How I Got 200,000+ Podcast Downloads In First Year? - Starting a Podcast

How My Podcast Got 200,000+ Downloads In the First Year?

11 steps to 200,000 podcast downloadsStarting a podcast successfully, in many ways, is like starting a flash mob. You cannot start a flash mob if you don’t have a mob on the first place. Podcast downloads work in a similar way too. In this article I outline 11 steps I took that increased my podcast downloads to 200,000+ in the first year of starting my podcast.

We all have experience with a lemonade stand, don’t we?

Starting a podcast is like selling lemonades. You are better-off putting your lemonade stand in a place during summer where there are thirsty people looking to quench their thirst, than in the winter when it’s snowing and everyone’s indoors. The point with putting up a lemonade stand is to sell as many of them as possible.

Lemonade Stand

While this article is not all about examples and analogies of starting a podcast, I hope the point was made. Starting a podcast is not about you wanting to start a podcast, but people who are wanting dying to listen to it. In other words, it’s about getting more relevant people to download your podcast episodes.

But why would anyone be DYING to listen to me?

And that’s exactly the point. No one would be dying to listen to you.

Unless..

You are ready to understand what they are dying to listen to, and give them exactly that.

This was the first and the biggest realization I had, when I looked back into my podcast numbers after a year of starting it. And in this article I want to share the exact steps I (unknowingly) took, that led to my podcast being downloaded over 200,000 times in the first year.

My Tango With Podcasting

I started my podcast in 2016 while on a career break, and I was not really prepared for what followed. The show quickly became popular in the niche, despite the fact that I did no marketing. I did promote the show, but didn’t market it at all (now, that’s a topic for another day).

podcast downloads in first 11 months

The show was quick to cross 100,000 downloads and in a year’s time, the 200,000 mark too. In fact, I landed consulting and workshop gigs too. And that’s what kept me away from joining the corporate.

I’ve built products of all sizes – from integrating oil refineries and working with factory workers to building a platform for music listeners and working with ardent fans. But this time Podcasting completely captured my attention.

I thought to myself – “If starting a podcast without any knowledge of marketing could get me so many downloads, what could happen if I marketed it right?”

If Mahatma Gandhi Was Alive, He’d Start a Podcast.

Mahatma Gandhi Starting a Podcast

And if it were Martin Luther King Jr., he would do the same. Nelson Mandela would start a podcast too. They would all be the first one to record their voice and throw it up into the cloud. They’d surely clock 200,000 downloads in an hour!

Because They All Built An Audience, First.

This is how all of the greatest of movements led by these people began:

  1. These people saw a problem that a lot of people were also experiencing.
  2. All of them deeply cared about this problem.
  3. They never missed a chance to find and gather more people who were experiencing the problem.
  4. They gathered in numbers that no one could ignore. Even the press and media.
  5. And they got attention!

Podcasting, When Done Right, Can Build Movements

And that’s what I like about this medium – voice.

Podcasting uses the power of voice, and that is the most personal experience one can experience in the digital world. Yes, even more than video. Voice gives life to our thoughts and memories.

With a podcast, you have a chance to give life to the thoughts and memories of millions of people, while you sit down with your microphone in one insignificant corner of the world.

But Movements Start With A Cause

So do podcasts. You’ve got to start with a clear cause or a topic. So without further ado, allow me to outline 11 steps to how you can grow your podcast to at least 200,000 downloads even if you are not a marketer (like I was back then).

11 Steps to 200,000 Podcast Downloads

No matter how you got to this point, I recommend you read and follow my steps in the order from this point on. I will also throw in some useful articles, tools and other stuff that will help you finish each step.

Are you ready to start your podcast movement?

Below are the 11 steps that I’ll be getting deeper into in the rest of this article:

  1. Get an Email List
  2. Find a niche or Topic
  3. Search for the most shared blog post in the niche or topic
  4. Write an article better than the one you came across
  5. Create a content upgrade for your blog post
  6. Share the blog post
  7. Start a podcast
  8. Find the most influential people in the niche or topic and invite them as guests
  9. Create a content upgrade for every episode
  10. Record episodes and request guests to share
  11. Share new episode with your email list

Let’s get down to the details. Shall we?

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1. Signup for an Email List Software

Signing up for an email list software today is like buying an Address Book in the 1990s (remember one of those things?).

If you don’t have a place to store the addresses (read email addresses) of everyone in your tribe, you are in deep trouble. Below are some tips for you to quickly pick an email list software (apart from looking for a low-priced one to start with). A good email software should:

  1. Not duplicate email addresses even if they are on multiple lists.
  2. Allow you to send unlimited emails without capping a tier with a maximum number.
  3. Offer a good service without putting you on lower grade servers (just because you list is small)

There are many others, but these are my top 3. I also love email list software that allow for tagging, like Convertkit (I use this) or Active Campaign.

