Why Podcasts Are Built on Compounding Returns

Photo by M. B. M. on Unsplash

Even while I was still in high school, my parents drilled home the value of starting to invest for retirement early. Even $25 per month would be worthwhile, they said, and would go a long way toward building the habit of investing as I started working and could contribute more.

So, of course, I did what any high school kid would do and ignored them.

I told myself that I could still start by the time I was 20, a couple of years out of school when I would surely have more disposable income, and I’d still be ahead of the game. When I hit 20, I pushed that start date back to 25. Surely then I’d have the extra cash, right?

You can guess what happened when I hit 25 and still didn’t see all that surplus cash lying around waiting to be invested.

It wasn’t until my late twenties that I got serious about investing and committed to putting away even small amounts towards a retirement fund.

Part of the push for me was actually learning the math behind how investing in the stock market works, and the concept of compounding returns, wherein your investment grows exponentially. The gains are seemingly incremental at first, before picking up speed and skyrocketing as more time passes.

Podcasting Is Like Investing

Podcasting–and all content marketing for that matter–is similarly built on the concept of compound returns.

Your audience grows slowly at first and it’s hard to justify the time that could be spent elsewhere, but the more time and content you consistently invest, the more the returns start to accrue.

Compounding returns are a bit of a problem, however.

The reason most people don’t start investing earlier is that we as humans have difficulty thinking in the long term. We’re programmed to prioritize short term benefits over long term gains. On top of that, we have an inherent difficulty truly understanding the concept of exponential growth.

Combined, these blind spots lead us to avoid investing small amounts of time, money, or effort consistently over a period of time, even when we’re told that it will be worth it in the long run.

Simply being aware of these tendencies, and the fact that podcasts are not supposed to grow overnight can go a long way in building a productive mindset around producing and growing your show.

How Much Time Do You Need to Invest?

I’ve had the opportunity to work alongside and talk with dozens of podcasters about how their shows have grown and when the effort finally started to feel like it was worth it.

The most common response is that it took at least two years before the investment really started to pay dividends.

Many of them monetize their shows through product or service sales throughout those first two years, but those sales often amount to more of a trickle than the flood they had hoped for when starting out.

As they continue to invest, however, and pass the two, three, four, or even five-plus year marks of consistently producing their shows, the returns begin to pour in.

This is what growing a podcast really looks like.

I like to say that you can podcast for a year and it will feel like a massive waste of time. Podcast for three years and it can completely change your life.

Put the time in. Show up consistently, week after week with a new episode.

Experiment with content, format, tone, and all the other variables at your disposal. Measure the results, keeping what works, and discarding what doesn’t.

Don’t get discouraged early on when no one shows up. That’s how this is supposed to go. Keep producing, keep experimenting, keep consistent and the results will come.

Understand that this is a long game, and one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself is to make the small investments now, even when they don’t feel like they’re worth it, in order to reap massive returns in the future.

Every Sunday I publish an exclusive article on my newsletter that hopefully provides a new perspective, encouragement, and maybe even some occasional wisdom.

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Founder of podcast production and content amplification agency Counterweight Creative. Believer in the power of kindness and generosity.

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