Craig Thomas talks about the evolution of podcasting, what podcasters absolutely have to get right to succeed, and what the future holds with Marc Stoiber on the Didn’t See It Coming Podcast.
Marc Stoiber 00:08
Welcome to Didn’t See It Coming, the podcast about brands that learned from the past, look to the future, and profit today. I’m your host, Marc Stoiber. Hey, welcome back to Didn’t See It Coming. I have done a ton of podcasts, I think it’s 85 plus at last count, and I am what I guess I would call a hobby podcaster. I just love talking to people about brands, brands that are doing interesting new things and in general people who are doing interesting new things. Just things learned that brand stewards could pick up and say, I’ll implement that. So I have a certain number of listeners. Could I have more? Of course, I can. Do I care enough to do anything about it? Well, if you look at my monetization obviously not. So I guess I’m what you’d call a hobby podcaster however, the podcasting movement has grown by leaps and bounds to the point where I don’t even know what podcasts to listen to anymore. They’re just coming out of the woodwork and it seems everybody has a podcast now. I wanted to talk about podcast oversaturation because whenever I see a medium like this coming up, especially when brands are using it, I get really interested and I want to see how it’s working out for them. As luck would have it, today in the New York Times Jennifer Miller wrote a story about podcast oversaturation, and you’ll see it linked below this podcast. What she talks about is really interesting. She says exactly the same thing as I do. She says every freelancer, Guru, Entrepreneur has one now. There are over 700,000 podcasts out there. Two thousand new ones are being added every month. You know that an industry is in decline when the big rush is not to put out a quality podcast, but to put out books about how to make podcasts and how to make money on a podcast. You start hearing terms like podcast hacking. As far as I’m concerned, when I hear hacking, that’s when I start to think the industry is oversaturated and in decline, because the people getting involved are not there because they have the hobby of doing something of value and interest and they want to bring something cool to their audience, but they want to hack into it and figure out how to monetize it. And I think that’s where the ideas go sideways. I got really lucky a couple of weeks ago, a gentleman named Craig Thomas looked me up. He saw my podcast, and he saw that I was a hobby podcaster. He said, you could do a whole lot better with this, and right away I just turned that around. I said, show me how I could do better at this, and now I’m taking Craig’s advice, just full transparency. I am going to make my podcast better and I’m hoping that I’m going to be able to attract a whole lot more listeners, because why not? But also I said, Craig if I do that I want to bring you on the show. Now Craig works for a company called Call For Content, and I want to talk to Craig today about podcasts and how they evolved. What podcasters are doing nowadays? And is the industry actually at a saturation point? Is it even in decline? So Craig, welcome to the show.
Craig Thomas 03:30
Thanks so much for having me on.
Marc Stoiber 03:31
Now, you’ve got a funny accent. You’re not calling from Seattle, are you?
Craig Thomas 03:36
Definitely not. I’m a whole other continent away.
Marc Stoiber 03:39
You’re South African.
Craig Thomas 03:41
Marc Stoiber 03:42
So that’s shorthand for saying if connection drops do not worry about it because South Africa only has dial-up internet, doesn’t it?
Craig Thomas 03:50
It’s one of those things. Yeah, that’s exactly the situation.
Marc Stoiber 03:54
You and I have had this problem already once. We were talking about this.
Craig Thomas 03:58
Yeah, it was terrible. But hopefully, we’ll be blessed today and not have so many problems.
Marc Stoiber 04:04
So talk to me about your job at Call For Content. First of all, talk to me about Call For Content.
Craig Thomas 04:10
Okay. Call For Content is a podcasting agency based in Denver, Colorado. It was founded by our current CEO Michael Greenberg. It started off as a B2B marketing company only and it developed into a podcasting agency where we specialize in helping B2B marketing with your podcast, monetizing your show, growing your audience, that sort of thing.
Marc Stoiber 04:41
Helping schmucks like me actually get some stuff out there that people listen to.
Craig Thomas 04:46
Yeah, and, we’re very focused on helping hosts create quality content that will generate leads and engage audiences. The difference between us and other people is that what we do is, we don’t offer a miracle strategy. We base our suggestions and strategy research on your specific show. So it’s unique to you, it’s custom-built, it’s developed for you.
