2000 to 1. That’s the ratio of bloggers to podcasters. If you’re blogging and not podcasting, you should keep that ratio in mind. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a blogger from way back and I will always blog. But we should not ignore the competitive advantage that podcasting offers.
Podcasting has become very mainstream now that technology makes it so easy to access, listen and share the content. The ability to multitask (treadmill, dog walking, driving, train commuting, etc.) makes a podcast easier to consume than a blog or video. I’ve seen how agencies have leveraged a podcast to create a position of thought leadership which has led to some amazing new business opportunities.
If you’re ready to start podcasting, are just dipping your toes in or have been doing it for a while, my guest Rob Walch is your go-to guy. He lives, eats and breathes podcasting. He’s been doing it for over 10 years and has consulted with Jack Welch, Governor Bill Richardson, Noah Shanok (Stitcher), Tim Ferriss and Dr. Mark Hyman just to name a few. He is the VP of Podcaster Relations for Libsyn (one of the largest podcast publishing tools) and has his own award-winning podcast, podCast411.
We packed a lot into this one conversation and there’s something for everyone no matter where you are on your podcasting journey. Check out everything we covered:
- How Rob moved podcasting from his hobby to his career
- The biggest and most important trends in podcasting
- Why you should record a couple podcasts before you release your first one — but not so many that you never release one
- Podcasting 101
- The importance of having a way for your podcast listeners to contact you
- Editing: an absolute must when it comes to podcasting
- How many downloads the average podcast gets and how many downloads you need to make money
- Different ways to monetize your podcast
- How often to release an episode
- Why you should never release an episode if it’s not ready
- How to find great guests
- Why you should edit out when a guest goes into full sales mode
- The things you must do for your guests as a host
- Why you shouldn’t ask the same questions to every guest
- The mistake podcasters make when they feel indebted to their guests instead of their audience
- How to start being a guest on podcasts you like
- Why your podcast has to be about what you’re interested in regardless of whether that is popular or not
- Why podcasts are much better than blogs
Rob Walch was inducted into the Podcasting Hall of Fame in 2016. Rob is the Vice President of Podcaster Relations for Libsyn (LSYN) having joined Libsyn in 2007. Prior to joining Libsyn, he founded podCast411, Inc in 2004. Rob is Co-Author of the book “Tricks of the Podcasting Masters” in 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. He has consulted on podcasting for Jack Welch, Senator Edwards, Governor Bill Richardson, Noah Shanok (Stitcher), Tim Ferriss, Dr. Mark Hyman, and the Sacramento Kings/Monarchs to name just a few. He is also a monthly columnist for Podertainment: The Podcast Magazine. Rob is a member of the IAB Podcasting Working groups.
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 (CNBCs 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 and also the KC Startup 411 podcast which covers the Kansas City Startup scene.
Since 2004 Rob has presented at well over 100 events about podcasting.
To listen – you can visit the Build A Better Agency site (https://agencymanagementinstitute.com/rob-walch/) and grab either the iTunes or Stitcher files or just listen to it from the web.
If you’d rather just read the conversation, the transcript is below:
Table of Contents (Jump Straight to It!)
- How Rob Got into Podcasting
- Some of the Trends Rob Has Seen in Podcast Popularity and Usage
- Podcasting 101: Best Practices for Podcasting
- What to Expect When You First Start a Podcast
- How Often You Should Podcast
- How to Find the Right Guests
- What Your Guests Might Appreciate from You as the Host
- The Types of People that Make the Best Guests
- How a Podcaster Should Reach Out to Potential Guests
- Final Advice from Rob
Drew McLellan: Hey, everybody. Welcome back to another episode of Build a Better Agency. I am Drew McLellan, your host, and I am excited, selfishly and for your sake, to talk to our guest today. Let me tell you a little bit about him.
So, Rob Walch is the Vice President of Podcaster Relations with Libsyn. If you’re not familiar with what Libsyn is, it’s probably the best known, and in my opinion, the most complete podcast hosting and publishing service out there. It’s certainly one of the tools that we use here at Build a Better Agency. Rob was actually inducted into the Podcasting Hall of Fame in 2016 and he joined Libsyn in 2007. Prior to that, he founded the company Podcast 411 Inc. in ’04.
He’s the coauthor of the book Tricks of the Podcasting Masters. He has gotten all kinds of accolades. That book was chosen as a top reference book around podcasting by Amazon.com. He was listed as the fifth most influential person in podcasting, according to the book Podcasting for Dummies. He’s consulted with a few people who you might recognize, people like Jack Welch and Senator Edwards and Tim Ferriss and all kinds of other folks.
He’s a monthly columnist and, of course, as you might imagine, he puts together quite a podcast series. So, he’s the host of Today in iOS, an iPhone podcast. He also does the Kansas City Startup podcast, KCStartup411.com. Rob is traveling all over the globe talking to people about podcasting and how to do it well and the benefits of podcasting. So, Rob, welcome to the podcast.
Rob Walch: Drew, thanks for having me on the show.
Drew McLellan: You keep busy, it looks like, based on the introduction. Sounds like there’s not a lot of spare time in your day.
Rob Walch: No. My spare time is spent podcasting. My job and my hobby.
How Rob Got into Podcasting
Drew McLellan: So, what drew you to podcasting to begin with?
Rob Walch: I was looking for a hobby. I had one of those jobs where you traveled five out of six weeks all around the world. I had just finished my MBA at Yukon and I had this free time in the evening when I was traveling. I just needed a hobby. It was really that simple. I was just looking for something else to do.
