In the world of podcasting, the dichotomy between increasing your audience size and increasing audience retention is a bit blurred. While it’s important to introduce your podcast to new listeners, it’s equally important to keep your current audience. Retained listeners are your dedicated audience that will make up your core listenership. Retained listeners are also more likely to spread your podcast via recommendation.
So how do you increase audience retention?
We’ve covered a few tips before, but here are a few more to integrate into your workflow:
1. The Power of The First Minute
We’ve covered this tip in our previous post, but it bears repeating: the first minute of your podcast is the most important minute for audience retention. The first minute is where you capture your listener’s attention, and set the expectations for the rest of the episode. Is your first minute loud and boisterous? Laid back? Action-packed? Your listeners are going to expect the rest of the episode to match that same energy.
To maximize that first minute, consider opening with:
- A cold open: If you’ve seen a sitcom or a police procedural, you’re familiar with the cold open. This is the first bit of the episode that lays out the A plot’s hook before the show opening theme/opening credits play. Utilize a cold open with a clip from a guest, or a snippet from a later conversation. This will make your audience curious enough to stay engaged past that first minute mark.
- The guest introduction: If you have a guest on your podcast, this is where you can have them introduce the podcast. Featuring your guest in that first minute is a key way to highlight their appearance on your podcast. This also entices both the listeners tuning in to hear the guest, and listeners who may have organically stumbled upon your podcast.
2. Podcast Segments and Their Impact on Audience Retention
Segments are how you isolate parts of your podcast, based on topics or the particular focus that you’re going for. Doing so gives you a shortcut for creating clips to share on social media, but creates a structure that your listeners can depend on. Building up listener trust is one of the key pieces of building audience retention, and dependable segments go a long way in building that trust.
And with Podbean’s new feature to create chapter markers in your podcast, it’s easier than ever to let your listeners know where each segment begins.
What kind of segments can you include in your podcast?
- Fan mail/fan social media comments
- ‘This or That’ style segments to increase conversation both in and outside of the episode
- News/updates from within the industry
- New release highlights for publications hitting the shelves that week
- Highlights/promotions for other podcasts (done as advertising or for cross-promo purposes)
- Highlights from your fan community (from Discord, your subreddit, your chat group, etc)
- Clips from both past and future episodes to increase interest in your other episodes (especially with ‘directing to a past episode’ being an excellent CTA for your episodes)
The inclusions of segments like these will give your listeners something to look forward to, and will decrease listener drop-off throughout your episode.
3. What is the Open Loop Strategy?
You might have heard of this before; the Open Loop Strategy is a way of telling a story or writing a script. Throughout your episode, you’ll introduce new lines of storytelling or new lines of thought, and hold off on concluding them until later in the episode. You’re introducing something and refraining from offering the listener closure, so that they’re instinctively driven to continue the episode to seek that closure.
Of course, there’s a fine line between teasing your listener with a story and delivering the ending towards the end of an episode, and leaving the end hanging. If you introduce something in the episode, your goal is to conclude it in the same episode. But by introducing something in the beginning of an episode – teasing a crazy encounter at a concert but holding off on telling everyone the results, or letting everyone know you’ve adopted a new dog but not introducing the dog until the last segment – you’re entering into an unspoken agreement that you’re going to conclude that topic in the same episode.
“What about cliffhangers?” you ask.
Cliffhangers are a personal preference. In the humble opinion of your blog writer, you should only offer cliffhangers if the payoff is worth the wait until the next episode.This is the problem with all those shortform storytime videos on video platforms – they break their story into two or three parts, but the payoff from the finale in part three never matches in the investment of waiting (or hunting) for the part 3.
The key thing to remember with cliffhangers is that you need to introduce the cliffhanging arc along with the other loops to be addressed in the episode, and address those other loops. If you satisfy some curiosity but not all of it, you’re more likely to keep people coming for that second part.
Conclusion: Your Mileage May Vary
Once again, we’d like to highlight that this isn’t a call to overhaul your entire podcast between episodes. Start with small, manageable chunks like introducing segments, or start new introductions on your episodes. As you get more comfortable with changing up your podcasting style, you can go further with incorporating different storytelling elements like the open loop technique.
Curious about the impact of storytelling on podcasting in general? Check out our huge storytelling masterpost!