I (very) recently launched the Learn to Code With Me podcast. It was my first time podcasting.
The show ended up getting into the New and Noteworthy section on iTunes, thousands of downloads, and overall great feedback from my existing blog audience.
I wrote this post to share how I prepped, launched the show, and what I learned. For the most part, this post is launch specific. But feel free to hit me up if you have any logistical/technical questions about podcasting. I’m still a podcasting noob, but I’d be more than happy to share insights with you!
I have the blog learntocodewith.me (LTCWM) where I’ve been writing for 2 years. I am super comfortable with writing. In fact, I now write for other sites — and get paid for it!
But writing has its limitations. People can’t hear your voice. People can’t take you on the go. Through writing, a person can’t get to know you the way they can through a podcast.
Plus, after two years of writing, I wanted to try something new. Take on a challenge. You know? Besides, I was getting a little too comfortable. (Nothing like self-induced stress to make you feel alive!)
So, in early 2016, I decided to launch a podcast in late April. The Learn to Code With Me podcast.
Instead of committing to a weekly or even bi-monthly show, I decided to go with a seasons approach. That way I could do a season, and see how it went. Then, based on (1) how much I enjoyed it and (2) feedback from audience, I could decide to do a second season or not.
Reasons for starting a podcast
- I wanted to give my existing audience the chance to get to know me better (audio is much more personal)
- I wanted to give my existing audience (and new folks) the chance to consume my content on the go (at the gym, in the car, walking the dog, etc. Audio is the only medium where multitasking is possible.)
- I wanted to reach new people. People who maybe would never find LTCWM in any other way.
- I wanted to get on a new medium—audio (all I do is write, write, write)
- I wanted to improve my speaking skills (because I am crappy at conveying my thoughts through spoken word)
- I wanted to push my content creation abilities. I love creating educational content that encourages people to learn to code. It has been fun to experiment with doing so via audio.
- I wanted to connect with peers in my field (requesting an interview is a great way to connect!)
My main podcast launch goal
Make it into the New and Noteworthy section on iTunes. (But ideally high enough so the show would be on the front page of the technology category.) Spoiler alert: my goal was achieved after about 10 days of being in iTunes!
… Why did I care so much about iTunes?
In 2014, there were 800 million iTunes accounts. Who knows how many there are today, in 2016.
The iTunes store is like a search engine in itself. Except, unlike Google, there is far less competition.
As I discovered throughout my journey, podcasting and the numbers behind it are a big mystery. But in 2015, there were 60,000 active podcasts in the iTunes store. Other data points to 250,000 unique podcasts in the store (2013).
The point is:
- There are a ton of iTunes users.
- There is far less competition between podcasts than blogs — at least for my niche
- More and more people are listening to podcasts every day.
- iTunes is the largest directory out there
- In my opinion, having a podcast and NOT being on iTunes would be crazy.
And for the record, since launching my show on April 25, I have had new email subscribers tell me they found my podcast in iTunes by searching the term “learn to code”. Boom.
How I launched the LTCWM podcast
I invested in myself. Never underestimate the power of investing in yourself. Before anything I signed up for John Lee Dumas’s Podcasters’ Paradise (PP) course. It was a big investment, but I was serious. And I knew dishing out the cash would urge me to stay committed. Because of PP, I was able to understand how podcasting worked, the process of creating a show, and best practices. PP also placed you in an accountability group, which I took advantage of. (At the time of writing, I still meet with my accountability group once a week.)
Set a hard deadline. As soon as I could I set a hard deadline. As I say, “If it’s not in your calendar, it doesn’t count.” My initial deadline was April 26th. But because got into the iTunes story early, I ended up officially launching on April 25.
Scheduled interviews early. I blocked out the first two weeks of March to do almost all of my interview recordings. But I began scheduling them back in early February. I knew people would be busy, or have to reschedule, or even cancel. I wanted
Got help. Early on I knew there was no way I could put together an entire show on my own by April 26th, and maintain other responsibilities as well as sanity. And I had absolutely no interest in audio editing. So, I got help. I already had a VA at the time who helped me with organization/project planning. But I also found someone to help with audio editing. Which I knew was critical for podcasting — all you have is the audio quality. Later on, I ended up having someone else help with the episode transcripts and show notes.
Content bank. This is something John Lee talks about in PP course. Before launching your show, you should have about a month worth of content ready to go. Before I launched, I had all 15 episodes for season 1 recorded.
Organized as f$&@. Throughout the whole process, I’ve kept things pretty…pretty…pretty…organized. Okay, you caught me. This doesn’t directly relate to the launch. But it indirectly relates because it helped me stay sane, and not forget anything.
We also made use of Asana as far as project management and assigning tasks goes. (The reason the first few episodes aren’t shown below is because they’ve been already marked “done” since they have gone live.)
