Warning: Do Not Read Any Further If You're Content With an Anemic, Non-Impactful Show
What makes Podcast Artistry™ different from all the other cats in town?
It didn't begin because of a conspicuous lack in the marketplace for podcast editing services.
Far from it.
There are a billion or so businesses out there that provide podcast production services. I know many of them personally who do outstanding work. In fact, if you're visiting this site and for whatever reason decide we're not a good fit to work together, I'll happily point you in the direction of someone who might work for you.
I'm James Newcomb. I'm a musician and artist at heart, and have been in the podcasting craft for over 6 years. When I felt the call to start a service helping established and aspiring podcasters with producing a high-quality show, I knew it had to be something only I could deliver.
On the surface, what we offer at Podcast Artistry™ isn't all that different from other production companies.
What's unique is the mindset and philosophy we have when it comes to pretty much everything, including podcasting. Meaning...
We're Artists First and Foremost
Art at a superficial level is a painting in a gallery, a symphony played at the concert hall, a sculpture in the park. At a deeper level, art is intensely personal. I dare say it is what separates human beings from all other animals. When tyranny rears its ugly head, it's the artist who has the courage to say the Emperor has no clothes, and even mock the Emperor for appearing naked in public.
Lies will prevail against much in this world, but never against art. -Solshenitsyn
Art points out what is beautiful in this world, even when it is wrapped in ugly packaging.
When this mindset is applied to a podcast, it becomes more than a simple marketing tool to gain a new client with whom you have a purely transactional relationship.
Podcast Artistry is beauty, personality, brutal honesty expressed through the podcasting medium.
The approach to podcasting at Podcast Artistry is best summed up in the 6 Podcasting Principles:
Something you'll know about me should you get to know me is that I'm a huge fan of the Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul "universe" as Vince Gilligan's fans and staff are fond of calling it.
In fact, just last night as I was talking to Sana before going to sleep, she asked: "How's Walter?" Of course in reference to Walter White, the anti-hero of Breaking Bad.
"Getting worse," I replied.
The story arc of Breaking Bad is that of a man who's basically a decent guy: gainfully employed, a family man, pays his taxes, etc. But then devolves into a monster as he gets deeper and deeper involved in the methamphetamine business in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
The brilliance of the writing, directing, acting, and overall execution of Breaking Bad (BB) and Better Call Saul (BCS) is their believability -- while at the same time being completely detached from reality. One man is going to be responsible for the deaths of hundreds of people, including a mid-air collision of two passenger planes directly over his home. A high school chemistry teacher becomes the Alpha Male in the drug trade of an entire region of the U.S.
All that to say is that Breaking Bad is considered one of the best TV shows of all time because of said writing, directing, acting, etc. But more relevant to our purposes, it gives the viewer a diversion from reality.
And believe it or not, it's that which makes a podcast successful, dare I say of Tim Ferriss, Joe Rogan, Ben Greenfield proportions.
Think about what your favorite movies and shows have in common.
• The characters always seem to have all the money in the world. Who wants to watch a show where the characters are struggling to make rent, living paycheck to paycheck, or unemployment? Most people have enough of that in their real lives; they watch their shows to get away from all that unpleasantness.
- They have glamorous jobs: brain surgeons, drug kingpins, space shuttle designers, things like that. You don't see the family practitioner and his/her daily headaches with the insurance companies. Nope, we watch our shows to escapefrom all of that.
A lot of people are critical of the entertainment industry because of this fantasy worlds they constantly create. People say they should more accurately reflect reality to "make a difference" or something like that. What these critics don't take into consideration is that it's not a movie producer's job to affect any type of social change, nor to reflect the grim reality of a situation. Their job is to sell movie tickets, advertising, etc. The producer knows his or her audience (which we'll cover in the next principle); they know what they actually want, not what they say they want (many times out of fear of not fitting in with their peers.)
Now think about what some of the top podcasts have in common:
- Tim Ferriss brings on the creme de la creme of specific niches or industries; the listener is brought into a world of extraordinary excellence in whatever field, be it cooking, Health and Fitness, science, what have you
- Ben Greenfield's guests are world-renowned biohackers, doctors, scientists, etc. who share absolute cutting-edge knowledge and practices in the realm of health, fitness, spirituality, and the list goes on. Ben himself is a piece of work; his exploits as a "human guinea pig" if nothing else bring out a laugh from the average Joe who's listening in on his latest biohacks just because they appear to be so ridiculous at first glance (or listen)
- Conan O'Brien, Dave Chappelle, Oprah Winfrey, etc. all have A-list guests, extraordinarily high achievers. We want to hear what's going on in these people's lives in hopes that their good fortune will somehow rub off on us by virtue of us listening to what they have to say
Now, notice what these shows don't discuss in any great detail.
They don't focus on the tedious, mundane aspects of their business or life, such as accounting, tax preparation, HR protocols, problems with their kids. In fact, they hardly even mention them. You always hear the big picture, "sexy" things like their latest book; you don't hear about the problems that went into writing the book. Who wants to listen to that? I sure don't.
Years ago, I was quasi-involved with the Amway business. At the time (circa 2002- 03 timeframe) it was rebranded because of some legal problems they had at the time, so it was called Quixtar. (That I didn't immediately hightail it from a business "opportunity" with that as its name shows my naïveté at that time of my life, but I digress.)
I never really did anything with the business, outside of attending the motivational meetings, purchasing the standing order cassettes, things like that. The business model of asking my friends and family members to purchase their laundry detergent, dish soap and what not just didn't jive with my personality and beliefs at the time, and probably still wouldn't were I to consider it again today. Those are not products that light my fire; I really could care less whether someone even washes their clothes, much less where they buy their laundry soap.
So I never amounted to much in that particular business, but I did take away some valuable lessons that I apply to my own business endeavors to this day.
The thing that I remember most about those Amway/Quixtar meetings is how the presenter, who's a top achiever and easily in the top 1% of earners among his peers, paints a picture in the minds of his audience of what's possible.
- The brand new luxury car in the driveway of the brand new 5,000 sq. ft. home which sits on 10 acres -- all of which are paid for in cash
- The credit cards that are paid off; any credit card use is only to accumulate miles for plane tickets to The Maldives for a week in a 5-star resort
- All of the above is what you deserve after all...
For whatever length of time the speaker is presenting, you're completely detached from your own reality. You're not thinking about the mortgage, the car that needs new tires, the credit card debt, the job you hate (or so you think) so you can pay for all these things, the wife who doesn't respect you because of a bad financial decision you made years ago.
All those things are paid for in your mind. You've got money to burn. Wifey-poo gives a $100 tip to the gal at the salon each of the 3 times per week she gets her hair dyed her favorite color.
So when it comes to pay for the "starter kit" and it costs a paltry $249, it's a no- brainer. Why? Because for 30-45 minutes, that presenter very skillfully, and with a ton of practice, brought you from one reality into a completely different world.
(Let me be clear that I'm not criticizing Amway. The MLM model is legit, and the people who are up there presenting really have crushed it, have sold enough laundry and dish soap, have recruited enough people to be successful. They worked their tail off and deserve every ounce of credit in the world for doing so.)
So let's talk about how we can apply this principle to your podcast
I'm not saying that the people who host and produce those top shows are charlatans and liars; that they are somehow deceiving people by creating a fantasy world in order to milk their listeners for every penny they can.
