Episode 357: Podcasting Time Increase Influence With Rob Walch
A lot of people start their podcast with the goal of building something unique for their audience, but the sad truth is, not everyone succeeds. As with any business, having the correct goals can make or break your attempt in podcasting. The VP of Podcaster Relations for Libsyn, Rob Walch, joins Mitch Stephen in this episode to provide some guidelines in starting your own podcast. Being a veteran host himself, Rob talks about what separates a successful podcast from its counterpart. Rob explains the different ways on how you can increase your influence and maximize your profits through podcasting by thinking outside the box.
Watch the episode here:
I have Rob Walch on the show. He is with Libsyn and it is the largest host of podcasts in the world. He’s going to talk to us about what they do and we’re going to talk about how podcasting in general can help your business. Not just the real estate business, but any business to drive customers, to make people aware and to get your name out to the marketplace and find the people that are interested in your niche. How are you doing, Rob?
I’m good, Mitch. Thanks for having me on the show.
Tell us a little about you and then tell us a little bit about Libsyn and what they’re about.
I’m the VP of Podcast Relations at Libsyn. I’m also the host of a podcast called Today in iOS, cohost of a podcast called The Feed and then host of one called podCast411. I’ve been podcasting since 2004 and Libsyn has been hosting podcasts since 2004. I’ve been with Libsyn since 2007. For those not familiar with Libsyn, we are the largest, oldest podcast host out there. We host 22%, roughly of all the podcast episodes in Apple podcasts. I don’t think anyone else is even 10% on that number. We help anyone get their podcast out everywhere. That’s where Libsyn’s specialty is. We help you distribute your podcast everywhere.
Personally, I was running dry on my list. I was starting to go through the same people and try to mine through the same data that I could get my hands on. I started a podcast to increase my reach and to increase the awareness out there that I existed in what I did. One thing I’m clear on is that podcasting works for all kinds of businesses, right?
Absolutely. We see it for every niche you can think of and it’s a great way actually for people that have a client-based business where you’re trying to grow with more clients. If you know who those clients are, start a podcast and then reach out to those potential clients and interview them on your podcast. You do a podcast about that topic. Rather than cold calling someone and saying, “I want you to be my client.” You cold call them and say, “I think you’re brilliant and I want to share your brilliance with my audience.” That is the type of email that gets replied to. Once you interview them, you build a rapport and go, “By the way, I do this business on the side. If you ever need somebody, let me know.”
That’s funny you bring that up because that’s exactly how I get into a lot of people that I want to talk to. There are a lot of people that you can go and ask them, “Can I take you to lunch?” That’s never going to happen in a million years. You ask them, “Would you like to be on my podcast? I’d love to interview you.” It’s a whole different response and 95% of the time, it’s a yes. It’s a great way to start building that relationship. How hard is it to start a podcast?
It’s not hard to start a podcast. It’s like IKEA furniture. It might look daunting when you look at all the instructions and all the pieces laying on the floor, but if you take it one step at a time, doing a podcast isn’t difficult. You need a microphone. You want a halfway decent mic, a quiet room and a laptop and you can record. It doesn’t take long. There are free tutorials out there to teach you how to podcast. If you go into Apple iBooks, you can look for Podcast 101. It’s a free iBook I have out there that you can download and learn how to podcast. You can be podcasting in a couple of days, or actually a couple of hours really.Starting a podcast isn’t difficult as long as you do it one step at a time. Click To Tweet
That’s encouraging, especially that there’s help out there because a lot of people look at podcasting as a major event and it is a major event, but it doesn’t take as much as you might think, if you have the help from the right people. When they hit the record button, what does a successful podcaster do?
You can look at the most successful one, Joe Rogan, he hosts with Libsyn and it’s about the content. It’s about focusing on the content for the audience. A lot of people think marketing your podcast is going to be the most important thing. That’s the least important thing. Creating good content is the most important thing because great marketing doesn’t matter if your podcast is horrible. If your goal is to grow a large audience, one, you have to have a topic that appeals to a large audience. There’s a podcast called the Chameleon Breeder podcast, which is about chameleon breeding. It doesn’t matter how much money and effort that person puts, it doesn’t even matter how good that podcast is.
