How to Start a Grass-roots Podcast that breaks 1000 unique listeners in 6 months

Quarantine is forcing a serious uptick in content creation. People who would normally focus their productivity elsewhere are forced indoors with nothing left to do but think. My fellow extroverts the world over are craving an outlet to express themselves and interact with others in a world where they see the same scenery and people day in and day out. A lot of people have been reaching out to me about starting a podcast and asking questions about how to do so. After all there are so many different decisions that you have to make in terms of:

Where to host your feed?

What kind of microphone to buy?

What applications you should use to record your podcast?

Why you should start a Podcast

Most importantly it is your constitutional right to share any message you have with the world. This flow of information is a supplementary check to our government that is embedded within your first amendment right to free speech. After all yellow journalism and muck-raking were a severe check to our government and business in the early 19th century. The only way a movement gains footing is when the people are educated about it. 20 years ago there were severe obstacles and barriers to entry for people who wanted to share a message with the world. Now-a-days the gatekeeper is dead. You can literally click any of the links above start a podcast tomorrow and no one can stop you. We are in unprecedented times.

The growth of podcasting and projected growth is enough to make you want to hop in on the tidal wave. I met a random dude in a cigar shop who convinced me to quit bullshitting and start my podcast. His comment, “A rising tide raises all ships. If you bring more people to podcasting it helps me as a podcast producer and content creator.” Podcasting is growing extremely fast right now. Take these highlights for example

Podcasting has afforded me the opportunity to sit down for an hour uninterrupted and interview, Forbes 30 under 30 CEOs, Masters of Negotiation, Founding Directors of Centers for Psychological Research, and thought leaders. It’s an amazing opportunity to participate in and I’m thankful to have started mine a year ago.

Launch Right now

The tech world has discovered something amazing in terms of developing a process to deliver to clients and end users. Identify the minimum viable product and deliver it as soon as possible. Get it in front of users and ask them what they like, don’t like, and what they want. We don’t need to restrict this process to software delivery. I cover my theory for how to implement this in starting a podcast or applying it anywhere in life in “Leading an Agile Life.”

In the military we used a term, “we’re going to need to build this plan while we fly it.” Making it clear that time had priority and we needed to avoid planing and start taking action. There are absolutely times when you need to sit down and plan deliberate action. I don’t think content creation is one of those things. Your first episode is probably going to be awful. That is cool, it’s the only way you’re going to learn anything and find your voice.

I started PMP thinking it was going to focus on lessons learned from history and while I still do that, it is not the focus of the podcast. Instead I focus on sharing the life system that has made me successful as an individual. Health, Wealth, Relationships and the intersection of all three in order to help others find a sense of purpose, values, and belonging. My good friend Jim Gay, author and extremely fit dad, always told me “1000 small launches are always better than one gigantic launch.” He often followed up with, that one launch never happens. It’s never a good time to start a podcast with everything else you have going on. Just start putting content out and learn.

This is a test in marketing

With the 1,000,000 podcasts that exist in the world, you now need to have an extremely tight product to maintain the intentions of listeners. Joe Rogan is releasing 3 hour long episodes but experts are already predicting that podcasts will become shorter and shorter as time goes on. In the end you need to determine what you want to say no to, and what kind of content you want to put out to the world. If you want to talk for 3 hours that’s your right. Just make sure you market to those audiences who want to listen to something for an hour.

Tim Ferris taught me early on that we shouldn’t be obsessed with reaching everyone. Marketing experts call this niching down. Kevin Kelly (wired founder) refers to shooting for 1000 true fans at first. Then 10,000 then 100,000. Basically, you want to hyper define your audience. You don’t want to start a podcast. You want to start a podcast for young working professional and veteran males in between the ages of 25-35 who like self-improvement, fitness, finance, and interacting with people. This helps you to find out what kind of content to create, and how to reach this uber-defined audience.

Find out the things they like and reach out to them directly in places they already exist. If your lucky you’ll be able to find a podcast that already has captured the majority of that audience, go on the show, and share with them about your own show. In the end you want to create content that self-promotes. Content that people are recommending and sharing with their friends. That being said you still need to get out there and draw people’s attention to it. Otherwise it’s just going to sit out in the ether, unconsumed.

This doesn’t happen overnight unless you have already developed a following

We live in the amazon prime world. With that we think that we are going to receive a huge following immediately. After all, look at all of these other podcasts that reach 1 million downloads. They’re not you. You’re running your own race and they are not. This isn’t going to happen over night and you need to be ok with that. My good friend taught me that podcasting isn’t going to make you rich, so if you’re looking to get into this for the money you’re headed in the wrong direction.

You absolutely have an ability to monetize your podcast. I just doubt that will happen until you’ve really built up a loyal and consistent listenership. Start with a goal of 100 fans and go from there. I’ve had the opportunity to meet and talk to a lot of successful podcasters and I catalogued that in this post: Lessons learned from 3 wildly successful podcasting veterans.

I would recommend reading that and starting today.

Let’s Leave a Legacy!

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About the Author

John McCarthy is a Father, Son, Husband and former Marine Infantry Officer. He serves his local community and just wants to push people to be better humans. Check out the Tough Talk Podcast and other writings on this website to learn more.

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One Comment on “How to Start a Grass-roots Podcast that breaks 1000 unique listeners in 6 months

  1. Pingback: Podcasting Lessons Learned: a Strategic Guide for Beginners. –

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