Build up. In the past, whenever launching something new, I would keep it quiet till right before. Not this time. For the podcast, I began talking about it early on.
I would casually mention it in emails to my entire list, on social media, in blog posts, etc. A week before launching, I sent out an email broadcast about the show. And teased the contest. (See next point.)
Podcast launch contest. To encourage ratings and reviews from my audience, I coordinated a podcast launch contest. There are three prizes total, the first amounting to over $600. Two second places prizes that are worth over $200.
The contest is still going on right now. As of now, there hasn’t been as many entries as I thought there would be. But it’s not exactly easy to enter. (There is a step-by-step process to go through, after all.)
Sure, I could have made it easier to enter the contest. And maybe boosted subscriptions or ratings. But I’m happy with how I did it. Because the people who end up winning the prizes deserve it. They went out of their way to enter. (Again: you have until May 10th at midnight to enter the contest! Details here.)
I was completely blown away by the prizes I was able to wrangle. To everyone who “donated” a prize: I ❤ you.
Launched with three episodes. When I submitted the show to iTunes on Thursday April 21st, I already had three episodes published to my RSS feed. Many podcasting pros recommend launching with more than one episode. The idea is to give people the opportunity to listen to more than one show if they like it. Which will allow them to get a better feel for the show AND increase your listen/download count. Which are factors that comes into play when making it into the New and Noteworthy section.
If I could redo the launch, I maybe would do things differently. Like release one episode a day for the first week. (Instead of three right on the first day.)
Email blasts + blog post announcement + shared on social media. I promoted the show a lot for the first ten days it was out. I sent out emails, wrote a special announcement post, and posted multiple times on social media. (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, Snapchat — you name it.) I even added a Hello Bar page take over to my homepage announcing the show. (Something I hardly do — add popups or related.) Basically, I promoted the show like a madwoman.
Sent out personal emails to friends/colleagues/etc. Aside from sending out email broadcasts to my subscribers, I also sent out personal messages to people I knew.
With the personal messages, I didn’t send them all out at once. I trickled them out. And I plan to keep doing so over the next few weeks. Apparently iTunes likes it when subscriptions, ratings, and reviews come in over time — not once and done.
And some of the recipients, like my friend Brad Hussey, were kind enough to email their own email list about the show.
There were some setbacks, or challenges, I experienced before and during my launch.
- For starters, I hate hearing my voice played back. Which is normal. But still can make it difficult at times.
- A guest I was really looking forward to interviewing had to cancel. I ended up getting two replacement guests. I am happy with how it turned out, though. Instead of 14 episodes, I have a total of 15.
- I was accepted into the iTunes Store early. Like really, early. (After about 5 hours. The average is 12–72 hours.) Which was better than late. But…it still caused me to readjust my launch plan at the last minute.
- When it rains it pours. The very hour my show was accepted into the iTunes store, I experienced technical difficulties on my website. (Which was at 10PM, by the way. It was a late night to say the least.) Then, the following day there was a slew of unexpected events. Not necessarily bad things, just a lot to happen at once.
Overall, nothing terrible happened that was unexpected. However, it’s still very early on in my podcasting career.
What I learned
I still have a lot to learn and master when it comes to podcasting. But so far I learned that:
- iTunes is really mysterious.
- In general, podcasting analytics are kinda weak. Nothing like the data you can pull from looking at Google Analytics.
- I like podcasting much more than I thought I would. It was scary at first. But all good things are.
My main launch goal was to get into the New and Noteworthy section — which I accomplished. As far as the numbers go, it’s still very early on. (The show has been out for about two weeks at the time of writing.) But to give you an idea…
(A) Most people are listening on iTunes.
(B) Most of the listeners live in the U.S.
(C) So far, I’ve had almost 4,000 downloads. (FYI: Downloads does not equal listens.)
- It’s still the first 8-weeks. New shows can stay in the New and Noteworthy section up to eight weeks. Meaning I’ll still be promoting the show — just at a lower frequency.
- Season 2 is a already in the works. Translation: I am assembling a potential guest line-up. Want to be interviewed? Know someone who should be interviewed? Get at me: email@example.com
- Sponsorships. Good podcasting takes time. And money! (Professional audio editing isn’t cheap!) That said, I want to look into getting show sponsors. Want to sponsor the show? Know someone who should? Email me: firstname.lastname@example.org
- I’m taking a break. I always set aside time to take a break, and never do. But I’m really hoping to enjoy some down time in June and July. Maybe even go on vacation. I have a few projects to wrap up in May, but I’m leaving those two months open for now to just…do whatever I want to. I miss the days when I would experiment with new technologies, or write, with no real end goal, you know?
Finally: here’s where you can listen to the Learn to Code With Me podcast
Listen to the podcast on the following platforms:
If you like the show, and have a few extra minutes, I’d be so happy if you could leave the show a rating and review!