Speaker 1 00:00:01 Ask anyone who got their start in radio years ago. And they'll probably tell you that the tools and technology we have now have made audio creation, more accessible and a whole lot simpler. This explosion of podcasting probably wouldn't exist without them. Technology is important. No doubt, but it's only a small part actually in making audio
Speaker 0 00:00:21 Technology is only good. If it solves a problem, just writ large, any type of technology.
Speaker 1 00:00:27 That's Eric Newsom. If you don't know that name or what he's done, don't worry. I'll explain all that later, but let's finish hearing his take on technology first,
Speaker 0 00:00:36 When you're talking about like this conversation. Now I'm talking to you in a room with no acoustic treatment whatsoever in front of a glass panel, monitor, speaking into $150 USB microphone with this conversation. Be any more interesting. If I was speaking in front of a UAD seven, which costs four grand and acoustically treated room, Nope. We're using a squad cast as a technology to record this. If we were recording in a studio that was linked with the avid connect or whatever the hell it's called, which would cost hundreds of dollars an hour to do that with it be a better recording or a better conversation. Nope.
Speaker 1 00:01:16 As far as problem solving technology does do quite a bit. I mean, if you think setting up an RSS fetus complicated, try buying a radio tower or receiver renting studio space, applying for an FCC license that you have to renew every eight years. All right. See where I'm going with that. So now with virtually all barriers to access being gone, anyone can produce audio for the world to hear we'll ignore the usual jokes about that because we've heard them all before and jumped straight to what I think is another challenge. Technology can be super useful, but it could also be used as a crutch, plenty of new podcasters obsess over getting the right microphone website hosting site, by the way, just use cast us and think that's all they need to make a podcast without giving much thought to the concept of their show. Look, if all you're doing is recording an interview with someone from your industry.
Speaker 1 00:02:07 Well, at this point, it's most likely, already being done and no amount of money in technology's going to do anything to distinguish your concept. Generally speaking, I'm not saying you have to go out and create some new, innovative format though. If you do that, that'd be really cool. But I do think it's worth spending more time thinking about what your show is then pontificated about the things on the periphery. I know it's more art than science, but there are some tangible and intangible things you can do to help. So I enlisted the help of Eric Newsom, one of the best minds in radio, audio and podcasting that conversations next with Castillo's. You can create a subscription-based podcast. Thanks to our partnership with Stripe. You said our new integrative tool, you can create a private podcast and accept payments directly from your listeners. So no more clunky ad algorithms that don't actually generate income, number more middlemen, taking a 30% cut. It's just a direct payment from your audience to you. Simple as that, you could learn more at dot com or by clicking on the link in the show notes. All right on to the episode,
Speaker 0 00:03:19 My name is Eric Newsom. I am the co-founder of magnificent noise, which is a podcast and audio consulting and production company. That's based in New York.
Speaker 1 00:03:29 Before that he was one of the brains behind the Ted radio hour at NPR, the podcast Invisibilia and worked on radio programs like fresh air. Wait, wait, don't tell me he's also collaborated with audible and help create a podcast like the butterfly effect that Jon Ronson and where should we begin with Esther Perel? So without going through the rest of his resume, let's just say, this guy knows audio, by the way, I'm consciously using the word audio because while we're mostly talking about making podcasts, Eric is big on creating an audio experience more so than just a podcast.
Speaker 0 00:04:04 The world of spoken word audio is changing so much and so fast that something that we're doing today would have been thought an undoable five years ago, and many, many examples of that. And that rate of change is happening so much and so fast and new opportunities to distributor coming out so much and so fast that the platform doesn't matter. You know, I've been counseling radio people for many years to stop thinking of radio as a technology and start thinking of it as an experience, an experience that can transcend different platforms. And I think I give the same advice to podcasters. A lot of podcasts are very precious about podcasting. They feel like, um, from many years, those who've been in podcasting for some time experienced a time when people didn't understand what they did or didn't understand what a podcast was and kind of had trouble kind of connecting all those dots in their head.
