No. 057 How to Decide What Your Podcast Should Be About

This is the first lesson in our three-part mini course about how to create a unique podcast that attracts and retains an audience. In this lesson, Jerod leads a discussion about the fundamental question that must be answered at the beginning of every showrunner’s journey.

And while it may not seem like it has much to do with creating a differentiated show, the reality is that it’s got almost everything to do with it.

This is the first D in Jerod’s 3-D philosophy for creating a unique podcast: Decide.

How do you decide what your podcast should be about? It’s a three-step process, and if you skip any steps, you may be killing your chances of ever truly connecting with an audience.

In addition, Jerod and Jonny provide two more podcast recommendations:

Listen, learn, enjoy …

The Show Notes

No. 057 How to Decide What Your Podcast Should Be About

Jerod Morris: This is Rainmaker.FM, the digital marketing podcast network. It’s built on the Rainmaker Platform, which empowers you to build your own digital marketing and sales platform. Start your free 14-day trial at

Welcome to The Showrunner, where we have one goal: teach you how to develop, launch, and run a remarkable show. Ready?

Welcome back to The Showrunner. I’m your host, Jerod Morris. This is episode No. 57. I am the VP of marketing for Rainmaker Digital, and I’m getting everything out of order this morning for some reason. I’m joined by my co-host, Jonny Nastor, maker of sandwiches, lover of coffee, drummer of punk-rock beats, and runner of shows, apparently. Mr. Nastor, how are you doing?

Jonny Nastor: I’m doing well. You didn’t see the update, I guess.

Jerod Morris: I didn’t see the update.

Jonny Nastor: That was literally just a placeholder for you. I didn’t expect you to take as much flak as I did from you, but it made me create something better.

Jerod Morris: Hey, we’ve done 56 episodes together now. We’ve become friends. I feel like we can be honest and candid with each other. When we feel like the other person hasn’t done their best, we can pull out something even greater that they didn’t know that they had. You’ve done that for me, so I’ve had to do the same for you.

Jonny Nastor: Wait until you see. It’s better.

Jerod Morris: Okay, I’m very excited. I’m very excited. I’m also excited for the second episode in our series where we’re creating mini courses live here on The Showrunner. In our last episode, episode 56, you went through and did, basically, the first lesson in your mini course about booking and creating engaging podcast interviews.

Today is going to be the first lesson in my mini course on creating a unique podcast. I’m excited about it. Last episode was fun. I think this one will be, too.

Jonny Nastor: Yeah, it’s cool. I like this idea of doing the mini courses, but doing them live here. It’s a bit of work because we’re trying to make an interesting and exciting episode, as well as be able to reuse parts of it for a mini course, but it’s pushing us. It’s good to push yourself as a showrunner.

The Problem with Last Week’s Approach to the Live Mini Course

Jerod Morris: I agree. Actually, we just had a conversation before we started recording, which we should let folks in on a little bit. If you listen to the last episode, you know that, as we did the lesson–of course, each one of these lessons are split up into three parts, and each of those parts has three pieces–you and I didn’t really have a great format yet figured out for what we were going to do.

You were talking, and there wasn’t a natural point for me to jump in. We hadn’t planned anything, so I just put on our document that we both work off of as we record these episodes, “Hey, I’ll jump in real quick.” I typed that in.

For this episode, we’ve talked about it a little bit, and we’re going to do something a little bit different. I thought you had a good idea. Do you want to explain that real quick just so the folks can kind of get your mentality for why you suggested that?

The Mentality Behind Jonny’s Idea for the New Approach

Jonny Nastor: Yeah. Jerod sent me the document over this morning. Again, it followed our 3-3-3 process that we’re doing to keep this within the certain confined area. As we did the last one, as Jerod just explained, I did, I would say, the three parts of my first main part and then the idea was–that we came up with on the fly–that then he would come in and say something.

That usually meant–which it worked really well, but I’m trying to see if this could work maybe better–that Jerod just added to the conversation. I found that I then came back and said something else, and we retreaded the same material over again, which is fine and cool. But I was thinking today as I was looking at Jerod’s 3’s.

I was like, “What if I could just come up with a really … if I could think of the right question that you, as the listener, out there are thinking as Jerod’s going over this. Like, ‘Yes, but what about this?’ If I could just come in as my part is just to ask a question and get Jerod to go deeper on something and explain it, and then we could just track to the second part.” That was my thought.

Rather than me trying to like, “I’ve got to try and add something.” Jerod covers the ideas really well, and it’s like, “Well, now what do I add? Do I just add something not as useful?” This is my take. This is more planned out, so we’ll see if it actually works–except for the fact I don’t have questions.

Jerod Morris: But you will be listening as the advocate for the audience, trying to figure out what questions they will have. Then you’ll chime in with them.

Jonny Nastor: Yeah, totally. I like it. Cool.

Jerod Morris: You ready to do this?

Jonny Nastor: Yeah, let’s do it.

The 3-Step Process for Creating a Unique Podcast That Will Attract and Retain an Audience

Jerod Morris: Welcome to the 3-Step Process for Creating a Unique Podcast That Will Attract and Retain an Audience. I am Jerod Morris, host of The Showrunner, here with Jonny Nastor, my co-host on The Showrunner. We’re going to walk you through this three-step mini course so that you can create your unique snowflake in a blizzard of podcasts.

