9 Things I Learned About Podcasting After 1000 Episodes

About Author Graham Brown

Graham Brown is the founder of Pikkal & Co – performance communication agency responsible for producing Award Winning Podcasts for business brands. Clients including McKinsey, Julius Baer, IBM and the Singapore Government. Investors and Advisors from Netflix, Intel, Apple and iQiYi. He is a published Amazon author covering human communication technologies, marketing and branding. He has produced over 1,000 podcast episodes and webinar shows with notable shows including the Tony Fernandes Podcast. Graham is a graduate in Artificial Intelligence and is currently leading Pikkal & Co to use Machine Learning and Conversation Analytics to automate the heavy lifting of communication to elevate the human touch.

1000 Episodes Later

In the unfolding story of the Podcast Market Evolution, this is Chapter 1, Early Days…

If you follow our Podcast Data from Podcast Maps, you’ll see that Podcasting is riding a wave right now but that doesn’t mean a rising tide raises all boats.

I’ve published over 1000 esisodes recorded in studios, coworking spaces, offices, conferences, cafes, street corners and even night markets in Japan, China, Hong Kong, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. (Here’s the complete list of Podcast Locations and Formats if you’re interested).

I’ve even recorded in a rice field, at an airport and on an airplane.

Our Podcast Agency was the first in Asia to monetize the production of Podcasts at scale working with Government and Enterprise Podcast Clients.

We tried and tested many different formats. Some failed, some won Platinum Communications Awards (see the McKinsey Future of Asia Podcast).

And here’s what we learned…

(1) Podcasts are Conversations not Interviews

What did I get out of that podcast?

podcast

Did I hear everything that was already out there online? If so, why did I waste my time listening to it?

Podcasts aren’t interviews. Stop asking interview questions. Stop sending questions beforehand. Read my guide on how to ask better podcast questions.

Podcasts are Conversations not Interviews

Modern audiences want authentic conversations, raw and unpolished. Efficient, rehearsed interviews fail to engage an audience that increasingly places a premium on trust, vulnerability and connection.podcasts are conversations not interviews

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The growth of coffee shops like Starbucks across the world isn’t a function of our growing need for coffee. It’s a function of something more deep rooted, a fundamental emotional yearning lost in the noise of our modern lives. We are lonely. The most profitable Starbucks in the world is in Tokyo, the biggest in Shanghai. These are 2 societies that have seen massive uprooting of young people from the villages and small towns heading to the big cities. That’s a lot of young people disconnected from their communities looking for a place to belong. That’s why Howard Schultz calls Starbucks “The 3rd Place”. In fact, Starbucks hails from Seattle, the US city with the highest inbound migration rate of any city in the 90s.

So, why am I talking about Starbucks and coffee? Because podcasts aren’t coffeee. If you want cheap, fast coffee go to McDonald’s. If you want quick “how tos” or advice, go to the internet.

Open up your phone and try and find something deep and meaningful that holds your attention. 15 years into smartphones we still haven’t figured it out. I installed the Medium app the other day in the hope of finding something that would be good for my brain. I read an article about “how to setup your smartphone so it doesn’t control your life”. 2 minutes into the article I’m being advised to change my wallpaper. The author says that 73% of people like dogs and 43% cats, so I should install a picture of puppies on my iPhone.

WTF?

The fruit machine world of gaming our attention and mindless scrolling isn’t getting any better.

It’s the McDonald’s of content. If you want community, connection and conversation go to Starbucks. That’s what a podcast does. It’s the conversations we no longer have in our daily lives. The stuff that matters, not the stuff that games our attention.

People say “I don’t have time to listen to a podcast!” But do they also have time for meetings? I’m sure they are happy to spend 1 hour with someone over a coffee.

Podcasts are the Conversations that Matter.

People have time for what matters, the problem is they see podcasts as “information” and many podcast hosts are falling into this trap, competing with the internet of noise. That’s a game you’ll never win.

