Espree Devora takes you on her journey through podcasting and shares insights and lessons learned.
The Podcast Renaissance
We’re in a Podcast Renaissance. That seems to be clear.
Is podcasting now the ‘new blog’ for marketers and consultants? It sure feels that way.
In the news and in the social sphere left and right we’ve seen everyone getting on the podcasting wave. From Chris Sacca’s portfolio company, Gimlet Media, to the festival LA Podfest, virtual conferences like Blab’s PodCon, and in-person events like New Media Expo and Podcast Movement. I personally host the monthly LA Podcasters Meetup.
So what’s all the hype about podcasting and why now? And most importantly, should you primarily be a listener or a creator?
I’ll jump head first into this audio ocean so that we can explore together.
Podcasting has been around for at least a decade I believe, but I only got involved a few years ago.
While backpacking Europe for four months sans any tech at the end of 2013, the founder of BetaList introduced me to the world of podcasting and the gleaming iPhone.
A hardcore Apple enthusiast, he encouraged me to convert to the iPhone upon my return to the States. What’s insane is I don’t think I would have fallen into the world of podcasting like I have if I didn’t have this iPhone. It made access to podcasts so simple.
This was before podcasting had become the rejuvenated mainstream content machine it is today. The energy in podcasting at that time was just revving up. Around the corner was the Renaissance engine igniting.
Startup and Serial had not yet aired. Mainstream media like New York Times and Wall Street Journal were not yet writing ‘Podcaster Comeback’ articles. However, I sensed that the trajectory of podcasting was about to follow the same path YouTubers walked back in 07′; a content platform advertisers couldn’t wrap their budgets around.
That is, until a tipping point hit and then these same naysaying big companies would beg the now Influencers for brand integration. I knew that I just had to pursue podcasting right away. I knew with everything in my being it was about to be huge.
The Riches are in the Niches
August 2014 is when I began navigating uncharted territories like Alice In an Audio Wonderland. I was scared shitless.
I learned the hard way while building my 2nd company, an action sports media site, focusing on a niche is way smarter than trying to be everything to everyone. So the idea of a general startup podcast was out.
Since my whole entrepreneurial career and interests had been LA Startups, having built multiple tech companies in LA and being born and raised here, I decided to do the WeAreLATech podcast.
Build Your Podcast Production Team
I launched a hyperlocal show focusing on the eco system I knew; one I was a part of myself. I had to learn everything in podcasting from ground zero. How to record, microphones, music, editing. The most effective ways to book guests, create artwork…and of course monetize it — whether it be through sponsors or other strategies.
I made a commitment to myself to consistently take steps forward no matter what.
Fiverr, the website where you can get tons of awesome services from people around the world for only five bucks, became my best friend. I found my future audio mastering hero and some wildly creative artists there.
I met with my friend Jessica, who worked for Microsoft at the time, to gauge if this podcast would be something they would consider sponsoring. She said, ‘yes definitely’, and introduced me to my future podcasting mentor Rob Greenlee, head of tech for Podcast One at the time.
With their cheerleading support, my deep online exploration for ‘how to’ videos (I must have watched and listened to 20 hours, at least, of microphone audio samples and tests) and after having read zillions of podcast chat forums to find the best editing tools, I was ready to get started. It was a journey indeed, and one that as I predicted, would be well worth it.
I created the LA Podcasters Monthly Meetup simulating how YouTubers formed collabs in the early days. I bought a Blu Snowball Ice microphone from RadioShack and found the people who became a loyal virtual post production team.
Then it was just about scheduling guests to interview to try out all the equipment (which cost under $50 bucks). No need to pay $1000s to get started podcasting. That’s all online affiliate folklore. It’s about the ability to connect with an audience, having valuable content, a relatable theme and great sound quality, which can all be done on a budget.
The First Show
Before kicking off the show I wanted to have a great guest, and as serendipity would have it, I had the blessing to meet Phil Jaber from Philz Coffee, a super community orientated tech trendy coffee shop that started in San Francisco and made it’s way to Santa Monica.
I met Phil on the opening day of Philz Westwide and he agreed to be on the show.
I didn’t want to mess up this opportunity so I decided to record a practice guest. *A practice guest is a show I’d record without ever having the intention to publish it.*
I texted my startup attorney Damion Robinson. Damion had become a confidant over the years and held valuable legal insights that would really benefit the LA tech world. I drove to his house that night, exhausted, in no mood to do an interview, but I was committed and determined. I didn’t let myself back down. And just like that, we sat at his kitchen table this time, I pressed record and we were on our way.
Here’s that episode:
Getting Your Show Online
Next up was how to get my show online. First, in August, I uploaded the episode to SoundCloud and made it private so I could have some friends give me feedback. After that, it was ‘How do I get this file onto iTunes’ and that was ridiculously overwhelming until I found SimpleCast which indeed made the whole audio hosting process simple.
SimpleCast walked me through the steps and I set it all up in a swift afternoon session, then on September 23rd, 2014, I launched my very first podcast on Apple and by the first week of October, with only 1 episode live, it hit number 2 in the country across all categories on Apple’s ‘New & Noteworthy’! AMAZING.
Riding the Podcast Wave
Since then the popular podcasts Startup and Serial came to be, news publications took notice and I was riding that wave. Now it’s been over a year since launching my first podcast, and I’ve come out with a second show Hello Customer where I interview large brands like Levis and Zappos about how they deliver exceptional customer experience. Additionally my monthly LA Podcasters Meetup is still going strong.
Where podcasting is still in its infancy is monetization. Like YouTubers, we can pave the way for what brand relationships will look like.
Podcast production companies Gimlet Media and Pacific Content are exploring brand-sponsored content like the Slack Variety Pack. At this time indie podcasters primarily make money working with networks like Midroll, getting paid per listen.
Brands still don’t quite understand what type of ROI a podcast has, even though the statistics show a podcast listener has the highest engagement versus other types of digital content. Listeners have such an intimate trust with the host that when the host says something is worth paying attention to, that dedicated fan takes notice.
At the end of the day I think podcasting is both a business tool and an art form. For me, as a content creator, I am painting audio. As a listener I am either being educated or entertained. I don’t know how I would do dishes another day without Death, Sex, & Money to distract me from the mundane.
But should you be podcasting?
While there are great opportunities that can come out of podcasting; I feel that only those with a genuine desire to share or educate should podcast. That’s who should be podcasting.