In December 2021, I set a goal of getting 1,000,000 downloads in a single month.
I wasn’t entirely sure how I was going to do it, let alone if such as thing was possible. In December 2021, the show had 189,603 downloads. Getting to a million would require growing the show by 427%.
Not doubling. Not tripling. Not quadrupling. I’d have to grow the show over fivefold!
Thankfully, I got off to a really good start in Q1. Despite some small setbacks, the growth was mostly steady throughout the year, with a really big gain in December.
Here is the monthly breakdown for 2022:
I normally post a line graph that shows downloads on a monthly basis since I launched the show. Given that the show has been around for exactly 30 months, and given that I launched the show on July 1, 2020, the first day of the third quarter, it might be more useful to visualize downloads per quarter since the show was launched.
Even though there have been some months with negative growth, the overall trend has been upward every quarter. Also, this chart really shows how dramatic the growth in the show was in 2022.
As a podcast gets larger, it becomes more and more difficult to achieve similar percentage increases in growth.
I don’t think a 5.2x increase in audience size is reasonable, but you never know. If I get some major media mention or something, it could be possible.
My goal for 2023 is to regularly get 100,000 downloads per day.
My biggest download day as of writing this was 44,403, which I got on Christmas Eve.
So, to even hit that point for a single day, I’d need to more than double my audience.
To achieve this on a regular basis, I’d need to almost triple my audience.
*UPDATE* I had over 50,000 downloads on January 3, 2023. This was a huge one-day spike which I attribute to people catching up on downloads after the holiday.
I entered 2022 with one podcast network, and I entered 2023 with another.
In December, after having talked to over a dozen podcast networks over the last four months, I decided to sign with Glassbox Media.
The decision to move networks was an easy one as I was getting far below the industry average in terms of an advertising split, and I also didn’t have anyone actively selling ads on my behalf.
Assuming the podcast has zero growth in 2023, I should at least see a doubling or tripling of my advertising income.
Until now, I haven’t really pursued any other monetization other than my Patreon account.
In addition to advertising, here is how I will be expanding my monetization in 2023.
Tours. I should be running my first listener tour to Rome sometime in 2023. I’m working with a company to help set up the itinerary. I first mentioned the tour a while back when my audience was much smaller and had over 100 people show interest. I should be able to sell it out quickly.
If this goes over well and sells out, and I have every reason to believe it will, I might expand the tour offerings to other major cities.
The idea for the tour is that it will be a super in-depth tour of one historic city. We’ll spend time doing the things that most tourists never get to see.
Ad-Free Podcast Subscriptions. Both Apple and Spotify offer this, and I can also run it on Patreon. I don’t expect this to be a huge money maker, but it will probably bring in some income, and help with Apple and Spotify podcast promotion.
Merchandise. Many podcasters try to sell merchandise the moment they launch their show. I’ve waited until I had listeners actually asking me about merchandise. I have no clue what I’ll sell yet, but it is on this agenda.
Books. As I have written the script for every single episode, I can easily compile them into a Kindle book. In fact, I could mix and match episodes by topic or by release date.
YouTube. This will be a huge undertaking but potentially lucrative in the long run. I can’t write, research, and record a daily podcast and then create a video for each one on top of that. I’ll need to hire someone to spearhead the YouTube campaign. This might have to slip to 2024, depending on how much it would cost.
Live Events. I’m not sure how this would manifest or if my show is big enough yet to pull off a live event. There is a good chance if I were to do this, this would have to wait until 2024.
Plans for 2023
My plan is to continue to be very aggressive in marking the show in 2023. With a team behind me working to do swaps and land guest appearances, I should be able to do considerably more.
As revenue will allow, I will probably hire my first person this year. The first position will probably be a marketing assistant. I really don’t need help with the production of the show. That is pretty easy.
I need someone to do a host of small things, which includes social media, managing an email newsletter, and a host of other tasks.
