2.3 Min Read • Retention

To Keep Podcast Listeners Coming Back, Nail Your Episode Endings

The last few minutes of an episode are often overlooked. But they play a massive role in keeping your listeners coming back.
By Jeremy Enns

By Jeremy Enns

By Jeremy Enns

The US version of the Office had a problem.

They were six episodes into their pilot season and on the brink of cancellation.

To this point, they’d modeled everything in their show on the hit UK version of the show, including their main character, Michael Scott, played by Steve Carell.

The problem was that, well… Michael just wasn’t all that likable as a character.

In fact, more often than not, we as the viewers were left frustrated and even angry with him for messing things up for the other characters we’d begun to grow attached to.

As a result, we often left episodes with a bad taste in our mouths.

This same pattern held true for David Brent, the lead character and office manager played by Ricky Gervais in the UK version.

But the bleakness that was a core part of the premise of that version of the show wasn’t landing with American audiences.

What’s more, that version of the show was only ever intended to be a 12-episode series, and as such, didn’t need to keep audiences coming back for hundreds of episodes over multiple seasons.

With larger ambitions, the writing team behind the US version knew they needed to change things up if they wanted to achieve staying power.

As you’re probably aware, The Office went on to become one of the most popular sitcoms in history with Michael Scott becoming one of the most loved TV characters in the process.

So how did they turn things around?

The fixes employed by the writing team were remarkably simple, consisting of a few simple character tweaks and adjustments to the rules that guided the writing process.

But there’s one tweak, in particular, that’s worth focusing on as podcast creators.

Many of the early episodes followed a similar emotional arc: Start the episode on an optimistic note only to slowly spiral down over the course of the episode, ending in frustration, largely due to Michael’s antics and incompetency.

From Season 2 onwards, however, the writers made sure to end nearly every episode on a positive note.

No matter how badly Michael messed things up during the episode, there was always a silver lining to be found.

The difference as a viewer was subtle.

But its impact was unmistakable.

Instead of leaving frustrated, annoyed, and even bitter, we were now left feeling optimistic, upbeat, and cozy with the knowledge that when we tune into the show, we can expect to leave feeling good.

The same dynamic can be put to work in every show, including yours.

Whether they’re aware of it or not, the feeling your listeners walk away with after listening to your show plays a huge role in how likely they are to come back.

That doesn’t mean every episode should leave your listeners with the warm and fuzzies.

But it does mean that you should take your ending notes seriously and design them intentionally.

Most episodes leave their listeners on a random, unresolved end-note, failing to drive home the key points and tie up the episode.

Worse, they undercut any insight and emotion that was surfaced during the episode with 5 minutes of requests to rate, review, sign up to the mailing list, follow on Instagram, etc.

Endings matter.

The first three minutes of an episode hook listeners and get them listening.

But it’s the last three minutes that keep them coming back.

Identify the feeling you want listeners to associate with your show, and then design your endings intentionally to deliver it to them.

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