I’m thrilled to host Rob Walch, Libsyn’s VP Podcaster Relations on the show today. The Outdoor Biz is hosted with Libsyn and I consistently listen to The Feed podcast from Libsyn with Rob and Libsyn’s Community Manager Elsie Escobar.
Rob and I obviously geek out a bit on podcasting and he shares tips, small business podcasting success stories and the value publishing a podcast offers small businesses.
This is an outdoor show so I have to ask, have you ever been camping?
“Here’s the thing,” Rob says, “I grew up on Long Island. And the first thing…people think of is New York and stuff.” He goes on to share that the fence of his childhood home bordered a Girl Scout camp and was also near a wildlife preserve, which provided hundreds of acres for him to explore. Rob “lived in the woods growing up.”
Tell our listeners a little bit about your background
“I’ve been [podcasting] for over 17 years,” Rob says, “I started in 2006 and it really was a hobby…I was traveling a lot for business and I was looking for something to do when I was on the road.” In his first podcast, he would interview other podcasters, describing it as “Inside the Actors Studio, but for podcasting.” Rob explains his goal was to “talk to people who are in it and not just to find out the technical, but the art side of it. Why they’re doing their podcast, how they do it, you know, things like that.” His current show, which he co-hosts with Elsie Escobar, is geared more towards advancements in podcasting and technology in general and features guests who come on to share their insight.
Tell us a bit more about Libsyn
“I think one thing people need to understand, and to explain Libsyn, is that when you listen to a podcast in Apple Podcasts or Spotify, they’re actually not hosting those files. They’re being hosted on a third party,” Rob says, “So you need a place to host a file and manage your RSS feed, and the RSS feed is what makes all the magic happen.” Rob explains, “that’s where you come to Libsyn to host the files and manage the RSS feed. That’s what we’ve been doing since November 2000. We’ve delivered more downloads for listeners than any other service in the history of podcasting. And we help folks like yourself get the podcast out.”
Rob elaborates that Libsyn hosted podcasts from Microsoft, Google, Oracle, and Intel, and delivered 4.5 billion downloads for Joe Rogan’s podcast. Libsyn has over 75,000 podcasts hosts and hosts over 6 million media files on their servers, which means they can generate statistics as well. “That’s the big thing people want,” he says, “ beyond just the hosting and the RSS feed management, is stats. How did I do? ‘Cause what you want to know is – are people consuming this? Are they downloading it? And that’s where Libsyn comes in with really great stats.”
What does the future look like for you guys?
“Podcast growth doesn’t appear to be slowing,” Rob says, “I mean, there’s all kinds of folks who are starting new podcasts. There are some creative shows out there.” Rob explains that “from a consumer point of view, there are more people listening to podcasts now than ever before…It’s at a point where you can just say to your listeners ‘Just listen to this podcast any way you consume audio.”
“It really has become that ubiquitous…all the top music directories, you know, globally, now have podcasting,” Rob says, “It’s really easy to distribute your podcast to where people are already listening to audio. That’s the big difference…in podcasting versus, say, Youtube, podcasting is mostly audio and it’s just more time in the day to consume audio.” He goes on to say, “you can be out hiking and canoeing and other things and listening to a podcast while you’re doing it.”
How have podcasts evolved in the past five years or so?
“I’m seeing some pretty creative shows come out there now, you know, educational,” Rob says “I was telling somebody of the day, I said, ‘heck, you could do a trail guide on the Pacific Crest Trail and walk someone from south to north on the PCT.’” He goes on to talk about the topical diversity of podcasts, saying “as far as the originality of what’s being released…every niche, in general, you can think of has a podcast. There’s podcasts for backyard beekeeping. There’s a podcast for professional breeders of chameleons.”
“That’s the beauty of podcasting,” Rob explains, “You can really dig into the niche. I think the biggest mistake people make when they look at podcasting, they try to compare it to radio, when you really should be comparing it to magazines, because podcasts are really not meant for a broad audience, they’re meant for a niche audience, just like a magazine”
On opportunities beyong podcasting, Rob says, “It’s one thing to have a blog, but when you have a podcast, people don’t realize the small number of podcasts there are versus bloggers.” He goes on to explain, “There’s like 750 million blogs out there. There are less than 500,000 active podcasts. So you become more niche. And the people that run these conventions and shows, when we get back to trade shows and in-person stuff…You don’t know if that person is going to be a good speaker when you read their blog. You do you know if they’re going to be a good speaker if you’ll listen to their podcasts.”
