Unleash the power of your back catalog: How to harness podcasting's hidden gems

Podcasters who have been at it for a while are sitting on a hidden gem when it comes to growth potential: their own content. 

You pour your heart and soul into producing each and every one of your episodes. But if you're growing (and you are if you’ve been following these posts!), that means new people are coming in all the time who might have missed your earlier work. You might also have some long-listening, fair-weather fans who haven’t been able to binge all your content. So before you get too embroiled in making more stuff or coming up with a complete marketing/PR plan, let’s learn how to make the most of the work you’ve already done. 

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First, make some space

If you’re dropping an episode every week, you might want to rethink your publishing schedule. Podcasters sometimes think that if they take time off, they’ll lose people. But it’s unlikely that people will wonder where you’ve been after a few weeks and unsubscribe. Even the most successful podcasts usually work in seasons, or take time off. So schedule some gaps in your publishing schedule. 

You can take the week off (just let your listeners know that’s what you’re doing in the previous episode) or use the space to run something else. What exactly? Let’s get into it. 

Look at older episodes

Go back to the very beginning, the episodes new listeners are least likely to have heard. Did any of them do particularly well? Drop that file into your feed. 

In the description, note that you’re playing a show favorite. If you’ve gotten positive feedback about it, now’s the time to mention it. The headline should reflect that this is an episode people may have heard before. You don’t want your listeners to feel duped. Say something positive like “Revisiting a Classic,” “Fan Favorite:” or “Rewind:” then the name of the episode. (I like how Snap Judgment does it. They call those episodes “Snap Classic.”) Make it seem enticing and let people know why they should listen again, or to something that’s not new. 

Not sure which episode to choose? Ask your listeners to weigh in on social media, your newsletter, or on the show. (People could also leave their suggestions in an Apple Podcasts review — that’s two birds with one stone!)

Snap Judgment took the month of April off and ran three episodes from its back catalog and two feed drops from its sister show, “Spooked.” 

Think about current events

Think about whether you have old content that’s relevant to what’s going on in the world, whether that’s a holiday or some breaking news. Do this with flexibility — if you have a dark story you’d like to run on Halloween but Halloween doesn’t coincide with your publishing schedule, drop it on Halloween anyway, and in the description let people know you’ll be taking the next week off. (Or you could stick to your schedule and consider this a bonus episode. In that case, title the episode “Bonus:”). 

Always keep up on what’s trending in Google Search and social media. Is Euphoria trending because everyone is talking about a new season, and you did an episode on the first season? People might want to revisit it, or hear it for the first time!

Bonus: If you have something to add to your old content — maybe there’s been an update on a news item or you have something timely to add that isn’t worth making an entire episode about — record an intro or outro with extra information or context. 

Mix it up

I once worked with a client who made a cannabis-themed podcast. She reused 80% of her content in a year and still had an increase in her downloads. That’s because she used the magic of her back catalog. She didn’t just drop old episodes into her feed, though. She had a show that often touched on repeating themes in her episodes, or asked her guests the same few questions. Then she made episodes based on those themes or questions. “Women’s Favorite Cannabis Strains,” “The Five Best Ways Weed Can Help You Sleep,” etc. 

Make episode trailers

If you have an episode that’s done particularly well, make a short trailer for it. It should sound like a promo for another podcast, but this time, it’s pointing people to a particular episode from your back catalog. Spend thirty seconds explaining why people would like it. 

Run that promo dynamically, if you have the capability to do so. If not, drop the trailer at the beginning, middle, or end of your next episode and leave it in for as long as you want. 

Trade

Even if you’re over your old content and don’t want to throw it into your feed again, that doesn’t mean another podcaster wouldn’t want it. Try a feed swap! Find some podcast friends and identify an episode from your back catalog that would fit really well into that content. Email the host or producer and ask if they’d be willing to put it in their feed. In return, run one of their episodes onto your feed. Look ahead of time and see if one seems perfect for your audience, or ask them if they have anything in mind.

Refresh show notes and SEO

Don't underestimate the power of well-crafted show notes and search engine optimization (SEO). Invest time in updating your episode descriptions, titles, and keywords to ensure they reflect current trends and search queries. By optimizing your back catalog for search engines, you increase the chances of attracting new listeners who are actively searching for related content.

Try YouTube

It might seem like making video versions of episodes you recorded as audio-only is impossible, but it’s not. Even if you don’t have video, uploading audio content to YouTube will attract a new audience (who might follow you to the podcast), show up in search results, and ring up potential ad impressions. 

Descript worked with Pushkin to create audiograms from the back catalogs of their shows and post them to YouTube. The audio is represented by still images, featuring dynamic text and some waveforms that hold down the visuals while the shows’ audio plays. 

Or, instead of full episodes, you can splice up your content. YouTube is an enormous search engine, so it's a good strategy to split things up into specific things people would search for, and use SEO-rich words to title the clips.

Your podcast's back catalog is a treasure trove waiting to be rediscovered. By embracing the power of your previous episodes, you can extend the lifespan of your content, attract new listeners, and deepen your relationship with your existing audience.

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