Your goal is to create a conversation the listener feels they are part of.

We partner with our Podcast Clients to create what we at Pikkal call “Conversations at Scale”. These Conversations have the intimacy of a coffee meeting but the scale of traditional mass communications.

Define: Conversations at Scale

Conversations at Scale: business conversations that have the authenticity and intimacy of a coffee meeting but can scale like traditional mass communications. conversations at scale

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TIPS

  • Don’t send questions beforehand
  • Make an effort to settle your guest. Compliment them. Reassure them you are not here to catch them out, your job is to make them sound good. You are a podcaster not a journalist.
  • Learn how to ask podcast questions. Research hooks and angles to build a narrative, rather than a meaningless 20 questions to steamroll through

Podcasts: Get our Guide for Corporates

podcast planning guide

(2) It’s not about your guest, it’s about YOU

podcast

Uncomfortable truth about your Podcast.

Great guests don’t build audiences long term.

This will make many podcast hosts squirm with discomfort and I’ll say I’m one of them. The first 100 or so podcasts I recorded were all about my guests but then I realized the the common anchor in all of this was me. It’s the themes I introduce and my vibe that will keep people coming back.

You see, you can keep doing the crappy interviews week in week out, hoping your guests push it out to their network and see your audience die off just in time to reignite it again with the next new guest. Or you can build a following.

Audience Spiking is a phenomena we notice in our Pikkal Analytics Platform.

Define: Podcast Analytics

Podcast Analytics – while tracking the analytics of podcast audiences are obvious applications of data, to extend the capability of analytics we need “Data Driven Conversations”. At Pikkal & Co, we help our Podcast Clients by sharing data from our Pikkal Analytics Platform that helps measure thought leadership, benchmarks performance against in-category competition, monitors Podcast SEO and engagement.

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Allow me to use this rather crude chart illustration from my Artificial Intelligence Days:

podcast analytics trends

You see, most podcasts hosts try to build their audience by leveraging the guest to boost the episode to their network. The net effect is a CYCLIC podcast. This can make a host feel, long term that they are constantly spinning a hamster wheel because every episode the audience resets to Zero.

That’s tough.

The reason? If you rely on guests, the guest audience will happily listen to that episode but there is a very low “AUDIENCE CARRY” meaning listener listens to podcast 2 then 3 then 4.

AUDIENCE CARRY is how you build audiences.

AUDIENCE CARRY is the INCREASING TREND CHART.

So, how do you build “AUDIENCE CARRY”?

Define: Audience Carry

Audience Carry – imagine you were running a restaurant. Most of your diners would come Saturday evenings and Weekend afternoons. But a good restauranteur knows that success comes from filling out the restaurant on a Tuesday evening on Thursday afternoon. It’s the same with Podcast Audiences. It’s easy to get “spikes” from your guest sharing the pdocast to their network, but how much of that Audience carries to other episodes? Successful Podcasts have Carry, created in part due to strong Narrative Frameworks and planning (such as Podcast Storyboarding and Key Talking Points)

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OK before we explore this riff, when I mean “it’s about YOU” I don’t mean it’s you who does all the talking. I once co-hosted a podcast with another guy who made every podcast about him and his opinion. He did 80% of the talking. That’s fine, but just do a monologue.

When I started Asia Tech Podcast many years ago it was 10% host 90% guest talking. The trouble with this format is that it fails to create the narrative consistency you need to bring audience back to future (and past) episodes.

That’s why now I advice our Podcast Clients that a good podcast should be 30% host talking, 70% guest. 30% is enough to create a connection but not too much to put people off.

When you can create connections between the audience and the host, you are also creating a connection between the outside world and the inside organization. This connection or “human communication interface” is key to building The Storytelling Organization – an organization that empowers its leaders at all levels to find their voice.

A following requires connection between you and the audience. Your guest may bring a new audience but if YOU don’t connect with them, you lose all that goodwill.

