Seemingly overnight, podcasts are exploding — as are blog posts that claim, “Podcasts are exploding.” Last week, NextView announced the launch of our new show, Traction, exploring the creative and unusual ways entrepreneurs make initial progress. Today, we wanted to share some of the top VC podcasts as a nod to our peers.
First, we thought it’d be useful to share a quick lesson we’ve learned on creating podcasts in the event you plan to launch your own: traits of winning shows.
When you’re creating a concept for a podcast, you’re able to separate from the pack and build an audience by relying on one of three approaches:
- A-list names. This could be the host of your show or your guests (or both), but regardless, the obvious tactic is to build an audience on the shoulders of giants. If you interview a known, respected individual, for instance, you (a) more closely associate your company with their sterling reputation, (b) more easily attract listeners eager to hear what this person has to say, given their ostensibly broad appeal, and (c) tap into that guest’s personal audience, in the event they share your interview with their followers. Jason Calacanis’s This Week in Startups is a great example here.
- Production value. This requires a bit more post-production and editing work, but by telling compelling stories and carefully crafting your audio, you can separate from the noise. In the tactic above (A-list names), you might not edit a show much and simply rely on the power of a name to reach lots of people. A well-produced show, on the other hand, is about creating truly ravenous fans. (Ironically, this is the phrase we at NextView often use when considering the potential of a given startup, as well as our own work to improve our firm and our work with entrepreneurs.) Alex Blumberg, an ex-NPR producer (Planet Money, This American Life) and current CEO of the podcasting startup Gimlet Media provides a great example of production value with his show StartUp.
- Owning a niche. It’s much easier to stand out and build an audience if you own a topic outright. Early adopters often have the advantage here. For instance, now that Dave Gerhardt has created Tech in Boston, another podcast couldn’t simply launch and claim to cover tech in Boston on a general level. They’d need some kind of angle or unique spin — i.e., a niche that audiences could easily identify, care about, subscribe to, etc.
Usually, a show succeeds by using some combination of the above three approaches, rather than relying on just one. Our show Traction, for instance, strives to combine all three — top guests, significant post-production efforts, and a focused topic (scrapping your way to your first few results) rather than a general one (startups, VCs, and tech, which is well-covered already). Some shows don’t take a focused angle but instead build their audience by only interviewing guests in the top 0.1% of their fields. Others craft truly jaw-dropping stories without targeting top guests. There are multiple paths to success, and what matters most is being authentic. In a medium that’s about intimacy and transparency, a listener’s BS detector is higher than other forms of content marketing and media.
Without further ado, here are some of the more popular investor-created podcasts (plus a few more we admire). The creators of these shows are masters of one or more of the three things above.(Click to enlarge.)