Most podcasts fail to attract a loyal audience. Many create high-quality content, but that alone isn’t enough to capture attention. As a result, after months or even years of effort, teams often lose steam and abandon their podcasting goals.

The common advice among new podcasters is to “just stick with it.” The idea is, if you just keep publishing content, you’ll eventually attract a loyal audience. However, while persistence is required for success, it alone doesn’t guarantee results.

The key is to build momentum. So, let’s take a look at a powerful five-step model that you can use to accelerate the growth of your audience. It’s the key to success for many popular podcasts, including The Joe Rogan Experience.

INSIGHT #1 – The Power Of Momentum In Podcasting

Let’s set the stage with an analogy from Good To Great by Jim Collins. Imagine a giant flywheel mounted horizontally on an axle. It’s 30 feet in diameter, 2 feet thick, and 5,000 pounds in weight. Your goal is to get the flywheel spinning as fast as possible.

The Flywheel Concept From Good To Great Infographic 3D
The flywheel concept from Good To Great by Jim Collins

Naturally, any attempt to get it moving begins with significant effort and very little to show for it. However, so long as you continue pushing in the same direction, the task will eventually become easier as the wheel builds momentum.

The same is true when it comes to podcast success. There is no single milestone that creates momentum. Instead, as you consistently push in the same direction over time, you’ll begin to benefit from the power of compounding results. And it’s this momentum that causes what eventually appears, from the outside, to be an overnight success.

The key is to focus on accelerating the momentum, however small it may seem in the beginning. Moving from 10 downloads in your first month to 12 in the next is great. That’s 20% month-over-month growth, and it’s a solid start. That pace can eventually lead to a jump from 10,000 downloads to 12,000 in just one month.

Exponential Growth Curve Of A Successful Podcast
Exponential growth curve of a successful podcast

Unfortunately, many podcasters fall into the trap of focusing on cumulative statistics like ‘total downloads.’ However, this number can increase without any new subscriber growth simply because you’re publishing new episodes.

It’s critical to focus on metrics that can be measured over time. For example, it’s useful to compare the number of downloads in the last 28-days to the previous 28-days. Or to do the same with a 90-day or 120-day window. This way, you can identify periods of stagnant growth even as ‘total downloads’ continue to increase.

Note: Great podcasts can run into periods of flat or declining metrics. It’s not a reason to give up, but it’s essential to be honest with yourself about the numbers. If your downloads are not increasing over time, you must take a critical look at your strategy and find ways to get things back on track.

INSIGHT #2 – How To Build Momentum With A Podcast

Almost any action that contributes to podcast momentum can help. However, the true power of the flywheel concept is unlocked by designing a momentum machine. One that leads to a virtuous cycle that feeds on its past success to accelerate growth.

The flywheel concept is a popular model for business success. So, before we look at an example from the world of podcasting, let’s look at the flywheel of e-commerce giant Amazon as described in ‘Turning The Flywheel’ by Jim Collins.

Amazon Flywheel From Good To Great By Jim Collins Infographic
Amazon’s flywheel concept as described in ‘Turning The Flywheel’ by Jim Collins

Lower prices lead to more customer visits. More customers increase the volume of sales and attract more commission-paying third-party sellers. That, in turn, allows Amazon to get more out of the fixed costs of their fulfillment centers and web servers. This greater efficiency then enables it to lower prices further.

It’s important to note that each component isn’t merely “the next step on the list” but almost an inevitable consequence of the previous step. If you nail the first, you are launched into the next, and the next, and the next, almost like a chain reaction. As a result, improving any one part with superior performance accelerates the entire loop.

The same concept can easily be applied to the world of podcasting. Here is the formula model used by popular podcasts like The Joe Rogan Experience.

The Joe Rogan Podcast Flywheel Infographic
Flywheel model used by popular podcasts like The Joe Rogan Experience

Start by producing valuable long-form content. Such content can be cut into short, shareable social clips. Social clips help attract more first-time listeners. Some of those first-time listeners will turn into loyal subscribers. A growing base of loyal subscribers helps attract more popular guests. Finally, popular guests help contribute to the creation of more valuable long-form content.

The Joe Rogan Experience didn’t become an overnight success. For years Joe had to convince people from his personal network to participate as guests. Eventually, as momentum steadily increased, world-famous celebrities, entertainers, and educators became eager to reach his growing audience. That’s the power of building an effective flywheel and sticking with it for years.

INSIGHT #3 – How To Customize Your Podcast Flywheel

The power of the flywheel isn’t limited to any one model. In fact, there are advantages to customizing the formula to stand out among other podcasts. The key is to identify a set of components that create a momentum machine, a cohesive system where improving one area boosts results from the rest of the model.

For example, here is an alternative podcasting model based on covering industry insider news instead of interviewing popular guests.

Alternative Podcasting Flywheel Infographic
An alternative podcasting model based on covering industry insider news

It starts with covering valuable news. This valuable news keeps listeners informed and engaged. Engaged listeners tend to be loyal and eager to spread industry news via word-of-mouth. This, in turn, helps to grow the total number of active listeners. A growing community of listeners can provide tips when it comes to the latest news. And finally, great tips can help you cover more valuable news in the future.

Of course, your model doesn’t need to consist of exactly five steps. The ideal number is somewhere between four and six, according to Jim Collins. Any more, and you’re making it too complicated. So, in such situations, look for ways to consolidate and simplify to capture the essence of what makes your flywheel work.

The easiest path to success is to base your flywheel on a successful model that others are already using. However, it’s best to avoid doing exactly what someone else in your niche is already doing. With that in mind, look to podcasters outside of your market for inspiration. Identify proven formulas and seek to understand what makes them work.

In the end, the goal is to identify or create a formula for building momentum. Once you have that, it’s just a matter of following through to create compounding results. A great flywheel can help you build accelerating results for years or even decades to come.

Beyond How To Create A Successful Podcast

You can learn more about The Flywheel Concept by reading Good To Great or Turning The Flywheel by Jim Collins. The second is a short read focused entirely on the flywheel concept, so it’s likely the best place to start.

Good To Great And Turning The Flywheel By Jim Collins Book Covers
Good To Great and Turning The Flywheel by Jim Collins Books

You can also learn more by reading my book summary of Good To Great or my articles on Level 5 Leadership, The Hedgehog Concept, and The Flywheel.

Do you want to learn more about business and entrepreneurship? I have dedicated reading lists that cover the best startup books, the best digital marketing books, the best productivity books, and other helpful business-related topics.

You can also subscribe to The Rick Kettner YouTube Channel or The Rick Kettner Podcast to get updates about future articles, summaries, and reading lists.

Do You Have A Question Or Comment?

Please visit the How To Create A Successful Podcast video on YouTube to share your thoughts in the comment section.

Rick Kettner

Rick is an avid reader and lifelong entrepreneur. He co-founded popular online music education platforms including Drumeo, Pianote, and Guitareo. He now spends much of his time sharing tips on business strategy, marketing, and entrepreneurship.

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