If you’re a podcast listener, you’re probably familiar with promo swaps, when two shows read a short promotion for each other on an episode. They’re great tools for discovery because listeners trust the podcasts they love, so they’ll often check out the shows those podcasts promote.
But what excites me more is the feed swap. Here’s what a feed swap is, why it works, and how to pull it off.
A podcast feed swap, also known as a podcast episode swap, is when two shows agree to place entire episodes of each other’s shows on their feeds. Each podcaster will include a short intro at the top explaining that this is a special episode from another show — you don’t want the swap to feel like a bait and switch, after all.
In fact, if you do it right, a feed swap will feel more like a gift to your listeners. Your audience will appreciate the gift you’ve given them, and they’ll probably follow the new show. The same goes for regular listeners of the other show’s feed: they’ll probably end up following your show as a result.
Why podcast swaps work
Promo swaps are great, but 30-second podcast descriptions don’t always give the best taste of what that show has to offer. Listeners also hear so many of them that there’s a chance they’ll go unnoticed. A feed swap lets listeners really get to know the content of a new show. It’s a comfortable introduction, kind of like when a good friend introduces you to someone new.
With great power comes great responsibility
The episode you drop for your feed swap needs to be perfect. You aren’t asking your audience to listen to a 30-second promo; you’re asking them to listen to an entire episode of someone else’s show, a show they have not opted into. You have to be absolutely positive that they’re going to like it. When you introduce the episode (both with a recorded intro and in the description), tell them why you think they will like it. Give them a reason not to skip.
Be very strategic about feed swaps. Promo swaps can afford to be looser — you can schedule at least one promo swap for every episode of your show. But because you’re asking more of your audience with a feed swap, they should be done more sporadically. You don’t want your feed to be completely full of episodes from other shows.
How to do a podcast feed swap
Once you find a show that’s compatible with yours (more on that here), think about a few episodes of your show that you think would fit well on their feed. Make sure those episodes are your very best work. Then find an episode of theirs that you think your audience would like. Draft a quick note, making sure to mention that you’d like to set up a partnership that will benefit you both — you’re not just asking for a favor. Feel free to follow this template:
I am the host of _____, a show about _______. I did some research and found that we have a lot of audience overlap. I was wondering if you’d like to partner with me in a way that would benefit us both. Would you be willing to put one of the below episodes onto your feed? In return, I would love to put your _______ episode onto my feed. (Or another one if you have a better idea!) Let me know if this interests you and we can hash out the details.
[Insert show description and artwork, mention if you’ve won any awards or ranked anywhere, or have any great reviews.]
If they say yes…
If they respond that they're interested, it’s time to put on your bartering hat. How many downloads do each of your shows get in a 30-day period? It’s ideal if you can find a show of a similar size, but if not, think of how you can balance things out. If your show is smaller, what else can you offer? A social media post, a mention in your newsletter? Maybe you could leave the episode in your feed for an indefinite amount of time, and they could leave your episode in their feed for a limited time (30, 60, 90 days.) Sometimes people want a clean feed, so they might like the idea of being able to pull the episode out eventually. Just remember — if they take out the episode, they lose all the downloads!
Maybe you find out they’re much bigger than you. In that case, they could air a promo of your show in exchange for you dropping a full episode of their show into your feed. Go back and forth until you find something that makes you both happy. You can choose to drop your episodes at the same time, but you don’t have to. If you’re launching a brand new show, this is a great time to get the first episode of your show into a new feed, and you could wait to run the other show’s episode until the end of your season, or later in the year, when you have space and will have more downloads. In the end, the timing doesn’t matter as long as you both are satisfied.
I have noticed that when you’re setting up a promo swap, people want the numbers to be exactly even. But when I’ve set up feed swaps, people care a lot less. I’ve done feed swaps with shows much larger than mine, and the other show doesn’t mind that they’re getting less in return. I think that’s because you’re not exchanging ads, you’re exchanging great content. By playing your episode in their feed, they’re giving their listeners something really great to listen to.
A note on timing
It might be smart to try one of these campaigns before a holiday, when you can assume people will be taking time off. Have you ever noticed that around Christmas, everyone is dropping reruns of their old content? That episode could be yours! Plan ahead, you might strike at the perfect time.
This is also another great time to hit up someone who hasn’t published an episode in awhile because they’re mid-season. Maybe their show has ended! In that case, they might like to keep the feed warm by dropping an episode from you.
The final step
Once you’ve agreed to the terms (usually I don’t have anyone sign anything, it’s a written agreement), write up some copy they can use in the description of your episode on their feed, and some additional copy that they can read to introduce the episode to their listeners. (“Hi, today we have something special from our friends at the ______ podcast! It’s about _______. We hope you like it!”)
Voilà, you’re done! You could agree to share download results after 30 days, if you’d like.
If you’re on a bit of a break, you might consider running a few of these. Just be sure to let your audience know that you’re dropping episodes from other shows because you’re busy working on new content, or whatever. Transparency is important!
These feed swaps can be superpowers for your growth, and if you do them right, they can bring your listeners a new show to enjoy. Wins all around!