Ep 19 – Making a show people have to listen to

Can I Make a Hit Podcast - Podcast logo

Episode 19 – Full transcript

References

  1. Gimlet Academy podcast
  2. Calendly
  3. Ari Meisel – The Art of Less Doing
  4. Wise Crackin With Winter
  5. Murmur Murders
  6. Anyway Whatever Podcast
  7. Zoom
  8. Zencastr

(Automated) Full transcript

Automated transcript. Edited transcript coming.

RAW 19untitled

Richard: so you’ve launched a podcast, but could it be doing better?

Is it really delivering on its potential? Perhaps there’s a way to make a show so clickable that people would drop everything to listen to it.

I’ve been feeling that there was something wrong with this show. Can I make a hit podcast? So I decided to see if I could fix it

Once again, I’m asking the question, what do the big production companies do?

How do they communicate their message deliver what their audience wants? Make a show. It is so good. The listeners simply cannot help but click on it and listen to it. I most importantly, can you and I do it too. Is it possible? You are listening to, can I make a hit podcast, the real time story of an attempt to make a hip hop Garth, which rivals the big production companies, but we’re literally none of the resources we’re trying to hold down a busy day job too.

I’m Richard, Mitson a former news editor and journalist and well disillusioned podcaster. Who’s tried five different shows, all of which did not exactly set the world alight yet the internet claims that anyone can do it. So I’ve decided to try and find out. If it’s actually possible, I’m documenting the whole thing on Twitter and Instagram, almost daily with the username hit podcast 2020 that’s hits podcast 2020.

And in this very podcast that you’re listening to right now on your favorite podcast app. So is it still possible to make a hit show as an independent that rivals the big production companies? Well, let’s find out. Okay, welcome to you. This is very much an involving investigation. This show into what works in podcasting, and if you’re new to this show, then it may be worth lifting back to some of the previous episodes.

Just to get some context around what I’m talking about. I do want to make a special welcome this week though, to new listeners from the wordpress.com webinars that I co presented last week, we had. 700 people watching live, which is truly staggering for a free event. And if Damien and I helped inspire you, then a huge welcome to you.

And I hope you will find this series you saw in your podcasting journey too. So the interviews are coming in for the main. First project that I’m making as part of this show, the project, this, this first project is testing. Gimlet is idea for making a hit by producing a narrative podcast in a like can NPR or this American life it’s based on real life stories with real people being interviewed.

And it’s called how not to get old and boring. And that is going great but with little update on that, I wanted to try and focus on this other question this week that he’s been. Bugging me. He said, I don’t know if you’ve done this, but I’ve been listening back to some of my earlier episodes and my past episodes as well.

I don’t feel like I’m still quite delivering on the promise to listeners. I started the show with, you know, you might be thinking, okay, well, the promise. So why promised I would deliver in the show was designed to be not as useful to me, but to others as well.

And if my show isn’t useful, then I’m not going to increase my audience beyond a few faithful people. So the show isn’t going to go anywhere. And perhaps most importantly, for the title of this show cannot make a hit podcast. It’s never going to be a hit podcast.

In fact, one thing that really struck me though, was that when I first started this show, I was chatting to someone online and I’d not heard much since. And then when I released a social media update, I think it was the last weekend saying if this show had lost its focus a bit, it immediately got a, like from that person, I thought, aha.

One of the things I’ve learned about doing podcasting is that you should never just start and think that’s my finished concept . It is a constant experiment and you know, often the path to finding what works is, finding out what doesn’t work right

Remember, I’ve made five podcasts before and I’m still learning like every other podcast are out there. So I decided to research this again and see what I could do to improve this show more Valley, to make it more interesting to you and to everyone else and valuable to me as well.

I also thought that I would try something different on social media as a test this week as well. Another experiment, instead of doing my usual person updates where I just sort of ramble a few thoughts.

I decided to run through one technique everyday during the week. And guess what the response was to that. It absolutely bombed. I got about a third of the view. I normally get on these, even though I thought I was actually delivering real value, but. Forgetting the social media. I think the stuff that I learned this week actually was hugely valuable. So I really want to share that with you now. So if you have a show which isn’t growing as fast as you wanted to, then perhaps you’d like to join me over the next few minutes in these experiments and actually try them out because they were a huge eye opener for me.

So the mission this week was this, how do I focus my show so effectively that it literally becomes addictive to people to listen too. And people cannot pass it without clicking play technique. One start with ourselves, So Gimlet media say, think of the title of a book that you would drop everything for. It could be imaginary or not.

