Want to make a better podcast? Listen to a lot of podcasts that are better than yours. Here’s a simple technique that will make you a more productive podcast listener without monopolizing your time.
I hear from a lot of podcasters who want their shows to grow or who want their show to improve. But all too often, these same podcasters only listen to a tiny number of podcasts, if any. And it’s embarrassing how many of them don’t even listen to their own episodes. Oof.
Every one of them knows that the only way to get better is to study (or at least pay attention to) those who are doing something better than they are. Podcasting is no different. If you want to make a show worthy of growth, you have to listen to lots of different podcasts. Yes, podcasts in the same category/genre as yours. But also plenty of other podcasts exploring content, topics, approaches, and techniques that may not even make sense for your show. You need exposure to inspiring podcast content if you want to make an inspiring podcast of your own.
But almost to a person, these podcasters cite the same barrier to them listening more: time. None of us have an abundance of time. There are only 24 hours in everyone’s day (at least on this planet). But I have a technique that lets me be an active consumer of over 100 podcasts. 114, to be exact.
This technique doesn’t require you to listen at 2x speed.
This technique doesn’t require you to change your preferred podcast listening app.
And most importantly, this technique is “non-destructive”, so if it doesn’t work for you, you can go back to the way things were in a matter of seconds. You will not lose a single episode or subscription, I promise.
Start By Classifying Your Podcast Subscriptions Into Two Groups
Before I take you through the easy tactic, I need you to think about your current podcast subscriptions from a high level, mentally sorting shows into one of two groups.
The first group is made up of all the podcasts you listen to that require sequential consumption. Shows that tell a story or present content that builds on the episode that came before. Podcast fiction fits here, as you wouldn’t start the 17th episode if you’ve still haven’t listened to the 5th episode. There is content in those dozen other episodes you really need to catch up with the story.
The same goes for educational podcasts where each episode is a lesson that builds on the prior episodes (lessons). Journalistic deep-dives that present their findings over the course of five or 15 episodes to give you the full picture go into this bucket as well.
The second group is… well, everything else. And I literally mean every other podcast you listen to where sequential listening is not required. That’s probably most of your podcast subscriptions because most podcast episodes do not require sequential listening.
Before I talk about what to do with those two classes of shows, I need to take you on vacation. Or better said, I need you to picture coming back home from an extended three-week vacation abroad without your phone or computer.
When you get home, you find your physical mailbox is overflowing with junk mail, bills, and periodicals. No reasonable person goes through each item sequentially and methodically. That way lies madness! Instead, you triage the pile, tossing out a lot, saving the things that need attention, and deciding what to do with three weeks of daily or weekly magazines or other periodicals. And chances are, you prioritize reading the most recent periodical first, setting the rest aside for later consumption, if at all.
You’ve missed a lot of TV too, so you prioritize that as well. For shows that are actual series, you find time to binge-watch the episodes you missed before you catch the newest. But you certainly don’t do that for news programs or other more episodic content. For those, you just pick up where they are and ignore the content you missed.
If you’re subscribed to some YouTube channels you’re probably not going to try to watch all the videos you missed. You’re going to clear that notification and, like TV before, just start watching again from here.
You don’t even try to catch up on all the Tweets, IG posts, TikTok videos, or whatever other social content you swim in every day. You might have a few key people you’ll try to catch up on, but for the vast majority, you let the algorithm do its job, knowing you can always scroll backward on a particular feed or thread if it’s required, which it only rarely is.
Ok. Metaphor fully exhausted. Let’s continue.
Create A New Station/Playlist/Channel/Filter In Your Podcast Listening App For Everything Else
For now, we’re going to touch your must-be-consumed-sequentially podcast subscriptions. No matter how important they are. Leave them as they were. Instead, we’re going to separate out everything else by creating a brand new station/playlist/channel/filter or whatever word your app uses.
Call that new station (Apple Podcasts calls these lists Stations, so that’s what I’m going to call them from here on out, so adjust accordingly to whatever your podcast listening app calls them) in your podcast listening app. Mine is called “Main”, but you can call yours Susan if it makes you happy.
