Doing guest interviews is recommended for your first 50 podcast episodes to grow your following and audience reach. But after getting past the 50-episode mark, it is advisable to focus more on solocasts and topic-driven podcast episodes. Tom Hazzard and Tracy Hazzard explain how this discussion format lets you share more about yourself and create a deeper connection with your listeners. They present tips on generating topics and aligning your conversations with the needs of your audience. Tom and Tracy also talk about the ineffectiveness of formulaic interviews and extremely short podcasts with little to no value.
Watch the episode here
Listen to the podcast here
The Advantages And Disadvantages Of Solo And Topic-Driven Podcast Episodes
We are going to talk about the advantages and disadvantages of solo and topic-driven podcast episodes. This is a good subject to cover. The vast majority of our audience will be interested in this or they certainly should be.
I do want to address that the point at which you are in your podcast also makes a difference here. We are going to segregate the two pieces within your first 50 episodes and 50 or more, anything higher than that. In your first year of podcasting, and I’m going to assume you are at least doing weekly or you are doing 50 episodes in two months, that is awesome and great for you. That’s okay, too. It still applies. That’s why I have put the number at 50 episodes. It doesn’t matter if you speed it up and do it more compressed, it’s still 50 episodes and it’s still a tipping point for things because of how many episodes you have had, how many people have promoted, and what you have done.
There’s an advantage to having guests in your first 50 episodes that may have diminishing returns later, but it is significantly powerful in the growth of your show at the starting point. I do want to make that differentiation here. If you are in that starting place, consider maybe a little more weight on the guest episode side. If you are past that starting point, we are going to look at stats. We are going to talk about some other things, but it is time for you to test out topic episodes.
I want to emphasize the advantage and one of the good reasons why you are suggesting in those first 50, you might want to have guests. It is selfishly for you, the podcaster. It’s more so than it is for your listeners.
It’s exposure to listeners. At the end of the day, if your voice is being heard and your message is being received, then the listeners are benefiting. They are more likely to get access to you through somebody else recommending you, through somebody else being a part of that, or through somebody else sharing your show. The more likely you are to get somebody to share your show in a larger quantity is to have somebody who’s guesting on your show that is willing to promote it. That’s where the advantage lies.
If you are trying to grow an audience from nothing, which is where all of us start. When we start a brand-new show, we start at nothing. One of the big advantages of having guests on your show is the power of Other People’s Audiences. That’s what we call it when we talk about it. It’s OPA. Other People’s Money, you may have heard that before in investing. For Other People’s Audiences, their audiences are valuable. The key is to make that a match for you because going for somebody with a big audience doesn’t always pay off if it’s not in your niche or if it’s not the right type of audience.
If you have got high-end consulting advice and you need CEOs of corporations and other things like that, and you have got some entrepreneurial startup audience because of the guests you have, that might not be a great match for you. It’s thinking about those early days, “If I have guests on my show, the best advantage for me is that audience growth. The right fit matters most.”
The hosts might you have on as a guest, so you probably want to think about who’s their audience. You are like, “Is my message a fit for their audience?”
That’s why we say that’s powerful. There are certain cases where that’s not the purpose of your show. The purpose of our show here is to provide value, first and foremost, to our existing client base. On the outside of that, if we track new through that process because we are adding value or providing some information that’s useful to them, and then they decide to come and do business with us, that’s great.
Aligning ourselves with outside people who don’t have the same direction, who might give confusing messages, or who are trying to sell them something else is not in our best interest. We do not take guests here on the show. There’s a whole other show for that. It’s called The Binge Factor. I take guests over there. We separated it and we only have episodes here.
We didn’t have to worry about growing an audience base because we had all of you clients out there who are coming into our calls, who are live streaming with us, who are on Zoom, and who are enjoying the conversation and the Q&A sessions that come after it. That was our first and foremost. The decision, because of its purpose, was to do solo episodes. In our case, it is co-host episodes.
It’s still a non-guest episode and a topic-based show. We come up with a topic we want to share and discuss, but you are right. It is, first and foremost, supporting our existing community. They get it first. Our existing customers get it first and get it live. They are able to ask questions after whereas the rest of the world has its weeks or a month later when it comes out as an episode. That serves them, too. That’s great, but it’s topic-based.
