Business & Tech 101 for Indie Podcasters
James Cridland of Podnews offers tips for making podcasting sustainable
I’m so excited about this week’s Q&A. James Cridland of Podnews has a unique vantage point in the podcasting space, and I consider him a master of all things business and tech for podcasters, so I asked him to give the Besties a crash course.
What are the biggest “mistakes” or missed opportunities you notice from indie podcasters on the business side?
JC: One mistake I see a lot of people making is to call their podcast something that won’t help them be found. A podcast about great fish and chips should probably be called “Great Fish and Chips” and not “A-salt and Batter-y," “The Star Chip Enterprise," “The Codfather," or “Frying Nemo” — otherwise, people searching for a podcast about fish and chips won’t find you. I did a ton of research and discovered that Apple Podcasts doesn’t even search your show description, so your show’s name is really important. And don’t get me started on how many shows are called Real Talk!
Aside from that, the other advice I’d give is to learn to edit and make it your mission to value your listeners' time as much as possible. Remove all the boring bits — that’s not just removing the "ums" and "ers" — and ensure that every minute matters.
And make sure you’re abreast of the industry: e.g., new directories to be in, new technology, and tools to use. It’s why I write Podnews every day.
Obviously, podcasters should consult a lawyer for official legal advice, but based on your experience, do you have any advice for how indie podcasters can legally protect themselves and their IP?
JC: Yes, absolutely consult a proper lawyer, and don’t go asking an editor of a podcast newsletter. I’ve found it very helpful to get my podcast’s name as a registered trademark, making it easier for me to defend my show against people wanting to copy the name or confuse audiences.
My background is working in radio, and thankfully I had a lot of legal training to help me know what I could and couldn’t say on-air, which has been really helpful for my newsletter and my podcast. Law does differ around the world, but the benefit of growing up in the UK, which has quite strong laws, is that they’re good laws to follow.
You’ll see a lot of people in Facebook groups talk about guest release forms. Gordon Firemark, a proper lawyer, has one he gives away for free; but I’ve never used them (and have appeared on hundreds of radio shows and podcasts and very rarely have to sign anything). That said, if you are writing or producing stuff that you want to keep control of, it’s important to be clear about what someone can and can’t do with your work and an agreement of some sort — even if it’s an email or a recorded agreement with someone — is important. Creators deserve to be respected.
From a tech perspective, what are some ways the average indie podcaster can elevate their game?
JC: A decent name and description for your podcast really help people find your show. The same goes for episode titles, too — “Episode 43” isn’t going to get anyone listening.
Get your own website, or use something like Podpage, and direct people there, rather than only giving an Apple link. Half of the US, and three-quarters of the world, don’t use iPhones.
Remember that a great podcast is only half the job; you need to market it and tell people about it. That might be done on social media (if it’s a podcast about fish and chips, go and find the communities about fish and chips and take part in them — it’ll be good to find guests and stories, and good to promote yourself); or you might want to consider real-world groups and conferences too.
And, of course, tell the press about your podcast: your local newspaper or website, podcast newsletters, and everything else. Podnews has some hopefully useful tips. (And, speaking personally, I wish I had more indie podcasts to report on.)
And finally, a personal question that I think others might be wondering about, as well: I’m currently transferring hosting for two of my podcasts and I’ve been noticing some stragglers coming through on my old accounts despite following the instructions for how to redirect my feed. I want to close my old hosting accounts, but I’m wondering, how do I make sure all the downloads are coming through the new account?
JC: There are a lot of podcast directories out there and they won’t all update at the same time. So make sure you have done a proper redirect: and if you can upload something in your old feed that says “if you’re hearing this, you need to search again in your podcast app” or something similar, it’s unlikely to hurt. But all podcast hosts now offer proper “301 redirects,” so this probably/hopefully shouldn’t be a problem.
Any other resources or parting advice you have for indie podcasters?
From the heart: I’ve one more piece of parting advice. Please resist the temptation to join that gang.
Don’t join the group that hides in the side of podcast conferences and deliberately doesn’t join in with everyone else. Don’t think that because you’re an “indie” podcaster, you deserve to be small, or you deserve to work for free, or you deserve not to get the limelight. Don’t think you’re better, purer, cooler, or more creative than the commercial sector. This does nothing but hold you back and hold back all indie podcasters.
Creativity deserves to be self-sustaining, at the very least, and great work needs to be recognized by all. You achieve that by being inclusive of all parts of society but also inclusive of all parts of the podcast industry. A great story deserves to be told to millions — not hidden in a dusty corner of the internet, a separate chart, or a special award category. Podcasting is highly unusual in that we all have the same opportunities, on the same platforms, and access to the same tools and ideas. That’s an opportunity that nobody else has. So please don’t join that gang. You’re better than that.
Amen, James. Thank you! 🙏
He makes a great point. I aim to serve indie podcasters precisely so we can be competitive and build sustainable businesses in this market, and I heartily agree with his advice that adopting a separatist mindset isn’t helpful.
➡️ Make sure you subscribe to Podnews for daily updates and global podcasting industry news.
➡️ And let James know if you have any creative advertising examples. I’d love to see some Besties represent.
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