After that, I’ll probably start hiring writers to help me create new episodes. Even if a few episodes a week can be written by someone else, that will free up a lot of time.
If, and that is a big if, I can double or triple the audience and I can hire some writers, I might consider starting a second podcast. I have a list of possible ideas for a second show, but I’m nowhere near a point where I could do this right now.
2022 was a very good year for the podcast. 2023 should be even better.
When I launched the show I had a list of things I could do “someday”.
Someday is getting closer and closer as the podcast keeps growing.
On July 1, 2020, I dove into the deep end of the pool and launched a daily podcast. It wasn’t just a daily podcast, but it was a daily scripted podcast. Each episode was approximately 10 minutes long (although they have gotten about 20-30% longer since I’ve launched) and each episode had a complete script written for it.
Everything is done by myself. I am the writer, host, researcher, editor, producer, and head of marketing.
When I pitched the idea of a daily, scripted podcast to my friends with successful podcasts, they all had the same reaction: 1) this was a really good idea, and it will probably do well, and 2) you are crazy for doing this.
Two years and 740 shows later, I’ve learned a lot about producing a daily show. Here are some of the lessons I’ve learned…
Lesson 1: The Show Must Go On
The single most important thing when you are producing a daily show is that you have to get it out the door.
The perfect is the enemy of the good.
Just like a daily newspaper has to get the presses running by a certain time to make sure all their subscribers have the paper when they wake up, so too does a daily podcast have to get their show recorded and uploaded by a certain time.
The promise of having the show ready for download every day is part of having a daily show. If you can’t ship every day, then this is definitely something you don’t want to consider doing.
Lesson 2: Get Your Process in Order
To get a show out the door every day, you need to have systems in place to save time and have an efficient workflow process.
One of the most time-consuming elements for most podcasters is editing. Because my show doesn’t have guests, I’m able to record my show with minimal editing.
By far, the most time-consuming thing for me is writing and research. Every day, I have to research and write an 1800-2100 word script.
Having done 740 episodes, I now have a system in place where if I’m really comfortable with the show topic, I can usually write an episode in as little as 2-3 hours. Some shows take as long as 4-6 hours. A few have taken as long as 8 hours.
If you want to launch a daily podcast, I recommend you figure all this out before you launch. Record some test episodes and pay attention to the time it takes from start to finish.
Lesson 3: You Have to Commit
Most podcasts will end before they hit seven episodes. Almost all of the shows that podfaded were published on a schedule that was weekly or less.
There are very few daily podcasts out there for good reason. I don’t have the data, but I would suspect that most daily shows are radio programs that are repurposed as podcasts.
I don’t think you can do a daily podcast as a hobby. I mean, you could, but the temptation to skip a day would be too great.
You have to treat it like a job. You go to work, you put in the time, and you get the job done before you can rest.
Lesson 4: A Daily Podcast Has Benefits
There are many variables that are part of the equation for podcast growth. One is obviously the quality of the show. Another big variable is how long the show has been around. The other big variable is the number of episodes you have produced.
Each episode is an opportunity for discovery. Each episode can be found via search or shared by listeners, regardless of its length.
A daily show will get you the most episodes in the shortest amount of time. It doesn’t guarantee growth, but it can accelerate it if you market the show properly.
A daily show also allows you to put more ads in a given amount of time without appearing to be onerous to your audience.
Just to make the math easy, let’s say you published a 10-minute show 6-days a week. Sixty total minutes of content per week.
If each show had one advertisement, you’d run 6 for the week, and two ads would be 12 for the week. 1 or 2 ads per episode don’t appear to be overwhelming, especially if you keep the ads reasonably short (1 minute or less).
However, 6 to 12 ads in a single 60-minute weekly podcast would probably come across as excessive.
Lesson 5: Daily Podcasts Have Different Consumption Patterns
What I’ve found (and I freely admit this is anecdotal evidence and not hard data) is that more frequent, shorter shows tend to be consumed before longer shows.