Let’s shift gears and talk about your thoughts on the value of publishing a podcast for small business
“Well, you know, this again comes back to sticking in your niche,” Rob explains, “You being able to hit a really targeted audience, especially if you have a small business that’s geared in a niche.” He goes on to say, “you can try to go out and find the right demographics to promote your pod, your product, or you can start a podcast and get the right psychographics. Psychographics is a much better return on investment than demographics and psychographics needs topic…you could actually just find people that are really into camping and whatever it is that your niche, your business focuses on. And you have your target audience. It’s really about [figuring out] what does your audience want and giving them content.”
He gives an example of a podcast niche for a small business as, “for a small outdoor shop, that’s got a number of products…if you’re an outdoor shop that does canoeing and hiking and climbing, you know, you can do stoves and boots and everything that your customer’s going to need to go hiking or camping or canoeing.”
“The beauty of podcasting is,” he says, “it’s if done right, it’s educational and hopefully entertaining. The podcasts that are the most successful are the ones that are both entertaining and educational. You can be successful with just one or the other. If you want to be really successful. You have to have both.”
Rob elaborates on the convenience of podcasts, saying “Podcasting saves people time, you know, rather than having to go and read a bunch of blogs to get information. Now, someone can listen when they’re in their car driving to and from work, they can be listening. When they’re out doing yard work, they can be listening, walking the dog.”
Do you have any small business podcast success stories or specific tactics you can share
“One of the success stories,” Rob says, “would be the chameleon breeder podcast and then the backyard beekeepers. And, you know, these are small niche podcasts that have garnered a good size audience that allowed them to monetize.”
“Glenn Herbert’s another one, he’s got one on horses, and he’s got a whole network on horses. For a lot of these folks, that’s where they’re making their money. The podcast is the main revenue generation, not via ads, but via leads. You know, it’s lead gen.” Rob goes on to say, “What all of these have done is they didn’t come into it from day one, thinking I’m going to monetize on day one, or they had a long-term plan. They had, they did it for years and now are very successful…And they understood that ‘Hey, when you start out, you may only have 50 or a hundred people listening.’And then it gets to 115 and 200 into 500, but even 250 people listening to your podcast day in or weekend and week out.”
Do you have any advice for folks wanting to start a podcast?
“What is it that you are passionate about? What is your business?” Rob suggests, “You know, make sure you pick the topic that you are going to want to talk about because it’s, again, to be successful. It’s about long-term and if you don’t want to talk about Grumman canoes, don’t start a Grumman canoe podcast. If you, you know, if you’re like, ‘oh, well I think people will be interested in this. This is a good idea. But I’ve never even used one. I don’t have one. Now I’m going to go have to do research about it.’ And you’re going to burn out before you make it to 10 episodes. You can’t be like, ‘oh, I don’t want to do this anymore.’ So you have to pick something that, you know, people always say, ‘what’s a good topic for me to do a podcast on?’ And I go, ‘well, what are you listening to? What podcasts are you listening to? What are you reading? What articles do you go to?…What are you consuming in media? What? That topic? Well, someone already has a podcast on that. That doesn’t mean that you can’t have one.’”
Rob suggests, “you can have a show that’s the same topic, same genre, but it’s your personality. It’s going to bring a different feel to it. So don’t worry that there’s already another show on the topic. You’re going to bring a different feel to it and there’s plenty of time in the week for people to listen to both shows.”
Do you have a favorite piece of podcast gear under $100?
Samson Q2U microphone. If you’re just starting out podcasting, it’s a great little mic to start with. You can get an adapter and you can plug it right into an iPhone or an Android phone, and it’s an XLR and a USB mic. So again, you can plug it into your phone. If you graduate up to higher-end gear, they have a mixer, or maybe you buy a Zoom H6 digital recorder in the future. You can plug it into that. So it’s a very versatile mic. It’s a great microphone to start out with. If you’re going to go to trade shows and interview people at trade shows, you can and plug it right into your iPhone. You can record from your iPhone right onto one of the apps, right from the mic.”
Offering some additional advice, Rob says, “You can go in and interview somebody at a trade show. And by the way, if you’re going to go to trade shows and interview – Never hand the mic to like the VP of sales and marketing of some company. You will not get it back. So hold onto the mic. Do a one-mic interview. And that way you can control the interview.”
Is there anything else you’d like to ask or say to our listeners?
“Biggest thing. Make sure. If you start a podcast, it’s something you really are passionate about. Podcasting is more work than blogging. That’s why there are 750 million blogs and like 500,000 podcasts.”
Rob adds, “the return on podcasting is greater because you’re not competing with all those bot blogs that are out there.” “Don’t think of it like radio, think of it like magazines. And if you are going to do a podcast on a niche and you want to actually understand who the advertisers potentially could be…If you are looking for advertisers, you can go to magazines in that niche and see who’s advertising there and ask them to be sponsors for your podcasts.”