Podcast Marketing Lessons from Watching Netflix’s ‘Stranger Things’

Have you watched the Netflix show ‘Stranger Things’?

No? Go ahead and start it right now. I’ll wait. Wasn’t it AWESOME?!?!? Ok, most of you probably didn’t watch it just now. Don’t worry, reading this article won’t spoil the show for you at all.  In fact, I’m not going to mention a single moment from the show. But my experience watching it in just under a week does provide podcast marketing lessons that I wanted to share.

My wife and I had heard a lot of buzz about this series from friends and through Facebook. People who praised the characters, the story, the drama, and of course the incredible homage to the 80’s. In fact, on more than one occasion, friends finished this show in a single day, some even in a single sitting. (You know who you are)

And that’s not a new phenomenon with ‘Stranger Things.’  It’s common for people to binge watch shows in a single week, weekend, or day.  We did it in 3 sittings. We could have done it faster if it weren’t for jobs that we had to wake up for. Trust me, the end of every episode made us want to watch them all right away.

While binge watching television shows is pretty common, binge listening to podcasts is not quite as trendy. Sure, some of us will plow through a ton of episodes from our favorite podcaster on a long trip. But in general, podcast listening is usually an individual adventure or done while doing something else. But I think one of the reasons podcasters don’t attract binge listeners is that they are missing the crucial element that TV shows employ. The tease.

The Show Was Good, But the Tease Hooked Me

I have watched a lot of one-hour dramas that were a bit slow for 40-50 minutes and then in the last 2 minutes cemented my loyalty for another week. Some of the most critically acclaimed shows on television too. If you really think about your favorite dramas, there’s usually one incredible scene, a lot of filler dialogue that’s crucial but uninteresting, and then that one part that hooks you. The phone rings, a gun goes off, a new villain appears on screen, and at the moment you crave more, the screen fades to black and the credits roll.

You cry out in despair and feel an overwhelming sense of need. Even though you probably should have gone to sleep hours ago you hit play again. Call it a cliffhanger, call it a tease, or call it annoying. Whatever you call it, it works and it’s that urge to find out what happens next that has led to a rise in binge watching. It also provides crucial podcast marketing lessons that will help you convince more people to actually listen to your next episode.

It’s not just TV. We’ve all heard the phrase clickbait. Headlines that leave out the crucial fact you are seeking. It can be really annoying when you click on one of these links only to find a page full of ads and no satisfaction. But when done correctly, it can lead to a lot of conversions. Just ask Buzzfeed.

I know most are not creating an incredible amount of drama in podcasts. The interviews with industry experts are interesting and helpful, but they are not dramatic. But that doesn’t mean you can’t employ drama in order to get new people to actually download and listen to an episode.

Episode Title

Let’s start with the title of your episode. Telling the audience episode number, guest’s name, and the topic is incredibly drab. Even if the person is somewhat recognizable, there is an excellent chance they have done a lot of podcast interviews, so why should they listen to yours in particular?

Instead, focus on what value a listener will get from tuning into this episode. Tell them what they will learn if they hit play. Convince them that they will hear a story on your podcast that they can’t get anywhere else. The title is the first gatekeeper for folks scanning podcast directories.  If your title is boring, listeners probably won’t even bother to look at the description. They certainly won’t hit download/play.

Social Media

Creating an urge to listen is also important when you are promoting your podcast on social media. Don’t just ask people to hear so-and-so talk about X. Draw in potential listeners with a value proposition and a tease. We’ll create an example below using a fake guest, Joe Smith, and a fake topic, how to drive more listeners to a podcast.

The wrong way to promote would be: “Hear why Joe Smith thinks social media is crucial to your podcast.”

In this case, you’ve already told everyone that social media is crucial to attracting more listeners. They can probably figure out how and why on their own. There’s no compelling value. You’re basically just bragging that Joe Smith has shared this insight on your show.

Instead, try creating an incentive to a potential listener while promising them value.

The Right Way: “Joe Smith says this one change to your podcast promotional strategy will lead to more listeners.”

With the second example, the value proposition wasn’t given away before people listen, so if they want to know, they have to hit play. Also, this promotion takes advantage of a value proposition that they can’t miss. As a podcaster, growing the audience is important, so podcasters know there’s something important in here for them.

The Tease

Now that you’ve gotten someone to listen to your show, take advantage of the fact that you have their attention. Even though outside advertisers will help monetize your show, your audio real estate is still extremely valuable to you. Every successful media entity in the world uses their own real estate to promote their content.

Sportscenter tells you to stay tuned for more Sportscenter. Your local television news reminds you to watch their next local news program. Magazines will tease what’s coming up in the next edition. And going back to hour long dramas, the ‘scenes from next week’ are often more compelling than the episode itself.

It’s all part of their marketing strategy and it should be part of yours as well. Take a few seconds, and I do mean just a few, to tease what is coming up on your next show. Let the audience know that you are excited to share, what they are going to get, and more importantly, what they are missing if they don’t listen. Play a clip if you have one. Again, keep it short, but you have their undivided attention, take advantage of it.

Don’t Be a Jerk

Whatever tactics you deploy to create drama, tease the audience, and entice them to stick with you, don’t lie to them. If you promise to reveal something in next week’s episode, reveal it. If you claim this guest has the secret to more listeners, share that secret. If you deceive them, you will lose them forever. If nothing else, take that as one of the most important podcast marketing lessons you can learn.

If your quality stinks in the beginning, people could come back once you improve it. If the caliber of your guests is sub-par for a while, they’ll give you another shot when you land the big names. But if you lie to your audience, there’s little chance they’ll give you a second chance.


This article was written by Mathew Passy, Podcast Producer/Consultant at MPassy Productions

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