In this episode:
01:16 – Problogger.net blogging history
03:48 – Why start a podcast now?
05:54 – Getting past the excuses
08:31 – Some friendly pro feedback
10:40 – Coming up with a premise
16:00 – How often and how long?
18:51 – A helpful checklist
23:51 – Hung up on perfection?
25:50 – Looking forward to this
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James: James Schramko here, welcome back to SuperFastBusiness.com. Today, we are finding out about when is a good time to have your own podcast. You’ve been listening to this podcast and perhaps a few of my other podcasts, and I’m always interested when I find a serious marketer who’s starting a podcast and the curiosity peaks and I want to know why, what caused them to want to start a podcast, what sort of things are involved in that process and what can they learn when they research from other podcasts as how they should best get started.
So if you fall into that category, you’re going to love this show. And today my special guest is Darren Rowse.
Darren: Good day, James.
James: How are you?
Darren: I’m very well.
James: We’ve bumped into each other a few times at conferences. I’ve been aware of you for the longest time, I know you have spoken at Underground events, and I’ve sort of followed a year or two behind you. I think you’ve been going at this for maybe 11 years, maybe longer?
A long career in blogging
Darren: I think it was 2002 I started blogging, but it didn’t really become anything more than a hobby until I think maybe a year and a half after that, so yeah.
James: So you’ve been going for a while. I’m still not even up to the decade mark, so you’re an old timer from my perspective. Except in the whole time, you have yet to start the podcast until now, is that right?
Darren: That’s right. It’s purely been blogging, forums, social media, a book and e-books, really, has been the kind of the extent, which I guess is a fair bit. But podcasting’s only about to happen for me now.
James: Right, so I’m really interested. I mean, just to give the listener some depth to this, you had started ProBlogger.net, became like a worldwide super duper blog, one of the top ranked sites in the world, super famous for amazing content, for your publishing, you’ve got teams of writers, you have great expertise in this and you’ve even transferred that into a photography site, you might want to mention that URL as well.
Darren: Yes, so that’s digital-photography-school.com, which is a horrible URL.
James: (Laughing) That’s a terrible URL.
Darren: It’s living proof that even with the worst URL in the world you can do something reasonably significant. It’s got about 4.5 million visitors a month to it, so it’s done OK for me despite the URL.
James: Not bad. So you know a thing or two about publishing online, and your new podcast is going to be at ProBlogger.com/podcast.
Darren: That’s exactly the spot for it, and we’ll be transitioning a lot of the .net stuff over to .com in the coming months as well.
James: Do you think it’s important to have a .com version of your domain name?
Darren: I do. I don’t think it’s essential, and you know, the same with the digital photography school URL, you can do pretty well with almost anything. I think my philosophy would be useful and change people’s lives and whatever URL you’re on, you can do well. But it’s probably ideal to have it on the .com, but unfortunately it was not available when I first started out. I had to buy it later on.
James: Right. And I’ve always been advising my students to make sure they get into that .com nice and early before their business becomes an obvious cash cow milking exercise for whoever owns the .com.
Why go into podcasting at this time?
James: So Darren, why a podcast now?
Darren: Look, there’s been a number of factors. I guess one of them is that I’ve been nagged into it by many people. We’ve got mutual friends, Chris Ducker’s been on my case for a long time, and numerous other friends. So that’s been one of them. I think that nagging started because those people have seen me speak, and they’ve enjoyed the way that I speak, and thought I would be a natural fit to it.
And I guess that’s the other factor for me, is that I love to speak, and I get invited to the States to speak a lot, but can’t really travel a whole heap, because we’ve got young kids. And so podcasting has been something that I always thought, maybe I could exercise some of my speaking dreams in that type of format.
And I guess the last factor for me is just, I’ve become addicted to them, and I’ve started walking this year for the first time in a long time, an hour every afternoon, and what I’m doing on those walks is listening to podcasts, and I’d never really listened to anything more than a few snippets of them in the past, but I’ve very quickly become addicted to listening to podcasts like yours and a variety of others on all kinds of topics, and really have been impacted by them, particularly with my health. I’ve actually been listening to some health podcasts, and they’ve changed my life quite literally, and that’s what I’m in the business of, I love to impact people in that sort of way.
So it’s, I guess, convinced me of the medium and given me a real reason, a personal reason to want to start it. As I’ve listened to those podcasts, I can’t help but think, you know, I could do that. I could do that in this way. So yeah, podcast is the next thing.