He’s going to be limited in the niche that podcast falls under. He has a good podcast. He has a decent-sized audience for that size podcast and actually makes good money from it. The point is you have to understand your show, who your audience is and then concentrate on the content. If you create good content, that’s what’s most important. If you get an audience of 500 people listening to your podcast and you have a niche, that’s a really good-sized audience. I always say to people, “Think about the last time you were in front of a room of 500 people, that you got up and spoke in front.” A very few people that speak, get to speak in front of 500 people. I’ve spoken hundreds of times only a dozen times if I got into audiences that size. You can do with a podcast, you can get 500 people that are in your audience and you’re speaking to them every week. That’s a powerful thing if you can get to that level.
Some people can do podcasting for a hobby just because they like it. You can take it to a different level and start to monetize your podcast if you’re a client-based service or business or sell a product. It helps to have those things in the background, but we shouldn’t go into the podcast trying to make a sale. We should go into the podcast, trying to make a relationship and trying to build an audience who’s interested in what we’re interested in. We’re like-minded people.
I would say that if you’re getting into podcasting for the sole purpose of monetizing directly from that podcast, and you say my business model is I’m going to build a big audience and I’m going to monetize through advertising. Take any money you are about to invest in podcasting, go to the local Indian casino and put it all on black or red. Your odds are so much better of making money. Only about 1 in 14 podcasts really even monetize. Most podcasts don’t ever get to the numbers where they can monetize directly through advertising. If that’s your business model, it’s a failed business model. The chances of it happening are 1 in 14. By the way, all the horse tracks in the US get you better odds than making money through podcasting.
I did not know that. I may be one of those 1 in 14 anomalies. I did not start my podcast though to monetize. It just happened that there was a lot of peripheral products and coaching programs and stuff that fit into my audience. There were a lot of different ways to make money in real estate, which is what I do for a living. That’s what my audience is. They’re either young investors or young entrepreneurs, who are trying to figure out how to get to the financial freedom side of the equation. I stumbled into it completely by accident.
I also realized one thing when I was going to start the podcast. You had to be in it for the long haul. If you don’t get an audience in the first week and even if you’re going to monetize, you got one person, one affiliate on the first day that you do an interview with a guy who has an affiliate program. You got one podcast. When my podcast started becoming a little bit more lucrative in the affiliate side was when there were 50, 60, 70, podcasts archived. Three-quarters of them had a product to offer. When they got on to interview, you’ve got to deliver content or everyone will turn you off because no one wants you. You all see those things on cable TV where they’re selling vacuum cleaners, blenders and they’re selling George Foreman cooker things and the whole shows about that. It’s like, how many people tune into that?
Most people that monetize through podcasting don’t do it even directly through advertising. They do it through building up a brand and building up their business or getting a job. One of my favorite stories is a guy that stopped podcasting. I asked him why he stopped. His podcast was about his favorite soccer team in the UK, Manchester United. The marketing team liked his podcast so much, they hired him and he stopped the podcast. He got his dream job from his podcast. There are ways to monetize not directly to the podcast, but because of the podcast.
Other people get career advancements and get promotions at work because they have a podcast at their company and they start interviewing people inside the company and they interview the CEO and other people. When job openings happen, people remember this person at the company that was interviewing them and they go, “You’d be good for this,” or “She would be good for this.” There are a lot of people that have made money from podcasting, but not directly. You have to do it long haul. You have to be in it for the right reasons. If you’re in it for the quick buck, that’s why a lot of people quit. A lot of people quit podcasting before they get to ten episodes.
There’s another big group that dropped around 50. What happens with the ones before ten, they go, “This is more work than I thought,” more than blogging. Creating good content is actually hard work. The other group quit around 50 because they’ve been doing one episode every week for a year and their audience is 50 people. They realized they’re never going to monetize after a year, and they get out of it. The problem is, when you look at those shows, a lot of times, they hit record, hit stop, they don’t edit, they don’t do any research. They spend 30 minutes to 45 minutes per episode a week. They spend 15 minutes on that 45-minute episode. They think that was enough. No, you have to put time and effort into it.