Quite the opposite.
The principle I'm speaking of is called "world-building". And it is that which you need to focus on with your show.
Not providing "value"...
Not sharing "relevant information"...
And definitely not being "liked" by the masses...
Objective Numero Uno with your show is to bring your listeners out of their world and into your world.
I was recently privy to a conversation that had to do with a soon-to-be-released episode for one of my podcast editing clients. The issue was that the host and guest went into somewhat "uncharted" territory with the subject material, at least as far as the host was concerned. Folks on our end were concerned (and rightly so) that this topic would be considered objectionable by some members of the audience and would turn them off.
The thing about it is that the guest for this particular episode talks about this subject material all the time. So much so that it's part of his personal brand. It's a big part of what he's known for to those in his world.
I gave my two cents (post-inflation) that we should take this into consideration in deciding whether or not to include this particular portion of the interview (it lasted no more than 2 minutes) in the final cut.
In the end, it was decided that we should keep it exactly for that reason. The guest is kind of quirky, he's known for delving into kind of uncomfortable topics, and it's perfectly appropriate that it's included in the show.
It's nice to be listened to every once in awhile!
Because of its meticulous attention to detail, world-class production and stellar acting, Breaking Bad is considered one of the top TV shows of all time. But that's not why it has a cult-following that raves about it to this day. It's because Vince Gilligan, the show runner of BB and BCS, created an entire world - a "universe" as they call it - that provides whosoever will a diversion from reality.
And it is that which should be the aim for your show.
To the level of a major Hollywood production with an 8-figure budget and a huge staff? Probably not.
But it's the principle we're talking about, not the execution of it.
What's really interesting is that to even call your show a "podcast" is stepping into a world all its own created by none other than Steve Jobs, one of the greatest world-builders of all time. The word "podcast" got its name because the first iterations of them were streamed via iPods. Jobs, being the brilliant entrepreneurial mind he was, gave these shows the moniker "podcast" and history was born.
Here in 2020, the word "podcast" is as common as chicken and rice. Apple is still the big fish in the "podcasting" world...for the time being. But Spotify is hot on their tail. Maybe shows will be called "spotcasts" or something in the near future.
All that to say is we can learn a thing or two from the titans of the entertainment industry.
People are always concerned with "providing value" in their podcast. I don't even know what that means to be honest with you. I'm of the attitude that IF your show is engaging, IF it meets the 6 criteria which make up the KLT factor (know, like, trust) (add link to corresponding podcast w/ Sana), and IF you focus on building your own little world on the web, physical community, TV channel, what have you, the value will naturally manifest itself.
Quit trying to provide "relevant" content. Quit trying to be the best at what everyone else is doing. If there's one thing I've learned in the business of podcasting, it's that you should see what everyone else is doing...and then do something completely different.
When you build your own world, people will tune in so they can escape their own world. You're the leader of this little world, even if it's for 30 minutes per week while they listen to your show. Then when enough people listen, and become a part of the world you've created, you're able to build the secret sauce of any personality-based business (which a podcast most definitely is)...
Think about what makes a successful musician or band. They're usually really good musicians, although there are some really terrible musicians who are very successful.
Let's name just a few:
- The Grateful Dead
- The Rolling Stones
- The Beatles
I'm dating myself a bit with that list, but what do all of these have in common? They range from outstanding musicianship (Queen) to adequate-on-a-good-day (Grateful Dead), yet they all have rabid, loyal to death fan bases.
It's because they've curated and cultivated a sense of community among their fans. People didn't go to a Grateful Dead concert, and caravan from city to city on their tour because of their stellar, virtuosic musicianship. Hardly.
It was because they related to each other, they identified with each other. The band would allow live photography and video of their concerts, which was unheard of in the pre-smartphone era. This breaking of bread among their fans (though not literally eating together) is what enabled the band to make a pretty good living doing what they did.
And I dare say that if your aim is to create that sense of community among your listeners, you'll be all the better for it.
If you didn't get all that, get this
Your podcast isn't just a series of interviews that are designed to "provide value" to clients or would-be clients.
Your show is one small part of your world, a world in which both listeners and guests are privileged to be a part.
It perhaps sounds a bit braggadocious on the surface, but if you put some real thought into it, study those who have successfully built a personality-based brand, it's the only way to go at the end of the day.
Quit trying to fit in, or be the best at what everyone else is doing. Bring out your true personality in your show. Your audience - and your bank account - will thank you for it.
How many episodes per week should I release?
What's the ideal length of an episode?
How long should the intro music be? The outro music?
What social media channels should I be active on?
Is my hair okay?
These are all questions I've heard over and over coaching and consulting folks with either existing or "in the works" podcasts. They're all good questions, and truth be told there's no right answer to any of them (except for your hair, only you know the answer to that.)
A podcast is like having a big pile of Legos. Just like you can build anything you want with Legos, the options on how to operate your show are endless.
So it can be more than a little frustrating and perplexing when you're deciding on things like length of your show, how often you should release an episode, where and how you should promote it, etc. etc. etc.
This isn't network television, where those decisions are made for you. A 30 minute episode needs to be exactly 22:17 so that all the ads can fit in for example. A 60 minute episode needs to
be exactly 43:22, and so on.
In a way, it's kind of nice for show producers to have those parameters. Even though they need to make difficult decisions from time to time on scenes to cut for the final version, they're not worried about overstaying their welcome. The audience expects a 60 minute program w/ plenty of commercials and that's exactly what they get; no one is upset.
So what do you do when there are no industry-wide parameters? I mean, a podcast can literally go for 24 hours provided you have enough bandwidth with the podcast host.
From the outset, you're doing a lot of guessing.
30 minutes seems to be a length that a lot of people feel comfortable starting with, and for good reason. 30 minutes is a typical drive from home to the grocery store, or to the office. You (and a guest) can provide a ton of valuable info in a 30 minute time slot -- or you can bore them to tears in the first 2 minutes.
Once a week is the frequency with which most busy professionals who have a podcast to build their brand feels comfortable. (Very Few, if any, podcast hosts do their podcast exclusively; the podcast exists to build their business in a bigger sense even if they monetize the show directly via sponsors.)
Having a quick introduction with some upbeat music and the show gets under way in 20 seconds or so seems to be what a lot of shows have settled on, and have created a sort of "industry standard."
That's all well and good, and those parameters definitely give some insight on where to start.
But any entrepreneur knows that where you start and where you end up is hardly the same thing (I'm thinking of that meme with the squiggly line showing the typical route from Point A to B for an entrepreneur 😉
The more you know your audience, the more clarity you'll gain on how to format your show, what sponsors to bring on, if you should bring sponsors on at all, and the list goes on and on with the decisions that need to be made.
One tactic I've heard is to build an "avatar" for your show. A sort of "perfect listener" that you speak to, and use as a reference to make decisions related to your show. Some people go into great detail with their avatar; their job, their family status, how long their commute is, what kind of job they have, some sort of medical condition, etc.
It's a very effective technique. Even though this avatar is more or less made up in a host's mind, the more real the person is, the more relatable they'll come across when real people tune in. But as effective as it is, it's just not as good as the real thing.
