What I learned running a niche podcast

Photo by BRUNO EMMANUELLE on Unsplash

For the past four years, I’ve been hosting  a super niche podcast about business strategy at the intersection of technology. The guests are mostly local CEOs and investors where we talk about their careers, their organizations and their thoughts on the industry. It started as a way to promote what we’re doing at my company and has become a marvelous learning experience along the way. I want to share some thoughts on what I’ve learned so far.

Analytics and distribution

First, to start with the numbers. I’ve had 137 incredible guests. The show has almost 25K downloads which ranks in the bottom quartile of podcasts. The episodes are also uploaded on YouTube (audio only). YouTube has garnered 5K views and 500 hours of watch time. It’s syndicated via Libsyn which distributes it across all platforms. The service is pretty neat and easy to use but my biggest gripe is in regards to the quality of the data. I’m still amazed at just how poor the analytics in the podcast space are. You get a number of downloads which doesn’t provide much insight if people are listening, where they are dropping off, etc. The main reason is that Apple doesn’t share much of the data mainly because they don’t care. It’s just too small a space for the company to invest in. Though it has improved recently, there’s still a huge opportunity for more robust metrics. 

Something I’ve really neglected is distribution. My main strategy has been to share on social media when an episode comes out and ask for guests to do the same. I have not spent enough time trying to figure out or experiment with other distribution channels. Deep down, I dislike self-promotion and find it icky.

I know this is likely misguided and will look to get better at spreading the word.

Evaluating performance

The objective for the podcast was never to generate new customers. I didn’t believe it was going to be a lead gen driver for consulting mandates. It was always about creating awareness by a) having great content, b) exposing super smart people in our network which in turn spreads the word. That being said, we have obtained a few customers as a result but it is not a repeatable revenue pipeline. It has raised the profile of our firm and helped us punch above our weight despite being a small shop. For myself professionally, it’s been a great learning tool. The recipe is quite simple. Get smart people on the show, be curious, ask good questions and get out of the way. 

The biggest area of improvement is diversity with my guests. I have a horrible track record on this. Only 21% of the guests have been female. Though it’s been more even lately, it’s still pretty bad. I’ve made it a focus to come back to a more even split. The main reason is that my network is mostly male (which isn’t an excuse). What has helped is asking female guests for recommendations and they made great referrals. 

Some overarching principles

Asking good questions is such an underrated skill. It has served me way beyond podcast interviews. It takes time to build this reflex. Instead of asking the obvious question, I try to dig deeper to get a better sense of what the person was thinking when they made a particular personal or professional decision. I’ve learned *so much* by talking to people and just asking questions.

Even busy people want to give back. I’m always surprised when a guest accepts to be on the show. No one has ever asked for the reach or what’s in it for them. They just want to give back and share what they’ve learned along the way. If you have something to ask from someone that is in a more senior position than you, always consider how it makes them feel. Giving back is a good feeling!

Meeting people in person makes for a better discussion. Obviously, this is harder during the global plague we’re all living through. My preference is to talk to people in person. There’s something about the conversation in the same room. Most people (including myself) are more rigid at first but after 15-20 minutes, people start to feel more comfortable and open up. This is where the most interesting insights occur. 

Sucking at first is ok. I don’t want to listen to my first interviews. I wasn’t that good and my technical set up wasn’t at par. But I still put it out there. The important thing is to improve and get better. 

What’s next

It’s been a fun experience and I’m not planning on stopping. I want to follow my own advice and keep improving. I’m planning on more deep dives on specific topics and interview series. Next month, I’ll be talking to up and coming leaders that are still early in their career. I want to get off the beaten path for a bit and give some space for different view points. 

As always, thanks for listening!

p.s. If you happen to know any potential female guests, please let me know.

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