Twitter Podcasting AMA #1

This is my first Ask Me Anything on podcasting. I’m pretty excited to be talking about podcasting in public for the first time that’s not on another podcast. I’ll be doing these regularly once I get the site up to speed and a break in work.

I’m currently producing 5 episodes of content a week for The Jordan Harbinger Show and Grumpy Old Geeks. I’m also editing all 5 episodes as well as hosting duties on 3 episodes. The workload is pretty intense and when you add in my consulting and freelance editing well then I need a nap! But that’s not stopping me from this so here we go!

I guess an AMA needs some basic questions; What did you do before podcasting? How did you end in the podcasting world? What podcasts (if any) do you listen to? Do you prefer hosting or producing? From @6502chip

I went to college for photography and then moved into computers and eventually became a web programmer and did that for about 20 years.  Then I rolled into podcasting about 5 and a half years ago full time and hung up my SSH terminal for good.

My friend Kevin Marks who I worked with at Technorati created the first scripts to move files from an RSS feed to an iPod back in the day so I’ve been around podcasting since the very beginning.

I’ve listened to thousands of podcasts since I started. I needed to do market research and see what was out there and where I could steal ideas from or improve my game. I still listen to a short list of shows every week but not as many as I used to. When I have down time I’m usually listening to audio books for research for the shows. I’ll put up a list soon of all the shows that I have in Overcast this week. It’s an ever changing cast of characters.

As far as hosting vs producing that’s an easy one! Both! Because to be a host is also to be a producer. You’re prepping the show, getting your notes together, booking the guests, getting the tech together, etc. I don’t think that I could do a show that I didn’t have my hands in every aspect of.

Editing is the worst part though. That’s the one aspect of podcasting that I really don’t enjoy but it’s so important to the final product. You have to tell the right story in the edit. You have to respect the listeners time. If a chunk of a show isn’t landing or doesn’t add to the main through-line you have to kill it. So many people don’t edit their shows and I want to smack them because it disrespects your audience to waste their time.

If I spend 5 hours on an edit and cut out 10 minutes. If I have 150,000 people listening to that episode or even 1,000,000 people and I just saved them 10 minutes each, then how much have I given back to humanity. I learned this from Steve Jobs when he was cutting down the boot time of the original Macintosh. You have to not just think about the one listener but your entire audience and do the math. Give them the meat of the show and cut the fluff so they can all get back to their lives but as better people than they were before they started listening. That’s why we edit shows. It’s a shitty job but it has to be done, and it has to be done well, so we do it, and we do it well. Don’t ever skimp on your edit.

Whats your take on Anchor and Stitcher Premium? From @6502chip

Anchor is pretty new on the scene and I haven’t actually used them to host a show. If I don’t have a show that’s coming into production I’m not generally going to move a show because it’s a massive pain in the ass and you always lose between 5%-15% of your listeners no matter what you do. Redirects and episodes announcing the move are nice to haves but at the end of the day they never cover 100% of your audience. So trying new hosting platforms is quite time consuming and can be expensive.

The shows I’ve heard on Anchor sound good if they are produced well BUT, and this is a big BUT. They aren’t charging you for hosting on Anchor. They have a bunch of big VC’s who are subsidizing the entire company right now. And they’re hoping at some point there will be a monetization strategy around their offering. More than likely it’ll be taking a percentage of the ads that run on your show. Just like a traditional podcasting network. BUT they’re not there yet.

What they’re doing is spending a lot of money to get shows on the network to prove out their model as they go. This is incredibly risky for professional podcast producers. If you don’t own every aspect of your production pipeline you’re vulnerable to other people’s businesses. Just like every press outlet that built on top of Facebook for the past 5 years and are now learning the hard way that if you don’t own your own distribution you can go out of business because someone somewhere decided you can go out of business.

I only host shows on paid platforms that give me total and complete control of my RSS feed and my audience. And if you’re serious about starting a show or have an existing show then you need to do the same. I currently pay for plans at Libsyn for Grumpy Old Geeks and SimpleCast for Does It Have Legs.