What did you share about yourself in the podcast this episode? I have to keep reminding myself. If the audience didn’t learn something about me, it’s a missed opportunity.

You build AUDIENCE CARRY by building a connection between the Host and the Audience. The Host is a guide taking the audience on a journey both back and forward in time. The Host encourages the audience to stay tuned because of the overarching narrative. The Host encourages the audience to go back and check out relevant episodes because they zoom into the subject at hand.

That’s how you build audiences, one connection at a time.

TIPS:

  • Share information about you the host in the podcast. If your guest says something, you have the opportunity to connect that with your own experience.
  • But don’t hog the podcast. The 30/70 rule is a good guideline. Look at your WAV files and you can see how much talking you’re doing.

(3) You’re only as good as your Mic

podcast
I hear podcasts use internal microphones on their laptops or earbuds.

Please, it only costs $100 to get a starter USB microphone to get in the game. Start with that and your sound will improve immensely. You can get away with crappy video, but people will never forgive crap audio.

$100 gets you in the game with a USB Audio Technica that you can plug straight into your laptop. Of course, with all equipment you’ll always have your eye on the next upgrade. We use broadcast quality headsets that costs around $600 each running into a $1000 Rodecaster Pro mixer, our gold standard setup I’d recommend to any producer. Our studio setup again is more costly, with 4 x $600 Shure SM7B mics.

TIPS:

  • If you don’t have a stand mic, get one. $100-$150 gets you in the game.
  • Buy a good stand that positions the mic around 50cm from your face. Hold that position
  • If you’re upgrading to mixers and XLRs, get headsets. Musicians use headsets to monitor their own sound, it will give you instant feedback and help you improve.

(4) Be Present in the Podcast

podcast
When I started our podcasting my main concern was not dying.

You’ve probably felt this when you first started learning to drive or your first public speaking engagement. 1000 podcasts in now I’m reminding myself to be present. That means enjoying the moment. I’ve had conversations where time flew. Is that an hour already?

I was just in the moment with the guest. When the chemistry is there, you are indulging in a deep conversation rather than a list of questions.

(5) Podcasts are Stories

podcast

We all connect with stories. For thousands of years stories have shaped human culture and relationships.

The best podcasts are ones which tell stories. Q&A can be boring. Stories engage. If you look at the data on podcast engaement, compared to social media, podcasts win hands down.

Business Storytelling is a key skill every modern leader needs to learn and refine to engage and influence increasingly disparate and diverse audiences. But you have to do it right. As we say in our Podcast Agency, the B2B Podcast is an opportunity to co-create a narrative between host and guest, a narrative that invites the audience to take part in a journey.

Define: Business Storytelling

Business Storytelling – how leaders like Steve Jobs use existing narrative frameworks to engage and create positive change.

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When we recorded ATP Bangkok, we told the story of Thailand and the Asian century through Chinese influence in Bangkok, especially through the lens of tourism. We recorded the scenes on the airplane, at The Tru Digital Park coworking space and walking around a night market.

(6) Be Careful in Chasing {insert famous celebrity or influencer} for Your Podcast

podcast
Give a voice to the people who need it.

Sure, they could be celebrities but not the ones who already have countless social media channels. There are celebrities who are omnipresent on social media famous for being omnipresent on social media.

This just adds to the noise.

If you want big names, get the ones who have done something remarkable.

Tony Fernandes built an Airline, owned a football club and an F1 Team. Elon Musk built Paypal and wants to send rockets to Mars. These are interesting people. Get them on a podcast because they have done stuff.

Tony & Elon are not famous for telling other people how to be like them.

My heart sinks when I see another podcaster snag a YouTube or LinkedIn influencer on their podcast show. It does nothing for their podcast long term and it cheats their audience.

Give a voice to the people who need an authentic, unedited channels to tell their story in their words.

