Award-winning podcast producer Eric Johnson

Award-winning podcast producer Eric Johnson
Award-winning podcast producer Eric Johnson

Dec 17 2020 | 00:27:11

Episode December 17, 2020 00:27:11

Hosted By

Stuart Barefoot

Show Notes

Today Matt is talking with Eric Johnson from Bumblecast.FM. From winning the 2019 Podcast of the Year award to helping make original podcasts, Eric is a well-known and prominent podcast editor in the industry. His newest venture is Bumblecast.FM which is a business in the business of helping you with your podcast. They can either help you start a podcast of your own or can help your existing podcast. 

Eric has been in the digital media and podcasting field for over ten years. He’s worked at WTOP-FM, AllTHingsD, Mental Floss, and Vox Media. He produced Recode Decode with Kara Swisher which was named Podcast of the Year in 2019. 

If you have any questions about this episode or want to get some of the resources we mentioned, head over to And as always, if you’re enjoying the show please share it with someone who you think would enjoy it as well. If you have a quick moment in this busy holiday season, please leave us a review on iTunes. It is your continued support that will help us continue to help others. Thank you so much! 

Today you’ll learn about:

  • What does Eric’s average production look like?
  • Quality of content versus quality of audio
    • Best practices for audio quality
  • The podcast ideas Eric hears the most
    • The True Crime ...trend?
  • Advice for new hobbyists
    • “The Long Game” and “Short Term Experiments”
      • Twelve week pilot season
  • Bumblecast.FM’s vision
    • Originality, diversity, and passion
    • Keep podcasting weird
  • Joe Rogan’s success and mainstreaming podcasts on Spotify
  • Private or premium podcasting versus public podcasts
    • The ownership of content



Eric’s Twitter: @heyheyesj 

Castos, website:

Castos, YouTube:

View Full Transcript

Episode Transcript

Speaker 0 00:00:06 Welcome back to another episode of the audience podcast. It's the number one show for podcasters on their journey to get better at podcasting. Hey, before we continue, it's the holiday season and I'd love nothing more than if you could take a quick moment and leave us a review on iTunes. You're a podcaster, at least I hope so. You know what the feeling of gratitude will feels like. I love it. If you could just take a moment and drop us that five star review in iTunes or leave a comment. Look, I'm not saying that my boss, Craig, you know, the other co-host here takes us into account when he gives me my yearly review, but well, maybe he does. So please go ahead and leave the audience podcast, a five star review on iTunes. So let's say you're a new podcast ser and you're looking to get better at editing spotting industry trends and creating a show that makes an impact within the genre of your content. Speaker 0 00:00:53 Then let's just say, I could put you in a room with a guy that has edited a podcast for tech journalists like Peter Kafka or Kara Swisher Rico decode that one podcast of the year by ad week in 2019. Well, hold onto your microphones. Because today I'm interviewing Eric Johnson, the editor who did all of the above and more to chat about his latest venture Bumble He's helping you achieve your podcasting goals, whether you're a solo creator, a nonprofit, a big business and everything in between. There's a ton here. And I really hope you enjoy it. Oh, and if today's lesson was worth your time, don't forget about that review. Okay. Let's get into the audience episode. What is this whole production thing look like from your 50,000 foot view? There's a lot of listeners here that are hobbyists. They're trying to get their podcast off the ground, but you've done it big time. You've been on the big stage producing some of the world's most popular shows. What does this production look like for you versus, you know, the guy at home with her laptop, trying to just use audacity. What goes into producing a show at your level versus maybe like say the hobbyist? Speaker 1 00:02:00 Yeah. Well, as you mentioned, you know, a foundational principle of Bumble cast is this idea that starting a podcast is easy. Making a podcast is hard. I think there's a lot of unfortunate misinformation. That's out there that's targeted at amateur and hobbyist podcasters folks who have invested interest in convinced them that, Oh, it's, you know, you just got to upload an MP3. This does pay us a couple of dollars a month to host your audio. The downloads we're rolling. Everything will be great. Congratulations. You're a podcaster. And you know, technically guests, once you've uploaded a sub and a B3 to an RSS file, I guess technically you are. But the whole idea of the company is that everyone needs help. So whether you're an individual creator or you are a college or a university or your big business, everyone down the line needs help in some way or another because making a show is a lot of work. Speaker 1 00:02:49 It's a lot more work than people initially assume to the second part of your question about the differences between, you know, being at an, a big podcast versus a small one, there are major. So to take Pope from my own history, you know, the show that I produced for the past five years, Rico decode with Kara Swisher, Tara already had a huge existing fan base. She was, is a celebrity journalist, right? And so that brings a lot of that. Makes it a lot easier to get started to start. You're not really starting from zero. She had tons of followers online, tons of followers on Twitter, right? She had, um, a really passionate, engaged fan base already. So convincing those people to listen to a Kara Swisher podcast is relatively easier. Now that being said, it took us many years to build Rica DECA into the show that it was, as I mentioned, as you mentioned, whether, you know, the show one podcast of the year in 2019, and really, I would say we didn't, we started the show in 2015. Speaker 1 00:03:42 I don't think we really hit our stride until 2018. That was the year that we had Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk. And really some of my favorite episodes of the entire run of the show that was rented when everything really clicked into place as to, you know, so even a big show like that with a really talented, already popular host like that. It took time and a lot of work to get to that place where we were like completely happy with the pace that we were going into, the types of guests we were getting. Right. And so you think about someone who's an independent creator, right? Who is starting without an entrenched engaged audience from the beginning, it's even harder for them. And that's my whole philosophy is that if you are willing and able to put in the time and you're willing to ask for help, when you need it, you can get there. You can build up to a point where the podcast, it turns into something that's really successful and thriving and has that great audience, but it's not something that happens automatically. That part of it is not easy. Speaker 0 00:04:42 Yeah. And one of the things that, uh, the two most popular questions that I get here at cast dose is which microphone should I buy and which editing app should I be using to make my sound better? Right. Two things that are just very non-existent to the success of a show. I mean, long-term success. Yes. We want to make it sound great. You want to do sound effects? How do you think you're going to handle that? Or how would you handle that question? If somebody came knocking on bubble cast door and said, Hey, I want to start a podcast. And they were really fixated on the hardware, the software, and really struggling with, Hey, it's, it's about the content here. Speaker 1 00:05:19 Wait. So you're telling me if I don't, if I buy a Joe Rogan's microphone, Spotify is not going to automatically give me a