Can an Audio Podcast Go Viral? 5 Ways It Can!

A couple months ago, Stan Alcorn posed the issue that while videos, websites and photos can do it, podcasts might not have the ability to go viral. But that is really not true. While its not as visible as Kimmel’s Twerk hoax, or lovable as a Kitten photo, an audio podcast has not only gone viral before, I believe it can happen again.

Therefore, I propose 5 ways to help an audio podcast go viral.  It may not be as simple as recording a show and posting on iTunes, but if you do it right, anything can happen.

The Audio Podcast That DID Go Viral

There is at least one podcast that has gone viral. To the point that it is in the Guinness Book of World Records. Back in 2011, Adam Carolla didn’t like the fact that Ricky Gervais held the most downloaded podcast (261,000 downloads in a month). Carolla issued a challenge to beat that.

With a powerful campaign, Carolla worked to defeat the UK beast. The result was a record 1.6 million downloads in the first week. The fourth episode became the most viral at 500,000 downloads.

Finally, the podcast broke the record on May 18, 2011 with over 59 million downloads. Not a cheap campaign, as the monthly bill hit over $9,000 a month.

But Carolla also had a show that could bring big names on it. Heck, he’s a big name himself – he even announced his campaign on Kimmel’s show in front of millions.

Can an average Joe make a show go viral? I believe so, and its done every week.

From Nothing to Viral in 60 Seconds (or maybe a little longer)

There are many audio podcasts that hit big numbers who are not from mainstream media. In fact, if your show can break the 1,000-5,000 unique download barrier, you are definitely a successful podcaster and influencer. Have 10,000 or more per episode? I would say that’s pretty viral.

What is concidered a “Viral” status? On Wikipedia Kevin Nalty set the average – 1 million views in 3-7 days.

I believe that is wrong.

I feel that a viral video has to be part of an algorithm between people who love a subject and cross-promote it to capture the hearts and passion of others.

Algorithm to Viral Content – Investment and Return

For example, if there are 5,000 people in the hard-core art of basket weaving, and a video comes out which 80% of that population share, causing a return of 15,000 or more views – Wouldn’t that be viral?

I like to think of Virility like ROI (Return on Investment). If you were to invest a dollar in a company, you should expect ROI to be three dollars in return. If you get two dollars: that works but is not as successful. No matter what, you never want less than two.

Therefore, the algorithm should be something like this:

(Amount of people in a given genre) * 3 = Viral!!

Of course, there are a lot of other factors out there. Remember: there are 7.5 billion people on the planet. 1% of reach is 75 million. If you can get even 0.0001% of that the worlds population (7,500), you are doing great!

Top 5 Ways to Make an Audio Podcast go Viral

5. Put a Picture or a Video with It – Even a Campaign

Carolla put a campaign behind his podcast. Not just one, but several videos. Further, he made “Patriotic” videos because he wanted the US to beat the brits.

Ever looked at the YouTube Creator Playbook? If you want your videos to grow in subscribers, you follow this guideline as best you can.

Why not apply these ideas to an audio podcast?

For example, whenever I create a podcast, I make an image 1280×720. I actually have started doing that for my Day in Tech History podcast. The image contains text, important parts of the image and the logo of the show.

I wrote an article about How to make a standout YouTube Thumbnail. There is no reason why it couldn’t be applied to an audio podcast website.

Dell Acauired Alienware on March 23, 2006

Dell Acauired Alienware on March 23, 2006

4.  Don’t Expect iTunes to Do it

Whatever you do, remember that iTunes is NOT your friend for viral content. They are a walled garden and constantly pushing your podcast out of a person’s queue (If they don’t open iTunes and listen to the latest episodes, the “Subscribe” option gets turned off).

In all fairness, Apple did try making a carrier to viralness using “Ping”. Within iTunes, you could see what other people are consuming. However, Apple turned that option off back on Sept. 30th, 2012.

As for reviewing the podcast – I cannot tell you how many times I had people ask me to give a 5 star review and they would do the same for me. I NEVER accepted that practice. And this information doesn’t follow the show, so if you are not listening via iTunes, you don’t get to read it.

Promote your Podcast

Promote your Podcast

Who to Turn to For Viral Audio Podcasts?

Stitcher has a list of Most Shared Audio PodcastsYou can also check out the top 10 lists at Apple. Other than that, I don’t see a service that monitors and reports the shows getting bumps in traffic.

3. Blog with SEO to Get Noticed by Another Source

If your podcast can get reshared on Facebook, Google +, Twitter, or another social network, you could easily go viral. That is where show notes becomes an important factor.

Some people suggest getting a podcast transcribed. That is great for interviews, but keep in mind you might lose the audio audience with the written word.

The better idea is to have enough content to make them listen to the rest. Nuggets of wisdom that just happen to have a couple keywords in there to get picked up.

Make Podcast Titles That Pop

Why do you think Leo Laporte asks his live audience to come up with a title? Because people want to be part of the show. Best part is he can get some titles that he may not have thought of.

I interviewed Leo Laporte in 2011

I interviewed Leo Laporte in 2011

Make Content People Want to Talk About

I had audio shows went viral in a sorts. I remember a few years ago I talked about a product on my Geek Smack! show. That episode post got referred in a forum and I had tripled my listeners for the episode.

So does that count?

2. The Power of Your Audience and Subscriptions – Make Evangelists!

The most important people are your listeners. You have to remember: the national average of active podcast listeners is 25%, and the average amount of podcasts a person listens to in a week is between 3-5. So you have a 1-in-5 shot with 25% of the population.

The most successful campaigns are when podcasters can make their listeners turn evangelists. If they post a “Hey, Geekazine said this important thing…” on Twitter or Facebook, you might get a 1 in 100 return. So if they have 500 friends and family, 5 people might catch your show and one might even become a subscriber.

That is why offering things such as T-shirts and stickers are so important. They become walking billboards. Just like Eddie Murphy did with the Mumford Phys Ed. department.

Eddie Murphy made this T-shirt go viral...

Eddie Murphy made this T-shirt go viral…

That is Why Politicians Do It

Think about it: a piece of swag on your lapel. Lawn signs showing your political allegiance. All in promoting allegiance.  I’m really surprised that Stephen Colbert hasn’t done it yet…

Promote your Podcast

Promote your Podcast

Ask them to subscribe. Ask them to tell friends of your show. Make multiple designs of T-shirts and ask them to buy. Make bumper stickers and send them for free to listeners.

Believe it or not, the more you have people pimping your stuff, the more others want to find out what its about.



1. Reddit!

I don’t know what the deal is with Reddit, but you would be surprised how much you have a great link Karma. I like to think of it like the Internet on Crack-cocaine.

Why? Because there are those who are addicted to this site. Did you know that Reddit traffic jumped 83% to 731 million unique visitors in 2013? With 56 billion pageviews of over 40 million posts, you could see a great jump in your traffic if you post a podcast to Reddit.

Of course, Reddit is not as powerful as Facebooks’ 1.23 billion users. However, Reddit fans are more dedicated to the post rather than a circle of friends or family. Furthermore, they repost, comment, mark up, and basically tell you if your content is awesome or crap via other networks.

If you want your numbers of any podcast to go up, use this method. Tech News Today did.  They get a lot of their news stories from fans that vote up the content.

Bottom line: audio podcasts don’t stand out as easily, but with the right tools, they can. Mostly word of mouth. People still coalesce around the water cooler to talk about what they found. It could easily be your audio podcast they talk about.

Can an Audio Podcast Go Viral? 5 Ways it Can

Can an Audio Podcast Go Viral? 5 Ways it Can

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