So to do this myself, I started looking at the bookshelf. You might have seen in the videos behind me on the social media outlets. And I thought Ryan is going to pick three books. The I would pick right now to read. And as usual I use the time management techniques I’ve taught before about which frankly have transformed my productivity for making podcasts.

If you missed all that in the previous episodes, save myself 30 seconds to focus my mind, knowers, no arms pick the three books that I really wanted. Without thinking about it too much. And then I would pick the one that I liked so I scan my finger along the bookshelf and you see the colors and you see some of the words. And I pulled out three very quickly the first one I pulled out was the four hour work week from Tim Ferriss because frankly, I want more time and energy in my life. The next one she pulled out was presenting magically by David Shepherd, because I want to be a better presenter.

What can I say? And I passed a bunch more books and I picked the final one, which was speed reading by Tony Busan because in my work I need to take in a huge amount of information, very fast, and it struck me that that could use me there. So it was interesting to see what. Jumped out at me, seriously, try this.

It is fascinating to drive. I pick things that were relevant to what I need or want now. So it’s pretty obvious when you try this, that it’s the things that answer questions to the most pressing concern or interest in your life right now,

but there was another thing about the books I paid because some of the books I pass actually looked great, but were just too heavy. You know, I want something that is going to deliver the answer as quickly as possible, or give me the time to learn that answer as quickly as possible.

So it’s no surprise that I picked the four hour work week.

There was one there, by the way that I did actually notice, but didn’t pick out, cause it made me laugh more than anything. Um, and it was actually given to me by an ex partner and it was, uh, men are from Mars and women are from Venus and that didn’t seem to be too high priority right now, but it jumped out at me cause it moves me cause I’ve got a lovely partner now and I actually moved it off.

My bookshelf don’t need that one anymore.

Okay. Step two. So develops on this, because then I realized that what that really were saying was don’t pick something to, you would pick off your bookshelf.

It’s about thinking about your true passion. So instead of picking a real one or one that you’ve heard of, imagine a book that you would literally drop everything to read now. when I actually pose this question on social media, and one of those updates I mentioned earlier Ollienkelly on Instagram.

You said how to become a billionaire in 10 minutes would be the perfect book. And at first I thought, okay, maybe this role from Gimlet actually needs to be. A little more clarified, maybe Gimlet mean that you should set a realistic target on this. But then I thought actually, you know, right. Because people like Warren Buffett, the billionaire investors probably done that at some point.

And wouldn’t you be curious as to how he did it, even if we didn’t have his resources to do it right now, wouldn’t you wonder how to become a billionaire in 10 minutes. So in fact, almost any topic I think could do for me. I came up with a title of a book and done cringe, but this was literally my title.

I’ll explain why, how to make a hip hop gust. Like I said earlier, what is the most pressing question that is in our lives right now? And I want to know the answer to that. if there was a podcast that literally gave me the answer and it wasn’t just a waffle or some guru claiming something that was unproven by normal people, um, I would literally drop everything to listen to it.

and then the next thing given that didn’t say this, but the next thing I found useful was the pitch of what would the book actually be like? And I realized that for me, it would not be like a clear cut manner. It wouldn’t be a set of steps because I’ve got loads of books like that, that tell you how to do things.

I’ve never really read them or taken in. I remember stories and seeing things demonstrated, so I imagined a book full of examples, learning by example is what I mean. You might be different. So what kind of book would work for you?

So that was step one, picking an imaginary book and the kind of book that you would drop. Absolutely everything now to listen to, or to read if it gave you the answer to something you wanted.

So that’s step one. We’ve got the ideal title. What comes next? Step two, of course.

And let me just tell you very quickly, a story six years ago, I pitched an idea for a mobile phone app to a startup accelerator, hoping to get backing for it. And as I spoke to them, They, I remember them. They, they sat the other side of this table and they were just glazed over as I was talking, I was going through my page and I was all excited and enthusiastic.

And when I finished, they told me to get a book and the book was called the mum test. Yeah. This book tells you how to find out what your audience, whether that’s for product or for anything else really wants. Yeah. That doesn’t involve asking them to listen to your show or trying your podcast. Or product in that case, what you actually do is you ask about the issues that are concerning them in their life right now, without mentioning any kind of product or service The reason that the book is called the mum test is this principle.

Because if you ask your mum, would you listen to my podcast? She’s going to say yes. But if you find that she’s actually trying to find the answers to a particular problem that you deliver in your podcast, then she would listen because she wants to, and she’s not with give up after listening to the first line or having it on in the background while she’s doing something else.