A 2-hour interview podcast will require a lengthy commitment of time. A 10-minute show can be started and completed in a short trip in your car.
If you know you won’t complete a longer podcast, you will probably listen to the shorter shows and get them out of your queue.
I contend that most podcast listeners will listen to shorter shows first and will tend to listen to a higher percentage of the entire show. (Again, I have no hard data on this, but it is consistent with what I’ve seen.)
I would like to see some more research on this subject to see if my suspicions are correct.
There are rewards to doing a daily podcast, but if you do it, you had better be prepared to put in the work and have systems in place to allow you to produce and publish the show every day.
I’m still getting a drizzle of residual downloads from Libsyn even though I moved my RSS feed on January 1. I had 1,187 downloads from Libsyn which I find really surprising. There isn’t one single player which is responsible for the downloads. They are all over the place.
My theory is that, for whatever reason, some people subscribed before January 1, and then the feed didn’t get refreshed. Maybe they just stopped listening, so the feed had no reason to refresh.
Regardless of the reason, the April downloads from Libsyn are looking to drop by at least half.
There is a very interesting story behind what happened with all the growth I’ve experienced so far in 2022. However, I don’t think I’m in a position where I can share that yet.
There are no villains and there is nothing shady, but I have something going that I don’t want to jinx at the moment, so I’m going to hold off on the story for a few months.
It involves a bit of good luck, which turned out to be bad luck, but then was solved by more good luck.
I realize that sounds cryptic and mysterious, but I will reveal all eventually when this plays out.
I spent very little on promotion last month other than an ad that ran on Overcast. It performed well, but it wasn’t the best performing ad I’ve run on that platform.
I’m going to be doing some larger ad buys soon. I’ve been building up a war chest as some of the places I want to advertise that give the best ROI require a larger ad spend.
My goal for 2022 was to do 1,000,000 downloads in a month, and I’m currently 1/2 to that goal just 3 months in.
My April downloads will be less than March, but that’s all good for the mysterious reasons I’ll explain later. It is more an issue with statistics than actual downloads and people listening.
This month saw my biggest increase in traffic since I launched the podcast.
When you launch a new show, there is a hope you have that it will eventually “take off”.
I think this was the month that things “took off”.
Total downloads for the month were 446,335, which is an average of 15,940 per day.
Oddly enough, almost 1,300 of those downloads are from Libsyn, and I moved my hosting from Libsyn on January 1. All of the downloads, I assume, are coming from people who haven’t refreshed their podcast feed in their players.
The number of downloads for individual episodes is now crossing 13-14k. I have no idea what the 30-day numbers are yet because the growth was so fast in February that I don’t have 30 days to look back at yet.
The numbers at the end of the month were such that even if the growth plateaus in March, I should see around 550,000 downloads for the month.
I just joined my network in January so I still don’t have much to report as far as advertising income, but I should have my January results next month. I don’t expect anything special as they just started to sell my show in January and the first host read ads I had ran in February.
This is the first of my monthly traffic/income reports for my podcast. This one is going to be quite long as I’m going to give the backstory behind everything and how the show was created.
I launched my show on July 1, 2020 in the middle of the pandemic. Since then, it is occupied almost all of my time and it has constituted a dramatic shift in my focus and business.
Prior to this, I guess I was what you could call a travel blogger or a travel influence. I made money by working with brands and tourism boards, through advertising on my website, and via affiliate sales.
Almost all of that vanished in March 2020 when the pandemic lockdowns started. I never thought that the travel and tourism industry, one of the largest industries in the world, could just vanish overnight, but it did.
All spending on marketing and advertising by brands in the industry disappeared. Most companies had to focus on staying alive and they didn’t have to money to invest in growth and business acquisition.
Almost all business and recreational travel disappeared. No one was booking trips, no one was doing trip planning, and basically no one was paying attention travel when they were cooped up in their house.
Pretty much every stream of revenue I had either totally disappeared or dwindled to next to nothing.