James: I predict you’ll be phenomenally successful with it. Because if you think you’re good at speaking, we already know you can write like a machine, so it’s just like you’re one of those people with probably too much talent for one person. But you have been getting skinnier, so the walking’s obviously helping.
Darren: Walking’s helped. I think not stuffing myself with two or three extra meals a day has probably helped a bit, too.
James: I reckon that’s got something to do with it.
Darren: It’s probably that a little bit more to do with it than anything I think, yeah.
What held Darren back?
James: So in the past, you’ve thought, maybe you could do this, maybe it’s fear, what sort of things do you think held you back from starting it that might be affecting someone listening to this?
Darren: Sure. I think maybe number one was too many other balls in the air, and just feeling overwhelmed by the thought of having to learn a new skill. I’m not a technical person at all, and have outsourced a lot of that in my other parts of my business, but I always like to get my head around it first before I outsource it, and so I just didn’t quite have the head space, or I didn’t think I had the head space, to be able to learn it and then create it.
Because when you start something it takes two or three times as long to do it the first few times. But I guess they’re just excuses, and I’ve learned a long time, when I make a lot of excuses and I keep still having the dream that I kind of have to kick myself in the butt and just do it sometimes. So technical issues is probably the biggest thing that I thought would hold me back.
James: And how have you gone about approaching the technical things, as a brand new startup podcast? What sort of things have been across your workflow, and things that you thought were challenging and how did you solve them?
Darren: Yeah, also, I went to a conference, Social Media Marketing World in, must have been March, in the States, and sat in on a few podcasting sessions there, so just listened to some beginner-type tips from that and then just read a whole heap from other podcasters, and there’s some great guides online for free that walk you really through it, and I realized that I already had GarageBand sitting on my computer.
So I had the tool sitting there, I had a podcaster microphone that I’d won years ago, that I’ve used for webinars, so I kind of had the basics in terms of equipment, so there wasn’t really anything holding me back on that way, and then I just decided one day to record one, and see how it sounded, see how it felt, and it felt good and the rest has been history.
James: I think the reality is when you actually get into it you’ll find there’s almost nothing easier than podcasting. I just use a USB podcaster mic that plugs straight into the computer, and I record with Call Recorder on Skype, and just drag the media into Dropbox afterwards and the team just takes over, they do a little top and tail and load it up. In fact, my main job these days is to just talk for an hour a day and record it, and make sure that that goes in. And that’s enough to drive the whole machine. So I’m pretty excited for where you’re going to take this when you discover that it’s probably the easiest activity you could do of all the things you can do.
Darren: That’s right.
James: So when you’re approaching this, Darren, I know that you sent out a questionnaire to some of your close peer group, people who you trust and who you know are getting good results. I’m super curious, what sort of tips did they give you as experienced podcasters?
Tips from the test peer group of podcasters
Darren: Hmmm. It was interesting. I sent it to out 12 people who had experience with podcasting, some quite well-known and some smaller ones as well, and the feedback was pretty similar, it was along the lines of just do it, just release something, it doesn’t have to be perfect.
And a lot of it was around things like, you know, have two or three episodes in the can before you launch it so people have got more than one to listen to; keep momentum up, particularly in the first week or two; use your email list, use any social channels you’ve got to promote it and leverage it. It was pretty similar advice from everyone.
And I think the main theme was just do it. And that’s what I always said to people who were wanting to start blogs as well. You’ve just kind of got to get it out there. And you learn from that process of publishing your first one, so much. And I’ve learned so much in just the editing of the first one that I’m now putting into the next episodes as well.
James: Good. And I hope you have outsourcing editing somewhere higher up on your task list.
Darren: Well, that’s the next thing for me, is now I’ve got the first few recorded, well, I’ve got 31 recorded and five edited, now it’s about training someone else to get the rest of them up.
James: That’s something I took a little bit too long to do, and I thought it was going to be a challenge and difficult, and it couldn’t have been easier. I just sat beside my editor and did three podcasts. I did one, and then I watched her do it, and gave her coaching on the fly, and then I let her do the third one all by herself and listen to it, and made a couple of changes. And from that point on, and I’m talking hundreds of podcasts ago, I never had to listen to my own voice back again, which is fantastic.
Darren: Yeah, I can imagine how great that’s going to feel.
James: It’s so liberating. Because I can assure you, when we’re finished talking, I’m just going to drag a file into Dropbox, and I won’t see it again until it’s on my website playing for customers.
