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Newsletter: #1021: The “Lessons from a Podcast” Issue

[Welcome back to the Damn, I Wish I’d Thought of That! newsletter. This is text of the great issue all of our email subscribers just received. Sign yourself up using the handy form on the right.]

Some experts think podcasts are experiencing a kind of renaissance. And it seems even more true now that so many people are downloading and binge-listening to Serial, a story about a mysterious murder case told in weekly episodes over the course of a season.

Besides being a spinoff of the even more popular podcast, This American Life, Serial has a lot of things going for it that has made it a big success. Here are three lessons to learn from it:

1. It has to be good
2. Build the list before you need it
3. It’s OK to ask
4. Check it out: Mail Kimp Remix

1. It has to be good

People love Serial, not because a marketer dreamed it up and thought of a great content strategy, but because a maker created something fantastic — something so good, people want to talk about it. With the best products, the content and quality come first, and all the marketing comes after.

The lesson: It seems obvious, but sometimes marketers get caught up in how to convince people they want their stuff instead of how to create something people want.

2. Build the list before you need it

A lot of Serial’s success comes from the popularity of its backer, This American Life. They already had an amazing fan base interested in the same type of storytelling. But it didn’t happen overnight. It took years of building an audience of raving fans for This American Life’s incredible work to make Serial such an “overnight” smash hit.

The lesson: Earning the love of your audience takes a long-term commitment to delivering great stuff. But once you have a loyal audience, it’s much easier to expand and introduce them to new stuff.

3. It’s OK to ask

“Do you want a season two of Serial? If so, I’m going to ask you for money. Maybe you saw this coming — but I’m only going to ask you to do this once.” That’s how Sarah Koenig begins episode nine of the first season of Serial. She explains that they’ve been living off of the generosity of This American Life, but to be sustainable, they have to make their own money. It was a vulnerable, honest moment for the show. But instead of pumping it up with a telethon or making big promises for the next season’s story, they simply asked in the most straightforward way possible. And their listeners came through.

The lesson: This only works when it’s authentic. When you level with your customers, you’re bringing them on your side, giving them a reason to feel connected to, and even responsible for, your success.

4. Check it out: Mail Kimp Remix

Someone sampled MailChimp’s sponsored message and Serial’s theme music to create a surprisingly catchy beat.

Check it out: Mail Kimp Remix

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