I know you are thinking we are going to get to this in a minute. You have to be comfortable getting on a microphone and speaking as if you are even at an event speaking from the stage. It’s a rhetorical situation where you have some important message in mind. If you want to share some wisdom, some nugget, a story, or whatever it is, you have to be comfortable speaking. Occasionally, we are not always able to do this together. We keep up the pace of showing up for our community, and either one or the other of us will do this alone. It’s always more fun for us doing it together.
There’s a situation when we first started our very first show in 3D printing, WTFFF?!, which stands for Fuse Filament Fabrication. It is a geeky term for 3D printing. We did it five days a week. We had 1 guest and 4 topics. We rotated the topics. We had Business Mondays and Tech Tuesdays. I didn’t always do the tech ones. Tom did them alone sometimes. We’d have Educator Wednesdays. It was focused on teaching 3D printing or anything that an educator might be interested in from a topic.
On Thursdays, we had our guests. On Fridays, we would go over a fun project we were going to try over the weekend or we recommended trying over the weekend. We had this rotating format of topics. It worked out great for us because it got us to test what topics we were playing, where we could go with them, and what resonated the most with everyone.
Between having that, we had the best of both worlds. We had guests helping to promote it and grow our audience. We had topics that were what the audience was there for. They were there for what we had to share with them, but the guest was helping us promote it. It became interesting. New tools, new technology, and new businesses that people didn’t know about, we were able to expose that. We didn’t do it in an affiliate model. We did it in a straight, “We are curious. Is this worth something? Is this worth exploring?” We would be exploring along with the audience. They loved it. That format, for us, worked great. We did it that way for almost a year. Within that year, we reached 100,000 listeners a month. We could not have done it if we had not done that mix of both.
The topics got listened to more, but the guest episodes got us new listeners who then would binge on all the other shows. That’s what worked for us. This is why I say there are advantages and disadvantages to it. It could have been bad. We could have been associated with products and companies we didn’t want to be associated with, and that could have harmed our brand. In our particular case, our brand was about seeking new ideas and new information. It worked out great for us. You have got to make that choice for yourself and the ultimate purpose of your show and then say, “Is there a way for me to do this in a way that feels genuine to me and is worthwhile?”
I point out this podcast many times, it is the Charisma Quotient. It is one of my favorite podcasts by Kimmy Seltzer. She’s an amazing podcaster. She does a great show. One of the things that are powerful for her is to be associated with other coaches. There’s an authority raise that happens. Once a week, she does a debate. That’s what I’m going to call it. They pick a topic and the two coaches talk about it from their perspectives.
She’s kept tight control over it. That other coach, even though they might be a competing-style coach or they are selling them something else. They are selling their coaching services and she’s selling coaching services that they could be competing. They are at least competing for dollars if not for the particular type of coaching, but they are not because they are sitting there debating a topic. They are talking about something that’s of value and something that’s of interest to her community. She keeps tight control over that.
The way she builds that episode is brilliant. Go and listen to that. When she’s got a guest on, listen to those types of episodes. That might be the way you go and approach it where you are getting your authority side by side with someone you need to be in the marketplace with. It’s okay if you are not presenting yourself in a full endorsement agreement because you set it up in a way that doesn’t require that.
That’s a fantastic example. I know that show, and that’s a good one. People should check it out. One of the things that I find people often say to me, especially new podcasters when they are thinking about their topics, is, “How am I ever going to come up with something to talk about every week?” They feel that that’s a daunting task.
First off, I don’t think you need to think it through to the nth degree that you figure out an entire year’s worth of episodes. You can, but I don’t think you need to. You need to feel that it can be narrow but deep, and that’s okay. 3D printing is narrow, but deep in terms of all the different things we could talk about. We could talk about filament, metal, software, and hardware. We could talk about teaching it. There are so many things that we could talk about that we knew we could go for a while.
I never in my wildest dreams imagined we could talk about 3D printing for 650 episodes. I never thought that was going to happen, but it did because it built off of it. The more we did, the more people asked questions, and the more things came up for us. It feeds itself seriously. I don’t even know we are well over 200 episodes in this show. I have no idea where we are with this.
We took over our 200th.