hundred million dollars. No, I think if someone, um, if they're coming from, you know, kind of a more independent, a lower budget perspective, which is what most podcasters are, most of us are kind of doing this thing on our own or as side projects, I'd say there's actually a lot of really good, low cost USB microphones. And that's the range you should be aiming at. Um, I think transom has a really good guide to these. There's lots of good guides online. If you search for USB microphones, the general advice that I give is I agree with you on this, Matt is that you shouldn't obsess too much over your audio quality as the ultimate determinant of the podcast. The content is really the most important thing is making sure that you have the material, you have the personality, you have the access to guests, if you need them. Right. Those things are so much more important. And I think so long as the audio sounds good enough, 95% of your audience will not care. Maybe there'd be 5% of audio files out there. Who'd be like, Oh, well this would be better if they were using a Roadmaster pro or whatever. But you know, most listeners are not going to turn your show off so long as it's not actively hurting them. Speaker 0 00:06:33 Yeah. I mean, one of the things I say, so again, I just, I mirror everything that you say to a lot of our customers, but there's a, there's a point where yeah, you do have to invest in it. There's a lot of people in, I dunno, let's say the business slash marketing space of podcasting where it's sort of like, like almost like a trophy, like, Hey, I, I didn't invest a nickel in this podcast and I'm getting hundreds or thousands of downloads per episode. Yet when I tune into those types of episodes, they're just using like their Mac internal microphone. And then they're like banging on the desk and they're in a 14 foot ceiling room. And I'm like, I can't even listen to this anymore. Hey, kudos to you on your success. But I can't stay committed to this show if it audibly hurts my ears. So investing like $7,500 will get you a fantastic microphone, which almost, almost sounds like Joe Rogan at the end of the day. You know, if that's the kind of audio quality that you're getting to, Speaker 1 00:07:30 And to your point though, also those best practices about making sure you recording in a good room that you're not wearing. Uh, we've had, uh, I've had many experiences with guests who are wearing jewelry that clanks around on their wrists, around their neck. You're not banging the table. There's not too much, unless it's a really important point. There's a certainly a lot of best practices about having good audio quality, but people do get hung up on the, on the equipment, uh, over much. Speaker 0 00:07:54 Is there a trend in podcasting categories or show types where you're just like, Ugh, not this again. Like somebody says, I want to, I want to launch a show and it's just another interview show, no pun loss. And the fact that we're having an interview show right now, but is there just the thing you're like, Oh God, this again. Speaker 1 00:08:11 Well, I love interview shows. I think that interviews are an endlessly mutable genre. I don't think that there's a glut of those any more than there's a glut of novels. I think it's such a broad genre that, uh, be, be silly to try and police that, but tear your larger question. Personally, I have my personal podcast tastes of the stuff that I like Bumble cast will help people make any type of podcasts they want. So that's our policy is you come to us with an idea. We will do whatever we can to help you achieve your goals. My personal case. However, I have always been a little bit disturbed at the very least perplexed by true crime. I'm not the biggest fan of turning people's suffering and or death and or violence into entertainment. And I know there were certainly better examples and worst examples of that. Speaker 1 00:08:57 I don't want to paint with too broad, a brush. There are many true crime podcasts that are sensitive and that are, you know, not over sensationalizing over entertainment, Isaiah, that's not a word, but you know, you know what I mean? They're not cheapening the real events, but there are some that do. And that always makes me feel a little bit icky. And so whenever I see there's an announcement for our new true crime podcast, part of me is always like a little bit. Oh, which, which type is it? Which one is it? Is it going to be about the good ones? One of the bad ones, you know, Speaker 0 00:09:26 Did you tune into Crimetown when they covered Providence? Yeah, Speaker 1 00:09:29 I did. I loved the first season of Crimetown. Speaker 0 00:09:31 Yeah, it was, it was. And I think that's sort of the, a low, I mean, obviously there's the allure of the, of the crime and then like the, the storytelling and the illustration of what happened. But then it's one of those things as a listener, as a, as a content consumer, you're like, Oh yeah, like I know all the federal Hill, like I know all these places in, in Providence. So you're, it's kind of connects you that way. I can't believe that happened there like 30 years ago, 40 years ago, whenever it happened. So I think there's a little bit of that as well. How do you balance, how will you balance or how are you balancing now that time aspect a client comes to you and they say, we want to do a podcast and you're like, okay, it's going to be 12 episodes. It's going to be 50 episodes. How do you get them to balance the time, the investment to reach a particular goal that they're after through a podcast? Speaker 1 00:10:13 So my general advice, let's assume again, we're still talking about an independent person who is starting from approximately zero, right? They're not in addition to that, they don't already have an engaged audience. My advice is to basically plan, think in terms of like a pilot season. Now it may be that the show goes well enough that you don't actually have seasons that you keep it, you start doing