No. 078 Should You Still Start a Podcast? (Ask Yourself These 3 Questions)

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No. 078 Should You Still Start a Podcast? (Ask Yourself These 3 Questions)

As Showrunners, we understand that the act of creation and publishing brings about detractors — sometimes more aptly referred to as haters.

To thrive in this space, we need to wear our first (and subsequent) negative reviews as badges of honour. This is part of the game and an integral part of being a Showrunner.

But what happens when the medium itself begins to make its own waves? It seems podcasting, as a medium, has reached a point in its life when it is beginning to take it on the chin.

From small jokes to snide remarks, we are seeing the first wave of these beginning.

On this week’s episode, Jerod and Jonny discuss one of the more recent and more popular articles aimed at today’s Showrunner.

Immediately following a whirlwind book promotion of 40+ podcast interviews, author Ryan Holiday took some downtime to deride the very medium he used to drive book sales.

Ryan’s article titled Please, Please, For The Love of God: Do Not Start a Podcast, is the topic of discussion in this week’s episode — and it’s a fun one.

Luckily for everyone involved, Jerod and Jonny go beyond Ryan’s article and discuss the three questions you need to answer to decide for yourself if you should start a podcast:

  • Do you have a desire to connect with an audience about a topic that is important to you?
  • Will the content you share educate, entertain, or inspire the people in your audience?
  • Can you commit to creating content consistently and reliably so that your audience has a chance to grow?

The Show Notes

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The Transcript

Should You Start a Podcast?

Voiceover: Rainmaker FM.

Jerod Morris: This is Rainmaker FM, the digital marketing podcast network. It s built on the Rainmaker Platform, which empowers you to build your own digital marketing and sales platform. Start your free, 14-day trial at RainmakerPlatform.com.

Welcome to The Showrunner, where we have one goal: teach you how to develop, launch, and run a remarkable show. Ready?

Welcome back to The Showrunner, the podcast for people dedicated to creating remarkable audio experiences for their audience. This is episode number 78. I am your host, Jerod Morris, VP of Marketing for Rainmaker Digital. I will be joined momentarily, as I always am, by my workshop-leading co-host, Jonny Nastor, the host of Hack the Entrepreneur. Here solo this week, not with seagulls.

This episode is brought to you by Audible. More on them later. But if you love audiobooks or have always wanted to give them a try, you can check out over 180,000 titles right now at of AudibleTrial.com/Rainmaker.

Jonny, you led a workshop last week. Real quick here, what was your impression of that experience, the first big workshop that you ve led?

Jon Nastor: It was super fun. The hardest part was figuring out how to map out that much content into one thing. But once I got my head around it — it s like a podcast episode, just longer. It was fun.

Jerod Morris: Yeah, that s what I was curious about, how your experience as a podcaster — both what you ve learned and all the experience that you have structuring content in that way — how that helped you when it came to leading a workshop?

Jon Nastor: Immensely. There s no way … Two years ago, I couldn t have done that workshop. The ability to be able to think on my feet and be able to speak as I m thinking of things — I couldn t do that two years ago at all. But now, spending two years almost every day doing it, it s definitely helped. That part was me, because I put in that work. But the structuring and stuff — Pamela Wilson had just been on The Showrunner so I reached out to her. She gave me, in this one email, a couple paragraphs. It was like, I got it. That s how to do it. So it all goes to her, all the credit.

Jerod Morris: That s great. That is great. Hey, I don t know if you knew this, but apparently, all podcaster are lazy, bandwagon-jumping people who just want to take the easy way out. No one else should start a podcast and the world would be better off if everybody put their podcast dreams in the wastebasket under their desk. Did you know that?

Jon Nastor: The funny thing is I heard something about this.

Jerod Morris: Let s talk about this, shall we?

Jon Nastor: Let s do it.

A Frank Discussion on Ryan Holiday’s Incendiary Article About Podcasting

Jerod Morris: All right. Obviously there in that intro section I was teasing an article that you as a showrunner, you ve probably seen this. Maybe you have, maybe you haven t. It was by Ryan Holiday, a guy — I think, Jonny, safe to say that we both respect and admire a lot of his work? Let me not speak for you. Is that something that you agree with? Are you a fan of Ryan Holiday s work?

