Stacking Benjamines Podcast

Hoping to expand your reach? Try podcasting. Just don’t try it the way we did.

It seems podcasts are all the rage. According to The Pew Research Center, 25% of people in the United States age 12 and over listen to audio podcasts, and over 40% listen to audio on digital devices. You know Neilsen, the rating company? So few people listen to radio that as of Fall 2010, they quit measuring radio listeners. To grossly misquote Wayne Gretzky, podcasts and online video are where the puck is headed.

In a recent interview, internet guru Pat Flynn credited podcasting with much of his business success. He’s reaching over 10,000 people per episode, and amazingly, these aren’t the same people who visit his blog. Podcasting has expanded his audience.

Our Story: A Case Study

My business partner, OG, and I knew that we wanted to create a podcast from the very beginning. Why? We’d done a local radio show together called Dollars and Sense (well….it was my show, but he was a frequent guest). He’d been a good guest, always was entertaining, and had a distinct point of view.

Sadly, we didn’t know podcasting host platforms such as Libsyn from Libya. I had no idea how a podcast found it’s way onto iTunes or even how the file was recorded. We decided not to let that stop us, and it shouldn’t stop you. While our old show, 2 Guys & Your Money, posted nowhere near Pat Flynn stats, the sheer number of awesome relationships I formed because of the podcast are immeasurable. I’ve been lucky to interview Jean Chatzky, Laura Vanderkam (What Successful People Do Before Breakfast), and Adam Baker….not to mention Pat Flynn.

So, we embarked on the journey…and screwed up nearly everything.

– We didn’t have a name, so we created one we knew we’d change later.

– We didn’t launch the show so much as “put it out there.”

– We didn’t have any real equipment.

The result?

What would you expect? Our first shows were nearly unlistenable. AND, even though I had a clear idea of the format and “sound” of the podcast I wanted, none of that came through because of significant audio issues. After laboring through 16 episodes we finally had some clue and rebranded the show 2 Guys & Your Money. Our listenership climbed fairly quickly as we grew more savvy. 40 episodes later, we’re changing the name one last time. Why? Now I know how to launch a podcast, I know that our name doesn’t reflect the dorky quality of our show, and I’m happy with our format and our team.

In short: Time to get serious.

Here are some steps you can learn from my podcasting mistakes:

1) Invest in quality equipment immediately.

I already owned a Mac, which made editing easy (Garageband is the #1 software utility for podcasting), but I thought that I could find quality equipment on my own beyond that.

Here’s what I didn’t do: I’d listened to podcasts from a guy called the Podcast Answerman, Cliff Ravenscraft. I didn’t use his list of recommended equipment. I hoped I could do it cheaper. In hindsight, I should have invested in his exact recommendations. It would have gotten me past step #1, figuring out how the $%#! to use my equipment, and on to step #2: build a show, more quickly.

We use an Allen and Heath mixer with 10 channels (10 people can talk at a time….that’s 8 more than I really need) and I use a Sure 55SH mic, which I bought because it looks cool, which is the wrong reason to buy a mic.

I should have bought the one Cliff recommends. Lesson learned, too late for me, but hopefully early enough for you. The best personal finance podcasts have great quality and great quality equipment.

2) Simplify your podcast.

One of two things are going to happen to your first podcast: Either a) it’s going to be full of ah’s and um’s or b) your content will meander. Both of these are okay because you’re learning the ropes. I agree with many experts: just start talking and then listen to see how you can make each episode better.

BUT if you want other people to listen and you’re okay with just getting content out there, you’ll need to be serious about editing.

In the beginning I opted to edit less. That was a colossal mistake. Edit out every um and ah. Drop the rambling diatribes. After a few well-placed and brutally honest Gordon-Ramsay-esque comments from good friends, I began editing far too much. It took nearly 8 hours to edit a 70 minute show. I’ve found a middle ground now where it takes about 4 hours to edit the 70 minutes. You’ll learn editing from experience, but start by overdoing it.

If I’d started with a simpler show, like Steve Stewart’s excellent MoneyPlanSOS, I could edit a 20 minute show in about an hour.

3) Remember You’re Building.

Corbett Barr of ThinkTraffic recommends experimenting when creating an epic blog post. It’s the same for a podcast. Try new approaches:

– Every time you listen to someone else’s podcast, ask yourself what features you like and dislike. Are you committing the same mistakes as the ones you dislike? Are you adding the portions you love?

Expand your boundaries. Interview people who don’t match your format. Find connections where there currently are none.

Ask your audience for feedback. We have a giveaway each month so we’re able to interface with our audience. I want to hear what they like/dislike and I want to include something new every show. Test.

I edit and edit and edit. If you use a PC, Audacity is an easy (and free) platform. Garageband on the Mac makes editing simple. We have lots of bumper music cut-ins during our show. While I want every one to be the best, I also have a platform of ideas that we’ll reach for in the future.

On my docket for improvements right now? Better scripts and research. Better show notes. More funny outtakes and transitions.

– Ignore the emotional rollercoaster of creating content. As a blogger, you already know that writing can be a spiritually draining experience. Podcasting is more of the same. Here’s my thought process during an average week:

Creating content (Tuesday through Thursday): This is pretty good stuff.

