Table of Contents

How are you doing in podcasting as a guest, host, or both?
5 Main Reasons Podcasts Fail and How You Can Overcome Each

5 Main Reasons Podcasts Fail and How You Can Overcome Each

Table of Contents

How are you doing in podcasting as a guest, host, or both?

There are 2.5 million podcasts. However, only 426k are active. That means only 17% of podcasts are active, and here’s the scary part, out of that 17%, only 10% will still be podcasting in 365 days from now. In this talk, Alex Sanfilippo shares the 5 main reasons that podcasts fail and how you can position yourself to be part of the 10% year over year that not only survive but also thrive in the podcasting world!

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Did you know there are just over 2.5 million podcasts? Out of these, only 426,000 or 17% are active — they’ve posted an episode within the last 45 days. Here’s the crazy part, 365 days from now, only 10% of the 17% will still be active! That includes all the legacy, very established podcasts that have been around for a while.

The reality is it’s tough to make it as a creator in the podcasting space.

While new podcasts are being launched every day, the growth rate of active podcasts has somehow stagnated. Why is this the case?

I can attribute it to five main reasons why podcasts fail. This is vital information to have, no matter what side of the mic you are on. After all, as a podcast host, you want to be part of the ones that make it! And as a podcast guest, you don’t waste time going on shows that will end up as part of the statistics!

Now, I have to point out that my goal is not to just focus on the negative. I’ll also share some positives and ways that we can achieve success in podcasting.

Let’s jump in straight away!

1. Not Having a Compelling Why.

I believe this is the number one reason podcasts fail. I covered this point in detail in the last PodPros virtual event. In case you missed out on that, you can listen to the replay or read the blog here.

Here are some common things that may stand in the way of having a compelling Why.

You just want to try something new.

Podcasting is seen as this cool, trending thing right now. Many people who start podcasts are just exploring the idea of being a podcaster. As a result, they throw in the towel once they realize how much work podcasting is. Very rarely will someone says, ” I want to test this out and see how it goes,” and they stick with it. They don’t have a good Why because there really isn’t one.

The podcast is not niched enough.

I find that some of these people still don’t niche down enough. They get into podcasting thinking, “I will do a podcast for everybody.”

Here’s the thing: if something’s for everybody, it’s actually for nobody because nobody is everybody. We always have to remember that, as podcasters, we have to find that narrow niche where we can serve and add value to our listeners.

Action step for podcast hosts:

Get clear on your Why. Sit down and write it down on paper. Again, go back to that previous post to learn how to develop a strong and compelling Why.

Action step for podcast guests:

Do your research. It’s simple to identify a podcast that doesn’t have a strong Why. Here’s how you do that. Check out their website & social media and listen to some episodes. If you can’t figure out why that podcast exists, there’s probably not a very good reason for it.

If you are a podcast host and guests can’t figure out the Why behind your show, then that’s a clear indication the listeners probably can’t as well.

2. Having Unrealistic Expectations About Monetary Return

The second reason most podcasts fail is that many hosts have unrealistic expectations of the money they can make or the influence they can gain.

Here are some classic examples of unrealistic expectations:

They believe they are going to quit their job within six months and become a full-time creator. First off, being a full-time creator in any space, whether it be podcasting, YouTube, blogging or social media, is extremely rare. Almost everybody who makes it in these spaces offers some product or service. They’re not just full-time creators.

They believe they can find a good sponsor or advertiser that pays enough. Sorry to burst anyone’s bubble, but that’s almost impossible to find. Suppose you’ve done an excellent job at niching down your podcast. In that case, your listenership likely won’t be big enough to allow you to make a lot of money with a sponsor or an advertiser. You’re going to need a product or service of your own that you can offer to your audience.

Podcasters don’t have millions of fans knocking on the door. They don’t have other podcasters coming to them saying, ” Can you please sign my podcasting mic?” I call this the Joe Rogan pipe dream. So many of us assume that if we do what he does, then we will make it big, like him. That’s not how it works. You have to remember that Joe Rogan had a lot of fame before he got into podcasting. It helps that he also jumped into it at the right time.

Action step for podcast hosts:

Keep podcasting a hobby for as long as you possibly can. Have fun and make it about serving other people, not necessarily going for fame and all those things. Be yourself, be humble and just enjoy your community, even if it’s really small.

The people who succeed in podcasting are not the ones seeking fame or the money behind it. They’re just having a good time, and people grab onto that.

Action step for guests:

Watch out for self-serving and big egos. Those folks who only care about how many likes they get or act like they are something they’re not. People who say things like, “I’m a huge deal, and I hope you that coming on my show is huge.” Rarely do such people last long in podcasting. So keep an eye out for that.

3. Being Unable To Keep Up With The Workload

The third reason podcasts fail is that they simply can’t keep up with the workload. Luckily, this is the easiest of the bunch to overcome. Here are a couple of reasons why people can get overwhelmed with the workload:

They’re disorganized. How many people try to map everything out using good old-fashioned memory? Quoting the famous productivity expert David Allen, “Your head is for having ideas, not for storing them.” Too many people try to store things and only end up stressed. They’ve not developed any SOP (standard operating procedures) to help keep everything organized.

They haven’t delegated any of the work. Many podcasters haven’t hired a VA or a team member to help them out. What if I don’t have the budget for it yet? That’s just it; hiring a VA doesn’t cost as much as you think. If you go to podpros.com/168, a friend of mine did a great talk on how to hire VAs.

Also, did you know that if you’re using PodMatch to get guests and book your interviews, you could be making more every time you do that than it costs you to pay a VA to work for you? Learn more here.