Drew McLellan: So, this was your version of the ham radio.
Rob Walch: Yeah. Exactly. It was like, “Oh.” I was one of those annoying people that would call in the radio station every morning to the point where they give you the backdoor number so you could call in, get around all the busy signals. We had a joke. But I had no clue. Owner of the radio station had told me, this is what I did when I was in high school, he told me, “Whatever you do, don’t get into radio.”
So, I went and became an engineer instead. But I always liked the radio and I always like the idea of talking on the air and that. So, when podcasting came around, I was like, “Oh. I can make this just a hobby and have some fun.” The hobby soon became a career.
Some of the Trends Rob Has Seen in Podcast Popularity and Usage
Drew McLellan: Boy, what a trajectory podcasting is on. It’s amazing when I look at the stats of how many people are listening to podcasts and how people are using podcasts. What are the trends that you’re seeing in terms of the popularity and the usage of podcasts?
Rob Walch: I think the biggest trend is, what we saw over the last few years was the trend to the smartphone consumption where a few years, five years ago, it was 35% consumption on a smartphone. Now it’s 86%. But ironically, the amount of downloads to computers has not changed over that period of time. It’s just that smartphone consumption has gone up, up, up, up, up to the point where it’s now 86.
So, the growth really has all been about the smartphone. I know a lot of people go, “Oh, it’s Serial, Serial.” No, it wasn’t Serial. Serial came out at the right time. That was when iOS 8 became native and the podcast app became native in iOS 8 and Serial came out a couple months later. But podcasting made Serial. Serial didn’t make podcasting. It really was about iOS 8 making that podcast app native. That really was a takeoff point or an inflection point, I guess you would say.
Drew McLellan: Yeah. I think everybody basically carries the device in their pocket that allows them to access it all the time. I hear from listeners all the time who say, “Oh, you’re my morning walk companion,” or, “You’re my treadmill buddy,” or whatever it is. But it seems like the phone has all of a sudden opened up a lot of doors that make podcasting very mainstream now. It’s not really a fringe thing anymore. It’s pretty darn mainstream. In fact, I just read a statistic that was talking about how many podcasts or how many hours of podcasts people consume in a week. It really floored me.
Rob Walch: It’s the only medium for consuming content, audio that is, that’s multitask, so you can multitask. Podcasting makes it easy to find the audio to consume when you want to consume it, not when you have to consume it, like with radio. So, I think that’s the bigger differentiation there. Unlike video and blogs where you can’t really watch a video, read a blog when you’re driving your car or when you’re at work. You can, but you’ll get fired if you do it all day long or you’ll crash your car.
What you can do with a podcast is sit there and listen to it all day long. You can listen to it while you’re driving your car. You can listen to it while you’re working out, walking the dog, doing yard work. So, it just gives people more opportunity in the day to consume your content if you’re a content creator by making it available as audio.
Podcasting 101: Best Practices for Podcasting
Drew McLellan: So, you’re at Libsyn, you see and, I’m sure, sample a ton of podcasts. What are some of the best practices or, on the flip side, the mistakes that if somebody is thinking about starting a podcast, and we’ll talk about the reasons why someone might do that in a minute. But if somebody wants to go down that road and create a podcast, what are some of the best practices that you are seeing that are growing up with the channel?
Rob Walch: I think the best practice is get a couple under your belt before you release out to the world. Don’t even release them, but just figure out the technology. You can release out the gate to the world one episode. You don’t have to have 10. But you need to practice a couple before you release that first one. All too often, people worry about the wrong thing like, “Is this mic recording?” They’re worrying about all the things they shouldn’t be worrying about when they should be worrying about the content.
So, the best practices that I see are people that have taken the time to really concentrate on the content that they’re presenting and get the tech worked out ahead of time. So, when they come out the gate, they have something interesting to say, not like, “Oh, how do I sound? Is my sound good? Let me know.” Assume you sound good and move on.
Drew McLellan: The practice will test the technology side as well, but it gets you comfortable initiating and having the conversa- … It’s sort of like you wouldn’t open a bakery with your very first pie.
Rob Walch: Right. If you’re going to do an interview podcast, interview your friend. Interview your cousin. Interview your kids, your spouse, and throw them away. Then do the real one and get that out.
Now, the other, on the flip side, people, we call them pre-faders, they go too much into this and they will wait, “Oh, I’m not going to release until I get 10 episodes done,” and they never get 10 episodes done and they never release. So, they just spend all this money, they actually get the equipment, they get the hosting, and they never actually launch the show. I think that’s even a bigger mistake. You need to get those out there.
Have a call-in number. Every podcast should have a call-in number, should have an email address. Someplace where people can easily get contact and feedback to you. It is a feedback loop. You want to get that feedback. You want to hear what people have to say about your show, what they like, what they don’t like.
You don’t have to take every piece of feedback to heart, but you should look at the trend. If everybody’s saying you really need to lock your door and keep your dog out of there because he’s snoring in the background, get the pug off your lap because he’s snoring, you might want to get the pug off your lap.
Drew McLellan: Right. Right. As you were talking, I was thinking back to when I launched mine. You’re right. I left a lot of it on the floor in the beginning and then was finally like, “Okay, I have a handful of episodes that I think are rock solid. So, now it’s time to get out the door, and I’ll learn as I go. But I won’t learn and I won’t stay committed to it if I haven’t made the commitment and hit the publish button.”