Where the magic really happens is when you get real feedback from real people who listen to your show. The info and insights they share are pure gold. They'll tell you if your show is too long, or too short, or if you're too boring, or too exciting (which does happen believe it or not), whether your intro is too long, or too short, and on and on.
This can be kind of a slippery slope. I mean, it's your show, and you call the shots at the end of the day. It's not like you can take every piece of feedback and then change course on what you're doing. You'd go totally cray-cray!
But let's say you speak to a listener of your show on the phone (at the end of a free 15-minute consult you've deviously offered so that you can pick their brain about your show) says she likes it, but wishes you could dive a little bit deeper on certain topics. Then 2 weeks later, another listener says something very similar, that it's a good show, but you could definitely do more digging with the topics.
"From the mouths of two or three witnesses, let every word be established." 1 Tim. 5:19
It could be the opposite. Maybe the feedback you get is that it's too long, that they find themselves pressing stop after 15 minutes or so. That's valuable info as well. If that's the case, you need better topics, or you need to become a better interviewer...or just maybe 15 minutes is the optimal time for your show.
Whatever the case may be, feedback like that is pure gold.
At the same time, "know thy audience" means you say what your listeners need to hear -- even if they directly say they don't want to hear it.
A passion project I do on the side is a podcast titled MUSICPRENEUR: Making Money Making MusicTM. You can probably guess what the topic of the show is based on the title and tagline.
The thing about musicians is that they're rather, shall we say, musical. Business, entrepreneurship, marketing, branding, things of that nature are exciting for many people, and coma-inducing for others. Musicians fall into the "others" category. I could talk to my laptop keyboard for 10 minutes and it would be far more productive than talking about business with a typical musician. (No, I didn't just talk to my keyboard for 10 minutes in case you're wondering.) And to make things worse, the few podcasts on "music business" are so dreadfully boring it's no wonder musicians want nothing to do with business. I'd rather jam on my horn with some pals at a nightclub than listen to a scripted, monotone voice that's about as exciting as chewing on sawdust.
The challenge in this situation is to take a topic that my target audience for the most part finds objectionable and present it in a way that is palatable, even enjoyable.
A musician may not want to hear or talk about business, branding, marketing, etc. but they need to hear it so they can make a buck with their tunes.
How does one go about doing this? In a word: Entertainment
I'll dive deeper in the need to be entertaining in a different chapter, but the sage advice of Mary Poppins that "A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down" is quite apropos here.
Let's say I'm procuring feedback for my show on how musicians can make money with their music, and I hear over and over, "I don't want to hear about business; business is boring," or things of that nature. Does it mean I do as they say and not talk about business? On a podcast that talks about music as a business?
Probably not a good idea if I want to stick around past the proverbial 7 episodes (which is the point at which over 90% of podcasts quit after starting.)
I'm going to ask myself, "What do they mean when they say 'business'?" Maybe they're referring to those books and podcasts on the "music business" that are like chewing on sawdust and I need to present the information they need to hear in a more entertaining and palatable way.
Whatever the case may be, knowing my audience helps me filter the feedback I do receive and inform the important decisions that need to be made regarding the format, content, etc. of the show.
Take feedback with a grain of salt
There are two types of feedback people give. I call it "situational" and "reality based."
Situational feedback is that which people think they're expected to say in a situation where saying otherwise would make them look foolish. Reality-based feedback is what people really feel and informs their decisions for their lives.
It's interesting how so many people complain about politicians lying all the time, engaging in shady deals -- but every single election, they're at the polling booth, voting for more politicians to do more of the same. It seems that everyelection is "the most important election of our lifetimes" or words to that effect. The train went off the rails while the other guy was calling the shots, but now it's time to make things right.
It's kind of crazy if you can somehow detach yourself emotionally from the political scene -- but it's just people being people, right?
It is for this reason we need to be very careful with the feedback we receive about our show.
People claim they listen to such and such podcast because of the "value" that's shared by the guest. They'll drop a couple of grand on a course of some kind, all the while telling themselves, "Yeah, I need to get off my keister and do this thing the presenter says made him millions in 6 weeks."
But that's not the truth. People listen to a particular podcast because the host and the people he or she brings on are entertaining, engaging, interesting, provocative, oftentimes controversial. Maury Povich made millions off of his show featuring the most dysfunctional elements of the human species in front of a live crowd. The vast majority of people who watch Maury (or fill in the blank with the current version of his show) would roll their eyes at the Thanksgiving dinner with the family at the mere mention of his name -- but later that evening, they'll be glued to the boob-tube, screaming at the people who are making fools of themselves in front of the camera. They know it's no "proper" to show approval to smut like that -- but they engorge themselves when no one is watching.
I'm not saying that's good nor bad. It's just the way it is, and it's why we need to take feedback with a grain of salt.
The more you can educate yourself on human nature, the natural desires of people,
and especially how the entertainment industry exploits that for huge profits, the better. It could be that you can use that knowledge to share a really meaningful message and positively impact people who tune in to your show.
Know your place
If you're a podcaster, or you're considering being a podcaster, there's an uncomfortable truth you need to embrace, and the sooner you accept this truth, the better you and your audience will be. That truth is this: You're not an educator, a "giver of value", a guru, or anything else like that.
You're an entertainer
This is a bit uncomfortable for many folks who get into podcasting, for a variety of reasons. Some of those reasons are legit, some not so much.
Here is a legit reason people hesitate to think of themselves as "entertainers." They don't fully understand what it means to "entertain." Perhaps you conjure images of circus monkeys, puerile jokes, always on the lookout for the next cheap laugh so your poor listeners with their 3-second attention spans will keep listening for just one more minute so that they'll hear the mid-roll sponsor ad.
The truth couldn't be more strikingly different.
And thank goodness, because if that was what it's like to operate a podcast, I wouldn't have stuck with it for so long. I have too much respect for myself, not to mention the poor unfortunate souls who have the misfortune of pressing "play" on such tripe, to operate my show or shows in that manner.
To be sure, there are podcasts (not to mention multi-million dollar budget movies and TV shows) that operate on that principle. And we're not better off for it.
A truly entertaining show is not one that is grasping at straws to keep people's attention. Quite the opposite. When a show is legitimately entertaining, the listener's attention is constantly engaged, so much so that an hour passes and it feels like no time has passed.
How does the podcast host go about this? Do they use humor? Sure, if that's a skill in their wheelhouse; but they don't rely on it to keep listeners engaged. Even
the proverbial circus monkey with his top hat and tiny cymbals could conceivably be employed to entertain the listeners...
If it fits in with THE NARRATIVE the host has established before even hitting the record button on Episode #1.
The principle of entertainment of which I speak is but one of several that I discuss in this small book. And it must be employed in tandem with all of them in order to do it right.
In the days I listened to the radio, I remember all those talk shows I'd listen to on the morning drive to work (during those days I actually drove to work). They're chirpy, bubbly, laughing, telling stupid jokes - and it's 6:23 am. They're not acting that way because they want to. It's not like they carry on like silly fools when the "ON AIR' sign isn't lit. They do it because it fits the narrative of the show. They're waking people up, getting them ready to face the day, psych themselves up for another day at a job they probably don't like very much, etc.
Watch the evening news, and the tone is much more somber. Murder, corruption, rape...doesn't exactly call for third-grade humor. The producers will have a light- hearted story, the weather, sports, etc. to give the experience a bit of levity. If it was all murder, corruption and rape, it would be unwatchable.
