Almost no two podcast co-hosts think about splitting up when they’re just starting their show. The excitement of creating amazing content together can easily make you think you’re going to do this together. But things don’t often turn out that way. Whatever the cause, co-hosts do split, and it often causes problems as to who controls the podcast. If you want the show to remain in your hands (or in your partner’s hands, whichever the case may be), you have to plan your exit ahead. In this episode, Tracy Hazzard and Tom Hazzard discuss the three most important things to secure to avoid access and ownership issues after splitting up with your co-host. All three of these are non-negotiable, so plug those earphones in!
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Splitting Up With Your Podcast Co-Host: Make Sure To Secure These Things
We are talking about Splitting Up With Your Podcast Co-Host: Make Sure To Secure These Three Things. I have never had this experience but we have clients who have. I have never split up with a co-host because honestly, Tracy, you are my co-host 9 times out of 10. There is one show I’m on that you are not on. Maybe there will be others.
He might want to split up with you one day. You never know. There are so many reasons for it. It has nothing to do with bad feelings. It might be a business strategy. It could be time commitments.
One person does not have time for it anymore.
It could be a shift of focus. It’s not the best use of your time. Your time is valuable and you are thinking about that. I have done this before with the show, but I knew I was going to do it from the beginning. We planned it. That is something to consider as well. If you are thinking about setting up your show and having a co-host, you might want to plan these things from the very beginning because it’s likely to happen.
It’s very good advice, Tracy. I want to put a little emphasis on it. I wish I could put the two exclamation points as we have in Messenger on our iPhone like, “That’s a good point.” It’s true. Any one of us who has been or is in business knows that the time to have a contract that defines the end of the business or relationship between a couple of parties who are in business is in the beginning when you are happy, not at the end when you are mad at each other. It’s near impossible to agree on anything at that point. That’s a similar thing here with the co-host. Would you agree, Tracy?
Are we talking about co-host prenups?
It’s something like that. That would have been a catchy title too.
It’s a little bit different because that’s pre-planning. This is what happens when you are ready to make that switch. The reality is that it’s usually at the beginning of the year. This is when people make decisions and changes. They reflect on things and say, “I don’t want to spend my time focusing on recording this podcast anymore. I need to shake this off. I need to move on to something else. This is not right for me.” This is likely the time of year that this is going to happen. That’s why we are talking about it.
It’s also likely a time of year when you might want to shift some things in your show. You might want to bring in a co-host, do some different things or bring in some guest hosts. There might be some different things that you want to do. How you handle them and what you are going to secure for yourself matters. That’s what we are going to talk about. At the end of the day, a podcast has value. It’s intellectual property copyrighted value. Someone has to own that. It has to be clear from the beginning of that.
There are some hidden things that I want you to talk about, Tom. You are the expert in how to extricate yourself from it or what the controlling factors are. When we look at a show, there are a few things that are indicators of control, whether that’s your agreement or not. You might have an agreement that you are co-sharing the show but you are not executed in that way. Some of those things are how your show is set up and syndicated out to Apple, Spotify and all of those places out there. How they are leading your RSS feed and going out there is an indicator of who’s in control.
We come across this a lot with people who find out that they don’t control their show. Whoever the radio station or network they were on, they are in control of it. You may find out that one of the two hosts control it as well and not both. That is a mistake in your setup and how you set this up because you did not plan for that from the beginning. It also is common. Let’s see if we can address those things and maybe you can fix them while you are still in a good situation in case things might go wrong in the future.
Tracy, you have three key things in mind to share with everybody in this episode.
The first thing is the control of the show itself like the physical control of the RSS feed, which is a control of your copyright, whether you think it or not. Whether that’s what you believe or that’s the arrangement that you have, the physical control of who owns that show according to Apple, Spotify and the RSS feed is the control of the copyright.
You are correct but it’s even more than that. Whoever the person or even if you both have login credentials to the hosting account where the RSS feed is generated, there is an email address that’s associated with that account. With pretty much every hosting provider out there, the person who’s in control of that email is ultimately in control of that hosting account. The person in control of that hosting account has the keys to the castle. They can take it and do whatever they want. They can change the email, username and password. In the world of podcasting or the podcast ecosystem, whoever has control of that hosting account and that RSS feed can do whatever they want legally. Whether you have agreed that they have the right to do it or not, you have control over that. You own the show and you can do whatever you want. Be aware of that.
It’s like controlling a bank account. They can lock you out.
