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How Podcast Hosts and Guests Can Thrive in the New World of Podcasting
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Read, listen, or watch as Alex Sanfilippo and Tracy Hazzard, Founder of Podetize, as they discuss how Tracy turned her podcast into a major success and how she was able to generate millions of dollars through podcast guesting appearances. Tracy shares her insights on the evolving podcasting landscape and the strategies that are essential for hosts and guests to thrive in this rapidly evolving industry. Get ready to learn more about the future of podcasting and why now is the best time to get involved!
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This interview is part of our mega podcasters’ interview series.
Alex: I want to talk about your beginnings in podcasting. Because I know you had a really “sexy” start to podcasting. Would you tell us a little bit about your first show?
Tracy: It’s not that sexy a topic unless you are a real techie. It’s called WTFFF. And FFF stands for Fuse Filament Fabrication, which is a technical term for 3D printing. We started the podcast in 2014. I had been a podcast listener for a while, and we wanted to test the market and see if there was interest in 3D printing. Within about five months, we were featured in Forbes as one of the fastest-growing podcasts. We had a hundred thousand listeners a month for our show. Soon people were asking us, “What are you guys doing? Can you do that for me?” That’s how we got into the podcasting business.
Alex: Today, we are talking about the state of podcasting. The past, the present, and the future of podcasting. But I want to take a slightly different approach than I have in the past episodes. I just want to hear about your journey. You brought something to the table that would have been difficult to discover. Can you tell us how you achieved what you did?
Tracy: I did not follow anyone’s course. Tom (my husband) and I co-hosted the podcast. As product developers, we had already gotten into the habit of doing a lot of research upfront and figuring out the unique selling proposition. That’s how we always design products. We would make the features and benefits so obvious that you immediately know why you should buy it. We wanted to do that with our podcast as well. Every decision was made with that screening process in mind. We also researched what everyone else was doing or recommending and then read between the lines.
On top of that, we recorded five days a week, targeting five different types of listeners. Mondays were about businesses, Tuesdays were about technology, Wednesdays were about educators, Thursdays were about interviews, and then Fridays were this sort of fun project where we revealed what we would be working on over the weekend. Within about two months, we produced 40 episodes and gathered enough data to decide what would work for us moving forward.
Alex: Wow! First of all, I have to mention the husband-wife team. That’s my passion. I love it. Alecia and I are also a husband and wife team. The fact that you two have been working together for so long and are still a couple says a lot. Congratulations to you.
Tracy: Thank you, we have been married for 30 years and are still not tired of working together. And we do not split the work. Two heads are better than one. It brings perspectives that I could not have achieved on my own.
Alex: I want to transition to the present. Do you think the approach you took to get the show off the ground back still works today? Is Podetize running that way?
Tracy: I actually have a degree in textile design. Most people do not know that. I remember my mom telling me stories about how as a kid, I could tell when there was something wrong with a pattern. That’s my gift. That’s what I do. When we look at the patterns of things and the data from launching over a thousand shows, we can really see what’s working and what’s not in a way that others cannot. Then we decide, “Well, what do we do with this?” Is it useful? Can something great come out of it?” That’s what we are always looking for.
To answer your question: If I tried our 2014 model today, it would still be way too much work. Plus, I do not think it would produce the effective results we got with it back then. Today, the market is much more competitive, and search engines do not work the way they did back then. That’s why I get frustrated when I see people following courses that were created years ago and have not been updated since.
Alex: What about podcast guest appearances? Did you start doing that when you started podcasting, or is it something you did later on?
Tracy: Before I started my show, I had never been a guest on any podcast. I think it was about six months before I started podcast guesting. Then I did this study where I did 12 shows in 12 weeks. All of them focused on the product design and development niche. The result was about a hundred thousand dollars in actual sales and, eventually, a million dollars total when you add in royalties. And all this at a total cost of $1,200 from my podcast guesting tour.
Alex: Podcast guesting is becoming more and more competitive. When you started, you may have been the only person reaching out about product design. Today, it’s maybe 20 or 30 people reaching out to podcast hosts over the same thing. What do you think is happening with podcast guesting? Can you say something about the change you have seen over time? I’d love to hear your thoughts on that.
Tracy: I get pitched by podcast guests every single day. What has really gone wrong is the fact that someone decided that a shotgun approach was okay. There are even courses and advice on the subject. “Just send mass emails to every single email address and RSS feed. It’s the cheapest, easiest and fastest way.” Now I ignore every single email that goes to that email address because we hosts are smarter than that.
We have an address that’s just for the RSS feed for the podcast, and we know that anything in there is basically junk mail. I think it’s great what you are doing at PodPros and PodMatch because it’s targeted, and that’s what we need. For me, going to those 12 shows worked because I personally selected them. I knew their listeners would be the right fit. I listened to their show and knew it would be the right caliber for me. So I was able to turn that into a million dollars.
