Note: I use “I” and “we” interchangeably because my wife and I are co-Founders of Kamakshi Media, my podcasting company and I am the creator and host of MyKitaab, a podcast on book publishing in India.
This week, we released the 50th episode of MyKitaab Podcast. We launched on January 16th, in other words, and we released atleast three episodes every week for the past three months. During the process, I interviewed over 50 guests for current and planned episodes. Below is a summary of my learnings from these interviews:
a. Promotions by guests are crucial for downloads
Downloads are crucial for a podcast’s success. Over the long term, that is what is going to bring in the money. This may be obvious but particularly from India, very few guests have established platforms and they do not promote their own interviews. Some of the old school folks think podcast is similar to traditional media, and they simply ignore the ‘network effect’. Going forward, I have set up an evaluation sheet where we will be more selective in interviewing the guests. Having a platform is going to be one of the criteria, equally important: guests should be active on those platforms.
b. A 2X a week podcast works better than 3X a week
When we launched Mykitaab Podcast on January 16th, we began as a 3 times a week podcast. Every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, I would release one interview each.
One month later, I introduced the “Themes” feature to the podcast. That is, every week, the three interviews would have a common theme. Some of these themes were:
- Authors who write romantic novels. This was the theme around Valentine’s Day, and featured authors Kiran Manral, Rich Amooi and Aditi Chopra.
- CEOs who are bestselling authors (Apurva Purohit, Bala PC, Kiruba Shankar)
- Business School Professors (Satish Deodhar- IIM Ahmedabad, Rajeshwari Victor- XLRI and G. Raghunathan, now CEO of GMR Varalaxmi Foundation )
Around Mid-April, more than one listener commented that multiple releases every week were leading to listener fatigue, that is, the listeners were barely able to keep up with the number of episodes that were being released. I took that feedback seriously, and introduced a new feature- news and analysis on book publishing in India. At the same, time, from May 2016 onwards, MyKitaab will be a two times a week podcast instead of the original 3X a week. That is, we will have a guest interview every Tuesday, and every Wednesday, we will have the news and analysis cast.
c. Audio quality matters
I began as an absolute rookie in the world of audio recording. In fact, the first three recordings for MyKitaab had such a poor quality that I had to reject two of them. The next four or five were no better. I was fortunate to find some good editors, but one of them, Zeljko, was excellent. Not only is he a very good editor, he is also fanatic about audio quality, and he does not mince words when it comes to poor recording. We were fortunate to find him through Upwork. He also helped us understand the finer aspects of recording, including eliminating noise at source.
I also picked up some skills along the way, and today, I am able to use audacity (software for sound editing) as an advanced user thought by no means proficient just yet. Just yesterday, I edited a 45 minute raw audio into a 30 minute edited file- the process took me about 90 minutes.
One of the reasons why we have been able to manage the super fast rollout of episodes for MyKitaab Podcast is standardizing the processes, and audio editing is one of them. You see, audio interview was ready for prime time in less than 2 hours after the Skype Call. Not spectacular, but noteworthy, considering that in most organizations, people take nearly 24 hours to write one page of meeting minutes!
d. Batching of interviews helps
Simply put, the days I will record the interviews will now be limited to Tuesday and Thursday of every month. The interviews used to be all over the place- 10 AM, 6 PM; sometimes even past midnight. Bringing in some schedule and discipline helps, and I was able to bag interview slots with some very influential executives because I gave them specific choices- dates and times to schedule the call.
Recording 4 or 5 interviews in 1 week means that the following activities can be completed by week #2: editing, shownotes, social media posts scheduling, marketing and outreach (to say fans groups in case of authors or professional groups on LinkedIn in case of organizations or brands). In other words, as on June 10th, I will be in the position to schedule all Tuesdays episodes that will be released in the month of July, leaving me only to worry about the news and analysis cast. Sweet, isn’t it?
e. 25 minutes is the optimum duration for a podcast episode
Around Mid-March, we began to get a feedback that the duration of the podcast was too long. Originally, we had planned a 30 to 35 minute episode, some episodes ran as long as 55 minutes! In order to tighten up the duration, we decided to split the longer interviews into part I and part II. We had about 10 such interviews in parts. The learning that came from this experience was the sum of the parts is NOT equal to the whole. That is, the total number of downloads for episodes that had two parts was less than the downloads for a standalone episode.
Today, we use a more or less standard questionnaire and set a 30 minute duration for calls (with a couple of exceptions). 30 minutes of raw audio results in about 25 minutes of finished content- the sweet spot that we are discovering.
With a 2X a week format, shorter duration and possibly a focus on nonfiction books only, I think there is some headroom for the next phase of MyKitaab Podcast- consolidation and visibility. I think the learnings, the takeaways and the experiences from the past 50 episodes pave the way for the rest of the year.
As per the original plan, we should have released episode number 150 by December 15, 2016. That will get revised to 120 episodes, which is still an insanely high number of episodes. That is, if the listeners keep listening and in turn attract the sponsors’ attention. And that will be crucial for my startup.