Every podcast needs a newsletter — here's how to make it a good one

Yellow CRT monitors with keyboards in a row. The monitors each display a house's front door and there's a rolled-up newspaper on every keyboard.

I know that as a podcaster, you’re already wearing 30 hats. You’re strapped for time and money, and you didn’t get into the business of podcasting to write a newsletter. But I strongly believe that starting a newsletter should go hand-in-hand with starting a podcast. A newsletter will bring benefits you just can’t get on any other platform. And there are simple ways to produce a newsletter that will create a good return on your investment. 

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Why you need a newsletter

We all know it’s important to grow the number of people who subscribe to your podcast, but there’s just one tiny problem with that audience: you don’t own them. They come and go — the only way you can hear from them is via reviews, and you can’t even respond directly. Not ideal.

But when you have a newsletter, you own that audience. You have their email addresses. You can track how much they engage with you. The earlier you start building your list — even if you don’t have content ready to share — the better. Then when you have your first episode, you’ll have people to share it with!

How do you get subscribers? 

Podcast Bestie

  • Tell people about it on your podcast.
  • If you have a website: create a pop-up that drives people to sign up. I know it seems intrusive but it’s common practice and really works. 
  • Drive people to sign up on social media.
  • Partner with another podcast newsletter. (You can see a list here.)
  • Send one personal email to your friends and family, telling them you could really use your support and you’re working on content that will be featured in the newsletter soon. Be honest…tell them how much it would mean to have their support!
  • Important: Never, ever sign up anyone without asking them. It’s illegal in some countries. (Seriously.)

The more time you spend making your newsletter completely separate from your audio content the better. You want it to be so valuable that people would sign up for it even if they didn’t listen to your podcast. Here are a few examples:

  • Podcast Bestie is a podcast newsletter you all should be subscribed to. It was a newsletter first and is now a podcast. Courtney Kocak always offers supplementary info, including a classified section for people looking for jobs in audio.
  • An Arm and a Leg has a really great podcast newsletter that always intrigues me to listen to the episode, but also offers updates from past episodes, newsy items, and other articles and podcasts that make great companion pieces to the most recent episode. 
  • How to Do the Pot is another podcast that has a newsletter that’s valuable even if you don’t listen to the show (even though you should.) It offers updates about the cannabis industry, promo codes for discounted cannabis products, quotes from Ellen’s series, “The First Time I Bought Legal Weed,” and fun podcast recommendations. (Love to see people spreading the love.)

What to include in your newsletter

Set up a simple, three-part template for each issue. Each part should bring some value for your community. 

  • Greeting. Use this place to let your audience get to know you! They don’t get to see you when they listen. Consider sharing some photos. 
  • News/culture updates about the theme of your podcast or anything your audience cares about.
  • Behind-the-scenes stuff. Take a picture of your notes, your podcast setup, something you’re reading, or a screenshot of your listening queue. 
  • 5 bullet points of your favorite things about your recent episode (you could use direct quotes!) and a link to the episode and transcript, if there is one.
  • Give a podcast and/or newsletter recommendation.
  • If you have any great Apple Podcasts ratings, include them! The podcast Ruined asks people to leave spooky reviews (some of them are really good.) Think of a special ask for people to write in their reviews, and read the best ones on your show and put them in your newsletter. It will encourage people to leave more, and is a great way to share your gratitude. These kinds of personal things mean a lot to your listeners. 

Bonus: Think of ways to include your listeners. You could do an interview with a fan with each issue. (You have their email addresses, remember?) Ask them to answer the same five questions every time:

  1. Name:
  2. Favorite episode of the show:
  3. What do you do while you’re listening to the show?
  4. How did you discover it?
  5. Give us another podcast recommendation!

I love these questions because you’ll also learn what episodes are popular and you might discover some new podcasts to partner up with. And if someone recommends another podcast in your newsletter, you could send it to that podcast. Maybe they’ll sign up or share with their audience.

I don’t recommend sending something out if it’s just a link to your most recent episode. (Saying little more than, “here it is!”) See if you can think of at least one or two things you can add for content. Maybe it’s bonus links or some notes from you. You could always throw in some podcast news that is mentioned in other podcast newsletters. (Which you should definitely be subscribed to!)

A newsletter is bargaining material

Another reason for starting a newsletter for your podcast: It’s valuable real estate for bargaining with other shows! If you want to do a promo swap, pitch yourself to be a guest on another show, or work with someone in any way, it’s really valuable to mention that it can go in your newsletter. If the podcast you want to work with has more downloads than you or a larger social following, include a newsletter mention (or two) to sweeten the deal. 

Numbers to pay attention to

  • Subscription rate: this is the number of people who have chosen to subscribe to your newsletter. 
  • Open rate: this is the number of people who opened the newsletter. In media, around 20% is a pretty good number. But I think because your newsletter will be pretty niche, your number will be much higher. Don’t worry if this number is super high at first and goes down a bit. That’s normal. The longer you’ve been sending out issues and the bigger the list is, the more likely it is that you’ll have people who won’t open.
  • Click through rate: This is the percentage of people who clicked on a link in your newsletter. Note: I have noticed that people who read newsletters that link to podcasts don’t always click. They read the newsletter, phone in hand, ready to subscribe. So they might be subscribing without clicking on your link!

Decide what your goal is

Do you want to have a lot of subscribers or a really engaged audience? In my newsletter, Podcast the Newsletter, the latter is more important to me. So I’m always watching that open rate. I’d rather have fewer subscribers that open my newsletter more! And I never worry too much about the click through rate. It’s fine with me if people are living inside Podcast the Newsletter. 

My final reason is a saying I’m stealing from my parents: it can’t hurt but might help. Start your newsletter today and start collecting subscribers. It’s okay if you don’t have content for them just yet. (You can usually have it set to send people a welcome message when they sign up. That’s where you can say: “thanks for subscribing, we’ll have content for you soon!”) Better to build now, so when you do have content to share, the audience will be ready to hear it. 

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