…The style has to align well with what the listeners want. You can have a perfectly produced, well-researched podcast, but if it’s niched, it will appeal to a niche audience. And that’s okay. Niche audiences are passionate and a great way to build, but you need to keep in mind that your podcast topic will ultimately define its listeners.
As part of my series of interviews about “5 things you need to know to create a bingeable podcast”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Chris Savage, the CEO and co-founder of Wistia, a leading video and branding company.
After graduating from Brown University with a degree in Art-Semiotics, Chris and his co-founder, Brendan Schwartz, started Wistia in Brendan’s living room in 2006. Wistia has since grown into a multi-million dollar business with over 80 employees and 350,000 customers.
Can you tell us a bit of your “personal backstory? What is your background and what eventually brought you to this particular career path?
My Wistia co-founder, Brendan Schwartz and I graduated from Brown University and started a company at 23 years old. We thought we would sell in six months, but instead we fell in love with it. Selling our company was the last thing Brendan and I wanted to do. I loved the prospect of continuing to build and scale the company, but we wanted to do things differently. This is why Wistia ditched the venture model in our early days and instead, we took on $17.3M in debt so that we could control the company at all facets and maintain its vibrant and creative company culture from the ground up. We haven’t looked back since — only forward.
Can you share a story about the most interesting thing that has happened to you since you started podcasting?
The best part of podcasting has been doing the interviews. Podcasting lets me connect with amazing and successful people who are doing interesting things. I have already gotten to connect with an award-winning chef, fellow co-founders, an award-winning producer and filmmaker and others who I have admired for a while. By sharing our conversations widely, I hope it helps other people push themselves and grow.
Can you share a story about the biggest or funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson or takeaways you learned from that?
This is classic, but recording a whole episode without actually hitting “record.” It’s really deflating realizing you didn’t capture the initial reactions and organic conversations with your guest the first time around. I now have a checklist of every step that we stick to for each episode to make sure we don’t miss any crucial steps, like pressing ‘record.’
How long have you been podcasting and how many shows have you aired?
I’ve been a guest on podcasts for 10 years or so. Some of my favorite appearances include Angel Invest Boston, Verblio, and PowerPress. I’ve been running my own podcast, Talking Too Loud, for about a year and we’ve released 10 episodes with more to come in 2021. My podcast is named such because when I get excited, I talk too loud. I’m usually the loudest person in the room. I’m now sharing this trait with the world through my podcast and hope others are just as inspired by my guests as I am.
What are the main takeaways, lessons or messages that you want your listeners to walk away with after listening to your show?
Creative paths are rewarding in their own right. There can be pressure to “make it big” and monetize creative endeavors, but that shouldn’t be the only focus of a project. We start creative projects because they are fulfilling, meaningful and a tool for discovery. We should make sure we keep them that way.
In your opinion what makes your podcast binge-listenable? What do you think makes your podcast unique from the others in your category? What do you think is special about you as a host, your guests, or your content?
First, the style has to align well with what the listeners want. You can have a perfectly produced, well-researched podcast, but if it’s niched, it will appeal to a niche audience. And that’s okay. Niche audiences are passionate and a great way to build, but you need to keep in mind that your podcast topic will ultimately define its listeners.
Further, with Talking Too Loud, I’m good at getting guests to relax and have open and honest conversations with me. I believe this helps lead to more transparent and raw conversations that are of interest to a wide range of listeners. My questions when talking to guests are also heavily informed by my experience in building Wistia from the ground up. This is a different perspective than a typical, VC route.
Doing something on a consistent basis is not easy. Podcasting every work-day, or even every week can be monotonous. What would you recommend to others about how to maintain discipline and consistency? What would you recommend to others about how to avoid burnout?
You have to make the work itself rewarding and fun. Then it’s easy to continue. If your topics bore you, it’s hard to motivate yourself to get up early and start sketching out the latest episode.
Talking Too Loud is easy for me to produce because I only interview guests that I like spending time with and can learn from. That ensures that it’s fun and engaging to make the episodes without burning out.
But like any well-designed endeavor, it’s important to have a plan in place before starting out. Don’t blindly say you want to produce 100 episodes before year’s end. Create a detailed action plan with attainable goals and steps on how you will produce your show.
Is there someone in the podcasting world who you think is a great model for how to run a really fantastic podcast?
I enjoy the Conversations with Tyler podcast. He focuses on asking the questions that he personally wants to know the answers to, not the questions that he thinks his audience wants. I also listen to Conan O’Brien Needs A Friend. It’s a comedy show that’s willing to dig into hard topics, while still creating natural humor that powers the episodes.
What are the ingredients that make that podcast so successful? If you could break that down into a blueprint, what would that blueprint look like?
I recommend finding a niche audience and giving them something unique and relevant. If you can do that, they’ll help spread the word, and growth will happen organically.
Can you share with our readers the five things you need to know to create an extremely successful podcast?
- Have a strong and unique opinion: Wistia’s background as an independent company, free of VC-funding, has helped me inform my views.
- Invest in equipment to have great sound quality: No one wants to listen to something that doesn’t sound good. Make the investment in a good mic and headphones to capture the best possible audio.
- Make sure you have strong production: Work with producers — even part time, if needed — to help make production seamless and something that can be replicated on a consistent basis. With podcasting, consistency is key.
- Treat the content like a product: Ask listeners what they like and don’t like and adjust accordingly. Offer up an email address or method for listeners to reach you directly so they can share feedback.
- Think beyond a basic interview: There are a lot of interview shows out there and it’s easy to get lost in the noise. Find a way to separate what you’re doing, such as exploring different show formats.
Chris Savage, host of Talking Too Loud shares the best ways to:
1) Book Great Guests. The hard part of building an interview-esque show is getting the early guests. Even people you know may not be sure if they should commit as there is not yet an audience. The key is figuring out how to convince early notable guests to join in. Be willing to get creative and do things that don’t scale.
For example, I recently interviewed Joanne Chang, the founder of Flour Bakery & Cafe and Meyers + Chang in Boston. Joanne is local to Boston but anyone in the area knows that she has an amazing story and innovative business. Her appearance made it easier to reach out to other guests in the area who might not have considered the show but know Joanne is the real deal. As more guests jump on board, this gets easier and easier.
2) Increase Listeners. Treat the content like a product. Don’t think of your content as a throwaway or only having one person. You need to research the response, tweak the product, market it, and support it like it’s a real product. Doing so will increase the likelihood of success.
3) Produce in a Professional Way. Make sure you have a production team set up that you trust and who help capture the tone and vibe you’re going for on your show. A production team can make or break a show, so take the time to find the right people who know what they’re doing. Talking Too Loud has a small but mighty production team, consisting of Wistia staff members Sylvie Lubow and Adam Day.
4) Encourage Engagement. Ask questions and have conversations that don’t have clear answers. If your podcast sounds like every other podcast, it will get boring quickly. You need to find a way to stand out and what better way to do that than to be your true self?
5) Monetize. Build an audience and let them engage with you in multiple ways. One listener might buy your product, or engage with other content you have, while another might be fine listening to your podcast’s well-vetted product advertisements. If you already have a great way of monetizing things, use the same way.
If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
I’d like to remind people that there’s more to building a company then driving profit or selling out. When structured the right way, companies can be the source of meaningful change and can help communities, customers, and teams live better lives. They can create the change we want in the world.
How can our readers follow you online?