There are over 4 million podcasts in the world today. This begs the question, how do you rise above the noise? In other words, what makes a good podcast?
We asked podcast professionals to share their best answers to this question to help you craft a show that can stand out.
“It's one thing to make a really great show. It's another thing to get that show to the people that need to hear it — the people that will become your loyal listeners. As you ideate and create your podcast, spend an equal amount of time thinking about how you're going to market the show. Who are you reaching out to for collaboration? How are you approaching the podcatchers for promotional opportunities? Which media outlets are you reaching out to for coverage? A strong launch plan will ensure that the content you worked so hard to make actually falls on ears that are ready to consume it.”
– Arielle Nissenblatt, Community Marketing Manager at Descript (formerly SquadCast)
“Surveying your audience and analyzing qualitative feedback (via reviews, newsletter responses, social media engagement, etc) can be a scary thing. Sometimes, it can be difficult to read between the chatter, versus addressing a specific desire that your audience may want. (The biggest fear can be losing a part of your community if an idea doesn’t pan out as you’ve planned it.) However, building that trust together can make for the perfect addition to content that your core audience already loves! For instance, do they want more of you (behind-the-scenes content, a deeper dive on a topic, a live pop-up podcast in their city)? Do they want to see you collaborate with another show (maybe they want to hear a conversation between you and another host that they really love)? Do they want an immersive experience of your show or for you to experiment with 3D audio? Your audience will tell you want they want and a great podcast knows how (and when) to listen.”
– Fay M., Marketing Team at Tink Media Co
“A good podcast makes its listeners feel connected in some way, be it to the show's host/s, characters, story, topic, conversation, etc. People often talk about how each show needs to find its "niche." Ultimately what that's pointing to is the universal desire for deep human connection. As creators, our job is to find the frequency that most resonates with our audience, and amplify it, in hopes that our listeners may feel more deeply connected to the world, to themselves, and to one another.”
– Lukę Brawner, Founder and Head of Vision at Odd Parliament
“I think three elements of a potentially good podcast are that it should challenge, be entertaining, and/or come from genuine expertise. One of these is table stakes, two make a good show. Get all three, and you have something special.”
– Tom Webster, Partner at Sounds Profitable
“There are many qualities that make a good podcast, but if I had to name just one, I would say attention to detail. I come from the world of true crime and investigative storytelling, so this is the obvious pick for me. But regardless of your genre, maintaining a meticulous mindset is a must. It’s easy to underestimate what goes into making a podcast, but the truth is it’s a lot of work. Don’t rush the process. Whether it’s your recording equipment, your sound, your interview process, or your message, the list goes on… attention to detail will go a long way if you’re looking to make a podcast that stands out amongst the rest.”
– Dennis Cooper, Host of Culpable
There are many qualities that make a good podcast, but if I had to name just one, I would say attention to detail.
“Have a business plan for your podcast. If you are serious about taking it beyond a hobby, have a plan that considers good data, monetization, audience growth, and a clear trajectory. This should come alongside the creative production, not after.”
– Rae Palermo, Megaphone Publisher Solutions at Spotify
“The best podcasts have a reason to exist. What is it for? What does it offer a listener? Why should I listen? Define that reason, use it in your description, and make it super-obvious for any new listener - whichever episode they start listening to - by explaining what your podcast is and why they should listen within the first twenty seconds of your show. And, if a part of your podcast doesn't achieve it, remove it.”
– James Cridland, Editor of Podnews
Define that reason, use it in your description, and make it super-obvious for any new listener - whichever episode they start listening to - by explaining what your podcast is and why they should listen within the first twenty seconds of your show.
“A good podcast – the kind that you can’t wait to listen to, tell your friends about, and share episodes with — will elicit some “a-ha” moments for the listener, and keep them coming back for more. A good host knows how to structure an episode, interview guests, and share stories in a way that sticks for the listener. Where they might say, “Hey that’s me,” “Or, I never thought about it that way.” We can all point to episodes where we paused to think, took notes, or went back for another listen. Create those moments through the questions you ask and the guests on your show, and watch your audience grow.”
– Roula Amire, Content Director and host of the “Better” podcast at Great Place To Work
“One of the ways to do this is to immerse the listener into the story you're telling, with natural sound from where you are. In video, it's easy to rely on visuals - however, with podcasts, you must rely solely on audio. I always go by the simple words: "Show me. Don't tell me." In the case of podcasts, you show your listeners through details and nat/sot [ambient sound], and bring them into the audio, as if they're standing right next to you. For example: Don't tell me it's raining, show me with details, like wet, slick pavement -- and with the sound of windshield wipers on as the rain taps the windshield. When a listener feels like they're inside whatever scene you're setting, that's when they're hooked, and you've pulled them into a great story -- and a great podcast. And from there, they'll go with you on your journey wherever you take them.”
