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How to Know What Your Podcast Audience Really Wants

Feb 15, 2022
Jennifer Tribe

Who listens to your podcast? What do they love about it? And what do they want more of? Here’s how to find the answers.

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Welcome to Chapter 3 in our 9-part Subscription Guide. (If you missed it, our previous chapter was Chapter 2: How Much Money Can You Make With Podcast Subscription?)

Knowing which perks to build into your podcast subscription plans—and how much listeners will pay for those perks—comes down to having an accurate understanding of your podcast audience.

Who listens to your show? What do they love about it? And what do they want more of? In this post, we’ll walk you through how to find the answers to those questions.

Start with podcast audience stats

You can start to glean a basic understanding of your podcast audience from the statistics and reports provided by your podcast host. 

The data that’s available varies a bit from host to host but nearly all of them will tell you things like where your listeners are located and which podcast players they use to listen to your show.

Platforms like Spotify and Apple also offer up more detailed statistics, though only for the listens that happen through their platform. Still, data like the gender and age of your listeners, as well as your listen through rate (how much of an episode a listener got through before quitting) are valuable, even if it’s only for a portion of your audience.

The trouble is that it can be time-consuming to log into your podcast host, Spotify, and Apple accounts individually. So that’s where a service like Chartable comes in handy. Chartable pulls in data from all three sources to give you a single view of all your key listener data.

Super tip: If statistics make your head spin, this podcast stats explainer by Podnews editor James Cridland can help you make sense of them all.

Ask for audience feedback

Now that you’ve got a base of hard data to start from, it’s time to go after softer information like the interests, values, and opinions of your podcast audience. 

Above all, you want to make two things clear to listeners.

  1. You want their feedback.
  2. It’s easy to reach you (and details on how to do it).

Include a call for feedback in every episode, in your show notes, your social media profiles, your social media posts, your website — in other words, in all the places. 

It doesn’t really matter how you ask people to contact you as long as there’s at least one easy option.

Jesse Brown, host of Canadaland, encourages his listeners to email him: “Right from the start I made my email address available at the end of each show. I encourage people to email me. For the first few years I said, ‘Email me, I respond to everything that you send.’ That became impossible at a certain point. So I said, ‘Email me, I read everything you send. That I can do. I read everything that comes in.”

Allison Horrocks, co-host of the American Girls podcast, points listeners to their website, where they can leave a voicemail or fill out a simple Google Form with their message.

Super tip: Services like SpeakPipe and Podpage provide an easy way for fans to leave you voice mail. 

Creative Elements host Jay Clouse asks people to ping him on Twitter or Instagram with their thoughts on the show. “In every episode of my show ever, before I go to the interview, I give the prompt: I would love to hear your thoughts on this episode. You can tweet at me @jayclouse or find me on Instagram @jayclouse. Let me know what you're thinking. 

Make time for personal connections

It may take a while to hear from people if you haven’t asked for feedback before. That’s OK. Keep asking. 

When people do take the time to send feedback, make sure you respond. If nothing else, thank the person for their comment. But also think about how you could go a bit deeper.

Here’s how Pat Flynn of Smart Passive Income does it. Notice how he uses a quick social moment to start a bigger conversation where he can ask follow-up questions or get the listener’s perspective on something he wants to try.

If you feel overwhelmed at the thought of creating a custom video message for someone, start small.  

“You don't have to think about everybody, just what can you do right now,” says Espree Devora of Women In Tech. 

“What can you do today that will create that closer bond with someone who can symbolize 100 of your listeners? One person can usually represent 100 of your listeners, which will start to cultivate and curate how you build that relationship with them.”  

Set up one-on-one interviews

Taking those personal connections a step further, ask to set up one-on-one calls with a handful of people you think might be representative of your podcast audience. Aim for at least five calls. 

Depending on the makeup of your audience, you may want to offer people a gift card as a thank-you for taking time out of their day to chat with you. In that case, be clear you’re not paying them to say nice things about you. You want to hear their frank opinions—including the good, the bad, and the ugly—about your podcast.

Make sure to record the call so you can listen back later and even transcribe the audio for review.

The questions you’ll want to ask depend a lot on the topic of your podcast but here are a few open-ended questions to fire up your thinking as you put together your list:

  • Pick three words that best summarize how listening to my podcast makes you feel. Why did you choose those words?
  • What was your favorite episode and why?
  • What do you find valuable about my podcast?
  • Where are you and what are you typically doing when you listen to my podcast?

Survey your podcast audience

So far, we’ve focussed on learning about your audience through statistics and one-on-one interactions.There’s also a way to bring both of those things together: listener surveys.

Surveys are a powerful tool for collecting information from a broad swath of people while also getting individual opinions.

Survey responses are so valuable, in fact, that podcast producer Juleyka Lantigua says every podcaster should be surveying their audience at least once a year. “Know everything you can know about your audience and not just the downloads,” she says.

Setting up a survey is easily done using free tools like Google Forms. If you’re wondering what kinds of questions to ask, Edison Research offers a free survey template to get you started. 

The Edison template is quite detailed and would make for a fairly lengthy survey for your listeners so you’ll likely want to pick and choose among the questions to decide which ones are most important for you.

It’s also a good idea to sprinkle in a few open-ended questions that dig into your listener’s lives in ways that are related to your podcast but not about your podcast.

Terri Lomax and Dr. Dominique Broussard of Cultivating H.E.R. Space have done an excellent job on their listener survey of balancing data-driven questions, like age and work status, with broader questions like “What do you do for fun?” 

The co-hosts alternate the multiple choice questions with the open-ended questions to give the survey a great flow that keeps listeners moving down the page.

Terri and Dominique keep their survey open all the time and link to it from their link in bio. They don’t call it a survey or questionnaire—they position the form as a way for listeners to share about themselves and suggest topics.

Cultivating H.E.R. Space podcast link in bio page

“You'd be so surprised how people respond and what they will tell you about themselves,” says Terri.

Keep the communication channels open

Understanding your podcast audience and what they want isn't a one-and-done endeavor. Never stop asking for feedback. Never stop listening. Never stop engaging.

You’ll develop a rich and evolving awareness of who listens to your show that will give you a fantastic ability to develop content your audience wants and loves.

But what premium content do I offer? Read what’s next in our Subscription Guide with Chapter 4: 23 Ideas for Bonus Content to Offer Your Podcast Subscribers.