It’s also like controlling a company. One of the earliest lessons I learned in business even before we had our first company together in the early to mid-’90s was if you have two people in a corporation that has stock, S Corp or whatever and you don’t both own 50% of the stock or equal amounts, one person owns 51%, the other owns 49%, the person that owns 49% has no control over that business whatsoever. You could be fired from the company. There are things you may not realize.
You can lose access to the bank accounts. All of that matters. That email address is the key and the most important thing. When I set up one of my shows, New Trust Economy, its email address was a joint email address we created together. My co-host was Monika Proffitt. It’s all hosted now solely by Monika Proffitt. She and I started the show. We did it as a purposeful start together. It’s a show on cryptocurrency and blockchain.
We did it because I had experience writing and she wrote the book on blockchain. I had a column. She had a book. It made a lot of sense, plus Proffitt and Hazzard sound cool together. It seemed the right thing to do to start the show. We intended that eventually, it would be its own thing. She would likely take over and I would stop doing it at some point. We had planned for that. We did not know when that was going to happen along the way. It might wait until 100 episodes or we might get to 50.
We planned it so that it had its own email address that was not one of ours. It was one created for the show. You might do MyShow@gmail.com or whatever that is, but you have a controlling one and we both had access to that. That’s the case. Someone can go in, be very difficult about it, change that email address and lock you out of it. You have to be careful and cautious with that. That is something that we did. We created a special email address that was required for us to syndicate our show. It was not one of our individual emails.
You had planned this at some point. One of you could have covertly gone in and had the ability to change everything, despite whatever verbal or written agreement you had. Once someone decides to go in and change those things, they could seize control of the show, and then you have to fight them for it later. You need to be aware of what this situation is. For one of the co-hosts, if you want to be in control, you need to try to set it up that way. You have to agree between the co-hosts. We have a few shows that have 3 and 4 hosts for every show. It makes it even more complicated.
In those cases, I recommend more of a company approach. You are going to take a company approach and have a written agreement between all of you. You should at that point. Monika and I were taking it a little more casually. We were not expecting to make a ton of money off the show. It was not a plan for advertising or any of those things. We were doing it from an experiential situation. We were using our joint authority to build a better and faster show. That was its point.
We had a different purpose to it. What we tried to do was create as much equality in the copyright as possible. In our authorship, it had both of our names in our syndicated feed and on our website. We always had both of our names for every episode that we created together. Occasionally, we would do a single episode separately. I would interview someone or she would separately interview someone. In those cases, only our single name went on there, whoever was hosting that interview.
We did that purposefully so that there would be variety over our website and blog posts. It would say Monika and Tracy and at other times, it would be straight Monika or straight Tracy. Those would be the single articles or the single blogs within the website that were our copyrights alone. The entire website was also marked with joint copyright. We did that purposefully to create that situation where we were creating a joint statement that these copyrights belong to both of us.
I have seen other co-hosts do things differently. They each have their own website and the podcast is available on both, although the blog posts are only available on one website because you can’t duplicate content. There are other issues to consider but you planned this out.
We planned it out with a separate website. NewTrustEconomy.com is its own website. We did that purposefully so that it would have its home and be separated from the two of us because we knew one of us was going to take it over separately eventually.
I want to also let our audience understand the reasons why you planned you would exit this show at some point. You and I have this thing where at least one of us, if not each of us, starts a new podcast every year. We are experiencing what’s working and not just what worked years ago with launching a show. You knew you were going to move on and do some other shows here at some point.
In a year I was going to do another show.
This is not a show that you intended to do long-term like The Binge Factor show that you have done for a lot of years and that you are intending to continue to do, or this show that we are continuing to do. There are reasons why you planned it. Not everybody plans it. Everybody gets into a podcast like, “Let’s do this together. It’s going to be so much fun.” You have this vision that you are both going to do it for the foreseeable future. Most of us who have been around a while know that everything is temporary.
I’m thinking about this from the RSS control standpoint. RSS control and IP ownership are the two major things. The third thing that we will talk about in a minute is the website and list control. Those are the three parts that I’m going to be talking about. Those are the different things you must secure and have an understanding or a written agreement about.
