Say hello to Ethan Smith. He’s 25 years old and has an incredible passion for podcasting. Ethan hosts a podcast called “Life, Experienced,” which focuses on interviewing interesting people. He says, while hiking with his wife one day, they were discussing their interesting experiences in life. And just like that the idea for a podcast was born. Here’s Ethan’s podcasting story…
PBJ: How long have you been podcasting and when did you start?
Ethan Smith: I began podcasting in April of this year (2018) when I became involved in a blogging community on Steemit.com called “The STEEM Engine.” Basically, members of the group would submit their various blogs and articles from the week, and I would pick five of them to podcast about. In each week’s “STEEM Engine Express” podcast, I’d share a brief summary of each article and encourage other users to go check out the full posts by providing links in the places I would share the podcast. In fact, those podcasts are still available on most podcasting outlets because I did submit it to Apple Podcasts. They are also available on my website. In addition to being able to spread the word about the great content I was reading and curating each week, I also really enjoyed producing the opening segment of this podcast, which features train-themed audio soundbytes that I grabbed from internetarchive.org. It was a lot of fun to make, and I actually detailed that process in a blog post.
After producing 27 episodes of The STEEM Engine Express, I decided to take a break from the format because I became busy with some other projects. However, I returned to the idea of podcasting in August of 2018 because it’s just a lot of fun.
PBJ: Why are you podcasting?
Ethan Smith: I podcast for two main reasons. The first is that I sincerely enjoy being creative with my voice. In high school, I had the privilege of being the PA announcer for several home basketball and baseball games, and I was able to return to do some football PA announcing as well during my sophomore year of college. However, pursuing a career in broadcasting or something similar is not something I have seriously considered, so it’s always been a side hobby that is a lot of fun. I’m presently a graduate student pursuing my PhD in Chemical Engineering, so podcasting about something unrelated to my work is a great way to express my creativity.
PBJ: What is your podcast about and how did you pick this topic?
Ethan Smith: My podcast is called Life, Experienced. When I was considering starting a new podcast again back in August, I was trying to come up with a unique idea that would also be relatively easy to get started. My wife and I had recently gone on a hike with another couple, during which we were talking about interesting experiences we’ve had in our lives. Then I realized that almost everyone has some sort of story from their experiences that others might find interesting. So I called up this friend and asked him to be my first interviewee, and a concept was born. Since then, I’ve discovered that almost everyone around me has something to share, and it’s been delightful to learn more about people I know as well as get to know folks that perhaps I don’t know that well.
This brings me back to my second main motivation. Preserving knowledge of human experiences. I think about all of the stories I’ve been told by my parents and grandparents over the years, and how it’s up to me to continue telling those stories so that they can be passed down. Oral storytelling is something that I believe is taken for granted in the information age, so the goal of my podcast is also to help preserve knowledge and pass along these stories.
PBJ: Do you have a website and or an app to host your podcast?
Ethan Smith: When I was producing The STEEM Engine Express, I chose the traditional route of publishing each episode on my WordPress blog and indexing into an RSS feed, which I then submitted to the major podcast outlets. When I launched Life, Experienced, a friend had recommended the service Anchor. I checked it out, and immediately discovered that it was a brilliant way to publish and host my podcasts. My podcast’s RSS feed is hosted through Anchor now, and I upload my episodes and host them via their service. They push your RSS feed to the major podcast outlets, and you can also update links to other services, so by going to the podcast’s page on Anchor, a listener has the option to listen via Anchor or immediately click a link to subscribe to the podcast via their favorite service. It’s been great so far. They also provide analytics about podcast downloads, which can be very useful.
In addition to hosting the podcast on Anchor, I publish it in a couple of other places, which allows me to market it to audiences who may not be familiar with traditional podcast services. These include Facebook, YouTube, DSound, and Choon.
PBJ: How are you marketing your podcast?
Ethan Smith: The main marketing for my podcast has been word-of-mouth. Any chance I have to tell someone about the project, I do. This lead to me designing a business card template for the podcast. I got 500 of them printed on VistaPrint, so now it’s really easy for me to hand one to someone so they have an easier time finding the podcast. I’ll attach a picture of the business card design to the email.
Secondly, I use my personal Twitter, Facebook, and occasionally Instagram to share information and updates about my podcast. I have a relatively large network on these websites, and while I know their algorithms don’t show my posts to everyone, it does help reach folks.
I also created Twitter and Facebook pages specifically for my podcast in an effort to show up on more people’s feeds. On the Facebook page, I post each episode as a video, which makes the episodes much more accessible to users who may not be familiar with podcasts. Since I can schedule releases of videos, I can synchronize the release of each video with the release of each episode on Anchor.
I also publish each of the videos on my YouTube channel. I have a few subscribers there that I believe will be able to listen via that outlet. Sharing YouTube links is also very convenient, and I have all of the videos grouped into a playlist.
Additionally, I share my podcasts on two different blockchain-based services. The first is DSound, which is an app on the STEEM blockchain and publishes on the Steemit blogging platform I described earlier. The other service is Choon, which is a relatively new service that rewards content creators with digital tokens each time their music tracks or podcasts are played. I get a few more listens from each of these outlets. I’ll talk more about these in the moneymaking question.
I sponsored a giveaway on a small curation-based radio show that airs on Thursdays and is also hosted on a STEEM-based platform. So the total audience of 50-75 people heard about my podcast.
PBJ: How many downloads/listens are you getting?