It's all part of a carefully crafted narrative. Perhaps you find it upsetting that producers of the newsroom have such power over society at large. I certainly do.
It's for that very reason that I personally wanted to get into podcasting: because I can. And when I became comfortable in my own skin using the medium, I realized I can use these same principles that major media organs use, and have used since the beginning of time, to build an audience and influence them in a positive way.
It sounds high-minded, and perhaps it is, but it's the truth.
(And if it's not high-minded to begin with, why even bother doing it?)
I personally know of several podcasts that are hosted by an individual, but they hire a "co-host" specifically to provide that entertainment element. The co-host has one job: to provide the impression that they're having a friendly chat over coffee with the host/owner while the main content of the episode is delivered to the listener. They crack a few jokes, they play off each other. If they do it right and hire the right person, it's a very effective means of producing a show. Rather than the host giving a lecture on whatever topic he/she wants to discuss, it comes off as a friendly chat between two friends, to which the listener is the proverbial "fly on the wall".
Is it dishonest to produce a show in this manner? I don't think so. The host/owner of the show is doing himself as well as those who tune in a favor by doing it this way. The topic the host wants to cover in that particular episode is discussed, and in a way that's palatable to the listener.
Because a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down (h/t to Mary Poppins)
In my opinion, any expense incurred in hiring that co-host is money well-spent. Because to go through all that time and effort of producing a podcast, only for it to be boring and nothing anyone wants to listen to, is a bit demoralizing to put it lightly.
Everyone's got to have their Barney Fife
The Andy Griffith Show is one of my all-time favorite TV shows. I remember watching re-runs of it on whatever channel carried it when I was a wee lad and being completely enamored by it. Andy Griffith has the distinction of being the
highest rated show in America when it went off the air; I'm not sure any other TV show in history can make that claim. Maybe Seinfeld?
At any rate, even though it's a TV show produced in the late 50's and 60's, there's much we podcasters in the 21st Century can learn from it.
The appeal of Andy Griffith is it's just good wholesome entertainment. Andy's the good-natured sheriff of the small town, a true peacemaker who doesn't even carry a gun while on duty. Opie is the son who's trying to make sense of the world around him while being raised without a mother. Aunt Bee is the mother figure who brings stability and a woman's touch to the home.
And then there's Barney. Brilliantly played by the late, great Don Knotts, he's the real reason I wanted to watch the show. I'm sure many others over the decades can say the same. Barney gave the perfect amount of comedy to make the show truly great, and it just wasn't the same when he left, even after it went to color.
I dare say it's the entertainment value that Barney brought to the show that made its overarching message palatable to viewers. Can you imagine how awful it would have been if every episode was scripted to simply "give value" i.e. present a carefully crafted lecture on morality, or why you shouldn't be bullied, or fill in the blank on the moral issue each episode tackled? It wouldn't have lasted more than 3 weeks if that was the case.
The writers and producers were able to weave a moral lesson into the show, be it an individual episode or the show as a whole, because they put the entertainment aspect in its proper place: front and center.
There was nothing disingenuous about The Andy Griffith Show. Don Knotts was cast to play Barney Fife because his own personality and acting chops fit in perfectly with the character envisioned by the show runners. Same with Andy Griffith, Ron Howard, Frances Bavier, Jim Nabors, whoever played Floyd the Barber, and so on. The result is that the "value" of the show was naturally there, because the right people were doing the right thing, the right way.
The subjective "value" of adding value
It cracks me up when I see and hear podcast hosts carry on about the "value" they're adding to their listeners. They're doing their show, and then at the end
they'll say something like, "So for a bonus value add, here's 4 tips on..." They may as well say, "I really have nothing to add to your life, but I'm posturing myself with some clever wording to give the illusion that you're not wasting your time listening to me run my mouth."
When you've truly done the work of self-examination, when you're living a truly worthwhile life and are bringing your genuine self, warts and all, to the table, you don't need to worry about whether or not you'll "add value" to your show. Why would you worry about adding something that's naturally there? It's like putting salt and pepper on a gourmet dish prepared by a 5-star chef. It just doesn't make sense.
Considering yourself an entertainer as podcast host doesn't at all cheapen your efforts. If anything, it will bring a great deal of clarity to how you go about producing your show, what instructions you give your editor, even what social media channels to share it on (if that's your thing.) When I'm preparing "hero quotes" for a client (an industry term for those little clips you hear at the beginning of an episode designed to hook the listener), I'm not looking for the big impact moment that the host or guest shares. I'm looking for something that will put a bit of a smile on the listener's face, something that will "tease" that impactful moment.
That is entertainment. It's not circus monkeys and lollipops. It's providing content that's captivating, that leaves the listener wishing they could listen all day. Humor is but a small part of it. It's helpful, if it's part of your skill set. But it's definitely not required. In fact, using humor gratuitously, or to mask your insecurity or lack of confidence can and will lessen the impact of your show.
You've just got to be yourself. The entertainment aspect will naturally come out. When Sana and I hit "record" for one of our podcasts, we're not trying to be entertaining per se. She and I just have a good rapport together. We poke fun at each other, neither of us take ourselves too seriously. What you hear on our show is pretty much what goes on while we're at home together. It's absolutely hilarious, and it's awesome that we can share our joy with others through our show.
We don't tell our audience, "Okay folks, we're going to entertain you now..." That would insult their intelligence. We're just ourselves and the magic (and the
entertainment element) naturally happens. The result is that we both have a good time, and the folks who tune in have a good time as well.
That being said, there's nothing wrong with exaggerating certain elements of your personality. I once heard the actor Vince Vaughn sharing in a podcast interview that he enjoys taking on different movie roles because each one brings out a different part of his personality. Over time, you may sense varying patterns in the flow of your show. You may think, "I wonder if I were to try this..." You should try it and see how it feels for you. If it feels contrived and phony, probably not a good idea to keep doing it. But if it feels like it's naturally you, albeit in a slightly exaggerated form (purely for the entertainment value of course) then you might want to keep doing it.
Who knows? You may end up a better version of you as a result.
Let's say a husband and wife team up to do a show. A tactic they might want to explore is to exaggerate the oftentimes funny differences between how men and women think. In so doing, opportunities to help couples work through the not so funny challenges of a marriage may manifest in ways that are not possible by simply "being nice" or trying to conform to those ever-elusive "industry standards."
The freedom to say what we know in our hearts needs to be said and not worry about a bunch of strangling regulations on time and content is a huge part of why we got into podcasting in the first place, right?
I find it interesting how people self-impose limits on themselves for no other reason than conforming w/ the status quo. Like wearing a face mask on the beach during the COVID-19 issue - which (at the time of this writing) I see every day while living on the Virginia Beach oceanfront. There's no rule that they need to wear a mask, and if there was a number lower than zero, that would be the probability that COVID-19 can be transmitted by not wearing a mask on the freaking beach. But they do it, and it never seems to occur to them to ask, "Why in the world are we doing this?"
Podcasters have this mindset all the time - and they lose out on the opportunity for real entertainment by doing so. They think they need to play it safe. "No one else is doing it, why should I do or say this?" If and when you find yourself asking that, it could very well be your cue to go ahead and say it.