Rob Walch: Best practices, another one would be editing. Too many people don’t edit. They’ll do an interview with somebody and they leave all the “um uh’s”, “uh, you know’s”, gaffes, “Hey, let me restart that,” knocks at the door, phone call rings. They’ll leave all that stuff in. Very long pregnant pauses. They’ll leave those in where they should have edited them out, especially if you’re doing an interview podcast.
If you edit the person you interview and you make them sound brilliant and let them know that you’re going to edit and make them sound brilliant, they’re a lot more likely to promote that interview than the one that came on and they’re not used to talking and you’re the first one interviewing this person and he says “you know” 50 times. He goes back and he starts listening to it and he goes, “Oh, I sound like an idiot.” If he thinks he sounds like an idiot, zero chance he will ever promote that.
Drew McLellan: Yeah, that’s a really good point. I guess it never occurred to me, this is my naivete, it never occurred to me that people don’t edit them. So, must be the ones that I listen to, and I consume quite a few. But they must all do the editing. So, I can’t imagine. Even as the host, I would be horrified if we put an unedited version out and I didn’t sound as crisp and sharp as I wanted to.
Rob Walch: There’s some people that promote “hit record, hit stop, post.”
Drew McLellan: Yeah. Okay, I’m going to vote no on that.
Rob Walch: That’s their promotion. Yeah. There’s some people who promote that. I’m like, “No.” Yeah, there’s some people that can do that and get away with that, that are really good and they have good hosts that are articulate and used to speaking. But most people aren’t that good live and their guests aren’t either.
Drew McLellan: Yeah. That to me is the equivalent of brushing your hair without looking in the mirror and then just heading out.
Rob Walch: It’s a churn and turn, whatever you call it, mentality where they just want to churn out as many as they can in the shortest period of time. The way to do that is not edit. Yes, you do. You turn out as many, you could turn out a lot of episodes, which all get 12 downloads. Hey, no offense to the guy that’s getting 12 downloads that’s really doing the work, but there are people that could be getting a lot more downloads if they put a little bit of work into it.
What to Expect When You First Start a Podcast
Drew McLellan: I just saw some statistics that you guys had released, speaking of downloads. What should someone expect if they produce a podcast? What is the range of, cutting off the outliers who are getting millions of downloads, but for the average Joe who has a podcast around a specific subject or topic, so they’ve got a narrower audience. They’re not talking to everyone in the world. What’s reasonable in terms of downloads and what should be considered, air quote, “success”?
Rob Walch: Okay. So, the median number, so only look at this median number of downloads. This is based on when the episodes on an average are 45 days old. So, when we look at the median number of downloads across our network, it is about 200. It was 212, I think, the most recent month. Half the episodes released had less than 212 and half had more than 212. So, that’s the median. Now, when we start getting into the averages, those numbers go up because it shows a skew of things.
What I always like to say is if you hit 500 downloads on an episode, that’s definitely in the area of success because now you’ve broken away from friends, family, and anybody you’ve ever known and you’ve broken into new audience members, people that have no idea who you were, they’re discovering you because of your podcast, they’re listening to you for the first time. For most people, that 500 number is what I would consider a success.
Now, if we get into the average number, that average number, and I call it an adjusted average, where I take those half-a-percenters, the Joe Rogans, the Marc Marons, the Nerdists, the Dan Carlins, I throw those folks out, the top half percent, and I take anything three or less out. Then the average is around 2,500 to 3,000. So, if you get up in those numbers, then you really, really are successful. If you get above 5,000, you have broken into the top 10% of shows and that’s where you can start looking at monetization.
I was recently at Social Media Marketing World. I was speaking and I asked the audience, there was 70, 80 people in the room, and I said, “How many people in here are not yet podcasting but getting ready to podcast,” and they plan to monetize via advertising? Over half the hands went up. I was shocked. I was like, “Okay. Run away, run away, run away.” Most people aren’t going to make money through advertising in a podcast segment.
Now, if you have a niche, you can monetize through your niche. It’s usually more of a sponsorship than a true on advertising, like Harry’s Razors or Warby Parker. That’s an advertisement. You might get a sponsorship if you have a cigar aficionado podcast, you have a podcast about cigars and a humidor manufacturer comes to you. They could do a sponsorship where they sponsor your show, pay you more than a quote-unquote “CPM rate” for your audience. A hundred percent of your thousand listeners may say on that cigar podcast, there’s going to be a hundred percent hit rate for interest in their product.
You talk about agencies and you look at your clients, don’t look about how big the show gets. You got to look at if your show is niche or topical based. Does it hit a hundred percent? “Think psychographics, not demographics,” is what I like to say. Podcasting is a really good way to do that. Don’t think of it so much as radio. A lot of people like to think of podcasting like radio. Think of it more as a magazine, an audio magazine, because it is a lot more niche based.
Drew McLellan: Yeah, that’s a good distinction. But when you think about monetizing the podcast, one of the things that I talk to agency owners about, because I think for an agency that has a niche, they serve a certain industry or they have depth of expertise around a certain audience, whether it’s millennials or a certain ethnic group or whatever it may be, there’s incredible power and value in the podcast. There’s lots of ways to monetize it.
So, for some of them, having their perspective, the people that they would like to have as clients on as guests is a great way to open the door. My friend Stephen Woessner, who produces the podcast Onward Nation, when they talk to their clients, who by the way, in full disclosure, is who produces my podcast, but he talks about it as the Trojan horse of selling and that it’s a way to get in the door with prospects who normally wouldn’t take your call. But they’re happy to be your guest and all of a sudden, you have an opportunity to create a relationship with them. That’s a great way to monetize your podcast.