As far as Stitcher Premium goes, it’s pay-wall plain and simple. I think that they need to go find a dumpster, light it on fire, and have a nap in it. I’m not a fan of paid content in the podcasting world. I come from the blogging world and have seen far too many great writers go down while chasing short term gains and sacrificing long term audience acquisition. Selling podcasters on paywalling their content is nothing more than a company trying to make money on a podcasters content. If a podcaster wanted to paywall their own content I’m fine with that although it’s a stupid idea. But at least they’re not giving up a percentage of the profits. Just their audience acquisition. My rule is to never paywall a podcast. Sell ads, sell merch, and take donations. That’s the core of any podcaster. And the really successful podcasters are using their show as marketing for other avenues of revenue generation. That’s a post for another time. But putting your content behind a paywall is just plain stupid and short-sighted.

If you have an idea for a podcast how would you research to see if the topic you want to talk about is something that people want to hear? From @CampHarrigan

First you should search in iTunes for every other show that covers that topic. It’s a good bet by now that you’re not the first person into a space when starting a show. Look at their audience. See how many reviews they have, see if they’re still publishing, look at their engagement on social media. Do that for every show in the space. Then you can get a baseline for the audience size based on the engagement from their audiences.

That doesn’t paint the whole picture though. If the shows are cobwebbed (I loathe the term “podfaded” and will never use it after this mention) and not creating new shows that’s a red flag. You have to take into account if the show ever got traction though. If there are only 5 episodes then just discard them from your stats.

Aside: Most shows don’t make it past 13 episodes. I know there are a lot of stats that just came out that said 9 was the magic number but I prefer to stick with 13. If a podcaster can make it past the magic episode 13 they’re probably in it for the right reasons and will keep going. That will be in another post in the future. But back to the research.

I’d also dig into the culture and blogs that cover your topic. See if there is a large enough community who is age appropriate for listening to podcasts as well as technically savvy. There are a lot of variables and it isn’t an exact science for market research but you can get an idea. It will also get you into the channels that you’ll need to market to when you do start putting out episodes.

I know you edit to about 1 hour. How much material do you work with, that is to say how much raw audio do you work with? 90 minutes translates to one hour, etc etc. From @Vietpdx

That’s really show and host dependent. Some shows I get almost a 1:1 ratio on the edit because the guest is rock solid as well as the host. Some shows I can end up cutting 50% from. You can’t really quantify that. Podcasting is a space filled with people on the entire media spectrum from rank amateurs to seasoned pros. It depends on who you get that day in your DAW.

I’ve worked with a lot of shows and some are a breeze and some are the worst week of my life. It really comes down to who is on the mic and the quality of the audio you are starting with.

How did each of your podcasts find and grow their early audiences? From @JaySLester

Growing a podcast audience is a black art.  If you’re a small independent producer you’re going to have to rely on your existing audience. The shows I’ve worked with and made myself have all had extremely different paths. But early growth is 100% based on your existing audience from other platforms that you’ve already cultivated.

I won’t lie. It’s the hardest part of running a podcast. The market is so saturated and it’s not like a blog where they can pop in and read a 5 minute piece. Podcasts take a serious time commitment and there are just too damn many people coming into the space so right now is the hardest time to get a new audience. And it’s not going to get easier for quite some time.

My best advice on growing a new show is to build your audience before you start your show using every trick in the book and on every platform you can find.

Do you have any ideas on how to get better demographics out of a podcast? I’m looking to get more information on an audience for a podcast I’m working with. From @TujuMaster

That comes from your hosting provider. Any decent host will be able to give you IAB compliant stats. The stats from Libsyn give decent demos but you’re always going to be limited to what you can glean from an IP address and a player id. Everything else is inferred from that like location, listening time, and what platform they listened on.

If you want real demographics you have to do the dreaded user survey. There’s no way around it. The system that makes podcasting great is also what makes marketers not sleep at night. It’s a basic stateless system built on HTTP and RSS. We just shuffle files around. So to get to the bottom of who your listeners are you actually have to ask.

Here’s a graphic from our first user survey for Grumpy Old Geeks. It’s a few years old but tells the basic story of who is listening to the show. Paid plans on Libsyn come with this survey built in over a certain dollar amount. We only pay $20 a month to host Grumpy Old Geeks and have made a few thousand dollars in ads from Libsyn because of this survey.

GOG Survey Results

So that’s it for my first podcasting AMA. If you have any more questions please don’t hesitate to throw them at me on Twitter with the tag #PodcastAMA. Hope that helps!

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