If you didn't get all that, get this
If the word "entertainment" still hits a nerve with your delicate sensibilities, then think of it this way.
Don't be boring.
If you can remember just that one piece of advice, I can guarantee the entertainment value will be in your show.
You know what's boring? Doing what everyone else does. Saying the same things, using the same music, the same catchphrases, etc. and trying to do it with just a little bit more energy than the next person.
Entertainment comes when the podcast host takes risks, says things that are near and dear to his heart but others find slightly offensive (and I'm not referring to using ultra-boring profanity).
It's the unexpected, unpredictable elements of a show that keep the listener engaged and, dare I say it, entertained.
Remember that entertainment = engagement. It's not cheap tricks and tactics to keep your listener with their 15 second attention span from going on to the next shiny object. (By the way, if you think people have short attention spans, ask yourself how long you've been reading this chapter. The question answers itself.)
So put that circus monkey back in its cage; put the free candy back in the cupboard. Get behind that mic and say with boldness the thing you know needs to be said. Use tools and tactics like humor to make your message palatable, but never think you need it to be an effective communicator. What you do need is honesty, sharing uncomfortable truths, sometimes vulnerability.
In short, be yourself. The entertainment will naturally come.
Let me ask you a question.
Let's say you have a message to share, and your life depends on 10 people hearing it. Seriously. You've received an ultimatum from a mafia boss that without proof that 10 people have listened to, digested, and applied your message to their lives, you're finished.
Which of the following would be the ideal scenario to ensure you don't "sleep with the fishes?"
- You speak to an arena packed tot he gills with 50,000+ people. You're one of many speakers throughout the day, and while you speak, the attendees wander in and out of their seats; they're scrolling on their iPhones on Facebook, texting with their husbands about picking up the kids after soccer practice, "tweeting" about whatever Donald Trump has just said (or not said)...
- You're the featured speaker at an event with 100 attendees. The topic is gun control reform, on which you're considered an expert authority. There has recently been a shooting at the local high school, and the community is experiencing the effects of it.
Scenario #1 is desirable for many reasons. It's a nice little boost to your ego. You get to experience the incredible adrenaline rush of speaking to a huge crowd. But when you're finished, you get some polite applause (you're one of many speakers that day and no one has heard of you) and are hurried off the stage by the event organizers because they have a schedule to keep.
But in Scenario #2, your audience is fixated on every word you say. There is a legitimate problem, and you provide the answer to that problem. The event takes place in a small hotel ballroom, which is full but not uncomfortable. After you're finished speaking, there's a Q&A session and there's more questions than time to answer them.
It's a tough call, but if my life depended on providing proof that 10 people heard my message and applied it to their life, I'd have to go with Scenario #2.
That's what it means to niche down.
What if there was only one podcast?
Beginning a podcast can be a daunting experience. There are hundreds of thousands of podcasts currently on Apple. You scroll through the various categories you think your potential show might fall into, and you think, "Great gobs of greasy goose gravy, how will I ever get noticed among all these shows?"
It's a legit concern, one that should make you think twice before committing the substantial time, effort, bandwidth and resources a podcast requires (when it's done properly.)
But let's think of this a little differently.
There are currently over 7 billion people that live on Planet Earth. Why would you consider having a child of your own? Do we really need another person on this earth?
There are plenty of people who think that way and choose to not have children - and miss out on the incredible blessings that come with doing so.
But no parent views their child as "just another pebble on the shore." Parents think of their children as the apple of their eye, an extension of themselves (good and bad), even a chance to perhaps right some wrongs they committed or endured when they were children.
You could view your podcast the same way. Sure, there are hundreds of thousands of podcasts currently. In fact, Apple recently announced they crossed the one million podcasts threshold on their platform alone. It's easy to feel a little bit overwhelmed.
But when you have your own show, it changes the game. When I play with my 6 year old boy at the beach, I'm not worried about all the other kids there. I'm worried about him. The Virginia Beach oceanfront (where I live at the time of this writing) is probably 3 miles long; on a hot summer day there's hundreds of thousands of people there. But as far as I'm concerned, my son and me are the only things worth worrying about.
It's not selfish, it's just the way parents are wired.
You can think of your podcast the same way. While it's a complete and tragic waste of time, I'm sure you'll find yourself scrolling through Apple, seeing if yours "ranks" among the big dogs. And when you do see your little thumbnail logo among the masses, your eyes light up. There's your little show, and it's growing up to be such a big boy!
The categories you choose from when you start your show on an Apple or Spotify don't come close to narrowing down your niche. For example, I've just begun a new show called The Committed w/ James Newcomb. Right now it's a personal journal, essentially writing a blog post, then recording it and publishing it on my podcast host. Eventually there will be guests, but it suits me for now.
When it comes time to submit to Apple and Spotify, I'll have just a few options for my category. Probably something like "business interviews" or "personal journal" will be all that I'll have to choose from.
Does that qualify as a "niche"? Hardly.
Here's a niche by comparison: Christian entrepreneurs who are writers and host podcasts or blogs.
How many podcasts do you think focus on that one niche? Not as many as there are shows on Apple, that's for sure.
Everyone else starting a show is worried about how to appeal to the masses. They're focused on that which is impossible to focus.
This niche allows you that indispensable quality of making sales: Expert Authority.
You're not on par with a Tony Robbins, but Tony's ability to influence is limited too. That's why he hires coaches to do the real dirty work in people's hearts and minds at his events.
If you're just getting started in podcasting, this is the way to go. The experience you gain, not to mention the confidence that comes with being regarded as an expert authority is invaluable. If you try to have a "self-help" show by comparison, and you just post on Facebook, Instagram, that (you think) appeals to everyone, I promise you're going to get burned out. No one is going to listen.
Wait, I take that back.
The few that do listen are the ones who dig you personally.
Why not take that same energy and laser focus it on one tiny niche, build up your authority and credibility in that niche? And then when the time is right and the opportunity presents itself, you jump into the bigger pond -- if you even want to. You just might find that your soul and your bank account are satisfied with following this principle.
Before I say anything else on this principle, let me say this.
Content always trumps sound quality. If your content is engaging, inspiring, life- changing, fill in your favorite superlative, etc. your listeners will forgive inferior sound quality 100% of the time. So if you're wondering if you should publish something that is of tremendous value and you know will make an impact on people's lives but are concerned that the audio quality will turn them off...
Publish, Publish, Publish
Okay, now that I've got that off my chest...
This is a true story. One of my podcast editing clients once interviewed the CEO of one of the major social media platforms. I'm not big into social media myself so I wasn't too familiar with this person that was being interviewed.
It was an interesting conversation, and as a listener I enjoyed it. But as a Podcast Artist, what struck me as rather odd was that this billionaire did the interview with his laptop and the built-in microphone. As a result, his audio quality was "less than stellar" as they say.
Now, I wasn't present when the interview took place, so I don't know the exact recording setup. But I've edited enough audio interviews to know when a decent mic is being used, and when the built-in mic is used.
So when my client emailed me a day or so after the interview was published saying that he had received some comments on the sound quality, I simply told him he had used his laptop mic and there was only so much I as an editor could do about it.
In effect I was saying, "You can't polish a turd."
If that crass terminology offends your delicate sensibilities, allow me to rephrase... It's like food: if it's bad going in, it's going to be bad coming out.