Friday (editing begins): This podcast is the most steaming hunk of junk ever created on the internet. It’s complete garbage….but it’s closing in on Monday, and what else and I going to do?

Monday: I put it out there and watch the reviews. I’m sure this is the crappiest show I’ve ever created, no matter how much people tell me they like it.

Tuesday morning, creating new content:  That last week’s show (the same one I thought was complete poo….) is an unattainable dream. It’s the best show ever and I’ll never reach that height again.

Because I know the emotional cycle, I try to ignore my feelings about the current episode. Instead I try new stuff. Build. Have some fun with the format. Listen to other podcasts for ideas. Steal the ones you like, but do it in a way that honors the other shows (not that blatantly rips them off).

On our show I “stole”:

Top 10 lists: The Dice Tower and Filmspotting podcasts

Transitions: Inside the Magic podcast

Unexpected Humor: The Nerdist and Doug Loves Movies (funny openings from The Nerdist)

Interview Style: The Q & A With Jeff Goldsmith

Roundtable of Bloggers: Gamers With Jobs podcast

Aftershow (I’ll always deny that this part of the show even exists if you ask me): Major Nelson Podcast

We’ve made these features our own. To my knowledge, nobody does a top 5 of financial topics. Our transitions use my relatives, other bloggers (FinCon made this easy), show members (Dominique made an awesome intro), royalty-free music, and stuff by friends (My Money Design and Dave Hilton both were kind enough to give me bumpers). The roundtable idea I never hear other financial podcasts use. When I interview, I try to get backstory and feelings as much as hard facts, like they do on The Q&A podcast.

4) Be in the community.

One of the few areas we got right was to make sure it was a community-based podcast. I think this sprung partly from my involvement with Yakezie. This was huge because 1) I was a nobody when we created the show and I desperately help marketing it; and 2) while initially I thought that Big Joe could be a huge “podcast” star and do it alone, like I try to do most things, my favorite podcasts had regular characters that people came to know.

So, I asked Dr. Dean (Yakezie member) if he’d like to sign on. He was a guy who had a unique point of view. Then I asked Dominique Brown (Yakezie member) if he’d like to join in. He seemed like a guy who was never afraid to speak his mind AND had a completely different point of view than Dr. Dean.

Finally, I asked Carrie Smith to join in. I got lucky that all three said yes. In another stroke of HUGE luck, Dr. Dean was friends with Len Penzo and asked me if I’d approached Len. At the time, to me, Len was this huge blogging star I couldn’t believe would ever agree. Another stroke of luck: Len was WAY excited to participate.

What did I get right? I had the guts to ask.

That’s been the case throughout. I sent an unsolicited emails to Pat Flynn, Natalie Sisson, Laurie Ruettimann, and Laura Vanderkam. I just threw it out there. I knew I wanted to interview them and I thought they’d be fun guests. None said no.

5)  Design for entertainment, not content.

Here’s the podcast I hate: a dry recap of financial events or “straight talk” about money. I don’t like the condescending attitude of some finance shows. Instead, my goal was this: to be the Car Talk of finance. I wanted it to be fun first, and then if someone found a little financial advice, so much the better. People will tell you they want hard-edged.

I would tell you that, too. However, when I look through the list of podcasts I listen to regularly, I’m happy that we’re able to add Makin’ Sense Babe to the new podcast. She’s someone who understands that in blogging and podcasting, we’re not in the money perfection business. We’re in the entertainment industry. She’s smart enough to know that if you bring them entertainment they’ll listen to the education you’re providing.

6) Find good advice.

I listen religiously to Cliff Ravenscraft’s excellent Podcast Answerman show. I’ve scoured the internet for advice on podcasts. I set up my podcast on LibSyn and read everything LibSyn recommends. I’m surprised already by the number of bloggers who throw a podcast out there that it’s clear nobody is going to listen to. People who listen to podcasts are audio-focused. You can’t have a horrible phone sound and expect people to get into your message.

6a) Ignore advice from people who don’t listen to podcasts.

I mentioned to some non-podcast listeners that my show was going to be about an hour long….and said that it may go as long as 90 minutes.

“90 minutes! Nobody will listen that long!” people who don’t listen to podcasts told me. “You need to shorten the show to 10 minutes or less. Maybe make it 5.”

My friends who listen to podcasts? “60-70 minutes sounds perfect.”

7) Persevere.

The top personal finance podcast keep going, no matter what.

There are weeks when I think the world should be listening to our show and nobody new comes around. During those moments I try to dig into our audience and be thankful for all the people who DO listen to our show, not bemoan all those who don’t.

I’m lucky that we have some pretty vocal fans already and I feel blessed that they listen to what we put out there. When I remember how lucky I am, the “why aren’t they listening” ugly voices fade and I work to impress even more those people who are awesome enough to already like us.

That’s how we do it…and what we’ve severely messed up. I hope that helps you launch one yourself. Keep on grinding and never quit.

Also, if you’d like to appear on our show, let me know!

Looking to learn how to start your own profitable website? Check out my step-by-step guide on how to start a blog. It’s one of the best things I did in 2009 to help earn extra money and break free from Corporate America!