When I started this show I said, “I’m going to go for a year at least,” and I realized that you had to get off to a fast start. I committed to doing six podcasts a week because I needed to build an audience. I was JV-ing with the people that I was interviewing, which meant they were going to send the podcast to their audience. Whether my audience was 50 people, they might have 2,000 people on their list. I knew that the more people I interviewed that had a following, the faster I would get a bigger audience because at least their interview would go out to their audience. If I did six a week, then it would move a lot faster.
We were right about that. One thing I didn’t realize is people binge-listen to podcasts. If you have a bunch of archived segments, people binge-listen to them like they binge-watch Netflix series. I had no idea that people were into listening to that many podcasts. I have about 300 archive podcasts right now, maybe a little more. I’m really surprised at the number of people that say, “I’ve listened to every single one of your podcasts and I’m always waiting for the next one to come out.” I’m down to two a week now. I couldn’t keep that pace and still have all my other jobs and businesses, but I was willing to commit a year to get it off the ground. Where is Libsyn located?
We have people throughout the US but our main office and the majority of the Libsyn employees are in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
What’s another interesting success story off the top of your head if you can of a podcast done well?
There are a lot of the top ones. Aaron Mahnke with Lore started with us. WTF with Marc Maron, his podcast is with us. Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History podcast is with us. John Lee Dumas’ podcast is with us. Pat Flynn’s podcast with us. Those are ones that have done well. A lot of the podcasts that people know of are hosted on Libsyn and because of that, we’re able to get those podcasts out into different places. We were like launch partners getting these podcasts into Pandora and Spotify and all these other places. That’s what’s changed in podcasting and why podcasting becomes so popular now. It’s any place where people listen to the audio now, any other music services now support podcasting. That’s what helped to podcast. With so many success stories, even The Chameleon Breeder podcast is a good success story as a podcast doing well and making money, but in a small niche. We’ve got a beekeeping podcast that gets 3,500 downloads per episode. It’s about backyard beekeeping. It’s some amazing numbers that I see from shows in small niches.
It’s a tribute to the reach of podcasting. The thing I like about podcasting is you’re open to the world, aren’t you?People think marketing your podcast is the most important thing. That's the least important thing. Good content is what matters. Click To Tweet
It’s a global audience. You can find an audience everywhere. We have downloaded every country in the world. We even receive downloads from North Korea. It’s not many, but we see a few.
Let’s talk about the prospect of being able to be in your home and open up a global business. It makes you think that you should sit down and think about what your podcast is about, if you want to monetize, eventually, what is the product? I don’t think though that podcasts are very good if you’re not passionate about whatever it is you’re talking about. If you sat down to say, “X is a product that everybody can use in the whole wide world, so I’m going to start a podcast on that.” I don’t know if that flies if you’re not passionate.
It doesn’t. If you’re trying to figure where the puck is going to and that’s not a place you want to be and you try to get a podcast out there and go, “I’m going to do a podcast about the impeachment,” but you actually aren’t interested in politics, podcast probably is not going to be that good. If you’re going to do a podcast about global warming, that’s a big trend, but you don’t believe in global warming, podcast probably is not going to be that good. You have to do it on a topic that you believe in, that in your heart that you think about. I always say to people, “What are the podcasts that you currently listen to?”
That’s another thing, if you’re not listening to podcasts, there’s a good chance you’re not going to be around podcasting very long. What are the podcasts you listen to? Why are you listening to them? Then do a podcast similar to them. You’re going to bring your own personality to that podcast that’s going to make it different than the other podcast you currently listening to. Don’t worry that someone’s already doing that topic, but if it’s something that you’re passionate you’re listening to, then do it on that topic as well.
