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Case study: How to promote a podcast

by Emily Boghossian

Here’s the idea in a nutshell: The producers of “Pitch,” a stories-behind-the-music podcast about bands and musicians, are trying to increase their audience, and see passionate music fans as the biggest area for potential growth.

So why not launch the podcast’s second season as if it were an album, rolling out the first episode as if it were the first single?

“I got the idea from how we release singles in my band,” Alex Kapelman said. “Essentially, in my band, I try to take advantage of song premieres on blogs. Before the song comes out officially, I’ll reach out to a website and ask them to ‘premiere’ it.”

Kapelman and Whitney Jones, indie producers who distribute “Pitch” through iTunes and SoundCloud, report that the first episode of the new season was downloaded 906 times and streamed by nearly 1,000 listeners on Friday, when season two of the podcast went live.

How did it happen?

In the music world, sites like Pitchfork and Rolling Stone often provide exclusive live streams of new music on the Tuesday an album is officially released. Fans are able to stream, but not download, new music for a few days, and buy the songs when they are released on iTunes or Spotify on Fridays. The theory is that providing a no-commitment, early taste can create interest and increase downloads.

Podcasters usually make their shows available for download and streaming on the same day, rather than staggering their releases or trying a “soft launch” of their work on blogs.

“Pitch’ was the first time anyone approached me about premiering a podcast,” said Whitney Matheson, the mind behind USA Today’s “Pop Candy” entertainment blog. “I premiere movie trailers and I premiere songs, so when they suggested premiering a podcast I figured, well, why not?”

“Pop Candy” tackles all things pop culture, from children’s books to mockumentaries, “anything that strikes me as being particularly unusual or great,” said Matheson.

“Now I fully expect podcasters to suggest premiering their episodes on the blog, which I’m totally open to,” she said. “It’s a really savvy way to get the word out.”

She noted that blogs like “Pop Candy” respond favorably, “if the pitch is simple and if they know my audience. [Kapelman] had a specific idea and it was unconventional.”

The results have been striking.

Jones and Kapelman didn’t exactly have a marketing plan for season one of “Pitch.” Mostly, they relied on Twitter and Facebook.

“We sent it around to our friends,” said Jones. “I think we had like 17 downloads that first day, and four of those were me making sure it actually worked.”

On the first day that season two, episode one premiered on “Pop Candy,” it had 71 streams on SoundCloud, and the first season of “Pitch” was downloaded 131 times. On Friday, when the new episode became available on the “Pitch” site and via iTunes and Soundcloud, it was streamed nearly 1,000 times and netted 906 downloads.

“I feel like it’s a new audience: people who are not traditional podcast listeners,” Jones said.

Season two, episode one of “Pitch” is about The Barbarians’ one-handed drummer, Moulty, and his namesake song. You can find it on iTunes, SoundCloud, and, of course, at “Pop Candy.”

• Emily Boghossian, a graduate of Carleton College, is interning at AIR. Questions or comments about this story? Email curator@airmedia.org.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story reported that there were 71 listeners during the first three days of the “Pop Candy” post; there were 71 listeners on the first day alone. We have also updated the number for the first full day that “Pitch” was available for download; an earlier post reported on numbers from midnight to 10 a.m.