Ethan Smith: The Anchor analytics are my best indication of how many downloads and listens I am getting. At the time I’m answering these questions, I have just over 420 total listens after 9 episodes, which is around 47 listens per episode via traditional podcast outlets that Anchor tracks. This is after producing the podcast for just over two months. Additionally, I’ve gotten about 30 views on the videos on YouTube, about 17 full episode listens from the Facebook videos (view count is much higher, but it’s hard to tell how much of the episode people listen to), and I estimate another 10-15 listens per episode via DSound and Choon. Ultimately, I think I’m around 50 listens per episode.
PBJ: What are your biggest challenges?
Ethan Smith: First, finding interviewees is challenging. I’ve been trying to think of people I know who I’ve heard tell stories before. I can then approach them and ask if they’d be comfortable sitting down for an interview. I usually provide them with the link to my previous podcasts and follow up later. Scheduling the interviews can also be challenging. This requires some flexibility on my part, as well as a willingness to travel sometimes.
I’m also facing the challenge of the demographics of my interviewees. Right now, I’m trying to achieve a balance of genders and races. This can be difficult at times, but I, through some very valuable constructive criticism, understand the value of having under-represented people groups and women share their stories alongside the men that I know and have befriended in my area. I believe I’m better equipped to address this issue now that I’ve gotten the podcast off of the ground. When I was getting started, it was just easier to invite my friends over and have them chat with me, which is what I did. Now, I’m reaching out to folks across my town, from my church, and to the international students in my department at my university, so I think there’s a lot to look forward to.
PBJ: Are you making any money? If so, how?
Ethan Smith: My podcast is indeed in the black, largely due to the rewards system for sharing my podcasts on the STEEM blockchain via DSound, as I mentioned earlier. Across the STEEM blockchain, content creators may upload their work (art, blogs, photography, software, music, etc.) to a public profile and other users of the platform may vote on their content. Each vote carries a certain reward value in STEEM, a digital token (think Bitcoin), which does indeed have value in USD. Because of spending over a year building a presence on the STEEM blockchain, my content receives a decent amount of votes each time I share something, which then pays out in the digital token. I can convert this to USD, so therefore, I consider this to be direct revenue from sharing my podcasts. I will say that the reason I’m able to generate revenue in this way is because of a lot of hard work and time I spent building a network and interacting with users across the STEEM ecosystem. I would encourage any podcast creators to start sharing their work on DSound, but know that the money won’t come right away. Choon also pays out in “notes,” but I don’t know that they have any value in USD yet, so I don’t count those as part of my revenue. I’ve also received one “sponsorship,” which was mostly a fun idea to give another graduate student in my department a shout out for his birthday. I did receive payment, though, so it counts! (you can hear this at the beginning of Episode 8)
I think it would be great to bring in some side revenue from ads on my podcast. I don’t know if my listener base will ever be large enough to attract advertisers, but I do plan on reaching out to several local businesses in the future. I’d do it for super cheap right now, of course, so I’d even run ads for Radio Ink if you like! I don’t have a set plan, but for example, if I interview people who have small businesses, I will consider asking them to sponsor the episode for a small fee and I’ll mention their products and provide links in the episode description.
Anchor also has a way that people can donate to your podcast from its profile, but so far no one has done this.
I also set up a Patreon page for my podcast in hopes that someone might want to become a patron. I offer the unedited interviews as perks for supporting, and you could even get your name mentioned in each episode if you contribute at certain levels.
PBJ: Do you use ad insertion or allow network commercials on your podcast?
Ethan Smith: So far, I haven’t done this. I might consider it, but I’m not presently producing via a network or service that inserts ads. In fact, I probably wouldn’t consider it because I would want to control the types of products and services that are advertised on my podcast.
PBJ: What advice do you have for other podcasters considering launching one of their own?
Ethen Smith: Use a service to distribute your podcast. I use Anchor, but there are many other great ones out there. They take the headache out of hosting and maintaining your own RSS feed.
Ask your friends and loyal listeners to review your podcast on iTunes. I’m not sure how it helps, but having positive reviews on Apple Podcasts can help you get extra listeners and begin your ascent up the podcast charts.
Get feedback on your format and production before launching the first episode. That first episode is what many people will listen to in order to decide if your podcast is worth listening to. First impressions are key, so send an advance copy to your parents, your best friends, and maybe even your colleagues. Their feedback can help you make the best first impressions.
Read articles about podcast production. Small tips and tricks can help you make a splash, and they usually offer recommendations about the equipment you can get on a budget as well.
There are great websites that have resources available for podcast creators when it comes to music and images for cover art. I personally use Pixabay.com and FreeMusicArchive.org, which have photos and music respectively that are available for use via various Creative Commons licenses. Both of those websites have been valuable because you can be sure to use resources that are licensed for commercial use.
PBJ: What equipment are you using ?
Ethan Smith: Presently, I primarily record using a Shure Beta 87a condenser microphone (borrowed from a friend). For my interviewees, I use a Shure SM57. I record into a Tascam US-16×8 USB audio interface. I have this because I’m also in a band, and we’ve used this interface to record songs. For regular podcasting, it’s definitely overkill, but it does open the opportunity of having musical guests in the future.
I use Cubase software to record each microphone separately during the interview. I’m using an old version that I got for free when purchasing another USB interface a while back for the purposes of the band. It’s a stripped-down version, but it works very well for my purposes.
I edit and produce entirely in Audacity, which is one of the most amazing pieces of free software available for podcasters. It can help you trim, edit, adjust levels, and add effects to your podcasts, and it can export in a variety of formats like .wav and .mp3. You can also record into Audacity, but it doesn’t handle multiple tracks like other software can. I use it to record my narration.
Where you can find Ethan and his show
The show’s page on Anchor:
The show’s Facebook
The show on Twitter
The show on DSound
The show’s playlist on YouTube
The show’s playlist on Choon