Jon Nastor: I m a fan of some of his work.

Jerod Morris: Some of his work. Okay. Yes, I would say that as well.

Jon Nastor: His latest book is really good.

Jerod Morris: Yes.

Jon Nastor: His latest book is really good.

Jerod Morris: Ego is the Enemy. It definitely is.

Jon Nastor: Yeah.

Jerod Morris: He recently wrote an article called Please, Please, For the Love of God: Do Not Start a Podcast. You can imagine the reaction that Jonny and I had reading that headline. Sonia Simone recently talked about this article over at Copyblogger.FM. A lot of people have. We wanted to spend some time on this episode talking about this article, because there s obviously some things in there that we don t agree with.

I think there actually are some things in there that we do agree with too. What s interesting to me, when you really dig into this article, is it s got these really strong statements like, Do not start a podcast. It casts all kinds of aspersions on to people who are podcasting. But the way he couches it at the end and hedges, I think there s actually some truth in what he s saying, so we want to pick that apart. Then, after we do that, we want to get into this idea of, Should you start a podcast?

We actually have three questions that every aspiring podcaster, every aspiring showrunner should ask themselves. If you can answer in the affirmative, then you should start a podcast no matter what anybody is trying to tell you on another podcast, or an article, or anywhere else that you shouldn t. We re going to get to those here in just a second. Jonny, what were just your initial reactions to this article? Of course, we ll have the link in the show notes for anybody who wants to read it if you haven t read it yet.

Jon Nastor: My very first reaction was I rolled my eyes when I saw the headline. I had a feeling that it was going to be — not clickbaity, but the headline was written to get attention. And obviously it has. Then it was interesting how he — I guess he didn t backpedal, but it wasn t necessarily as strong of an opinion as the headline suggested, which obviously happens a lot in articles on the Internet.

I found it weird too, which I think was the first reaction I gave to you, and I still hold that reaction. I found it interesting because he just did a whirlwind podcast tour — Ryan Holiday — to promote his newest book, which we ve already mentioned on the show. He did that through writing for these few publications he writes for, but also by hitting so many podcasts.

So he got the benefit of everybody who s out there showrunning and struggling, making it work and building their audiences. He got to share his work with their audiences. And then he turns around … I think it s because he dealt with probably 50 podcasters in two weeks or three weeks. There s some good and there s some bad everywhere you go. He just decided to focus on what he thought was negative.

He pulls out one of his friends, who runs one of the biggest podcasts around, and he uses him as something to aspire to. Obviously we re all aspiring to that. But I didn t like the way it was like, I m totally going to get everything I can from this medium, and now I m going to turn around and tell you all the bad stuff that I found out about it while I was using it for my own good. Take that as you will.

Jerod Morris: Yeah. I echo that sentiment. He even writes in here, I like podcasting too much and value my own sanity and the sanity of other awesome people too much to think that the world needs us to collectively waste time on other people s self-indulgent personal brand-building. Look, there s an element of truth in there, because if all you are doing with a podcast is being self-indulgent to build your brand and there s no real substance there, then yeah, your podcast probably isn t going to be great.

But to paint all aspiring podcasters with this really broad brush. Again, to cast aspersions on the intentions of people who are getting into podcasting and assuming that the majority of people getting into podcasting aren t in it for the long haul, are just going to half-ass it, and can t possibly understand … Like Jordan Harbinger said, he didn t really get it until about 250 episodes in, a concept that we have talked about a lot here on The Showrunner. For him to just assume all of that and lump all aspiring showrunners into this group, I just thought was really unfair and wrong.

Certainly, Jonny, you and I have dealt with a lot of aspiring podcasters during the time that we ve been running The Showrunner podcast and the course. Are there some that are like that? Sure, and they don t last. Their shows may go on to iTunes and they re there and they take up a little bit of space, I suppose. But otherwise, they re not impacting you at all if you don t choose to listen to them. So what are they really harming?

But there s that other group out there that really are doing good things. Maybe they re not going to be the next Art of Charm or the next Tim Ferriss Show, but they can get their small, thriving, really excited audience around whatever their topic is. And that is a good thing. People should be encouraged to do that if they re willing to put in the work.