Speaker 0 00:05:01 And, uh, so they are very precious as a word I use deliberately because I think they, they, they put on blinders because of their belief in zealotry, around podcasting as an experience. But very little that's in podcasting, um, was invented in podcasting. It was invented in another medium and brought to podcasting and podcasting has evolved these things and it will go on to a new platform and at one after that too. So I think the reason we refer to ourselves as an audio company, more specifically a spoken word company is currently that can go in many different places. I can go on the radio, we can go into a streaming service, it can go in an audio book, it can go in a podcast. It can go. And just an MP3 file that you send to someone or a voicemail go to all kinds of different things and those number of options. We'll just continue to expand.
Speaker 1 00:05:50 I think the nuance here matters on one hand when making audio, there are certain principles that transcend mediums I've used the term radio re-imagined describing podcasts before. And like Eric said, a lot of what we do in making a podcast is borrowed from radio, but then we fine tune it to make it work for a podcast. Here's a personal example. When I worked in radio, I had a brief career as an on-air host at a small public radio station. One morning, our program director taught me an important lesson. She wanted me to imagine a suppose a listener and what they might be doing while they listened to me. This was a morning show, right? So they were likely driving the car to work or getting ready to face their day. So I needed to do things like give the weather forecast and even updates on the time. You know, stuff like that. Radio hosts are always making those kinds of decisions you ever noticed on NPR, how the hosts are constantly reminding the listeners who the guest is well that's because when something goes out live, you can't assume that every person listened to a program for beginning to end good radio presenters, understand their forum, live radio and their function to inform
Speaker 1 00:07:07 Form. And function is something Eric talks about in a book he wrote called make noise. And he explains how audio creators need to understand form and function. Right? When I make podcasts now, I don't ever give anyone updates on the weather or the time though, I still borrow a lot of the other things I learned in radio to make a podcast. And for the sake of conversation, let's say it's a podcast because this is a podcast about making podcasts for a company who hosts podcasts
Speaker 0 00:07:33 In podcasting. It's a little different, but at the base level, it's still the same in podcasting. Instead of imagining what your listener is doing. When they're listening, that's been, you've taken time and location out of the equation because people listen when they want to, where they want to, not. When you happen to be speaking into that microphone, like in a radio sense where you know, it's 7 0 5 in the morning, and you can guess what most people are doing at 7 0 5 in the mornings are getting their day started, but you don't know what the podcast, when someone's going to be listening. So the question you ask instead of how am I fitting into what the listeners listening to this now, a Podcaster's question is, what problem am I solving for them? What need do they have that I'm filling, which transcends geography and transcends time. And in that sense, like people who are listening to your podcast now want to be better podcasters.
Speaker 0 00:08:33 They want to be better at building audience. They want to be better at connecting with an audience, right? That's the problem they have that I hope your episodes fulfill for them. If there's a comedy round table, it's like, I want to laugh. I want to escape from the day. Right? And that's the function. That's the, I, the idea is what am I, what role is my show playing in the life of that listener? Am I the escape? Am I the occasion to think about something other than what's in the headlines? Um, is it my opportunity to learn? Is it my opportunity to not feel alone in what I'm trying to solve in the world and understanding that is that function then dictates form. Like, so if I am having a conversation with a group of cancer survivors about surviving cancer and kind of coming out the other side of it, what do they need that I'm fulfilling? How do I connect with them? And the form that that conversation takes is based off of the function of connecting that community. Does that make sense?
Speaker 3 00:09:37 It makes absolute sense. And I, and I think it's a good example of how a lot of people make a mistake. I've noticed a lot of people making is working backwards from almost where they need to go. So in other words, people kind of come already with a form, which let's be honest. I won't put a percentage on it. Often, it's this a stock intro, a Q and a with someone from their industry that they find interesting, lightly edited a stock Outre with a call to action. And then they try to figure out, all right, how does that function? Where can I go? And where can I promote this? And they haven't necessarily done a lot of the work you just described. And that's, that's tricky work. I think that's,
Speaker 0 00:10:17 It's not, it's not, you don't think so, People don't do it.
Speaker 3 00:10:21 Okay. Fair enough.