That was actually our original title for this, but we decided to go a little bit more straightforward with the official title. But that’s the idea. We all know that, as podcasting has grown as a medium, number one, with more people listening and, number two, with the technology getting easier and cheaper so that the barrier for entry is lower, there are a lot more podcasts out there.

That’s great in so many ways, but the one area where it can cause some trepidation, cause some concern for potential podcasters, for potential showrunners is, when you get on iTunes, it does feel like there is this blizzard of podcasts out there. It’s like, “Man, how am I going to get noticed? How am I going to create something that will stand out and get attention?”

That’s what we’re going to teach you in this mini course, a three-step process for doing exactly that, because you don’t just want to create a podcast. You want to create a unique podcast, but it’s not just about creating something unique. It’s actually pretty easy to create something unique, but you’ve got to create something unique that will attract and retain an audience.

That requires some thought. It requires some strategy and some real intentional action on your part. That is what we are going to discuss here in this lesson.

Jonny, before we begin, any general overview statements about this idea of creating a unique podcast and why it’s so important as podcasts have proliferated as they have?

Why It’s (Equally) Important to Define Who Your Audience Isn’t

Jonny Nastor: It’s essential to understand and go confidently knowing that niching down and defining almost who isn’t your audience as strongly as defining who is, is a really smart direction. One thing, it allows you to be yourself, like truly, truly be yourself and talk the way you want, make the jokes that you want, those kind of things–which allows you, obviously, to be unique. Nobody else can be you.

But it’s also to know that the way the Internet is working, the way it markets … I had a really interesting discussion about this with somebody who’s been in the music business for 30 years–how the old model of making rock stars like Prince, as a timely thing, those people don’t exist anymore. Those things aren’t really being created like that. It’s like 1,000 markets now are being created for every person of every different type of music genre that you like. You now get to choose. Because of the Internet, we get to choose exactly what it is we want. It’s not just what we’re fed. Obviously, podcasting is that thing.

Sometimes, even when you go to iTunes, it’s like, “Well, there’s just these big broad categories,” but if you really look within that category that you’re sitting, you could really dissect that down probably to 10 more subcategories or 50 more subcategories. You’re not really competing with everyone. You’re competing with just the people in those small … if you even want to call it ‘competing.’

It’s really about having that confidence to know that no matter how ‘small’ you think you might be niching down or how few people there might be, there are going to be 500, 1,000, or 5,000 people out there in the world looking for content that you are about to create. You don’t have to make it bigger and broader.

It is harder to get unique the further you go into the general middle road. Just approach this with that confidence, knowing that it’s almost impossible for you to niche down so much that you won’t find a really good, solid, responsive audience for your podcast.

The Core Framework of Jerod’s Lesson (and Who Inspired It)

Jerod Morris: Yeah. Great point. Jonny, I have a weekly call with Robert Bruce and with Chris Garrett, two of my colleagues at Rainmaker Digital. Robert Bruce, of course, runs Rainmaker.FM, and Chris Garrett is our chief marketing technologist. It’s always a great call, and I love asking those two guys questions because they’re so smart. They have so much experience, so much insight.

I was planning this mini course. During the course of our most recent call, I threw this idea out. I just asked them, “What do you guys think about the most important factors in creating a unique podcast? Chris Garrett explained it this way, and it was really, really simple. I want to use this to frame our discussion because where we’re going–the goal, the place that we want to get to–is that you listening, taking this mini course, will be able to confidently say this sentence and fill in the blanks.

Here’s the big idea. This is the sentence that Chris Garrett gave me: “Unlike most shows about ______, our show is ______, which means ______.'”

Basically, where we’re going to take you with this three-lesson course, this three-step process is, with each one of these lessons, we’re going to fill in one of these ‘blanks.’ “Unlike most shows about ‘blank,'” so the first thing you’ve got to do is decide what that show is going to be about: “Our show is ‘blank.'” You’ve got to say what makes your show different than most shows about that topic. You’ve got to differentiate it.

And then, “Which means ‘blank.'” This is where it’s really about, what is the benefit of the audience of your difference, and how do you communicate that to them? You’ve got to display that benefit. You’ve got to double down on that benefit, which is really what allows you to niche down, Jonny, like what you were saying, and not just attract who you want to attract, but also repel the people that you want to repel.

Again, it’s, “Unlike most shows about ‘blank,’ our show is ‘blank,’ which means ‘blank.'” Let me give you a few examples of this to make it a little bit more concrete. I’ll just take, Jonny, the shows that you and I run. First, the show that we run together, The Showrunner, which is of course, our podcast about podcasting.

Examples of Jerod’s Framework in Action (and Why Differentiation Is Key)

Jerod Morris: Here’s how I would write this sentence for that, and if you have any ideas about how that might be different, feel free to chime in. But, “Unlike most shows about podcasting, our show focuses less on the technical aspects of podcasting and more on the mentality you need to succeed and the experience you are creating for your audience, which means that you’ll get step-by-step instructions for how to build a powerful audience, along with the encouragement to actually get out there and do it.”