Jerod Morris: That s the one element to this article that I liked, is him continuously coming back to this idea of, Don t half-ass it. He quoted Tim Ferriss as saying, Instead of half-assing it, find something that you can whole-ass, which I thought was good. As he said, That s the kind of effort it takes to get it right, to get the kind of success that way too many people think they ll have just by throwing something up on iTunes and calling themselves a podcaster. That s what whole-assing looks like.

That, I agree with. Which is, if you just think you re going to record some audio episodes, throw them on iTunes, and then this money train is going to come, that is so wrong it s not even funny. Your expectations are just so out of whack. But if you are willing to “whole-ass it,” as they say, and put in the work, then those are the kind of people that we should be encouraging to podcast. Not making them feel bad about it or making you feel like you re just some trend-spotting, bandwagon-jumper because you re going to do it. I thought that was really unfair.

Jon Nastor: Yeah, and the same thing could be said for any medium.

Jerod Morris: Yeah.

Jon Nastor: People said that about Twitter. I don t want to see what people eat for lunch and a picture of their lunch. Or the same for Instagram. Well, yeah, you can go on there and just do those things. You could go to podcast just to build your personal brand and do it in a terrible way and not focus on your audience, but that s not how most people use it. To say that that s how the platform of podcasting or the platform of Twitter works or the platform of Instagram or blogging …

Should you say that nobody should write another word because blogging is strictly for your own personal brand? He s only writing this article for his own personal brand. That s the reason why he s putting it on another, bigger blog than his own, because way more people read it and they re all going to link back to his book and hopefully buy his book from it. He s a great writer, he really is. But I m going to just guess — because I think that s how everybody is — he probably wasn t a great writer 10 years ago. He probably wasn t a really good writer 20 years ago, whatever it was.

Jerod Morris: Yeah.

Jon Nastor: You know what I mean? He s pushed through. Like Jordan said, “It took me at least 250 episodes before I felt like I was really doing anything good.” It would have been unfortunate for the world — for Jordan, but also for the world and his audience — if Jordan had got to read this article in episode 120 and been like, Wow, I m not the best podcaster in the world, so I should just quit. I m only doing it for myself. Well, no. Obviously, to a certain degree, we do things for ourselves in a selfish way. That s maybe where we started. But then we find our audience and we start getting good at something. We start wanting to get better at something.

Jerod Morris: Yeah.

Jon Nastor: I don t know. To me, I think he just dove way too deep into the podcast pool to promote his own stuff. He dealt with, non-stop, 50 people trying to book things and schedule things and say the same questions. All these things that might have happened across 50 things within a super compact amount of time. He was just like, Oh my god, this is terrible. All of it.

Jerod Morris: Yeah. The other thing, and you mentioned this, is the headline is Please, Please, For the Love of God: Do Not Start a Podcast. If we then skip back to the final line, it says, So unless we re going to put in the kind of work that Jordan or some of the greats have done, let s just be listeners until we find something we are willing to invest in.

The headline doesn t exactly match his conclusion. The headline seems like a blanket statement, Don t start a podcast. But what he s actually saying is, Don t start a podcast unless you re willing to put in the work to actually do it right. And that s no different than what we say on this show every single week. It s really not that extreme of an opinion. But he dresses it up, there’s some incendiary language in there, and it s got this really clickbaity headline, like you said. It s going to give that impression. But again, he hedges and couches it here at the end, which is what I agree with. Because that is true. So I m just not quite sure what the entire point was. Except what you said, maybe it s just to blow off steam because he was a little annoyed at the whole thing with podcasts after promoting his book, I guess.

Jon Nastor: To me, it s almost like the article is the worst of the podcasting market that he felt. It s like he was only doing it for his own good. To me, there s nothing for his audience out of this because the headline speaks completely different than the true sentiment of the article. So it s like, Was this just for self-indulgence or ? I don t know.

Jerod Morris: Yeah, allow this to be a lesson. I just want to say, allow this to be a lesson that when you are going to put a clickbaity headline on something just to get attention to it, you may get attention, but you may not get the attention that you want. Especially if the headline isn’t an accurate reflection of what you re saying. Or if it s just extreme and is going to set the wrong — build the wrong impulse for when someone gets there to your content for whatever it is. Be careful with that, because you may get attention that you don t want. Now, maybe he did want this attention with this. I don t know. Maybe he didn t even write that headline. You never know any of those things.