What email list management software do I recommend?

I actually started with Mailchimp (and recommend you do too), but quickly graduated to Convertkit after I crossed 1000 subscribers. And I must say that I’m totally happy with Convertkit.

Just pick one and move on to the next step.

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2. Find a Niche or Topic

first year podcast downloadWhat do you stand up for? What do you want to talk about?

I have no clue how to find out my niche or topic!

Well if that’s what you’re thinking, I have a simple solution for you. Follow these steps:

  1. Make a list of articles, videos or podcast episodes or any content you came across on a topic that’s on your mind.
  2. Find what’s the common theme across all of these content.
  3. What’s something that’s not being said by these people, that you want to talk about?
  4. Look at comments on each of these content pieces and see what people are saying.
  5. List down all the words that come to your mind at this point.
  6. Revisit this the next day and see if you find a topic.
  7. If you don’t end up with a topic, repeat this process.

Sometimes the topic can be a subtle one. Here’s a great article you must read to get some fresh perspectives on finding your niche or topic.

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3. Find the Most Shared Blog Post in That Topic

Your goal at this point, from steps 1 through 6, is to create a watering hole of your target audience. It’s where you’ll find more people that belong to your niche and prescribe to your idea, hang out.

  1. In this step, open a tool like Buzzsumo, type your topic and search. If it’s a multi-word topic, use “double quotes” before searching.
  2. Take a look at the articles that show up (its last 1 year’s articles by default). Sometimes you end up with job openings and other classifieds stuff. Ignore them.
  3. Pick the top-most shared article, read it, analyze the content and take notes.

Now that you have an idea of what people liked the most in that article, move to step 4.

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4. Write an Article Better Than the Most Shared Blog Post

Think of yourself as the Michelangelo himself. Get creative. Talk to some of the people who shared the article from the previous step, if needed.

Now open a Google Docs document and start to outline an article that’s better than the article you picked in step 3.

Wear the hat of the reader and cover everything that the reader would’ve ever wanted to read on that topic. I did exactly this back in late 2016 when I started. It was so good that even the industry’s top experts started to comment on the article!

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5. Create a Content Upgrade

What do you do when the airline offers you an upgrade to First Class from Economy if you just completed a survey?

You Fill the Survey and Take the Upgrade!

That’s exactly what a Content Upgrade does. If someone reads your article and liked it, would they take something more you have to offer on that topic in exchange for their email address?

Yes, of course!

Create a content upgrade for the article you wrote in the previous step. A good content upgrade should:

  1. Be easy to consume
  2. Give instant results (read ASAP)
  3. Takes the reader from consuming content to taking action.

I highly recommend you read the Complete Guide to Content Upgrades where Bryan teaches how to create and use Content Upgrades with Mailchimp.

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6. Share the Blog Post

As kids, we are born with a talent to show-off. But it’s funny how we get so self-conscious as we grow up, and keep all the good work we do to ourselves.

Don’t bury your best content!

It’s time to share them. You just wrote an amazing piece of article that’s better than the most shared content. It’s time you shared them with people!

Here are some ways you can share your freshly-pressed article:

  1. Groups on Facebook, LinkedIn and on other social media platforms.
  2. Answer questions on Quora.
  3. Look for interesting threads on Subreddits and share.
  4. Comment on relevant posts on any social media platform.
  5. Share with your friends and family and ask them to share it with their friends.

Never ignore #5 and do it wisely. Getting more people to share your article will make the social media platforms prioritize your article more than many other links that aren’t shared.

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7. Start a Podcast

Alright, now it’s time you started your podcast. But how?

Start with your podcast idea, and without wasting too much time, start outlining your podcast. In that, I’ve created a simple, yet effective, 12 question template to help you.

podcast ideas cheatsheet

Download cheatsheet!


  • Get your idea in less than 30-minutes
  • Step-by-step with instructions
  • It's FREE!

💁🏻‍♂️After clicking the button above, please check your email inbox to confirm.

If you need some foundation before jumping onto ideation, read this article where I walk you through everything (and the only things!) you need to know about starting a podcast!

Take a Free Course – Free Your Voice

I also have a free, yet super effective, podcasting course that you should consider signing up for. In this course, I walk you step-by-step through the creation of your podcast – from idea to promotion.

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8. Invite the Most Influential People as Guests

If you are not a celebrity or a comic or a storyteller who is really good at the art of creating stories through audio, I highly recommend starting an interview-based show.

For one, an interview-based podcast is easier, but there are also 100’s of thousands of them already.

It’s important you are different.

But once you’ve taken care of that, try and bring the most influential people in your topic or niche that you can access. But what is ‘influence’?

Influential People are Not Just Celebrities!