We hit over 200 episodes. We don’t repeat. I don’t do that. We might repeat it but take a different tact on it or take a different view on it. We don’t repeat our stuff. It’s not redundant for us. It’s new and exciting for us when we talk about it. I guarantee you we have talked about topics before, but we never talked about comparing and making a decision between topics and guests.
We weren’t like, “We got to ask some guests because we need something new to talk about.” We haven’t done that. I would say this. There are things that we certainly feel strongly about that we believe in that I know we have repeated ourselves emphasizing those things or talking about those things. It’s within a different context usually or there’s a good reason why it comes up again, but it’s not repeating a specific topic. I agree.
We have a whole training that we do that we have done many times. We had a masterclass on it. We did a workshop for clients on topics. I update it about once a year or maybe twice a year. We sit there and brainstorm and try to work through our sticking points. We are brainstorming topic ideas, where they come from, and how they do it.
We have a process here. I dropped into the work chat that we have going on for everybody. I dropped in into the chat two topic ideas coming up in April 2023. We are that far out in our planning already for the topics that have come up. Sometimes, it happens on a call with a client. I’m like, “That’s a great idea,” and I immediately jot it down. By sending it to a team member, I put it out there so that we all have it.
Once a month, we meet and go through it. We make sure we have got our topics planned for a month ahead. The way our social media works and the way our planning for all of our client base works, we need to have it so that we can orchestrate a good title. We need to make sure you are interested in it and make sure everybody knows about it. Almost all of them come from an interaction with someone who asked us a good question. It comes from a question that gets posed because of something we read that’s going on in the marketplace. The patterns that we see of things that shift change all the time.
The biggest contributor to topics is the experience that I have audited existing podcasts. For people who are already podcasting, we offer a free audit of their show. People don’t always know, “Am I doing this right? Am I getting everything I should out of the show? How do I compare to my competition in my niche?” People don’t often know. We audit shows, and I see some of the biggest mistakes people are making, especially rookie errors for new podcasts and things like that. Those have provided some good topics and reminders for people or for us to talk about to our community.
Since I live in a point of curiosity all the time, when I’m doing my Binge Factor episodes and doing my interviews always there, I’m asking questions of, “What was the biggest challenge for you? What do other podcasters ask you about?” I’m also probing that at all times to get to great topic ideas. I got one when I was interviewing a podcast manager who manages more of a Meetup group. It was more of a community.
She said that still, the number one question she hears from people who haven’t started podcasting is, “How do I get my show up and published as a podcast?” I was like, “Syndication is second nature to us.” My backup to that is, “Why should you know how to do it?” We have done a junk job as a hosting company. If that is still the industry as a whole with all those hosting companies and we have made it sound complicated, then we have done a bad job. That says we need an education piece on this. We need an episode on this. We need to talk about this so that this isn’t something that’s holding you back from getting your show launched.
Sometimes, because at Podetize, we do it for you, you don’t have to think about it. We think, “What does it matter? You have to do it.” It’s important people know, “If you want to do it yourself, by all means.” There are probably better things for you to do with your time like recording another podcast episode and not worrying about the nitty-gritty technical details of how to make sure it’s on every app.
My point to this is that if you are generating topics completely from your perspective and a completely closed model, then you are not asking the right people. The people who need you next and people who don’t understand that they even need you yet are the people you need to be asking the questions. When you do that, your topics are going to flow open for you when you realize stuff that is second nature to you are the things that people want to hear.
That’s going to open up all these topics you didn’t imagine. Another one of our favorite places to go for topics is to answer the public. I love answering the public. It presents it in such a visual way, number one, but it’s how to do this, why I should do that, and when to do this. It makes you think about the topic in a much more simplistic way.
It is from a lot of different perspectives, too. It can be overwhelming how much information you get. If you look at the way it’s presented from some of the different perspectives, it helps you think about these things in a different way.You have to be comfortable speaking on your podcast as if you're at an event. If you want to share wisdom or a story, you have to be at ease on a microphone. Click To Tweet
It’s from what I would say is a much more simplistic perspective. By simplifying it down for yourself and breaking it into the basics, it starts to force your thinking into a different model. The biggest and most important part of all of this is thinking about the advantages and disadvantages of creating topics and our guests, we are making sure that they are aligned with what the audience needs to hear and what they want to hear.