– Jessica Nolls, Investigative Journalist, Producer, and Host of The Investigators
“Audio has the huge advantage of being the most intimate medium of them all - you are basically whispering in your best friend's ear. To succeed, you must take advantage of that.
Of course, they will only allocate their precious time to you if you treat them with well-crafted stories or interesting information. But if you shout in their ear, or even worse, shout - whisper - shout, with a dose of noise and scratchy sounds, then it doesn't matter how good your content is, they will not stick around long enough to hear you. Take the time to learn the basics of good audio production...it's easier than you think.”
– Chris Mottes, CEO of Hindenburg Systems
“Whether your podcast is centered around interviews or a narrative, there is always an opportunity to connect with your audience through universal themes like friendship or home, to name a few. And yet, even the most familiar stories can reveal new meanings if told from a voice or angle the audience has not heard before. When I'm looking for the perfect podcast guest, I always think about who can elicit a "huh, I had not thought of that before," from the listener.”
– Wanyee Li, Story Producer at Pacific Content
There is always an opportunity to connect with your audience through universal themes like friendship or home.
“Great storytelling is at the heart of any good podcast. This is true not only for narrative shows that are wholly focused on telling a story, but for topical, educational, and how-to as well. Whether it's a long-form story or a short anecdote to illustrate a point, stories connect people, make information more accessible, and keep the audience engaged. They are the currency of the audio format.”
– Sarai Mitnick, CEO of Seamwork and co-host of Seamwork Radio
“A great podcast is an invitation to see the world through the creator’s eyes. It’s the combination of the creator’s passions, experiences, curiosity, and values. Whether the podcast is comedy, true-crime, or a documentary, it should always be a communication of how the creator sees the world.”
– Alban Brooke, Head of Marketing at Buzzprout
“A good podcast doesn't just press record and hope for the best. They invest their time in the pre-production, by thoroughly researching topics and guests as well as taking the time to craft thoughtful questions and talking points for the conversation with a story arc in mind.”
– Sabrina Seiwert, Podcast Producer at Resonate Recordings
“While audio innovation has grown leaps and bounds, the most engaging thing about podcasts is still the story they tell. Keep it simple and keep it focused on the tale you're weaving.”
“Isn't that the word we learned when social media was born? Podcasts are like social media! A good podcast has listeners raising their hands hoping to share their own story. And a good podcast finds a way to collect those stories, engage with the listeners, and become something greater and more layered than it could ever have been if the host just threw down content and walked away. Invite your listeners in.”
– Lauren Passell, Founder of Tink Media
A good podcast has listeners raising their hands hoping to share their own story.
“A good podcast is a masterful blend of compelling storytelling, unique perspectives, and authentic voices. It's not merely about the content, but how it resonates with the listener's heart and stirs their mind.”
– Anthony O'Neal, CEO, Speaker, Author
“Creating a good podcast is an art that blends various elements, including the right content, engaging delivery, and technical quality. Two fundamental factors in this process are consistency and fun. Consistency signals to your audience that you take the podcast seriously. Regularly showing up demonstrates your commitment and can foster trust between you and your audience. In addition, you should be having fun while creating your podcast. A fun atmosphere is contagious and often conveys your passion and energy for the podcast topic. This can be infectious, inspiring your listeners to share your enthusiasm.”
– Ben Terry, Host of How You Create
“A great podcast connects with listeners in an authentic way. My favorite podcasts are true crime shows that make me feel like I am a part of the investigation or interview podcasts that have vulnerable and relatable conversations. Podcasts have so many applications, some entertain, some inform, some inspire, and some educate. The beautiful thing about this medium is that it allows creators to uniquely be themselves. I believe the best thing you can do as a podcaster is show up and be yourself and in doing so you will find an audience that will deeply connect with your content.”
– Jacob Bozarth, Co-Founder and CEO of Resound
“We all know there are lots of podcasts out there and so little time to listen to them all. So when someone takes the time to listen to your show, make sure their first impression of it is one that makes them feel compelled to stay. That feeling can come from curiosity, emotions, good sound quality, and a need to know more, and will convince them that sticking around will be worth it. For an ongoing show, this means always remembering that you never know when a brand new listener is checking out your show, so make sure you’re making it clear who you are and what it’s about. A strong intro will consistently keep new listeners intrigued and loyal listeners excited for more. For a brand-new series, this is just as important! Whether it’s a conversational show or a documentary, people want to know what they’re going to get, how it will sound, and what makes it interesting. Next time you’re listening to a podcast, think about how it has structured the first two minutes and what’s making you keep listening.”