That’s a huge point because one of the concerns when we were thinking about doing my podcast was, “Who wants to listen to little Mitch Stephen. No one knows me. I’m not famous, I’ve got a face made for radio.” I know that. “Why is anyone going to want to listen to me?” I took the stance of I’m going to do the best I can, deliver the most I can and see what happens. I had zero expectations other than the fact that I expected myself to get up and stay with it for a year, no matter what and then at the end of the year, I was going to make a decision if I thought it was something I wanted to keep doing. It turned out to be another profit center for me, but I didn’t go into it for that. A lot of people would have that fear of, “Who’s going to want to listen to me?”
Everybody gets that when they’re starting. The worst probably is not having that fear. It’s okay to be afraid. You have to start worrying when you’re not afraid. That’s where people get into trouble. Fear is a good thing. Fear is a motivator. It’s okay to be afraid that your show is not going to do well. Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History is by a number of individual listeners per episode but one of the largest podcasts out there. It gets multiple million downloads per episode. I remember one time he sent me a text message. I was like, “Is the episode coming out?” He goes, “Yeah, I hope this one is good. I’m due for failure. I’m due for a bomb.” He was paranoid his next episode wasn’t going to be good. This guy’s got millions of downloads per episode. You have to have that fear and that’s a good thing to have. That motivates you.
Being afraid makes you strive to make sure your content is the most you can get out of it.
You can’t phone it in. The people whose shows fail are the ones that just phone in and go, “I’m not even going to try. I’m going to hit record and hit done. I know what I’m talking about. I don’t need to research.” Those are the ones that fail.
What do you say about the length of podcasts? I’ve heard as people say, “People’s attention span isn’t over 6 minutes, 7 minutes, 15 minutes and your podcast should be short. I say, “I like to interview until it’s not fun anymore. When I say not fun, I mean there’s no place else to go or I don’t know any more content. If I can get out of it. I stop it there, but if we’re having an engaging conversation, you keep going. What does Libsyn’s data show on the length of a podcast? Do they show anything?
This is something I talk about quite often. I went and I looked at shows on Libsyn that were getting 100,000 downloads and more. We’re talking about where the audience has voted that these are the good shows. The audience has spoken and said these are the most popular shows. I looked at that 84% of those shows with 100,000 downloads and more were 51 minutes or longer. Only 6% were 30 minutes or less and 12% were two hours or longer. When you go and look at Apple podcasts overall, it’s similar data. When you looked at the top 200 episodes in Apple podcasts, what we found was 65 minutes was the average for the top 200 and 75% were 41 minutes or longer overall and that’s with the NPR podcasts and they’re skewing things down a little bit. The reality of the situation is length won’t hurt you.
I have to put two big caveats on this. Don’t be long thinking it’s going to make your show popular. Taking fifteen minutes of content and spreading it out over two hours is what we call Star Wars Episode One. It didn’t work. That doesn’t work taking fifteen minutes and trying to make it a two-hour episode. Also, don’t go the other way. Don’t go, “I want to get this into this 40 minute or 35-minute length. That’s what some consultant told me is the right length or 22 minutes.” That’s the worst advice. If anybody is familiar with HBO’s Game of Thrones, understand season 8 was 16 episodes that HBO shrunk to 6. That didn’t work either. If you have two hours of content, do a two-hour episode. If you have 45 minutes, do a 45 minute. You’ve got an hour to do an hour. Don’t change your episode length for fitting some ideal. Do the length of an episode that you have the content for, for that episode. Next week it could be a different length. It’s okay to have a 45-minute episode one week and 1.5 hours on the next.
I’m so glad to hear you say that because so many people that you know, from the outside go, “Your podcasts are long. Do people stay that long?” I said, “I don’t know, it’s just some of these topics you can’t fit them into fifteen minutes and do justice. It’s too big of a topic. There’s too much to talk about. As long as there’s something to talk about, and it’s interesting and engaging, then let’s keep going.” If it goes 2.5 hours, maybe you break it into 2 or 3 segments and say, “This is so interesting. We’re going to have you again on the next podcast. We’ll do it again after that if we’re going to finish this topic.” I’ve met people that are so interesting and so involved in what they do to get down to how it’s working for them or how they work it, you have to spend the time.
