Want to Build an Audience? Don’t Start a Blog (Do This Instead)

I’m really excited for you to read today’s post by my friend Nick Loper of Side Hustle Nation.

A few months ago, Nick interviewed me for his podcast — and I broke down the system I engineered to quickly find clients as a freelancer. (Remember that?)

Now, Nick’s back to return the favor. Today, you’ll learn exactly how he grew his podcast from scratch to thousands of listeners.

Before we jump in, I want you to stop and think about why starting something like a podcast (or a blog) even matters.

Simply put: You need an audience in today’s social and business hierarchy to stand out. It’s part of our social lives (social media) and it’s part of the way we can attract customers.

Seems obvious, right? But in reality, most people who start any type of platform — a blog, podcast, youtube channel, etc — end up quitting within a month or so.

Nick will show you a simple system to start your first podcast, and keep it running (he would know, he’s almost on episode 50)

Here’s Nick…!

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Being a professional blogger sounds glamorous right? I mean, getting paid to sit at home in your PJs, knock out a few hundred words and then just kick it the rest of the day?

Where do I sign up?

But a blog is a terrible business model.

In fact, it’s not a business at all.

But the world’s most successful “bloggers” all have ONE thing in common: an audience.

An audience that pays attention to what they say, follows their recommendations, has similar interests, and perhaps most importantly, buys what they sell.

The audience is the asset, not the blog.

So the goal has to be reframed. It’s not how can I be a professional blogger, but rather, how can I attract an audience?

And the answer is the same as it’s always been: with a compelling story.

For example, people watch Scandal because it’s a compelling story; it’s entertainment. And ABC gives this content to us for free to an attract an audience. (Which is valuable to them because they can charge big money to advertisers who want to reach that audience.)

A similar strategy goes back to Jesus and even earlier. They didn’t call it “content marketing” back then, but it’s the same idea.

The 10 Commandments? Eternal Salvation? OK, this is a story worth paying attention to!

And so the audience followed the message, shared the story, and connected with the content.

Dude, Tell Me About Your Blog

A year ago, I set out to spread my own gospel; the gospel of part-time entrepreneurship as a lower risk method of starting a business and beginning to build more personal and financial freedom into your life.

I would build THE go-to community and resource blog for current and future side hustlers. Side Hustle Nation, I called it.

I made it my passion project and spent hours and months creating the best content I could, tweaking the site design, commenting on other blogs, and networking on social media.

And a funny thing happened:

Not much.

After some early traffic growth, the trendline is almost flat. That’s depressing.

In other words, roughly the same number of people are reading my stuff today as were reading in August. This despite an additional 7 months of effort in putting out high quality, shareable weekly posts, guesting on prominent sites like Brazen Careerist, YFS Magazine, and Firepole Marketing, and continuing to network with others in my niche.

Do This Instead

But there’s a bright spot. Despite the flat-lining traffic growth, my audience is several times larger than it was when I started this journey.

How?

Around the same time I started the Side Hustle Nation site, I also started The Side Hustle Show podcast.

Worldwide, there are nearly 200,000,000 blogs — with another 170,000 starting each day. Talk about being a small fish in a giant ocean.

(With an adult population of roughly 230,000,000, that means there is almost one blog for every single adult in the US.)

With that level of market saturation, how easy is it going to be to stand out and build an audience?

Could you be the next Seth Godin? The next Chris Brogan? The next Pat Flynn?

It’s possible. But the odds are against you.

When the barrier to entry is so low, there’s naturally going to be a lot of competition.

So what does that mean? That means it’s time to look for other channels that aren’t as crowded.

I found one such channel in the form of an audio podcast. It’s Internet radio on demand.

I’d never done a podcast before, and was (and still am) self-conscious about the sound of my own voice. But here’s why podcasting was an attractive audience-building platform:

There are only around 150,000 total English language podcasts — less than the number of new blogs started every single day.

For those of you scoring at home, that would make podcasting a market more than 1300x less saturated than the blog market.

Supply and demand, baby.

And this medium has nowhere to go but up. Only half the population has even heard of podcasting, and only a third have ever listened to one.

Even with the exploding growth in the last couple years, there’s still a big upward wave to ride.

On top of that, as a podcast host, I have a much better opportunity to build an engaged relationship with a podcast listener than I do a blog reader. Why? Because here’s someone who’s elected to spend 20-40 minutes of their day with my voice in their earbuds. Compared with the 3-5 minutes it might take them to skim a blog post, there’s no contest.

Even the best writing in the world can’t convey as much power and emotion as the same words spoken aloud. (And I’m not claiming to be the world’s best writer or anywhere near the world’s best orator!)

So what does the audience growth chart look like for the podcast? It’s a much prettier picture!

How to Start a Podcast

It’s easier (and cheaper) than you think, but these are the barriers to entry that keep your competition out — so don’t tell them!