Rob Walch: Oh, absolutely. John Jantsch, Duct Tape Marketing will tell you that. He’s talked about it, that it opened up so many doors for him and got him in front of all the people that he wanted to have as clients and talk with. Absolutely. That is a great way. I would say this. That’s probably the best way to monetize a podcast. Forget the advertising.
Drew McLellan: Right. One client is more than a sponsor would ever pay you, right?
Rob Walch: Absolutely. Yeah. You talk about not just Duct Tape Marketing, but assuming you have manager tools, is another one where they did the same thing and they got clients. They were charging four times their rate a couple of years after launching their podcast, their hourly rate, than they were charging before. They were sold out and they were having to raise the rate because they were sold out even at that point. So, yeah. Podcasting is a great connection tool.
Drew McLellan: Yeah. Another way to monetize your podcast is if you have a book that you’re selling or you sell workshops or you’ve got an online course, again, creating thought leadership around all of that. So, just because you can’t sell ads or you can’t sell a sponsorship because your audience isn’t wide enough or deep enough to make those numbers work doesn’t mean you can’t make money doing your podcast, right?
Rob Walch: Right. You could have 250 listeners to your podcast and make more money than a show with 25,000 if you got the right 250. There’s a podcast out there, the SwineCast, which is about reaching out to professional pig farmers.
Drew McLellan: Yeah, that one, I have not caught yet. I’m going to have to check that out.
Rob Walch: Yeah. John Blue’s been doing SwineCast 11 years, I think roughly. Yeah. Long time.
Drew McLellan: But to your point is for most of the world, probably, that’s not a podcast they’re going to download. But for the people that care about that topic, there’s probably not a lot of great resources around that topic, so that would make him incredibly valuable.
Rob Walch: Correct.
How Often You Should Podcast
Drew McLellan: Yeah. So, if people are thinking about doing a podcast, what is the right cadence? So, some people have a podcast every day of the week. Some people have a podcast once a week, once a month. What do you guys see in terms of, again, as you have access to so much data, what do you see is the most successful model?
Rob Walch: The most successful podcasts are the ones that release on the cadence that they can maintain.
Drew McLellan: Right. If you’re going to make a promise, keep a promise.
Rob Walch: It’s not even that. It’s when you can release good content. That’s the most important: releasing consistently good content. After you get away from that, then it’s weekly. Then weekly comes into play. But you don’t even have to be on a regular release schedule. Dan Carlin, Common Sense, Dan Carlin and Hardcore History, Dan Carlin are released on a whatever schedule and he gets five to 10 million listeners for his Hardcore History podcast, which is once a quarter, and close to a million for Common Sense, which is once a month, roughly. Who knows when in the month it’s going to be?
If you have great content, your audience will come back. It’s really that simple. Now, if you’re trying to grow and get up to that point, releasing once a week is an ideal thing, but remember this. Don’t release on Monday at 11:30 a.m. because the last, you released at 11:30 a.m. If you come around to that Monday and your show’s not ready, you are better to delay an episode and release it when it’s right than to release it right now as a bad episode. One bad episode will destroy months of work. People will be like, “Why am I listening to this? This is horrible.” A good email is, “Hey, when are you releasing the episode? I’m waiting for it.” A bad email is, “Wow, why did you release that episode?”
Drew McLellan: Yeah. Right. I’m assuming that best practice is to be a little bit ahead so that if you have a bad episode, you are not having to decide not to release one this week. You just know you need to pick up the pace and get another one because the one that you had scheduled for three weeks from now was a dog and you can’t release it.
Rob Walch: Right. If you can do that, absolutely. Some people can, some people can’t. It depends on your show. If your show is-
Drew McLellan: Timely.
Rob Walch: … on a Mac OS can, or today an iPhone, you really can’t prerecord episodes because you’re talking about what’s going on on the latest news. So, you really are hand to mouth because you’re going off the news. But if you’re doing an interview show, absolutely, where the topic is evergreen and your content’s evergreen, you absolutely can build up a repertoire or a buffer of content so that when something happens where you get sick, the kids get sick, your host gets sick, your guests get sick, whatever the issue might be, or your guest is just absolutely horrible, you can actually just, “Oh, sorry. That episode got corrupted. We’ll have to just skip it and move on,” and you’ve got the other one to fill in.
How to Find the Right Guests
Drew McLellan: Yeah. I want to talk about guests and how to find good guests and how to prep them in a second. But let’s first take a quick break and then we’ll come right back.
All right, welcome back, everybody. My guest today is Rob Walch, who is the VP of Podcaster Relations at Libsyn. We’ve been chatting about the benefits of podcasting and how that has become a very mainstream medium for lots of folks and the power that it has for agencies in a plethora of way: thought leadership, biz dev, all kinds of things.
So, now what I want to do is I want to shift our focus a little bit and talk about guests. So, if I’m hosting a podcast, which I obviously am, how does one vet guests and how does one prep guests, do you think? What’s your best practice recommendations so that they are good guests? Tangentially, how do you keep guests from selling from the pulpit?
Rob Walch: Editing is how you keep them from selling from the pulpit. You just edit it out. Editing is going to help you on a lot with guests, prepping questions ahead of time, doing some research on who the guest is. But initially finding a guest that actually has experience and knowledge in the area that you want them to talk about. If you find a guest that has knowledge in the area you want to talk about, they’re a great guest. If they’re not a great guest, it’s because you as the host didn’t do your job well. That, again, is prep work, figuring out some questions to ask them, and then editing them if they go into full sales mode.