A lot of times, you mistake two things. They think they want this. They are wrong, and they need that. How do we bridge that gap? It doesn’t come from telling them they need this. It comes from giving them what they want and then helping them see why the other option is a better path. In the example that I gave before if they want to know how to get their show published, instead of me sitting back and going, “You don’t need that,” let me teach them why they don’t need that.
That always helps people to understand.
I give them what they want, and then show them why they don’t need it. That’s a way to approach it. It’s to be thinking about those things. Let’s talk about what happens after you hit a certain point or after that 50-episode mark or 100-episode mark, whatever it is for you. You may feel like you need more than 50 pieces of content at that start or you want a bigger audience. You want to double the size of it. Maybe you want to go to 100 episodes or whatever that is.
At that point, you want to start looking at your statistics, not from a discouraging way that you are like, “I’m not getting the downloads I want. I don’t want you looking at it.” It’s not the scale. We talk about that. You are not getting on the scale every day. We want you to look at it from a trending pattern. Are specific types of topics coming up? If you haven’t done any topic episodes, start adding them in once a month and see what happens to your numbers. Do those get double the amount of listens than the guest ones? What’s going on with that? That could give you some indicators that your audience is ready for topics if all you have been doing is guest or you could also go the other way.
If all you have been doing is topics, bring in a guest now and then see what’s going to happen and start to mix it up in that second set of 50 or 100. Start to mix that up and start seeing, “Is a patterning going on?” When you get to another 50 or another batch of them where you feel like it is statistically significant, it’s hard to tell if you only do this for one month and make changes. The change has a boost of its own. You need to see if it settles in and keeps going.
If you did three guests and one topic, and every single one has a higher percentage of listens and/or play-through, then we want to start saying, “I’m onto something. Let’s see if I do this more. Let me do two a month. Let me split it and see what happens.” What you want to make sure what’s not happening is your listener growth curve. I’m going to say it’s a slight angle as it’s going up and you should see small amounts of the percentage of growth every single month in your listener base. If you are not seeing that and all of a sudden, it flattens, then you have to have a mix of guests in.
If that’s the case, we recommend 4 episodes of topics and 4 episodes of guests. You are doubling your episodes for the month, which seems like a lot of work. The topic ones could be under ten minutes. They don’t have to be super long. You can balance it out and make it pretty easy on yourself. If you do that, you are keeping the best of, “I need the growth still. I have got these topics that are resonating that are keeping people coming. They are probably leading to clients.”
The topic ones, I find pretty easy to record. Sitting down for a couple of hours and bang out 4, 5, or 6 of them is pretty easy. It’s the guest episodes that take more planning and do take more time.
You can also do what we do, which is livestream them. If you want to, every Monday, get on, livestream for ten minutes, and give your topic, you also have to put it into your standard process for the week. You have put it into an expectation. You show up and get it done. It’s all a part of the process. You are livestreaming it, so you are exposing yourself to the LinkedIn community or wherever you are live streaming. We are live on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and YouTube. We are in all those places at once. That helps us with our marketing for the week. It creates these great topics and provides value to our client base. We managed to cover everything we need to do and still make sure we were getting our topics in.
I have got a question for you. You listen to a huge amount of podcasts. What do you prefer listening to? Is it solocasts or guest interview episodes? Do you have a preference?
I’m curious because I haven’t asked you this before. I have a preference, too. I’m interested in hearing what yours is. This is not a plan. We haven’t talked about this ahead of time. I want your candid answer.
This is the thing. I don’t want to offend anyone who’s out there. I’m proud of you all for going out there and becoming podcasters. It’s a hard job. I don’t like interviews as much as I like topics for two reasons. One is most people are not good interviewers. Since they are not great interviewers, the guest runs all over them. They give sound bites or the same answers you hear from everybody everywhere else. Anyone who’s a professional guest, you can tell. They are giving the same stuff everywhere. I get bored with that personally.Solocasts are an effective way to communicate a certain topic or story based on some reality to a chosen audience. Click To Tweet
If it’s a great interviewer, I have a few that I love. I would listen to them anywhere. Veronica Dagher is one of my favorite interviewers. She’s got a woman in wealth podcast. It is a fantastic show. She’s also a Wall Street Journal journalist. She knows how to interview people. She interviewed some people who were the hardest guests. I would have faltered, and I’d done over 3,000 interviews. I would have faltered with some of the guests she had on. She pulls out a great story. That’s a skill. I can listen to it if it’s skilled because of that.
