The Biggest Obstacle to Podcast Growth (& How to Design Your Marketing Strategy to Solve It)

By Jeremy Enns

By Jeremy Enns

By Jeremy Enns

I don’t want to alarm you.

But there’s a hidden force that is actively keeping your podcast from growth.

It’s invisible.


And baked into the fabric of the universe.

That force is friction.

And it exists in every part of your marketing process, working against every action you ask your audie.

A short list of friction-constrained audience asks includes getting people to:

  • Like a social post
  • Sign up to your email list
  • Subscribe to your podcast
  • Buy your paid offers
  • And more

Friction is present in every single interaction you will ever have with your existing and potential listeners.

Which means one of the most valuable skills you can develop is the ability to identify and mitigate it.

Types of Friction

There are 5 primary types of friction that are actively working against you when it comes to growing your show and converting listeners into buyers.

  • Platform Throttling – The most annoying form of friction, which is intentionally built into the platforms. Examples of throttling include social algorithms that intentionally bury posts with off-site links, Facebook reducing the reach of posts to force you to pay to boost them, and Instagram not allowing easy hyperlinking within posts.
  • Platform Limitations – This type of friction is the natural result of technical limitations inherent to the platforms. Podcasting—perhaps more than any other medium—is rife with it. Examples of podcast-specific platform limitations include:
    • An overwhelming number of listening apps for listeners to navigate
    • Poor in-app search in many apps
    • The audio format makes it difficult for listeners to take action on CTAs without readily clickable buttons
    • Audio isn’t inherently “snackable” or easily shareable on social media resulting in low potential for episodes to spread virally
    • Lack of a universal discovery engine
    • No centralized on-platform engagement system
    • And many more
  • Resource Commitment – Whether time, attention, effort, or money, every ask we make of our audience is an ask of their resources. And every ask of their resources requires them to weigh the pros and cons of that interaction in comparison to other uses of those resources. While the resources we’re asking for might seem small to us, we have to remember that with a near-infinite stream of requests for those limited bombarding our audience members every second of every day, the competition is fierce and the easiest option is simply to tune them all out.
  • Uncertainty – It’s common knowledge in the world of website UI/UX that users will not click a button when they don’t know exactly what will happen when they do. As a result, clever button text like “Let’s Be Besties!” vastly underperforms “Subscribe for Free” on a newsletter signup form. The same concept applies to podcast growth. If a potential listener can’t make an informed assumption about the content, target audience, vibe, and tone of the show before clicking play… they’re probably not clicking play.

Understanding and recognizing the friction impeding our marketing is the first step to mitigating it.

The next step is to design our marketing strategy to guide our audience down the path of least resistance.

How to Reduce Friction in Your Marketing

Every ask we make of our audience carries a different level of friction based on the combination of factors we discussed above.

To improve the effectiveness of our marketing, then, we need to tailor those asks to the circumstances in which we’re making them.

Three quick examples:

  • It’s easier to get people to subscribe to your newsletter from Twitter (sorry, “X”…), two text-based platforms than it is from Instagram
  • It’s easier to acquire a podcast subscriber from an in-app podcast ad than a Facebook ad as they don’t need to switch platforms to complete the action
  • On the opposite side, it’s easier to get someone to sign up for your lead magnet through a Facebook ad than it is by mentioning it on your podcast.

Friction matters.

If we want to overcome it, there are two primary tactics we can employ:

  1. Present the Path of Least Resistance – Instead of asking our audience to make the high-friction leap directly to the action we want them to take (ie. listening to our show or signing up to work with us) we can ask them to take a lower friction intermediary action instead. While this may seem like a less direct route to the end destination, a series of low-friction asks are, in fact, more likely to be fulfilled, creating a slippery slope that ultimately takes them to the same eventual destination.
  2. Frame the Offered Reward as More Valuably than the Friction is Costly – Every ask we make comes at a cost to our audience members—of time, effort, attention, or money. But presented with a valuable enough reward on the other side, they’ll push through any amount of friction to acquire it. Our job then is to frame all communication about our show (and other asks) through the lens of the (hopefully significant) value that our people will get by listening. The higher the friction of the ask we’re making, the more valuable the result needs to be if we want people to take action

Over time, the trust and affinity you build with your audience will reduce the friction in your marketing significantly, perhaps even to the point where it is hardly noticeable.

But for an individual audience member to reach that point, you need make it as easy as possible for them to slip down the rabbit hole into your world.

Decrease friction and you’ll increase your results.

Start Growing Your Show— Here’s How

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