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5 Reasons Podcasters Delete Content (And 7 Impacts They Don’t Consider)

May 24, 2024 Deciphr AI
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In the early days of podcasting, anyone with a microphone and a story could carve out a niche. 

But after the past few years, it seems like this isn’t the case anymore because once-clear paths to listenership became mazes of algorithms and metrics. 

And now it’s no longer just about the story; it about how the story is told, packaged, and delivered.

At this point, you're a seasoned podcaster who’s transitioned from those initial days of uncertainty to a structured, well-oiled machine. 

Your podcast isn't just a side gign anymore—it's a full-fledged business with a team that relies on you, sponsors who believe in your content, and a loyal audience that hangs onto your every word. With this growth, the stakes are rising more than you’ve ever expected. 

And here’s the one aspect of your journey that you need to know more about:

Just like every episode you release, every piece of content you delete has implications. 

Not just for your brand, but for the intricate web of algorithms that determine who hears you next.

Here's where things get tricky, though: in the pursuit of perfection, or perhaps in response to feedback, you might consider deleting an episode or two. 

Maybe it's outdated…

Maybe it's controversial…

Or maybe it just doesn't fit your brand anymore. 

But when you hit “delete”, you're not just removing an episode—you're sending ripples through the algorithm. Those ripples can affect your discoverability, your rankings, and ultimately, your relationship with your audience.

This isn't a cautionary tale to scare you away from ever deleting content, though. 

This guide is your compass, tailored for those who've moved past the hobbyist stage—it's for the podcasters who understand that in today's saturated market, every decision, every episode, and every deletion counts.

If you want to future-proof your podcast and navigate the intricacies of deletion and the implications it bears for each of your episodes’ mileages, here’s everything you need to know.

How Podcast Algorithms Work: A Deep Dive for the Advanced Podcaster

Understanding the mechanics behind platform algorithms is essential when it comes to getting your podcast the virality it needs for more success. And to ensure that your content reaches the ears of eager listeners, you’ll need to study one thing and learn how to leverage it:

Podcast algorithms. 

Let's dissect how these algorithms function and the specific factors they prioritize.

Subscribers & Listens

At the heart of any podcast's success is its audience. 

The sheer number of subscribers a podcast garners, coupled with the listens each episode receives, directly influences its algorithmic ranking. Think of it as a feedback loop: the more listens an episode gets, the higher it ranks, leading to even more visibility and, consequently, more listens.

Reviews & Ratings

While raw numbers in terms of listens and subscribers are crucial, qualitative feedback, in the form of reviews and ratings, also holds significant weight. 

A podcast with lots of positive reviews and high ratings signals to platforms like Apple Podcasts and Spotify that the content is resonating with its audience—often working a testament to the podcast's quality, relevance, and engagement factor. However, it's worth noting that a single negative review won't tank a podcast's ranking. 

Algorithms look at the aggregate sentiment, so consistent positive feedback is the key.

Timeliness

In the podcasting realm, consistency isn't just about branding—it also functions as a critical factor in algorithmic evaluations. 

Platforms prioritize podcasts that regularly churn out fresh content. This doesn't mean daily uploads, but a consistent schedule—be it weekly, bi-weekly, or even monthly—signals to the algorithm that the podcast is active and committed. 

In an industry where so many podcasts fade after a few episodes (often referred to as "podfading"), regular uploads set serious podcasters apart.

Metadata & Descriptions

Beyond the audio content, the textual descriptors associated with a podcast play a pivotal role in its discoverability

Detailed metadata ensures that the podcast surfaces in relevant searches. Accurate tags can mean the difference between being discovered by a potential loyal listener and getting lost in the shuffle. 

Comprehensive episode descriptions not only inform potential listeners about the episode's content but also provide algorithms with context to match podcasts to specific listener interests.

The overarching message for podcasters is clear: 

To thrive in the algorithmic landscape, you’ll need to prioritize consistent quality content, engage and grow their audience, and pay meticulous attention to the often-overlooked textual elements accompanying each episode. 

In the competitive world of podcasting, understanding and leveraging these algorithmic nuances can be the difference between obscurity and chart-topping success.

Reasons Podcasters May Delete Content

Deep into their journeys, there are moments when even the most seasoned podcasters grapple with the decision to delete certain episodes. 

Let's delve deep into the reasons behind most—if not all—decisions creators choose to click on the “delete” button.

Reason #1: Outdated Episodes

With technological advancements, shifts in audience preferences, and the ever-evolving landscape of topics, some episodes can quickly become outdated

An episode discussing the "latest" tech from two years ago might now seem archaic. And for podcasters who pride themselves on being at the forefront of their niche, retaining such episodes might feel inconsistent with their brand's promise of delivering cutting-edge content.

Reason #2: Controversial Content

The power of a podcast lies in its ability to spark discussions…

However, there's a fine line between constructive discourse and controversy. 

An episode that unintentionally stirs up negative sentiments or misrepresents facts can become a liability. The backlash from listeners, sponsors, or even the broader community can jeopardize a podcaster's reputation, making the removal of such content a strategic move to mitigate potential damage—which is often a catalyst for deleting episodes.

