I launched the Lifestyle Business Magazine Podcast on November 12, 2015 and looking back, I am pretty happy with the results. In the 8 weeks following my launch date (the period in which iTunes features new podcasts in the New and Noteworthy section of the iTunes store), I was able to climb my way up the New and Noteworthy section of iTunes in multiple categories, resulting in some great exposure for the podcast and Lifestyle Business Magazine. This definitely did not happen by accident. In fact, I started planning the launch strategy several months before I finally submitted the podcast to iTunes.
If you’re thinking of starting a podcast in the near future, I wrote this article is for you (actually, I also recorded a podcast episode to share the same content, so click here if you would rather listen than read). Hosting a podcast is a great way to share your message, build an audience, increase your authority in your industry, interview other experts in your industry, and attract customers or clients for your business. But if you don’t have a launch strategy, you will likely be disappointed with the amount of initial exposure your show receives.
New podcasts are popping up all the time, and some categories have become extremely competitive. You really do need to have a launch strategy to maximize your show’s exposure from Day 1 and avoid getting lost in the sea of podcasts on iTunes. To help increase your odds of success, I’ve decided to outline my entire podcast launch strategy in detail, so that you can follow these same steps and experience similar (or even better) results when you launch your show.
The purpose of a podcast launch
The goal with your launch should be to get as much exposure for your show as possible from the beginning. When I started my first podcast back in 2013, I didn’t have a launch strategy (actually, I didn’t even know about the New and Noteworthy section of iTunes), and because of that it took me nearly 2 years of hustle to get the same level of exposure for my show as I already started receiving for the Lifestyle Business Magazine Podcast after just a few weeks. So if you only take away one lesson from this entire article, I hope that it is this: simply uploading your podcast to iTunes is not a launch strategy. There are things you should be doing before and after you submit your podcast to iTunes to help maximize your exposure and attract a large audience for your show.
While there are certainly different objectives that a person can have for their podcast launch, the main objective of my launch was to get featured in the New and Noteworthy section of iTunes for my show’s categories. However, it is worth noting that the iTunes store (and therefore, the New and Noteworthy section) is unique for every country that iTunes is available in. For that reason, you should monitor your show’s ranking in the New and Noteworthy section in your country or the countries where the majority of your target audience is based. Since most of my target audience is in Canada and the United States, I focused my efforts there. I do have listeners in Australia as well, but when compared to the United States, Canada and Australia are not very big markets. My main priority was getting exposure on the iTunes store in the United States.
On a side note, there are other podcast directories worth submitting to (such as Stitcher, SoundCloud, and TuneIn), but since the majority of podcast listeners use iTunes, you should focus your launch efforts there and consider your exposure on those other platforms a bonus.
The results of my podcast launch (first 8 weeks on iTunes):
- Total Downloads: 4,336
- Ratings & Reviews: Over 70 5-star Ratings & Reviews (Canada + U.S.)
- New and Noteworthy Rankings (Canada):
- #1 in Business
- #1 in Management & Marketing
- #1 in Self-Help
- #1 in Training
- #2 Education
- #4 Health
- New and Noteworthy Rankings (U.S.):
- #1 Management & Marketing
- #1 Education
- #1 Training
- #2 Self-Help
- #3 Business
- #5 Health
Since this was my first time launching a podcast with the intention of getting featured on iTunes New and Noteworthy, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I know of other podcast hosts who have received anywhere from a few thousand downloads to tens of thousands of downloads or more in their first 8 weeks on iTunes.
My friend and coaching client Aditya Jaykumar, for example, received over 50,000 downloads for his show My Seven Chakras during his first 8 weeks on iTunes by following a similar launch strategy. Aditya is a fantastic podcast host who has had a lot of high quality guests on his show, but I suspect one of main reasons he received so many downloads was because he chose a topic that appealed to a very broad audience (high demand) and that had little competition (low supply of related podcasts) at the time of his launch.