If you took all those consultants that are out there telling you to do the 22 minutes to 30 minutes episodes and you combined all their downloads for all their podcasts, if they even have any. You combine all their downloads, they wouldn’t equal one episode of Joe Rogan, whose episodes are 2.5 to 3 hours long. Don’t worry about length.
What makes Joe Rogan so successful? Can you tell us? Do you know or do you have an idea?
He didn’t listen to all the bad advice that’s out there from all those consultants. He did his own show. He released episodes when he wants to release them. He doesn’t release on the same day every week at the same time. He releases some weeks, one episode a week. Sometimes 3, 4, none. He’s off elk hunting. He releases the content when he feels that it should be released and how often he feels he should release it. He lets the episode and interview length go as long as he wants to go. He doesn’t worry about some artificial limit and length. He doesn’t try to meet some norms. He doesn’t go out asking people to rate and review his show. He doesn’t ask people to do all this stuff. He just creates good content and then the audience goes and promotes it on their own. That’s the secret.
There are probably questions I’m not even smart enough to ask. Do you know some other interesting content that we would need to know about Libsyn and podcasting or have I run my hosting course so far?Great marketing doesn’t matter if your content is horrible. Click To Tweet
The biggest advice I tell the people is to get started. Start with one episode, when you launch, do it with one. Don’t worry about launching with ten or that. We’ve looked at shows at launch with 1, 3, 5 and 10 episodes. The shows that launch with 10 episodes, 6 months later tend to do a lot worse than the ones that launch with one. The reason is people that launch ten. Oftentimes, what they forget to do is they forget to have interaction with the audience. If you want to grow your show, in most cases, you need to have a call-in number you need to have some feedback mechanism. You have to have it where people can call into your show and send you email feedback because your listeners are the ones that are going to promote your show.
For most shows, your listeners that are going to grow your show, and if you don’t have a way to interact with them, and you go and launch ten episodes on day one, what happens is people start listening to the show and they realize there’s no listener feedback. They’re not going to get part of it. Those people that would have been advocates and would have promoted your show get turned off by those shows. There are exceptions, but overall, when we looked at the general stats, 1, 3, 5 and 10 launches. The ones that launched with one did the best. Three was close and ten were the worst. Launch your first episode, get out there and get going.
It goes against all the norms. Podcasting is a wild card and there are very few rules. The biggest no-no I suppose is to get on there and have crappy content or have no content. That would be the number one mistake. What are the other obvious mistakes?
Some of them are day one, I’ll hear a podcast on the first episode say, “Support us on Patreon.” “What?” You just started your show. Wait for a second timeout. Give your audience a chance to get to know you. Get some content going. Don’t be launching with a Patreon. I’m waiting to hear a trailer episode where the thing is, “Our podcast is going to launch next month, but you can start supporting us now on Patreon.”
I don’t know what Patreon is. What is that?
That’s another way people can make some money where you ask your audience to donate. Think of it like taking a hat and asking people to put money in a hat. It’s where you’re asking your audience to donate to your show. It’s not for everybody. Some people are like, “I’m going to do this on Patreon.” They’ll sign up to the Patreon and then they don’t ask the audience to donate because they don’t feel comfortable asking the audience to donate. It’s not for everybody. If you’re not the type of person that feels comfortable walking around with a hat in your hand asking people to put money in it, Patreon and other donation models like Glow and there are others that aren’t probably the right thing for you.
You have to always understand who you are. That’s the most important thing in podcasting is know yourself, because you’re going to be different than every other host out there or every other podcast out there. You have to do your show and your business model around what works for you what you feel comfortable doing. If you don’t feel comfortable talking about Harry’s razors? You don’t feel comfortable saying, “This is my head and freshly shaven with Harry’s razor,” and “I can see you much clearer with my Warby Parker glasses now.” If you’re not comfortable pitching the products that people want you to advertise, then advertising probably is not right for you either. You have to find out what’s right for you and what you’re comfortable with.
