🔴 Why you should(n't) start a podcast

Ft. Arielle Nissenblatt, creator and podcast expert

Real quick — I have a gift and a favor for you.

The gift: The Creator Growth Almanac, a resource I’ve spent 50+ hours building over the last month.

It's 30 short, actionable guides to growth, monetization, and creator workflows — my learnings from studying and speaking with 100+ top creators and marketers over the last year.

The favor: Share Creator Spotlight with just 1 person. Just send them your unique referral code and tell them to subscribe. Once they do, I’ll send over the Almanac.

I’ll be updating the Almanac with a few new entries at the end of every month, so if there’s something you’d like me to write about for it, shoot me an email.

— Francis Zierer, Editor

P.S. Don’t feel like reading the newsletter today? Listen to the full interview with this week’s guest on our podcast.

Today’s guest is Arielle Nissenblatt, a woman more immersed in podcasting than I thought possible. She’s been writing the weekly EarBuds Podcast Collective: The Podcast Recommendation Newsletter for seven years and hosting the podcast version of that newsletter for six years. She also co-hosts a weekly podcast about podcast trailers and a daily tips podcast.

Besides her work as a creator, Arielle also:

  • Manages a Discord community for podcasters

  • Consults on podcast strategy and marketing

  • And works full-time as a community marketing manager for Descript

How much time do you think Arielle spends listening to podcasts each day? Take a wild guess — I didn’t believe her at first. I put the answer at the bottom of this newsletter, right above the feedback poll. When you fill out the poll, let me know how close you were.

The first time Arielle listened to a podcast was in 2014. Her coworkers wouldn’t stop talking about Serial, so she looked it up. Like millions of listeners (the 12-episode first season has over 300 million downloads), she fell in love with the medium. Unlike most listeners, she decided that, one way or another, she would join the podcast industry.

She started her newsletter, EarBuds, in 2017. One year later, by no coincidence, she finally broke into the industry, landing a job as a podcast production and studio manager for a luxury office company in Los Angeles. In the years since, she’s held six additional roles in and around the industry, not including her work as a podcaster and newsletterist; safe to say she found her way into the industry.

In this issue, we discuss:

  • 🤝 How Arielle broke into the podcasting industry

  • 🎙️ Why you should not start a podcast (unless you should)

  • 🫂 What “community” means to brands and creators

  • 💖 The potential of creator advocacy organizations

  • 🏠 How brands should work with in-house creators

You can find Arielle on Twitter and LinkedIn. Reach out to her for any podcast consulting needs — even just to validate whether or not your podcast idea is worth pursuing.

Read on for analysis and listen to the podcast for our full conversation with Arielle.

The following interview excerpt has been edited for length and clarity.

CS: Did creating a newsletter about podcasts enable you to break into the podcast industry?

AN: Definitely. When I started it, I used it to go to podcast conferences, advertising in the newsletter in exchange for free tickets. When I got to those conferences, I was willing to do anything in the podcast space just to be able to say that I worked in the podcast space. I wasn't even sure what I wanted to do, whether it was to be a host, be a journalist, be a producer of some sort, or be more on the business side of things. I just wanted to find a way into the industry and figure it out.

When I got to these conferences, I went to every single table at the expo hall and shook hands and took cards and then followed up so diligently. I was your typical definition of like, here is what to do to network at a conference. A professional schmoozer. I followed up with, ‘can I buy you a coffee so that I can learn more about how you got to where you are in your career today,’ that type of thing.

Not a bad business card.

I absolutely was able to point to the newsletter in conversations to say, like, this is a thing that I do on my own, no matter what, nobody is paying me to do this, I will always do this because I genuinely love it. That is now something I look for when I'm hiring people, whether it's for my newsletter or for other things that I'm involved in.

I wanna see that you're a self-starter. I wanna see that you genuinely love this industry or whatever it is that you are doing on your own. Would you be doing this on your own? And I'm not saying ‘do free labor,’ but I am saying show me that you are interested. Show me that this is something that you love. 

So yes, I can point to the newsletter and say that it's gotten me every job that I've gotten in podcasting since 2018.

Want to hear more from Arielle? Listen to our full conversation in her episode of The Creator Spotlight Podcast.

Why are content creators, podcasters, and health & fitness leaders launching brand-new newsletters every day?

They've figured out that newsletters are the only place where you can:

  • Own and control 100% of your reach. Go from renting your audience on social media ➡️ owning your list.

  • Unlock new, scalable ways to monetize and diversify your earnings: 1-click sponsorships, premium subscriptions, boosts, and more.

  • Connect and build a deeper connection with your community for your next big thing.

beehiiv is the most powerful newsletter platform — nobody else makes it this easy for creators to grow, monetize, and scale their audience through email.

The beehiiv team recently launched an initiative to help creators who've built large audiences on other platforms start successful newsletters — and take those newsletters from 0 to 💯.

Curious to learn more? Reply to this email (or click here) and I’ll connect you with the right folks.

