Last week I introduced this series of blog posts about launching a new podcast. Now with just over two weeks to go until the big day, let’s dig a bit deeper into what I’ve been doing to set the podcast up for success.
Submitting to Apple and Google
Apple Podcasts used to be the major speed bump to any new podcast launch, since their opaque review process could take anywhere between 24 hours to two weeks. Increasingly though – even before their spring update – I’d find I’d warn my clients about potentially long review times, only to find the show was ready the next morning.
Since Apple announced their new Podcasts Connect portal in April 2021 along with paid subscriptions (which are mostly a distraction imho), their review process changed from a manual one to a seemingly automated one. In practise this now means your show can be listed within Apple Podcasts’ directory within an hour, although finding it via search will take much longer (best to wait 24 hours for that). I submitted my show to Apple almost a full month before the first episode would be announced, for a reason I’ll go into in a bit.
Google’s a weird beast. When they started with their Podcasts app, you didn’t even have a way to submit to them; you just had to hope they’d find your URL by crawling your website. After a while they realised that was silly since new podcasts don’t yet have web presences Google knows about, so you can submit your feed to them (or get your host to do it for you, if they support it). That’s what I did, but because I still don’t fully trust Google to work in a timely manner, I submitted way in advance.
A day or so later I decided to submit everywhere else. I gathered that the first episode was going to be available anyway, and I was gaining nothing by being secretive at the expense of getting everything in place for the launch.
The pitch deck
Inspired by Arielle Nissenblatt and Shira Moskowitz’s appearance on Between Two Mics, I created a pitch document for the podcast. I originally sat on the sofa with my new iPad mini, working in Keynote to create a bunch of slides that would position the podcast for busy newsletter curators, journalists, and others who might need to know about the show and its intent.
I coach podcasters to work on their Listener Story to get clarity on their position within a crowded market, but it was my first time creating a pitch deck for a podcast.
I ended up taking the work I’d done over a couple of evenings and converting the Keynote document into a Notion page. Notion is my second brain, so I was able to do things like list out the episodes and links to directories without duplicating work, since I was already putting that stuff in Notion.
I’m not going to reveal the details of the show until it’s released, but I can tell you that the document consists of
- A short paragraph that explains what the doc is, so people know what they’ve landed on.
- Contact details in a single sentence.
- A quotable headline that sums up the show nicely.
- Less than 200 words about the podcast. It’s narrative fiction, so two half explains the plot, a quarter uncovers the themes the show explores, and the last quarter gives a broad overview of who’d enjoy it.
- The launch date.
- An embedded player from Transistor (my podcast host) for the first episode, with a request not to make it public until launch.
- Bios and photos for our narrator Imogen, the script writer, and me, with relevant links to portfolios and social media accounts. Each bio has a little fun fact or something otherwise quirky, partly for inclusion in any written materials, partly to just make the reader smile.
- Two clips that we can reveal, and aren’t too worried about getting out. Again, the first episode is up and live and if people discover it and download it, fine. Spoiler alert: no-one has… people don’t stumble upon podcasts. I recorded these clips by uploading the lossless WAV versions of the episodes to Overcast, and using the Share button to create a short video. I could’ve used Headliner or another tool, but I was sat on the sofa at the time. I think they’re fine, and because they’re uploaded directly to Notion, you can play them instantly and they look like little audio players.
- A longer outline of the intended audience, and how the podcast will make their day better.
- A few paragraphs of podcast objectives. I didn’t pick this up from anywhere that I can recall, but it felt like a useful thing to do to sort of say “this is what we want the podcast to do, or how we’d like to benefit”. It shares some plans for monetisation and other media through which the story will be available (a book).
- A list of all the places the podcast is available. This is a linked database in Notion, which means when I submit the show to directories, I can fill the details in in the database, and they’ll automatically be updated in the press document. Neato.
- The web address, and what we want people to do when they’re there (sign up to the mailing list).
- Social media handles for the show and the people who make it (apart from Imogen, so she’s not bombarded with marketing stuff. We want to make sure she’s tagged so she feels the love, but not get dragged into any Twitter canoes if necessary. I dislike Twitter canoes.)
- Visual assets. These are embedded images, so as such I don’t think they’re full res, but they’re perfectly fine for use on the web.
- A full list of episodes. Again, this is a linked database in Notion. All the episodes are listed with release dates, which is how I work with clients. Each episode page will, when ready, carry an embedded player, embed code, download links, and the episode description. All of this is just how I work with all podcasts so it’s not strictly for the press, but there’s no hard in sharing it.
- A couple of downloadable files: the visual assets in full res, plus lossless WAV versions of the clips mentioned earlier.
Asking for Apple to feature the podcast in their app
I wouldn’t strictly need the pitch deck to submit the show to be promoted by Apple, but it helped me get clear on how I was positioning the show and I thought I might be able to re-use any visual assets I’d helped create… I was wrong about that last bit. I think I may have sent the URL for the Notion page to both companies, because… why not?
So, with Apple you can fill in an Airtable form that the corporation says they review every submission for, but about which I shouldn’t expect a reply.
- Be prepared to give a good answer to the question “why should we promote you?”.
- Note that you can only pick one territory to promote in per submission. I picked the UK because I felt I might have a deeper impact in a smaller market, and frankly it’s a UK-produced show.
- You’ll need to pick a date you want the promo to happen, which should be at least 2 weeks in the future. I don’t know if I’ll score brownie points for being early, but maybe it helps if no-one comes up with something that’s a better fit for November 2nd.
- They want you to forecast download numbers, which is a complete guess so I’m not really sure why they ask.
