Defining podcast success
Podcasting How To

Defining Podcast Success

A successful podcast can mean many things, but how does one define success for a podcast? Click here to see a breakdown of podcast goals and how they can help you be the best podcaster possible!

A successful podcast can mean many things; it’s up to the podcaster to define what success actually translates to for their podcast. Much like there are many reasons for starting a podcast, there are many ways to define success, but the journey is in finding what the proper definition of success is for you.

“What does podcast success look like for me?”

Defining what success means to you is crucial in creating a solid game plan to achieve those results. In a list of steps for starting a podcast, defining success and setting the goal you’re trying to reach for your podcast is step 0. Instead of phrasing your thought as, “I want to start a podcast to achieve my goal,” you should be thinking, “I want to achieve this goal, so I’ll start a podcast. Solidifying this is going to set the tone for your podcasting journey, as well as the choices you make. 

For example, let’s say your podcast is aimed at simply garnering a high download (or listener) count in a short amount of time. You may decide to funnel resources towards a heavy marketing campaign of advertising and cross promotion. 

In contrast, let’s say your podcast is aimed at an internal audience and is being used to communicate initiatives across a specific funnel of your workforce. Your podcast’s goal may be more focused towards your KPI in a specific vertical rather than focusing only on getting the highest amount of downloads. 

The Importance of Non Number-Based Goals

The issue sometimes in setting goals is that it requires us to be specific about what we want, and in that specificity we may find that the goal we set is not actually a goal, but a step to our actual goals. If we keep the focus on that single step-as-goal instead of what we want the actual outcome to be, we create a vague path to the goal and inevitably fight harder to reach our intended outcome.

For example, let’s look at number-based goals such as download or follower goals. Let’s say that your goal is to get one thousand followers, and one thousand downloads each episode. What is motivating those numbers? Why does it matter that you get that many downloads, or that many followers, for your podcast? Asking yourself this may lead to an answer like, “I want that many followers so I can increase my Patron program followership,” or “I want that many downloads so I can get sponsors.” 

In this case, the numbers are not actually the goals, but the steps you’re aiming for so you can get to the goals. Having a nebulous, less specific goal of getting a specific number of followers/downloads complicates what steps you need to take. Getting specific with your goals not only assists in better defining the process and steps you need to take, but you may find that it’s more easily attainable than your previous goals lead you to believe.

Of course, all goals and definitions of success are going to be different depending on the kind of podcast you run, which we’ll break down below.

Setting Goals as a Public Facing Podcast

Here we’re primarily talking about your modern podcaster using the medium to create entertainment, educational resources, or informative news  in a way that is not locked behind a login. Basically, if your podcast is available for anyone to download on the Podbean App, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or any of the third party directories…you’re a public-facing podcaster!

What is the point of the differentiation? Your goals, methods, budget, and manpower are going to look vastly different from a podcast meant for internal training at a large company.

So as we covered above, setting a goal that is numbers-based is going to offer you a less clear and concise roadmap than by isolating what it is exactly that you’re looking to accomplish. However, your goals can be seen as external goals or internal goals.

External Goals

External goals require external stimulus and interaction for you to achieve them. This could be from an in-group or from the public at large. These types of goals usually rest on finding and proving oneself to a community.

For example, here are some other external-based goals that don’t center on your download numbers:

Being featured at local events (such as local get-togethers, cons, alumni gatherings, etc)

Being featured as a guest or a speaker at your local events allows you to highlight who you are and what you’ve done within your community. Being recognized by others around you off of the internet allows your accomplishments to feel more physical and tangible, instead of just as something on a screen. Look to your local conventions and conferences to see if they’re looking for speakers, or for people to assist with events relevant to your podcast.

Being featured at larger events (like national/international conferences)

Being featured as a guest at a larger event gives you the chance to establish yourself as a professional voice in both your topic and the podcasting industry at large. This could also open the doors to being a professional speaker that’s paid to speak at events. Some of these events could be podcast-based (such as Podcast Movement, Podfest, etc), or cons related to your podcast’s topic (of which there are a wide variety)! Much like your smaller cons, check with your larger get-togethers to see if they’re looking for speakers or guests.

Getting the attention of sponsors or podcast networks

Gaining attention from sponsors means some level of monetary return for your podcast; gaining attention from a podcast network means increased promotion, connections, and the chance for monetary returns. It once again means that your content is being recognized and rewarded in a more physical way. Prepare an impressive media kit, and don’t be afraid to make the first move to either advertisers or podcast networks.

Internal Goals

Internal goals are going to be less apparent to your audience, as your internal goals are for you and your personal growth. The success with your internal goals means that you’ve grown past an issue, or improved something about yourself over the course of your podcasting journey.

For example:

Improving your speech patterns

If you find that you’re not the best at speaking off-script (such as being repetitive, rambling, unable to think of what to say off the cuff) and you want to improve, running an unscripted podcast can help you achieve that. When you record, you can take as long as you need to say something, with the ability to cut the long silences out afterwards. Or you can edit your rambling down to what really matters, so in listening back you can teach yourself what you’re really trying to hone in on when you speak.

