It's a few days after Christmas and I am sitting in my house fighting off a wicked cold in the best way I know how: drinking lots of water, reading, watching television, and thinking about Footnoting History. As the new year grows ever closer, it's hard to believe that the sweet baby podcast started in 2013 is poised to turn 7 - the so-called 'age of reason' if it was a human. As proud of the podcast as I am, there are always ways to improve, and I've spent a lot of time pondering how to make it happen. So, this year, instead of considering whether or not to make a personal resolution (I see you, folks who will aggressively show up at the gym, but only for a month - I was once like you!) I am going to work on several podcasting ones.
If you're like me and seeking ways to improve in the new year (or, any time really) today is your lucky day, because I've done much of the work for you. Here are 15 potential resolutions I have come up with to help you choose one (or more!) way to enhance your podcasting life before January 1st:
Try a new topic. Do you have a podcast about history but also love music? Is there some area you never usually cover - or one that scares you - that you would love to talk about? Use this year to find a way to incorporate these tangential loves or curiosities into your podcast. It'll make you happier and keep the interest of your listeners as they see how you stretch your skills.
Interact more with other podcasters. It's easy to podcast in isolation. You literally can create and release a podcast without ever speaking to another living being. It doesn't have to be that way. Make an effort to speak to other podcasters, whether it is through Twitter, by joining a Facebook group, attending a conference, or some other method. The people who will best understand your highs and lows are other podcasters. Work on building your community of support.
Schedule (and take) time off. Avoid burn out by going into the new year with a plan. Choose a month that you will take off and use that time to create multiple episodes you can air in the future. This way when you get busy, you won't have to stress out about recording because you will already have something done.
Revisit old episodes. Is there a topic you wish you had done better? Create an episode revisiting it or expanding it. Love what you did but realize your editing skills have improved vastly since you began? Re-edit and re-release the episode. Help yourself feel better about the bumpy beginning almost every podcaster experiences.
Collaborate. If you usually podcast solo, seek crossovers and collaborations with other podcasters. It'll be good fun and help you both reach new audiences. If you work on a podcasting team (like we do) pair up with someone you don't usually record with and test out the chemistry - it'll be new for you and your listeners, sparking interest in a new combination.
Build relationships with your listeners. Take some time away from advertising yourself and creating content to partake in exchanges with your audience. Whether this means answering your listener emails in an episode or wading into the conversations had by podcast lovers on social media, the best way to know what your listeners like is to engage with them and a rapport with them will only help you in the long term.
Create new merch. Always dreamed of seeing people walking around with your podcast's logo on a shirt or hoodie? Maybe want one for yourself? Already have merch but been thinking about a new design? The time to launch is now. People can't buy what you don't offer!
Refresh (or revamp) your brand. Every brand needs to grow and adapt. Maybe your website needs a face lift or you have a logo that no longer feels like it suits you. Many times what we think our podcast will be before we start it isn't the same as what it settles into once we've established ourselves. This upcoming year change your visual presentation to match who you are now, not who you thought you would be, or who you were when you began.
Host a contest. Amp up the fun by hosting a contest for your listeners - the prize could be anything from a piece of merch to a shout out on your podcast to, heck, letting the winner choose the topic for one of your episodes. The possibilities are endless, but everyone likes the feeling of winning, no matter the prize.
Focus your social media game. Juggling multiple social media accounts for a podcast can be a major headache, but in truth you don't need to be on every platform. Examine your social media presence, find which platforms work for you, and put your effort into those. Don't forget to close out your other accounts though - a neglected account looks worse than no account at all.
Listen to more podcasts. Every day someone, somewhere begins a podcast. Make it a goal to listen to a new one every month. This will not only help you keep abreast of podcasting trends, but it will tune your ear to things you feel work and don't work in the podcasting world.
Become a better editor. Read up on the newest trends in audio and content editing and try something new. Dedicate a certain amount of time to bettering your production value.
Enhance your show notes. It is my belief that educational - and especially history - podcasts should always have easily-accessible show notes. If you don't have them, this year is a good time to start, and if you do them already - why not enhance them? Expand your bibliographies, include more-detailed descriptions, add links to related episodes. Check out notes for other shows and incorporate the things you like in theirs into yours. What feels like extra work at first will be routine after a few episodes.
Spread the love. What podcasts do you enjoy? Make a point of reviewing and rating them positively, or contact their creators and tell them how you feel, or take advantage of having your own social media channels to share your favorite podcasts with your listeners. Do for other podcasts what you want your listeners to do for you.
Be a mentor. Podcasters come in all shapes, sizes, and ages but one thing is true across the board: everyone starts somewhere. Check social media (I know, always with the social media! but it's the easiest way to tap into the community) and if people are asking questions about podcasting, help them out. Offer your services to help someone else avoid the pitfalls you experienced. In addition to aiding them, you'll learn more about how you work when you have to explain it to someone else, and it'll lead to a greater understanding of your own methods.
How will you make your podcast - and your life as a podcaster - better in 2020?