Speaker 0 00:10:22 Uh, they, they start off with like, I'm going to make a podcast. I'm going to have an interview show in which I'm talking to one person. Like why, why every point in that process, why, and there's two routes to success. That's it just two, one is I'm just going to do this over and over and over again until I eventually learn how to do it well and connect it to an audience. And the audience builds over time. That's a very long, long process. It can take years to get really good at doing something and kind of really figure out what you do. Well that's, if you get successful, if you're successful, there are only two paths. The other path is to start with almost like a reverse engineering mentality of like, what am I trying to accomplish? And what's the best choices I can make in order to accomplish that thing.
Speaker 0 00:11:13 If I am creating a that's where you can get into, even like, when people say, how do I know my show is successful? I'm like, well, who are you trying to reach? And what are you trying to accomplish with this show? You know, if you are the real estate agent in Northern California, who talks to other, who just wants to talk to other real estate agents in Northern California, and it's a couple of hundred people, a couple thousand people, so what is your audience going to be for your podcast? It's not going to be millions. It would probably not even be thousands but hundreds. You could really be the voice of a real community and that's success. And actually that's based off a real guy and he is successful and he's never going to be, you know, charting at the top of the iTunes charts and shouldn't care about any of that.
Speaker 0 00:11:56 But the person who's like, I'm going to interview, you know, it's, it's such a reverse engineering process that people are like, I really want to talk to people about film. Like, well, you know what, there are tens of thousands. Literally of people talking about film are probably more podcasts about film than there are films, if that's the case. And I think that's probably true what makes yours different than everybody? Else's what is the white space that only you can do? You know, it could be, um, I just got an email from someone this morning who is a woman in her sixties. Lesbian wants to make a podcast about film from that perspective in that worldview. I'm like, yeah, there's probably some others like that, maybe, but that's a pretty unique lens on film and she's not going to have as much competition of just, she said, I'm going to make a podcast about film. And I think understanding that uniqueness and what your, what white space you're trying to fill in this design backwards from there is, is really the pathway to success.
Speaker 1 00:13:00 So let's see this in practice from Eric example, a sometimes scrapping an ambitious idea can be for the best.
Speaker 0 00:13:07 So I used to work at a company called audible. I started the original content efforts at audible, which still go on to this day. And when I started there, there was a lot of angst and anxiety about podcasting as a field and what it meant for audible and the guy who founded audible, um, came to me one day and said, this is when game of Thrones was really starting to peak. And he said to me, um, I want you to go out and find the best, the best game of Thrones podcast and make them an audible exclusive, just make that happen. Like that statement showed a profound lack of understanding of what podcasting was, because there is no best. There are hundreds of game of Thrones podcasts, game of Thrones podcasts from young women, black men, uh, people who live in certain parts of the world. Who've been lived in different political systems before they all look at that story differently, and then they create the best for their community. So there are hundreds, there are thousands of game of Thrones podcasts, and probably thousands of variants on how you talk about that television show. And so it wasn't that there was one best. It was, there are hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of bests. And what decided best was what was best for you. So the whole that in a nutshell encapsulates, uh, not just podcasting, but understanding how to design for podcasts,
Speaker 1 00:14:40 Which brings us to example B, remember how I said that Eric was vital and bringing the Ted radio hour to life at NPR.
Speaker 0 00:14:47 It's an interesting story because there's a couple of things in it that speak to bigger things. One was that, uh, so as it happened, the woman who was the general counsel at NPR used to work with the guy who was kind of the business affairs lead at Ted. And they said, Hey, we should figure out how to collaborate or finger something we can do together. And so they brought it to me and say, can we have a sit down meeting with a couple of people from NPR and a couple people from Ted? And we'd like you to bring an idea like, okay. Right. And I called Ron and asked a lot of people for their input and ideas. And almost everyone tried to talk me out of it of, you know, Ted has tried this before. They've tried to work with other people to figure out how to do a podcast or a radio show.
Speaker 0 00:15:36 And it's never really gotten off the ground, um, that, uh, so it's really hard to take a Ted talk and kind of making something that works on the radio and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. But I was kind of undeterred. And I S I walked into that meeting and I basically pitched the outline of Ted radio hour. And in that I called it Ted radio hour because I was trying to use the moth radio hour, which is now the moths podcast as a launching point to think from where they took things that were already recorded and presented them on the radio. And I'm like, there's a way to, instead of doing the moth radio hour to do the Ted radio hour where you can actually use Ted talks, I said, but you just can't have the audio of the Ted talks. There has to be something that feels more than just what happened on that stage.