So begging people to listen, maybe a way to start getting an audience, but it’s not going to be the path to success. Just like a product.

The book is actually quite short. It’s only 135 pages, so it is seriously worth a look.

So let’s look at this step two and it starts off with Gimlet’s next technique then uses the mum test. So Gimlet say, think of the sections of your book now, your imaginary book that you would need to have in it to make you drop everything.

And again, it was really interesting for me.

So these are the parts that would matter to me in an imaginary book called how to make a hit podcast. So section one would be, I’d want to know the secret techniques of the big production companies and how I can use hacks to do the same as them just as effectively. But in the limited time I have,

section two. I’d like to know a technique that worked and see proof. There are far too many people out there who haven’t done it, who claim to know how to do it. And I want to see real people and not just people that had a brand beforehand. I want to see real people who started from scratch and build a hit show not 20 years ago

section three.

I want to know how to do this when I don’t have the time, just like I was just mentioning, you know, what are the techniques I can use to find the time and make things work? I don’t want a huge to do list for making podcasts. Podcasting is already time consuming and it’s gotta be efficient as possible.

Section four, I’d like simple steps to follow perhaps this week, something that I can do now that will actually have an impact straight away. I’d like to know the steps I could take now, right now sitting at my desk that I could do that would have an impact.

So those were the core elements and really interesting because when you do this, I thought I was actually trying to deliver these, but I don’t think I have delivered them as well as I could. So this really helps me clarify, and I hope you too, the other thing, I don’t want it to be, it’s a big, heavy book. I remember reading a book called the seven day startup and I cannot, Dan Norris, I think is his name, the author of it. And in a few short pages, he went through the process of setting up a business in seven days. And he, he talked from his own experience, which was a great story, but he also gave you the practical steps as well.

And it was a great book.

Okay, so that was step one. What about step two? Would anyone else care about this book that we’re imagining? Hopefully you’ve got your ideas. Now, the mum, as a say, it’s about asking the question, what do people want without saying, you’re making a show or making a product?

So how can we test this out? Especially in COVID-19 times when we can’t just go into an event and ask people, social media seems to be the obvious place. Right. And the first thought was, okay, we’ll just start engaging in more conversation and asking people. But then you noticed sometimes on social media people putting posts, which say something like this, what is your biggest issue you want tackled? And in most people ignore it because this is exactly the sort of thing, the mum test advisors, but not so bluntly. We want to find out what the pain point is, but not whereby it’s obvious why people are asking.

So it’s about engaging in conversation and listening, but again, the whole of this show is about trying to find more efficient ways of doing this. So is there a better way? Well, I had a look on some Facebook groups about podcasting because logic says that people ask questions in groups, right?

So this is their pain points. This is what they’re asking you about. So I had a look at a Facebook podcast group to see what the common questions on. I saw things like, well, a lot of technical questions about microphones and equipment techniques to do better interviews. Um, there was quite an interesting thread from someone who said that when they started, they didn’t listen to other podcasts in their niche. And when they did, they realized it sounded very similar to everyone else, which I thought was an interesting one, several questions about the ideal duration of a podcast and a lot of pain points coming up. So there we go. Instead of getting a big market research budget, like the big production companies, maybe you just hit Facebook or other social media and see.

What other people are saying,

so we’ve got a great title. We know the sections that we need to have within it. And if you’re already doing a show, hopefully this helps to just sort of clarify what year you’re currently doing as it is certainly doing for me.

But then Gimlet have another question after that because although we know what people’s pain points are, the question is why should anyone give a damn about your content or my content? Because if they’re already asking these questions, is someone else actually doing it already? Unit, no one needs another Joe Rogan.

There are hundreds of thousands of podcasts, which are trying to be like Joe Rogan. And if someone has done. as many episodes as he has, or if someone’s doing the same thing as you, and they’d been going for a while, why should anyone listen to you is a question that Gimlet pose. So we have to ask ourselves what is actually going to make us different.

You know, for me, there’s a lot of podcasts about podcasting, but I think hopefully my pitch is slightly different to that in the. I’m trying to find out how to beat the big companies at their own game, with real techniques. I sort of see myself as a researcher, as a journalist looking for the truth, rather than just telling someone in a guru fashion that they, this is what you need to do. Yeah. And I think that makes a bit of a different brand. I, I don’t know whether you agree. That’s kind of the feeling I’ve gone.