Improving your editing skills

Improving your skills in regards to editing has many benefits, from its impact on your personal podcast work to how it can have added benefits for your day job/professional work. Success here can only be found and defined by yourself, but you may also see success in shortened editing times. 

Improving your interviewing skills

Once again, this is the kind of goal that can help in both your personal and professional projects. Being the host of a good interview is one of those skills that seems simple but is deceptively difficult, and can only be improved upon by interviewing more people.

Improving your writing

This goes far beyond just writing scripts, but for writing your episode descriptions, your show notes, and beyond. Much like interviewing, writing this content for your podcast seems like it should be alarmingly simple but only becomes so after practice.  

Finding Success as a Branded Podcast

Company-branded podcasts will have different expectations in regards to goals and the nature of success from other public-facing podcasts. While they will also seek to educate and entertain, their goals may be more macro and their successes will depend on both internal and external factors. Depending on the company’s focus and size, they could have goals (and find their success) in the following: 


Slalom and Case and White utilize their public podcast as a recruitment tool to appeal to potential employees. Slalom highlights employee stories, and how they’ve found success with the company, and Case and White help address concerns that potential employees may have about interviewing in the industry. Success here can be tracked by an uptick in engagement with potential employees, as well as an increase of hiring through the funnel that features the recruitment podcasts. Here, don’t be afraid to seek out potential opportunities to speak about the process and promote your podcast through traditional promotional means.

Establishing your voice in the industry

We’ve spoken before about how successful branded podcasts find themselves to be so due to becoming a leading voice in the industry. While something like “being a leading voice” sounds more nebulous than the goals above, this level of success is usually identifiable by how often your podcast is referenced in terms of latest research and reports, who the recognition is coming from, and the type of engagement opportunities (such as speaking at conferences, and guest lectures at educational institutions) that are offered. 

Growing your connections/increasing leads

Interviewing and collabing with potential customers is a great way to foster a relationship that may introduce them as a new client for your company. This kind of goal means that a high number of downloads isn’t necessarily a concern; an increase in leads, customers, or or overall brand awareness can act as proof of success. 

Setting Goals as a Private Podcast

Much like branded podcasts, internal podcasts for use of employee communication, training, and the like are going to have far different goals and metrics for success than public-facing podcasts. The intent is also going to be far different simply due to the nature of creating private podcasts; their audience is more firmly defined and identifiable due to the micro-targeting of assigning users to specific podcast channels. Admins of private podcasts will have a whole list of employees they’ve given the access to, and can track how much they’ve engaged with the private content.

Much like the public-facing podcaster, their goal is the question, and “start a podcast” is the answer. However, their podcast will have a very specific intended audience, with distinct goals and methods in mind. Such goals could include:

Create a more consistent training method

One issue that can be seen in employees is a lack of consistency in terms of training. If five people are training your new hires, for example, and are all giving slightly different information, you’re going to find that your output is going to be inconsistent as well. A training podcast offers that level of consistency by being a primary training resource that doesn’t change (unless you choose to update it). Success can be found here with the usual measures like testing and such. It’s also found by seeing what percentage of your workforce is engaging with the training materials, and what the deviation rate from your company standard looks like as the materials are introduced.

Increase workforce communication/employee connection

Communication across a large company – especially if the company is spread out with multiple offices all over the world – can prove to be a challenge. This can lead to messages not getting properly conveyed, and to employees feeling disconnected from the company they work for. A successful internal podcast can find its success here by measuring the rate of engagement as compared to previous methods, as well as employee satisfaction and feedback about the podcast and how it has helped.

Increase across different verticals

The example here is heavily focused on the improvement of employees engaging with the podcast. For example, having sales executives partaking in a training podcast as they’re traveling between sales. Success can be measured here by a higher rate of closed sales, or a bigger sale per client across the steady rate of closed sales. A successful private podcast can be measured by an increase in efficiency, work produced, or quality of work produced.

Defining success for your podcast is a journey, much like podcasting itself. There are no right or wrong goals to aim for, and a myriad of ways to achieve them. However, having a goal in mind will keep you focused and on the move when you’re feeling less motivated by the medium itself.What’s the best goal for you? Check out our podcast Podcasting Smarter to hear from professional podcasters and industry experts on what they’ve accomplished with help from their podcasts for some inspiration.

By day, a marketing writer for Podbean. By night, surrounded by eclectic projects like stop-motion puppets, half-knit sweaters, and a violin that won't learn to play itself. Certified Fresh(c) by a master's in English.

2 comments on “Defining Podcast Success

  1. brettgelman

    External goals require external stimulus and interaction for you to achieve them. This could be from an in-group or from the public at large.

  2. With so much competition these days you really need to be top of your game when searching for new opportunities in careers. Read, and do your homework for tips on how to handle this situation.

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