How to Organically Grow Your Podcast with Jason Hunt

Show Notes

In this episode of Podcast Tactics, you will learn how a sci-fi podcaster organically grew his show into seven popular shows. Today’s guest is a seasoned podcaster who provides his insights into creating successful shows. Plus, he gives the definitive answer to the age old question, “Did Han Solo shoot first?”

In today’s show, I interview a very experienced podcaster who gives his practical advice for starting and growing a successful podcast. As a matter of fact, that podcast became so popular that they spun off six more shows from it!

You’ll also hear his surprising advice for new podcasters and his suggestions for handling the ever evolving podcasting landscape.

What did you get out of this episode? Leave a review at https://www.podchaser.com/PodcastTactics

Learn More & Connect with Jason Hunt & SciFi4Me

Episode recorded on February 24, 2021.

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Music by Valence – Infinite [NCS Release]
DOWNLOAD: http://ncs.io/infinite

Transcript

James: In this episode of Podcast Tactics, you will learn how to organically grow a sci-fi podcast from one show to seven popular shows. Today’s guest is a seasoned podcaster or who gives his insights into creating successful shows. Plus, he gives the definitive answer to the age old question, “Did Han Solo shoot first?”

Hello. I’m James. Welcome to another episode of Podcast Tactics. This is the show where you will learn how to podcast from other podcasters. In today’s show, I interview a very experienced podcaster who gives his practical advice for starting and growing a successful podcast. As a matter of fact, that podcast became so popular that they spun off six more shows from it.

You’ll also hear his surprising advice for new podcasters and his suggestions for handling the ever evolving podcasting landscape. Enjoy the show and remember to join the mailing list at PodcastTactics.com to get new episode notifications.

Now let’s get into it…

Joining me right now is veteran podcaster and YouTuber Jason Hunt from Kansas City, Missouri. Jason, thank you so much for coming on the show.

Jason: Well, thanks for having me good to be here.

James: So let’s dive right in, I mean, you know, elephant in the room, you know, you’re a veteran podcaster. You’re very well versed at this craft.

Where did it all start for you?

Jason: Well, um, my start actually begins back in 1988. I I’ve been in media for 32 years. Both of them started in radio and I’ve done television. I’ve done newspaper. I’ve done motion pictures. So I’ve, I’ve been in and around this space, uh, pretty much my entire professional career.

So it’s not anything new. The idea of podcasting came a little bit late, mainly because, uh, as old as I am, there are times where I have a tough time adopting new technology and new processes, but once I got it in my head, This is radio that people just download. Then it was almost like this light went off and I, I had my aha moment.

I was like, okay, well, this I could do. It’s just radio, but it’s, you know, somebody has a play button instead of just. Turning it on. So, so once I got past that, I it was, it was fairly easy to drop into it. I’ve been, of course, you know, now we’re added the video side of things, so it’s just the same kind of thing that I’ve been doing.

Pretty much all my life. Just in a, on a different channel.

James: You know, it’s funny, I’m cracking up a little bit inside just because you said you were new to this, uh, but you you’ve been going at this podcasting thing for, I think since 2009, if I’m not mistaken.

Jason: Well, the magazine, uh, sidebar for me as a magazine has been around since 2009, we started.

We started the YouTube channel in 2017 with a movie reviews and then got into podcasting. I want to say maybe three or four years ago with a couple of different shows and it’s evolved and we’ve bounced back and forth. And it’s, it’s a constant learning experience. So even, even having. Three or four shows, seven shows, 12 shows, whatever we’ve done.

And the number of years that we’ve been doing it, it’s still a constant learning process. Well, this didn’t work. Let’s try this. I mean, we’re still doing that, even though that we’ve, you know, we’ve been doing it for awhile and we took a break in 2018 for a little bit and came back pretty much, pretty much solid.

January, 2019 gangbusters and have been going pretty so pretty, pretty strong since then.

James: What brought that on in, in 2019?

Jason: Well, the 2019 was coming up on our 10th anniversary. So we were dark for a while. And, you know, the, the discussion basically became, you know, what, what are we going to do? Do we come back before the 10 years?

And that prompted a discussion , and a brainstorming session. And I ended up with about 30 pages of notes of what we could do if we came back. And so we have,  it grew from there .

James: So it sounds like there are quite a few people that you’re collaborating with on your shows. Can you talk a little bit about that?