And I’ve not found even quite like that out there in podcast land. It probably is, but I haven’t found it. So it’s reasonably well hidden. So the next check from Gimlet is, is the value you are providing obvious. And what I mean by that is can people guess what you’re going to say before you say it, or are your ideas cliched?

Have they heard it before? Does what you take? Take. Effort for people to find, because if the premise of your show is how to do something and they can find the answer in five seconds by Googling, why are they going to sit for a one hour show, which might include some interviews and some rambling. so if you’re telling something that is obvious people aren’t gonna listen.

And if people don’t even wonder what happens in your story or in your episode, or at the final conclusion of it, because it’s so cliched, it’s obvious they’re not going to listen either. This was actually a little bit of a revelation for me because I realized a lot of what I was saying was fairly obvious now that wasn’t through intention, because a lot of the stuff I think you find when you’re starting to make a podcast, I sent you, I found.

Is quite obvious, but you have to sort of discover it, but the problem is from a listener’s point of view, they don’t want to hear stuff that they’ve heard before. So it’s about leaving out the irrelevant stuff, leaving out the stuff that is cliched or boring and sticking with just the stuff, which is interesting or has some edge to it.

you know, I remember doing a social media release, which simply said something like, can I do for interviews? What’s like exactly challenges. It it’s like, well, yes, There’s the answer. So if you can guess what’s in it, forget it.

checklist item three.

Now this actually comes from looking at companies like wonder who make our business walls and the information you may give may be unique. It may be hard to get, but does anyone actually still care about it? now, someone is going to be interested in every store in earth, but let’s say that your podcast is documenting water. Ice cube looks like as it melts. It’s not very interesting. Is it? Right. So you’re not going to engage people. People have got to be interested in what you are talking about.

About, I know in terms of my show, all I have to do is look at the webinar that we delivered and see how many people were interested in finding out about podcasting and how to make a pit show that there should be some interest in what I’m doing, providing them delivering in the right way. So next step, how do we make our podcast addictive?

Remember, this is what the big companies advise to do. And I need to test this to see if it works, but let me just run through these points. Gimlet talks so much about the power of story, but easy enough. Well, first of all, I watched IRA glass of NPR again, and this American life say a while back, the telling a story is the crux of it all.

If you can do that. That’s all you need to do to addict people. And what is a story? It is, I’ve covered this in a huge amount of detail before when I looked at this before, but it’s basically just a sequence of events. And the thing he says is that even if you’ve got actually a fairly boring sequence, ultimately the more steps you add to it.

So if you keep going, if you add the first part of the story, and then you add another one, then you had another one, another one, as you keep adding those elements to it, it engages people more because they start to want to more and more with each step. What’s going to happen. What’s going to be the punchline.

So by simply telling a story, you should be able to engage people, but the more you look at people like Wondery or cereal or S town, things like that, you start to realize that actually it’s not just about story.

If you’ve been listening to this series for a while, you’ve heard me talk about a chap called Matthew Luhn, who was one of the writers of toy story. and various other Pixar films. So he knows a lot about storytelling and each time I go back to his book, I realized a bit more about it.

And what he says is a story is really a lesson. So it starts with a problem. It follows a series of attempts to overcome the challenge, and then it ends January with a successful conclusion. It’s a challenge to overcome a problem that people are interested to see how it’s overcome to learn that.

So if a character doesn’t learn something. It’s not actually much of a story. I’m not, it doesn’t have to be fun facts. It can also be to learn a mindset through demonstration. You know, why do we love Indiana Jones? Was it to teach us how to fight Nazis? No, it was because it taught us a mindset that we could be heroic and have exciting adventures.

LUN talks about how we as humans, like going on a journey of learning through our character’s eyes. And the reason we like to do it through the eyes is because it’s by proxy. We don’t have to put ourselves in that situation. And that removes the resistance to learning and it doesn’t need to be a fictional character in the case of a podcast. This could be your story as the podcaster, but it must be something that they want to know,

now, you might think that a lot of podcasts don’t actually follow the story format, but when you think about it, take the example of the guilty feminist. Right. And this is a show which doesn’t seem to have a natural story in it.

And yet it’s made up of lots of stories and it’s actually an ongoing story because it’s teaching a mindset. that it is okay to be a real world feminist rather than some ideologically perfect one.

And I have actually been to Watson guilty, feminist recorded, and I loved it because you do feel engaged in that feeling.

So to make our content addictive, we need to teach people something through a story. And I think the problem with my podcast is I’ve been emphasizing the emotional story journey rather than the learning story.

And I wonder also if from a social media update point of, if you’re doing social media updates to lane, may I wonder almost if people just want to sort of check in with you.