Did you hear there where those ‘blanks’ are? “Unlike most shows about podcasting, our shows focuses,” and this is where it’s the differentiation, “less on the technical aspects and more on the mentality.”

And then what does this mean for the audience? It means you’ll get, “step-by-step instructions for how to build a powerful audience, along with the encouragement to actually get out there and do it.” What do you think, Jonny? Does that sound like a good description for you of The Showrunner and what makes it unique?

Jonny Nastor: Yeah. I think that’s bang on. It’s interesting because, as you were reading it, I … no, as you were saying it off the cuff … sorry. As you were saying it, it was weird, I flashed back to 54 weeks ago when you and I were having our first initial conversations about The Showrunner.

We didn’t know each other, and there was some big shows and big things that happened within podcasts about podcasting space, and I remember having this exact conversation. We saw two very distinct places that shows existed successfully. This is exactly what we talked about. This is exactly it.

It played to us and how we thought about it, and we’ve followed this right to the end–well, not to the end, to now. It’s cool. I’ve never heard it so succinctly said as Chris said, though, which is that big idea. I like it. You nailed it. That’s totally it.

Jerod Morris: Okay, so let’s talk about Hack the Entrepreneur, which is the show that you host. This is what I understand of Hack the Entrepreneur and what I took from your website, literally.

“Unlike most shows about entrepreneurship, Hack the Entrepreneur focuses on the fears, habits, and inner battles that entrepreneurs face on their road to success, which means that you will learn replicable things behind leading names and people on their way up. Not so you can copy them exactly, but instead so you can absorb into what you do, so you can make your own success.”

Obviously, with a show like Hack the Entrepreneur, there are so many shows out there about entrepreneurship. You’ve had to carve out your little niche–again, create a show about entrepreneurship that is a unique snowflake in a blizzard of shows about entrepreneurship. This seems to me like the way that you’ve done it. Would you add anything to that about what has made your show unique and stand out?

Jonny Nastor: No, I think this is it. I wonder if I could say better now, but this is the essence of it. I even made it as I’m reading it now. It’s not so you can copy them exactly, but instead, the idea was that I actually didn’t like the term hack. I didn’t want it to seem like it was going to be like, “This is like your life hack, or this is this your entrepreneur hack now.” That wasn’t what it was.

I just thought it was a great branding name and keyword-based title for a show that I wanted to do in this way, so I really wanted to clarify that in it. This is it, man. It’s so cool to see it like this and to hear it actually said, especially with Chris’ big idea with the ‘blank.’ “It’s about this. Our show is this, which means this,” and then to have it in front of you. It’s like, “Wow, that’s actually, somehow without planning it properly in advance, it’s kind of what I did.”

Jerod Morris: Because if you hadn’t, and this wasn’t pretty clear, your show wouldn’t be the success that it is. So it’s really important.

Jonny Nastor: Yeah, I know. It’s really cool, though, to see it and to see in the clarity of Chris’ statement above it. It’s cool. This is it. You’ve nailed it, man.

Jerod Morris: You brought up something interesting, too, about names, and we will get to that. We’re going to talk about names, how you name your podcast, and some of the different elements that you need to consider. You talked about one right there, Jonny, when it comes to branding and something searchable, so we’re going to get to that in a future lesson.

One more real quick. I want to do the same format for The Assembly Call, which is the IU Basketball postgame show that I host. “Unlike most shows about Indiana Basketball, The Assembly call is a postgame show recorded live immediately after every game by die-hard IU fans who also understand how to break down a basketball game, which means that you get instant analysis about the game that will make you a smarter IU fan, delivered with the emotion and intensity of fans who really care because we do.”

That was our big thing. We’re smart. We understand the game, but there’s something visceral and emotional about that moment right after a game that we wanted to tap into. That’s what made us different because there wasn’t another show out there.

Again, all three of these are successful shows that have been going on for a while. While we may not have been able to write these paragraphs out perfectly from the beginning, we certainly can now. That’s a big reason why these shows have succeeded. We really understand these differentiating elements of these shows, and that’s where we want you to get.

Don’t feel like you have to have the perfect description right now, but as we go through this mini course, we want you, at the end of it, to come up with a description that you feel comfortable with, that will get you started. Then, of course, as your content interacts with an audience, as it shifts a little bit as you adjust, it may change. But you can get a pretty good start that will get you going down the road in a good way, and that’s what we want to do.

The 3D Philosophy for Creating a Unique Podcast

Jerod Morris: That’s basically the structure that this mini course will take, what I’m calling the 3D Philosophy for Creating a Unique Podcast.

Number one is to decide–what is your show going to be about? That’s the first ‘blank.’

Number two is to differentiate–what is it about your show that stands out. That’s the second ‘blank.’

Then, you’ve got to display what makes you different, and you’ve got to double down on it. That’s that last ‘blank.’ That, again, is where your audience is really going to get the benefits from and where they’re really going to be able to say, “Hey, I am a part of this tribe. I’m a part of this group,” or, “I’m not.” And that is how you really, really get a strong connection with an audience.