Define: Authentic Leadership

Authentic Leadership – the word “Authenticity” stems from the Greek root “au” which has no direct translation but means “to feel” or “to perceive”. “AU” is the same etymological base for “Audio”, “Audience” and “Authority”. It’s no coincidence that in the Era of the Machine, audiences increasingly want authentic, human audio conversations, raw and unpolished.

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Data: Authentic Leadership

data authentic leadership

(7) Podcasting is a license to experiment

podcast

99% of podcasts are recorded between two people sitting at a desk. That’s okay, but I think you’re missing on a huge opportunity on what podcasting can really be.

We love the idea of creating “soundscapes” – movie scenes in audio format. Why not? Everyone loves a story.

Define: Soundscapes

Soundscapes – Podcasts are a canvas for your imagination. With the help of a good Podcast Agency you can create engaging audio content using established audio engineering techniques like transitions, music, soundbites, stingers, trailers and drops. Your goal is to create an engaging story, to co-create a narrative with all the team, not to deliver dry interviews.

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Experiment with your podcast format. Here are some podcast format ideas to get you thinking.

Think of your podcast in the same way a startup founder thinks about building an App. Think Lean, think Agile. Done is better than perfect. We call this Agile Storytelling.

Define: Agile Storytelling

Agile Storytelling – you don’t need a finished book to have a story worth telling. The best stories are journeys which engage and invite the audience to take part, evolving as they add key talking points and refine their thought architecture. agile storytelling

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(8) Recording is the easy part, it’s Everything that Else that Sinks Podcasts

podcast agency

Podcasts are a lot harder than they look (sound). That’s why we have a team at our Podcast Agency who put our podcasts together. When we go on location we storyboard our podcasts. We have an engineer and editors working behind the scenes.

When podcast clients engage us to turn their idea into a successful podcast we do all the heavy lifting in the creative process:
– Planning
– Production
– Promotion
– Performance Review

We design the Podcast Series with their audience in mind and help the Client measure and optimize the Series using our Pikkal Analytics platform.

I find many podcasters or brands get in the game then hit the 6 episode hump only to give up or the wheels come off. They are either chasing guests, recording with guests or publishing. It’s like spinning plates. When you’re tending to one plate, the other is about to fall off the spike.

You can record and publish a podcast on your own but you’ll struggle to make a business out of it. It’s certainly an easy way of getting started. However, if you’re making money and/or you’re serious about this as a long term endeavour, build your team.

TIPS:

  • Plenty of podcast editors and producers available on Fiverr and Upwork. Cleaning up a podcast is the easy part, so it’s easy to find an outsourced editor.
  • Finding consistent team members is the key. Add to that good workflows and processes that need to be developed.
  • If you don’t have time to do all this hire a podcast media agency like us.

(9) Have Fun

podcast agency
Laugh, joke. Don’t be so serious. Life will be over soon, you won’t get out alive.

podcast agency

BONUS Lesson Learned: Early Days

It’s still early days but we are reaching a Podcast Tipping Point, especially in the B2B Podcast space.

BONUS Lesson Learned: B2B Podcasts

B2C Podcasts vs B2B Podcasts – you must know the difference if you want to succeed in this space!

Looking for Podcast Case Study Examples?

10 business podcast case studies

Podcasts: Get our Guide for Corporates

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About Author Graham Brown

Graham Brown is the founder of Pikkal & Co – performance communication agency responsible for producing Award Winning Podcasts for business brands. Clients including McKinsey, Julius Baer, IBM and the Singapore Government. Investors and Advisors from Netflix, Intel, Apple and iQiYi. He is a published Amazon author covering human communication technologies, marketing and branding. He has produced over 1,000 podcast episodes and webinar shows with notable shows including the Tony Fernandes Podcast. Graham is a graduate in Artificial Intelligence and is currently leading Pikkal & Co to use Machine Learning and Conversation Analytics to automate the heavy lifting of communication to elevate the human touch.
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