Ep 20 – Why the right topic may be the wrong one

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Episode 20 – Full transcript

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Automated transcript. Edited transcript coming.

I’m breaking up this series into two types of shows from now on. The progress updates on the project, which will include all the developments as I go along and “what I’ve learned” shows, where I look in more detail at the most interesting things I’ve discovered, and that’s what I’m going to do today.

You are listening to, can I make a hit podcast, the real time story of an attempt to make a hit show that will rival the big podcast production companies, but with none of their time or resources, and while trying to hold down a busy, full time job. I’m Richard Mitson. I form a news editor and journalist and disillusioned podcaster.

Who’s tried five different shows without much success. Now I’m turning my journalistic head onto all the online claims that say that anyone can make a hit show by trying it myself. I’m documenting the whole thing on Twitter and Instagram with a username hit podcast 2020, and this very podcast you’re listening to right now on your favorite podcast app, is it still possible to make a hit show as an independent, the rivals the big production companies let’s find out.

How did you find that last episode then I’ve personally found it was absolutely packed with stuff probably a bit too much. I actually went on a journey. I had to go and, visit a place in Britain. And it was a two hour journey and I actually listened to the episode and I kept listening to it to try and take in all that was in there.

And I actually listened to it three times. So going forward, what I’m going to do, as I just mentioned is I’m going to split up. These shows this whole series into two types of shows. So we’re going to have the update shows with all the progress on the interviews, the production and then shows about what I’m learning, Well, I’m going to focus on the mortgage of change, worthy things. So things that are really, he stood out of made the most, the differences they’re saying in the last show, there’s no point in telling you stuff that you already know. So in these particular episodes, I’m going to really focus on that stuff, which has blown me away.

So I will just update you and tell you that I’m nearly onto the last interviews with the project show. How not to get old and boring. So that is, as I say, still coming up well, but I really wanted to cover this one this week.

so what I’m actually going to do is I’m going to look at back most topics I covered in last week’s episode, but actually go into a little bit more detail about some of the research I did behind them, because I think it will help to make them make a lot more sense around that sort of rapid fire approach that I went through last week.

You know, one of the things that. I’ve learned is that you might’ve got the topic, right. But if your show isn’t growing as fast as we expect, or we want, and this applies just as much to me, then chances are that we’re simply putting out the wrong stuff. That doesn’t mean the topic is wrong. It doesn’t mean the issues were covering the wrong. It’s just likely that the way we deliver it and the emphasis we place and the specific aspects we pick, I just not quite as good as they should be.

But luckily we found out last time, there are techniques out there to help us fix or tweak our efforts to get it so that it is far more razor, sharp and focused because at the end of the day, we don’t have as independence.

The marketing budget to cover up weak or fluffy shows that big production companies can rely on if they need to. So let me start this week by looking at this topic of topics, by giving an example of something that went wrong, you see, I made a business show. I think it was about three years ago and it was called six minute business breakfast.

And it was literally a six minute bite-size show, but there was a problem with it. I wasn’t in business, there was a fad at the time that said everyone should be an entrepreneur and make a business show. This is what people want. So just like everyone else, I did that too. and it got a few lessons, but not that many and no one ever reacted to it.

It was for all intents and purposes, a flop. Now I didn’t know what questions drafts because I wasn’t in business. I couldn’t relay the feelings or the pressures because I wasn’t in business. And I did a video version of another business show called wake up to business TV, and I was in a suit.

But that didn’t make me a businessman. I would sit down, you know, with three people with the cameras on all of us and I can ask questions just like a journalist and they would reply, but I couldn’t ask them anything that stood out. What was insightful or got the viewers actually interested in this over anything else?

It wasn’t unique. It wasn’t useful to anyone. It was what everyone else was already doing. Quite simply a failed at the time to listen to the advice, frankly, that was right in front of me. That you should do a show on a topic, you know? So I tried that, but guess what happened? Well, let me tell you, I worked in politics for three years and as a former journalist, I was always interested in politics as well.

So this time I thought, okay, I’ve got the topic that I’m passionate about, and I know the ins and outs there. I’ve got a good idea about how it all works. So then it was all great, but I didn’t think about what my audience might actually need because there’s are a lot of political shows out there.

So I just went into it, making the show that I wanted to make, but the audience had no reason to tune into me and I was doing nothing unique or different.

So in theory, if you pick a topic, you know, about and a passionate about according to multiple online sources on the internet, you will automatically be making an addictive show, but clearly while that’s a good start, I have learned that it is not. Enough, let’s take, for example, Kara Swisher from Recode talking about all about digital life and the story. She does massive podcast in the top 10 of the, um, the um, the global chart on. Charitable, you know, she knows her stuff. So she’s coming from a technology journalist background. She’s the author of books on technology.

She knows what she’s doing. Also, she’s a columnist as well. So she knows how to get, you know, some opinion going. And she has an ear to the ground. What about Michelle Obama’s podcast? That she’s just started, you know, she’s using her connections and her knowledge. Of high profile life to talk about relationships, something crucial to politics.

