If your dream is to play pro sports, the path is pretty clear.
You start by playing recreationally as a kid, perhaps as young as three or four years old.
If you’re good enough, as you grow and improve, you continually enroll in ever more competitive leagues.
At some point, teams in these leagues require you to try out in order to play on them.
Further on, you must first be scouted and invited to be given the chance to try out.
This process repeats over the course of a decade or more, winnowing out the field of tens (or hundreds) of thousands of kids who dream of playing professionally down to the few hundred that eventually make it.
In sports, no one makes it to the big leagues without first running this decade-long gauntlet, developing their skills and toughness as they progress.
Podcasting—and content creation in general, not to mention business—is different.
There are no minor leagues.
We join the big leagues on day one.
With it, enter a daily head-to-head competition for the finite attention of an audience with the very best creators and marketers in the world.
People who have tens of thousands of hours more experience than us.
Who have access to the very best tools, teams, and resources that make their work better and faster to produce.
Who can devote 40 (or 60, or 100) hours a week solely to their content.
Who have marketing budgets of tens (or hundreds) of thousands of dollars per month.
It isn’t fair.
But it’s reality.
So how do you compete with that?
The answer isn’t through either quality or quantity.
You can’t work put in more time per week than a 10-person creative team.
You can’t outspend NPR, Wondery, or the New York Times (not to mention Disney).
So what can you do?
In my experience, you have two levers at your disposal:
- Establish specific, narrow resonance and relevance with a niche underserved audience.
- Create a clear, compelling show concept you use to explore a topic in a novel way.
Regardless of which path you choose, there’s one other prerequisite if you want to stand a chance of competing in the big leagues.
You have to take your show, your content, and your marketing seriously.
You might be able to coast to victory in a Sunday afternoon beer league.
But not in the big league.
If you want to compete against the hundreds of millions of other creators bringing their A-Game each and every day—many of whom are vying for the attention of your potential audience—you need a clear vision and intention for everything from your:
- Show conception
- High-level marketing strategy
- Content strategy, episode ideation & creation
- Week-to-week tactic execution
Because when you’re competing with the best in the world, you need to act like the best in the world.
That doesn’t mean spending 80 hours a week on your show and the marketing around it.
It means having a clear, strategic reason—a purpose—for why every aspect of your show is the way it is.
- For why your show format is what it is
- Why you cover certain topics
- Why you have certain guests on
- Why your episodes are structured the way they are
- Why your interview questions are in the order they are
- Why you’re even creating a podcast (vs a newsletter, YouTube channel, or blog) in the first place
- How (specifically) it will generate revenue
- And more
Veteran big-leaguers have solid, thoughtful, specific responses to each of these.
Amateurs tend to have vague answers at best.
So if you’re not seeing the results from your show, it might be worth asking yourself:
“If I’m honest with myself, have I been showing up with my show like a professional and giving myself every opportunity to win in this league?”
If not, that’s ok.
In fact, it’s expected.
At some point, we all need a wake-up call that prompts us to double down and commit, or stay the course and settle for less than we had initially hoped for. For less than we suspect we might be capable of.
Maybe this is yours.