If I was sitting here going over and over, “Hey, go to Libsyn and sign up for Libsyn. Go to Libsyn.com. It’s $5. Da-da-da,” over and over and I was prepping that, you should edit that crap right out. You can edit out what I just said and people have no idea. Obviously, that’s fine. That’s your job is to keep people from going full on sales mode. That’s how I always felt when I did interviews, and I would. I have done that. I’ve edited people out that went in full sales mode. They were like, “Why’d you take that part out?” I go, “It just didn’t flow with the show.”
Drew McLellan: Yeah. Right. Remember that you have the controls.
Rob Walch: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah. It’s not live. It’s not live to air and that’s the beauty of it. So, you have control to fix that. It’s like when I tell people, when you go out live to a trade show and you’re going to do an interview, you use one mic. You don’t lab the person up, you don’t give them the mic.
One mic and you control it because if you get ahold of the VP of Sales and Marketing at CES or NAB, you ain’t getting the mic back and they’re going to control that conversation. That’s not what you want. You want to control the conversation. A one mic method, it works great because you can just pull the mic away from them in the middle of a sentence and go, “You know, let’s talk about this now.”
I’ve done that for my Today in iOS, when I’ve been there, I’ve pulled the mic away from someone while they were mid-talking because I was just like, “Now you’re just selling.”
Drew McLellan: Right. We’re going in a direction I don’t want to go. You have to remember you’re driving the show. So, it’s okay to take it in a different direction.
Rob Walch: That’s harder in Skype, obviously, in a Skype interview. That’s where editing comes into play.
What Your Guests Might Appreciate from You as the Host
Drew McLellan: In terms of prepping, I suspect not only are you the host of many podcasts, but that you’ve been on a bazillion of them. What are some things that, as a guest, because you’re looking at it with an insider’s view, what are some things as a guest that you really appreciate when the host gives you or does or suggests? What is helpful to you in terms of being a great guest?
Rob Walch: One of the things you did was you said, “This will be audio only.” I like to know that up front. There’s been quite a few times someone says, “Hey, let’s do the interview on Skype,” and I assume it’s audio and I get there and they go, “Oh, no. We’re going to do video.” I’m like, “I work from home. I haven’t shaved in three days. It’s Wednesday. I haven’t shaved since I went to church on Sunday. I think I need to go shave. So, I’ll be back in 10 minutes,” and they’re like, “What?” I’m like, “You should have warned me.” So, that one right there is a big one. If you’re going to do video, big bold letters.
Drew McLellan: Right. Yeah, I had that happen to me a couple weeks ago too. I was doing a webinar and I just assumed that I was going to show them my screen and that was it. All of a sudden, in the email, and I was on the West Coast, so it was 5 a.m. for me. So, I was like, “Oh, shoot. I now have to get up earlier and shower because my hair’s not going to be presentable on a video webinar.” So, I hear you on that. What else do you appreciate as a guest or what else do you do for your guests?
Rob Walch: My guests, I let them know, “We’re going to talk about your podcast. We’re going to talk about your podcast, you don’t have to prep anything. We’re just going to talk about your podcast and your experience podcasting.” Pretty much, I let them know that. As a host, I go and listen to at least three other episodes. So, as a host, I go back and I prep for Podcast 411 where I do most of my real interviews. I do research and I get up some custom questions for that.
As a guest on shows, I like to know what I’m going to be talking about. So, you sent me over, “Here’s what we’re going to talk about.” So, that was nice. You just said, “Hey, we’re going to talk about your area of expertise.” It let me know what I needed or didn’t need to prep for for the interview.
I don’t like when they send me, “Here’s every question we’re going to talk about. Here, I’ve got 10 questions and these are the 10 questions I’m going to ask you, and here they are.” I’m like, “Really? Okay, whatever. Yeah.” Then I’ve had ones, “You’ve got to tell me your favorite book, which book and author, and you got to do this and that.” “Okay.”
Sadly, some of those shows, they do the exact same questions every guest. They don’t do any prep work. So, they throw all the prep work on the guest. It’s the exact same questions. Unfortunately, some of those shows, they don’t do, what’s this thing, it’s a little thing that’s called follow-up. They don’t follow up on anything the person may have said. I think that’s a huge mistake where someone will talk and they’re answering one of the canned questions and they say something in their response where you hear the interview and you’re like, “Why didn’t you follow up on that?”
Drew McLellan: Right. I want to know more about that. Right.
Rob Walch: Yeah. He just talked about when he got arrested in high school and you didn’t follow up about why he got arrested or anything else? Let’s find out. Was it because he was-
Drew McLellan: For all we know, we could be talking to him from jail right now.
Rob Walch: Right.
Drew McLellan: Yeah. Yeah, I agree. I prefer the podcasts that the host and the guest pull on the threads that are interesting throughout their conversation.
Rob Walch: I think one of my favorite interviews I ever did was with Quincy Jones. I interviewed Quincy Jones. Their people said to me, I have to give them the questions ahead of time. So, I prepped, I worked out all the questions I was going to ask, I sent them over. We got to question two and we never got to question three. We just went off on these tangents and we just started talking about whatever it was.
I was feeling bad and he’s like, he tells me, he’s like, and they told me, “You have 20 minutes with Mr. Jones and that’s it. Not a minute more,” da-da-da. We’re 35, 40 minutes in and I’m like, “Oh, I feel bad. It was only supposed to be 20 minutes. He goes, “I’m the boss. Don’t listen to what they said.” He goes, “They work for me.” He goes, “Don’t worry about anything they told you,” and we just went on.