What I had accidentally stumbled into was a topic, real estate that had so many different ways to make money in it that I decided that personally, what I was going to do is I didn’t care which way you picked. I’m always trying to find a way for you to break free or your job or make that extra, whatever money you needed to make by finding somebody out there that was doing something that you could relate to, that you wanted to do.
When did you start in the real estate side of things?
When did you start your podcast?
A few years ago.
You had a little bit of experience with what you were talking about. You did it the right way. You came into a topic you knew. Not just knew, it was your life. You were passionate. You hadn’t done it from 1996 to 2016, for twenty years because you weren’t interested in it. You were obviously interested in it and you knew what you were doing. That’s important. I say the same thing to the folks out there, “Don’t start a podcast the same day you’re going to start covering that topic.” If you don’t know that topic, you’re going to fail. You have to have a background on that topic.
One of the things I joke about is, I started talking about real estate in 1996 and that conversation has never ended. If my eyes are open, that’s what I’m talking about. I’m talking about it with somebody, about some aspect of it somewhere. If I get off-topic for even a short period of time, it will be, “I’ll be right back in a minute. Let me go down the little rabbit hole for a second. I’ll be right back on real estate.”
If you’re reading and you want to know what to do a podcast on, go to your significant other and go, “What do I talk about too much?” There’s your topic.
I love that, “What do I talk about too much? What do you wish I would never talk about again?” There we go. This has been a great conversation. I want people to go to REInvestorSummit.com/podcasthosting, and there we’ll have all the information so you can hook up with Libsyn and get whatever they have to offer. Tutorials or advice, maybe a consultant to help you get started. If a person is interested, they get whatever they need to get started.
Mitch, thank you so much for having me on the show.
Thank you. This was Rob Walch with Libsyn, one of the biggest podcast hosting companies in the world. It’s been a pleasure. Thanks.
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About Rob Walch
Rob Walch was inducted into the Podcasting Hall of Fame in 2016. Rob is the Vice President of Podcaster Relations for Libsyn (LSYN) . Prior to joining Libsyn in 2007, he was President and founder of podCast411, Inc. Rob is Co-Author of the book “Tricks of the Podcasting Masters” – Que 2006, an editors pick as a Top 10 Reference book for 2006 by Amazon.com. Rob was listed as the 5th most influential person in podcasting according to the book “Podcasting for Dummies” – Wiley Press 2005.
Rob has consulted on podcasting for eBay, Jack Welch, Tim Ferriss, Senator Edwards, Governor Bill Richardson, Dr. Mark Hyman, Noah Shanok (Stitcher), and the Sacramento Kings/Monarchs to name just a few. He is also on the editorial board and a columnist for the Podcast Business Journal Rob was Chair of the Education and Outreach Committee for the Association of Downloadable Media and on the committee for the IAB Podcast Metric Guidelines.
Rob started podcasting in 2004, and is the host of the award-winning podCast411 podcast, where he has interviewed such prominent podcasters as Quincy Jones, Walt Mossberg, Colin Ferguson (Eureka), Ronald Moore (Executive Producer of Battlestar Galactica), Phil Gordon (World Series of Poker), Larry Kudlow (CNBC’s Kudlow and Company) and Leo Laporte (TechTV, G4 TV). Additionally, Rob is host of Today in iOS (iPhone) Podcast – The first and largest podcast about the iPhone – www.todayinios.com and also the KC Startup 411 podcast which covers the Kansas City Startup scene. Rob is co-host of The Feed Podcast – which is a bi-weekly podcast covering Podcasting.
Since 2004 Rob has presented at well over 100 events on the subject of podcasting and New Media including the Newspaper Association of America Marketing Conference, the US Latino Film Festival, the Corporate Podcasting Summit, The Association for Women in Communications 2006 Annual Professional Conference, Social Media 2007, Ad-Tech, Podcast Movement, New Media Expo, and Blogworld Expo. He is also a regular guest Lecturer at the University of Kansas School of Journalism. Rob was the Track Leader for the Podcasting sessions at the 2009 Blog World Expo – where he recruited 25 top experts to speak on podcasting.