The topics of online business and lifestyle entrepreneurship have a ton of competition on iTunes, so it is definitely tough to stand out. But I still went ahead and launched the podcast because I knew it would generate more exposure for my digital magazine and provide additional value for its subscribers. The App Store, on the other hand, has very few magazines about lifestyle entrepreneurship, so we definitely stand out in that marketplace, which is great.
I guess the big lesson here is that I cannot predict how many downloads your show is likely to receive if you follow the launch strategy I’ve listed below. It really does depend on a lot of factors including your topic choice, your branding, your unique value proposition (what makes you different from other podcasts), the timing of your launch, the size of your audience before you launch, the market demand for your topic, and the number of competing podcasts in your market. But what I can say with certainty is that if you follow the steps below, you will be doing more to ensure the success of your podcast launch than the majority of other podcast hosts out there. So whatever result you end up with, you should definitely be proud of it.
Okay, here we go…
Phase 1: Planning Your Podcast
Choose A Topic For Your Podcast
As you can probably guess, the topic for my podcast is lifestyle entrepreneurship. This is more specific than the general category of business or entrepreneurship, and having that clarity helps the show attract people who specifically want to learn how to build a lifestyle business.
Deciding ahead of time what topic your show will focus on and who your target audience will be is very important. When your target audience finds your show on iTunes, they should be able to tell within seconds that your show was created for them. If your topic is unclear or too broad, you will have a hard time standing out from competing podcasts. On the other hand, if you choose a topic that is too specific (too small of a niche), the amount of listeners you can expect to attract will be limited.
Choose A Format For Your Podcast
In terms of the format for your show, there are a few key decisions you should make before you launch. I am not saying that certain formats are better than others (there are examples of successful podcasts for every format listed below). Just make sure that you choose a format that works for you and that you plan to keep consistent.
- Host it yourself (self-hosted)
- Host it with someone else (co-hosted)
- Topic based
- Guest interviews
- Q&A (answer questions your audience submits to you)
- Mix of any of the above
- 5-10 minutes (great for Q&A or quick tips)
- 20-30 minutes (great for topic based episodes and short interviews)
- 45 minutes (common length for most interviews)
- 60 minutes or more (for very in-depth episodes and long interviews)
- Daily episodes (hard work, but lots of content for your audience)
- 2-3 episodes per week (not easy, but a good amount of content)
- 1 episode per week (manageable and most common option)
- 2-3 episodes per month (easy, but less content for your audience)
For the Lifestyle Business Magazine Podcast, I chose to do self-hosted show which is primarily interview-based. I publish 3 interviews per month (about 45 minutes in length each), plus the occasional solo episode (about 30 minutes in length each). We are basically a weekly podcast, with the exception of a month where I do not publish a solo episode.
Purchase Necessary Equipment & Software
Technology has come a long way, and as a result, you don’t need a ton of equipment (or a professional recording studio) to host a podcast. In addition to your laptop or desktop computer, all you really need is a good external microphone, a pair of headphones, a program to record your episodes/interviews, and a program to edit them.
Here is a list of the equipment and software I use to host my podcast:
- Audio Technica ATR 2100 (microphone)
- Foam ball and pop filter (to reduce popping noise)
- Mic suspension scissor arms (to hold the microphone and move it around)
- Sony noise cancelling headphones
- Skype (for conducting interviews)
- MP3 Skype Recorder (for recording interviews)
- Sony Sound Forge (for editing episodes)
Use a media host
You should also sign up for an account with a media host. A media host will store the audio files for your podcast for you. You should not host your audio files on your own website. If hundreds or even thousands of people are downloading your podcast episodes, that amount of activity could cause your website to slow down significantly or even crash. Upload your audio files to a media host that can handle a large amount of downloads. I use Libsyn for my media host, and they are excellent (they also provide detailed download statistics, which is very valuable).
Remember, iTunes is not a media host. They do not actually “have” your audio files. Think of iTunes as a directory. People will find your podcast on iTunes, but when they listen to an episode they are actually downloading or streaming that audio file from wherever it is hosted on the internet.