These are the things that impact your ability to control your show and the value from that show. Those are the three most important things, IP ownership, RSS control, and your website or email list control. Those things go hand-in-hand. Think of it like you don’t have access to your subscribers, but you do have access to the people who gave you their emails or came through your website. You have access and control of those as well.You have to plan your business strategies well because you have to best use your time and your time is valuable. Click To Tweet
Those are the places that we want to make sure that we are clear on. Sometimes in that website and email list control might be your social media controls too. There are different choices that we make upfront when we are looking at all of these control issues saying, “Do we want to have this separated from one of our businesses and into its own entity?” It makes it easier.
That’s why in this particular case, we had our own Facebook page and its own Twitter feed. We made a LinkedIn page for it but we didn’t do more beyond that. Each of us was an admin of all of those things. In the process, there were always two admins in control. We did that purposefully. It’s the same thing with our RSS. We hosted it on Podetize because that makes complete sense.
In Podetize, Monika had her own login and I had my own login. We would still see exactly everything in the feed. We would see everything that was related to our show. Either one of us could make adjustments or changes, keep it up to date, do what we needed, publish episodes, and do all of that. At the end of the day, we had an agreement that neither one of us was going to mess with the email address. That’s the understanding of the controlling point.
We had this understanding like a handshake between us, not a written agreement because the show had zero value at the beginning. Keep that in mind. You may not realize that this is going to become an issue for you when you’re a few hundred episodes in. Now your show has sponsors and value that are being created. One of you wants out and the other wants to keep honoring the relationships with your sponsors. You have money tied into there. That copyright issue becomes even more value and control. What if I say, “I want to separate from the show and you cannot use my name, my likeness, or any episode where my voice is anymore.” I try to take that away from you. That takes your 300-episode balance down to 100 or something like that. It hurts your show.
When you start to get to the level of controlling up and seeing there’s going to be value created from this, that might be the time where you step in and say, “Let’s have an IP ownership discussion. We might be 50/50 sharing, but if one of us leaves the show, the other has the right to use everything previously published, and has the right to use likeness and name for a period of time at a minimum,” or a transition period that you might want to plan. “If you leave the show and you are no longer contributing, your share goes from 50% to 20%.” I just made that number up. You could come up with whatever that contribution level is.
There are a lot of very unequal co-host partnerships out there. I’m going to be clear about this. You might want to say that you are not even 50/50, to begin with, in terms of IP ownership or creation of episodes because one of you shows up 3 out of every 4 times. Your participation is 75% to 25%. Be careful in granting a 50/50. You could make it clearly based on the number of episodes published and participation in those episodes. You could make it tied to an actual participation level.
Regardless of what you decide to do, the good idea is to have an exit plan and try to lay some ground rules ahead of time because the show is going to get value.
Also, an ownership plan, even if it’s not an exit one. If you are clearly defining that ownership level and it’s based on participation or whatever, then if somebody wants to drop out, the exit is already clear because the participation drops to zero.
That makes a lot of sense. Participation is a way to decide the value, benefit, return on time invested, and all that stuff. The show itself will gain value. It could have advertisers, sponsors, websites, traffic and email lists. It’s good to try to define these things and you will have an easier time moving forward.
That’s why I say to secure these three things. If you secure or identify what’s going to happen when value is created, your IP ownership, your intellectual property ownership or your copyright split, the value created there, what does that involve? If you are in control of your RSS feed, that means you control the future of everything, so you want that.
If you are controlling the website, email list, social media sites, web pages, social media pages or whatever it is that you have got the accounts there, those are controlling your access to the community. Having a podcast is of no value if you cannot access your community outside of the podcast itself. You want all three parts to be working for you if you are going to retain the ownership and move it to the next level.
Taking any piece of those despite revenue shares, any royalty give-back or monetary split, that’s something for a side discussion. The access to all three of those things, any one of them encumbers the ability for your show to grow in the future. If any one of those things is not available to you, you need a new show at that point. You are creating that show where someone else is achieving at least a third of the value.The three most important things are IP ownership, RSS control, and your website or email list control. Click To Tweet
Tracy, you have the copyright. That was number one.
The copyright or the ownership of that relationship, of all the past episodes and everything about them.
Owning everything of value within the podcast ecosystem. The copyright is a big part of that but it is the control of the shows.
The control of the audio files themselves. It’s the control of what was said there.
Also what has been syndicated and to have control to continue to do that the way you want to. The RSS feed is number one. The IP is number two. What’s the third?
The third is email website and social media control because you want community access. It’s your community control.
A lot of things are overlapping. Those are the real key value points and tangible aspects of your podcast.