We had a great time. He was talking all about all kinds of fun stuff. Some stuff I had to edit that I couldn’t put on the air because he really went off color on some stuff. But it was a fun interview because we didn’t stay to the questions. We went off on these wild tangents and he just talked about his life. It was great and I had fun doing the interview.
The Types of People that Make the Best Guests
Drew McLellan: You had the conversation with him that everybody listening wanted to have. So, in my mind as I chat with folks like you, I’m mindful of, okay, A, I still own my own agency. So, B, I can be my audience because I am my audience. So, when you say something interesting, I want to pull on that thread, not only for my audience, but for myself. I think what that does then is it allows the conversation to flow in a natural way and people feel satisfied, like they got their questions answered, even though they came into the podcast not knowing what questions they had.
In terms of vetting guests, so anybody who has expertise, has the potential to be a guest, and I love your point that if they’re not a good guest, it’s more on the host than it is the guest. Are there certain types of people or certain people or certain experiences, authors, or whatever it may be, that you find make better guests? Or can anyone be a good podcast guest if they are across the mic from a good podcast host?
Rob Walch: I think anyone has the potential to be a good guest. Now, true, there have been occasions where you can really get a really bad guest. I had one, there was no saving it. Like I said, I work out questions ahead of time. It’s usually about 20 questions. Typically, on Podcast 411, when I did that show, it would take me, minimum, 30 minutes to get through the questions, sometimes as long as 45 minutes. Sometimes an hour. I had one guest, got through the questions in eight minutes.
Drew McLellan: Wow. Was it one word answers?
Rob Walch: It was. He was basically yes or no’ing multiple-choice answers. I’d give him a multiple-choice question, he’d give me a yes or a no. It was that bad. There was nothing I could do. The interview never went up, it was so bad. But for the most part, I think every other interview I’ve done where it didn’t go well, I think I could point back to where I made a mistake, where I should have done this, I should have done that. I learn from that. I try to learn from that.
I think prep work, I think that’s the biggest one. The prep work is getting and having some knowledge in that area. Some of my best interviews have been ones where I’ve had people that come on and we start talking and we had interest in the same thing. We both knew similar topics and it was a podcast maybe about Star Trek and we could talk about Star Trek. Or it was a podcast about, tech podcast where we’re talking about old BBS and we can reminisce and we could connect on a level where I had some expertise in there.
It’s harder to do that, obviously, when you’re interviewing somebody on a subject matter you don’t really know much about, and that’s really where the prep work comes in to do a little research on that. But I think, as far as vetting guests, I think you have to watch out for people that are full-on, spammy sales mode. You’re going to get those. If you’re good, you’re going to vet most of them out. Probably a couple will slip through.
You have to look at, watch out how heavily they promote themselves to you. Did they come to you? “I’m a coach. I’m a life coach and this coach or that coach.” I always worried about people that came to me with the word “coach” in their title because that usually told me they were going to be on full-on sales mode.
Drew McLellan: Right. Right. They’re looking for clients, not looking to be a great guest.
Rob Walch: Right. I just pissed off a bunch of coaches, but hey. It is what it is. They’re people, I call them hypermarketers, the full-on hypermarketer today. 20 years ago, we would have said Amway, right?
Drew McLellan: Right.
Rob Walch: You got to watch out for some of those folks. It’s your job as the host to vet that. If one gets through, “Oops, recording got corrupted,” and it just doesn’t go out. I think one of the biggest mistakes people will make is feeling like they owe it to the guest to put the interview out. It’s your audience you owe it to.
Drew McLellan: Yeah, great point.
Rob Walch: You know what? You’re better off pissing one guest off than a thousand audience members.
Drew McLellan: Yeah. Yeah, that’s a really good point. But you’re right, because somebody’s giving up their time and they’ve shared at least some level of their expertise. It feels like an implied promise that the episode will go live.
Rob Walch: Yeah. If you sent me an email after this and said, “Hey, Rob. Sorry, everything got corrupted,” I’d understand and I’d move on. I wouldn’t complain. I wouldn’t go to social media and throw a tantrum. I would hope that your listeners got value out of this, and if you feel they’re not going to get value out of this interview, then don’t put it up. It’s that simple. I think that’s advice I give to any podcaster is you have to protect your audience at all costs.
Drew McLellan: Yeah. Right. They are the precious commodity.
Rob Walch: Right.
Drew McLellan: Yeah, absolutely. I think one of the ways that people might be able to … I have a lot of agency owners who podcasting is frightening to them because of the time commitment, because of, “I don’t know what guests I would get, I don’t know the technology.” They have lots of reasons why it’s a barrier.
So, one of the things I often suggest to them is if you don’t think you’re ready to podcast yet, maybe you’re ready to be a podcast guest. I think that’s a nice way to wet your feet. Different experience, obviously, and you come at it with different expectations and responsibilities, but nonetheless, it gets you a little more comfortable in front of the mic and you get a feel for what that looks like. Are there some best practices in terms of seeking podcast appearances and how to go about doing that in an appropriate way?
Rob Walch: First off, the email should not start out with “Hi,” or “Hello, comma.” “Hi, comma”, “Hello, comma,” you ain’t getting on the show. It better be, “Hello, Rob.”
Drew McLellan: Right. It might be a little personalized, perhaps that would be nice.