So she’s clearly going to be able to pull from that in a really insightful, different way. Ben Shapiro, you know, whether you even like this guy or not, he lives and breathes his topic. You know, he’s going to speak AEs and author. He’s now penny and aged person standing on stage, giving a, his opinion on things all the time.

No wonder that he’s number two on Chartwell because he knows his stuff, but it’s also take it somewhere else. I’m 33 in the world right now, and charitable in fat. It’s one called another D and D podcast. All about Dungeons and dragons. Now you might think, Oh, that’s completely different, but they know the game and they express it in a fun way.

So clearly what you know is what you can express and in turn, you’re likely to know what an audience wants much better because you are the demographic.

And being your demographic also means it’s an awful lot here, easier to make the podcast and therefore more sustainable as an independent and by tapping into your experience. And everyone’s got some kind of unique, he experienced by tapping into that directly. That actually gives us a headstart over the big production companies, because they can’t compete even from day one.

With your level have experience with something. If they haven’t got someone who’s able to deliver that as well. One other thing as well, is that as an independent, you can niche down more as well because they need to get a bigger one audience. This was almost the problem with traditional broadcasting as well is you heard this phrase, they had to dumb down to reach as many people as possible, and they did.

So as a niche podcaster, we’ve got a huge opportunity to use, use the topics that we know best or particularly interested in and have an insight into. So now we’ve got that we are the right demographic. You are the audience as well.

So you should have a good idea about the kind of topics that you’re looking at. Let’s start to use Gimlet’s techniques now and and that’s, if we can speed up the process of market research that the big production companies are going to spend potentially a long time on. So the question they ask is actually a really simple one.

I talked about last week, think of the title of a book, an imaginary book that would make you drop absolutely everything you are doing right now, wherever you are. If it’s suddenly appeared in front of you. Now for me, it was how to make a hit podcast, because this is something that I personally really want to know the answer to, because I would love to find the secret to doing it.

And if you ask him of that question, the first thing you realize is that it’s the things that are the most pressing or most concerning or the things that are most on your mind at the time. So if you do that now, if you think about what is, and imagine the book that you would literally drop everything to listen to right now, I’ll give a second, actually gone.

so that was 0.1, pick a topic. We know. Be the demographic of that, pick a topic within that, that you would drop everything to listen to right now. And then it raises the second question that Gimlet say, and that is one is the detail that would appear in that book that would make you drop everything right now.

I use this. On my own show here, can I make a hit podcast? And I will give you some, the examples that I came up with that she added a few more than I gave in last week’s show. So the first one that I wanted as the first section of my book would be, I want to know how to do it right. Next section will be, I want to know the secret techniques of the big production companies and how I can use the hacks to do the same just as effectively.

Next section. I’d like to know a tech Nick that worked and see proof of that far too many gurus out there. And I’d rather see a scientific investigation to what works rather than speculation. I want to see tests some proof of something working, perhaps by an example of a big production company that used that technique.

So all of these are brainstorms, but this is, should be the goal of what I’m trying for. I want to know the tricks of making it work when I don’t have time. How do I do these techniques when I have a busy day job, and I’ve only got limited time in the day, I want some simple steps to follow. Perhaps things I can do this week that will change my shows after hearing the shot.

I’d like to know what I can do right now. I’d like some case studies and quite a few to inspire me as well, and get me thinking of a way to change an idea slightly to suit me. You know, maybe there’d be in that book. There would be just a couple of bigger case studies I can follow along with. And I want some motivation to, I want it to be upbeat.

I want it to lift me so that I feel inspired, um, so that I avoid pod fade. So I think inspiration is a big thing as well. So what about you seriously, if you can, I would stop this audio right now and write down a list of those brainstorms or the sections that would need to be in your book.

One thing I wondered though, when I wrote those down, was are they actually the right things? Because yeah, they apply to me and my particular situation, but everyone has a slightly different life. So I started looking for what is the basics of motivation? What are the basic things that make us.

One to find something out. And I started reading, reading up about this theory in psychology called Maslow’s hierarchy of need, and there’s a lot of different. And models like this out there, which have got a similar thing, but this is a theoretical motivation. And it basically says that after your need for food ultra satisfied, not something that we can do with a podcast and most podcast listeners for property satisfies for food Morton, they’ve got, you know, podcast app in their pockets, so there should be reasonably okay.

Then we get into the podcast territory. So the next thing that people worry about is their safety and security. So here you’ve got podcasts, which are perhaps about news political comment, because ultimately both of these rely on number one, reassuring you that the world around you is okay, and you can get through your day.

And secondly, by giving you a dopamine kick by. Piling you with fear. So a podcast doing now is going to meet a basic human need. The next one in the Maslow’s hierarchy of need is intimate relationships and friends. So are you talking about relationships like Michelle Obama or helping people to get the perfect partner or even moaning about partners?

This topic area is something that people are interested in. The next one is feelings of accomplishment. Are you helping people to do something? You know how tos are incredibly popular in the podcasting area? In fact, this show probably falls into that and finally right at the top.

So if all these other things have been satisfied, self actualization, so reaching your full potential, helping people to be all they feel they should be. And hopefully I think my podcast falls into that one as well. So there’s gotta be one of these things that your podcast helps people with in order to get them really engaged with it. According to the theory.

