How a kids-focused podcaster reached 1 million monthly downloads
Jim Jacob accidentally stumbled upon a huge market opportunity when he launched Kids Short Stories.
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Most new podcasters launch their shows with the goal of building up a large fanbase of avid listeners, but Jim Jacob’s intended audience was tiny: his three sons.
In fact, the only reason he created his Kids Short Stories podcast in the first place was so his children would have an easy method for listening to his stories when he was on the road. “Ever since they were little, I’ve told them stories at bedtime, just making up a story on the spot,” Jacob told me in a June 2021 interview. His kids usually provided the basic story prompts, including characters and conflicts, and then he would craft a narrative from there. “I started traveling for work quite a bit two years ago, and my wife was like, ‘why don’t you start recording the stories, because they really miss them while you’re gone.’ And I was like, sure.”
At first, Jacob tried to record them as voice memos on his phone, but this method proved unwieldy. It was his wife who suggested going the podcast route. “She was like, ‘you are really good at this. I bet other parents would want to listen to this too.’ And I laughed at her, I was like, there’s nothing special about this. Every parent can tell a story to their kid. I didn’t see the value in it.”
But in October 2019, he signed up for an account on the podcast hosting platform Anchor and began uploading audio files of his stories. He decided to name the podcast Kids Short Stories with the idea that it was just the sort of thing parents would type into a podcast player’s search bar. “I figured it would make it easy to stumble across it.”
Over the next few weeks Jacob continued to record more stories during his free time and upload them to Anchor. Then one day he noticed something strange. “I can’t remember how I stumbled across it, but I saw some reviews starting to come in through the Apple Podcasts app, and I was like, woah, what is this? I clicked on it, and it was like, ‘hey, my daughter really loves listening to these stories. Her name is Molly, and she likes unicorns and rainbows. Could you make a story for her?’”
It was a lightbulb moment for Jacob. He had heard that ratings and reviews could help you in Apple’s podcast rankings, and here there were parents trying to communicate with him through reviews. “For the next six months, I included a segment in each episode where I said that if you want to submit an idea for a story, leave a five star review on Apple Podcasts with your name and your submission. I didn’t create an Instagram or a website. The only way for them to communicate with me was through a review.”
The gambit worked. Hundreds of reviews started flooding in, and Kids Short Stories shot up in the podcast rankings. Realizing that he had stumbled upon an underserved market, Jacob doubled down on the podcast, producing up to five new episodes per week. Within a year, the show was driving 500,000 downloads per month, and talent agents were banging on his door.
How did an engineer who didn’t even listen to podcasts become the fastest-growing brand in children’s audio? In our interview, Jacob walked me through how he grew to over 1 million monthly downloads and explained why he wants to become the next Mr. Rogers.
Let’s jump into my findings…
A global phenomenon
Because Jacob didn’t have a background in media, he had no real concept of how popular his podcast was at first. “I was only comparing the download numbers to YouTube views,” he explained. “So it wasn’t that impressive when I was hitting a couple thousand downloads every day.” It was only later that he learned that those numbers were far above average for a brand new podcast.
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