Bryan Bridge – Important Factors in Growing a Sports Podcast

News and Journalism

Many sports fanatics listen to talk shows and podcasts. As much as it may be to pass time, they do it to truly learn more about the topic in which they are interested. In early 2022, I bought a professional microphone and decided to see how easy it would be to start a podcast. While it’s not the easiest process, it was relatively simple and allowed me to have a voice for the small audience that listened to these episodes. I started out only creating episodes that revolved around stories that made up some of the most notable athletes of all time. Before I began this project, I had 17 episodes published. I was struggling with audience interaction. Every time I researched how to improve the podcast, I noticed that the same three to five pieces of advice were given. This project answers the question that all new podcasters have: What actually works?

My project was to test out different methods to pinpoint what would help my fellow podcasters who were just starting their own show. I had a goal to increase interaction across all platforms by 400%. I was able to test different advice regarding social media, episode length and topic, releasing on a certain day of the week, podcast logos, and search-ability. By the project deadline, my different tactics helped increase interaction by 236%. While I did not reach my goal, I was able to see what advice did and did not work. I hope to now help new podcasters figure out how they can improve their own brand while still having a life. 

I began the project by asking everyone over social media and through different avenues to complete a survey to help me determine what to focus on for improvement. Below are some charts from their responses. 

Before the project officially began, I had 61 followers on social media and an average of 19 downloads per episode. I ended the project with a 236% increase in interaction. My social media followers jumped to 76 and I was able to average 45 downloads per episode. While it is still a low-scale podcast, I am still able to recount what I have learned and show other podcasters how to improve. 

Through implementing different strategies, interaction with the podcast grew by 236%.

YouTube was a key factor in finding new listeners. A large number of sports fanatics can search anything they want about their team and can find a video about it on this platform. However, it is important that you show your face on the video you posted. While the majority of survey responders noted that they would like episodes to be about 20 minutes, I found that they actually either like short episodes, likely 10 minutes or less, or longer episodes about trending topics. Another point I would like to focus on is the fact that the majority of listeners like to have humor in their sports podcast. The number of listens increased on my episodes when humor was a focus. Lastly, before the project, I would have roughly two to five minutes of small talk before introducing the episode topic. This is not good. Interaction increased dramatically when the first minute or two dove directly into the talking points. 

Let me expound on that last point. In journalism, we are taught, and it has been proven, that we should include everything that the reader should know within the first three paragraphs of a story or first few sentences. For a podcast, I never really thought about doing that because I thought listeners would listen to an entire episode and be sufficiently entertained. However, just as a regular journalist gives the reader all the necessary information right away, podcasters should focus on catching attention out of the gate. Do not waste time on talking about yourself and move directly into why the listener clicked on your episode. 

Podcasting is journalism. As a news writer, I constantly write stories that have the same language and deliver multiple different topics under the same style of writing. While professionalism is important, personality breaks barriers. As we focus on podcasting, it is clear that personality is what makes or breaks an entertaining show or episode. Survey responders noted that humor is very important to them. While not every style of podcast requires humor, especially if the topic is serious, your personality should show through and get people engaged. If you are finding that your show is not picking up steam or gaining new listeners, consider adding a host that may work well with your demeanor. For a sports podcast such as mine, statistics and a pure summary of the game will not catch new listeners. People share your show with their friends when they find it funny or when you add new insights. Ultimately, journalism takes practice and preparation, which clearly translates into podcasting. 

I enjoyed the time I spent on this project because I understood that my insights would help those seeking answers. In order to ensure correct data, it was important that I did not add myself to the pool of listeners. When putting forth effort to gather data in any sense, it is essential that you refrain from ramping up numbers by clicking on links and listening to episodes for yourself. I hope that these insights taught you something. Everything takes a bit of effort in this world. To grow your podcast, you need to find what works for you.