And now, add every subscription of yours to it other than the sequential-required content. But with two caveats:
1. Only Include Most The Recent Episodes
Go into the settings of the station and tweak it so that this station only includes the most recent episode of the podcasts you’ve added to it. Even if the podcast produces daily episodes, Evo? Yes, even if the podcast produces daily podcasts. What if the podcast releases sporadically or might be podfaded, Evo? You still set this station to display the most recent episode only.
Remember: this station is just a filter or logical grouping of your content. It’s a specialized view into some of the episodes from some of the shows you are subscribed to. You’re not losing anything.
2. Sort The List From Newest To Oldest
You’re making this new station so you can be more efficient in your podcast listening so that you can power through more episodes in less time. You have neither the time nor the bandwidth to individually triage each episode that drops on your phone. You have neither the time nor the bandwidth to assign “importance” individually to each episode that drops on your phone. You need to trust the system to do this, and the best system is to always have newer episodes push down the episodes you haven’t listened to yet. Or didn’t finish listening to. I know that sounds really strange, but I promise it will work if you’ll let it.
Now you’ve got a lovely new station called Main (or Susan), and it’s going to be your go-to spot when you’re ready to listen, either first thing in the morning (like I do) or when you’re doing a “found time” activity, snatching listening time when you can.
Care And Feeding Of Your Prioritized Podcast Listening List
My Main station has 38 different subscriptions in it, but only seven episodes right now. There were nine, but I already listened to two this morning. I might catch up with all of them today, or I may not. New content will show up throughout the day, as I subscribe to a few daily shows. More will show up tonight while I’m sleeping.
Yes, a new episode of a show — particularly the daily shows — may replace an older episode in this view. That’s OK, because the “missing” episode isn’t missing. It’s just not displayed in this view. If I want, I can always go to that show and see the full list of episodes, even those that don’t show up on my Main station.
The power of this Main station is in the automatic prioritization, with a deference towards recency and urgency. It forces me to see new and varied content. It also artificially limits my choices, which is great for when I don’t want to make hard choices. Which is most of the time. I do enough of that as it is.
If an episode keeps getting pushed further and further down the list, or maybe keeps getting replaced with a new episode before I can listen, it probably means that show isn’t all that important to me. Or maybe it’s a show that I only want to consume at a certain time when I can deeply connect with the content. If so, it probably shouldn’t be in the Main station and needs special treatment.
If the Main station is empty — which has happened — it means I have room for more content! So I seek out new podcasts and add them to this Station. It’s important to be exposed to new podcasts all the time. I find this a great way to make that happen on a regular basis, without feeling like I’m neglecting the shows I’m currently subscribed to.
You, on the other hand, may forego the victory lap and check out the episodes of shows you missed. Hey, you have time now that your triage queue is clean, right? I usually reserve Sunday for the deeper dives, but like all things in life, YMMV
However you use it, this simple trick should help you power through more podcasts in less time. Let me know how it works for you!
Please visit BuyMeACoffee.com/EvoTerra if you liked this uncharacteristic how-to episode or if you like the deep philosophical dives that typically are an edition of Podcast Pontifications. (Yes, this show should totally be in your Main queue!)
Also, please tell one other podcasting friend about Podcast Pontifications. The show only grows by word of mouth from one working podcaster to another.
I’ll be back on Tuesday of next week with yet another Podcast Pontifications.
Originally published at https://podcastpontifications.com, where it started life as an episode of my four-times-a-week short-form podcast called, oddly enough, Podcast Pontifications. It’s a podcast for working podcasters that’s focused on trends in our growing industry and ideas on ways to make podcasting not just easier, but better. Yes, you should listen. Here’s an easy way: 👇
Evo Terra (hey, that’s me!) has been podcasting since 2004, is the author of Podcasting For Dummies and Expert Podcasting Practices for Dummies, and is the CEO and founder of Simpler Media Productions, a strategic podcast consultancy working with businesses, brands, and professional service providers all around the world.