Clarify Your Objectives For Your Podcast
If you don’t know what the objective(s) of your podcast are, you will have no way to measure whether or not it is successful. Clarify your objectives, and then base the decisions you make for your show around those objectives.
Here are some possible objectives for your podcast:
- Provide helpful content to your existing audience
- Build a new audience
- Monetize your podcast via sponsors or affiliate marketing
- Build your personal brand or increase your authority in your industry
- Expand your network and knowledge by interviewing other experts
- Grow your business by attracting clients for your products or services
For the Lifestyle Business Magazine Podcast, my objectives for the show were pretty simple. I wanted to increase exposure for my magazine (and increase the number of magazine subscribers), provide additional exposure for the entrepreneurs that I feature in the magazine (by also featuring them on the podcast), and provide my existing magazine subscribers with an additional form of content to enjoy (audio content).
There are a few key elements that make up the overall branding of your podcast on iTunes. Collectively, these elements should help convey the purpose of your podcast, the benefits of listening, and the target audience you created it for. The main elements of your show’s branding are:
- Your show title and subtitle
- Your show description
- Your logo / cover art
- Your host name / title
Instead of including a subtitle (often thought of as a tag line), I chose to include some specific keywords (entrepreneurship, online business, passive income, lifestyle design). I did this on purpose to help the podcast rank in the search results for those keywords. I also added some keywords to my host title (lifestyle entrepreneur, lifestyle business) to help rank for those terms as well. My description describes the purpose of the show, its target audience, its format, and the topic discussed. Here’s a screenshot of how the Lifestyle Business Magazine Podcast currently appears on iTunes (click on the image to expand it, or click here to see the show’s iTunes page)
iTunes New and Noteworthy
It varies by country and by category, but getting your podcast featured in the New and Noteworthy section of iTunes can exposure you show to hundreds, and potentially thousands of new listeners. And just like Google has a specific algorithm for ranking websites in their search results, so does iTunes for ranking podcasts in their New and Noteworthy section.
Since I don’t work for iTunes, I don’t know the exact formula. But basically, iTunes ranks podcasts in their New and Noteworthy section based on some combination of the number of downloads, subscriptions, rating and reviews that a show receives. So to get featured on New and Noteworthy for your show’s categories, you’ll need to plan to ask as many people as possible to download, subscribe, rate and review your podcast once it goes live. Don’t leave this up to chance. Get ready to hustle hard to get as many downloads, subscriptions, ratings and reviews in the first 8 weeks as possible.
Categorize your podcast strategically
One thing you can do to increase your odds of getting featured in the New and Noteworthy section of iTunes is to categorize your podcast in the more specific categories of the iTunes store (not the broad ones). For example, the Business category is very broad, and therefore very competitive. But there are several sub-categories of the Business category which are less competitive including Business News, Careers, Investing, and Management & Marketing.
When you categorize your podcast in specific sub-categories, you actually give your podcast a chance to rank in 6 categories of iTunes (your sub-categories and the broader categories that they each fall under). Getting featuring in the New and Noteworthy section of a sub-category will help you to build the momentum you’ll need to get featured in a broad one.
Here are the categories I chose for the Lifestyle Business Magazine Podcast:
- Management & Marketing (a sub-category of Business)
- Training (a subcategory of Education)
- Self-Help (a subcategory of Health)
Phase 2: Pre-Launch
In the weeks or months leading up to your podcast launch, there are some steps you can take to build an audience online before you submit your show to iTunes. This will ensure that when your podcast goes live, you have people to promote to it. The steps listed below are the same steps I started taking about 4 months before I was ready to submit my podcast to iTunes.
Build an email list
- Create a free resource for your target audience (PDF guide, checklist, cheat sheet, video training, etc.)