Speaker 0 00:16:23 And because so many Ted talks, it's, it doesn't seem that way when you think about it. But a lot of Ted talks have visual references or there's cues that happen or slides or something. It's just hard to convey in an audio only format. So I came in and I said, let's do this, but, um, and make it the Ted radio hour instead of the , but then let's talk to the people who did the Ted talk and see if we can expand out what they talked about. And when we did the first season of Tegrity while where we literally did that, we would play little clips of a Ted talk on a theme, or maybe a couple different Ted talks. And we talked to the people who did those about their ideas, and that we did that. We launched it. It was a massive hit. It was named, you know, the iTunes at the time, the apple podcasts, new podcast of the year, it was, you know, downloaded a ton of times and was on a bunch of stations.
Speaker 0 00:17:18 And when we, the dust settled, even though we were, should have been very, very happy with what we did, we didn't feel, we quite nailed it. Like it didn't really feel like at the level that we had kind of hoped. And so we backed up and kind of started over here. We took 10 months off and we did some talking and experimenting and came up with a much more of a let's tell stories and use the Ted talks to launch, to tell more stories and which may or may not be connected to the Ted talk at all, because we felt like we were just having these conversations about Ted talks instead of having conversations about ideas. And so that's, we ended up on the formula that, that they still use today.
Speaker 1 00:17:58 Okay. So you may not be the person who creates the next Ted radio hour, but no matter where you are in your podcasting or audio creation journey, you can heat Eric's wisdom to make your ideas better. I know I plan to
Speaker 0 00:18:10 Even an experienced podcaster who's has a podcast, which is in production in the world, always benefits from taking a step back and even asking questions about why I often tell people it's a good idea to deconstruct your impulses. Like, if you're like, oh, that's not an episode I would do. Why that's not a guest, I would have Y and answer those questions beyond this. Like, I don't like it. Think about the experiences you're trying to create and who you're creating them for and what the intended effect is of them and answer questions. And just deconstruct that impulse, you make a choice immediately. Like that's something I'll do. That's something I won't do. We don't stop to think about why, but the more we stop to think about why the more we understand what we're doing better. And I think that anyone who's looking to grow, you know, most people come to me, I want to grow my podcast. I'm like, great, let's talk. And they want to talk about social media. They want to talk about advertising. They want to talk about audience development, all these things. And I'm like, that's not, you're not ready for that conversation. Let's look at what you're actually making and see how that can be more effectively organized to achieve what you want. And people never think about that. They're like, how do I market the podcast I'm making rather than how do I make the podcast that will achieve what I want.
Speaker 1 00:19:40 Let's get back to technology for a minute, because it's useful. And to a point pretty necessary, but it's also always going to change. I could make an entire episode to give you all kinds of recommendations on Mike's editing software, all that jazz. But by next year, it'll probably be outdated if not sooner. And it's not really why I got into make an audio to begin with. For me, it's all about the ideas platforms will come and go. They're going to keep making snazzy new microphones that keep getting better. And there's eventually going to be another medium. That's more intimate and more accessible than even podcasting, but don't be scared by that because if you learn how to make something good, go always have an audience.
Speaker 0 00:20:20 Uh, a great example of this point is look at Marvin Gaye, right? Marvin Gaye's an artist. People have listened to Marvin Gaye on tons of different platforms, many that of which have come and gone. Like they listen to Marvin Gaye and LPs 40 fives and 30 threes on a track tapes on cassettes, on CDs as digital downloads, you buy as digital downloads or digital streaming, like the medium doesn't matter. It's the, that experience of being able to hear that voice and those songs. And that is the great way. That's the best way I can think of as an analog for how to think about audio storytelling. There has always been an interest in audio storytelling. There will always be an interest in audio storytelling, the method you used to deliver. It changes. And you just have to make sure that you're providing something consistent through, through all the change.
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