Open Notes

Welcome to The Waveform Issue 16

The Waveform is a newsletter from Red Cup agency about the next edge in podcasting. In each issue, I’ll stay on top of things for you. When we launch a new show or post an episode that stands out, I’ll drop that into the newsletter.

I’m Lee Schneider, founder and lead producer at Red Cup Agency. Did someone forward this to you, or are you reading it on the web? You can subscribe for free.

Global Witness

Global Witness, an NGO, just released their annual report about people who paid with their lives for defending their land and the environment. Global Witness calls them Defenders of the Earth. Last year, repressive governments and environmental extraction companies murdered 227 Defenders of the Earth who tried to stand in their path as they cut down forests, built mines on seized lands, and stole water from indigenous communities.

When the folks from Global Witness got in touch and asked if I would set up a marketing plan for their new podcast, Defenders of the Earth, of course I said yes. With Global Witness, I believe that activist Defenders of the Earth are our last line of defense against climate disaster. The Global Witness report (worth a read), says that the industrialized countries of the Northern Hemisphere are responsible for most of the carbon emissions causing climate change. The countries in the Southern Hemisphere are bearing the brunt of the damage. Their forests are being wiped out, their water polluted, their land seized.

I’m rolling out the overall marketing plan for the podcast launch, writing and producing a trailer, and producing audiograms for all of their episodes.

Listen to the trailer on Apple Podcasts or Spotify,

Marketing a Podcast

I read many, many stats on podcasts. Here’s one that surprised me: Most people, about 40% of listeners, discover a new podcast by poking around in their podcast app of choice. That means that your podcast title, cover art, and show descriptions better deliver. Once a potential listener clicks through on them, they should be presented with a trailer that makes them want to listen and subscribe.

Okay, you’re saying, that’s pretty obvious.

Yeah, but. (As we say in New York.) Think of a podcast trailer as a first date. You get a sense — in just a few seconds — of whether you want to be seen at the same café table with this person. That same sense of urgent timing is what makes audio trailers challenging. To support a podcast, an audio trailer must get at the essence of the show, do it in seconds, and then hold our interest with an idea, emotion, or social movement that we want to be part of.

What Kind of Trailer Are You?

With the Global Witness project, we were lucky enough to have four completed episodes to work with. I am pulling quotes and clips as needed. Since the Global Witness report came out a few weeks ago, the trailer is the perfect way to hold interest until the first episode launches. (That episode, about activists in Russia, comes out on Wednesday, September 29th.) We will post a new episode every week.

On an earlier project, for Glassdoor, we had some but not all of our episodes recorded before we launched. So, as I wrote that trailer copy at our kitchen table one afternoon, I was able to include our most compelling interview clips.

Other trailer projects started with … nothing. No interviews. No music. We hadn’t started production, but we needed to start promotion. The trailer for Rightbrainers was host-driven, with no interview clips.

For Same Same but Tech’s season two trailer, we referenced season one, of course, and could have some fun with it along the way. Season two trailers are their own special kind of project.

And finally, trailers for audio dramas are the closest thing to movie trailers as you can imagine. For my audio drama Mission of the Lunar Sparrow, I was thinking visually, as though we were watching it on Netflix.

All trailers serve a common purpose to introduce a new listener to a podcast, but each one is a unique creative project.

The Lookahead 1

A debate looming in podcasting’s future is whether the advertising revenue model (based on radio’s model) will live forever, or will it die, to be replaced by a subscription model.

Platforms like Simplecast, Transistor, Megaphone, and others are using dynamic audio insertion to breathe new life into ads. The dynamic part means that producers can roll in (or delete) ads anytime, even after their episode has been published. You could run seasonal ads, temporary ads, or campaign-based ads that update when your client wants something different.

Platforms like Audry are making it easier for producers to find friendly podcasts to cross-promote. They run an ad spot about you. You run one about them. Chartable just launched a similar service called SmartPromos. Advertisecast matches sponsors with podcasts.

On the other side of the audio spectrum, we have the venerable Patreon, a subscription service that has funded many a podcast. Apple, the biggest platform, has launched its subscription service recently.

Where is all this going?

Larger, more established podcasts will benefit from the traditional ad model, and they will more easily be able to scale using the tech testosterone offered by dynamic audio insertion. Smaller or emerging podcasts will benefit more from a community-building approach: working with the subscription model. Ossa, a new podcast network for women, might start raising more money using the subscription model. It will likely grow the fastest by focusing on community.

A key element in the subscription model is accessibility. Any successful subscription service has to have some free podcasts to bring in new people, and to attract people like me, who like free RSS distribution.

Turning listeners into subscribers also has its challenges. Spotify bet big that The Joe Rogan Show, the most popular podcast in the world, wouldn’t lose listeners or influence when it went exclusive to Spotify. But, according to The Verge, that’s just what happened. Putting Rogan behind a paywall may have cost him some of his audience.

Red Cup Agency. Podcast Production and Marketing.

Working with teams large and small, I take podcasts from the glimmer of an idea into production and distribution. We make trailers, ad spots and promos for your podcast, and we find new audiences for you work with cross promotion.


Read Freely.

You can read freely at The Waveform. I’m not tracking opens, clicks, or forwards. I’m not analyzing your IP address location. It’s just you and me, writing and reading. This is a small part of the vast Web focused on people and dialog, not marketing data collection.

  1. This is the part of the newsletter where I attempt to predict the future. No guarantee that I will be right, but thanks for coming along on the ride. ↩︎