Tier

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Spotify has begun to test a new subscription tier that would carry a lower monthly price while offering some – but not all – of the benefits of paid subscribers. What is being called Spotify Plus costs as little as $0.99 per month – well below the normal $9.99 premium rate. According to The Verge, Spotify is testing a variety of price points.

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The low-cost Spotify Plus plan will still include ads but will let users skip an unlimited number of songs. Users will also be able to select a specific song rather than just the shuffled tracks that free users are currently limited to. 

In a statement to The Verge, Spotify confirmed the test was being conducted under a “limited number” of its users. “We’re always working to enhance the Spotify experience and we routinely conduct tests to inform our decisions,” the rep said. “Some tests end up paving the way for new offerings or enhancements while others may only provide learnings.”

Last week Spotify reported it had nine million fewer monthly active users during the second quarter than it expected even as its worldwide active user number hit 365 million. It blamed softer listening numbers in countries where COVID lockdowns were in effect. That seems somewhat counterintuitive. Spotify also said the percentage of monthly active users engaging with podcast content only improved “modestly” compared to Q1.

So apparently Joe Rogan isn’t quite the draw they expected him to be. I kid, I have all of my podcasts on Spotify and actually use it for most of my audio consumption. I have been a premium subsrciber for a while now. My main reason for subscribing was to avoid the advertising. I could definitely see the value is being able to choose specific tracks to play.

Best Podcast Hosting Platforms I Have Used

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There are a lot of platforms out there. Most offer the same options when when get right down to it, but they all have their own unique charms. I’ve used all three I’ll mention here for various projects.

Libsyn

Libsyn is a podcast hosting service that has been around since the early days of podcasting. As a matter of fact, when i started one podcast it was basically the only game in town. They’ve probably held onto a lot of their business because they’re a service long-time podcasters have used all along and they aren’t too anxious to make a change if they don’t have a specific problem.

Libsyn’s pricing plans start at $5/month with an upload limit of 50MB (which is too small for most people) so at a minimum you would will likely need the $15/month plan that bumps you up to 250MB of upload per month and basic statistics.

Podbean

Podbean has a free plan with 5 hours of storage and 100MB of bandwidth per month.

This is another easy way to start off, but you’ll need to upgrade to get more advanced stats, a custom domain, or more website customization.

Podbean allows you to have multiple podcasts (For a price). So it is a great option if ultimately you’re like me and like to shotgun podcast ideas all over the place rather than just having one podcast like a normal person.

RedCircle

RedCircle is my hosting platform of choice these days and it’s still relatively new. It launched in February 2019 focused on “semi-pro” podcasters.

One of their unique features is the ability to reach out and cross-promote your podcast within the platform. You can search for podcasts, reach out to them to pitch and set terms, and swap pre-recorded messages promoting each other’s podcasts.

The best part about RedCircle is hosting the podcast is actually free. They made all of their money from commission on premium content and any ad sales through the platform. So they only make money when you make money.

How Long Should an Episode of a Podcast Be?

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How long should your podcast be? As I’m scrolling through the various podcasts I listen to on a regular basis, it’s tough to get a gauge of how long one should be.

Let The Content Be Your Guide

Ok, I felt kind of lame just writing that headline.

At the end of the day though, unless you’re doing a show live on a radio station, it isn’t like you need to worry about length too much. The short answer I always give people is “Make it as long as it’s interesting”

Podcasting is on-demand content, so take as long as you need to create a great episode. Maybe you have 9 minutes of interesting things to say about your specific topic, maybe you have a good guest on and you could do two hours.

I’d be more worried about going too long as opposed to hitting a specific goal.

Should All Episodes Be the Same Length?

See above. If you’ve said what needs to be said and you’re happy with the content, call it an episode. But at the same time don’t but things short because you happened to hit 20 minutes.

After you get some episodes under your belt you’ll develop a system, process, and routine in place for putting your episodes together. You might find your episodes are all similar lengths because that’s generally how long it takes to do it.

Having some consistency can help give your audience an idea of what to expect out of every episode.

How long Is Too Long?

One of the biggest podcasts out there is Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History. Those episodes tend to be 3 hours long, sometimes more. Normally they have multiple episodes too. But if you’re a history wonk, you’re interested and keep listening. Also, if you’re board and on a really long road trip.

Of course Dan Carlin already has an audience. If audiences are just stumbling on your show and all of the episodes are 180 minutes, it might be tough to get them to check you out. It’s a delicate balance.