Reason #3: Platform Guidelines

Each podcasting platform, from Apple Podcasts to Spotify, has its set of guidelines. These can range from content restrictions to quality standards. 

An episode that violates these guidelines, more often than not, can lead to penalties—ranging from reduced discoverability to outright bans. For podcasters, adhering to these guidelines isn't just about compliance; it's about ensuring their content remains accessible to their audience.

Reason #4: Technical Glitches

Even the most meticulously produced episodes can fall prey to technical glitches. 

Distorted audio, unsynced segments, or even corrupted files can mar the listening experience. While some issues can be rectified with post-production magic, others might be beyond repair. 

In such cases, retaining the episode can be detrimental to the listener's experience, prompting podcasters to opt for deletion over delivering subpar content.

Reason #5: Consolidation

As podcasters grow and refine their content strategy, there's often a need to consolidate—this could mean focusing on specific themes, niches, or formats. 

In this process, stray episodes or one-off experiments that no longer align with the podcast's direction might seem out of place. Removing such episodes can provide listeners with a more cohesive and streamlined content journey.

The decision to delete podcast content is multifaceted, rooted in both strategic considerations and the pursuit of excellence. While the reasons vary, the underlying theme remains consistent: 

Ensuring that the content serves the audience's best interests and upholds the podcaster's commitment to quality, relevance, and integrity.

Impacts of Deleting Content

Navigating the increasingly-complex world podcasting requires a keen understanding of the endless decisions that can influence a show's trajectory. 

One such decision being the deletion of content. 

While removing an episode or two might seem like an unassumingly-simple event, the underlying consequences can reverberate through the very fabric of a podcast's existence—affecting both its immediate standing and long-term reputation.

Here are the short and long-term impacts of deleting content that you need to know about.

Short-term Impacts

Algorithmic Setbacks

Deleting an episode doesn't just remove it from the playlist; it sends ripples through the digital algorithms that dictate podcast discoverability. 

Platforms like Apple Podcasts and Spotify, for example, have intricate algorithms that thrive on content consistency. When an episode vanishes, these algorithms can interpret it as a disruption, leading to a swift and significant decline in rankings. 

For a podcaster, this could mean moving from a coveted top spot to a less visible position, affecting potential listener reach.

Subscriber Disruption

Imagine a loyal listener, earphones in, ready to dive into a new episode or revisit a favorite one—only to find it missing. 

This sudden inaccessibility can be more than just a minor inconvenience. It disrupts routines, breaks the anticipated content flow, and can lead to frustration, souring the experience they have with your podcast.

Consistency Concerns

Consistency, in the context of podcasting, is more than a buzzword; it's a currency and what algorithms value and listeners appreciate. 

Regular updates, a steady flow of content, and reliability form the backbone of a successful podcast. Deleting episodes can shake this backbone, making the podcast appear less dependable to both machine algorithms and human listeners.

Long-term Impacts

Declines In Trust

Every review, every subscriber, every listen is an extra layer in the trust that podcasters build over time. 

When episodes are deleted, it's akin to removing layers—and, because of this, listeners might begin to question the podcast's judgment, wondering why content they once enjoyed is now deemed unworthy. This erosion of trust can be challenging to rebuild and can eventually lead to skepticism and doubt.

Barrier for Newcomers

A podcast is often a journey, with each episode building on the previous ones. 

For newcomers, starting from episode one provides a sense of continuity and context. And it’s because of this that foundational episodes can create gaps in this journey, depriving new listeners of the full experience and potentially making them feel lost or disconnected.

Algorithmic Matching Dilemma

Beyond just rankings, algorithms play matchmaker, connecting podcasts to potential listeners based on intricate data points. 

A rich content pool provides these algorithms with ample data to make accurate matches. When this pool shrinks due to deletions, the algorithms have less to work with, leading to potentially fewer and less accurate listener matches.

Brand Integrity at Risk

Over time, frequent content changes can cast shadows on a podcast's brand integrity. If episodes come and go unpredictably, listeners might perceive the podcast as unstable or unreliable. 

This can lead to questions about the podcast's credibility, pushing listeners to seek out more consistent content sources.

The act of deleting content, while seemingly straightforward, carries with it a cascade of consequences that can shape a podcast's future. From the immediate aftermath of algorithmic shifts to the long-term challenges of maintaining brand integrity and trust, every deletion is significant. As podcasters chart their course, understanding these impacts is crucial, ensuring that each decision is made with foresight, care, and a deep respect for the listeners who make the journey worthwhile.

Minimizing Damage of Deleting Episodes

The decision to delete an episode can be daunting. The ramifications are not just emotional or creative; they're algorithmic, affecting discoverability and listener engagement. If you're contemplating this step, it's crucial to strategize to mitigate potential damage.

1. Archiving Over Deletion

The podcasting realm is rife with episodes that, over time, may seem less relevant or even problematic. 