Too often, I hear a little bite of something you have got a perspective on and you have got an opinion on as you are setting up a question or as you are doing something but I want more. That’s the thing that when you start to do enough episodes and you hear people say, “I’d like a topic,” or, “I’d like to hear from you,” that’s why. You are giving them enough to intrigue them but not enough to get them to buy from you or get them to binge every episode.
They are still picking and choosing based on the guests they like or don’t like or the topics they think they like that the guest is going to cover, but they want you. Until you start bringing in some of those topic episodes, you don’t know. It’s the number one thing I hear of someone who reaches over 100 episodes. They are like, “I did topic episodes. All of a sudden, my listening spiked,” or, “I did topic episodes, and all of a sudden, I got more clients. What the heck?” They wanted you.
I tell new podcasters this a lot, especially if their intent is, “I want to interview people. I don’t want to speak alone on the microphone.” There’s a way that you can still have guest episodes, interview episodes, discussions, or whatever you want to call them. They are not all the same. Those things happen in different kinds of podcast episodes in different ways. There is not one way to do it.
I tell them, “Your listeners don’t want you to be a conduit to the guest. They want to know what you think, and you need to give that to them.” You can do that within an episode if you want to or within a guest episode. Having dedicated solocast episodes that would be shorter on narrow topics is another good way to do that. You are showing an example. We are talking about an example of where you can get a boost from that that can be very helpful. That’s very true.
The podcast that I have listened to the most don’t have guests. That is true. Similar to you, there are people that do a good job of interviewing others. I’m a fan in terms of podcasting in general. Having a guest interview strategy for your podcast is incredibly valuable. Oftentimes, it is more to you, the podcaster, than to the guest, especially if you are not as skilled of an interviewer.
I like solocasts, especially somebody who is comfortable speaking on a topic and sharing their wisdom. It’s especially if they do it in a way where they are telling a story. An example is a case study or something based on some reality as a means to then communicate the topic that they are trying to share. One of my favorite podcasts that I used to listen to all the time, would binge, and when we’d drive to Las Vegas, I’d load up my phone with episodes and listen back to back, no longer exists. Unfortunately, the host was taken down by the SEC and his company went out of business. That’s unfortunate, but he was a good speaker and a storyteller.
He told great stories. You could understand how that concept applied to it. This is why we grow to love our podcast host. Aaron Young and I became best friends considering my big brother.
We are very tight with Aaron over how many years we have known him. It may be eight years or something. He is wonderful.
I listened to his podcast first, it was these folksy stories that I had no concept about. I didn’t grow up on a farm or anything like that. He would tell these stories about baby goats and other things. It was the way he told a story and the lesson that you got out of that that fascinated me. I wanted to be his friend. I happened to be listening at an event to this MC who told another baby goat story. I was like, “How many people there are?” This is how old it was. I went on my iPod to look at the show that had been downloaded to my iPod where I listened to my podcast. I was like, “Aaron Scott Young.” It was called The Lookout back then. It’s called The Unshackled Owner.
It’s a different podcast.
I walked up to him like a fan girl and said, “I have been listening to your podcast. I love this story. It wasn’t until you told me that I made the connection that you are the same host that I binged on my whole drive to this event,” and then we became friends.
It was the beginning of a journey in business and then in friendship. It’s a wonderful thing. Talk about the power of a podcast. That’s a good little story right there. I hear stories like that from others, especially when they get out into the world. They go to events and they know you and have heard you on a podcast.If you’re not feeling your current podcast format, you can pivot. Change it up to keep it interesting for you or to respond to the analytics you are tracking. Click To Tweet
I have been to events where they take pictures. They were like, “Can I take a picture? I need to send it to a friend to say that I met you.” I was like, “That’s weird.” It does happen because your advice had a ripple effect on them. If you are not giving them those topics, you are not giving them your perspectives, or you are not sharing those things in that process, you are also not serving your audience in a way that they need. They want both.
