Thank you for joining us in this series, Alban. Can you tell us the “backstory” about why or how you got started as a podcaster?
I first started listening to podcasts back in college in 2006 when I would download episodes to my iPod and listen to them while running or doing stuff around the house. After graduating, I taught school in rural Haiti. Lacking an internet connection, I couldn’t keep up with what was happening in the U.S. (at the time it was the 2008 election and had no clue what was going on), but every once in a while I’d get Wi-Fi and I’d download a few podcasts. At that point, I realized the incredible connection you can feel with podcasts — particularly to the people I’d left behind in the U.S.
Fast forward a few years to 2014 when I was practicing law. I knew I didn’t want to be a lawyer anymore, but there was part of me that didn’t want to quit. It was then that I happened upon an episode of the Freakonomics podcast. The episode focused on why you should quit things you don’t enjoy so that you can open space for things that you do. This was an epiphany for me and encouraged me to step away from law to doing something I really loved — podcasting. From there I applied for a position at Buzzsprout where I’m now a head of marketing and an avid podcaster.
Can you share a story about the most interesting thing that has happened to you since you started podcasting?
When I’m attending conferences, I always hear from people who’ve listened to our podcasts. Our podcasts have one-tenth of the audience that our videos have and maybe one-twentieth of our blog audience — yet it’s our podcasts that resonate.
I think the reason for this is that people connect on a deeper level with podcasts versus watching four minutes of a video before skipping onto something else. It’s much more intentional and much more of a connection.
Can you share a story about the biggest or funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
The most common mistake podcasters make is getting 10 minutes into a recording and realizing that they haven’t pressed “record.”
But probably the biggest mistake that businesses and individuals make is taking too long to start podcasting. It’s easy to feel imposter syndrome when starting a podcast: “What do I have to offer that someone would want to listen to?” This leads to procrastination and time wasted getting the right podcasting gear or researching editing tips. What budding podcasters should really be doing is getting content out there.
Don’t be like me and many others that delay their first foray into podcasting. Just do it, put yourself out there and you’ll learn an incredible amount as you go.
How long have you been podcasting and how many shows have you aired?
I’ve worked with podcasters and podcasting technology for over six years and started podcasting two years on Buzzcast. During that time, we’ve put out about 100 shows.
What are the main takeaways or lessons you want your listeners to walk away with?
The main takeaway for listeners is to feel empowered about their endeavors in podcasting. This happens in two ways. First, know that you don’t have to be a tech genius to get started. Second, be confident that you will accomplish your goals for your podcast.
Rather than shooting to be the next big-name podcaster, create something that you enjoy and start building a community of around 100–200 listeners. If they consistently show up to listen to you speak, you’ll find the motivation to keep podcasting each week.
Another lesson I’ve learned is that when a connection is mediated by a recording, people are hesitant to pursue it. But there are a ton of opportunities for podcasters, the trick is to think of your audience as real people. Knowing there are 100+ listeners out there tuning into your podcast is very empowering.
1) Book Great Guests. Too often podcasters shoot for guests that aren’t intimidating like a friend or a co-worker. I’m a firm believer in reaching for big names. If they don’t reply, that’s ok. If they say yes, that’s great — book them. If you get a “no” don’t be despondent. Instead, ask them if you can reach back out to them in six months. They’ll probably say yes — take that as a sign of encouragement! The great thing is if you’ve had one or two big guests in your niche you can use them to fish for other interviews and boost your credibility. Write down a list of 10 people that you’d like to invite on your podcast and go for it!
2) Increase Listeners. The best strategy to increase listeners is to tap into another social platform to build a following. Try to find Facebook users who are interested in the topic that you’re podcasting about. If your podcast is about goldendoodles; find a Facebook page or group on that topic, a Reddit thread, or question page on Quora. The best opportunities come when people ask questions on a topic that you’ve already podcasted about. Use it to provide value to people who are interested in the topic and would be more likely to subscribe to your feed.
3) Produce in a Professional Way. If you want a well-edited podcast, avoid making mistakes in the first place. The more work you put into a great recording the more professional your podcast will sound.
To get started, get a basic high-quality microphone like the ATR2100 — which will not break the bank. You’ll also want to record in a good environment where there’s no background noise. Pick a day when your house is quiet and a recording place that doesn’t have a lot of reflective surfaces. A room with carpet, furniture, and cushions is helpful. Oftentimes, the best place at home is your walk-in closet where racks of close soak up sound and help avoid reverb.
4) Encourage Engagement. Podcasting can sometimes feel like a one-way street. Even if your audience numbers are going up, it can be hard to trust them because you’re not hearing from real people. This can lead to discouragement. It’s hard to imagine that the 30 plays you see are real: “Is anyone really listening, because I’m not hearing from anyone?”
Try to encourage your audience to engage with you. Ask your listeners to leave reviews. Encourage them to engage with you on your preferred channel on social media. You can also include a link to a Google form in your show notes so that listeners can leave a comment or question for you to address on the next show (everyone loves the excitement of a mention).