Jon Nastor: Yeah, I was just going to say, we should give him the benefit of the doubt because we ve both written for larger publications. Lots of times, as the writer, you don t get final say on those things.

Jerod Morris: Right.

Jon Nastor: You write an article, you write a headline, and all of a sudden it s like, Oh, your post is live. And it s like, Whoa, I didn t write that. Oh, I did write this post, but that s not the headline I chose. So we should give him the benefit of the doubt.

Jerod Morris: Although, the very last line — right after he says, So unless we re going to put in the kind of work, let s just be listeners, the final line is, So please, please don t start a podcast. Do your own thing instead. Almost dismissing the fact that people will be willing to put in the kind of work that Jordan or the greats have done as if their ability to work hard is just something innate in them that only they will do. I don t know.

That s the one part about the article and the tone I didn t like, the seeming assumption that him and his friends and his ilk have this magic ability to work hard and really commit and whole-ass something, and everybody else doesn t. Which just isn t true. You don t have to have an audience of millions to do that. You may have your audience of a thousand people, but it s really impacting those thousand people and it s driving some kind of business result for you. It s great and it s thriving and that is awesome. And you may be working just as hard as those other guys are. So that s the problem I have with it.

Let s now use this to further a more important point. Because, Jonny, there are people who are The very first episode of this show is Why You Should Start A Podcast. The reality, and we know this, is not everybody should start a podcast. There are probably people listening to this right now who have been thinking about starting a podcast, thinking about running a show, and maybe wondering if they should. They read an article like this, Please, Please, Do Not Start a Podcast, For The Love Of God, and they think, Well, now I m not going to start one. But maybe they should. We have three questions that any aspiring showrunner should ask themselves if they want to start a podcast. You want to talk about those in just a minute?

Jon Nastor: Yeah, let s do it.

Jerod Morris: Okay. First, real quick, this episode of The Showrunner is brought to you by Audible. Offering over 180,000 audiobook titles to choose from, Audible seamlessly delivers the worlds of both fiction and nonfiction to your iPhone, Android, Kindle, or computer. For Rainmaker.FM listeners, Audible is offering a free audiobook download with a free, 30-day trial to give you the opportunity to check them out. To get started right now, visit AudibleTrial.com/Rainmaker.

If you want a recommendation, try this: The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. This is one of my favorite books to read, and it works great as an audiobook, too. Plus, it s short. So if you re looking for a first audiobook to get started with to give the format a try, this one would be a great one to pick first, or you can choose from the thousands of other titles that they have too. To download your free audiobook today, go to AudibleTrial.com/Rainmaker. Again, that s AudibleTrial.com/Rainmaker.

Jonny’s General Advice on Starting a Podcast

Jerod Morris: Alrighty, so let s dive into of these questions, Jonny. Should you start a podcast? Before we list out these questions, what is the general advice that you give to people when they come to you and they ask you, Jonny, I ve been thinking about doing this show. Here s my idea. Should I start it? How do you approach giving that person advice?

Jon Nastor: I m still thinking that you should start a podcast if you ve taken it to the point where you feel like you have a topic that you can provide value into a specific audience. To me, the barrier to entry beyond that is so low that I think you should do it. Actually, I ve expanded it further out to be that it doesn t even necessarily have to be a podcast that gets published and follows episode after episode. I think that every person s brand, every person s business, should involve some form of audio content because of the way that we can connect, like with me speaking right now into a microphone and it going into your ears either in headphones or in your car or at your computer. There s an intimateness to it that I don t think you can get through text.

I ve pushed people actually, “How about if you don t feel comfortable with doing a whole show around it, why not just go to your About page or your Start Here page on your site and make an audio version? You can read the page and then go off the cuff for a bit and just post it there — 10 minutes of audio.” I think it really helps deepen that connection with your audience. And so, to that, I ll push people. Because I honestly believe that audio has something that s not there with other forms of media we create, so I will push people for it.