James: Now, we’ve talked about some of the tech stuff, and the resistance to getting started. I’m really interested in when it comes to the premise or what your podcast will be about, how did you make some choices around that and what did you decide? And I love how you say you’ve done your “first few,” like 30-something episodes! (Laughs)
Darren: Yeah! (Laughs) Well, I brainstormed. I’ve got an Evernote file that’s sitting on my computer at the moment and I’m looking at it, and I brainstormed about a hundred episodes on a plane ride back from the States. So I had quite a while to do it, and a lot of them aligned pretty well with popular posts that I’d already written on the blog. So I’ve got the advantage of having a lot of content that I can update for a podcast and repurpose I guess in some ways into a podcast.
I’ve also got some e-books that I’ve written, and one of the things that I did in the early days of ProBlogger was a series of blog posts called “31 Days to Build a Better Blog.” And I ran it, I think in 2007 the first time, and it was the biggest month of traffic I’d ever had, and it was a very simple concept, a little bit of teaching every day and then a challenge that people could go and do and improve their blog.
And it just brought a lot of life to the blog and I ran it again in 2010, I think it was, or 2009, and again it was a big month of traffic and my readers at the end of that, it was just a free series of posts, they said to me, “We want it as an e-book, can you sell it to us?” And I was skeptical that anyone would want to buy something that was already on the blog for free, but I created this e-book, and it sold 10,000 copies in the first couple of weeks, and convinced me that it was a good idea.
And so I’ve decided to take that e-book and the 31 activities that I talk about in that e-book and create a podcast around those. So the first 31 episodes come out on a daily basis starting on the first of July, and exactly the same format as the book, a little bit of teaching, and then go away and do this, and then report back to us what you’ve learned. And so that’s the first 31 days and I’ve recorded them all, it’s just about editing and topping and tailing them now.
James: Fantastic. Yeah, there’s a few ways that you can do it, and someone in your position with a body of work already published, you could literally read every single post you’ve ever typed, or had your writers typed, as a podcast or even engage a podcast personality to be the voice of your site. And what I’ve found very interesting is whenever I’ve published information as a podcast, text and video, there’ll always be two to one listens versus views, and there’ll be a certain percentage of people who are walking or travelling who can’t read doing the activity that they’re doing but they can certainly listen.
Like if you’re rowing a boat down the river or walking along, it’s a little bit harder to read without falling over a pothole or something but it’s easier to listen. So you’re accessing that whole medium. You could literally open up your best content from the blog over the last decade to people in a different format and they’d love it.
Darren: Yeah, and that’s what I’m hearing back. I asked on my Facebook page the other day what people want and that theme came through. And I guess the other advantage of having done a lot of conferences and met a lot of people is that the doors are open for conversations like we’re having now with people that I know would be helpful to my readers.
And that will be the other aspect of after the 31 days, it certainly won’t be a daily podcast after that, but you know one or two times a week, interviews, but also that same format of teaching and challenges. I definitely want it to be an action-orientated type thing that people go away and do something as a result of listening.
James: Interviews are great because you can actually invite people onto your show who you’d like to hear from and learn from yourself. Because there’s a good chance that if you’re interested, your audience will be interested as well.
James: I’ll give you another interesting one, which is the recycled one. And this is where, let’s say you’re attending my website today, as a podcast guest, if you were to run a recorder on your side of the conversation, you could then give that to someone on your team who can transcribe it into some bullets, and then you’d be able to create a podcast on how to start your own podcast, what to consider with technology and equipment, what sort of show premise is important, what are some of the obstacles. And you can actually recycle a guest appearance for your own site as well.
Darren: Yeah. And that’s something I’d quite often talked to my readers about, is the things you do every day that you’re not doing for a post or for a podcast, you’ve just got to capture those things. And so setting a recorder while you’re talking to someone can become a blog post. Screen-capturing something that you do 20 times a day could be interesting to someone.
James: Oh, people love behind-the-scenes, don’t they? They’d like to hear on your approach to going to an event, on post-event recaps. I don’t do a coaching call without Evernote open, and I’m typing notes. I’ve literally got in my Evernote call notes from the last 6 years of high-level coaching, so there’s an unlimited database of topics to talk about.
Darren: That’s gold. You’ve just got to open your mind. There’s a mindset, I think, just everything you’re doing could be a post.
Frequency and length
James: In your research phase lately, have you seen mistakes that people are doing that they really should fix before they ever create them in the first place?
Darren: I think there’s been a few podcasts of people I really admire, and one of the things I love, that frustrates me I guess, is when you listen to that first, really great podcast and they say, well, there’ll be another one in 2 weeks, and you’re just like, aww, I just want another one! And there’s been a couple like that, so I guess that’s something that I’m cognitive of, particularly as I’m doing a daily show, is keeping it going.