Lesson 1 of the 3D Philosophy for Creating a Unique Podcast: Decide

Jerod Morris: Let’s start breaking down this first element, decide. The first element in the 3D Philosophy for Creating a Unique Podcast, how do you decide what to podcast about? Before you start to add all these differentiating elements, making it unique, and all of this stuff, you’ve first got to start with something, with a topic, with what you’re going to talk about.

You’ve got to what I call ‘identify the useful intersection around which you will build your show.’ That’s the intersection between you, your audience, and then what the elements of your show are going to be. It starts with you.

Step 1 of Deciding: Start with You

Jerod Morris: This is the single most important statement that I will make throughout this whole mini course–that you are always the most important differentiating factor for your show.

Remember that. Again, you look at this blizzard of podcasts out there on iTunes, and it can be really hard to say, “Well, how am I going to do anything different?” You are already starting out with something different because you’re you. No one else is you. That means that you have an unfair advantage because there isn’t another you out there.

Yes, if you have never podcasted before, if you’re feeling a lit bit of trepidation, if you don’t feel like you’re very confident, then you may look at that as not something to feel really strong about. Again, that’s part of what we like to do on The Showrunner is encourage people to adopt that mentality and realize how much you have to bring to your show.

You have to leverage you before you leverage anything else. It’s got to start from there. It’s got to start from, what are you enthusiastic about, and what are you passionate about? What do you have knowledge about? What do you have experience in? Where do you have credibility and authority, and what do you stand for?

Because, right now, I could think up a unique show off the top of my head. I could do a podcast where I go out and dissect the trees that are sitting right out here in my yard, tell you about these trees and about nature, based on being here in Prestonwood in Dallas, Texas. That would be a unique show because it would be focused on people who live in Prestonwood, who want to learn about the trees and the nature in Prestonwood.

Yes, that sounds like an absolutely awful show. I came up with that straight off the top of my head. So you’ll have to forgive me, but it is unique. The thing is, it doesn’t matter that it’s unique. That will never be a successful show because I don’t care about it. I have no knowledge in that. I have no credibility for that. I don’t have a particular stance on it, where someone can position themselves and say, “Hey, I really agree with this guy.” Or, “Hey, I don’t.” So that’s not going to be a good show.

You know what I am enthusiastic and passionate about? You know what I do have experience in, and I have some built in credibility and authority because I’ve done it, and I have some specific ideals that I stand for? Podcasting. That’s why starting The Showrunner was such a no-brainer for me.

That’s why I can create, along with Jonny, a differentiated show about that because it’s built around me, what I love, what I’m good at, what I’m knowledgeable about, and things that I stand for. Same reason why The Assembly Call has been successful. These shows are built around me.

That’s the first element. You just can’t start with, “Okay, what isn’t out there? Let me fit something in there.” No. You have got to first take an inventory of yourself, truly understand what you’re enthusiastic and passionate about, and where these elements are going to come in that are going to allow you to leverage you–and do that first. That will give you some kind of list of potential topics, potential shows that you can do. Everything needs to flow from there.

Jonny’s Thoughts on How to Make It About You with Interview-Based Shows

Jonny Nastor: So I’m looking for a little bit of clarity. This makes perfect sense, yet a ton of us–myself included, yourself included, and I’m sure people listening–are wanting to start or run interview-based shows. One good reason to do that is because you might not have or be confident in your experience, your authority, or credibility at this point.

It’s talked about a lot in interviews about becoming a good interviewer is making it not about you. Being good showrunners, but you know what I mean? In that way where you are focusing on your guest and allowing them to bring it out. It still fits into your point, but the idea is that our uniqueness comes …

What I’m trying to say is, the mistake I made in my first 50 episodes was, I focused on the you, but I focused on it in the wrong way. I focused on it as in I tried to take over 40 percent of the conversation, thinking that I had to be a part of the conversation. The person would say a response to my question. It was great, and then I would add my story about that same thing, which doesn’t make any sense. It’s not a good way to host an interview.

I’ve realized that, the further I pull back out of the conversation and just allow the guest to talk, I become a better interviewer. My show has become more popular. People enjoy it a lot more, yet the unique identifier is still me, which is interesting.

I didn’t get this before I had the experience of 200 interviews behind me, but now I notice this so much in interviewers I admire. I actually just got a review a couple days ago, and it was all about me, and it’s funny because I’m not even in the interviews really anymore. It’s my question or it’s my follow-up or yours, as the case would be, listening. It’s your unique perspective. You’re the only person who could come up with that question and take the conversation in that way.

That doesn’t mean that you need to take over. All I’m telling you is this, it’s for confidence, because I lacked it a lot when starting, because I thought that I needed to have the expertise to run this show Hack the Entrepreneur and to talk to these brilliant people, but I didn’t.

The thing that made it unique was it was my take. I wanted to learn from these people, so I could position the conversation. And then it worked that my audience was like me, and they had wished that they had thought of the same question that I had. It led them through. It doesn’t necessarily have to be you in that sense, but it is you–if that makes sense? Am I making any sense here?

Jerod Morris: No, it totally does, and I’m glad you brought up this point. Your show succeeded. You have to have the enthusiasm and the passion. That’s got to be there. You’ve got to have what you stand for, and I think you had that with Hack the Entrepreneur–what the show is going to be about and what it’s not.