it and you just keep on doing it indefinitely. But mentally I tell people in the planning phase and the show development phase to think in, you know, 10 week or 12 week segments, and think about what can I achieve in this amount of time. And with the understanding that, you know, podcasting is a long game, that this is not something that will necessarily turn go viral overnight. We should, I should stop saying go viral. That that phrase no longer works in today's world, but think of it in that way as a short-term experiment. Speaker 1 00:11:05 And as a mental exercise, think if these 12 weeks are the only thing I get, if the show is going to end after these 12 weeks, what can I do to make these like the best 12 weeks possible? I think breaking it up again, even if the show is going to go on well past those initial few months, I think mentally breaking it up and thinking of it as just a limited time task with a deadline. I think that really encourages people. It taps into their most creative selves and it encourages them to think about doing the hard work now and not pushing it off. Speaker 0 00:11:42 Is there a goal? And this is sort of a question about the business side of, of Bumble cast, but is there a particular client profile customer profile? However, you refer to it as avatar sometimes, but is there a particular goal you think that you're poised to help people achieve better than others? So maybe somebody coming to you because they want more leads to their business. Maybe they're an author and this is part of a PR play. They've got a new book coming out, and this is a play at, at getting more exposure to the book or monetization through ads, advertising, more downloads, more reach, get brand deals. Is there a better set that you align with from your 20 plus years of experience? Speaker 1 00:12:18 I mean, all of the above, I will help people with any or all of those things. I certainly have already had clients coming to me with any variations on those themes. Generally speaking, Bumble cast is we're flexible. We will bend over backwards to fit into your goals and to your, if you have one existing organization, existing brand, things like that. But I do think what separates Bumble cast from other podcasting companies, what really makes us stand out. We have a list of values on our website that I'd encourage everyone to go read bubble, and just click on this little Cyclops icon, click on him, get to the values. My goal with the company is to encourage three things, originality, diversity, and compassion. I think we have seen too little of all of those things in the media generally and in podcasting specifically. So, you know, originality, I love it when someone comes to me with like a really weird idea, I think keep podcasting weird is what is one of my values. Speaker 1 00:13:14 That's what the psych club stands for. And I really want to make sure that as this industry gets more corporatized as more and more big players realize that value of podcasting, that we don't lose sight of shows that are just completely off the wall. Oddball shows diversity. We need to do a lot better in terms of making sure that more than just the white male, 2030 something voices are being heard, this is like become a joke I've seen on Twitter. A couple of times, a group of white men talking about movies is called a podcast, you know? Um, and so Speaker 0 00:13:47 It's a joke the other day where they said, why do all men instead of going to therapy, start a podcast. Yeah, Speaker 1 00:13:53 Yeah. And the answer to that for podcasting is cheaper. But, um, but no, like I listened to a lot of those white men talk about movies, podcasts. I love them, but we need more than just them and compassion. You know, there's certainly a place in the media for folks who are really angry about something who are yelling, who were demanding change. I think those things can be good. I think especially now, and are very fraught political climate. I think there's certainly a place for anger and for protesting at times. But I also think there's a lot of unnecessary anger, a lot of unnecessary meanness that floats around in the podcasting space. And so those are the facets. Those are the angles from which I try and guide Bumble cast clients. I try and encourage them to lean in that direction. And I think that will benefit the industry at large. Speaker 0 00:14:43 I know discussing Joe Rogan in that same sort of thread is polarizing for some, but just from the industry perspective, what were your thoughts on him being owned or him getting Spotify, the rights to distribute his podcast and sort of that closed sense, right? People are like, Oh my God, this is, this is sort of going in the opposite direction of the open source culture of, of the RSS feeds and the podcasting technology at large. What was your thoughts initially on that Spotify quote, unquote acquisition, Speaker 1 00:15:17 My first thought was, you know, good for him get that money. You know, like Spotify was willing to spend the big bucks. And I feel like from the perspective of if he were just any podcaster, right, good, get, get, give the money and keep on making the show that you want to make. Um, I should disclaim that. I don't listen to his show, so I'd not super well versed in his specific content that basically, I just see whenever he says something controversial, I see it on Twitter. So we have maybe an unfair picture of his, uh, his show. I just don't have that much time to listen to it. But, uh, but in terms of the larger point though, about the industry, I think Spotify is where a lot of growth in podcast listeners is going to come from in the next couple of years, they're doing a lot of things, right, right now where they're pushing podcasts to people who have never listened to them before they seem to be investing in both the hosting and the advertising side of things with a anchor and megaphone and those, those sorts of things. Speaker 1 00:16:08 And I think the, the challenge