In radio, there is a tried and true practice to help on-air talent up their game: Airchecking.
Airchecking is an exercise where radio DJs can get constructive feedback on their performance. Typically, on-air personalities sit down with their Program Directors and listen to a recording of a recent show together. The PD will offer insights into what the on-air personality is doing well and what they can do to improve.
This type of coaching is crucial for air talent looking to hone their crafts.
Unfortunately, most podcasters don't have access to a PD that can critique their shows. This makes it hard for them to get useful feedback. They can ask their friends or family members for input, but this process is usually of limited value. Besides, there's only so many times you can ask your Aunt Polly to listen to your podcast on microbrews.
What's a podcaster to do?
Fortunately, Amazon has a little-known online service called Mechanical Turk that podcasters can use to glean feedback on their shows. People use Mechanical Turk to hire workers to perform minor tasks for a small amount of money. In this case, we're going to pay people a few dollars to listen to the first 10 minutes of your podcast and give you 300 words of feedback.
Of course, the people offering feedback don't have the experience of a Program Director, but that doesn't mean they can't offer you useful insights. The practice is similar to how movie studios use test screenings.
Some of the feedback you get will be incredibly helpful while some of it will be useless, but that's okay because it's inexpensive. At the end of the day, be on the lookout for suggestions that come up repeatedly; that's the sign that you need to take them seriously.
I find that Mechanical Turk is great for producing the type of criticisms that deep down inside you know are true, but you have to hear somebody else say it first before you are willing to take it seriously.
To improve your podcast quickly, run it through Mechanical Turk early and often. This short video will show you how to do it.
Seth Resler is a "digital dot connector" with decades of experience as a professional broadcaster and Program Director. Read his work on AllAccess.com: http://www.allaccess.com/next-steps