No technology exists that can substantially improve bad audio.
The thing about this particular client of mine is that he often publishes interviews that don't meet the highest audio standards because he's often doing them while traveling, in the trenches so to speak, interviewing world-class experts in his industry. It's part of his personal brand so to speak, so his audience has come to more or less expect (and forgive) less than stellar audio because the content is extremely interesting.
So, what could my client have done to make the listening experience more pleasant for his audience?
First of all, the guest needs to be educated on the importance of sound quality. I know of several podcast hosts who insist that their guests purchase a headset with a mic that plugs into a USB port on the computer for their interview - and will cancel the interview if they fail to do so.
It sounds kind of harsh, but these hosts simply care about the listening experience for their audience. If they're providing a platform to share your message, product, service, etc. to an audience of tens of thousands of potential customers, it's the least you can do to accommodate such a request, right?
Well, in this world in which we live where expedience and convenience is valued more than artistic integrity, it's kind of a tough sell.
Why sound quality matters
Let's say you meet someone who is dressed in jeans, a t-shirt, belt halfway undone, they haven't shaved in several days, and some sort of funny smell is coming from them.
Then you meet someone who's freshly shaved, got a suit and tie, polished shoes, nice cologne.
Based on first impressions alone, who would you rather do business with?
Of course you'd rather do business with the person who has invested time and money into their physical appearance so as to give off a good impression to those with whom he interacts.
Now, it could be that the first person has solid character, is trustworthy and dependable; while the second is a shyster who wants to use you for your money and then move on to the next sucker. That's not the point of this chapter.
The point is that impressions matter, be it the first, second, thousandth...
To compare that analogy to a podcast: Let's say one podcast has tremendous, life- changing content, but the audio levels are off, it's clear no edits have been made, there are long, awkward pauses while the host or guest take a drink of water, or cough. Then another podcast has clearly invested time into their production. The audio sounds good, the conversation flows smoothly thanks to the professional editor they've hired, both the guest and the host are using good-quality microphones.
For my money, based on first impressions alone, I'm going to go with the second option. I may be more interested in the content the first guy is producing, but I might just opt for the second. Reason being I don't want to listen to the audio equivalent of the homeless bum asking for spare change at the corner of First and Main.
Or I might not listen to anything at all.
Point is the person who hit "publish" on the show with poor audio quality lost a potential listener, customer, client, etc. all because he/she didn't take just a few steps to make their audio sound acceptable.
So what is acceptable?
Let me share with you the exact recording setup I've used since day 1 of my podcasting career. It's a microphone that plugs directly into my computer called an ATR-2100 (link). I also use a "pop filter" that helps mask some of the tones that "pop" like S's, sometimes T's, and on occasion K's. (Z's and vowels are usually safe - but definitely watch the P's and Q's.)
And that's it. The mic usually goes for around $80 on Amazon. I've received countless remarks over the years on how my audio quality is really good, and it's on this inexpensive (not cheap) mic.
I know of several podcast hosts who refuse to interview someone for their show unless they they themselves have purchased a decent microphone. They do this because they know that first impressions matter. Of course you have to have character, substance in your personality, real value to offer the marketplace; but they'll never know about it if they don't step their foot in the door.
You may be asking yourself: Do I have the type of leverage to require a guest to have a certain piece of equipment to be on my show? They're after all taking time out of their busy schedule to help me build my audience. It may be in poor taste to have this expectation.
Those are all legit concerns, and it requires a lot of thought and consideration. For me personally, it's a bit of a balancing act. Tim Ferris for example will ship a microphone to his guests for their interview if it's remote. So he requires it of them, but he takes ownership of the technical end so the guest doesn't need to worry about it. Others with large audiences have the attitude that they are providing a huge pool of prospective clients, and if you don't care enough to purchase a $30 headset on Amazon to provide decent sound quality for the show, maybe you're not that serious about whatever business you're in.
Neither of these thoughts are wrong. They all have merit in their own right. At the same time, the built-in microphones on iPhones and ear buds are of much higher quality here in 2020 than they were even 5 years ago, so there's that.
The important thing is that you don't overly stress over details like this, to the point that it prevents you from hitting the "publish" button. If you're interviewing a shaman in the Amazonian wilderness, your audience will be thrilled to hear it, even if it's on a tape recorder converted to mp3 and the audio is barely audible. But if you have the means to produce a high quality show, the means to provide the proper equipment to your guests, and you choose not to, it's a different story.
95% of the quality for 1% of the cost
Let's put things in perspective. If you're reading this, you probably agree with me that your show is worthy of some sort of a financial investment, be it in hiring an editor, paying for a high-end website for your show, or what have you.
Consider Joe Rogan, who at the moment has the most listened to podcast on the planet. I don't know the budget, but I'd wager it's several thousand dollars minimum. It may even go as high as 5 figures to produce even one episode.
Now let's say you have your ATR-2100, you record an interview with the Ecamm call recorder (link) that you purchased for $45, and you pay an audio professional ~$100 to remove the extraneous filler words, get the levels right, and hand it back to you to publish.
That technology and level of expertise probably costs $100 per episode - and if you know what you're doing, have properly educated your guest, etc. - you sound 95% as good as Joe Rogan. His mics probably cost $2000 apiece. Yours cost less than $100, but the difference in sound quality is indiscernible to the human ear.
I obviously don't know the exact cost of producing a Joe Rogan episode, but I feel confident in saying that for literally pennies to each dollar that show spends producing an episode, the independent, boot-strapping, penny-pinching, hoping for a brighter tomorrow solopreneur can sound pretty dang good. Perhaps not as good as Rogan, but it's waaay higher than 2-3%, the ratio of spending per episode.
So for brevity's sake, let's say you sound 90% as good for 5% of the cost. Either way you look at it, it's a win for the little guy in my opinion.
If you didn't get all that, get this
Sound quality matters. A lot. You oftentimes get one opportunity to persuade a potential client, listener, customer, etc. to "buy in" to you. If your sound is shoddy, poorly put together, using the built-in microphones on your computer or iPhone, it speaks volumes about the person hitting the "publish" button. You may not get an opportunity to win their trust again.
For a minimal investment of time and money, you can produce a literally world- class sounding podcast for literally pennies to every dollar the "big guys" spend.
Yes, they get what they pay for and they sound really good - but truth be told, they don't sound that much better than me and my trusty ATR-2100.
But above all else, remember that content is king. If the substance of your content is superior, it provides information or perhaps inspiration that has been proven to improve people's lives, your listeners will always forgive inferior sound quality.
So go forth. Record. Hit publish. And for the love of all that is pure in this world, buy a decent microphone.
Your poor, meek, long-suffering audio editor will thank you for it.
Question for you: What do The Grateful Dead, Whole Foods, the local community church, and Howard Stern all have in common?
Answer: All have "perishable" products (good Christians, be patient with me).
The Dead do a concert, and that's it. Aside from a recording, it can't be duplicated. Kroger sells food, and once it's purchased, it can't be purchased again. The pastor delivers his sermon on Sunday morning, and again it's time to prepare for the next one. Howard Stern is in radio, probably the most perishable item on this list.
So how do they maintain lasting success in spite of their primary "product" having such a short shelf life?
They all rely on the power of community to varying degrees.