“What we love, we share. If you listen to a podcast you really love, it becomes easy to make a case for it and become an advocate for it. If you are a podcaster, this is why it is important for you to connect with the right audience for your show and think about them as you make it. Really think about questions like: Who is someone who will love my show and want to come back to listen to every episode? Where do they exist on the internet? What do they do during the day? And if you already have an audience, reach out to them, talk to them, ask them who they are, what they like about your podcast, and if and how they would recommend it to their friends, and then lean into what you discover.”
– Aakshi Sinha, Podcast Marketer at Tink Media
Really think about questions like: Who is someone who will love my show and want to come back to listen to every episode?
“When you listen to a podcast--especially when you've followed it for years--you feel like you are a part of something bigger. The host and the guests become "your people" and you feel connected to them in a very personal way. We all crave authentic connection, so establishing a place for your listeners to interact with one another takes it one step further. Because listeners understand your core principles from listening to your podcast, they are generally a good fit for the community you build. It's a beautiful thing watching your audience connect with one another in meaningful ways. And, with a paid community, it's one more way to monetize your podcast while also providing a service to the listeners.”
– Gin Stephens, Author and Host of Intermittent Fasting Stories
“Every great podcast begins with the host's voice, perspective, and personality. Once the host is able to identify what makes them interesting as a person and learns how to integrate that within the delivery and packaging of the show's content, their show becomes an interesting and preferred choice for listeners who enjoy that genre. Most well-produced shows sound so similar to one another, it's impossible for any one of them to stand out and become a favorite choice. I firmly believe those who manage to stand out, do so because listeners would much rather spend an hour with that person in a car, than with anyone else they're competing with. So, the sooner you figure out how to be the same person on a microphone, as you are in the car with your friends...the sooner you gain an advantage over those who haven't figured that out.”
– Todd McComas, Host and Producer of The Investigators
"Too often are podcasters that are subject matter experts get lost in the sauce—using jargon and complexities in their topic and interests, further isolating new listeners. Being able to develop the way you speak and discuss topics, providing additional context and information and thinking broadly about your ideas will only make your podcast more welcoming to people who are looking to learn more."
"A good podcast distills complex, compelling topics into easily digestible and well-crafted stories, like a bird regurgitating a liquified worm into its baby's mouth."
– Bradley Davis, Co-Founder and CEO of Podchaser
“A really good podcast stimulates the imagination, evokes strong emotion, and helps the listener fully immerse themselves into a story or topic. I believe a podcast becomes deficient when it pulls the listener out of that experience.”
– Mark Minnery, Co-Founder and President of Resonate Recordings
“A good podcast has a few things figured out. They have a clear message and promise to their current and future listeners AND they understand who that listener is!
They have a strong understanding of the reason why they are in this space. This can be equally true from an independent podcaster (the team of one) all the way up to a branded podcast. A good podcast knows the value they are providing to their listener in choosing to spend time with them each and every episode and they maintain the promise to hold that value through every episode they release.
In knowing the message, promise, and value, it makes it easier to find new audiences because you have a much clearer picture of who they are and where they spend their time - so you (as the good podcast) can go to those places and find them.”
– Russ More, Audience Development and Paid Media Lead of Pacific Content
In knowing the message, promise, and value, it makes it easier to find new audiences because you have a much clearer picture of who they are and where they spend their time.
“Never, ever, ever be the Cheesecake Factory of podcasts. The fanatics will take your show and share it with the world. So stop trying to please every person out there -- that leads to plain vanilla content caused by your identity crisis and unwillingness to lean into your brand voice. If you want hyper-actionable sales tactics that get you better in 30 minutes, 30MPC is the best place in the world. If you want a 3-hour fireside chat with long stories about how sales are really tough, 30MPC is the worst place in the world.”
– Armand Farrokh, Co-Founder of 30 Minutes to President's Club
“This means constantly considering, "Why would someone choose to listen to MY podcast instead of any of the other podcasts that already exist? What am I offering to listeners that they can't get anywhere else?" Creating a podcast is about delivering something to your audience; it's not about listening to yourself talk.”
– Annalise Nielsen, Head of Strategy and Development at Pacific Content
“First and foremost podcasts are messaging platforms. They tell stories, they present ideas, they educate. But the end goal has to be more than just delivering the story, idea, and information. They ought to illicit action. Thoughtfully crafted content drives the listener to engage in an appropriate way. A self-help podcast motivates the listener to make a change and begin the path toward betterment. A society and culture podcast sparks conversation about our world and the areas we need to focus constructive conversations. A true-crime podcast brings the listener into the fight for victim advocacy and justice. The message must always facilitate a means for action.”
– Jon Street, VP of Resonate Originals
As you can see, making a podcast that stands out is hard work, and requires a thoughtful approach. What do you think makes a good podcast? Let us know here.