I was first introduced to BlogcastFM and Srinivas Rao (Srini) through Betsy Talbot of Married with Luggage. She emailed me a link to his site as she thought I would dig his stuff. As Betsy took the time to email me from whatever third world country mountain village she was exploring at the time, I could at least take a few minutes to see what this was all about.
I got hooked — instantly.
It is important to note that BlogcastFM’s podcasts are around 45 minutes long and my average attention span is somewhere around 90 seconds. But Srini’s very human, very approachable style made him quickly likeable and the understandable and very actionable information he and his guests were providing made me an instant fan.
When you start looking at BlogcastFM’s numbers – close to 100,000 downloads a month – clearly I am one amongst many who feel the same. I was stoked I got a chance to chat with him about his journey with BlogcastFM.
Here is a bit of his story.
What was that road like to a 100,000 downloads a month?
Part of the story is it started by accident. When I got out of business school in April 2009 I could not find a job. I started the Skool of Life blog where I did, among other things, a weekly series of up and coming bloggers. After about 13 bloggers one of the guys came back to me and told me I should spin it off.
We took the original 13 interviews and launched blogcastfm.com. I think one of our really big misconceptions was that we would interview huge people and they would share it with their audience and we would grow from there, but the reality is that it is our listeners have built our show.
One of the other interesting shifts was to stop thinking about the biggest people we could find and start thinking about how we can find people that can provide the most value to our listeners. The other thing is there is a lot of information out there that is speculation but what we provide guests that give real tactical information.
We are also really in tune with what our listeners are saying. I personally email all of the people who sign up for our email list and that is something that I learned from Chris Guillebeau. He said that he did that 10,000 times and you can’t really argue with the results that he got out of it. Doing so has lead to a lot of our iTunes reviews and a lot of conversations with our listeners.
Could you talk about your strategy in how you pick guests?
One of the things we get asked is, ‘do you only take people who are really famous?’ The answer to that is no. What I ask is, ‘does this person have a knowledge base that our audience could benefit from?’
The other thing is with a podcast there is an entertainment component to it. Even you yourself said that us and PBS are the only two programs you listen to and to us that is one of the greatest compliments we have ever received.
I have gotten to the point where I can draw a story out of people fairly well, but you have to find someone where in them telling the story it won’t fall flat.
Yep, that makes total sense. I am wondering if you have any lessons learned on how you go about contacting some of these bigger names about being on your show.
We are in a unique position in that our ask is usually that we want to showcase someones work with 1000s of people. People are starting to come to us now. People are getting hire based on their appearances on our show. Now the bigger names we used to have to ask are now coming to us.
Once you have interviewed one person you can leverage that. As an example, when we approached Chris Guillebeau and we could tell him that we interviewed Danielle LaPorte and Pamela Slim, all people who are friends of his. In interviews I always pay attention to who people mention as far as who they respect, which makes things a lot easier.
Design also makes a big difference. I don’t think you can quantify the value that has on your brand. When someone has not heard of us and they go to our site they can see that we really have it together. When you combine that with over 150 reviews on iTunes it is clear that we are not screwing around. Once we changed our design even some of the bigger names looked at us differently. We had always been something of tremendous value to our audience and I think in this last year we are starting to be looked at as a tremendous value to our guests.
What are your different revenue streams?
The main one is a sponsorship. I also do all the social media for a surfing organization which is something I am really passionate about. We have three books on Kindle. We found that once we had three books it increased our visibility.
SquareSpace is our sponsor now. Ideally we will probably have two sponsors. That has its pros and cons as we are at the mercy of another, but at the same time you can leverage their networks. I was reading Tony Hawk’s biography today which may not be the most relevant of things but one of the things he was talking about was sponsorship and making sure your sponsors are aligned with your brand and your vision.
What about advice you have for people who are looking for sponsorships?
David Garland talks about interviewing someone from the company you are interested in seeking sponsorship from. If you are running a show where you can interview people — it is a perfect in. A media kit is also essential. Our media kit is better than some really big media companies.
I am curious about your decision to not do Google Adsense or affiliate links?
For Google Adsense it is all about integrity of design. David, my business partner is probably one of the best designers you will find.
We actually do affiliate links for some things. We have promoted David Garland’s course Talk to the Top. When it comes to affiliates we are definitely starting to leverage that more, but we are not doing anything that will compromise the site or the user experience. You do not want to throw off the experience someone is having with your content. We live in a really short attention span world. In a world where people scan blog posts we are keeping people’s attention for 45 minutes to an hour.
Yes, and that is why I left you the review I did. When I watch YouTube videos for a minute and 30 seconds I am like, ‘Ok, I am done’. But with Blogcastfm.com I was hooked. It is very impressive.
I am wondering with all of the people you have interviewed, what are the biggest takeaways?
I would say the number one thing I have taken away is that there is not one way to do it and if there was our show would be useless because everyone would say the same thing.
The other thing I would say is treat whatever you are doing as a business. That is where maybe I went wrong originally. For a long time I was a content producer that was trying to be an entrepreneur, but now I am an entrepreneur who is also a content producer. I think that is a very big distinction to make in how you view the world. Once you set that context everything else starts to change. If your context is, ‘I am just a blogger or a content producer,’ then you can end up spending a lot of time spinning your wheels.
Could you talk a little bit about the marketing challenges you have come up against.
One of the challenges of having a podcast is the majority of your listeners are not in front of their computers when they are listening to you which makes transacting more difficult. The contrast between iTunes and the people who come to our website is vast.
How has social media helped you in marketing?
Where social media has come in is it allows us to have a conversation with our listeners and identify a group of loyal fans.
I am curious as to what you found was the optimal publishing schedules.
Originally we were publishing three times a week and it was exhausting. One of our listeners told us that we were producing so much content that it was not giving them a chance to digest it and talk to us about it. So we do two times a week now.
What do you think are some of the advantages of podcasts over blogging?
People can consume their podcast wherever they are. We have a huge part of our audience in the handmade community. We were looking at the pattern and trying to figure out why. My hunch is that they are working all day with their hands and can’t be in front of their computer, but they can listen to us. The disadvantage of podcasts is that people cannot, at least now, transact from that medium but on the other hand you cannot consume written content while you are driving.
Do you think there is any one thing that was more influential than anything else to getting to 100,000 downloads a month?
It gets down to providing value to your listeners. At the end of the day it is not about me and not about the guest — it is about the person who consumes the content. I go back to old shows and I am blown away by how awful they are.
Initially we got constructive criticism and we really listened to that. It came down to listening to what people say. What we hear a lot of people say is that our show is better than a lot of paid products people buy and if that is not a compliment I don’t know what is.
I am curious as to what that criticism was.
That I was a terrible listener. Podcasting is good in that you can bring your own side of the story to things but you also need to be a good listener. I made a very conscious effort to really work on that. People tell me I do it well now but people have no idea how hard it is for me. I don’t script questions because it forces me to listen. Every single question I ask is based on the answer I get and as a result I get a really interesting flow. When someone tells me an answer to a question I will dig deeper until there is nothing else to know.