Let’s say we have agreed to split up. That’s happening and I’m going to separate from it. I mentioned before a transition period. I highly recommend a transition period for any shows that are over 50 episodes. With less than 50 episodes, if somebody wanted to make a hard split, you are fine with that. A transition period does not mean that somebody has to stay involved and record more episodes.
You can make an agreement that we are going to record one more goodbye together. That could be it. You are allowed to do a goodbye where you say that they are leaving. You want to get an agreement to say that. They might not want to tell people why. They may not want to announce that yet. You need to come to an agreement about what that transition episode itself is going to be.
You also might want to transition period where you agree with your co-host that’s leaving that you have six months to remove their name and likeness from the entire show catalog, or you have an agreement that they don’t have to do it. I agreed with Monika that she can do it when she wants, but if she does not want to make any changes, she does not need to.
Proffitt and Hazzard sound cool. The cover looks awesome. I am in the show. I’m just not in the show past the 100th episode. It’s not a lie. She can decide at what point she wants to make that change. I gave her an unlimited time period to do it. I did that because it does not matter to me personally. I don’t need those blogs. I don’t need any of that. I turned it all back. I turned it all over to her to do what she wants to.
As I look at it, your name is still on the cover art and you are still credited as an author.Always have an exit plan. Click To Tweet
In any current blogs that are posting or episodes, they don’t have my name in them in the episode arts or anything like that. That’s perfectly normal because that’s how we used to do it back then. Whoever was recording the episode, her name was all over everything. She can take her time to do that or she can never do it if she wants because there’s residual value to my name.
When you google my name and you see the articles I wrote in Inc. magazine about blockchain, that adds credibility and authority to her show. She may not want to get rid of me. You may not want to do the same thing. You could come in some long residual agreement and say, “I’m going to pay you 10% on anything I earn on this show for continued use of your name and likeness. Also, you never have to spend the cost to change all of those graphics and all of those things that take the time to scrub someone and remove it.”
Get yourself a transition period that you all agreed to. Six months is the minimum that I would recommend, but a year might be a good time period as well. From there, go forward and make a determination, are they owed something for that? Do you feel that’s necessary? Do they demand for that? Make sure that you make that right during that time period. A single transition episode is required. The reason I say that is because it’s confusing to people.
People who binge listen to a show will start jumping around if they see that. They will be looking for that transition point when the person left. They will be looking for closure. If you don’t give it to them, it surprises them. Once you have recorded a bunch of new episodes and you get far enough, that episode disappears off the main list. Once you do at least 25 episodes, that transition episode will start to disappear off of most of the shortlists that you would see in any app.
It will still be there. What you mean is it’s not obvious in the show list.
It’s not as visible. People have to go down farther and look for it harder to find that. At that point, you might think about changing your trailer like having a trailer or a teaser episode, and having that change where it says, “You are going to hear some episodes with this co-host but I’ve taken over the show and here are the new changes to it.” You are making it in that teaser. That clears it up and it makes closure immediately, and it builds immediate trust into the fact that this is still a good show.
This last point that you made comes under the heading of addressing the elephant in the room with your audience. Podcast audiences want you to be real with them. They are willing to accept a lot of things that may change in your show. You need to be upfront with them and let them know. They don’t want you to try to pull a wool over their eyes. They don’t want you to pretend something is not what it is. They don’t want you to be contrived about anything. Address it and deal with it. They will respect you for it and be like, “That’s the way it is now. Move on.”
I agree. That authenticity into what you are doing creates better trust with your audience. They are going to stick around because of that. If you’ve decided that you are going to switch your show, you’re going to make stylistic changes and scrub your host from everything, here’s what I recommend you do. The first thing is to make sure to adjust your intro and outro so that it is clearly only you from that point forward. This does not always require you to have it rerecorded. You could just have an edit where you are cutting out. You might have to have it rerecorded. It might be a great time to do it anyway and revamp it.
You might need to have it remixed.
That’s what I was saying by re-editing it, by having things cut or remixed. Those are possibilities as well. Especially if you have to change the website that it goes to for any reason, you need to make sure that you are doing a new outro. We record that. That’s the first thing that I say you do. Don’t go back and put it through all your old episodes. Go and start that forward on, at least at this point. You can eventually go back and do that. From that point forward, address that moving forward. Do that first.
The second thing then is changing the cover art. The cover art is the icon for your show. It’s the main icon that is shown. When you make a change there, it changes across the entire ecosystem within about 24 to 48 hours. It’ll be everywhere. It’ll be shifted and changed. You remove their name from the cover art. Don’t make a significant change to the cover art unless you are going to make a big change to the show.