I listen to podcasts of both types, interview or guest episodes and solocasts. I tend to like the solocast better, especially when it’s a good speaker and they tell a good story. There are people that tell great stories and interviews. I want to share the ones that I dislike the most, and you alluded to maybe one of these things. I’m not going to call anyone out because that’s not who I am. I don’t want to trash anybody on the show and try to hurt anybody. It is a podcast that is very formulaic, and I have been a guest on some where they ask the same questions to every single guest, especially the ones that are shorter like 7 or 10 minutes and it’s just the same.
It’s a funnel machine and everybody knows it.
I don’t think it provides enough value. It leaves listeners wanting more. You are communicating as a host if you do that kind of show that you don’t care enough to spend some time, have a meaningful deep conversation, and provide more value. You are leaning on your guest to provide all the value. In that case, as a host, you are what I said earlier in this episode. You are nothing more than a conduit to the guest. It’s random for that show. You are like, “Does this guest have something good to say?” It’s random whether you are getting value out of that show or not. That’s the kind I dislike the most. I won’t do them. I won’t be a guest on them anymore.
They are disrespectful to your audience if they are not done properly. I have seen short shows. I get it. I always say marketers have the attention span of a gnat. If you are going to do a show on marketing, don’t expect them to listen for a long time. It’s okay to make it short. Maybe you want to be respectful of the guests and break it into pieces if that’s what you want to do. You are not being respectful to your guest and getting to know them enough to be able to build a relationship with them. That’s the amazing part about having guest interviews. It is getting this beautiful network going.
If you do 7 minutes or 10 minutes, it’s not enough. You don’t get that. It’s a production machine for publicity, and they know it. No relationship gets built that way. It’s also coming through to the audience in that formulaic machine-type way. I guarantee you there’s probably not a lot of binge-listening going on in those shows. You are picking and choosing if you are listening at all.
You are probably surgically looking at the topic or the guest. You are like, “Which ones do I want to listen to? These other ones, I’m not interested in them.”
I am a fan of taking them apart and using them in social media like using short clips and doing all those things. Build a relationship and have a good, decent interview, even if some of it ends up on the cutting room floor in the social media-only pile.
Part of the fun of podcasting is having that conversation. It’s part of why I enjoy doing podcast audits. I get to meet so many different people, look at their podcasts, learn about them, and provide them some value for free. Whether they are going to work with us or not, I’m providing them with some value for free. Hopefully, that builds some credibility. Either they are a good fit to work with us or they are not, but they may send someone else. They are like, “You might want to talk to those folks.”
I can say I don’t like listening to them, but I love interviewing. That’s part of the effect of it. I love interviewing when the host doesn’t ask the question that I want to hear the answer to, I’m more critical of it. That’s my personal listening pleasure. It has nothing to do with highly-valued guest interviews. For all of you out there, this is a podcast builder for you. It may be a guest, a topic, or maybe both. It depends on where you are in your podcasting journey. Think them through. Think through what’s right for you, what’s right for your audience, and what’s right for the stage of your podcast at this moment in time.
That last part. I always want to put a little emphasis on, “At this moment in time.” Remember that because you can pivot. It may work for you for a time. Either if you are not feeling it, you need to change it up to keep it interesting and fun for you, or you are responding to those analytics you are tracking. Don’t stand on the scale every day, but month over month or quarter after quarter you are like, “I am flatlining a little bit,” you can pivot. We have each done that multiple times on our shows. Don’t be afraid to do that.
I have interviewed a few people who pivoted and then pivoted right back because it wasn’t working for them. They realized relatively quickly within a couple of months it wasn’t for them. It wasn’t even so much that it wasn’t working out, but it didn’t fit their style. They lost their excitement for their podcasts. You can always make a different choice. Your audience is going to come along with you. Don’t worry about that.
That’s a great place to wrap this one up. Thank you so much for tuning in, everybody. We will be back next time with hopefully another engaging topic for you.
Don’t hope. We are going to have it because we got this topic stuffed down.
You are right. I don’t know why I said hope because I don’t believe in hope in these situations. That’s always my mantra. Hope is not a strategy. We are more strategic in this.
We will have another great topic for you next time.
Until then, thanks so much for tuning in, everybody.