However, outright deletion can be a drastic step. Archiving offers a middle ground. By archiving, you're essentially putting episodes on the back burner, making them inaccessible to the public but retaining them in your database. This ensures that if ever there's a need or a change of heart, restoration is just a few clicks away. 

Plus, from an algorithmic standpoint, archived episodes can sometimes still be recognized, ensuring you don't lose all the SEO benefits they brought.

2. Maintain Output

Consistency is a term podcasters live by. 

Algorithms favor regular content output, and listeners anticipate it. If you're deleting an episode, consider replacing it—this could be with a new episode or a revamped version of the old one. 

By doing so, you're ensuring that your podcast's rhythm isn't disrupted, keeping both algorithms and listeners in sync with your content.

3. Redirects


Nowadays, dead links are a cardinal sin. 

If you've promoted an episode on various platforms, and that episode is now archived or deleted, ensure those links redirect. They could point to the archived version, a related episode, or even a brief explanation about the episode's removal. 

This prevents listener frustration and avoids potential SEO penalties for broken links.

4. Transparency

The bond between a podcaster and their audience is sacred—so if episodes disappear without explanation, it can lead to confusion or even mistrust. 

Whether it's a brief mention in a subsequent episode, a note on your website, or a social media post, communicate the reasons for the deletion. Your audience will appreciate the honesty, and it can even open up a dialogue about content evolution.

5. Batch Deletion 

If multiple episodes are on the chopping block, consider removing them in batches. 

This approach can be less jarring for regular listeners than sporadic removals. It also allows for a more structured communication strategy, informing listeners about the changes in one cohesive message.

6. Monitor & Adjust

Post-deletion, it's essential to monitor your podcast's performance. 

Track metrics like listener count, episode downloads, and search rankings. If you notice a dip, be ready to adjust. This could involve tweaking metadata, ramping up promotions, or even reconsidering the deletion decision.

The world of podcasting is dynamic, and content decisions are a part of the journey. 

If deletion is on the horizon, approach it with strategy and sensitivity. And by considering the steps above, you can ensure that your podcast continues to thrive, resonating with both algorithms and ardent listeners.

When Does Deletion Make Sense?

The decision to delete content is never taken lightly. However, there are specific scenarios where the scales tip in favor of deletion, or at least, where the risks associated with removal are minimized. 

Let's delve deeper into these situations.

Platform Guideline Violations

Every podcasting platform, from Apple Podcasts to Spotify, operates with a set of guidelines—these aren't just arbitrary rules but are designed to ensure a consistent and high-quality user experience. 

When your content violates these guidelines—whether it’s because of copyright infringements, explicit content without warnings, or other breaches—the platform's algorithm might flag it. In such cases, removal is a necessity to maintain your podcast's standing and avoid potential blacklisting.

Technical Mishaps

We've all been there—audio glitches, syncing issues, or just plain poor sound quality. 

Sometimes, these can be fixed in post-production, but there are episodes where the technical issues are so deeply embedded that they detract from the content's value. For a podcaster, especially one with a significant listenership, releasing or retaining such content can harm the brand's reputation. 

When it comes to handling technical mishaps, deletion might be the lesser of two evils, preserving the podcast's overall quality and listener experience.

(If you want to avoid having to delete episodes because of sound quality ever again, check out our guide on what pieces of audio equipment are worth investing in!)

Old & Unpopular Content

Not every episode will be a hit, and that's okay. 

However, when certain episodes consistently underperform or become outdated, they might act as dead weight, pulling down the overall performance metrics of your podcast. Archiving these episodes—essentially removing them from public access but retaining them for potential future use—can streamline your content, ensuring that listeners and algorithms alike focus on your best, most relevant episodes.

New Shows

For fledgling podcasts still finding their voice and audience, the risk associated with content deletion is inherently lower. 

With a smaller listenership and fewer episodes, these podcasts have more flexibility. They can experiment, iterate, and even delete content without significantly impacting their growth trajectory or algorithmic standing.

Rich Evergreen Content

The term "evergreen" isn't just a buzzword. It refers to content that remains relevant and valuable over time, irrespective of when it was published. 

For podcasts blessed with a wealth of such content, the occasional deletion of non-evergreen episodes might not pose a significant risk. The strength of their timeless content can often compensate for any potential algorithmic or engagement dips resulting from deletions.

In the dynamic realm of podcasting, content deletion is a nuanced decision, influenced by a myriad of factors. While the general advice leans towards retention, there are clear scenarios where deletion or archiving is the strategic choice. By understanding these scenarios in depth, podcasters can navigate the complex waters of content management with confidence, ensuring their show's longevity and success.

Final Words

The decision to delete published podcast episodes is not one to be taken lightly. 

Short and long-term impacts on algorithmic rankings, discoverability, and audience trust add up to a significant point for consideration that you can’t overlook—especially when you’re looking to grow and scale your podcast. This means that it’s crucial to weigh the benefits against the potential costs, to strategize effectively, and to remain transparent with the audience. 

By understanding the intricacies of podcast algorithms and the ramifications of content deletion, podcasters can make informed decisions that align with their show's goals and resonate with their dedicated listeners.