Related: Advice from 30 Podcast Hosts About How to be a Good Podcast Guest
Alex: This is timeless advice that you are giving here. I think it’s great that you just picked the perfect ones for you. I do not mind if someone guests in hundreds of shows a year. That’s fine if that’s what you want to do, and you can see the growth for it. But really, ask yourself if it’s not better to be more targeted and precise than to spray and pray.
Tracy: I prefer to look at PodMatch profiles now, where I can just swipe left. In fact, I did a test this summer and ended up inviting 12 guests from PodMatch. It was so easy, and every single one of them was a fantastic guest. We all commented on the show about it. I even stopped sending you an email saying I mentioned you because it just got to be too much! It was just the case that the match was so perfect that it was obvious.
Alex: Me too! I stopped saying thank you for mentioning me because I thought I was getting annoying. I think that PodPros and Podetize just have this mutual agreement that we’re thankful for one another.
Tracy: That’s right. Absolutely.
Alex: Let us move on to something you mentioned, PodFade. From the data I have seen since August 2020, we have not had any growth in active shows. It’s still around 400K and maybe even a little bit less. I posted something I call “actively established.” It’s not a true Apple category, but it’s one that I think should be. I shared some data with you, and you responded, “We are actually seeing that number” Can you talk about that?
Tracy: Anyone who publishes episodes regularly fits into this actively established category. Even if it is a monthly show, it will appear at least once a month. However, if your show is categorized as a season, we pull it out and consider it separately. We have a different way of counting how long you are in or out of season. For example, we do not count anyone who has only had one season, and it’s been more than three months since that season. There are so many who drop out and do not come back after three months. So we started excluding those people from the group and ended up with about 311,000 podcasts in that active category.
If you look at the two and a-half million podcasts out there, and then you look at those 311,000, there’s a marked difference in how far they go, how established they are, and how many episodes they have on average, which is well over 25. That’s important because until you reach 25 or more episodes, you do not have a good sense of your audience, what’s working for you or where you are going to get your value from. You have not gotten used to the process yet. You do not have a handle on the technology yet. It’s very likely you are still anxious about all of these things. Twenty-five episodes is a magic mark for that. Some can do it in a rush and get it done in two months. For others, it may take six months. It just depends on how your podcast is structured.
Alex: Is there a way in which you can look at a show and almost say, “Yeah, this one will make it, or this one probably will not”? I know there’s no definitive answer here. But I wonder if there’s some kind of indicator in your head of what it looks like? I think that’s helpful for hosts to know if they fit that mold, but also for a guest.
Tracy: This is exactly how I use the PodMatch profile, especially when looking at new podcasters. But there are three indicators I look for. If they do not have their own website hosting the podcast. If they are not promoting the podcast to their own listeners, I know they probably have a weak email list. They probably have not done a good job promoting the show and getting it out there. That’s a problem. The second thing I look at is social channels because someone may have a poor website but a great Instagram. I do not want to exclude them just based on that one criterion.
If they have both, that’s great because I am all in. I look to find out if they post new episodes regularly, week after week. For me, it’s a personal choice that I will not go on a show that does not come out weekly. Shows released only once per month tend to pod fade faster. The next thing I pay attention to is, “How do they title the episodes (link)?” If they just title them with the guest’s name, it’s a waste of time. Because that does not tell listeners what I am an expert on.
Alex: This is so insightful. I am going to implement some of what you said, and I hope everyone who reads this does the same. Tracy, this has been a very entertaining conversation. I want to close with the future of podcasting. As an innovator and a true thought leader in the field of podcasting. I’d love to know what you think is next for this industry.
Tracy: We are working on putting this data that I talked about into a format that you can easily search through. That way, anyone can look through the data and get a score based on the potential for the podcast to continue to grow. Is it growing, or is it declining? This way, you will know if you are looking at a show on the upswing or past its prime. The charts are completely misleading. They have not caught up and let us know that many of these shows are no longer in demand or that there aren’t really active listeners. We want to provide an antidote.
I can not get everyone to listen to a show before they decide to guest on it. That’s a lot of work. So if I can provide them with the rating system I use internally, I’ll provide an alternative solution. My ultimate goal is to enable podcasters to grow their show, to know exactly what they need, and for guests to be able to say, “Wow, this is going to be a perfect fit for me.” When that happens, listeners win. Because at the end of the day, listeners decide. If they do not listen to your show, the guest will not be heard. There will be no advertisers or sponsors. So we all have to make the listeners happy.
About Tracy Hazzard
Tracy Hazzard is a seasoned media expert with over 2600 interviews from articles in Authority Magazine, BuzzFeed, and her Inc. Magazine column; and from her multiple top-ranked video casts and podcasts like The Binge Factor and Feed Your Brand – one of CIO’s Top 26 Entrepreneur Podcasts. As CEO and Co-Founder of Podetize, Tracy brings diverse views from what works and what doesn’t work in marketing and media from thought leaders and industry icons redefining success around the globe. Tracy’s unique gift to the podcasting, marketing, and branding world is being able to identify that unique binge-able factor – the thing that makes people come back again and again, listen actively, share as raving fans, and buy everything you have to sell.