David Hooper is a podcaster — and now an author. He’s worked in radio and in the music business, and he’s taken the knowledge he’s accumulated from those years entertaining, sprinkled in about 100 interviews, and put it all into a 462-page book.
The goal of the book is to help podcasters build a bigger audience and become experts at how they market their show. Here’s our interview with David Hooper.
PBJ: Why did you write this book and what do you want readers to get out of it?
David Hooper: I got into radio in the ’90s because of my work in the music industry. In 2005, I started a syndicated broadcast show, which was also released as a podcast. However, I didn’t know about the “podcasting community” until around 2013. Being relatively isolated from other podcasters until that time and having mostly worked in the entertainment industry, my approach to marketing via audio was completely different from what others in the community were doing. I wrote the book for two reasons. One, because I thought I could add something to the conversation on podcast marketing and building an audience around a message. Two, because I believe important messages, like those being shared by podcasters, need to be heard, and I wanted to help that happen.
PBJ: How is the book selling so far and what kind of feedback are you getting from readers?
David Hooper: Response has been great overall. There’s a lot of buzz around it and people are excited to have a podcasting book that focuses solely on marketing a podcast and building an audience. The book is big though — 462 pages — so more than a few people have been intimidated by its size.
Something that’s been a surprise to me is how many people who know me from my work in the entertainment business are interested in podcasting now and really excited about the book. I think that’s a testament to how far podcasting has come and how respected it is as a way to share a message and market yourself (or something else).
PBJ: How are you getting the word out about the book?
David Hooper: I eat my own cooking, so I’m promoting this book just like I’d tell people to promote their podcasts (or messages in general). I’m going directly to the people who can use it (other podcasters and people with messages to spread) via podcasts and live events. I’ve also done a lot of outreach to people who can help get the word out and gotten a lot of support from publications such as Podcast Business Journal who have helped spread the word to their audiences.
Even though I’ve been a podcaster since 2005, I’m still known best for my work in the entertainment industry. This has been helpful in that I have 20-plus years of entertainment marketing and related connections that I can leverage (or somewhat leverage). The flip-side of that is that this book goes beyond entertainment marketing and it’s still a “new market” for me. I’m starting from zero in a lot of ways, but I look at that as a challenge.
PBJ: Where and how did you gather all the information?
David Hooper: I’ve been marketing via radio since the ’90s. I started doing documentary production and hosting in 1991, as a freshman in college, because I was playing music at the time and thought I could play my own stuff on the air. I quickly found out that was not the case, but I stuck it out anyway. Since then, I’ve done radio promotion for music labels and a lot of stuff behind the scenes as far as marketing via radio. As a producer and host, my broadcast show is a partnership between my company and a broadcasting company that, when we did the deal, had several radio stations, so I also have a lot of “back office” experience as far as getting and keeping sponsors, what it takes to get syndicated, etc.
Even with this experience, when I started working on this book, I interviewed dozens (close to 100) of podcasters and others in the podcasting business, so I’d be able to bring in the best perspectives about marketing podcasts and audience-building into this book.
PBJ: How long did it take you to organize the data and put it into a book and how hard is that process?
David Hooper: From my initial idea to do this book until the time I have the final version in my hands was about 4 1/2 years. Part of the reason it took so long is because, as I changed my direction during this time, the book’s direction also changed. But podcasting also changed during this time. It went from what Steve Jobs described as “amateur hour” to a highly-respected medium. I wanted this book to reflect that as well as help that new perception to stick.
PBJ: Give us your three secrets to becoming a successful podcaster.
David Hooper: I think the best podcasters have three things, which have nothing to do with podcasting specifically:
1. You need to live. By this, I mean you can’t just read about other people living their lives or talk theory in online chats — you need to experience things for yourself. The best skill you can have as a podcaster is empathy and fully experiencing life is how you develop that.
2. You need to be curious. WHY is something the way that it is? WHAT is it like to do or experience something? Have a sense of wonder and don’t be afraid to ask questions. We’re not going to get better as individuals or as a culture if we don’t talk to each other and hear different perspectives.
3. You need to listen. Too many podcasters are focused on talking. Listening is where the magic happens, the spark of great perspective, and what separates great podcasters from average podcasters.
PBJ: You’ve been a podcaster for quite some time now. What’s your opinion on how the medium has evolved?
David Hooper: At one time, podcasting was where old radio guys went to die and those who got involved without radio experience didn’t always know the best way to attract and keep an audience. Today, podcasting is a lot more respected, not only because we’ve figured out how to best use the medium, but because we’re attracting people outside the podcasting space that are bringing additional perspectives we can learn from.
I think podcasting is more powerful than radio. When I started my broadcast show, syndication on other broadcast stations was a focus. Today, we don’t worry about it because podcasting is a more convenient way for people to listen to us.
PBJ: At this point in time, with 700,000 podcasts in the atmosphere, how do new podcasters get discovered without the help of a network?
David Hooper: You can write off 98% of the 700,000 podcasts because many are dead or will be dead soon. Most people have no idea what it takes to create a great podcast and will give up when they find out just because you making a podcast doesn’t mean anybody will care about it.
It’s a nice fantasy to think we can “do one thing” and suddenly attract a big audience. Much like signing to a record label or book publisher, I think connecting with a network is overrated. It probably doesn’t hurt, but if you’re not ready with a great show, getting a big push from a network (or anywhere) can also hurt you because people won’t hear your best and will write you off, never giving you a second chance when you do get things together.
As a podcaster, you’re far better off to develop a podcast for a very specific audience and grow it one fan at a time, much like I’m trying to grow the audience for this book. Make it and start reaching out to people whom it will help. People talk to each other and if you have something good, word will get out. You have to have the right show though and know who the right people are to jump-start this process.
PBJ: What are your favorite podcasts?
David Hooper: I love anything Dave Jackson does and how he’s always experimenting with different podcasting formats, whether it’s doing a personal podcast (Build A Better Dave) or reading old diaries from his time in a county band (History of Six-Shooter). Dave did a podcast in 2005 called Musicians’ Cooler, which was about the music business, and that’s what gave me the idea to release my broadcast show as a podcast. He got podcasting then and he gets podcasting now, so I check out everything he does. His sort of dry, sort of snarky on-air personality is also fun to listen to.
I think School Of Laughs by Rik Roberts is a great podcast for podcasters as it’s all about writing and performing. Rik is a standup comic who lives and dies by what he says on stage, so I think there’s a lot to learn there for people who are on the mic as podcasters as well as how we organize our episodes, because we live and die by what we say also.
I think Up First by NPR and Today Explained by Vox are great examples of daily podcasts that are quick to jump on stories and offer timely perspective.
The true-crime podcast Swindled by “A Concerned Citizen” is excellent as far as storytelling and having personality, although his delivery style definitely isn’t typical of “personality.”