Marc Stoiber 05:15
Now, this brings up a really interesting point, because you and I and your CEO Michael were just on a call. Michael reiterated what you just said that what you do is create a long term strategy. It’s not around a miracle cure. One of the things that we talked about is, perhaps a miracle cure is getting ad dollars. It’s interesting this New York Times article that I was talking about, and you read it too, and we talked about it. One of the things they talked about is, everybody seems to be getting into podcasting. Not everybody, a lot of people seem to be getting into podcasting because they say, I can monetize this, I can get Casper Mattresses or Squarespace to buy ads on my podcast. Now you’re saying that’s not right. That’s not the way you should be thinking about it.
Craig Thomas 06:03
Not at it. You see the problem is the focus is in the wrong place. Michael made a very great statement one day when I asked him when I came into the industry new. I asked him, what’s the most important thing about a podcast. and he said to treat it like a business from the beginning. If you want to make money with a podcast, you have to treat it like a business. It’s not just a show. So your focus has got to be on your audience at the end of the day because that is where your revenue is actually going to come from. Your return on investment is going to come from there. So if you’re focusing on getting ads and other things, you’re not focusing on providing good content to your audience. That’s a first stumbling block right there because you’re not going to have the audience for AdPress.
Marc Stoiber 06:48
Well, that’s a funny thing because if you want to focus on it as a business, one of the things you have to think about is revenue and you have to drive revenue, but it’s a real slow boat. If you want to grow Revenue by just putting out a quality program it’s a slow organic path to growth. As opposed to saying I’m just going to put out something sensational and I’m going to buy some lists and drive my numbers up and then Casper mattresses will give me a million dollars. But that doesn’t work.
Craig Thomas 07:19
No, not at all.
Marc Stoiber 07:21
So talk to me a little bit about this story that both of us just read today. It’s all about hitting the saturation point and people getting into it for the wrong reasons. Talk to me about the evolution of podcasts. We were on the phone a moment ago with Michael and we were talking about how podcasters first started. A lot of them like me, where it was just a hobby and they just want to do something cool. Talk to me about the journey, how it evolved.
Craig Thomas 07:52
When podcasts first started it wasn’t well known. Initially, very few people were doing it. When it started becoming familiar and people started listening to podcasts, it was easy to grow an audience. If you had a show about marketing, you were probably one of maybe three shows that were doing marketing. So there was a lot of audiences that would come to you. It was easy to grow the show, it was easy to drive leads, it was easy to establish yourself as an authority in that. People started noticing that the platform worked well for these things, and these are aspects of a business that a lot of people want. They want more leads, they want to establish themselves as authorities in their market. So what happened from there is, there was this explosion and everybody started making podcasts. It’s kind of where we are today, as you saw the article. 2000 podcasts every month are being developed. So it’s crazy. It’s insane to think about these 700,000 podcasts. There is a lot of competition in the market right now. If you are going about it the wrong way, how are you going to compete? How are you going to compete against the James Archers of the world? Those guys have been around for a long time. They have established audiences who are loyal to them. So it’s a very, very competitive market at the moment and most podcasters fail.
Marc Stoiber 09:22
Do you have any idea about the percentages, startups versus failures?
Craig Thomas 09:28
Not off hand but it’s really bad. As the Head of Podcast Relations at Call For Content, what I do all day is communicating with hosts of various shows. I speak to 60 or 70 hosts a day and it’s sad how many are closed. I actually spoke to a host today who’s closing his show because it just didn’t get near to what he expected and he had to show for three years. So he bit the bullet for three years but he’s just not getting anywhere. I’d say one out of every three podcasts that I reach out to you’re probably closing or have decided they’re not going to do the show anymore. Just stop completely and there wasn’t even a thought that they were going to say this is my last episode. They just didn’t record anything again.
Marc Stoiber 10:17
Wow. Now for a second, let’s dig into the Head of Podcast Relations. You have some good stories about podcasts. Best topic you ever heard, the best team you ever heard, the worst team you ever heard? You don’t need to name any names.
Craig Thomas 10:36
I came across a podcast that was reviewing old school movies from the 50s and 40s. They were horror movies and they really were organized. They had these themes and they were getting the actors involved. So for me, that was absolutely fascinating because it was unique. It was interesting, just fun to listen to. That was definitely one of my favorites. The worst was a baseball review. Probably because I know nothing about baseball but it felt very messy and it felt very all over the place. That wasn’t the type of show that I could actually even come back to for a second time. The audio was scratchy and there was a lot of wind. Yeah, that was the worst.
Marc Stoiber 11:25
Now there’s a real skill in presenting on the air. We talked about this previously. I go on the air once a month and I get interviewed by talk show radio hosts who talk to me about what’s new in marketing. Asking questions and pushing people in the right direction. There’s a real skill to that and I think a lot of people, because it sounds easy, just assume that if they can have a little coffee talk with their friends, it’ll make a great podcast.
