Regardless of the number of times you air, the bottom line is this: If you don’t put a message in listeners’ ears often enough for them to retain or recall it, there is no point in airing it at all.


Capital Thinking  •  Issue #1156  •  View online

Long ago some researchers decided to determine how many times a listener needed to hear passive information in order to retain it.

The answer: three times.

So how do we use that to promote podcasts?

-Eric Nuzum

The Power of Three

Eric Nuzum | The Audio Insurgent:

For some reason I can’t explain, there are more than 300 new people since the last dispatch. Not sure what brought you all here, but I’m happy you are here…and please feel welcome. We have fun. If you love the audio industry, you’ll have fun too. I hope you stay a long time.

Today I have a few things, the next installment in our look into the mechanics of effective promotion–this time focused on the power of repetition, as well as a few thoughts about what’s going on right now in the podcast industry.

Also, the last item is an important one: about how the Audio Insurgent is made possible–and your role in that. Read on.

Okay, so…


I try never to be a person who says “I told you so” after bad things happen. Instead, I try to channel that energy into being the person who says “I told you so” BEFORE the bad things happen.

There has been some turmoil in podcasting over the past few weeks: lay-offs, recession fears, strategic shifts, fire sales, and acquisitions that didn’t quite land the way they were intended to.

I’ve never been one to embrace making bold public predictions about the future. Whenever I’m asked to write or speak a prediction about where I see things going, I don’t talk about the future. Instead I use the request as permission to tell the truth about where we are today.

Rather than forecast something new, I point to things I see happening that many are ignoring or missing. It’s me tapping the industry on the shoulder, trying to turn their attention to things they need to pay attention to.

Some examples are my Nieman Lab Predictions for Journalism. My 2017 prediction concerned the emerging stratification between haves and have nots in podcasting. For 2018, I wrote about the emerging new styles of podcasts.

For 2019, I wrote about the emergence of cross-promotion to build audience. For 2020, I wrote about the coming dearth of hit shows in podcasting, which was recently examined again by Nick Quah for Vulture.

For 2021, I wrote about podcast acquisitions ending and risk tolerance going down. And for 2022, I wrote about large legacy media companies abandoning their ill-rendered podcast strategies.

So not only did all those come true, but all of them rang true in 2022, arguably several in the last few months.

Even in this newsletter, I’ve spent time talking about all these issues. I’d provide links, but there are notes of this in all 31 dispatches of The Audio Insurgent.

That’s the thing about insurgencies, they are passionate and powerful, but they are often sloppy, error-prone, and sometimes abandon common sense.

The point in bringing all this up is not to say “I told you so” but to point out that these “predictions” have been easy to make. All you need to do is look at podcasting and digital audio with a clear eye.

For the past few years, podcasting has been treated like some sort of magical utopia, where the laws of gravity don’t apply. It is a “new” medium and, according to its hyperbolists, it is going to change everything.

Long time readers of this dispatch know that while I am really excited by all the possibilities I see for audio, especially digital audio, I have never bought into the breathless hype surrounding podcasting and its suggested ability to defy logic and the basic laws of economics.

Podcasting’s potential is massive, but it isn’t limitless, and it still needs to operate in a way that makes sense.

If anything, the past few months have proven that podcasting is…a form of media. It is subject to the ups and downs, ins and outs, disruption, flashes, hot-then-not, and fickle cycles that every other form of media experiences.

So, the bottom line: this is normal…and it still isn’t as bad as it could be. Things will rise again, and fall. Ideas will flourish, and others won’t pan out.

But above all, know that everything is going to be okay.

I’m thankful that, for now, there is such a demand for talent that many who find themselves losing jobs, often because of a destined-to-fail plan cooked up by someone who doesn’t understand the medium very well, are able to land a decent job quickly.

Fingers crossed that it lasts.


So, let me start off by repeating myself: Well-produced, listener-focused promos, fed in the right places often enough for listeners to hear them, can increase listening to your show.

Two dispatches ago, I started a short series resurfacing work I did in 2004 about on-air promos for radio and asking how it applies today to podcasting and digital audio.

You can read the original 2004 report here. In it, I talk about the Three “Rs” of program promotion, and today I want to talk about the 2nd “R”: Repetition.

According to researchers, an average listener must hear a message three times within a relative period of time to retain and recall the information that it contains. Great. So, how do you do that?

In radio, it is easy, because you can use audience analytic tools to create what is called a “reach and frequency” chart. What that chart does is tell you what percentage of your audience you are reaching by airing a commercial, promotion, or other collateral information.

On the chart, you can see what percentage of the audience you will reach by airing a spot X number of times.

While you want to air something often enough for most listeners to hear it enough to remember it, you want to avoid excessive frequency. I was talking to a friend recently who mentioned they’d stopped listening to a favorite podcast. I asked why.

“The damn promos” was the response.

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The Power of Three
Long ago some researchers decided to determine how many times a listener needed to hear passive information in order to retain it. The answer: three times. So how do we use that to promote podcasts?

*Featured post photo by Imthaz Ahamed on Unsplash