The popularity of podcasts has exploded over the past few years. In 2016 alone, 57 million Americans listened to a podcast each month. I've seen this explosive growth with both podcasts I host—Rainer on Leadership and SBC This Week.
As a result, pastors and ministry leaders frequently ask me if they should start a podcast. The problem is there is not a cut-and-dried answer. Every pastor and ministry leader should have an online presence with social media and possibly a blog, but whether or not someone should have a podcast is a bit more complicated.
So instead of a simple "yes" or "no," here are eight diagnostic questions to ask yourself if you're considering starting a podcast.
- Do you have a unique take on a subject? Like any form of expression, you need a voice that is all your own. If you're simply going to parrot the opinions of others, podcasting might not be for you.
- Can you handle the schedule? Podcasting is a bit more demanding with schedules than blogging. Yes, you can do seasons of podcasts, but even then, the expectation from your listeners is that there will be a new episode delivered on the schedule you've promised them. If you fail to keep up with the demands of your audience, they will disappear.
- Do you have the technical ability? Although there are full-service solutions that help get your podcast online, you still have to record episodes—often all on your own. The technical needs are not great, but some technical ability is needed. If you don't have the ability, you'll wind up spending money you won't want to spend and likely end up frustrated.
- Are you knowledgeable enough about the subject to be considered an expert? Listeners want to be either informed or entertained—and most of the time, they want both simultaneously. Successful podcasts provide valuable information in an entertaining way.
- Will the podcast be an extension of a current social platform? It's always easier to launch a podcast if you already have a following on another platform. For content providers, platform migration is much easier than platform creation. If you don't have a current online platform your podcast can be tied to, it can be more difficult to build a listenership.
- Will your podcast have a unique selling point or be a copy of an existing one? This question is related to the first one. Every podcast needs something that differentiates it in the market. Listeners have a limited amount of time; your podcast will need something that sets it apart from the rest of the market.
- Are you patient enough for slow growth? Podcasts grow slowly—if they grow at all. Patience is required for any online platform growth, but with the limited ability to market podcasts, they tend to grow more slowly that other forms of online media.
- How will your podcast benefit your ministry? I've saved the biggest question for the end. This really is the key. Your podcast needs to benefit more than just your popularity. Consider how it will position your church or ministry to make a greater Kingdom impact. If it's growing just your kingdom, and not the Kingdom, maybe starting a podcast is not the best idea at this time.
Do you have a podcast? Are you considering starting one? What questions would you add to this list?
Jonathan Howe serves as director of strategic initiatives at LifeWay Christian Resources, the host and producer of Rainer on Leadership and SBC This Week. Jonathan writes weekly at thomrainer.com on topics ranging from social media to websites and church communications. Connect with Jonathan on Twitter at @Jonathan_Howe.
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