3 Marketing Podcasts that Don’t Suck (and why most of the rest do)

Podcasting has grown steadily over the past seven years. Today, 17% of the US population over 12 has listened to a podcast in the past month. That is a little over 54 million people. And that is just the United States, not the whole world. Marketers are always looking for other avenues to re-purpose or create new content, so the rise in popularity of podcasting is a natural place to publish content. More places, more ears, more leads.

The problem is, they are just not very good at it.

Why Most Marketing Podcasts Suck

Most marketing podcasts I have come across suffer from a few fatal flaws and fail to keep my interest. A lot of these podcasts do the same things, in the same way, and it’s exhausting and dull.

Here are the sure signs of an average-at-best marketing podcast:

  • They rely on interviewing people but rarely draw their stories out of their guests
  • They start with rock n’ roll or pumping electronic music to try to get you excited
  • They are introduced by someone with a British accent but who is not actually part of the show
  • They make it sound like anyone can easily become a millionaire
  • They remind you of early 2000’s AM radio morning shows
  • They ask questions from a poorly premade script without building a natural conversation about real issues

Using the Medium to its Fullest Potential

Most marketing podcasts are based off of interviewing people about their successes or knowledge but this usually doesn’t work because the creators do not leverage the medium to its fullest potential. To demonstrate, I would first like to point to a few examples of good podcasting.

Tim Ferriss’s interview with Robert Rodriguez really takes advantage of the podcast format. It is long form, covers a lot of ground, and Tim asks insightful questions that allow Robert to not only give insightful details of his success but also open up as a person. By the end of the interview we feel more connected to both of them as people and at the same time we have learned a lot from Robert’s story.

Pat Flynn of the Smart Passive Income podcast also does this well. He pushes his guests to get more detailed, while remaining calm and not talking over them. Both of these podcasts have shows that near almost an hour or more, which means they are not rushed and they give their guests time to really open up.    

Marketing podcasts often go wrong when they are short, do not allow their guests to open up, and their interview questions are not very good. These questions tend to be either too open or too generic, which results in the listener getting recycled information or not enough details. There is often no segue and the interviewer goes down a checklist and asks the next planned question. The feeling is quite impersonal and mechanic.

Be Personal (and Personable)

Blogging started off as a way of people keeping online journals and sharing their secrets. The allure of readers was the same as finding someone’s personal diary under their bed and reading it. Personal blogs evolved into company and news blogs, going from the personal to the informative. Podcasting is similar but still different.

When I am looking for a informative article, I have much different requirements than when looking for a podcast. I can skim an article and jump to the information I need. With a podcast, I don’t just want to know what they will say, I also want to feel like I know the person speaking, even just a little bit. After all, I am going to have to listen to them talk for quite a while.

Reading is not the same as listening. There is something about a human’s voice that is more personal and moving. We remember great speeches differently than we remember great books. A strength of the podcasting medium is that it allows you to speak to people on a personal level. If all you do is effectively read something which could have been a blog post, you are doing it wrong. This is not to say that a podcast needs to be “touchy-feely” but it does mean that the presenters should show off their personality.

Some good examples of this are:  Reply All’s episode where they go outside, Marc Maron’s fifteen minute intros about his stray cats, and Pete Holmes’s admission that he started his podcast because his girlfriend broke up with him because he was too self centered and narcissistic.

These personal admissions and insights might seem too much for a lot of people, but that is not the point. It is about creating a cult of personality, a feeling that your listeners get to know who you are by listening to you speak. This might alienate some listeners who are looking for a different kind of experience but the ones you do attract are more likely to be loyal. Idle Thumbs is a podcast that went on a two-year hiatus, yet their community was still there when they decided to re-launch the podcast and helped them easily meet their Kickstarter goals. This is mainly due to the cult of personality they created, and maintaining a community on the podcast’s forums.  

What I look for are podcasts that are thorough, informative, personal, and entertaining. My favorite non-marketing podcasts make me feel either like I am part of a group of best friends, or that I am having a pleasant chat with someone close to me. They are often long (over one hour), personal (allowing the character of the hosts to shine through), and enterformative (entertaining and informative.)

Podcasts Need to be Well Produced

Startup is a great example of an enterformative podcast. I prefer the episodes that have more of an emotional slant, whereas Grant prefers the episodes that are more informative to starting your business. We both like the podcast as a whole, but we prefer different aspects of it.

Startup recently aired an episode that explained how they produced episodes. Long story short, they have a rigorous editing process that is a team effort and a lot of work goes into not just the script, but also the sound quality, structure and everything else. It doesn’t stop until what they have is good enough for their standards.

Most of us do not have the time or team to spend as much time on each episode as Gimlet Media does. However, if you are going to have a podcast, it does need to be edited and checked for quality. There are plenty of marketing podcasts which record off of Skype or Google Hangouts and it sometimes makes it hard to hear unless it is properly sound edited.

Much like a poorly written article will lose interest fast, a poorly produced podcast will do the same, but much worse. With a text, we can skim and look for a nugget of information despite the quality of writing. It is much harder to endure one hour of poor audio for one nugget of information.

Besides having quality audio recording equipment, one thing you can do if you run a podcast, is to have each speaker/guest record their own audio from your end and then send you the file. Then, when you edit the podcast, you are combining everyone’s individual audio recordings into one final product. It’s more work, but if your or your guest’s audio or connection is really bad, it might be the best work around.

3 Marketing Podcasts That Do It Right

Not all marketing podcasts suck, and Tim Ferriss and Pat Flynn aren’t the only good ones. The following podcasts are all unique and really reach to take advantage of the opportunities the medium has to offer. They are all worth your time.

Online Marketing Made Easy feat. Amy Porterfield

I really respect Amy for giving tangible examples and insights in how she does things. Whereas most marketers will tell you to “make great content!” without telling you what they actually did, Amy is not afraid of sharing her actual actions that lead to her success. She is not afraid of being transparent and she really cares about helping people by sharing her stories, experience, and a ton of resources. Sometimes she really does make online marketing sound easy.

The Fizzle Show

A group of marketers who get together to talk about stuff, mostly pertaining to freelancing but there is gold here for everyone. They are insightful, fun, and entertaining all in one, and they bring that feeling of having a few beers with your friends. From all the marketing podcasts I have listened to, The Fizzle Show is one of the few who have fun with it and know that they are fun to listen to. Genuine personalities are on show and they can be a bit ridiculous at times. However, don’t let the silly parts dissuade you from learning from them. Most marketing podcasts are just going through the motions and deliver a bland experience. The Fizzle Show is actually fun.

The Marketing Companion Podcast

Mark Schaefer and Tom Webster address things happening in the marketing world about once a month. Sometimes silly, with occasional jokes that fall flat, this podcast sets itself apart by being personable. The banter and discussion between these two powerhouses is fun as they share their opinions and insights of the current marketing landscape. Like The Fizzle Show, they actually seem to enjoy recording podcasts and are not afraid of showing their personalities.

These four podcasts are so good because they leverage the strength of what makes a good podcast. They contain great content, are personable and interesting, and have their own personality. They are not cookie cutter podcasts of things that should probably have been a blog post instead.

For anyone that has a podcast, these three are essential to hear, if only to see how to make marketing information enjoyable in a unique way.

Update: (This post used to list 4 podcasts, but the fourth podcast listed rebranded itself and became terribly generic)