I don’t know, there’s different opinions and length as well is something that I’ve asked a lot of people about, is should they be short or should they be long? Mine are relatively short, but I know others have said, no, people love the long ones. So I guess that’s something I want to play with and experiment with, but I guess it’s about listening to your listeners and seeing what they do with your content and how they use it and learning from that.
James: Plus there’s a bit of a problem in the podcasting industry that if someone clicks play on a podcast then that’s counted as a download…
Darren: Yeah, download.
James: …so I would not believe the numbers on some of those 3-hour podcasts, because the reality is very few people can have 3 hours uninterrupted, and I would suggest a lot of them get terminated prior to the end of the podcast.
Darren: Yeah, for sure.
James: I’ve actually got podcasts from 2 or 3 minutes right through to an hour and a bit. And I’ve found people will accept whatever I put out. It’s the funniest thing.
Darren: That’s right.
James: Sometimes a podcast doesn’t need to be an hour long. I’ve got five different podcast shows, and the ones on Sales Marketing Profit are pretty much always 25 minutes. There’s just no fluff in those at all, “no filler, all killer” we say.
I’ve actually got a podcast with no premise, no agenda, and virtually no listeners called “Kicking Back,” and we just talk. There’s no set structure, no framework, it’s just me and my comedian friend. And I do it for my own selfish reasons. I love talking to a comedian for an hour.
James: And the podcast’s a great way to trick him into hanging out with me for an hour. I used to have to pay him to perform, and he’s such a cool guy. So you really can have that, and the funny thing is you’ll pick up different listeners depending on I guess what sort of show you put out there, and it sounds like you’re going to have a multiple premise show where you’re doing different things over the journey, and probably, knowing you, pay a lot of attention to the feedback that you get and start modifying it on the fly.
Darren: Yeah. And that’s exactly what I’ve done with my blog posts, and blogging, I’ve found lengthwise, I do both. I do mega 6,000-word posts, and they do really well. And then we’ve done 50-word posts and they’ve done well as well. I guess it’s just got to be useful.
James: Well, I think that will reflect across to the audio medium as well for you.
Darren: I hope so.
A basic checklist
James: So let’s say we’re in a similar position to you, where we’ve got a website or a business, we got a blog, we’ve come to the conclusion that podcasts are something we’d like to do; we’ve got some basic equipment together, with i.e. a microphone and a reasonably quiet room and something to record it on; we’ve got an idea about what we might talk about, whether we’re retrofitting some of our old posts, whether we’re taking our most successful product and converting it to audio, or whether we’re just lining up some interviews.
Let’s see if you and I could come up with a simple simple checklist of a few things that really have to be considered in order to get published. So what do you think the steps would be from going from your website to having a podcast?
Darren: Well, I mean some of the things that I’ve done practically, artwork for the podcast, so I’d used 99designs and got one made up fairly cheap and easy. And I’ve got intros and outros created, just some basic audio with a little bit of music over the top.
James: Where did you get them done?
Darren: A guy called Abe. Abe’s Audio, I think he’s called. South Australian guy. And it was pretty quick and easy and he’d done it before, so he knew the sort of stuff to create, and he’s given me some little breaker-type things to put in the middle of them as well if I need them.
I’ve also got 99designs on as a sponsor, so there was some sort of negotiations that needed to happen there, which again was relatively quick and I guess having an established profile, that helped a lot in having a podcast sponsor right from the start. But I wouldn’t say that’s an essential thing, particularly if you’re selling yourself or your own products throughout it.
James: Yeah, we’ll make sure you send them a link over to this podcast. You might get an extra kicker.
Darren: Yeah. Exactly. In terms of launching, I’ve certainly put it out there to podcasting friends to learn from, but also that’s also resulted in two or three interviews like this, which has been really fantastic in helping to I guess get the word out, which has been great. But I’ve certainly developed a bit of a launch schedule as well, which I will be using my email list and the blog that I’ve got already, and social media. So there’s a few elements there, I guess, in terms of launching it as well.
James: A site like yours is simply putting a prominent banner on it, across the whole site, will steer a lot of traffic into it.
James: The other things that happen organically, which are really cool, are once you do pop up, obviously you’re going to get to your first thousand listens very quickly, you’re going to get to New and Noteworthy extremely quickly. And then you start popping up underneath other people’s shows in related categories. And one easy win is to appear on all the other shows that show up when your show’s up, because they have your listener.