After you’ve asked listeners to engage, be sure to reinforce the behavior. Acknowledge your audience by reading their reviews on-air. That way they’ll know you’re paying attention to them and prompt further engagement from other listeners eager to hear their comments on-air too!
5) Monetize. Let’s start with the worst way to monetize a podcast — CPM advertising.
This only works if your podcast has grown to be so big that you’re willing to sell your audience’s attention to a company or brand for fractions of a cent.
Instead, find ways to offer incentives to loyal listeners in exchange for donations. For instance, you could set up a Patreon and host a weekly chat or Q&A exclusively with those subscribers. Alternatively, publish additional podcast episodes for a fee.
Affiliate marketing is another option. This involves including a link to an affiliate’s product or service that you really enjoy in your show notes. This kind of endorsement can be much more profitable than traditional advertising.
There’s also a subset of people who should stay away from monetizing their podcasts and the act of making money directly. If you’re a business, your goal isn’t to sell ads, it’s to acquire new clients. I have a friend who hosts a tech podcast with the sole goal of getting more exposure in his field. And it worked. By growing the network of people who know him and seek his input, he started getting more job offers.
From your vantage point, what are some of the reasons why a person should consider creating a podcast series?
Podcasting is just another way of creating content and offers many of the benefits that you get from blogging, YouTubing, or sending an email newsletter. You’re building an audience that is interested in what you have to say online. This provides you with more exposure to professional and social opportunities. You also become an expert within your community of listeners.
Sometimes it can seem like everyone is trying to jump on the podcast bandwagon. There are about 1.5 million podcasts out there, but about half of these are inactive. They launched and then they stopped. Because of this, if you’re willing to publish one podcast a week for a year, you’ll quickly find yourself in the top 10% of podcasters. Frequency and consistency are key to rising up the podcasting ranks.
Nowadays it seems as if everyone is trying to jump on the podcast bandwagon. Are there people to whom you would advise to avoid podcasting and instead focus on another medium?
Absolutely. If your goal is to reach as many as possible, for instance, if you have a marketing initiative and are trying to get as much exposure as possible — podcasting is not for you. Podcasting is harder to grow than a YouTube channel, a Twitter account, or a blog. But what you get with podcasting that is missing from these mediums is a depth of connection. If you prefer breadth of numbers over a depth of connection, then choose a different medium. If you’re in a space where connecting deeply with people is more important, then 100% focus on podcasting.
If you’re podcasting for a business, forget about prospecting; instead, talk to your customers about your products, how your business is developing — tell your story.
How has your position as a podcast host and a person of high authority, impacted your business, sales, and/or increased your opportunities? Can you share a story with us?
When I attend a conference, it’s commonplace to meet people who’ve listened to our podcasts. The same is true when we launch a new feature and showcase it on our podcast. I often get emails from people with enquiries. For example, I got a cold email from a person in India who was launching a new podcasting app that we discussed on the show and wanted to thank me for the mention.
Quite simply, podcasting offers many opportunities to reach people in your industry who you can collaborate with or learn from.
What makes your podcast binge-listenable? What do you think makes your podcast unique from the others in your category? What do you think is special about you as a host, your guests, or the content itself?
One of the best things you can do make your podcast binge-worthy is to ensure your episodes are evergreen. Avoid creating content that is hyper-topical. While there are many great shows that focus on the now, whether it’s news or politics, these shows won’t have relevance or listeners down the road.
Evergreen content, on the other hand, will keep people interested for years. For example, a doctor reached out to usbecause his podcast statistics seemed all over the place. When we dug into the data, we could see that a few years ago he’d released an episode about the Ebola virus. Then, when the Ebola epidemic struck, searches on this topic led people to his podcast resulting in a spike in listening and subscription numbers. Had he not podcasted on that evergreen topic he would never have had the opportunity to capitalize on the increase in interest in Ebola.
There are several things you can do to make your podcast unique from others in our category. By keeping it laser-focused, we can deliver a great deal of value to the people we’re targeting. The more focused your podcast can be, the better.
We also pride ourselves on making our content stand out from the crowd through personality. Buzzcast features a panel of three hosts who have worked together for many years and know each other well. This gives us a degree of comfort to try out new things, joke around, and banter. Some of the best podcasts share that same easy-going, conversation that people can tune into and feel like they’re a part of the friend group.
Where can our readers find you on Social Media?
The place I enjoy being most is Twitter. You can find me at @AlbanBrooke where I Tweet about all things marketing and podcasting. I’d love to help if you reach out with any questions!
Some of the biggest names in Business, Marketing, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a specific high-value guest (obviously still living) that you would love to interview on your show, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them!
The ultimate guest for me would be a podcaster or podcasters who have forged the way for everyone else. I’m curious about what it was like to shape the medium in those early days and pass along lessons about how they grew and developed their shows over time.
High-value guests would include some of the early pioneers of podcasting on NPR, such as Ira Glass of This American Life who is one of my heroes. Also incredible is NPR’s Terry Gross — simply a fascinating interviewer. Other long-time podcasters on my list include the guys from Freakonomics and Joe Rogan.