Craig Thomas 11:57
It’s interesting that you should say that. I think the whole idea of having a podcast is that initially, people think it’s easy. You know, there’s a lot of great free tools that make it easy for us to upload your show or just record it with your phone but that is the wrong mindset to have. A podcast is hard work. A successful podcast is hard work. If you have got a $60 audio that you’re putting out there, you’re competing against somebody who’s putting a $600 audio out there. There’s a big difference there. Not just the interview, but the whole idea of the podcast is easy, it’s a wrong idea to a misconception, and to be a good interviewer is also not easy. I have heard some terrible interviews where the interviewer just doesn’t know where to go next and he is just not driving the conversation. At the end of the day, if you’re not driving the conversation with your guest, you are not providing value to your audience, and then what’s the point of it?
Marc Stoiber 13:03
You know, I’ve had this thing happen before where I go on somebody’s show and they don’t know anything about me. They don’t know anything about my books. They don’t know anything and it totally shows and it’s embarrassing because you feel like a chump, because it sounds like I’m the only guest that you can get. And for their audience, I don’t know how the audiences would get value out of that.
Craig Thomas 13:28
That’s the thing. With so many podcasts being out there, you need to hold on to your audience, you really need to fight for them, one slip and that’s it they are out the door, there’s no second chance.
Marc Stoiber 13:42
So I want to, I’m sorry I’m a chronic interrupter. You had a thought there.
Craig Thomas 13:46
Marc Stoiber 13:46
And now you lost it. So now, we have talked about the saturation. We’ve talked about the great odds that you’re up against if you want to do a podcast. And it’s not just because you love to do podcasts, you actually want to see a lot of listeners and you want to drive your business. Talk to me. Give me a 5 or 6 step checklist, nothing comprehensive here. But here’s some things that you got to think of first, second, third, fourth, fifth, give me a sort of a checklist if you can.
Craig Thomas 14:21
Overview of a good show. The very first thing and this is something I’m really fighting within the industry at the moment, is are your guests aligned with your focus for the show? Is your guests delivering the best possible value to your audience? Right there. When we’re talking businesses to interview shows, there is networking and there is the B2B chain. You’re interviewing experts, so aligning your guest with your show and your audience is crucial. It’s the same as if you have monetization sponsorship. Is your sponsorship aligned with your audience because it can have a negative effect on audience growth if they are not aligned?
Marc Stoiber 15:02
Let me interrupt one more time here. I love James Altucher. He’s one of my favorite podcasts. He’s the guy that I want to be like. And he comes on with these sponsorships. Some of them I get because he’s a nerd, and so he gets sponsorships from website companies. He grew up building websites. He also gets Casper mattresses. There’s something about a guy who is advertising a mattress and you’re thinking, what does that have to do with what you’re doing? As a listener, you get it instantly. As a brand or as a podcast host you think it’s the dollars and nobody will care but they do care.
Craig Thomas 15:48
They definitely do care. James Altucher is a phenomenal podcaster. He’s got a great show and I even listen to his show. You stick around because it’s funny and you enjoy it so at the end of the day whatever the show is going to be about you’re going to walk away feeling I got value. I would pay for this. I would pay to listen to his show. So, that’s the kind of relationship you need to establish with your audience if you want to be able to bring misaligned sponsorship. To build that trust, that relationship takes time, it takes effort and it takes delivering value. Are you ready to deliver value to your show before you’re going to record this and have you got a plan? Is this what you feel your audience’s needs? How are you engaging with your audience and have you got any feedback from them? You need to engage with them. His name escapes me but one of the most famous podcasters in the world, this was one of the very first podcasts, did a 3 hour Christmas special for his audience to keep them entertained. This was when podcasting just started out and you can understand why he had millions and millions of downloads. If you go on Wikipedia and read about him, everything he did was for his audience and that’s what made him successful. And of course, it comes down to your audio, make sure you’re delivering good audio. There is nothing worse than tuning into a podcast and you have to fight to hear what they’re actually saying. Provide quality show notes.
Marc Stoiber 17:41
Hold on, let me go back. This is one of the things you talked about with mine. So I’m fair game here. I record out of a room that’s a concrete room so I sound like I’m in Hitler’s bunker. And then I had a great mic, this Yeti mic and I put a soundproofing damper on it, but it still sounded like a concrete bunker. So I went with a headset, a Sennheiser headset that I record with, and you can’t get away from the room. Sometimes when I podcast I use my digital zoom recorder and I just go sit in a car which has wonderful acoustics, or I go sit in a sort of a live setting. I know from recording video that one of the first lessons of videos is that nobody cares about the quality of the video to a degree, but you better have good audio because folks expect to hear a good story and if the wind is whistling, they’ll hate you.