The Grateful Dead are one of the best examples of a band who had a loyal - to the point of being cultish - following. All bands and musicians would be wise to learn from their ways. While other bands in the 90's were forbidding audiences from recording concerts to preserve their precious intellectual property, The Dead actively encouraged them to do so.
I personally don't care for The Grateful Dead's music, nor the lifestyle they promoted, but there is a lot to learn from their mindset. They realized the power of Community for their success. "Deadheads" would caravan from town to town while the band toured the U.S. I'll bet there are old videos of concerts that are prized possessions of fans of the band to this day. They'll be passed down to their children as prized heirlooms - or not.
Point is while other bands were freaking out over the new technology, viewing it as a threat to their livelihood, The Dead embraced it and earned loyalty that can't be bought with the fanciest ad campaign in the world.
Kroger, Food Lion, Piggly Wiggly, etc. all attempt to build loyalty and community with their silly discount cards. The jury is still out on their efficacy. I personally think it's annoying, to the point of being inconsiderate to customers to require they have a card to get a discount. If they're willing to sell a bottle of barbecue
sauce for $2.39 if you have a card, then you should make that the price for everyone, card or no card. But I digress.
These grocery stores are attempting to build some semblance of community with these loyalty programs. In my mind, it's a futile effort the way they do things. They're essentially selling the same crap everyone else is selling, only for a few cents less than the next guy.
Whole Foods, on the other hand, got it right. That's a brand you want to be part of your identity. If you shop at Whole Foods, you're telling the world, "I'm conscientious, I'm concerned about the environment, I'm concerned about the treatment of animals, etc."
Or... "I've got money to burn, so I shop at Whole Foods."
Call me vain, but I'm quick to toss my Trader Joe's plastic shopping bags into the trash. The Whole Foods paper bag? Not so much. I like it when people see my Whole Foods bags. I like the message it sends to others - especially my enemies who think ill of me.
All that to say is that Whole Foods shoppers aren't just random folks who need to eat. They buy their food (at least some of it) there because they identify with the mission and message of the brand at large.
Poor people shop at Wal Mart; wealthy people shop at Whole Foods. Just ask the folks who shop at Whole Foods.
The year 2013 called. It said the "Leave us a rating and review on iTunes to help the show get noticed" call to action had questionable results then, and it definitely doesn't work now.
If I were to put the Podcast Artistry URL on a scratch piece of paper, put it in the beak of a wayward courier pigeon and send it on its way, it would have a better chance of making our show more noticeable to strangers in a faraway land than a rating and review on iTunes.
This isn't to say that ratings and reviews on Apple Podcasts (it's no longer iTunes) are of no use. Just the other day, I took screenshots of a show my wife Sana and I did together for a time so as to prove the validity of our marriage for purposes of strengthening our case for the U.S. State Department to grant her a visa to live in the U.S.
So the 10 or so reviews we've received thus far proved to be somewhat useful in that regard.
But I don't rely on them to get our show noticed by people in Nebraska, or Paraguay, or Sierra Leone.
Way back in the day, when Apple Podcasts was known as iTunes, they had this system where new shows could be added to their "New and Noteworthy" section if they had new subscribers and reviews within a certain period of time. I believe it was 7 days. This gave brand new shows some incentive to ask for ratings and reviews, to ask listeners to hit the "subscribe" button, etc.
The problem with this system from the viewpoint of the podcaster is that it helped to strengthen Apple's brand considerably, while their fledgling show is still but one of thousands in the vast sea of podcasts on the platform.
Here in 2021, Apple is yielding market share to competitors like Spotify. So the strategy of asking for ratings and reviews, which was shaky at best at its peak, is not a good use of time and bandwidth in my humble but accurate opinion.
What's a better use? Build a community.
Even if it's 5 people, it's far better than 50 ratings and reviews from strangers that may never listen to your show again.
Start a Facebook group. Build an email list, and email regularly. Start a Meetup in your area.
Your show isn't just a show; it's a part of your overall brand. Your legacy, as you can see on the top of this webpage. The more continuity you have with your show and your personal brand, the stronger your overall brand will be.
Just the other day, I solicited feedback in a Facebook group I belong to for the cover of these articles in ebook format. One comment was that the word "legacy" isn't likely to be used by people searching on Amazon, so I should reconsider using it (not verbatim, but that's the gist of it.)
Advice like that is well-intentioned, but is the polar opposite of the principle I'm speaking of. I don't publish anything unless it has a specific purpose. And 99.8% of the time, that purpose is to serve the tiny community I and my team have built and continue to build with our show and media production business.
I could care less what words may or may not be used by some dude searching on Amazon from his Cheetos-stained Lazy Boy in Carson City, Venada that I'll likely never meet in two lifetimes on this earth.
I do care about the 5 people I know for a fact listen to the Podcast Artistry podcast, who nervously call me on the phone needing last-minute guidance on their audio setup before their podcast interview begins in an hour, who want feedback on their podcast episode title, their artwork, etc.
The number may not be exactly 5, but it's a community of a very small group of people - and I prefer it stay that way.
Why are people on Savefacebook all the time in the first place? I think it's because we crave community as much as we crave food. It's a natural desire to be around other people; even if you're an introvert like me and prefer to keep to yourself while among groups of people.
Why you need to quit caring about your download numbers
There's a misconception about how "success" with a podcast is defined. And I think I know why. People get the idea to do a podcast in the first place from someone who has a successful show in its own right, and immediately they think, "This is what success looks like." In order to be successful, I have to "rank in iTunes", have 4 million downloads per episode, have "sponsors", etc. etc. etc.
I sympathize with this viewpoint, because what else do they have to compare success to?
But people see these shows after they've gone through their own proverbial School of Hard Knocks. Their show most likely began with 5 downloads per episode, zero sponsors, and the deafening roar of crickets for months, maybe even years before it began to move the needle.
Guess what, Charlie? You're not exempt from the universal law of wading through the muck and mire of obscurity before breaking through and finally reaching your potential. And if you follow the principles of this book, you too have a chance of one day standing out from the other million or so slobs out there with a shitty podcast.
Want some ideas on more important things to worry about than how many downloads your latest episode has?
1. Your dog's heartworm
2. Your child's video game activity
3. The length of your right pinky toenail
4. Your recall of the Hebrew alphabet
Bottom line: Download numbers are what's a called a vanity metric. You may get a bit of an ego boost if you have an episode with high numbers - and let's not even mention the vanity of having some hotshot guest.
A better metric to measure your show's success? Engagement. Email list subscriptions.
I'd choose a small audience that's highly engaged and interested in each episode over 10,000 downloads by people who don't know me, who never interact with me, and I'll never meet every day of the week and twice on Sunday.
The thing is: you'll never ever have 10,000 downloads without focusing on building community with your show.
But I have only 30 downloads per episode, and Mr. Big Shot Podcaster has 30 million. What am I doing wrong?
I'd rather focus on what you're doing right than wrong. Or better yet, what are you actually doing?
Let's say you're starting a church. A year into it, you average 30 people coming to your church every Sunday. These 30 people all know each other by name, and each week you all break bread together with a potluck (sorry, pot sovereign) style lunch after the service.
Would you be ashamed of that? I doubt it. I would say that's a thriving community. In fact, if it were any bigger, you may begin to lose that sense of community, the belonging that makes people want to go to your church every Sunday in the first place.