- They’ll want to know how you plan to fold Apple into your strategy, so things like tweeting @ApplePodcasts when you release an episode, and pointing people to their direction.
- The tricky bit is getting artwork in the format they want it. I’ve never used Photoshop for more than an hour in 20 years, so I had to use Photopea to convert my Sketch project into a layered PSD. I think Apple want a layered file so they can remove bits of the image or move things around, so it looks great on different screen sizes. I don’t think what I produced is very good, but we’ll see. Back in the day I was personally asked by someone at Apple Podcasts to provide them with larger-scale artwork for one the shows that got picked for New & Noteworthy, but that was when you could email them and ask to be featured.
Take this stuff seriously, as you only really get one shot at it per season or major event (like your 100th episode or an actual famous person as a guest). In hindsight I would’ve taken a look at the form, noted the fields down, and spent some serious time coming up with good answers that I could then paste into the form later, rather than fill it in there and then. That’s what I’d do with more established pitch processes like funding applications.
I think what’ll make or break the pitch is how you can persuade Apple that your show has the kind of mass appeal that’s necessary for them to fork over some serious banner space. This is really tricky because we’re taught to “niche down”, and those kinds of podcasts rarely get featured. But if you can make a case that your niche show has broader appeal – as I think we can with this one – you might stand a chance.
Submitting to Amazon Music for promotion
You can email [email protected] with details of a new show, and they say they’ll consider it for promotion. Like Apple, they want at least 2 weeks’ notice, but it’s less formalised as a process. Here’s what they ask you to put in the email:
- Publisher (or podcast network) name
- Contact name
- Series name
- Series description
- Promotion territory (Worldwide, US, UK, DE, JP)
- Trailer release date
- First episode release date
- Release schedule (daily, weekly, etc)
- Desired promotion date
- Social media accounts used to promote shows
- Podcasts’ original working files (ie: layered PSD file) and host headshot(s)
I think for the last one I might’ve pointed them to the Notion page, which has all the visual assets in downloadable form. This is better than an attachment I think.
Pitching to newsletters
The next thing I did was start formulating a pitch to newsletter writers. I started with my newsletter list, which I put together for two reasons: this (the pitching process), and because podcasters should read podcast newsletters, not just pitch to them.
I made a shortlist of the newsletters I thought would be best suited. I think Podnews is always a good shout because it covers the whole industry, but be wary about pitching to media aimed at other podcasters – your show is not for them (most likely). But I know James is receptive and gives a few sentences over to newly-launching shows, so I figured it would be silly not to.
I left off lists I thought wouldn’t be interested, not because I don’t think it’s worth asking everyone, but because I want to maintain long-term relationships with newsletter editors, and not pitch them stuff that’s irrelevant to their audience. I hope I got it right with the ones I did contact.
My first pitch was to James and I think was fairly simple and straightforward. We’ve worked on stuff in the past, so I didn’t over-burden him with intros. I then went to a couple of others I’ve spoken with before, each time tweaking the text of the previous message, adding in genuine personal notes, not necessarily to curry favour – OK, maybe a little – but because again, maintaining long-term relationships is important.
With the people I’d had little to no contact with – but, again, whose newsletters I was already subscribed to – I looked for commonalities we could discuss, or recommendations of theirs that I’d appreciated. Arielle has tweeted about this before – personal pitches are good pitches.
Obviously there’s a core template that these are being based on, but in some cases I tweaked the copy to reflect what I thought would be more important to their readers. It would feel cynical to share that template here and I think it’s something you should come to naturally, but my gut says you should use the inverted pyramid, putting the most important stuff up top, and making sure to link to the pitch document as soon as possible and not bury it, so they can duck out of your text stream and go get the goods when they’re ready.
Over the week I got some nice replies from people. Not everyone’s replied but everyone who did said they’d check it out or pass it along to a writer, which is great. No-one yet has told me it’s a bad fit, so we’ll see.
I think podcast newsletters are an essential part of the process, but it’s important to remember they represent only a small percentage of people who’ll potentially listen to your show, so it can’t be your only strategy. Today I met with Matthew Stevens of Q’d Up, who gave me some homework for next week, so I’ll come back and run you through that process, but it essentially boils down to “make sure to go outside of the podcast space”, which, like all good advice, you already know but need someone to tell you so you actually act on it.
And finally, “everywhere you get your podcasts” means YouTube too
In my old life, it was important for me to have opinions about where people should post podcasts. As someone strictly on the creative side, I can think and act more freely.
I’d intended to post the first episode – and all subsequent episodes upon release – in full to YouTube, using the
ffmpeg command line tool (something you can download and run from your computer’s Terminal app, if you know how to do such things). But I’d forgotten about their arbitrary “you can only upload longer videos until x happens” rule. I can’t remember whether event x was more time spent on the platform or more subscribers… it didn’t matter. In the end I just used Headliner to create a slightly more engaging audiogram. I’ve since done nothing with it, but will probably put it in Notion because, again, why not?
This is a lot of work, right?
I think so.
Is it too much? Categorically not.
Is it enough? Honestly only time will tell. Almost certainly not though, as even on a tight budget I’m certain there’s more I can do, but only so many hours in the day, and only one set of typing fingers.
I’ll be back talking about this next week. If you’re new to this site or my work, I write and record regular videos talking about the process and the elements of podcasting, often focusing less on the tech and more on the squishy human parts. I also run a group mentorship programme coupled with a learning library. You should get the newsletter so you can keep up with this process and the other work I do. Shit’s going to get interesting once this new podcast launches, so I don’t want you to miss it.