Step 4: Competitive Research
You can learn a lot from your competition. What are they doing that works? What are they doing that doesn’t work? What topics are they covering or not covering? Doing your competitive research will give you an overview of what other podcasts in the niche are doing and give you some guidance on what to do and what not to do.
To find competitors in your niche, take to the major podcast platforms like Apple Podcasts or Spotify and begin searching by keywords relevant to your niche. This could be “accounting” or “finance” if you're an accountant. Try various keywords and start making a list of podcasts that frequently appear.
Once you have found a couple of podcasts using this technique, you can use the “People also listened to” feature on Apple Podcasts - called “more like this” on Spotify - to find similar podcasts that your target audience listens to.
One thing to note during this stage, make sure that the podcasts you are adding to your list are still active and releasing episodes. To check this, look at the date the most recent episode was published. If it is within the last 30 days, it’s probably still active. If it’s beyond 30 days, but they structure their podcast in seasons, they may be on a break between seasons. In this case, you can still add them to your list.
Apple Podcasts and Spotify are the two most popular podcast apps. However, it’s still worthwhile to research competitors on smaller apps such as Google Podcasts and Pocketcasts, as you may find different results.
You can also head over to Google to see if anyone else has compiled a list of top podcasts in your niche. Alternatively, if you know anyone in your target audience, ask them what podcasts they listen to.
Once you get a list of 10 to 20 podcasts, you’ll want to rate them on a matrix with relevancy on the x-axis and audience size on the y-axis.
As we discussed in Step 3, you want to target a specific audience, so you may find a large number of the podcasts you list targeting a larger, more general audience. Place podcasts that generally talk about your industry lower down on the list, and put the podcasts that are closer to targeting your specific audience higher up on the list.
Next is to estimate the size of the podcast’s reach. Unlike social media and YouTube, you can’t see how many people subscribe or follow a podcast, so you need to use some indicators to gauge the potential size.
The first way is to head over to Apple Podcasts again and see how many reviews a podcast has. If it has over 100 reviews, they likely have a large audience of over 1,000 listeners. If they have less than 10, their audience is likely smaller. You cannot leave reviews on Spotify, but you can leave ratings. The number of ratings a podcast has on Spotify can also indicate size.
Next, dive into the show notes of the podcasts and see if they link to any social media accounts, either for the podcast or the company. How big is their following? Do their posts get much engagement from listeners? Are people talking about how great the podcast is? Individually, these indicators don’t mean too much, but as you start to compile them together, you can get an idea of the size of their audience.
If you want to go more in-depth in your research, you can use tools such as Rephonic. Rephonic allows you to search a database of over 2 million podcasts to find information such as listenership, audience location, chart rank, and reviews.
Once you have completed your matrix, the podcasts in the top-right quadrant with high relevance and a large audience will be your competition. Do further research into those podcasts, and spend time listening to their episodes to identify how their podcast is structured, what topics are covered, how the content is delivered, how they are hosted, what is done well, what could be done better, how often they post, and the average length of the episodes.
Once you’ve completed your competitor research, you should know the podcast landscape for your niche and industry. The next step is audience research.