Action step for hosts:

Everything that you can automate, delegate or eliminate. Look at all the things you’re doing and ask, is there any way to automate this?

If that’s not possible, can you delegate that work to a team member?

The final option is to eliminate it. Is there any reason you are doing what you are doing? If you remove it, will that allow you to stay more focused on what is serving the listener?

Personally, I’m very passionate about using tools to automate things. A perfect example is Podcast SOP, a service I created to help podcasters keep things organized. You can have your entire checklist in there. Tools like Calendly (scheduling) and Riverside (recording) help make the podcasting process much smoother.

Remember, if you can stay consistent with podcasting and focus on continuous improvement while removing friction, you’ll succeed in podcasting in the long term.

Action step for podcast guests:

Watch out for disorganization. Imagine you’re supposed to be doing a pre-interview call, and the host doesn’t show up! Or they email you ten times because they keep forgetting different things they needed from you. These are red flags. If they’re that disorganized, they might not make it long-term.

4. Giving Up Too Soon

Most podcasters give up due to 1) low downloads and 2)not having an engaged audience. They often feel like these two outcomes are telling them to give up.

Here’s a story from Napoleon Hill’s book, Think and Grow Rich. You might already be familiar with it. A young guy moved from his country to California during the Gold Rush. He bought some land and all the gear he needed and started digging for gold right away. Weeks went by, months came and passed, a year went by, nothing! The young guy was burnt out. So, he sold everything for pennies on the dollar and moved back to his country. The person who bought the operation from him went straight back to the land and picked up where he had left off. He started digging, and only three feet in, he literally struck gold.

Are we giving up three feet from gold? Are we giving up just when we’re right on the cusp of a breakthrough?. I have found this to be true for so many of us in podcasting. We’re on the edge of achieving something great, and it’s impactful, but we have yet to see the results.

I remember when I got to that point in my show. But instead of giving up, I decided to keep being consistent. Every single week I was going to release an episode no matter what. Over time, without changing much, I got better at interviews, and the show started to take off and grow.

That’s why I love encouraging my fellow podcasters. Hold on even if you feel like you’re just not seeing the traction. If you believe in what you’re doing and keep it fun, you can succeed in podcasting.

Action step for hosts:

Be and remain optimistic. Keep on going and be excited about the future. Remember that you’re impacting lives and helping somebody. Even if it’s a comedy podcast, you’re making somebody laugh. It’s worthwhile to keep on going if you believe in it.

Action step for guests:

Listen to the host’s speech. Do they sound like they’re burnt out? Do they sound like they’re defeated? When you sense that, it should make you reconsider being on that show. Now, if you’re an encouraging person, definitely jump on that show, speak some life and inspire them to continue moving forward.

There’s something I like to say about podcasting when I talk about not giving up. Podcasting is like taking the stairs, not the elevator. It’s not going to fast-track you to success. Slow and steady wins the race. This is true on either side of the mic. If you’re a guest, it’s the same. You got just have to keep on guesting. Eventually, it’s going to pay off.

5. Going The Path Alone

The fifth and final reason podcasts fail is because people choose to go on the path alone. Being a creator in any space is a lonely road. You need a tribe around you if you want to succeed. I love what Helen Keller says, “Alone we can do so little, but together we can do so much.” I think it’s so important that we all understand that.

Often, podcasters don’t generally seek out a community. They’re busy living in their own little bubble. They don’t know how to collaborate with other podcasters. Long ago, they decided, “You know what? This is my show, and I’ll keep doing me.”

Then they are a few who are rude to anyone who reaches out to them. I’ve had hundreds of people, from service providers to podcasters, send me unkind emails.

I’m a follower of Jesus, and if there’s one thing I’ve always found to be true is, “Hurting people hurt people.” Yet, my job is to love them regardless. Sometimes that means backing off and not responding. Other times it’s asking myself, how can I respond in a loving way? How can I help them get through the hurt that they’re suffering?

Action step for podcast hosts:

Join a podcasting community. A great example is the PodPros community. Disclaimer: it’s my community, so I might be a little biased, but I believe ou you get the point. Look for opportunities to collaborate and network with other podcasters in your space. Remember that a rising tide lifts all ships. So let’s get better together. Let’s find that common goal of sharing great content with the world.

Action step for podcast guests:

Consider it a green light when a host introduces you to other people in the space. For instance, if they say, “Thanks for coming to mine, check out this show.” That’s often a good sign that they may be part of a community. You can also look at their social media for reference to other podcasts. Have they ever done any collaborations? That’s something worth finding out.

A Quick Recap

Let’s close off this post with a recap of the positives. What can podcasters do to succeed? An antidote to the points on why podcast fails.

  1. Spend time making your Why compelling and convicting for both you and your listeners.
  2. Remember, it’s not about the money or the fame. It’s about the service you provide the world in the most enjoyable way you can.
  3. Use tools and team members to simplify the production process of your podcast.
  4. Don’t give up. Stay the course and press on when you feel like stopping. Let your Why drive you through this.
  5. Don’t go the path alone. Connect with other like-minded creators.

I hope that you found this helpful!


About Alex Sanfilippo

Alex Sanfilippo is the host of the top-rated podcast called Podcasting Made Simple. He is also the founder of PodPros.com, a software company focused specifically on the podcasting industry. Alex and his team have created popular services like PodMatch, a service that matches podcast guests and hosts together for interviews, and PodcastSOP, a project management tool that helps podcasters keep up with their episode releases.