Yeah, we have about, I want to say about eight volunteers at this point, a number of them participate in the various shows. I’m either a host or a co-host on four of them. And I produce all seven. We have a couple of people that are on multiple shows. It just depends on their area of interest and what kind of time they have.

But we have , We have a general news program on Saturday morning, we have a horror theme show on Saturday afternoon. We have two star Wars shows. We have a doctor who program, and we’ve got a general interest, interview talk show in the middle of the day. So it, it varies, uh, by topic, but we have a number of people that are in on all of them.

Man! I am overwhelmed by all of that, just the considering that you alone are producing all seven of those. I mean, I’m producing just this little startup show that hasn’t even launched yet and I’m overwhelmed already. So , I want to pick your brain , like what kind of advice would you give to somebody who is just starting out?

Jason: Don’t sweat the equipment. That would be the biggest thing, uh, to start with because everybody seems to think , what kind of gear do I need? Do I need to spend a whole lot of money? You don’t need a $600 microphone starting out. You don’t need a $30,000 camera.

I’m in a, a little bit of a unique situation because a number of pieces of equipment that I have. I already have, because I’ve been in media production, I make TV commercials, I make web videos. So I’ve got all the cameras and the microphones already, but you don’t have to go through a big expense to get started.

You can get a decent microphone for anywhere from, you know, 50, 50 or 60, $70 and a web, a webcam, you know, we’ve got web camera. I’ve still got non- HD cameras that we use in the studio here. So, you know, they upscale to 720 and that’s fine. And, and you know, the picture it looks okay.

And we’re do okay. So you don’t have to have to go through this huge expense. To set things up, you need a decent microphone, you need a pretty good camera that gives you at least a picture that you could be happy with. And then some, some kind of a software where you can put everything together. We use OBS as our primary broadcast software, and we use that also to record interviews and that sort of thing, because we can mix a number of different sources.

Graphics, music files, sound files, and that kind of thing. In addition, to being able to bring in people by Zoom or Google Meet or whatever video conferencing tool there is in the day. So that gives us a little bit of flexibility there, but as long as you’ve got those, those items, if you have, a good camera, a good microphone and decent software to record, then you should be all set. Don’t sweat, don’t sweat the gear.

James: Tell me about the growth of, starting off, I’m assuming with one show and then how did you end up blooming in the way that you did with multiple shows?

Jason: We started with a program called “The H2O Podcast”, Tim Harvey, and I,  met through the independent filmmakers coalition in Kansas City.

It’s an independent film production networking group. And, usually after the meetings, Tim and I would be off somewhere talking various different topics. You know, it was genre related mostly. And at one point we looked at each other too, and, you know, “We really should be recording these”. And so we sat down and our very first one was a Christmas special. Just kind of, you know, test the waters as kind of a proof of concept thing. And the “H2O Podcast” comes from the first initials of our two names, you know, hunt and Harvey and the O of course being opinions. So we thought we were being clever. And our first episode was talking about how Santa Claus is a Time Lord.

And from there, it’s just sort of grew. And we started, we did that one as a video, we dropped it on our YouTube channel and then that one started off. Uh, when we started doing it regularly, we were just recording the audio and it was a podcast. And then, I don’t know, maybe about. A 100, 120 episodes in, we started doing video and we started to lean into the YouTube channel as a TV channel. And from there we had. “SciFi for Chicks” for awhile, which was the, the all women genre discussion podcast. We had the “Echo Chamber”, which was a general round table discussion.

We had “Level Eleventy-Seven”, which was our Marvel Podcast we launched at the same time that “Agents of Shield” premiered on ABC. We decided to do that as a discussion of each episode. And then we had the “Rogues Gallery”, which was our DC Show talking about all of the different CW shows the DC movies. So it just sort of evolved from, you know, we were doing that one and as people started to join up and start volunteering, they had interest in various different things and we said, well, you know, everybody’s talking about these Marvel shows, why don’t we put together a podcast about it? And it was very organic in what kind of shows we decided we were going to do. We had one that was focused on “Grimm”, uh, which ran for a while and, and our podcast did quite well.

And then we have one that spun out of our shows it was called “Zombocalypse No‪w”, which does a lot of looking at “The Walking Dead” series. And horror stuff and that sort of thing. So we still host that one, even though it continued after we went dark. But you know, you look around the landscape and you see what people are talking about.