So we’re going to top it. We know we are the demographic, we have the title, we’ve got the content and we’ve checked that it satisfies what other people generally need. Finally, we’ve got to think about the delivery. You know, it always amuses me that you get these sort of two hour business shows coming out every day or every couple of days.

You know, one of the things that I did actually done when I was making a podcast about business is that people in business don’t have two hours a day for a business show. They’re getting on. With running a business. So the style that you make needs to match what your perfect demographic would consume.

Now, if you are making a show for wantrepreneurs, rather than people who are actually in business, then a two hour show could be perfect for that. But it’s about knowing what it is that you need to deliver. so that brings us to the final question. And that is the type of book, the style of book, again, as you as a demographic, what would be the style of that book that you would work for you?

for me, some of the books that have got some great information in them are just too heavy. And I like something that gives an example that helps you create this sort of image in your mind that you can see and imagine yourself being there. And then it gives you the steps within that so that you can learn.

So it’s not so much a clear cut manual because I’ve got lots of books like that, that I’ve never read, or I’ve never taken in. It’s more a combination. And in fact, I mentioned last time, the seven day startup, because it combined stories with what happened with the actual techniques.

So that also applies just as much to polka and the style and the approach that we want that would work for us. You know, one of the things is not to get too. I do too hung up on this, I think because I was listening to Alex Blumberg of Gimlet the other day, he was talking about launching new shows on Gimlet.

Uh, it was on a video that I was watching. I think he was saying that when they launch a new show, it can take a bit of time for that show in the editorial team to settle in. So just as I’m doing here, I’m adjusting my show. Yeah. Uh, it clearly is something that the big companies do as well, but let’s just finally, I just want to try a tack with you if you don’t mind.

And this is to do with the project show, how not to get old and boring, which if you’ve been listening to this series a while, you’ll know what I’m talking about with that one. And I did a brainstorm using this same process to see what would come up for me.

And I wrote down a couple of lines and I would love to run these by you three, there are three sets of two lines to see which you think. Is the most engaging. And I would love to know on social media, if you can let me know which you think are the most engaging to see whether I got it right, frankly or not.

So here we go. The first pair is a story about people who refuse to get old or how not to get old. Fecund one tricks to avoid getting old. challenges people faced getting out and the third step, the secret in a sentence to staying young forever. And five step plan to stay young, forever.

Hope you got those. would love to know which you think are the most engaging of those. I know which I wrote down. Uh, I would love to hear if you want to share with me what you think as well.

so the answer to the perfect show clearly is already inside us, but we need to be a lot more critical about the questions we ask ourselves to find that information. And this is where I went wrong because it’s so easy to think. Oh, that would be a cool show to make.

But is it really what’s going to engage people? You know, it doesn’t matter whether this is a business show about short stories or whatever. We need to ask ourselves these questions and say, would we ourselves actually drop everything to listen to it? Cause if we wouldn’t, no one else is going to. And as I said earlier, we can’t afford. The marketing budget to cover up for a poorly focused show that a big production company will have. We have to get it right. If we want to achieve the hit podcast, I hope you found that really interesting because I have found this absolutely fascinating to do this on myself. I do just want to round up with a couple of conversations that I’ve been having this week on social media as well, though, because as always, there’s some really interesting lessons that you can get out of talking to people.

And I was really struck first of all, by the legendary Africa podcast. Not only is it great idea, and there’s just too little content coming out about Africa, frankly, if you look at the podcast jars, but what struck me was the presenters honesty. About why they nearly quit. And it is a, it’s a very moving story and it absolutely, I mean, he really touched me.

Um, but also then why they decided carry on and that kind of authenticity is something I think, which makes independent podcasters. So much more powerful for their particular niece than a big production company, because it’s harmony with that really authentic field that you’re going to get in. And I was also interested in some comments made by 60,000 podcasts, as well as having a really well produced.

Podcast an amazing voice. I have to say. Um, they raised the issue of topic that I’ve just been talking about and they said that it was hard to find enough content for a particular topic. And I remember talking to Mike winter about this with his show wisecracking with winter. And the point we ended up concluding was that it doesn’t have to be the same topic.

This was just a conclusion. You might completely disagree with it because it’s ultimately the value proposition. That needs to remain the same, but the actual topic can change. So why are people tuning in, is it for that topic? Because if it’s not, if they’re tuning in for comedy or a particular type of inspiration, it doesn’t really matter what the content of that show is that day providing it delivers on that value.

You know, it could be the thrill of a story, or it could be a particular insight into a historical event. It looks like 60,000 has certainly suss that out though, but it was a really interesting point on that one.

So thank you very much for John this week for this sort of what I’ve learned podcast. Don’t forget to subscribe right now on your podcast app. If you haven’t already and join me on social media as well. I want to do as many updates as I can on Twitter at, at hit podcast, 2020 that’s at head podcast, 2020.

And also of course you can find me on the website as well. Can I make a hit podcast.com? That’s literally all one word. Can I make a hit podcast? Dot com and let me finish from my standard line. And 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 be making one by the end of the year, speak 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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