At first, I thought everything would be over quickly. Things would be back to normal in April or May. As it became clear that wasn’t going to happen, the enormity of what was happened dawned on me.
This wasn’t a temporary blip. This was something which was going to take at least a year, if not two or three, to play out. Especially for international travel.
Countries will open up at different rates. Individuals will become comfortable traveling at different rates. Many people who lost their jobs or businesses won’t be in a position to travel, even if travel bans are lifted. Companies which relied on travelers will be bankrupt by the time everything sorts out. Tourism boards who rely on tax revenue from hotels might take years to get back to where they were before.
In other words, this wasn’t something I could just wait until things went back to normal. At least in this industry, things will never go back to where they were before.
Moreover, even before this happened, I wasn’t comfortable with the state of where the travel blogging business was going. I follow a lot of travel blogs via RSS just to keep up to date with what everyone is doing.
I noticed a disturbing trend: almost everything now is about SEO. Your actual experiences traveling, your thoughts and opinions, the quality of your content don’t really matter that much. SEO now rules everything.
So many of the ‘top’ travel blogs are now churning out pretty much the same SEO-optimized posts. No one even seems to be trying to get posts to go viral on social media anymore. It has become a one-dimensional game.
SEO is fundamentally a game that rewards those who are good at SEO. You don’t have to even travel to have a successful travel website. There are several very successful travel websites that are nothing but articles cranked out by teams of writers, using stock images, and buying links.
Despite what Google says, this works.
SEO is also a zero-sum game. If I rank #1, you can’t rank #1.
It is a bucket of crabs with everyone competing against each other, and against large media companies.
Yes, there are sites out there that are successful with this approach. However, it isn’t something that I particularly enjoy. I started traveling to travel, and SEO doesn’t play to my strengths.
Also, I think that Facebook will do what it can to kill the influencer economy because they want at least a cut of all the money that is going to influencers.
So….in June 2020, with the lockdown in full effect, I found myself needing to do something…..different.
For two years I’ve had the idea of a podcast floating around in the back of my mind.
I’ve done several podcats before, all travel-related.
This podcast wasn’t going to be travel per se. I was also, finally, going to use the name of my website/brand, “Everything Everywhere” for the podcast.
The show was basically going to be a longer-form version of my current show. An educational show on various subjects.
I commissioned some cover art, purchased some theme music, and began doing research.
I found myself going down huge rabbit holes doing research. My first show was going to be on the Mona Lisa. I had had notes for a 2-hour show, which to be honest, was way too long, and would be way too difficult to monetize.
I put the idea aside and moved on to other projects.
In June 2020, I revisited the idea.
The more I looked at it, I realized that the math worked out much better if I published more frequently. In fact, when I sat down and actually created a spreadsheet, I was sort of astonished at how well a daily show worked.
I flipped my original idea for the podcast on its head. Instead of super long-format shows, I could do the exact opposite. More frequent shorter shows.
I sat down and came up with a list of about 100 show ideas. It was really easy. In fact, I have that same list which I am constantly updating, and I now have close to 250 show show ideas, and I’m adding ideas every day.
I could take the artwork and music that I had made 2 years earlier and just plug it into this show. I didn’t need to do anything special.
All of my podcaster friends I bounced the idea off said the same thing: “its a good idea, but it will be a lot of work”.
Well….I got lots of free time right now.
I developed a very set format with audio transitions, and on July 1, I published episode #1.
Why A Podcast?
So, of all the things I could have done, why did I do this?
Why not just double down on travel?
Many people I know have done exactly that. They are either putting more effort into their main websites, or they have launched destination sites for their town.
This is not a bad idea, but it wasn’t something I really wanted to invest my time doing. I totally understand why most people have done this, and I don’t think it is a bad idea for many of the people who have been doing this a long time.
I also didn’t want to do straight travel. Most people only care about travel when they are about to go on a trip. There is very little new that happens with travel unless you are an aviation or points geek. The average travel website will get much less traffic than a food or fashion website for this reason.