You see what opportunities there are in terms of ideas or topics, and then you figure out, okay, well, we can talk about this. How is our take on it going to be something that’s different enough that it attracts an audience? And that’s what you’ve got to figure out. And that’s a constantly, that’s a moving target all the time.

James: So it sounds like, it was a very organic process. It sounds like you had your ear to the ground really,  listening for that kind of opportunity. And then, I mean, at some point, you know, there’s a risk, where you come up with a concept and you’re going to say, let’s do the show, let’s structure it and put it out there and see how it goes.

Can you talk to us about . I don’t know if you even approach promotions and how you get new listeners, you know, when you were starting out really is what I’m curious about. Like, how did that happen for you? Did it just, well, I’ll shut up. No, you’re

Jason: no, you’re fine. We did, we did a lot with, uh, we do a lot with social media.

Um, we post to Facebook and Twitter, like everybody else does. We have an Instagram channel? We have some of the alternative social media is now we’ve reached out because mainly I’m looking at it as, you know, if one goes down. Yeah. Then we have all of these others and the audience is fracturing now because you’ve got people that are on me, we and mines and parlor and, and gab, and, and for whatever reason, they’re over there.

There’s a lot of dissatisfaction with Facebook and Twitter. And so we’re approaching this from the, don’t put all your eggs in one basket approach in terms of marketing. And we put the links out there. I don’t do a whole lot of engaging, especially with the trolls, but it’s a way to put, you know, the links to our articles, the links to our reviews.

We post that sometimes we’ll engage and do some, some back and forth talking with other people and, we’ll set up collaborations and, whenever I’m on somebody else’s show as a guest, do some interviews and we’ll plug those.  But we haven’t really done a whole lot in terms of paid promotion.

We’ve bought some ads on Facebook. We’ve done that experiment a few times. We’ve even bought a couple of digital billboards, uh, out in, we, we did one, we bought one in Atlanta during “Dragon Con”, but we don’t see a whole lot of return on the paid promotions. So alot of it’s just organic, a lot of it’s word of mouth.

We encourage people to sign up for our newsletter, we tell people, you know, find us on all of the social and share the links and that sort of thing. So our growth has been slow. It’s been organic. We haven’t paid for any followers.  I don’t think that’s a, a very ethical way to do it.

Do I wish our numbers were higher? Sure. But I’d rather get there honestly, than, than not.

James: Absolutely. It should be a reflection on the interest and the quality of the show that you’re putting out. Yeah.

Jason: And we get a lot of good feedback too. We get, we get people who are, uh, who appreciate our approach because we’re not the typical YouTube channel. My approach has always been to look at this as a TV channel that happens to be on YouTube . So when we’re looking at news content, it’s presented as objectively as we can and as accurate as we can get it, because we don’t have a whole lot of inside sources, or people that are giving us the scoop on anything.

But, uh, we present the news and say, here’s the news. The opinion shows stay delineated and separate from that. And I think it’s that approach that a lot of people who appreciate the fact that we’re not pushing some kind of an agenda, we’re not ideologues in terms of any particular political party or, cultural stuff or anything like that.

We’re straight down the middle, we’re above the fray. We’re not going to dive into the drama. You don’t have to agree with us for everything. We’re not going to call you names if you disagree, that sort of thing. We’re we like to say we’re the grownups in the room, and a lot of people seem to appreciate that.

James: That’s good. That is really good. I like that. Was having, people volunteer. I mean, it seems like that would be part of the growth of the shows that you put out there. How did that come about?

Jason: Well, it was, mostly, a product of my not having the time to get everything done that I wanted to get done.

When we started out, it was pretty much just me. And as we were having discussions with people about all of the different things that we could do, there were people that expressed interest. Well, you know, I’d like to write and how would, how would we do that? And how could we, how can I help and what can I do?

So we had people that from the early days, were interested in writing articles and doing reviews. And some of that is, you get to see things early, you know, it’s that early access to some of the screeners and you get books before they get published and that sort of thing. So there’s an appeal there, but then you also have people that really do enjoy doing this kind of thing where the, you know, they, they want to write, they feel like, you know, this is their thing.

And so it gives them an opportunity to do that. I wish I could pay everybody. And one of these days who knows, maybe we get a revenue stream such that I can actually do that. Uh, but you know, it’s the understand standing is you’re going to volunteer. You give me your time and talent. I’ll promote it as, as much as I can to anybody that’ll listen, and you stay as long as you think that it’s a good fit.