is going to be, what are they offering to the listener that really makes it other than just the convenience factor of this is where you already listened to music. I think they need to offer more if they want to win. Now, personally, I don't think we necessarily, this industry needs a Facebook. I don't think we need one platform to rule them all. That's certainly what Daniel EK at Spotify wants, but I don't think we as podcast fans need that. I think there can and should still be a place for all of these small apps, all the, you know, diffuse apps that people use to listen to podcasts today, to continue going on. And this is the question is as Spotify uses all of its resources to make the experience better for listeners, whatever they choose to do in the future, right? Speaker 1 00:16:53 Other than just exclusive shows, how are these smaller apps going to compete? And for that matter, what is Apple going to do to respond? What is Amazon going to do? What are the other big giants going to do in response to Spotify? I hope that we're going to see Spotify lifting up the broader pool of tech companies, willing to spend money, to buy up shows and to potentially basically give, give money to folks. In addition to Joe Rogan, not just him for the independent podcaster. I don't think, you know, these big tech companies are going to be playing out the red carpet and spending millions of dollars to lure you in. So for the independent creator, it makes the most sense in my mind to continue publishing for as many places as possible. I think the exclusive market only really applies to folks like Joe Rogan who have those huge followings, right. Who have such a big audience that the gamble is they will follow him anywhere. Yeah. I, the particular Speaker 0 00:17:50 Challenge and I I've, I've been a podcast for eight years. A lot of it has been through talking about an open source piece of software called WordPress. So like open source and access and decentralized control and all this stuff is like something that's sort of near and dear to my heart. But when I see these types of things, it's like, yes, one thing about the Joe Rogan. Again, it's not an acquisition. I think it's just licensing the fact that they Speaker 1 00:18:11 Will just distribute the licensing deal. Yeah, yeah. Speaker 0 00:18:14 Is one, like you said, absolutely. I mean, whether you agree or disagree with the content of podcast or who's put in time, who's getting paid. That's great for all of us out there as creators looking to live our lives through podcasting. So thumbs up second. The flip side of the coin I should say is I start to get a little worried when this stuff all starts going to Spotify, because the more they attract people who are already listening to music, the more they attract them to then just listen to podcasts, can damage the small creators opportunity to be found, because then you get the lazy listener. Who's like, Oh, I can't get your podcasts. I'm on overcast, but I can't get your podcasts. I'll forget it. Like I'm not even gonna tune in. And that's the scary, you know, factor. And it's one that I'm always, always keeping tabs on it. Speaker 1 00:19:01 I agree with that part a hundred percent as well. I just think that so long as there are some alternatives to Spotify, as long as there's some competition, I don't think that the sky is falling quite yet. Speaker 0 00:19:12 So at Casos one of the things that we've found a lot through 2020, uh, pushed a lot of people too. And this was sort of in the same vein, private podcasting or premium RSS feed, right. Where somebody has to pay and make some money or charge the money to get access to an RSS feed. Right? So you might have a public podcast like the audience podcast is that we're listening to right now. And then we'll have a private podcast, which we do. You can go to greater. And that is something that we're finding new life in creators coming in saying, Oh, I can charge whatever. Casos, doesn't take a cut. I can charge whatever and send people to this private feed. Where do you see the industry going with giving power to the creator to monetize their own podcasts? This is a long way of getting to when we look at YouTube as a sample creators used to make quote unquote, tons of money through advertising, and we've seen this constantly get squeezed down to wherever we're at today, with what, you know, you can make an ads, where do you see it? The industry is shifting to give creators that that control to earn whatever it is they want without scooping up all of the profits. Speaker 1 00:20:23 I've been saying to some of my clients that podcasting and newsletters are the last bastion of middle-class media because on YouTube, you know, as you're saying, creators getting squeezed out and YouTube, that's not a portable medium. YouTube is, is it for online video? Pretty much. I don't think anyone really uses Vimeo the way they use YouTube. I know there has been like, there's a very small, independent video operation called Nebula, which I actually really like, I paid to support them, but I think that's a very niche operation. So, you know, YouTube has it for video. And then for texts, we're seeing more and more, you know, the written word. You basically, if you want to make a living, writing in a non email newsletter environment, you increasingly have to either work for one of these big media companies like the New York times company, or you have to take a risk and work at one of these outlets, that's going to be owned by a private equity firm or a hedge fund, or, you know, this is all these local newspapers that have been decimated by big money. Speaker 1 00:21:22 So, you know, those things are extremely difficult for anyone looking to make a living there. Um, I think podcasting, as you mentioned, podcasts, creators have a lot more control over diverse revenue streams coming in as a result of their show, you can sell ads directly. You can work with a third-party ad platform. You can solicit Patrion