— Francis Zierer, Lead Editor

Why you shouldn’t make a podcast. On the other hand, why you should.

Before Arielle started Feedback With EarBuds: The Podcast Recommendation Podcast one year after launching the EarBuds newsletter, she questioned whether or not the world really needed another podcast. That was in 2018 — six years ago.

When we launched The Creator Spotlight Podcast a month ago, we had the same conversation internally. It ended up being an easy yes: we were already recording hour-long interviews for the newsletter, and there was no way to fit all the best parts of the interviews into the newsletter. Plus, publishing each interview as a podcast would create more room in the newsletter for analysis.

So, for us at Creator Spotlight, it was a no-brainer. To gain the benefits of having a podcast, all we had to do was hire a freelance podcast editor, set up podcast hosting, and buy a good microphone.

But should you start a podcast, or is that a horrible idea? We asked Arielle:

“With podcasts, you have to self-promote. You must constantly be saying why you are special and different. And a lot of times, people are not special and different. They're making something that is too similar to other things — you need to find a way to stand out.

So, should everybody have a podcast? I'm of two minds.

One, if there is a podcast that will get a specific person to become a podcast listener, I'm all for it. I want more people to listen to podcasts. So, the more podcasts there are, the more likely they are to find the perfect person to listen to that podcast.

On the other hand, there are so many shitty podcasts out there. I love that there's no barrier to entry in podcasting, but I wish more people took the time to learn about the craft before diving in. Nobody who wants to be a writer doesn't have a bunch of favorite authors. If you want to be a podcaster, you should have a bunch of favorite podcasters.

You also need to have something you want to talk about — the idea should be there first.”

If you just want to have a podcast for the sake of having a podcast, it might not be a good idea. Ask yourself: what do I want to communicate? That’s what you need to know as a creator — the idea you want to communicate. 

If you think we got this chart wrong, reply and let us know how you’d change it.

What is community? And do you need one?

I often hear creators and marketers talking about how they want to build a community, but I’m not always sure they knew what exactly they mean. As Descript’s Community Marketing Manager, Arielle has a specific responsibility:

“We have a community of users who use the product to different extents. Some people are business users. Some people are individuals. Some people will never make a dollar podcasting. Some people are making their full income making podcasts and videos using Descript.

My job is to figure out how everybody is using it, what they wanna learn and how they wanna be highlighted.

But what makes a newsletter or podcast ripe for community-building? Arielle shared an example from her own listening habits:

Not every podcast or newsletter is made to have a community built around it. If you have a five-minute daily podcast about the news, what am I gonna do? Talk to you about the nuances of that news?

One of my favorite podcast communities is Who? Weekly’s. They just do such a great job funneling people to their community by creating inside jokes that you want to be part of and live events that you must attend. I decided a few weeks ago to pay for their Patreon because I needed more, you know?

Their show lends itself to community because they are doing something extremely unique that people wanna be a part of. But if you can't even get your desired community to write back to you on an email, it's gonna be very hard for you to funnel them into a third place.”

So if you’ve been hearing buzz about “community” and how “everybody needs one,” pause before scrambling to build one. Ask yourself a few questions:

If you think we got this chart wrong, reply and let us know how you’d change it.

To be clear, the three community options we placed at the bottom of the chart are not the only routes — just three of the most popular and effective ones.

Summarizing a few quick lessons from Arielle’s work, applicable across niches and platforms.

  1. As a creator, everything you put into the world is your business card and portfolio. If you're trying to break into an industry with little relevant experience, experiment with becoming a creator in that space. Worst case, you learn a bunch. Best case, you find a way into that industry, like Arielle did. Best best case, your project takes off, and you get to do it full-time on your own terms.

  2. Don't start a podcast unless you've got something interesting to say and a unique way to tell it. This goes for newsletters, too. It's fine to start a podcast or newsletter and mess around to determine if it's something you should do — but don't expect anybody to care unless you've really got something to say, with compelling framing.

  3. Not every creator needs to worry about "building a community." If you can build a community around your work (for example, get people to join a paid Discord channel or come to live events), that's amazing. If you can't, don't stress. But if you are getting great engagement with your work already, there might be something to pursue.

Further reading on some of the topics we touched on in this issue.

  • For more on internet communities (and how to monetize them), check out this issue of Greg’s Letter, from Greg Isenberg.

  • If you really do think you should start a podcast, we use Riverside to record The Creator Spotlight Podcast, and this guide they put out describes the basics pretty clearly.

Thank you for taking the time to read today's issue. If you liked this one, I highly recommend listening to the podcast version.

On to next week's issue, featuring a creator working 78 hours per week as a resident physician while still managing to ship two weekly issues of his healthcare newsletter. I spent an hour talking with him about it, and I'm still floored that he's able to do it all.

Francis Zierer, Editor

Answer: Arielle says she spends 5–6 hours per day listening to podcasts. I asked if she’d misspoke and meant per week, but no, that’s 5–6 hours per day.

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