I do think with an interview show especially, and especially in the beginning, if you need someone to stand in for the knowledge and the experience to be able to transfer that to your audience, that’s where an interview show can be great. I don’t know that it’s an exception here, but it is another way to do this.

You’re still leveraging you and yourself. You are still what differentiates Hack the Entrepreneur, but I do think with a podcast, that’s the nice thing about being able to have a co-host, being able to bring on guests for interviews. It doesn’t have to all come from you. You’re the source. You’re the sun that’s giving it all the power, but you can still have other people in, especially for the knowledge and the experience. That’s a good point.

Jonny Nastor: Right, yeah. I guess that’s what I was trying to clarify is that, when you, Jerod, when you say ‘your knowledge and experience,’ it’s not because your knowledge and experience has to make you feel like an expert. You can have the beginner experience and knowledge, and ask an expert questions that another expert would never ask them. But your listener is probably closer to a beginner, like you. Therefore, it’s going to be way more beneficial to them.

Jerod Morris: Which gives you credibility.

Jonny Nastor: Exactly. All I’m saying is, don’t lack confidence because you feel like you lack experience. Your experience is unique to you. Really, as Jerod says, go all in onto that because it doesn’t have to be because you have 20 years experience becoming an expert in stuff. It could really truly be your beginner experience in that, but that is unique to you.

Jerod Morris: Yeah, and understand here, too … again, I’ll use The Assembly Call as an example. I have two co-hosts on that show. My two co-hosts are much, much better at breaking down the actual action on the court than I am and providing really smart basketball analysis. What I bring more is an understanding of the tradition and the history and an ability to put individual moments in context, as well as a relentlessly positive and optimistic attitude that isn’t often seen in sports. People are attracted to that.

I actually understood a few gaps in my own knowledge and experience, and bringing in these other guys–who share my enthusiasm and passion and share what I stand for–allowed me to fill that in. That’s where, again, co-hosts, having interview guests can really help you do this. But again, it’s all got to start from there.

It’s got to start from that enthusiasm and passion, from having something that you stand for, and you have to have some element of knowledge or an ability to build credibility, even if that ability is you want to attract people with a beginner’s mind, so you kind of approach it from a beginner’s mind, Jonny, like you talked about. You can still do that, but it’s got to come from you. You have to leverage you, and especially that enthusiasm and passion, to get going.

That’s the first step in deciding. It’s got to come from you. You don’t look at from, “Let me go scan iTunes, and see what isn’t there.” You scan yourself first. You’re going to figure out a list or a small group of shows that you might potentially be able to do before you even go look at how you’re going to position it in there.

Step 2 of Deciding: Look at a Potential Audience

Jerod Morris: The next step, once you’ve figured out yourself and really understood yourself, is now you want to look at the audience, a potential audience. You’re never going to attract and retain an audience if you’re not at least somewhat intentional about it–and probably more than somewhat intentional. You need to be very intentional about who you are attracting and who you’re not attracting. A great way to do this is kind of break this down into three elements.

A Need

Jerod Morris: Think about what a potential audience may need. Let’s say that you’ve identified that you’re really enthusiastic and passionate about podcasting. You have some area where you can create some credibility about this. You know what you stand for. Well, there is an audience need out there because there are people who are podcasting who need guidance.

There are things that people aren’t doing and they need guidance on. It’s pretty easy to draw a direct line to a need. Hack the Entrepreneur, there are tons and tons of entrepreneurs out there, a lot of beginning entrepreneurs out there, who need help with their mindset and can really use this information–so that’s a need.

Parenting tips, I’m about to become a first-time parent. These are things that I need, so I’m listening to a lot of shows now about parenting. That’s one way that you can identify, you can match about what you’ve thought about there in step one there with you, match it with a specific need.

A Known Want

Jerod Morris: You can also match it with a known want. A known want is not necessarily something that people need, but we know that they will consume. Marc Maron’s WTF podcast, no one really needs that, but people really want it. They like Marc Maron’s interview style. They like hearing the inside stories of comedians and entertainers. That’s a want. You know that people will listen to that kind of content.

This American Life, you could actually make the argument that podcasts like This American Life, which are story-based, are need podcasts. As long as humans have been around, we’ve been needing story. That’s either a known want or a need. It’s something, again, I don’t need to listen to This American Life to do something tomorrow, but I know that people will consume that kind of content.

An Unknown Want

Jerod Morris: Then other one is actually what I call an ‘unknown want,’ and this is what we did with The Assembly Call. It’s definitely something that people don’t need. No one needs a postgame show. Hopefully, once you create a good show, it becomes a part of their life, and they feel like they need it. But they don’t ‘need’ it. In fact, they may not even know that they want it.

You’re creating it. It’s something new. Maybe you’re taking this from another show that you’ve heard, and it’s not being done in this market. You’re kind of matching it, but again, you’re going back to you. You’re starting from a limited number of potential topics, potential show ideas because they’re all emanating out of you naturally. Now, you’re really thinking about an audience.

You’re identifying who these people are and, “What do they need? What do they want? What do they do? What are their fears? What are their obstacles? How can I help them move to the next level within this and think about what are some of the things that are already out there to do?” You start with you. Then you go to an audience. It’s all about finding that intersection. We’re going to delve into that even more in the third step.