donations, you can solicit other direct support. You can, you know, just create a, a tip jar. You can use the podcast to market other products and merchandise and things that you do. Right. I think it's really promising that podcasting gives creatives a lot more power than they would have if they were trying to make stuff in other media, I'd say the same thing. It's pretty, it's pretty comparable to email newsletters, which we're seeing a boom of right now where email, because everyone has an email address. It's easier. Speaker 1 00:22:14 It's relatively easy to start building a following there at least to get a start there and podcasting, because there's all these free podcast apps you don't need to pay to, to, to listen and also listen on your web browser, right? Basically as long as you have an internet connection and ideally a mobile phone, you can be a podcast listener for free and you can access a basically infinite amount of high quality content. And so for that reason, you know, I think the barriers to entry for the audience are not exclusive to any one platform and it's broadly accessible and free to folks. I think that's a great starting place for, for a creator to reach people and to monetize whatever they want to create. Speaker 0 00:22:54 We must protect the RSS feed. It's like something out of a crazy like Terminator five should just be about protecting the RSS feed. Speaker 1 00:23:01 And he's seen there's, it'll probably get shut down by the lawyers in a couple of days, but there's, I just saw this thing called Spotify feed. And it's an open source program or this website, this guy made where you put in the Spotify URL for an exclusive show. And it turns it into an RSS feed that you can put into any other app. So I just use that. I just tested that earlier this morning to subscribe to a show and I was like, Oh good. This is nice. I can get it. Speaker 0 00:23:26 Yeah. You know, and again, like the other thing that is, I guess, alarming, speaking of lawyers and Spotify and, and their acquisition of anchor, again, these are all competitors to a degree, to our own company where they're going to own the platform. You know, we have a lot of people who are starting to wake up and realize that, Oh boy, like I'm giving all of this content to anchor. It's free. It's amazing, boy, this is just how cool this is. And then you realize, yeah, one day your podcast has a Doritos commercial halfway through it. You're like, wait a minute. I didn't get, I didn't pay the reviews. Didn't pay me to put this in here. Right. So there's a lot of people waking up to that ownership of content. No real question here, but I don't know if you have like a feeling of that ownership of the, of the content on those types of platforms. Speaker 1 00:24:10 Yeah. I mean, I haven't personally used anchor. Um, I only know of them by reputation by the fact that they are attracting a lot of independent creators in which, for me, that's a great value add to the, the industry because, um, even if they switch providers at some point, right, if you're bringing people in the door, you're getting them interested in making a podcast I'm supportive of that side of it. And I haven't read the anchor of like terms and conditions. So I can't speak to the content ownership or the idea of them inserting ads without a person's consent. But I do think that there's, you know, so I come from the digital media world where for a while I was a reporter working in text mainly, and I saw it over the course of the early 2010s Facebook and Google just eat up more and more and more of the digital media, the ad ecosystem. Speaker 1 00:24:58 And I don't think enough people were paying attention to the massive amount of power, economic power, and otherwise they amassed during that time. We are now seeing only now the fallout of all of that agglomeration of power, but I am generally wary of a comparable player emerging and podcasting. Although, as I said, we're still a long way off. I think the we're not yet toking in that direction in this industry. I think it's good to be skeptical. It's good to be wary if I were, you know, a creator starting out who was in any way wary about that. I, I think that's a good call to just be kind of on guard and to read those terms and conditions very, very carefully, including whenever they update them in the future. You know, this is like the, the, my favorite thing I've signed up for so many services over the years and routinely like eBay or whatever, we'll send an email saying we've updated our terms and conditions. Speaker 1 00:25:51 Now I didn't read the TNC the first time, but that those emails I'm constantly afraid. Like what, what are they putting in there? Like, what are they changing? Like, you know, it's not me that I didn't read it the first time, but I feel like I'm, I'm very, um, anything that I am making that I'm hoping to make a living off of. And this applies to any sort of creator, big or small. I do think you need to be extremely careful read the fine print, read the terms and conditions about wherever you're working with in any capacity. And also read those updates. Yeah. Speaker 0 00:26:21 Mean like every other day, open up my American express app on my phone and it's like new updates. So in terms of I'm like what's going on here? Like every single day you've guys have updated something else. That's crazy. Eric Johnson has been an amazing episode. Uh, I sort of leave it at that. It was just a fast, rapid pace, uh, exploration of your mind in the podcasting landscape, where can people find, where can folks find you to say thanks. Speaker 1 00:26:46 Uh, they can Bobby at Bumble cast dot F M I, you can hire me to help make your podcast better, or I can help you start a podcast from scratch. And you can also follow me on Twitter at, Hey, Hey, E S J. Speaker 0 00:26:56 Everybody else is the audience podcast. Don't forget to tune in every single week. Subscribe at

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