What Separates a Great Podcast from a Mediocre One?

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When you begin creating your podcast there is a ton of low-hanging fruit. You know that you need to cut out background noise, some catchy cover art, and a unique and catchy name. While these steps may seem like big moves in the beginning, they’re really only bringing your podcast out of the ‘Bad’ category and into the ‘Mediocre’ category.

The real challenge begins when you decide to move from the ‘Mediocre’ category to the ‘Great’ category. Most podcasts end up stuck in the middle tier, but for companies that are trying to use their podcast to bring in new clients and increase revenue, the real money is in the ‘Great’ category.

To help you reach that top stage, there are two main areas that you should focus on.


The most obvious way to increase quality is also one of the most neglected. The content of your podcast – what you talk about, what music you use, what voice you speak in, etc. – is its foundation. Without great content your podcasting career will be short lived at best. To ensure your content is of the highest quality, there are two questions you need to ask:

Does your content stand out in comparison to competitors?

Your podcast can give you a great competitive advantage, but only if the content stands out. To check if it does, subscribe to your competitors podcasts for a few weeks and take notes on what they talk about, how engrossed you become in the topics, and how they present themselves. Once you’ve done this, read their reviews on sites like Stitcher and iTunes. Check to see if customers are effusive about what’s being discussed or if the reviews tend to focus on mundane details.

Once you’ve compiled this information, compare it to your podcast with a critical eye. Look for any areas where competitors are stronger than you or any points that reviews indicate you’re lacking in compared to other podcasts. Finally, take these weaknesses and build a plan to address them.

Do your guests bring unique insight to the table?

Guests are a fundamental piece of every great podcast, which is why getting great guests can become a competition. As an expert in your field, there’s a good chance that you can immediately tell when someone knows what they’re talking about and when someone is just wasting oxygen to draw attention to themselves.

This skill comes in handy when evaluating your podcast in comparison to competitors. Listen to both your own podcasts and your competitors’ with a special focus on who the guests are, what they talk about, and whether or not they bring any unique insight to the table. If your guests are routinely underperforming it’s a good sign that you need to reevaluate your guest program.

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No podcast seems great to every person on the planet, and as a result it’s impossible to try to please everyone. However, your podcast should be great to your audience. It needs to speak to their pain points, teach them new concepts related to what they care about, and generally improve their lives in some meaningful way. To ensure that you’re relating on this level, there are two big questions that you need to answer honestly.

Will it resonate with the core audience?

Resonating with your core audience can be a difficult problem to undertake. After all, even when a podcast does resonate with listeners, you may not realize it: and when it doesn’t resonate, it can be hard to tell if it’s because you’re reading the feedback of a random listeners or a devoted fan. Due to this lack of information, many podcasters adopt the attitude that they need to just follow their gut and the audience will build itself around them – this is a mistake that can kill your podcast.

Instead, take a qualitative research approach. Reach out to any listeners that you have contact information for and ask them about their lives. Try to learn about what they care about, what inconveniences them on a day-to-day basis, and lastly, what they have trouble learning about. Once you have this information you can evaluate your podcast and check to see if what you’re talking about addresses the very topics that your listeners are asking to hear about. It’s not a perfect barometer, but it works when you’re operating in the blind.

Does it make sense if you haven’t listened to the archives?

One of the biggest mistakes podcasters make is assuming that listeners have been following along from the beginning. This can cause problems in small ways if there are any inside jokes among the hosts, or they can cause huge problems if there are topics of conversation that will only make sense in the context of previous episodes.

While having conversations stretch out over multiple podcast episodes can be a great idea, sharing context with new listeners can have a significant impact on subscriber retention rates. Fortunately, addressing this problem is simple as long as you keep it in mind. When you’re writing out what topics you’ll be talking about on your next episode, make a note to recap previous episodes that will prove useful for new listeners.

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Final Thoughts

Mediocrity can kill your podcast if you aren’t careful. If you stay in the middle of the pack and don’t push for greater quality you’ll find yourself with a stagnant group of listeners and a dwindling number of subscribers. Over time what was once mediocre results in a poor quality podcast that has no life. Thankfully, if you focus on bettering your content, your presentation, and your relevancy, this won’t be the end of your podcasting story.