In late May, Jason and I decided to transition The Distance from monthly longform written stories to a podcast that would come out every two weeks. Jason also set an ambitious target for the podcast: Get to 6,000 listens on any one episode by the end of the summer. At the time, our most listened-to episode had around 2,000 listens.

I’m thrilled to say that our first episode hit 6,000 listens on Friday. (If you missed that story, which is about the World’s Largest Laundromat, we re-released it today with some edits and improvements.) Not only did we reach our goal, but we saw a sustained increase in our audience—our last two episodes have each hit 4,000 listens in their first two weeks. To put this in perspective, when we made the format switch in May, no single episode had cracked 3,000 lifetime listens.

So how did we grow our audience for the podcast? Here’s a rundown of what Shaun and I tried this summer. Some of it worked and some of it didn’t. But it was all a learning experience, and one that’s continuing as we keep expanding our subscriber base. If you’re in a similar position as we are, whether it’s with a podcast or a different medium within this terrifyingly uncertain world of content production, I hope you find some of our learnings useful too.
Stuff That Helped

  • We got nice shout-outs from a few high-follower/influential Twitter accounts: Gary Vaynerchuk (thanks to Jason for telling him about the show), StartupWeekend, Rafat Ali of Skift and Jake Nickell of Threadless.
  • I submitted The Distance to The Podcast Digest, a podcast about podcasts, and host Dan Lizette recommended our show on his August 9th episode. It was a really nice segment and especially gratifying because all I did was fill out a Google Form on his website. Dan actually listened to our back episodes and enjoyed them enough to recommend us. A rare slush pile success!
  • Pocket Casts, a podcatcher app, featured The Distance. Below is a screenshot a friend of mine sent me.
  • We got onto Product Hunt.
  • We briefly made it into the Top 10 for Business News podcasts in iTunes. That was thanks to a bunch of new ratings/reviews that came in one afternoon from Basecampers—who, I should mention, had been promoting The Distance on their personal social media accounts and to their friends and family all summer long. Thank you!
  • What really helped build some momentum for The Distance was going to two episodes a month and boosting the show’s production values. So much of the content game is about consistency and regularity, and we got a sustained increase in listeners once we started doing twice-monthly episodes. Shaun added music, taught me how to capture better audio in the field and was a fantastic editor and producer all around.
  • Stuff That Didn’t Work Out (or Hasn’t Yet)
  • I emailed a bunch of podcast newsletters and websites to let them know about The Distance.
  • I very awkwardly donned my publicist hat and pitched a couple national and local media outlets. This was incredibly weird for me, having spent my entire career on the other side of this transaction. I could stand to get better at it.
  • We looked into joining a podcast network. That remains a potential option, but one for the longer term.

I’m really grateful that Basecamp is a company that believes in and underwrites projects like The Distance. I’ve learned a lot from working alongside everyone here. More TK, as they say! In the meantime, if you haven’t yet listened to The Distance or subscribed, please come aboard. We love making the show and have a lot of great episodes planned. Here’s to the next 6,000 listeners!