Basically, I’m bearish on travel until 2023 at the earliest. Even if people start traveling this year, there are going to be issues with the industry for years.
Why not start a YouTube channel?
There are some very successful YouTube channels to be sure. You can certainly get more eyes and ears on your content more quickly via YouTube can you can with a podcast.
However, at the end of the day, you don’t own YouTube. I’ve been burned before by big internet companies and their algorithms.
Every single YouTube channel runs the risk of being shut down at a moment’s notice and not even being given so much as an explanation why. I wanted something that I owned and controlled. In theory, I could host the show out of my house on my own servers if I really wanted to.
Also, CPM rates on YouTube are much less than with podcasting, and video product just takes way more work than it does audio. From the start of recording to uploading the finished file usually takes me no more than 20 minutes.
Why do a podcast on this subject(s)?
I was the kid who read the encyclopedia. I’d go to the library, wander around, and pull random books from the shelves.
Between my years and years of academic debate, college bowl, and a decade and a half of traveling around the world visiting obscure places, this show is something that I think I’m uniquely suited to do.
It isn’t a travel show per se, but it does still have one foot in the travel world. I can still talk about all the stuff I’ve seen, the stories I’ve heard, and the places I’ve been. I’m just doing it in an educational framework, not a travel one. I’m not talking about cafes, airports, and hotels because I don’t care about any of those things.
This show will cast a much wider net than a straight travel show will. You can enjoy the show even if you don’t travel.
How do I produce the show?
The most time-consuming part of each show is writing and research. It takes me about 3-8 hours to write and research each show. Oddly enough, the longer shows are often the easiest to write, because I’m usually writing about something I already know quite well.
I write each script in Google Docs. This allows me to switch computers and keep working on the same document.
I will usually have anywhere from 6-20 different websites that I use to research each episode. It totally depends on what the episode is about.
I write everything including the intro, advertisement, and sometimes an outro.
The script is published as a blog post when a new episode is published.
I record using Garageband. I have a Rode Podcaster USB microphone, and I record with a -40db noise filter on Garageband. There is nothing else fancy about my recording setup.
I record each segment separately: intro, Instagram intro, advertisement, outro, and the body. I then drag and drop the segments together along with the intro music and sound effect to create a final audio file.
I run the file through Levelator, convert it to mp3, and upload it to Libsyn.
I had a good-sized following on several social media platforms as well as an email list. However, these people weren’t following me because I was podcasting on educational topics. They were mostly following me for pretty travel photos.
So, I wasn’t starting from square one, but I was probably starting from square two.
I had an initial burst when I launched the show back in July. I sent out emails to my list and promoted it heavily on social media. I probably got several hundred subscribers this way. The algorithms really prevent you from reaching the people who follow you. Even after 8 months, I still have followers who didn’t know I have a podcast.
The biggest single variable which determines the size of a podcast audience is time. Most really successful shows have been around a while. As there are no algorithms in podcasting, you need word of mouth, and that takes time.
Another variable is the number of episodes. As I have a daily show, I figure I have that base covered.
Having grown large followings on several social platforms, one thing I’ve learned is that the best way to grow a platform, is on that platform. You get Instagram followers on Instagram. You get YouTube subscribers from YouTube.
Likewise, if you want podcast subscribers, you have to go where the podcast listeners are.
In November, I began running ads on several podcast apps. These are just the apps people on their phones use to listen to podcasts. Some of them let podcasters buy display advertisements on their apps to promote their shows.
So far I’ve run ads on Overcast, Castro, PodcastAddict, and Podcast Republic. The results have been mixed. However, in every case, the cost of acquisition per subscriber was well below the value of a suscriber.
Advertising performance is the only data I’m not going to share on these monthly updates. The reason is simple: this data is almost impossible to find online because no one shares it, and it cost me quite a bit of money to collect this data. Right now, it is a strategic asset that I have.