Does Whether You Identify a Need, a Known Want, or an Unknown Want Play a Role in Determining Your Format?

Jonny Nastor: So when you pick your topic, do you think that, that should determine or help to determine the format? You pick your topic, and now you go to this second stage of audience. You decide whether it’s a need, a known want, or an unknown want. Should that, at that point, be determining what your format is?

Jerod Morris: We’re getting there. I think we’re getting there. The big part with this audience section is, with step one, with you, you’ve got to figure out what you could potentially do a show about. But then you’ve got to understand, “Is there a need? Is there a known want, or is there a want I can create with this?” If you can’t draw a line there, then you may be creating a show that’s not going to have an audience.

It’s like, if I’m going to go back and do that ridiculous show about trees in Prestonwood–which, let’s say that I did happen to be really passionate about that, I knew about it, and I could create a show about it. I can’t even create an unknown want about that.

Really, before you get into format, before you begin making all of these specific choices, you’ve got to understand, “Why am I doing this show for myself? Who’s the audience for this show, and where am I trying to take them?” Your format and the other choices are going to emanate from that. If you try and say, “Well, I’m going to do this format,” and then you try to fit a show into that–well, I don’t think you’re starting from the right place because you may not be as audience-focused and as you-focused as you need to be in the long run for your show to succeed.

Jonny Nastor: Right, and the idea being that, if you wanted to create another Showrunner, Showrunner 2016, that’s a need. People are listening because they have a need of wanting to know how to start and run an effective podcast. If we went then to like a This American Life format of long stories … you know what I mean? To me, need is like people want it now, and they want it now. “How to do this in four steps”–people love that because it’s a need.

We’re not here for, necessarily, entertainment, but if it’s want, if Marc Maron was like, his next episode was, “Seven steps to this,” people would be like, “WTF is right.” You know what I mean? That’s what I was thinking as you’re laying it out here, “Wow. That kind of determines it because, if it’s a known want or an unknown want, you can almost meander more. It’s not something I need. I’m getting this for entertainment purposes and enjoyment. I’m learning things, but I’m enjoying it in that way.” When it’s like a need, it’s like, “I want parenting tips, and I want them now. I don’t want to know what you had for breakfast for 12 minutes.” Does that make sense?

Jerod Morris: Yes, and hold that thought. We’re going to cover that here in the third step. We’re talking about here how we’re going to decide what our show is about. We’re not even talking yet, really, about how to make it unique because you’ve got to start with the right decisions here.

Step 3 of Deciding: How Do You Fit into the Audience’s Need, Known Want, or Unknown Want?

Jerod Morris: We’ve talked about you. we’ve talked about the audience. Now, we’re actually going to go back to three of the fundamental principles of being a showrunner: authenticity, usefulness, and sustainability. Now, Jonny, this is where we start to fit in, and we say, “Okay, what am I passionate about, knowledgeable about, what am I going to do this show about? Where is this need or this want with the audience? Now, how do I start to fit that in.”


Jerod Morris: The first step is authenticity, which is identifying that intersection between you and your audience. Really, that should be pretty simple if you’ve gone through steps one and two and really looked at yourself, really analyzed an audience. Finding that intersection is where you’re going to develop this authentic connection.


Jerod Morris: The second step in this is usefulness, and Jonny, I think this is what you were hinting at. You’ve got to understand what your primary element of usefulness is going to be and then hypothesize how you might incorporate the other two.

For The Showrunner, we knew that, “Okay, this is a need. We’ve got to get that information to people.” Same thing with Hack the Entrepreneur, Jonny. You’ve got to get that information to people. Education is the number-one element of usefulness for those two shows. Above all else, those shows need to educate. Now, they can do other things, and part of creating a unique show is how you weave in the other elements of usefulness, which are entertain and inspire.

Part of the differentiation for The Showrunner is, not only do we educate, but we do try and entertain. Clearly, we try to inspire. In fact, that is in our differentiation statement that I made earlier. It is about mentality. It is about inspiration, getting past those elements of pod fade and getting past those tough moments.

This is where, when you start thinking about usefulness and how are you going to be useful about this topic that you’ve chosen for this audience, first identify what’s the number-one element they’re coming for. If you’ve really understood the audience, you should be able to do that. Then, how are you going to weave in the other elements? That will help you to decide your format.


Jerod Morris: Another aspect that will help you decide your format is sustainability. Remember, even the most unique show can’t build an audience if it’s only around for a month. But most shows are going to falter and fade away. How do you guard against that?

Well, you have to create a show and create it consistently. You’ve got to show up. You’ve got to show up reliably, and you’ve got to show up reliably over time.

That means that, hey, you may be able to create one three-hour long epic episode about this topic that is just unbelievable, but if you can’t do that every month, every week, or on some regular schedule and do it over time, then you’re just creating a good episode. You’re not creating a unique podcast that’s really going to connect.

Creating your format or deciding on your format can be dictated by this. Maybe it’s not feasible for you to do a half-hour-long monologue show because of all the preparation that is involved in that, but you can do an interview show a little bit easier.