James: And they’ll be aware of you as well, so that will be fun.
Darren: Yeah. I’m learning so much about how iTunes works as well. You know, there’s delays in getting it up as well, so you’ve got to submit a couple of days before you want to be launched, and some of those type of things as well.
James: And how will you be hosting the media?
Darren: So we’re using Libsyn, I think it’s called. Libsyn. And another little tool that I’ve started using today is Auphonic, I don’t know if you’ve come across that.
James: Well I’ve actually put guys like Ed Dale onto that, many years ago. I was one of the early users, and it’s a miracle. In fact, when I’m travelling, Darren, all I use is an iPhone or an iPad with Auphonic and a Lav mic. That’s how I do my podcasts on the road. Even if I’m doing a Skype call, I’ll have my Auphonic app and Lav mic strapped to my T-shirt, and I’ll record my side on the Lav mic, and then I’ll use the customer’s side from the Skype and I’ll get a really high-quality recording on that setup.
Darren: I still need to look a little bit more into it, but I’ve used it certainly to level out the podcasts that I’ve done and the improvement in the quality just by using the Web tool’s been great.
James: Fantastic. It also works for videos, which some people don’t know, but it reduces the noise, it will level out two sides of a conversation, and great for barking dogs and noisy kids.
Darren: I have noisy kids who I’ll probably have intrude on us in a moment.
James: There are little wins too, like the podcasting mic I use which is made by RODE has a built-in pop filter. And compared to some of the other ones, like the Blue Yetis or whatever, this seems to mask out construction work, kids, dogs, whatever, ocean waves crashing on the beach, way better than the other ones which seem to pick up every echo.
So things like whether it has dynamic amplifiers or not make a big difference to the quality of the recording. And it’s kind of assaulting to your listener to give them a horrible recording quality, if you’ve got the ability to make a good one, which is these days very simple to do.
Forget about perfection
Darren: That’s right. I think another thing that I’ve been learning through the recording is not to get too worried about the stumbles that you make along the way. I think in the podcasts that I listen to, certainly every podcast that I listen to is not a professional radio announcer, they make little bumbles, and I think a lot of people get caught up in taking 40 takes to get their podcast out there. And certainly all of mine have been one takers and there’s little stumbles along the way, but yeah, don’t let that hold you back. I think that’d certainly be a tip that I’d be giving people.
James: It’s a great tip. This podcast, for example, will literally have a bumper put on the front and the back, and there won’t be any edits, because we’re perfect, right?
Darren: Exactly. Exactly, and if you listen to the radio, they make mistakes as well.
James: They certainly do. There’ve been some shocking mistakes, especially from the Australian radio. I remember seeing some guy overseas like killed a rabbit live on air or something to make a point, and cooked it up in a stew. So people do make some strange decisions, so by all means edit those things out.
But for the most part, I think people are attracted to our podcasts because they want to find out more about the information, and they like knowing a real person is there and getting to know their true character. And it’s nice when you can go to an event, for example, like you and I could be having a meal at lunchtime, then we could be speaking on stage, then we could be chatting on Skype, and we’re going to get the same person each time, they’re not going to get a modified one.
Darren: That’s right.
James: There are some times when I line up for a podcast, and someone puts on their “show voice,” and I’m like, who’s this?
James: That’s not the guy I met last time.
James: Look, we’ve covered a range of topics, and the real thing I wanted to get across is wanted to step into that pre-podcast phase that you’ve been through, catch you right at the start, Darren, to see what you’ve been going through. And I think what would be quite good for my audience at least is to invite you back in a little bit to find out what happened – to see how the first shows went; to see what you experienced with ratings, with feedback from listeners; whether you now think that it should be long or short; whether you’ve changed any of your equipment; whether you canned the whole thing because it was a mistake; or if you’re just doubling down on it. Do you think you’d be able to come back and give us an update?
Darren: Totally. I look forward to that as well, and I think as I’m making them I’ll certainly be jotting down a few ideas and things to share.
James: That would be great. So listener, head over and check out ProBlogger.com/podcast. You’ve been listening to Darren Rowse, who’s been remarkably vulnerable on this podcast, sharing you the deep insider scenario of about to go live, and look, when you’ve got 12 or 13 years under your belt and a huge audience, people are definitely going to be paying attention to what you do. So I know that takes a lot to share that with us, and I want to thank you for coming and sharing that, Darren.
Darren: You’re welcome, it’s been great to chat.
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Talk about it: Do you dream of your own podcast? What are you waiting for?