James: That seems to make sense. I like that approach because you’re giving them a platform. Really, you know, you have an audience. That has the ears and they’re interested.

Jason: And, you know, the joke is, we’ll pay you in exposure. And I, and I really don’t like having the circumstances be that way, but it’s been, you know, the fact that our audience is small enough, we haven’t attracted, a whole lot in terms of advertisers or sponsorships yet.

I’m hoping that changes. And as events and conventions open back up, I’m hoping that we get some opportunities there because I really want to lean back into the live broadcast from various different conventions.

James: When you think about the people that listen to your shows, what is it that you want them to get out of it?

Jason: Well, that’s a good question because I don’t, as much as we do, uh, in a mix of programs, I don’t think there’s any one particular thing. But I think ultimately the takeaway for the audience is that we know what we’re talking about. And we respect the people that are giving us their time. Those are the two biggest things, I guess for me is the fact that, you know, we, we don’t want to come across as just making it up and coming across as  we really don’t know what we’re talking about.

We do know what we’re talking about and anything that we’re not sure about. We do our homework, we do our research. And the audience I want them to understand. And I hope that they get this is that we appreciate them for being here for being part of our audience. We respect their intelligence. We respect their point of view.

They don’t have to, like I said before, we, they don’t have to agree with us all the time. And if they don’t agree with us and they share those thoughts with us, we take that into account. We read every comment that we get. We read all of the emails that we get, and there’s a certain back and forth. That we have with our audience that I think a lot of other channels and a lot of other websites don’t have a, we’re not condescending.

We’re not patronizing. We’re not going to sit there and pat you on the head and say, “Oh, that’s nice that you think that way, but you know, go run along now.” And so that I think is probably the most important takeaway is that our audience understands that we respect them.

James: When you look. Let’s say for you, a month, sorry, a month.

When you look a year or a couple, two, three years down the road, what do you, what do you see happening with SciFi4Me?

Jason: My goal, and this does change every now and again from month to month. My goal. Eventually, and I don’t want to put a timetable on it, but what I would like to see us do is at least one live broadcast from a Comicon every month to three months, whether it’s the, one of the bigger conventions like “Dragon Con” or “New York Comicon” or San Diego, or if it’s a smaller one, like “Smallville”, “Topcon” in Topeka, those kinds of events.

I want to be in that space,  because especially now, after the lockdown on the pandemic, there are going to be people that are not going to want to go back to conventions yet. And the virtual event has become a thing. And now convention organizers, I think, need to have in mind that virtual track.

And I think we can bring a little bit of that because we take, you know, we can take all of our computers and cameras and lights and microphones and go into the space. And we broadcast pretty much like you would find with a sporting event or a political convention or anything like that, where you have your anchors in the booth and you have your reporters out on the floor and we’re all there and we’re spread out and we’re live from the event the entire weekend.

James: It’s like a news crew!

Jason: Pretty much. And we did that at “Worldcon 74” when it was here in Kansas city, back in 2015, and it’s a five day event. And we’re broadcasting live throughout the entire five days. And I think we ended up doing 53 interviews with authors and, and comic book creators and editors.

But it took a couple of days for everybody to, to figure out what we were doing. They’d come over and they’d see the lights and the, to the cameras. Like, what are you guys doing? It’s like, we’re broadcasting, but you’re doing what? We’re streaming. We’re live streaming on our YouTube channel. You guys are live right now?

Yes, we’re on the air right now.

James: What year was this again?

Jason: This was in 2015. The Worldcon people generally tend to be skews older. So they’re not as, I don’t want to say this as a monolith. They’re not as tech savvy and they’re still in that literary convention mindset, but when the light went off, and you could see this little “ping!” right above their head when they figured out what we were doing, I think we’re about two days in. They was like, can we do an interview? That’s why we’re here, come on down. And we ended up having to schedule, schedule people and make lists and all of that. And it was a really good experience. And then we did it again at “Planet Comicon” the next year, 2016. And I would love to be doing that all the time, where we have , six to 10 of our people and go out and do that, report on what happened at panels and do some cosplay features. And we interview authors and artists and comic book writers and that sort of thing.