Rob Walch: Yeah. It starts with, “Hi, comma,” “Hello, comma,” it’s, “Delete, comma.” That’s gone. Podcast hosts have an ego. I have an ego. I admit it. You say you love my show? That’s great. If you say, “I love your blog,” you’re dead. You’re dead to me because I’m not a blogger, I’m a podcaster. So, I always joke, Walch’s first law of podcasting, ego equals downloads squared. The bigger the show, the bigger the ego exponentially.
Understand that if you want to get on that show, you better have listened to a couple of episodes. Send an email saying, “Hey, on this episode when you were talking to such-and-such and you said this, you know what? I thought that was a great answer,” or, “I would love to come on and talk about that, because I disagree with that point of view and I think I’d be a good guest on your show.”
Wow, you listen to my show. Okay. You’ve done a little work. You’ve gotten past my big first hurdle. I am now going to definitely consider you as a guest. You’ve shown you’ve taken the time. It wasn’t a canned response.
Drew McLellan: Beyond that, so A, do your homework. B, listen to couple episodes. C, if you’re going to reach out by email, which is how most people are going to do that, do that in a way that demonstrates that you’ve done your homework. Anything else in terms of, is it better for me to prescribe a topic or point of view? Is it better just to share my expertise and let the host decide where they would like to take the interview? What do you recommend around that?
Rob Walch: Have a link, an About page about you so that the person can quickly go see that. People want to put everything about them in the email. One or two bullet points. What is it? TL;DR, right?
Drew McLellan: Right.
Rob Walch: Too long; did not read?
Drew McLellan: Right.
Rob Walch: If your email’s TL;DR, that’s exactly what’s going to happen. They’re not going to read it. I don’t read emails that are War and Peace. Keep it concise. Keep it short. If you’ve got a lot of information that you want to put out there, put a link to your About page about you. Say, “Hey, I’m an author. I released this,” and boom. That’s it. “If you want to learn more about me, here’s my About page and I think I’d be a good guest on your show,” and why.
It might be, “Because I’ve been covering the topic that you’re talking about for 20 years.” It could be something like that or it could be, “Hey, I was best friends with the guy that was on the show and I think I’d be a good guest too. If you liked having him as a guest, I think you’d like having me as a guest.” You have to put some sort of personal connection in there about how you fit to that show.
Drew McLellan: Does it make sense or is it just too much if you’ve already been a guest on another podcast to include links to a couple of those so they can hear what you’re like or are most podcasters not going to bother to listen?
Rob Walch: No, I think that’s fine. I would put one or two. I wouldn’t put every show you’ve ever been on. Matter of fact, if you say, “I’ve been a guest on 55 different other podcasts” …
Drew McLellan: Maybe everybody’s already heard you then.
Rob Walch: I can give you a really off color example of how that would sound: the girl coming up to you in the bar. “55 other guys in this bar.”
Drew McLellan: “Would you like to be number 56?” Right.
Rob Walch: Yeah, and that doesn’t sound good either.
How a Podcaster Should Reach Out to Potential Guests
Drew McLellan: Right. One of the things that I’ve noticed as my podcast has grown in terms of download and all that is I get a ton of solicitations from PR firms and companies that place people on podcasts. If I want to be a guest on a podcast, what’s your perception of how podcasters react to those third party endorsements or communications? “Our client, Bob Smith, wrote a book. He’d be a great guest on your podcast.” Is that as good as having Bob Smith send me the email or is that just the way that works and it’s fine?
Rob Walch: It’s okay. It depends on who it is. There are some people that specialize in the podcast area. Jessica Rhodes is one. She’s really good. She knows the space really well. There’s others that they’re dipping. They come across for the first time in a podcast or into the podcast field and they’re reaching out to a podcast for the first time and you can tell that.
So, you don’t want to be too corporate in your approach. I think that you want to be more personal in your approach. You don’t want to approach a podcaster the same way you may approach NBC to get on Dateline. It’s going to be a different sell.
Drew McLellan: Yeah. Right. That gets partially back to the ego thing, right?
Rob Walch: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Drew McLellan: Yeah.
Rob Walch: Yeah. I think the best advice, again, is customize it to who you’re reaching out to. In one customize, I guess the best way to explain it, with World War II, they would just drop a lot of bombs. Right?
Drew McLellan: Right.
Rob Walch: Ton of them. They’d take a whole bunch of bombers and they’d fly over a city and they’d just all drop them and they’d hope they’d hit and they’d use those Norden sights and they’d hope they could get close. Maybe one bomb would get lucky. Today, you drop one bomb, it’s laser guided, it hits the target, boom, done. You see the video on CNN. One bomb does today what a whole squadron of bombers did in World War II.
It takes a little bit more money to build that one bomb. But at the end of the day, it saved them, the government, time, money, and human lives to do that. I think you’ve got to forget carpet bombing and you have to go with precision guided emails. I’m going to look at five people today instead of 5,000. You know what? You’re going to get those five if you do it right.
Drew McLellan: For most of us, we probably are not a great guest for 5,000 podcasts, but we would be a great guest for five or 10 or whatever the number is. So, it’s also better for us. The outcomes are better on both sides. Yeah.
So, as you, because I know you live and breathe podcasting, both as a hobby, but your work, and now at Libsyn. What’s coming next for podcasting? What are the trends that you see on the horizon that you’re paying attention to that if somebody either has a podcast or is thinking about podcasting, they need to be watching as well?
Rob Walch: Forget what the content topic is. You want a podcast about what you’re passionate about. So, don’t try to be like, “Oh, look. True crime podcasts are popular right now. I’m going to go ahead and do a true crime podcast.” Do a podcast about what you want to do a podcast about. Forget if that topic is hot or trending or not.