My other marketing is currently just posting episodes everywhere I can. I create custom videos for every episode for Instagram Stories and TikTok. I have no clue how well they convert because that is almost impossible to track.
I’m also publishing the scripts with an embedded player to Substack. I just started that, so it might take a while to figure out how well it works.
I’m also doing trailer swaps with other podcasters, but it is really hard to find other shows who want to do this. Most podcasters are horrible at marketing themselves.
I’m putting most app advertising on hold for March and April and I’m going to focus on appearing on other podcasts as a guest, and possibly buying ads on other shows.
This is pretty straightforward. Podcasts can run ads.
The average CPM for an ad right now is about $25. This is the number I’m using for my planning. I could also probably tack on a lower CPM ad as a post-roll, or maybe a 2nd ad.
One problem with podcast advertising that advertisers really only want to advertise on the top 1% of shows. The number which is usually thrown about is that you need 5,000 downloads per episode to even get ad networks interested in talking to you.
Until you can get to that point, it is really hard to monetize via advertising.
When I get to that point, I’ll see a big jump in my ad revenue.
I’m calling 5,000 downloads per episode “escape velocity” because that is really what you need to achieve to get anywhere with a show.
Everything right now is about trying to hit escape velocity. I’m hoping I can do this in late summer 2021.
One reason I’m running ads now is to gather data such that once I can begin bringing regular adverting revenue, I’ll know where I can most efficiently reinvest that money to grow the podcast even faster.
Once the show is bigger, I’ll have more leverage for doing promotions with other larger podcasts.
Until I can get to that point, I just have to grind it out and grow the show one listener at a time.
Beyond advertising, my plan is to eventually run listener tours when that is possible again. These tours will be more vertical than horizontal. They will be deep dives where we just explore the hell out of one city, and see all the things which most people never bother to see.
Because I’m also writing scripts for every episode, I have hundreds of thousands of words which I publish as a book(s) at a later date. I haven’t done anything with this yet just because all my time is taken up researching, writing, and recording a show every day.
Likewise, all of my audio can be re-edited and turned into YouTube videos.
Basically, I have a ton of content that can be repurposed at a later date.
As you can see from the graph, I’ve grown every month except September, and that was because I missed a week worth of shows due to moving. Downloads per episode grew during September, but I just didn’t pump out enough episodes.
February had 60,733 downloads. This was a 14.2% monthly growth over January. Note that February only has 28 days and January has 31, so I had 10% fewer days to count.
For March, I’m estimating 75,000 downloads, but that could be much higher depending on what happens. If I extrapolate the first two days in March, it would be 87,000.
I figure 150,000 per month is where I can start to get ad networks interested. 150,000 downloads doesn’t necessarily mean 5,000 per episode because it also represents downloads from the back catalog.
Not a whole lot to show yet. However, I already have revenue in the pipeline for March, and I had a few thousand dollars in 2020 already.
Revenue: $158.16 This is 100% from Patreon this month. This is down $20 from the previous month, but it has to do with merchandise being paid for and shipped. I grossed $214 from Patreon for the month.
Podcast Hosting: $22 I’m hosting with Libsyn. My current plan can cover a month worth of downloads, so I don’t foresee this number climbing as the show grows.
Headliner Monthly Fee: $19.99 I use this tool to make custom videos for Instagram and Tiktok.
Advertising: $595 This number might be lower or higher in March. I don’t know. I’m not going to renew on two of the platforms I advertised on in February. They didn’t perform as well as I had hoped. Advertising is hit or miss and right now I’m mostly gathering data. As there is so little information available on this topic, I don’t have much choice but to experiment to see what works best.
Things are growing. The trend is positive.
I’m nowhere close to where I want/need to be yet. I have to double or triple my monthly downloads to get to that point.
The primary goal right now is hitting escape velocity.
I’m constantly looking for promotional opportunities. If you have a suggestion, contact me.
Next month I’ll break down how I evaluate the value of a subscriber and how I use that value to determine the success of running ads to grow the audience.