Assuming that, that still matches up with what you decided about yourself and that, that still fits in with what you’ve learned about your audience, maybe now you create an interview show because you know that your primary element of usefulness needs to be education. Doing an interview show will allow you to be sustainable.

Why the Deciding Stage Is What Everything Else Builds On

Jerod Morris: But look at this, now you’ve gone and you’ve understood a topic, an audience. You’ve started to decide on a format, and the next step is then going to be, in addition to the differentiation that you bring from it, now is when you’re going to go out with this pretty well-formed hypothesis about what type of show you can create.

Now, is when you go out, and you start doing your research about other shows in the niche, figuring out your branding, and figuring out your name, figuring out a little tweak or two, like the hack at the end of an episode or the banner moment at the beginning of an episode. These little elements that can provide the extra added differentiation–but don’t jump to that first.

That’s where we’re going to get to in lesson two, but you’ve first got to start with this initial step of deciding. Again, we go back to the big idea: “Unlike most shows about ‘blank,’ our show is ‘blank,’ which means ‘blank.'” You’re starting out with, “Unlike most shows about … ”

Got to make that decision first. If you don’t, all these other decisions about differentiation are going to be moot because you’re probably not creating something that is going to create an authentic connection with an audience, be useful, and be sustainable. If you don’t do that, if you don’t have that as your foundation, no amount of differentiation is even going to make sense.

You’ve got to start here, and Jonny, correct me if I’m wrong, but I think that answered what you were talking about in terms of how then you start to decide on your format and what your show’s actually going to be about.

Jonny Nastor: Absolutely. I think that I made the mistake that probably 99 percent of people starting shows make. I’ve made, possibly until now, at least on a conscious level, is jumping straight to point three, which is your show. Like, “I’m creating a show. What’s my show?” It needs to be authentic, useful, and sustainable, but we jump past the first point of you and then the second point of who’s the audience. I don’t think that you can outline this third point of creating what it is your show’s going to be without going through those first two points. You nailed it, man. You nailed it.

Under the Microscope: Why The Showrunner Podcast Works (and How You Can Emulate That)

Jerod Morris: Thank you. Again, this is why you and I were qualified to start The Showrunner. We have a genuine passion and enthusiasm for this, and we love thinking about this stuff and why things work and why they don’t. We’ve been around the block a few times. That helps, so think about what this is for you.

What is that topic that you’ve maybe been around the block a few times or, even if you haven’t, that you just love thinking about, that you’re passionate about, knowledgeable about. You’ve got some flags you can plant because you believe strongly about certain elements of it. Start there.

That is always going to be the most important element of differentiation for your show. Don’t forget that. Start there. We will be back to talk more about this in lesson two of this mini course, the 3-Step Process for Creating a Unique Podcast That Will Attract and Retain an Audience. That is where we’re going to get into some of the nitty-gritty about differentiation and some elements of your show that you can tweak and design specifically so that your show stands out.

Why Sometimes Getting Another Perspective Makes All the Pieces Fit (and a Hat Tip to Chris Garrett)

Jonny Nastor: As for today’s podcast recommendation …

Jerod Morris: We had such a great flow there.

Jonny Nastor: That was good. I’m blown away by what you just went through and created. That was frigging awesome.

Jerod Morris: Thanks, man.

Jonny Nastor: Sorry, Toby, take that out.

Jerod Morris: No, you can keep that in. Keep it in, keep it in.

Jonny Nastor: As you were wrapping it up, I was like going back through it. Then, as you were explaining the last tail end, I was like, “Holy man, this is brilliant. This is really, really, really good.

Jerod Morris: Obviously, big hat tip to Chris Garrett. I don’t think he knew how much he was helping. It’s a great example of sometimes you’re thinking about something, and I had actually written stuff up on my whiteboard before I had that call with those guys … I’ve got it sitting right here. My initial idea was how to create, communicate, and capitalize on your winning difference. I’ve got columns for ‘create,’ ‘communicate,’ and ‘capitalize,’ but it just wasn’t right.

When Chris said that to me, the pieces fit together. It’s interesting how sometimes asking a question, getting a different perspective, when you’ve already kind of worked with the material a little bit can help unlock whatever that missing piece was. Hat tip to Mr. Garrett.

Podcast Recommendations of the Week

Jonny Nastor: Today we have two podcast recommendations because I’m really stepping up my game in podcast consumption again. So I’m back with another podcast. Two episodes in a row, I have a podcast recommendation, Jerod.

Jerod Morris: That’s amazing.

Jonny Nastor: Two in a row. But first, let’s start with Jerod because Jerod has an interesting one that I’ve actually never even heard of. I want to know more about it.

Jerod Morris: Yeah, so the Rich Roll podcast. It’s this guy, Rich Roll, and he’s an athlete. I think he’s an endurance athlete. He’s big on plant-based diets, and his big thing is unlocking the real you. I enjoy it. I don’t listen to all of his episodes, but I enjoy some of them.

He had one recently with Arianna Huffington, who obviously started the Huffington Post, and it’s about sleep. I guess she just wrote a net book about sleep. The episode is called Arianna Huffington’s Sleep Revolution. It’s interesting. This topic of sleep is one that I’m seeing on a lot more podcasts now. There’s actually a lot of new emerging science about how important sleep is.