The Three Questions You Need to Decide for Yourself if You Should Start a Podcast

Jerod Morris: I agree. And I do think people should try to incorporate audio where they can. Certainly on their website, like the example that you just mentioned. Now, that s not necessarily a podcast, per se, but it is getting into audio and providing those opportunities to connect with an audience.

But when it comes to starting a podcast — by podcast, we mean some kind of regular schedule on which you re putting out these shows, which you would assume have some kind of consistent format about a specific topic, and that have some kind of audience-building goal, whether it s just to build an audience because it s about a topic that you like and you don t really have a business goal for it, or you re doing it to drive your business. Those are the elements that are going to be in place when we re talking about should you start a podcast.

If you are thinking about doing that, here are the three questions that you should think about — and answer honestly. It s really important to answer honestly. If, for any of these questions, you answer no, then maybe it s not the right time. But if you can answer yes to all three of these, then there is absolutely no reason that you shouldn t start a podcast. And there s no article online that should be able to dissuade you from doing so. Here are the three questions.

#1: Do You have a Desire to Connect with an Audience About a Topic that is Important to You?

Number one — and this is what Jonny was just getting at — do you have a desire to connect with an audience about a topic that is important to you? That s really important. Obviously it s got to be a topic that is important to you, and you have to have a desire to connect with an audience about it. Because if it s just a topic that s important to you, go read a book about it. Go dive in that way. You don t necessarily need to broadcast information about it. But if you want to connect with an audience about that topic, then a podcast is a great way to do it.

#2: Will the Content You Share Educate, Entertain, or Inspire the People in Your Audience?

Number two, will the content you share educate, entertain, or inspire the people in your audience? Because that s what it s going to need to do for you to eventually connect with an audience. These questions do link together. So you want to think about that. You re not just putting out bland content. It needs to be content that will either educate, entertain, or inspire — and hopefully do two or three of those things simultaneously. If you have this desire to connect about a topic that s important to you and you re going to create this content that will educate, entertain, or inspire, that s another reason to start a podcast.

#3: Can You Commit to Creating Content Consistently and Reliably so that Your Audience has a Chance to Grow?

The third question is, can you commit to creating content consistently and reliably so that your audience has a chance to grow? When we say commit, that means commit to at least doing it for 25, 30 episodes. You’ve got to get past that first dip that you re going to get at about seven to 10 episodes. You ve got all that enthusiasm at first, but you re not very good. You just shot out of the gate. It s the sprint. Most people hit that low after seven to 10 episodes, so you want to power through that and get to that next low which, a lot of times, comes at that 25, 30 episode mark.

But now you ve gotten a little bit of experience. You re getting a little bit better. You ve probably built a little bit of an audience with it. Now you can make a bit more of a judgment for, Okay. I can do this a little bit. I m excited about this. I like this. Let me really move forward. But if you re not going to commit to doing it for 25, 30 episodes, then you re never really going to have had enough experience to be able to make an accurate judgment about if it s a smart activity to continue doing.

Do you have a desire to connect with an audience about a topic that s important to you? Will the content you share educate, entertain, or inspire the people in your audience? And can you commit to creating content consistently and reliably so that your audience has a chance to grow? If you can answer “yes” to all three of those questions, you absolutely should start a podcast. If you answer “no” to any of them, then I would rethink it. That doesn t mean that you shouldn t start one necessarily, but it does mean that you may want to rethink it and see what it will take to get to yeses on all of those before you begin. Jonny, your thoughts on those three questions.

Jon Nastor: Yeah. I want to add an extra thing to each one.

Jerod Morris: Yeah.

Jon Nastor: It s not a preface. It s not a disclaimer. I m not sure what it s going to be. Do you have a desire to connect with the audience about a topic that is important to you? Yes. You have to answer yes to that. But don t feel like you have to have a planned-out roadmap for the next year or two about how you re going to build this massive audience around it.

Jerod Morris: Yeah.

Jon Nastor: It s that desire. That s all you need, is that desire to connect. To me, that s enough to start, because we don t really know where these things are going to go. I didn t know where I would end up when I started Hack the Entrepreneur. But I had the desire to connect with that first person at least, and then hopefully, more.

Jerod Morris: Yeah, you knew you didn t want to just study entrepreneurs. You wanted to connect with an audience about it.