Craig Thomas 18:38
Yeah. Think about it, put yourself in the shoes of the person who’s listening to your show. You may be on the train, traveling to work and there are people around so it’s noisy. This is really dealing with the world’s noise. Or you’re in the gym, I like to listen to podcasts in the gym, where you have got people dropping weights. I need to at least hear the show. I’m going to be really depressed if I get to the gym and your show. I download it inaudible because of the noise around me. So there’s average audio, this excellent audio and then there’s audio out there that you should never put out to the world and that’s going to negatively impact you. So if your audio is not clear, if it’s not good, don’t put it out there. Don’t put that content out there.
Marc Stoiber 19:29
So audio is a huge thing and worth investing in. It’s worth getting out of a concrete room, like me as you pointed out. We had a consultation and I remember the first thing we did was, you talked to me and said, you have got to fix this, this, this and this. I know I gotta fix that. I wish I cared enough to fix it, sorry to all my listeners. My mom doesn’t mind though. My mom is happy with the quality and she said so. So she’s my only listener. Okay, moving on from audio. Now, show notes. Another big thing and this is hard work because you have just finished a half-hour podcast. I’ve used things like a speech pad that transcribes your audio into a manuscript. But I find even if I do that I got 10 pages of transcripts, and I got to edit them. and it makes me cry and I just want to lie down.
Craig Thomas 20:21
Yeah, I can imagine that because show notes are vital. I find with the shows that I deal with, those that do put show notes up, that having show notes allows for higher audience engagement. I like to scan through a show’s show notes first. What are they talking about? I can notice a topic or notice a point that I am really interested in and that’s going to attract me straight away. Also, it helps with your SEO for your podcast.
Marc Stoiber 20:53
I’m an ad writer, so it only makes sense that you put in a good headline, that you put in compelling body copy and that you inform and persuade people with it. I know from listening to podcasts that when I see that this guest is going to talk about these three things I understand. And it’s not that much work, it’s only a couple paragraphs.
Craig Thomas 21:13
Exactly. While you’re busy with the interview and an interesting topic comes up jot it down. If you can’t transcribe it, take that segment out of the timestamp, polish it up, and put it back in, and you’ve got a lot of interesting stuff. That makes the difference and you’re providing value. That’s what you need to do. That’s the only way to compete. You need to provide value.
Marc Stoiber 21:38
There’s this psychology and this came across in the New York Times story, where a lot of people just completely missed the point. The point is that you want to provide value. An entertainer goes out on stage to entertain, not to plug a product. If they’re really good products will come to them and say plug me, but a lot of people miss the point. Providing value. If I’m going to take time out on my commute, I don’t want to waste that time knowing that the guy is just a thinly veiled product message.
Craig Thomas 22:14
Exactly, as it is in the world today people seem to be having less and less time. So the little time we do have is valuable to us. And it’s very easy to get upset or get angry if you expect one thing and someone is trying to push another thing down your throat.
Marc Stoiber 22:31
There is one thing that we talked about, and I think I’m going to do it. You said Marc, we’re going to put you on some other people’s shows. This is something I’ve had a real bad experience with as a podcaster. I had all these shows that said, we’re going to line you up with three guests a month and I said they have to be in brands, or doing interesting stuff. I tried to give them a good thorough brief and they sent me guys who claimed to climb Mount Everest and conquer the boardroom, the same rubbish over and over again. They’re five steps to succeeding in real estate and think, Where do you come from? It just makes you angry. You are a guest relations person, so what do you think about the whole idea of misaligned guests and how to avoid it? Do you just wait till people come across your path as I did with you? I guess it’s just a question of one guest relations person isn’t like every guest relations person.
Craig Thomas 23:36
You know, I’m glad you brought up this topic. This is a very emotional point for me because all the hosts that do become part of our community, are like friends to me. I can really see and feel for them when they are so disappointed that their shows have not reached where they’ve always hoped and worked for. For most of them, their shows are their pride and joy. When I first came to the United States to work, I worked on the other side. I worked for that side where they are putting guests on shows. So that was my first introduction to podcasts. I honestly thought that podcasts were specifically there for guests to get social proof. That’s what I thought. That’s just what we were doing. You were crafting these really crafty emails to get these guests on and the guest hadn’t even listened to the show. I listened to the show and the guest was getting to show that he’s supposed to have listened too, but that’s not the case. So when it comes to guest placement, from the host’s point of view, I think it’s very important to plan out your content and ensure that if someone does come your way, do they fit with what you’re doing? It does not matter what fancy topics or suggestions that they come up with. Do they fit with what you’re doing? We at Call For Content do guest placement and I reach out to hosts and say can I help you with guest placement and they say I’ve got hundreds of guests. I don’t need guests. You may have hundreds of guests reaching out to you but are they the right guests? That’s the question you need to ask.
