3 Min Read • Audience Research

The Content-Art Spectrum: How to Identify & Research Your Ideal Podcast Listeners

If you've ever struggled to identify who you should be marketing to, this framework can help.
By Jeremy Enns

By Jeremy Enns

By Jeremy Enns

The more you know about your ideal listeners, the easier your podcast is to market.

Think about it.

When you know exactly:

All you need to do is show up in those spaces consistently and watch the listeners roll in.

Unfortunately, this information isn’t always easy to come by, especially when you have no idea who your ideal listeners are.

Complicating matters is that there are two different methods for approaching listener research. The method that is right for your podcast will vary depending on your show.

To help clarify the method that’s best for you, I recommend using what I call the Content-Art Spectrum.

The Content Art-Spectrum

The Content-Art Spectrum is a simple, single-axis chart that every podcast can be placed somewhere along.

Content-Art Spectrum.png

Pure Content Podcasts

On the far left side of the spectrum are podcasts that are Pure Content.

With Pure Content:

  • The host has little or no personal interest or affinity for the topic or podcast.
  • Instead, the show is a tool to be used to achieve a (typically) business goal.
  • Usually, that goal is converting a target market into clients or customers.
  • These podcasts are typically designed around solving a specific problem for a specific audience.

Pure Art Podcasts

On the far right side of the spectrum are podcasts that are Pure Art.

With Pure Art:

  • The show is based solely on the creator’s creative instincts and desires.
  • No thought is given to who the audience is or how the podcast will help them.
  • Formats and premises can vary wildly.

Each side of the spectrum comes with its own distinct pros and cons and podcasts on either side can become successful.

It’s also worth noting that most podcasts fall somewhere between the two extremes.

Understanding where your show lies on the spectrum will dictate the approach you take to identifying your ideal listeners and conducting effective listener research.

Content-Based Podcast Listener Research

Podcasts on the content side of the spectrum take an audience-first approach.

This means starting with a pre-determined audience in mind and mapping your show content and marketing to meet their needs, interests, and desires.

The upside of content-leaning podcasts is that they’re far easier to market.

This is because you start by picking an existing audience that you:

  • Can easily identify
  • Already know where to find
  • Can embed yourself in to conduct your research

Then, you create the podcast that you’ve already been able to validate the demand for.

Often, this means finding a single active online community of your target audience members and showing up for 15 minutes every day for a few months to participate in, learn from, and contribute to the existing conversations.

If you can do this, your research will take care of itself.

Art-Based Podcast Listener Research

Podcasts on the art side of the spectrum take a show-first approach.

Instead of you seeking out the audience that you already know exists and finding out how to align your show with them, your job is to:

  1. Create the podcast you want to create
  2. Market it to the best of your ability
  3. See who the show attracts
  4. Learn everything you can about them
  5. Connect the dots and identify the through lines that your best listeners have in common

This is certainly the harder task of the two.

For one, there’s no guarantee that a sizeable audience exists for an art-leaning podcast.

Even if it does, it requires several pre-requisite steps before you can move ahead with more straightforward research.

This isn’t to say you shouldn’t start with some hypotheses and suppositions about the people who might be most receptive to your show.

But unless you’re open to migrating further to the content side of the spectrum, you’ll still be operating on guesswork, which you might find to be proven wrong.

With art-based content, the only way to gain clarity on your ideal listeners is through extensive experimentation and inquiry.

Balancing Content & Art For Your Podcast

In my experience, the most successful podcasts have a balanced blend of content and art.

Balanced podcasts:

  • Align with the existing demand or interest of a specific, narrowly defined audience
  • Have a clear problem they solve for listeners
  • Are creatively fulfilling for the host

Most podcasts have the potential to find this balance, though it may take some time to find the sweet spot.

When you do, however, your research and your marketing become a whole lot easier.

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