Jon Nastor: Exactly.

Jerod Morris: You didn t know the path, but you had that desire. It s a good distinction.

Jon Nastor: Exactly. I just wanted to make that distinction so we didn t lead people like, Well, I don t know how I m going to get my first 10,000 listeners. Because that s a huge thing to know when you re just starting.

Jerod Morris: Yeah.

Jon Nastor: The next one, “Will the content you share educate, entertain, or inspire the people in your audience?” Again, I would almost preface this with, Do you have a desire to do that? because I probably entertained people for reasons that I shouldn t have in my first 50 episodes. Probably because I wasn t very good. I had never interviewed anybody. I stumbled over my words sometimes. It s just how it was. But like Jordan Harbinger said in the article previous to this, it took him 250 episodes to even get good. Not that it will take you 250. We usually say 50. Around 50 episodes with Hack the Entrepreneur I started to get okay. But just know that.

Again, you don t have to be able to educate, entertain, and inspire from episode one, but you have to have a desire to do those things. Because nobody will pay attention if you re not at least aspiring to inspire, educate, or entertain. I honestly believe that. But don t think that you just have to be a natural-born showrunner, because none of us are. We all do it through doing it over, and over, and over again. Which leads to commitment, which, absolutely, there s nothing I can preface or disclaim about that. You just have to be willing to go at it for the long haul or else don t even start.

Jerod Morris: Yeah, and you have to understand that it s not easy. It s like this show — showing up for this show every single week. Do we love it? Yes. But there are some weeks that it s harder than others, and it s still a weekly commitment. Especially after you ve been doing a show for 25, 30 episodes, sometimes that weekly commitment can get a little bit tedious to where it s like, Man, it d be nice to use this time for something else. So you ve really got to commit to it and understand that there are going to be some times when it s a slog. But if you have that desire to connect and if you have that desire to create content that educates, entertains, and inspires, then that will help you keep that commitment.

Sometimes, you just show up to keep that commitment and that s what gets you back there. But that s okay, because that keeps you going and keeps you moving forward. You ll find that there are different ebbs and flows of momentum with your show. That is natural. It s not always That initial rush of enthusiasm that you get right at the beginning, it s probably not always going to be like that.

It may be like a relationship. Even in the best relationships it s not always like those first moments when you fell in love, but there are those elements of deeper love that are there in a relationship. The same thing with your topic and with your audience as you move forward as a showrunner. Those are what keep you coming back and really make you the kind of showrunner that you can be. That s what you want to get to, ultimately. That s where the successful showrunners ultimately are with their shows. But it doesn t come easily for anybody.

You go to make that commitment. When you do that, you give yourself a chance to get to that point. When you get there, it s a beautiful thing, just like with any great relationship. Once you ve been there for the long-term and you re in it for the right reasons, there are few things that are more fulfilling. And that s where we want you all to get. But you got to be able to answer these three questions. When you can, then you re going to be able to take those right first steps that will get you on the right track to get in there.

Jon Nastor: Well said, Jerod. I wanted to interject a joke into that, but I was like, Oh, he did so well.

Jerod Morris: I always end up coming back to comparing podcasts to relationships.

Jon Nastor: I know, and I was going to take it to, And tons of people are horrible at relationships. They create abusive relationships. There s divorce rates out of the thing. Maybe we should call this episode Please, Please, For the Love of God, Do Not Start Another Relationship.’

Jerod Morris: Yeah, start a podcast instead.

Jon Nastor: You know what I mean? You could take the worst of anything and say Well, you should just never do that. Come on, it s obviously not the truth.

Jerod Morris: Yeah. Exactly.

Jon Nastor: I won t ruin it with that joke. I ll leave it out because you ended it so well.

Jerod Morris: Excellent. Thank you for being here on this episode of The Showrunner, we appreciate it. Go to at Showrunner.FM. Join our email list. Get our weekly email newsletter. We put a lot of good stuff in there. We hope you get that. We will be back — hey, this episode is going live on the 23rd of November, by the way, so happy Thanksgiving to all of you in the United States who will be celebrating Thanksgiving tomorrow. We ll be back next week with another brand new episode, and we look forward to it.

Jon Nastor: Take care.

114 episodes