- Set up an opt-in page to give away your resource in exchange for someone’s email address
- Drive as much traffic as possible to your opt-in page (social media, blogging, paid advertising)
Since the target audience for my podcast is primarily aspiring lifestyle entrepreneurs, I created a Lifestyle Business Startup Checklist (PDF guide) to give to them. This checklist outlines the steps involved in building a lifestyle business and helps someone create a plan to build their business and design their dream lifestyle. I used LeadPages to create a landing page to give away this checklist (see image below), and I relied primarily on social media marketing and blogging to drive traffic to this page. For email marketing, I use Aweber.
Build an audience on social media
- Set up profiles/pages on social media
- Post consistently (links to your blog posts, other helpful articles, inspiring quotes, etc.)
- Follow people in your target audience daily, many of them will follow you back
- Focus on 2-3 platforms to avoid overwhelm
I set up the social media accounts for Lifestyle Business Magazine in the summer of 2015 (shortly after setting up our website). I created a profile on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Google Plus. Then I signed up for HootSuite (social media management program) so that I could schedule posts on all of our social networks simultaneously. I gave my Virtual Assistant access to the account so she could take care of that for me. We post the most content on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, so naturally most of our followers are on those platforms. When I launched the podcast, we had about 5,000 followers spread across those 3 platforms.
Build a launch team
- Contact at least 20 people (friends, family, etc.) and ask them to commit to downloading, subscribing, rating and reviewing your podcast once it goes live
- Create a Facebook group to coordinate with your launch team
I built a launch team of 25 people the week before I submitted my podcast to iTunes simply by sending messages to friends and other podcast hosts on Facebook. I added them to a private Facebook Group that I created so that I could communicate with all of them at the same time.
Phase 3: Launch
To submit your podcast to iTunes, you’ll need to obtain your podcast’s feed URL (you can get this from your media host, which in my case was Libsyn). Once you have that, simply open up the Podcast section of the iTunes store, and then look for the words Submit a Podcast on the right menu.
After you click on Submit a Podcast, you will be directed to a page where you will paste your feed URL into a box. Paste it, then click on continue. There will be some basic information to fill out on the next page, but it is very straight forward. iTunes typically takes 24-48 hours to review a podcast. If they approve it, they will send you an email to let you know.
Once you get the email that your podcast has been approved and it appears on iTunes, it is time to start promoting it. The steps listed below are the same steps I took immediately after I got that email:
Email your list of subscribers
- Email them on launch day to let them know your podcast is online
- Email them the links to future episodes as they are published
- Ask them to download, subscribe, rate and review the show (if they like it)
Promote your podcast on social media
- Share the exciting news that you’ve launched a podcast!
- Post the link to your first episode
- Post the link to your other episodes as they are published
Create a Facebook event
- Most Facebook posts are only seen by a small percentage of your friends/followers
- Create a Facebook event to announce your podcast launch, invite specific people to the event (they will receive a notification so it’s hard for them not to see it)
Enlist the help of your launch team
- Ask the members of your launch team to download, subscribe, rate, and review your podcast
- Provide them with step-by-step instructions (a video tutorial is even better) on how to it
Enlist the help of other podcast hosts
- Leave a rating and review for other podcasts
- Contact the hosts (social media or email) to tell them you rated & reviewed their show
- Invite them to listen to your show (give them the link) and leave you a rating and review if they enjoy it
If you made it all the way to the end of this article, then congratulations! I know this was a pretty long post, but I did my best to provide a very detailed overview of the launch strategy I used when I launched my podcast. If you follow the same steps, you have a really good shot at ranking highly on the New And Noteworthy section of iTunes for your chosen categories, exposing your show to hundreds, maybe even thousands of potential listeners in the process.
The launch is just the beginning…
Hosting a podcast is a lot of work, but it’s also a lot of fun. If I could leave you with one final word of advice, it would be to remember that your launch is just the beginning. Do your best to get as much exposure for your podcast during your first few weeks on iTunes, but after the excitement of your launch is over, remember that podcasting, like most endeavors, is a marathon and not a sprint. The best thing you can do to ensure the success of your podcast is to commit to it long-term, and to make it a little bit better with each episode that you publish.
Have fun, and good luck!