So basically, you shouldn’t feel boxed in by length. Never feel compelled to cut short good content just for the sake of hitting a specific time. But also be mindful of your listeners and don’t waste their time.

Also, if you have an idea for a podcast that could potentially go 180 minutes talking about history, we should probably talk. You’re my kind of person.

What Makes For A Great Podcast Interview?

It takes a lot of things to make an interview go well. When everything clicks, it can make for great content. If things go wrong it just wastes everyone’s time.

First of all, just remember not every interview is going to go perfectly. Sometimes the guest is boring, they rambled all over the place, they focused on pitching their own product, or they had horrible sound quality.

Preventing this from happening requires some preparation work. Once you have a process for it though, you’ll be surprised at how easy it is to repeat.

Have a pre-interview call (or email)

Generally if you’ve gone through the trouble of trying to book someone to begin with, you have a pretty good idea of the insight and experience they bring to the table. But once you actually have the interview scheduled, it’s a good idea to talk to the guest ahead of time just to give them an idea what to expect from the interview.

As I’ve mentioned before, don’t be afraid to tell them what questions you plan on asking ahead of time. At the very least give them the broad strokes of the topics you want to discuss. You’re not Perry Mason interrogating them, and giving the guest plenty of time to come up with the best answer possible is going to make for better content.

If it turns out they’re just reading talking points or otherwise giving less than genuine answers, you can ask follow up questions to make things a little more interesting. But you don’t want to blind side the guest. Even if you’re not worried about having the guest on again, it won’t make for very good content if you’re trying to surprise them and it ends up putting them on their heels.

Be clear about technical expectations

Guests who aren’t podcasters themselves may not understand what sort of setup they need in order to sound good on recordings. The COVID-era has certainly changed that since many people have upgraded their home offices,

If it all possible the guest needs to have a microphone, not just speak into their laptop mic. Even headphones with built-in microphones end up producing a decent result.

Don’t assume anything is common sense. Some guests call in for a podcast interview from a loud place like an airport. Always ask the guest to be in a quiet place for the interview, even if you have to delay or reschedule the interview to get the best results.

Do a deep dive into their background

When you schedule the interview, ask the guest (or their publicist) to send you a bio for the guest and any information on what they are promoting.

Take a look at their previous interviews. There might be an interesting angle that you explore more deeply or one that went horribly wrong that you’ll definitely want to avoid. It pays to know that stuff ahead of time.

Ask the guest (or their publicist) if there are a few specific questions the guest would like the host to asks. Generally if they have a specific thing they want to promote, they’ll be more than happy to give that to you. That doesn’t mean you have to focus exclusively on what the guest wants to promote, but you should know what they are looking to get out of it.

Be clear about what everyone wants out of the interview

Most guests are going to have something specific they want to promote. That’s not neccessarily a bad thing, if it gets them in the door. Just remember the interview should serve three angles: the podcaster’s audience, the podcaster, and the guest. In that order.

Some guests are going to treat the interview as more of an opportunity to pitch their products or services. The only person that benefits is the guest. It doesn’t do much for you or the audience, though.

Just be clear with them about what you’re looking for. Maybe reserve a specific part of the interview for pimping their product. Explain that they should build up their credibility with an educational, audience-first interview. If they give the audience a reason to be interested, they’ll stick around to hear about the book and/or product in question.

Ask the guest to help promote the episode

Guests can help grow your podcast’s audience. Even if they don’t have a huge built in audience, if they have one person who becomes aware of your show that’s a good thing.

The more specific you can be ahead of time about what would be helpful for you (and them), the more likely the guest will follow through on promoting the show.

Sports Illustrated & iHeart Media Sign an Audio Content Deal

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The content wars rage on.

Sports Illustrated has struck a deal with iHeartMedia to create podcast content. The agreement will see the co-production of at least eight new original podcasts while the iHeartPodcast Network will pick up distribution duties for the podcasts Sports Illustrated is already doing. There are also mutual marketing and promotion commitments.

Two of the original podcasts are scheduled to launch in the first quarter of 2022. The Sports Illustrated brand will be used on editorial and analysis-based podcasts. Other podcasts will come from Sports Illustrated Studios offering scripted and limited series content.

That’s interesting to me, because I would think the scripted content would be the bigger draw at this point.