Almost like you’re, you know, you’re a scientist on Mars doing research and you’re kind of just sort of reporting back about what you’re discovering has got some solid facts in it, but there’s a bit of an ongoing story in the background as well.

So I think to sum it up from what Gimlet and Mattie Lana saying is that people want facts, but that are colored with emotion and brought to life with emotion and ups and downs.

So we’ve got the idea. I need to test this. I need to put all these into practice to see how it will work. And as I say, I will, of course let you know how this goes, but there is one more technique which should guarantee an addictive show. I really want to see. If this works as well. And this is the one I feel most uneasy.

Let me, let me explain.

In 2009, a fashion blogger by the name of Chiara Ferenghi set up a blog called the blonde salad. This was a blog, no podcast. Now she now has 20 million followers on Instagram, despite her being an Italian influencer and so more in a niche market than somebody. You know, Kim Cardassians

now her partner at the time who helped launch it. So it’s the same thing simply would not work anymore. His name is Ricardo and he says, what you need now is one thing, an opinion. People want to follow people who say what they already agree with. I know this from working in politics, people don’t want to have their views change.

Your loyal followers will be people who agree with you and your perspective but no one is going to listen to you until they see that other people care about your opinion.

So you need social validation. what that means in simple terms is that you need fallenness, which has a bit of a catch 22. Right?

I remember talking to someone and event last year, one of the speakers, and he was once described as a black hat marketer.

So he used techniques that quite a lot of people consider to be unethical I talked to him afterwards and he said, the key thing when you launch is to get a following, it doesn’t matter. How are you doing? You just need to show that you have followers, people following you, because when you have followers, other people will wonder what it is.

You’re saying that these other people want to hear. They don’t want to miss out.

let me give you another example. I remember talking to a very senior BBC journalist a while back, and he said, if you want to get noticed by the major broadcasters, get some followers, the more you have, the more journalists is going to take you seriously, because they’re also going to wonder what it is.

All these other people are following to hear about.

So the more you can position yourself as the person who says X and get people following you to validate that point of view, the more you’re going to get noticed, and the faster your audience is going to grow, according to all these techniques.

And this also ties into what Seth Gordon was saying about developing community in that I was talking about in the previous episode, and people want to be part of a group of people who agree with them. So by hook or by crook, we need to develop our social media followings and the conversation around an opinion we’ve got and get people to follow that. And of course, it’s gotta be an authentic opinion because people can see through someone who is being inauthentic very easily. It’s interesting though, talking about putting this stuff out on social media, because.

Um, a comment was really interesting. Someone was engaging with me and it was the anyway whatever podcast on Twitter. And they were saying that it’s long been my opinion, that Twitter is the cesspool, the internet bypass experience. And they were really pleased that they were engaged in a conversation with me.

And a couple of others podcast is and certainly from my experience in politics, Twitter can certainly be a cesspit of people just throwing ideas and insults at each other.

And it achieves very little. But when we start talking about podcasting, maybe it’s a better environment.

So there’s a bunch of technics. As I say, when I started out this week, I set out to focus my show, find out what I was doing wrong, and I don’t know about you, but I feel like for me, I have found a huge, and the research I’ve done this week.

for me personally, I think I know that I’m making a right show, but it isn’t focused. Right. I’m not delivering the right content. I know that I’ve got to have more of a perspective and opinion on things I know that I’ve clicked a lot more followers to come and support me.

I need to make sure that I am delivering something that is different. I need to make sure that there are facts and genuinely interesting information, which takes work to find within it as well.

So, what I need to do now is to put these into practice and to see what actually works so all those points I’m going to try and cover for you. And for me, Over the coming weeks and I will share absolutely everything I learned in my usual brutally honest way with you in these episodes.

I learnt so much that I really wanted to share it all with you. If you want to follow on this journey, then do join me on social media. If you’re just listening to the podcast, it is hit podcast 2020 on Twitter and on Instagram as well.

And putting the same things on there. You can also find me. On Facebook as well. Plus there’s the website. CanIMakeAHitPodcast.com it is literally one word. CanIMakeAHitPodcast.com plus we’ve got the other project show how not to be old and boring that I’m developing too.

So there is a lot of advice out there saying you can still make a hit podcast in the 2020s.

If it’s right, then you and I could. And should. You’re making one by the end of this year, speaking next week.

Published by RicksWP

Former YouTuber, former news editor, a former journalist, former political social media content creator, now an engineer of happiness at Automattic.

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