Now, technology trends are what’s coming up. Again, mobile’s one. It’s over. It’s done. Don’t get enamored about, you can hear people talking about the connected car. A connected car is nothing more than a glorified bluetooth speaker for your smartphone. It’s really all it is. It’s the smartphone that’s won the day. Now, one of the things, and here’s an edit point for you-
Drew McLellan: Thank you.
Rob Walch: Sorry about that. Lost my voice.
Drew McLellan: No problem.
Rob Walch: Back to advice for guests. Have a glass of water around. It’s really important to have that glass of water.
Drew McLellan: Amen.
Rob Walch: So, technology trends going forward, I see the next area, now, it’s going to be a huge growth mark for podcasting. It’s not going to drive, it’s not going to be an inflection point like iOS 8 and the podcast native app was. But connected home, the Alexa, Google Home, eventually when Apple has their version of whatever that’s going to compete and come out this fall. Those are where people can just walk around the house and say, “Hey, Alexa. Play Hardcore History with Dan Carlin.”
Here’s the irony now of the home. When you leave your home, your smartphone probably will not be more than six feet away from you the rest of the day. When you’re home, your smartphone is farther away from you than any other point in the day. You are more likely to be away from your smartphone when you’re home than when you are away.
Drew McLellan: Sure, because it’s charging or whatever.
Rob Walch: Right. Up on the bed stand and you’re downstairs in the kitchen or it’s in your office and you’re in the kitchen or it’s in the kitchen and you’re in your office. Whatever. That’s when you’re away from it. So, how are people going to be consuming more and more at home with the connected device. “Okay, I’m in the kitchen. Hey, Alexa. Play the latest episode of Hardcore History,” and you’re going to hear it that way.
So, those devices are going to pick up some market share. It’s not going to be huge, 5%, maybe even get up to 10% of the market share. But you know what? That’s going to come close to where computer consumption is at today, which is 15%. So, I think we’re going to see a little bit of growth there. Not hyper growth, not an inflection point, but it’s something to look at. As a podcaster, you want to make sure you have a strategy for that going forward.
Final Advice from Rob
Drew McLellan: Awesome. As we wrap up, anything that, assuming that everybody listening to us now is like, “Oh, my god. I should have been podcasting years ago, but I’m on it now,” anything, any last thoughts or parting wisdom that you want to make sure that they have before we wrap up?
Rob Walch: If they’re not pushed off where they think they should be podcasting, just think of those numbers. 2000 to 1. That’s the ratio of bloggers to podcasters. So, if you are blogging and not podcasting, you should be.
Drew McLellan: Pretty crowded field vs. not so much.
Rob Walch: Right. It’s a way to stand out. It’s a way to differentiate yourself. It’s a way for people to find you in places they’re not going to find blogs. There are zero blogs you’re going to find in the iTunes store, but a billion people are on that iTunes store. So, it’s a place to find your content where they’re not going to find it otherwise.
Drew McLellan: I love your point about the fact that it’s really the only channel that allows you to multitask. If there is one thing that is true about agency owners and CMOs with their prospects, it is that we are multitaskers and we’re trying to cram so much into the day. So, writing a blog post is great and I think that in terms of the SEO of that and all of that, it’s still important to do. But in terms of actually having your content consumed and valued and having people watch for it and wait for it and look forward to enjoying it, the odds are if they could do it while they’re walking their dog or driving to work, makes that much more likely to happen.
Rob Walch: There’s things you can do with words when you’re speaking the inflection points, the emotion that you can generate that you can’t do in the written word, or can’t do easily in the written word. The joke was, “I married my first wife. She said, ‘I do’, and I said, ‘I do?'” You can make those little points. You can get those little jokes out there with spoken word if you really learn how to articulate.
Oh, and one other piece of advice, especially for agencies. If you’re going to script, do not script for proper grammar. Proper grammar does not sound well when you speak it.
Drew McLellan: Amen. Amen to that. You need to write the way you talk.
Rob Walch: Exactly.
Drew McLellan: Yeah. Absolutely. This has been awesome. Thank you so much. I know that this is a hot topic for lots of agency owners and there’s probably no one on the planet, I know that you are the fifth most influential, but I suspect that was an old book and you probably have risen in the ranks. But there can’t be very many people on the planet who know more about podcasting than you. So, I’m really grateful that you took the time to be on the show. Thank you.
Rob Walch: Drew, thank you for having me on the show. If your guests want to reach me, it’s very easy. [email protected].
Drew McLellan: If they want to learn more about the podcasts that you do and they want to see you in action, is there a spot where they can go to have access to all of that?
Rob Walch: Podcast411.com is my personal site and there’s links with my About and that shows all the different podcasts I’m involved with. So, Podcast411.com and my work is Libsyn.com.
Drew McLellan: Awesome. We’ll have all of that in the show notes for everybody. So, if you didn’t get a chance to jot that down or you are walking the dog or on the treadmill, no need to fall off or trip over the dog. We’ll get that taken care of for you in the show notes. So, Rob, thanks again. I really appreciate it.
Rob Walch: Drew, thanks again for having me on the show.
Drew McLellan: You bet. Okay, gang. This wraps up another episode of Build a Better Agency. I will be back next week with another guest who’s going to help you build and scale and strengthen your shop and make it the shop that you want it to be. In the meantime, you know that throughout the week, you can always reach me at [email protected]. If I don’t talk to you between episodes, I will see you next week.