Sports Illustrated Weekly will be a weekly audio magazine. The companies say each 45-minute episode will feature deep-dive segments on the biggest news of the week. There’s also a show called Lateral Damage planned, which will be a sports-related true crime podcast. Because there’s not enough true crime content out there.

I’m just happy to see so many radio companies finally getting serious about podcasts. That can only be good for people making podcasts, right?

How To Ask Great Questions In A Podcast Interview

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When you’re interviewing a guest on your podcast your questions need to be thought-provoking, considerate, and personable. It’s also worth pointing out you’re generally not going to get a great response from people if you surprise them. Never be afraid to give your guests a heads up about what topics you want to discuss.

Do Your Homework Ahead of Time

Do your research. It’ll be obvious if you invite a guest on your show and throw questions at them without learning a little bit about them. You probably know who they are and what they’re doing, but you need to dig a little deeper. You don’t want to end up like the Larry King interview with Jerry Seinfeld where you ask a question so stupid it completely derails the interview.

If your guest has already been interviewed within the last few weeks or months of your interview, listen to that podcast or read the article to figure out what they’ve already been asked. Even if you cover the same ground, it might help you come up with an angle that wasn’t explored in the previous interview. (Also, as a nice little added bonus it gives you an opportunity to hear how their name is pronounced. You’d be surprised how often that comes up.)

Give the Guest Some Room

It’s a pretty good bet you’re not inviting someone to be on your podcast so you can tell them how wrong they are. Actually, in 2021 I might be assuming too much. At any rate, most of time you’re going to schedule an interview with someone because you think they have something interesting to share. The guest should always be the center of attention, but don’t be afraid to jump in and try to coax a little more out of them.

For one of my current projects, I’m interviewing a large number of people. As much as possible I’m trying to get the subjects account of things in their own words. Rather than doing a traditional Q&A, I’m giving the subject and letting them talk in their own words.

That works for a narrative podcast, but if you’re doing one-on-one interview show (or a panel show for that matter) that won’t really work. Always let the guest talk though.

Take Your Time

You don’t have a commercial break coming up. So there’s no need to be in a hurry. Even the interview has to be done by a specified time, recording it in advance means you have a lot more flexibility.

Go slow. Take your time with your questions and give your guest as much time as they need to answer. It’s also important to wait a moment before moving on to the next question, as that slight bit of silence may prompt the guest to add something that might prove to be interesting.

If your guest seems particularly stumped by a question, you can always circle back around to it later in the interview, after they’ve had a bit more time to think about their response.

They may also find themselves answering that hard-question while going through your other discussion points.

Also, remember not to ask yes or no questions. But I think that goes without saying. What kind of a knucklehead would be doing that anyway?

How to Write A Podcast Description to Hook New Listeners

There are millions of podcasts to choose from. Along with things like your cover art, podcast name and episode titles, your podcast description is your first chance introduce yourself.

You can include any helpful information you like in the show description. Most podcasters use it to explain who they are, what kinds of topics they cover and possibly some information about what audience they believe would be interested.

Andrew Heaton for example has a podcast called The Political Orphanage. His description for the show is as follows:

“Politics minus bile plus jokes. Comedian and avowed independent Andrew Heaton examines current events with his deranged friends, then slops humor on top.”

That sums up the content of the show in just a couple of sentences. You can also tell the audience would be people who follow politics but do so in a way that it is non-partisan.

A few things to keep in mind as you’re crafting a podcast description:

The job of a podcast description is to summarize the podcast in a short, concise and effective way. If someone is seeing your podcast for the first time, they aren’t likely to want to read a whole novel. A good rule of thumb would two to three sentences.

Who is the target audience you are trying to reach with your podcast? If you’re a hobbyist, you might not put much thought into who your audience would be. My podcast with Sean Magers “Time Enough At Last” has a pretty specific audience… Twilight Zone fans. If you’re trying to turn your podcast into something that ultimately grows, you’ll want to have a pretty good idea of what audience you’re serving.

What are you covering in your podcast? If you are serving a specific audience it makes it much easier to figure out the topics, names or themes they will find most interesting.

If your podcast does not serve an obvious audience, it makes the job a little tougher. Maybe you and your hosts are the selling point. “Two airline pilots talk about what really happens in the cockpit while you’re flying,” would make for an interesting podcast. As a matter of fact, I might have to recruit a couple of pilots to do just that.

Of course if you’re working on launching a new podcast, maybe we should talk.