2.1 Min Read • Retention

Frontloaded Episodes: How to Structure Your Episodes to Improve Listener Retention & Increase Growth

A simple episode sequencing hack to grab your podcast listeners' attention, improve listener experience, and fuel word-of-mouth growth.
By Jeremy Enns

By Jeremy Enns

By Jeremy Enns

There are some books you read that delineate two distinct phases in your life.

There are the before times, and everything that came after.

Profit First, by Mike Michalowicz is one of those books for me.

The book was a turning point in how I thought about money and finances for my business when I read it back in 2018.

But you know what?

I didn’t even finish the book.

In fact, I probably only read half of it.

This, it turns out, is not a flaw with the book.

It’s by design.

Mike says up front that you can get everything you need in the first few chapters.

That’s not to say the rest of the book is useless filler.

Rather, Mike lays out the entirety of his core framework in the opening pages and then uses the rest of the book to share examples, stories, and additional documentation to support it and break down specific use cases.

Based on this approach, two things are clear:

  1. Mike understands his audience (overburdened business owners) and respects their time.
  2. He cares more about helping them get results than them finishing his book.

This same approach can (and should) be applied to podcasting as well.

I think of it as Frontloading your episodes.

Here’s how it works:

  • Get into the meat of the content as soon as possible (within the first 3 min)
  • Dedicate the first half of the episode to a tight, focused, in-depth exploration of the topic related to the promise of the episode
  • Then, open things up in the back half of the episode for meandering down rabbit holes, friendly banter, the guest’s personal story, and more

This approach achieves a few things that all help with listener retention and growth.

For one, it helps to hook and retain new listeners by getting straight into the content and delivering the promised value immediately.

Secondly, it allows listeners to choose their own adventure.

Utilitarian listeners can listen to the first half of the episodes to get the information they’re after as efficiently as possible.

Then, they can happily leave, having got what they came for.

This creates an extremely high Value Density listener experience, leaving them with a highly positive impression of the show that keeps them coming back despite the fact that they may rarely listen through entire episodes.

For the listeners who do want more context, supporting discussion, and meanderings, you can give it to them without putting unnecessary friction in the path of new listeners.

There are a couple of ways you can apply Frontloading to your show.

One option is to create two or more distinct, defined segments of your episodes, each with a different purpose and focus.

These may be announced to the audience and/or guest and may be delineated by production elements such as stingers, music, etc.

Another, more subtle option, is to simply structure your episodes (either in the interview, script, or edit) to deliver the highest Value Density related to the episode’s core topic up-front before branching out later in the episode.

Regardless of which option you choose, your goal is the same:

Deliver more value in the first 15 minutes of your episodes than they get from most other 60-minute shows.

If you can achieve that, your listeners will happily follow wherever you want to take them next.

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