If you’re trying to tackle some problem, don’t overthink it — the solution might be hiding in plain sight

What does the word "subscribe" mean to you?

Ewan and I just published the 15th episode of the PR & Law Podcast. We’ve had a ton of fun putting it together, especially as we watch our audience grow week after week.

Make no mistake, though, we are a long way away from any kind of ‘success’, at least in terms of revenue. We do take the podcast seriously and intend on growing it over many years, so our goals are modest we find our voice and experiment with ideas and formats.

I’m pretty sure my love of listening to podcasts stems from my childhood. I would often stay up late to listen to hockey games, clutching my clock radio under the sheets to stifle any noise that could alert my parents. Those formative experiences led me to enroll in one of Canada’s top schools for broadcast journalism, which was followed by a (short) career in the industry. Even now, looking back, I’ve never had as much fun at work as I did in radio.

Podcasts have been revolutionary to radio folks because it enables them to record a premium quality show at a very low cost. The barrier to entry almost disappeared overnight, creating room for anybody to launch a show, regardless of their experience or funding. So while it’s easier than ever to start a show, it’s more difficult than ever to stand out from the 800,000 other podcasts on the market. Amid this competition, I’ve been educating myself on some creative ways to market the show and continue growing our audience.

I had my mind set on finding some secret or hack, or some app that magically draws crowds of people to the show. In looking for some sophisticated way to boost the audience I missed a fairly obvious step that could make a big difference: drop the word “subscribe” from marketing materials.  

From How to Combine Your Podcast Subscription Links into a Single Button:

Tom, who has a history of linguistic quibbles with the podcast space, pointed out that podcasters usually ask people to “subscribe” to their podcasts. But for most people, the word “subscribe” implies that payment is required. After all, we when subscribe to Netflix, Spotify, or The New York Times, we have to pay for it. So uninitiated listeners may steer clear of podcasting because they falsely believe that it costs money.

Tom’s solution? Ask listeners to “listen” to your podcast instead of “subscribing.”

Last Friday, as I was getting set to leave the office, a colleague asked me about the podcast. I told her a bit about the show, and left it at that. Then she asked, “So how can I listen to it?” I said, “Oh, just open your Podcast app, do a search for PR and Law, and tap ‘subscribe’.” Her eyes widened and she said, “Subscribe? You charge money?” (Not exactly a vote of confidence… 😂)

I put her at ease, and assured her she wouldn’t have to listen to me all day at work, then pay to listen to me in the evenings or on the weekends.

I didn’t think much about her reaction at the time, but seeing this article definitely drove the message home.

The lesson? In searching far and wide for answers to your problems, they may be right under your nose. You just need to look.

Cam Macmurchy

Hi! My name is Cam MacMurchy. I was born and raised in Canada and worked as a journalist before moving to China in 2004.

Today I work in Hong Kong as the Vice President of Corporate Communications of a listed company. I write about marketing, communications, and journalism, as well as technology and productivity, and anything else on my mind! I also occasionally contribute to 9to5Mac, one of the top Apple websites in the world, and run Executive Productivity. Contact me anytime.