The most influential people in your niche or topic are not always the most celebrated people. Sometimes they are just one or two rungs above you. Here are some ways to spot influential people in your topic or niche:

  1. Owners of Facebook or LinkedIn Groups.
  2. People really active on Twitter, doing Twitter chats, etc.
  3. They post stories on Instagram every day and their posts are liked by many.
  4. Founders of tools that are popular.
  5. Authors who have books coming out.

Go get them on your show!

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9. Create Content Upgrades for Every Episode

You are now comfortable with Content Upgrades, aren’t you? Now repeat that for your podcast episode.

But What is a Content Upgrade for a Podcast Episode?

There are many ways you can offer content upgrades for podcast episodes. I must admit of not doing any content upgrades when I launched my podcast (I was really bad with marketing my show!).

Here are some ideas for Content Upgrades for your podcast episodes:

  1. The notes you took as you interviewed the guest – these can be extremely valuable!
  2. A question or two you asked your guest after the interview.
  3. A PDF with the key points / takeaways from the interview.
  4. A discount coupon code for the guest’s book or course.
  5. Downloadable copy of the show notes.
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10. Requesting Guests to Share Directly Impacts Podcast Downloads

It’s very easy to get into the rhythm of recording and publishing episodes. Stop yourself if you are just doing that. You need to share them too!

Getting your guests to share the interview can sway your listenership heavily, especially when you are starting out. This is why I love interview based podcasts.

Every time you publish an episode, send an email to your guest and request them to share the episode with their following.

Make it Easy for Your Guests to Share.

Here are some ways you can actually make sharing a non-issue for anyone:

  1. Create a Clickable Tweet.
  2. Take a few minutes to create a special artwork (use Canva) that the guest can share with their following.
  3. Create an audiogram to share on Instagram.
  4. Draft an email that they can send to their email list.

Some of these can hugely sway your podcast listenership.

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11. Share New Episode with Your Email List

As you start doing all of the above, you would notice that your email list has now started to grow. It’s time you made use of this email list to get more listens!

Every time a new episode is out, send an email to your email list with a link to the episode and ask them to give it a listen! It’s as simple as that.

Numbers Always Matter

Numbers Always Matter. Don’t They?

Now you are wondering – “Would doing these 11 steps get me 100,000 downloads?”

And that’s why I want to share some numbers here, from my own experience. This way, you can have your expectations fixated right.

Here are the numbers:

  1. My podcast launched with Season 1 that had 134 episodes.
  2. Many episodes from the beginning had lower downloads (<1000).
  3. One episode where guest had over 10,000 Twitter followers and a bigger email list which started the growth – the average download (in 30 days from release) went to ~3000.
  4. 3 people reached out to me to book me for consulting / workshops, and I took all of them. It resulted in repeat engagements.
  5. My email list, at the time of starting my first episode had ~1200 subscribers. I didn’t watch open rates (didn’t know that I should!), but every time I sent an email I used to see ~200 to 300 downloads (25%).

You Don’t Need 10,000 or 30,000 podcast downloads per episode to monetize your podcast!

All it takes is having the right audience and focused content. It also takes some persistence.

I must admit that I did start getting tempted with the ‘number of downloads’ metric when some people asked me:

“So you are on a break. What are your plans?”

I covered it up by saying..

“Oh my podcast is starting to do well, and I’ll soon start getting sponsors.”

That was wishful thinking, given my marketing prowess (or the lack of it!) and audience number.

But thanks to the consulting and workshops, sanity was restored!

So, Should I Start a Podcast?

If you’ve read this far, you probably are serious about it. So if the question is still inside your head, I suggest you ignore the naysayers (even if it’s the man in the mirror!) and do it – start a podcast.

It’s not Black or White.

The reason I wrote this article is because I want to tell the reality, and the reality is not black or white. There’s some gray, some blue, and every other color along the spectrum.

You don’t have to have a podcast in iTunes Top 100 to make money! But at the same time, just recording, publishing and sharing episodes won’t go a long way either.

If I could do it, you can!

I got into it with zero preparation, except a series of videos on how to start a podcast. I had no one telling me how important was it to market my show. There were not as many listeners as it is today either.

podcast ideas cheatsheet

Download cheatsheet!


  • Get your idea in less than 30-minutes
  • Step-by-step with instructions
  • It's FREE!

💁🏻‍♂️After clicking the button above, please check your email inbox to confirm.

What Next?

Start a podcast! Let me quickly summarize a set of steps you should consider taking here on:

  1. Read my article on Outlining your Podcast with the 12 Questions.
  2. Signup for Free Your Voice, my 4-week podcasting course (Facebook community access inside the course)

No matter what you choose to do, I’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment below to let me know what your decision is, and I’m open to getting your feedback too.

Also please share this article by clicking on any of the social buttons on the side and share it with your network!

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