Any megachurch pastor will tell you that the secret sauce of their success is smaller groups that meet individually outside of a centralized worship service. It's why you see men's breakfasts, women's lunches, youth groups, stuff like that. People like to be around people who are like them, whether it's going to church, hanging out with people at a workplace, or listening to a podcast.
Now let's say you have a podcast that averages somewhere around 100 downloads per episode. Along with your podcast you have a Facebook group where a small group of people are engaged with you and each other. Your show, your mission in life which motivates the show, is what brings these people together and makes them want to hang out with each other.
That's the picture of success with a podcast.
Those guys with tens of thousands of downloads per episode? At the core of their show is a focal point: a common mission, a common interest that bands them together. The host of the show is sort of like the leader of the tribe, but it most definitely is a tribe.
And besides, if you were to get a close look at their lifestyle, the pressure they feel to keep those numbers up so that they can appease their ravenous sponsors (who in turn need to justify the boku bucks they spend on advertising), the platoon of folks they employ to keep the trains running on time, you just might
choose the option that allows you to more or less be a leader of a small tribe of people while working alone in your own apartment on the oceanfront.
It just depends on what your goals are. Bottom line is numbers without engagement are a waste of time. But even that's a misnomer, because engagement fuels the numbers.
People want to feel included, like they're part of a tribe. We're wired that way. It's how politicians are able to get away with the outrageous things they do. They understand that tribal nature of humanity and exploit it to their advantage.
You can exploit it too, although not to gain control over others and plunder the fruits of their labor. You can use it for a good purpose, if you know how to do it the right way.
If you didn't get all that, get this
Even if you consider yourself to be an "outlier" of some sort, someone who goes against the grain of society and cultural norms, you crave to be around other "outliers" like yourself.
It's the way we're "wired" so to speak.
In order for your podcast to be truly successful, i.e. make an impact, embrace this truth and make community the focal point of your overall plan.
Have a clearly defined mission statement, and in a small enough niche (see Principle #5) that others can identify with. The more solid your convictions, and even the more outrageous your fanaticism, the more loyalty you'll find among your followers.
So while the nuts and bolts of publishing a podcast are basically the same on the surface, this is the approach we take at Podcast Artistry and use to advise you in the direction you should go with your show. Our goal is to enable you to produce a show that is unique to you (who cares about the other million podcasts out there) and that you're proud to share with others - even prospective clients with whom you wish to build a meaningful relationship.
I invite you to take a look at our offerings, and if you're ready to schedule a free 15-minute consultation, go ahead and do so using the form below.
I look forward to hearing from you!
"James and his team manages, soup to nuts, a ton of aspects of my podcast, all of the submission to all the different feeds, all the technical nitty-gritty when things go wrong. They make all the guests sound amazing and I regularly consult James for the most up to date info in the podcasting industry.
Check him out. Just don't call him all at once. I still need him to edit my show ;)"
"James and his team have been instrumental in helping me launch and maintain my podcast. Their input with regards to podcasting in general and facilitating the myriads of decisions that make my head spin enables a perfect and polished episode out of every raw interview recording. The Superhumanize Podcast would not exist without them. James is one of the main pillars my brand and work stands on and I am very fortunate to have found him."
Your podcast is your baby.
We're the nanny.
Soup to nuts, we'll take care of all the audio production, graphics, metadata, publishing/scheduling, show notes, and everything else that goes into publishing a podcast.
What We'll Do:
- Master raw audio (interviews or solo recordings) with professional audio software.
- Edit interviews. Finding the right balance between removing "dead space", "um's and ah's" and creating an experience that listeners will find compelling and enjoyable.
- Add pre-recorded podcast intro and outro.
- Insert ads (if applicable)
- Exporting and uploading episodes onto your server...
- ID3 tags
- Scheduling for release
- Inserting podcast player onto show notes
- Create redirect links so that it's simple for your listeners to remember the URL you'd like them to visit. (For example, mypodcast.com/123)
What You'll Do:
- Record raw audio
- Record sponsor advertisements (if applicable)
- Export the raw files into a cloud based storage service such as Dropbox, Google Drive, etc.
In other words...You press record, we do the rest
Show notes and copywriting: We'll create a compelling title for your episode, along with a short summary of the episode, along with time-stamped highlights of the episode is sufficient. (Some podcast hosts like to go all out with their show notes. We don't recommend going with that option unless you'll see a significant return on the sizable investment this will require.)
Video: While we specialize in audio production, we can take your video recording and publish it to your YouTube channel, or other video platform. The bulk of our production work will be spent making your audio sound amazing. However, if you just want your video put up on YouTube with some simple graphics before and after, we can certainly do it for you.
Graphics: We can create high-quality graphics to go with your episode for social media, your website, or any other places you may need them.
Audiograms: We use the Headliner software to create our audiograms. It's a one-minute or less excerpt of an episode, along with the episode artwork and a cool little audio thing. They're fun, easy to do and doesn't cost that much extra.
All Podcast Artistry™ clients receive the following:
-Access to the Podcast Artistry™ mobile app with content not available anywhere else on the web
-Unlimited email support
-One hour of coaching/consulting per quarter
-Access to the Podcast Artistry™ mastermind (coming soon)
Podcast setup fee – $495
- 2 one-hour calls w/ a podcast professional to plan and customize your show
- Setup podcast hosting with the host of your choice (libsyn, Captivate, etc.)
- Distribute feed to all major podcast outlets (Apple, Spotify, etc.)
- Optimize your website for your podcast (if desired)
- Available for an additional fee
- Podcast logo design and intro/outro voiceover a
- Setup YouTube channel
- Thorough audio editing
- Insert intro/outro and ads (if applicable)
- Mix/master audio
- Deliver mp3 file to client
A 30-40 minute episode will be in the $50-75 range
AUDIO + SHOW NOTES
All of the above plus:
- An engaging title for each episode
- A short (~250 word) summary of the episode
- Time stamped highlights or major topics of the episode (ex. “The best way to write show notes…14:30)
- Graphics created for website and social media posts
- Hyperlinks added to show notes (provided by client)
- Upload mp3 file to client’s podcast host (libsyn, Captivate, etc.)
A 30-40 minute episode will be in the $100-125 range
AUDIO + SHOW NOTES + VIDEO
All of the above plus:
- Thoroughly edit video (the audio version will match that of the video)
- Publish edited video to client’s YouTube channel, or other preferred outlet like Vimeo
A 30-40 minute episode will be in the $200-225 range
**A one-hour consultation to ensure proper setup of video recording area and best practices is highly recommended
THE "BEN GREENFIELD" TREATMENT (limited availability and extremely expensive)
All of the “Audio plus show notes” section plus:
- A thoroughly detailed summary of the episode (click here for an example)
- Hyperlinks to all products mentioned in the episode in show notes (great for affiliate income)
- A full written transcript of the episode with hyperlinks to all products mentioned
Cost per episode will be determined after the client on-boarding process has been completed. The setup fee for this option is $725.
*Choose this option with extreme caution. Ben has been doing his show for over 13 years. It definitely did not start out looking like it does now and it is not cheap to produce to those standards. A better option may be to start small, focus on one specific niche, and grow your show and brand organically with the tools and platforms (and budget) that suit you and your personality.