3 Mistakes (from Top Podcasts) That Stop You From Holding the Audience’s Attention
How to deliver value without forcing your audience to work hard
Every piece of content you produce has a set of unwritten rules guiding it. Everyone wants to be a better writer, but few know how to play by these rules.
Breaking it down to the basics, it comes down to one simple aspect: holding your audience’s attention throughout and adding value with every line. That sounds about right, doesn’t it?
I listened to many successful podcasts over the past few days to get an idea of what makes them click. Surprisingly, several of the podcasts I listened to fail in this regard.
This article combines all these lessons and lists the three biggest mistakes most podcasters make. This applies to writing, video making, vlogging, conducting interviews, or any form of creative pursuit.
For each of the mistakes, I’ve also added a lesson on how you can apply it to your content creation field. Read on for some tips on capturing your audience’s attention through whatever media you choose to express yourself.
1. Don’t Make Them Wait
I follow a well-loved advocate of women’s mental health and self-love who has more than 500,000 followers on Instagram and 25,000+ monthly listeners on her podcast. The stats were enough to get my attention, but I could barely listen past the first 20 minutes when I tuned in to her podcast.
The biggest off-putting factor for me was how long she made me wait before delivering any real value. The introductions were too long — there was too much explanation on why I should continue listening and a lot of irrelevant self-deprecating humor, which didn’t suit someone so vocal about self-love.
This made me realize the most important lesson that applies to any field of content creation: don’t make your audience wait.
How you can apply this
The introduction to any piece is your most precious asset. Don’t waste it in explaining why this piece of content is right for them. Instead, ask them a question in the beginning and make it clear that they have to follow through to get their answers. Deliver on the promise you made at the start.
Grammar Girl is one of the first examples that come to mind when talking about a podcast that jumps straight to delivering value. Her podcasts dive right into the content without telling listeners why we should keep listening.
2. Respect Your Repeat Audience
Attracting new followers is important. How can you respect the people who have already been following your journey?
I realized the importance of this aspect when I listened to a writing-related podcast by one of my favorite self-published authors. He has a follower base of over one million on all platforms combined, and his podcast is full of valuable takeaways for new writers.
The issue is that after listening to three episodes, I already knew what he was going to say next. Whether it’s repeating old stories followers already know or explaining a process he’s talked about in a previous episode — it struggled to keep my attention.
How you can apply this
Value your audience’s time. Creating content around a new topic might require you to reiterate something you’ve already stated, but your posts shouldn’t be such that after going through a couple, people feel they already know everything you have to say.
A better strategy would be to mention that you’ve talked about this in a previous post, add a link to that post, summarize in one sentence, and move on. Jack Rhysider of Darknet Diaries does this very well — retaining returning listeners without repeating the whole story while making sure the first-time listeners don’t feel lost by providing all the context they need to know.
3. Fillers Could Be Killers
While it might be tempting to add relevant snippets that increase your podcast’s length, is it really necessary to ramble on and overexplain yourself? Another of my favorite influencers talks about motherhood and recovery from an eating disorder in her podcast with 30,000+ monthly listeners made me realize this aspect.
While stories add the personal touch and make you seem accessible to your listeners, it’s better to tell them about the epiphany you had, rather than starting from how you went to a restaurant, talked to the cashier for 10 minutes, enjoyed your Caprese salad with pesto sauce and finally got to thinking about how taking one hour off from your baby every day can be good for your mental health.
Add content, remove all the fluff.
How you can apply this
Show the readers your thoughts, not your thought process.
If removing all fillers decreases the length of your article, video, or podcast, then so be it. As long as every line delivers some value, your audience’s attention will be hooked. The moment you launch into a stream-of-consciousness rambling, you’ll lose them.
Write honestly, then edit out the unnecessary parts. Be so ruthless in your editing that it breaks your heart. Only then would the reader be satisfied.
Grabbing your audience’s attention right at the beginning and holding on to it throughout the piece is the secret sauce to growing your follower base.
Don’t make your introductions a list of reasons why they should consume your content. Instead, ask them questions and make them come to the same conclusions on their own.
Respect your returning followers, and don’t repeat the stories you’ve already shared in your previous episodes. Instead, summarize in a few lines and add a link to the relevant post.
Lastly, don’t add fillers for the sake of it. It’s better to produce a short, hard-hitting piece than a long rambling one that provides no value until 80% of it is done.
Treat your audience’s time like money. The better you save it, the more willing they’ll be to spend it on you.