So that’s where I’m hoping to go. That’s where I’m hoping for us to have that as our normal set up, but we also have the policy of abort or pivot. This is something that we started adopting when we came back. It’s a constant process of evaluation of what we’re doing, both from the standpoint of the articles that we’re posting on the, on the.com and all of the different shows that we’re producing, where we’ll take a look at the performance of of said, item.

Oh, wait. So, okay. Is this doing as well as we want it to do? If it’s not, then you have the decision. Do we abort? Do we just completely stop doing this or do we pivot? Do we make an adjustment? Do we change something? Do we try something new and then see what happens? So it’s a constant process of adjustment based on the various different statistics and analytics and stuff that we get back.

One of the reasons why “Live from the Bunker”, for example, is at one o’clock Eastern is because the YouTube data shows us that a lot of our audience is on YouTube and looking at our channel about that time. I was like, well, okay, let’s give them something to watch.

James: Nice.

Jason: So it’s stuff like that, where we’re constantly looking at the performance numbers we’re looking at, what kind of responses we’re getting from the audience in terms of comments and interactions in the chat, and based on all of that, we’ll make adjustments and, tweak every now and again, here and there and, try to make things better. It’s a constant process. We’re never done

James: So with “H2O Podcast” and “Live from the Bunker”, those were both essentially live streams it seemed like.

And I was curious about…

Jason: Yes, most of those are live now. Okay. Okay. No, I was just gonna say, yeah. Cause most of them, most of them are live mainly because we want that interaction with the audience in the chat.

James: I was impressed by that as well that you’re doing that on the fly and it comes across as smooth as it does.

Jason: It does flow out of my training, my experience in media production. The other part of it is, depending on who’s involved in the shows. It can go a little bit smoother than other times, depending on if you have somebody that has any kind of theater or performance experience, that generally goes a little bit better.

If you’ve got somebody who’s used to doing presentations for work, for example, anytime that you’re doing something for an audience, that kind of experience helps with that kind of thing with participating in the shows, but it’s not a necessary component. And, you know, I do. Every now and again, I do a little bit of handholding and mentoring and say, okay, this is what you need to remember and think about this.

And,  because we’ve had a couple of times where people have participated on our shows and they ended up sitting and listening to our guests and they forget that they’re one of the hosts, like you have to talk too.

“Yes, I know, but I was just listening to them.”

“Yes. You have to speak, you have to, you’re here in the show. it’s your show. Let’s do this.”

So every now and again, that comes up, that that comes out and we have those conversations, but it’s, it’s it’s infrequent enough. I don’t. I generally worry about it. A lot of this comes from the comfort level, because again, we know what we’re talking about. These are things that we find interesting.

And so we have a general, at least a general knowledge. Some of us have knowledge that’s a little bit more specific in some areas like Marvel or DC or horror or anything. Anything like that. So between all of us and the various different things that we’ve just zeroed in on, it’s easy to have those discussions, and it just so happens that we’ve got a microphone and a camera in front of us.

James: So, Jason, before we wrap things up here, I do have one last question for you. I fear it’s going to be controversial, but, because I have your ear, I’m going to ask it anyway.

Did Han shoot first?

Jason: Absolutely.

James: There you go.

All right! Jason, you’ve got a ton of projects in play. Where is the best place for somebody to go to learn more about you and learn more about what you’ve got going on?

Jason: The magazine site is SciFi4Me.com. The video channel, you can type in SciFi4Me.tv that takes you directly to the YouTube.

And we’re on like all of the social platforms. We’re not on Tik-Tok. We’re not on Snapchat, but most of the expected social media channels: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, MeWe, Pinterest is all cosplay. That’s a rather specialized channel, but we’re there. Minds, Gab, Parler, all of those just to spread out and reach the broadest possible audience that we can reach.

So any of those is where you can find us. I think the “.tv” is probably the most active because we have, you know, like seven shows in production. So that’s where most of our efforts are concentrated, but you can also find us at SciFi4Me.com.

James: You’ve got seven great shows so far covering the sci-fi genre on SciFi4Me. Jason, thanks again. Best of luck to you!

Jason: All right. Thanks a lot.

James: Thanks again to Jason Hunt. Please do check the show notes for links to all of the SciFi4Me websites and to connect with SciFi4Me on social media.

What did you get out of this episode? Let me know, by leaving a review on Podchaser.com. Check the show notes for this and feel free to make suggestions for what I can do to make this show even better for you.

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