Guestpost #51: JP Davidson – Ten things I’ve learned from being a moderately successful podcaster

For over a year, JP Davidson has been creating I Like You (http://ilikeyoupodcast.com), a weekly podcast about love, like, dating, and the opposites of those things with his partner Elah Feder in Toronto. Bringing together true stories full of depth, humour, and heart, JP and Elah don’t just study love – they snuggle it into submission. JP married and divorced the first girl he dated before his 29th birthday. His interest in love stems from the fact that he really doesn’t understand it, and would like to.

  1. Be nice. We talk about relationships on our show. Sometimes, this is upsetting to those being talked about. We’ve learned to keep the snark and judgement to a minimum, focusing on personal experiences rather than assumptions about others. When we do toss out opinions about others, we try to do it while they’re behind a mic to defend themselves. This may lead to me having my ex wife on the show at some point, sigh.
  2. iTunes is your best friend and your worst enemy. About 60% of our downloads come straight from the benevolent apple in the sky. During the week leading up to last Valentine’s Day, I Like You was featured in a special Valentine’s day box in the American iTunes directory. This resulted in a 4-5x increase in downloads, our biggest spike ever. Canadian iTunes featured a Superbowl box during the same period, despite the big game having occurred over a week prior. Make sure you have an accurate description, honest explicit tags and properly formatted album art to increase your chances of being featured. If you’re in Canada, make a Superbowl show.
  3. You won’t make money at this. Do it because you like doing it. Virtually nobody is going to sign up for your sponsored audio book offer or buy your merchandise, no matter how adorable your squirrel shirts (http://ilikeyoupodcast.com/store/) are. In our experience less than 0.01% of listeners do anything that gets us paid.
  4. Edit. Edit. Edit. It’s a common misconception that you can’t polish a turd. You can, and shiny turds are a heck of a lot easier on the eyes. We record 2-4 times more audio than we need and spend an inordinate amount of time trimming out the boring and irrelevant bits. Twenty great minutes beats sixty ok minutes every time.
  5. Don’t underestimate the time commitment. Prep takes a little time, recording takes a little more, editing take a lot. All-in we probably spend a combined 10-20 hours making a 30 minute show each week.
  6. Don’t obsess about the numbers, just focus on making good shows. Following download stats and iTunes rankings can be an emotional roller-coaster. Instead, seek validation from expensive consumer electronics and sex with strangers. Podcast numbers are not a measure of your worth as a person… are they?
  7. Find a great co-host, co-editor and co-producer. Making a weekly podcast is a ton of work, and you’ll need someone to keep you going when you put out a sub-optimal episode, or get critical feedback from a listener, or worry your downloads slump will never bounce back (we’re not obsessing about numbers, remember?).  You’ll also want someone to whine to, and someone to celebrate with (but mostly whine).
  8. Listen to good shows, and learn from them. Someday, I’d like to make shows as compelling as my radio and podcast heroes. For now I pay close attention as I listen to favourites like WTF (http://www.wtfpod.com/), Jordan, Jesse, Go! (http://www.maximumfun.org/shows/jordan-jesse-go), Savage Lovecast (http://www.thestranger.com/seattle/SavageLovePodcast/Page/), The Age of Persuasion (http://www.cbc.ca/ageofpersuasion/), Radiolab (http://www.radiolab.org/), The Moth (http://themoth.org/), Risk! (http://risk-show.com/), and WireTap (http://www.cbc.ca/wiretap/).
  9. Give yourself a break. The rigours of putting out a weekly show in your spare time can burn out the best of us. Build breaks into your show schedule. We put out 46 shows in our first year. By comparison, This American Life (http://www.thisamericanlife.org/) (consistently #1 podcast in iTunes) puts out 25-30 shows most years, with a staff and a budget. This year we’ve scaled back to 40 episodes (playing reruns on off weeks). Breaks help you pause and remember what you enjoy about making your show (downloads stats and the accompanying validation).
  10. Focus on the small victories. Money, fame, power and women are probably a long way off. Once and a while though, you’ll receive a nice email from a listener, someone will write a lovely iTunes review, or you’ll make a new inter-friend. Having fun making something others enjoy isn’t reward enough, but it’ll have to do for now.

3 Comments

Filed under tenthingsivelearned, Uncategorized

3 responses to “Guestpost #51: JP Davidson – Ten things I’ve learned from being a moderately successful podcaster

  1. Great advice!

    I’ve recently began to add audio content to my blog (still hesitant to call it a podcast).

    I think I’ll look into itunes when I’m a little more comfortable with the recording process. Important thing now is that I have fun with it.

    Great advice!

  2. One of the best podcasts I’ve listened to is the Writing Excuses podcast (www.writingexcuses.com). While I’m not a writer (but I’m starting to think about it) I do enjoy literature and the podcast is very well done. They set a limit of 15 minutes per podcast (although they frequently go over this, but very rarely more than 20 minutes) which keeps it at a very fast pace. There are some podcasts that I just can’t get into after listening to this one for so long because they seem to ramble on forever without getting to the point. Great cast to check out.

  3. Pingback: Elah Feder on Podcasting | Catherine McCormick Comedy

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