Taking The Creepy Out Of Personalized Podcasts

Image credit: Aimee Vogelsang on Unsplash

Personalization of podcasts is filled with pitfalls, including a well-deserved reputation of being creepy. But the true benefits of personalized podcasting have nothing to do with making ads better.

Podcasting is a one-size-fits-all medium. The podcaster-you or me-produce each episode once, publish it once, and then distribute it everywhere podcasts can be found. (Side note: Has anyone coined COPODE yet? No? Then it’s mine.) So much for the “personal” part of personal on-demand ‘casting, huh? And our one-size-fits-all approach really doesn’t help us create the best possible listener experience.

Marketers Ruin Everything

It’s difficult to have a conversation about personalization in podcasting without drawing some side-eye from privacy advocates. (Hi, Andrew!) But that’s only because most efforts to personalize have just been cover for privacy-invading tactics that deliver targeted ads to so platforms can make more money from their real customers, their advertisers.

So you did it to yourselves, terrible marketers. Surely you can find something more attractive to humans than better, more relevant ads that seem a more-than-a-little creepy. Because if that’s what you’re selling when you talk about personalization, we’re not interested in buying it.

Putting The Personal Back In Personalization

Stripping away all the negative connotations and possible/probable nefarious behavior, most reasonable people would prefer a more personalized experience for many things they encounter in their daily lives. Not all, obviously. And anonymity is often preferred for a variety of reasons.

But what I want out of my personalized experience will, by definition, be different from what you want from your personalized experience. A story I heard from an Englishman recently illustrates this nicely.

When this Englishman walks into his local pub (and I swear this is not a tired setup for a joke) and makes eye contact with the bartender, he wants the bartender to start pouring his favorite pint, with nothing more than a nod of acknowledgement between them. Nothing more than that. He wants the pint to be waiting on the bar for him. Perhaps with the cost automatically added to his open tab to be closed out at the end of the night.

The bartender doesn’t need to know the patron’s birthday to provide that level of personalized customer experience. Nor does he need to know the patron’s address. Not even his postal code. He just needs a select bit of data on that patron to deliver the perfect, highly-personalized experience.

But that’s not the personalized experience I, a craft beer nerd, want. I want to know my options, but only some of my options. My perfect bartender wouldn’t spend any time talking up the newest selection of saisons, lagers, or hefeweizens since those are rarely my choice. He’s not prohibiting me from ordering one of those, should my palate be in a weird mood. My options aren’t restricted at all. Just… personalized.

Pathways To Podcast Personalization

Before you start wondering how you, the podcaster, can be more like the bartender; I’m going to flip the script on you. Think instead about what a more personalized listening experience might be if we abandon the one-size-fits-all approach. I’ll start!

I put out four episodes a week of Podcast Pontifications. And even though I’ve niched down the content pretty tightly, I still cover 16 different categories of topics of interest to working podcasters like yourself.

Maybe someone out there already has an overflowing podcast listening queue and only wants to hear my thoughts on Listener Experience (the topic of this episode), Future-Forward Thinking, and maybe Perspective Shifts. Those are the topics they get the most value of, so those are the ones they want sent down to them.

Of course, it’s their choice to add more topics to their personal selection. And they’d always have the ability to see all the episodes I’ve done. Perhaps, if I’ve not covered their preferred topics in a week or so, some sort of summary notice is sent out so they know the show is still going. Or better yet, if I knew I had people requesting those specific topics, I’d do my best to cover them more frequently.

Or maybe there’s a listener of The Geologic Podcast who’s also pressed for time and would prefer a personalized show that contains more of the funny bits of George’s show and less of the knowledge-based content. So maybe their episodes are assembled on the fly to skip segments like Interesting Fauna or Rupert McClanahan’s Indestructible Bastards. Those are some of my favorite bits, but that doesn’t mean they have to be everyone’s favorite bits.

What if QCODE knew that a listener-or perhaps lots of listeners-preferred to mainline the episodes of their serialized shows once they were complete? By giving QCODE my preference for this, they could tailor an experience for me that only gave me the episodes of their excellent serialized fiction podcasts when a show was complete or nearly complete. Perfect!

All of these listening experience-enhancing things are possible in podcasting. And none of them creepy or privacy-invading. Stepping back from podcasts for a moment and looking at trends in the larger world of CX-customer experience: This is the direction in which the world is headed.

Done this way, a way that benefits listeners first, podcast personalization does not have to be creepy. It doesn’t have to be invasive. Once the benefits of personalization are made obvious and demonstrably better to the customer, people will have no trouble sharing more info-but just the right info-necessary to deliver that personalized experience.

Not just creepy ads.

I think podcasting is uniquely capable of making better personalization over other broadcast media, like print, TV and radio. But what do you think? What do you think that your listeners might want from a personalized podcasting experience from you and your show? Share this article with your podcasting buddies and see what thoughts they have on personalization in a very non-creepy and all-benefiting-to-the listener way.

And if you got any value out of this article, whatsoever, please go to BuyMeACoffee.com/evoterra and buy me a virtual coffee. That’s always nice.

I shall be back tomorrow 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, a strategic podcast consultancy working with businesses, brands, and professional service providers all around the world.



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