Marc Stoiber 25:19
That’s what I ran into. I could tell it was a cattle call. They would send me 10 guys who just wrote a book on real estate.
Craig Thomas 25:31
I feel sorry for the guests too. We also place guests. When we onboard a guest, we go through a very rigorous process of building out who you are as a guest. What are your speaking points? Where are the industries that you fit into because I’m going to suggest you a host and you need to fit there? But at the same time, I need to get you as a guest in front of your audience. So there has to be an alignment there. They have to fit otherwise, there’s no point in me sending the guest your way. You pay someone to promote you and put you on podcasts, a couple of hundred dollars per placement in fact, and if you’re just going out there, and your message isn’t well aligned or well written or drafted maybe you need help with that first. Maybe someone needs to say to you, okay you’ve got the right idea but you need to work on this because this isn’t good enough yet. It is something but it isn’t good. I think that honesty from people who are placing guests is important. If someone brings me a book and it’s a bad book, I’m going to say, I cannot place you on a show. This book is not a good book.
Marc Stoiber 26:43
You know, it goes beyond that though. I think this speaks to the heart of what you and I were talking about before. People see podcasting as an easy thing to do. I think hosts think, no problem, I can carry this, give me anybody and I’ll twist it around to my topic and you sound like an idiot. It doesn’t work. You do have to put in some effort I know. James Altucher, I keep going back to him but I’m a bit of a fanboy.
Craig Thomas 27:09
Yeah, he’s a legend
Marc Stoiber 27:09
Yeah, he’s a legend. What I love about him is that when people come on his show, they say you read my whole book! He says I like reading books. He can go deep with them and you can tell it opens them up. He asks a caliber of question you would never get if they just said, oh it’s a blue cover. He goes deep and you can tell. He works for me. He works hard so that I get a good listen. So advice to people listening to the show. How do they not bang up against the learning curve? Any thoughts on books that you would recommend if they just want to have a sniff around podcast things to do?
Craig Thomas 27:56
I think to reach out to companies like Call For Content. We’ve got our free podcasting playbooks on the website, reach out to us.
Marc Stoiber 28:06
So callforcontent.com and look for the free content that you’re offering up on the site. That’s a terrific place to see playbooks.
Craig Thomas 28:20
You can connect with me there, anytime. I’m always open to jump on a course with you and take you through it, no strings attached, no obligations and answer any questions you have.
Marc Stoiber 28:29
You spent hours with me. I remember I was impressed with that. It was a really cool thing and not something that everybody does. It was a wonderful thing. We talked about good audio quality. I think you just put your microphone up to your nose there and just sniffed.
Craig Thomas 28:46
Marc Stoiber 28:47
That wasn’t me folks. That was Craig, the podcast expert just did a heavy breather into his microphone. All right I will let you go, but what I’m going to do is I’m going to put your name out there. I’m going to put the website out there. I like what you’ve done and what you’ve told me you’re going to do for me and I’ll report back on that. We will be able to see if more people than just my mom start listening to my podcast. And we’ll see where this goes. But thanks so much for taking the time.
Craig Thomas 29:14
Marc, thank you so much. I really appreciate being here. To everyone out there and the marketers as well, at Call For Content, you will see that your show is important to us and we want to see you succeed.
Marc Stoiber 29:28
Awesome. Well, you know what I said, I’m a hobbyist, and that’s why I haven’t paid more attention to this. My success is just dialing into really cool people like yourself and coming out of it a little bit smarter. But you know what if you can have 1000 people instead of 100 people listening, all the better. You know, it’s just a little icing on the cake.
Craig Thomas 29:51
Marc Stoiber 29:53
Awesome. Thanks so much for coming on, Craig,
Craig Thomas 29:54
Marc, thank you so much. Have a great day.
Marc Stoiber 29:56
You have been listening to Didn’t See It Coming, the show about brands that learn from the past, look to the future and profit today. I’m your host, Marc Stoiber. If you’d like to talk about brands, drop me a line. I’d love to hear your ideas.