I started my show for less than $100 and no special technical skills.

At a bare minimum, there are really only 3 things you need:

1. A Microphone. You could use your computer’s built-in mic, but audio quality is really important given it’s an audio content medium. I think it makes sense to buck up and buy a decent quality mic.

I got mine on Amazon, complete with mic stand and pop filter for less than $50 (though it looks like they’ve raised the price a bit since last year).

It plugs directly into a USB port so there’s no need for extra wires and mixing hardware.

2. Recording Software. If you’re recording a solo show, with just you talking into the mic, you can record directly into Audacity (free download) or GarageBand.

I had a little bit of a learning curve with Audacity, but if I can figure it out, so can you.

If you want to do an interview-style show or have a co-host, I record via Skype with a free tool called CallGraph Recorder. One Mac alternative is CallNote.

After the call, I just import that mp3 file into Audacity to edit as needed.

3. Media Hosting. You need a third-party service to host your audio files. I use a service called LibSyn that starts at $5 a month.

It’s great because it’s a flat fee no matter how many people download your show.

When I was figuring out all this stuff, I relied heavily on a set of free video tutorials that Pat Flynn put together at PodcastingTutorial.com. It walks you through all the technical details of setting up your show and submitting it to iTunes, Stitcher, and the other directories.

What else you might need:

Cover art. Create some big, beautiful cover art for your show. Check out iTunes for some examples. The challenge is to keep it looking nice at both 1400×1400 pixels and 70×70 pixels for display on smartphone apps.

I created mine on my own in PowerPoint. Can you tell? Otherwise I would probably sketch some concepts and head off to Fiverr.

Intro/outro music and voiceover. Again it was Fiverr to the rescue for this one. I got a hilariously awesome professional voiceover intro and outro with music for just $15.

How to Launch with a Bang

Talking to no one through the mic can be awkward enough. In this section I want to cover how to make sure your show gains listeners right from the start.

The best opportunity to gain new listeners is in the iTunes “New and Noteworthy” section — a selection of shows they feature even above their most popular podcasts. (This is where some attractive and attention-getting cover art can help separate you from the crowd.)

New shows have 8 weeks of eligibility to rank in the New and Noteworthy section, and you need to take full advantage. The exact algorithm is a secret, but there are 2 primary components: downloads and reviews.

So how can you get downloads and reviews when you have no audience?

First, if you don’t have an existing subscriber base you can tap into for help, I would hold off on “announcing” your podcast until you have a few episodes ready to go.

Since the number of downloads seems to be an important ranking factor, the more you have available, the more your small network can help you out. For example, if you ask 20 friends to go download your show and you only have 1 episode, you’re only going to get a max of 20 downloads. But if you wait until you have 5 episodes, all of a sudden those same 20 friends can generate 100 downloads and have a 5x greater impact.

Reach out to your friends through email and facebook. I went through one-by-one and sent as many individualized messages as I could.

If I had to start over, I would specifically ask people to subscribe. This means that whenever you publish a new episode, iTunes will automatically download the latest file to their phone or device, which helps your numbers.

Let people know they don’t even need to listen if they don’t want to or don’t have time, but the simple act of downloading the episodes and subscribing helps you out.

Encourage people to leave a 5-star rating and review for your show. When iTunes sees a high volume of ratings coming in in a short period, it seems to make a great impact.

The next thing you can do is join some relevant podcasting groups on facebook. These groups are fellow podcasters who understand what it’s like to launch a new show and are often happy to trade reviews to help each other out.

Similarly, you can join groups related to your niche (if you’re not already in them), and share your podcast there.

And finally, all that’s left is to keep pumping out excellent audio content on a consistent basis.

It takes the same time to produce an episode whether 1 person listens or 1000 people do. Take care to reach as many people as you can during your 8-week launch, and you’ll kick-start your audience-building efforts.

Ready to Build an Audience?

The podcast strategy is an easier path to success because it lets you leverage an existing platform (iTunes) to reach an audience that’s already out there with a proven thirst for audio content.

When you’re building a blog, there really is no similar place for newbies to start where you can get that kind of exposure right out of the gate.

What say you? Ready to take the leap and get serious about building your audience?

Is there another platform you would use instead?

Nick Loper is the Chief Side Hustler at SideHustleNation.com. He’s an author, entrepreneur, and life-long student in the game of business. Ready to get your hustle on? Grab his free guide on the 5 Fastest Ways to Make More Money today.

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Daniel DiPiazza
@Rich20Something

Daniel is the founder and CEO of Rich20Something. A millennial business mastermind, he has successfully started three consecutive freelance businesses and scaled them to over $100K in revenue with zero startup capital. His work is regularly featured in Time Magazine, Fortune, Entrepreneur, Business Insider, Fox News, and Yahoo! Business. His debut book, Rich20Something, publishes on May 2, 2017.

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