The third thing that you do is record that transition episode, whether it’s you doing the closure or having that last episode with your co-host. Record that transition period and give that for yourself. Those are the immediate things to do. In the long term, you might want to change your episode art or some of your episode titles if the co-host name is in there. You might want to change the authorship on the website and on the podcast itself.Having authenticity in what you're doing creates better trust with your audience. Click To Tweet
The one thing to consider is if you do not have to remove their name from the authorship section during that transition period that you agree to, I would leave it there. The only reason I say that is because if someone is searching for me, Tracy Hazzard, Monika’s show is going to show up because my name is still in her authorship section. It says, Monika Proffitt and Tracy Hazzard. It has both of our names there. If someone is searching for me, they are going to see her show.
My name showing up gives her the ability to tap into my audience and community. It gives her value in leaving me there for a period of time. I have given her authorization to do it as long as she wants. You might want that for a period of time because maybe your co-host is more well-known than you were or had higher authority.
It’s a search engine thing that if someone is searching for that person and they find you too, they are going to check out the show, and then they will know about the new changes. They will get your new teaser. They will get all those new things we talked about. They are becoming loyal to you. It didn’t matter how they went in and searched for you, but they found you.
You cast a wider net for your show to be found by having both names there. For the person that stays, probably it has benefits at least for a period of time.
This is the other thing I want to mention. That was about how you transition, intro, outro, cover art and then go to episode, authorship, and those kinds of levels to things that you might want to do. There might be some episodes you want to scrub and delete completely. That’s okay too because maybe they were too edgy for a topic for how you feel you want your show to be perceived. Remember, it’s your show now. That’s the ability. To own the IP means you could also remove it. You could take something off-air. That’s your choice to do that.
All of those things are the transition portion of your show. Before we go on, let’s talk briefly about the value created from a show. When you are trying to decide if you are going to offer your co-host some money because you have sponsors, you are making ad dollars, you have affiliates or whatever it is that you are earning income on the show for, it is unfair to your co-host. Any good co-host or anyone who understands podcasting would block at you telling them, “I’m cutting you out of the show. You are not doing any more work. You don’t deserve any value.”
About 60% of your listens come from your back catalog at any given time. There is a residual value that the episodes they may have created with you and for you are delivering value from an advertising perspective and an earnings potential. They may be some of your top episodes in terms of listenership as well, especially some of those first ten episodes.
To cut them out completely on that is unfair. You may want to do an actual study of how is my back catalog earning or a listenership based on that. As that changes over time, you maybe make a monthly or quarterly adjustment to that and offer them a declining value of percentage. You might come out and offer them 20% for the first quarter and then 15%, 10% as time goes on, and your catalog becomes bigger over time as well.
That’s something to consider if you want to do the right thing or the fair thing. Also if they buck at it and you need to come up with a method, understanding where your numbers lie, what’s happening on your stat side of things, and how much of that is coming from the back catalog is extremely important in assessing its overall value.
This episode could be a slippery slope to a lot of other episode topics that are related, spin-off or tangent to this one. As we are wrapping this episode up, I can hear a lot of people who haven’t launched a show with a co-host saying, “I’m going to reconsider that co-host thing. I don’t know if I want to do that.” Maybe others who are already out there with their podcast and have one or more co-hosts thing, I don’t know if I’m prepared for what’s going to happen down the road. I hope it does not happen. It can all be worked out for sure. It’s a matter of understanding what the real issues are. A lot of podcasters get into this and they don’t know what they don’t know.
If there’s anything that I hope we made you aware of is that participation and valuing participation is what it’s all about here. That’s value creation in it. You don’t create a podcast if you don’t show up. If your co-host is not doing the work, you need to get rid of them. It’s putting a burden on you. It’s also burdening your future potential of the opportunity. You are going to start seeing this as less valuable and you are going to quit.
It is going to be like an anchor holding you back.
Sometimes this co-host shift may be a painful six-month period but when it’s done, you are free to change things in your show that you did not even consider before. You are free to seek sponsorships that you were not even eager to do before because it felt they were going to object and it was going to be too much work. It might be the most freeing absolute biggest opportunity for your show than you can imagine. Think and look at it that way. It could be the best thing that ever happens to you.
Let’s end on that high note or high wish for all of you who maybe co-hosts or considering being one out there. I hope this provided you with some value. We will be back next time with another great episode.