Of course, ironically, I’m getting ready to enter a time of my life where I won’t be getting a whole lot of sleep, yet I’m really studying and trying to figure out how to get more anyway. I’m going to get in all these sleep habits, and then they’re totally going to be knocked aside for several months, which I’m totally excited about.

But this topic of sleep, the topic really spoke to me. If you listen to this, you will learn a lot about sleep, the importance of sleep, and some ways to intentionally organize your days so that sleep becomes a bigger part of it instead of just an afterthought, which it sometimes is in our ‘go, go, go, be hyper-productive’ culture.

What I like about this from a podcasting, from a showrunner perspective, is that this was recorded live at a conference the two of them were at. The audience isn’t great. You can tell that they’re sitting somewhere, and there’s ambient noise. It’s good enough that you can understand. So it’s not so bad that they shouldn’t have done it, but it’s definitely not perfect audio.

But it’s an example of how great content trumps subpar audio. There are some elements of their conversation–and the chemistry and the interplay between them–that I don’t think you would have gotten on a recorded interview. It really led to a deeper conversation. In this case, the constraint, the negative, actually brought out a positive.

In addition, he does a really great job with his show notes. I don’t take show notes as seriously as he does. I don’t feel like enough people go there to the show notes to do quite that much with them, but I think some people really do appreciate them. I have to say, going to his show notes kind of made me rethink my own philosophy about it. When they’re that good and rich and detailed, you can get a lot from them. Anyway, the Rich Roll podcast–search for the Arianna Huffington Sleep Revolution episode. It’s terrific for all of the reasons stated.

Jonny Nastor: Excellent. I’m going to keep mine in the family today.

Jerod Morris: Suck up.

Jonny Nastor: Jerod just totally went into depth about the three-step process for creating a unique podcast that will attract and retain an audience. You might be thinking, “I should start a new podcast.” Every new podcast has to be launched. I thought this was a good fit. Amy Harrison, she’s in the family because she’s part of Rainmaker.FM, and she has an absolutely phenomenal show called Hit Publish, which you should all subscribe to and leave her a great review. Build Desire for Your Product BEFORE You Make an Offer is the episode.

It’s about launching. It’s about launching a product, but your product, in this case, will be your podcast. It doesn’t matter what you’re launching. It’s about building this desire beforehand, and Amy does a really good job of explaining that to the listener. So take what Jerod has talked to you about starting a unique show, and then use it in conjunction with Amy’s lessons on launching–and you will be off to a great start.

I’ll link to that in the show notes, but it is at Rainmaker.FM. You’ll see Hit Publish. Just subscribe, and check it all out. Build Desire for Your Product BEFORE You Make an Offer by Amy Harrison is my recommendation.

How to Take Your Showrunning to the Next Level

Jerod Morris: Absolutely. Other than listening to those podcasts, go to Showrunner.FM. Join us. Get our weekly newsletter, which is great. It includes announcements of public events that we’re having, each week’s new episode, plus our ‘we highly recommend’ section that you won’t want to miss.

You also get our autoresponder series on the Four Essential Elements of a Remarkable Podcast, which, since you’ve just listened to this episode, you heard me talk about authenticity, usefulness, and sustainability. We kind of fleshed those out. They’re three of the four pillars of what we teach at The Showrunner. If you don’t know what the fourth pillar is, then that’s another reason to get on the email list so that you can find out.

Jonny Nastor: This has been fun.

Jerod Morris: It has been fun.

Jonny and Jerod’s Self-Assessment of the Delivery of Lesson 2 and the New Format

Jonny Nastor: What’s the initial reaction? Either to you out there, you can come tell us on Twitter or email us if you will. But, Jerod, what’s your initial reaction to this new format that we decided to try? I didn’t really get questions in each time. The first time I fumbled with some questions, and I tried. But did it make more sense, or did it make less sense? Did it help, or did it hinder?

Jerod Morris: I think it helped. You actually brought out a couple of points and helped me dial in what I was explaining, which was really good. I think that’s good. There were two reasons why we wanted to do this.

Number one, having the ‘pressure’ of knowing that I needed to prepare this for today’s recording forced us to do something that we’ve been talking about doing for several weeks. The fact that we said we were going to do it on a previous episode meant that we backed ourselves into a corner, so we had to do it. That’s one great benefit to this.

The other great benefit is getting this content out there and being able to explore it and interact with it. That means you get to ask me questions, and we figure out what works and maybe what doesn’t. The audience gets to listen to it and interact with it. Sometimes, you’ve just got to put your ideas out there and let them interact with an audience so that you can figure out what works, what doesn’t.

Now, obviously we’re going to use this recording as part of the mini course, but as we continue to go on further with these ideas, the more that it interacts with an audience, the more you can hone it. As far as I’m concerned, what I was trying to get out of this, it’s working great so far.

Jonny Nastor: I love it. All right, Jerod. It’s been fun, man.

Jerod Morris: It has been fun. Jonny, I will talk to you next week, and we will talk to you, our dear Showrunner listener, next week on another brand new episode of The Showrunner.

Jonny Nastor: Take care.