Each introduction to every one of our shows presents a massive opportunity. An opportunity to orient your listener, establish pacing, drive intrigue, and keep them listening … or an opportunity to drag down your show before even starts. In this episode of The Showrunner, we discuss tips to help you achieve the former and avoid the latter.
Jonny and I discuss:
- What, exactly, constitutes, the “intro” of a show?
- The problems with bad intros
- The four objectives you should have for your intro
- Steps you can take, right now, to improve your intro
Listen, learn, enjoy …
The Show Notes
No. 076 Is Your Intro Silently Killing Your Show?
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 RainmakerPlatform.com.
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, the podcast for people dedicated to creating remarkable audio experiences for their audience. This is episode No. 76. I am your host, Jerod Morris, VP of marketing for Rainmaker Digital, and I will be joined momentarily, as I always am, by my sweater-wearing co-host, Jonny Nastor, the host of Hack the Entrepreneur.
This episode of The Showrunner is brought to you by Audible. More on them later, but if you love audiobooks or if you’ve always wanted to give them a try, you can check out over 180,000 titles right now at AudibleTrial.com/Rainmaker.
Jonny, you’re wearing sweaters. I assume that means that the weather has turned up in your neck of the woods.
Jonny Nastor: It is November.
Jerod Morris: Yeah, so no more T-shirts. It is sweater weather.
Jonny Nastor: Yeah, it’s terrible actually. I’m not enjoying it. But I look at Instagram and see all you people down there in the South, and I wish I was down there with you.
Jerod Morris: Well, for what it’s worth, I am wearing a T-shirt. I wish I was wearing a sweater because, as we’ve mentioned before, I like the colder weather.
Jonny Nastor: Right.
Jerod Morris: Before we let this intro drag on too long, let’s introduce today’s main topic, which is intros. We don’t want the intro to this show to be silently killing our show for people to click off or get bored. What do you say we ditch the rest of sweater talk and hop right into today’s main topic?
Jonny Nastor: Sure, let’s do it.
Jerod Morris: Let’s do it. All right. So, Jonny, I’ve been thinking a lot about intros lately. I know that I kind of sprung this topic on you last second, but hopefully we can have some fun just exploring it. I think sometimes we underestimate the importance of our intro, don’t think about the impact the intro can have, and aren’t strategic enough with our intros. I thought about all this because I realized, as we get ready for another basketball season, that I needed to rework my intro for The Assembly Call.
I actually went back and listened to it, and as I was listening to it, I got bored. This is my own show. I’m listening to it, and I’m like, “Okay, get on with it. Let’s go. Let’s get to the show,” which was in immediate indication to me that something needed to change. I also had another conversation with a guy that I met at Digital Commerce Summit who actually has a radio show that he’s turning into a podcast. There were a few things that I talked about with him that reinforced this notion of the intro.
That’s why I wanted to talk about this. Look, the intro is the first part of the show that your audience is going to listen to. If you get off on the wrong foot with them, it can be really hard to recover — whether that’s a new audience member or even whether that’s a consistent loyal audience member who’s been with you for a long time. Any initial thoughts about intros and their importance to our shows?
What, Exactly, Constitutes, the ‘Intro’ of a Show?
Jonny Nastor: First, because you did just spring this on me, but I thought we were literally talking about intro music and maybe a voiceover that goes there. I see you’re taking it further.
Jerod Morris: Well, that’s the thing, though. I kind of am. The thing to think about with your intro is it’s all of that. It’s everything that gets you to your main topic — from the music, the initial beat, whatever, maybe a network identification that you may have, the music, the voiceover, and then whatever little banter that you might have.
Remember, people are listening to your episode because they found the title interesting. They want you to get to that main topic at some point. I guess when I’m talking about intro, just so we are on the same page, everything that gets the listener to the main topic is what I’m considering the intro.
Jonny Nastor: Right. I have very strong opinions about this. In the fact that, if you’ve heard the intro to Hack the Entrepreneur once, you’ve heard it. From the very first beat of music, straight through, except for the ad spot that changes, to the end of the music with the voiceover, to me saying, “Hey, hey,” into how my intro for my guest is written, it’s all formulated. It’s all the exact same. I don’t do that. There is a second benefit that it’s easier and faster for me.
To me, it was 100 percent radio. I want it to seem like a radio show that everything has its exact place, and it’s the same. I know for a fact that you don’t care what kind of ice cream I ate for lunch, and you don’t care what kind of coffee I’m drinking. I know for a fact, or at least I’m trusting my gut, my audience of one is really closely aligned to myself and what I want.
Because my audience is worried about themselves — not about what I had for lunch, what I am listening to, or what I am up to — I know that they’re there for them. They’re there to get something for them to help them on that journey. I 100 percent want that always to be there.
Jerod Morris: And you want that intro to get them there as efficiently as possible while also achieving the goals that you have for your intro?
Jonny Nastor: Always, yes. To me, it’s selfish. It’s selfish and not showrunner-ish to focus on yourself and that banter, to think that anybody cares what you and possibly your co-host have to say about whatever stuff. It’s cool for 30 seconds. It’s totally fine. It makes it personable. Maybe you could argue that, and sure, I’ve got no data to back it up that it’s not. It’s just my intuition. I’ve never had somebody ever, ever complain that my intro is too succinct and they just get what they need and get on to the show. Seriously.
Jerod Morris: Thanks a lot for giving me exactly what I came here for. What’d you have for breakfast, Jonny?
Jonny Nastor: Exactly. They come to my emails. They come to Twitter and stuff when they want to ask me what kind of ice cream I like. They do. I think there’s a side benefit in the fact that it leaves almost a mystery. It really makes the show about your audience and about your guests and leaves you out of it. You’re just the medium to get there. Then people want to know more about you. Because you’re not telling them, we want to then. But if I’m just constantly telling you stuff about myself, “I don’t want to hear this.” When you’re not, then it’s like, “Well, I want to know, so I’ll go find other places to reach out to you that aren’t based around your show.” So yeah, absolutely.
I cannot tell you how many shows I’ve been like, “I’m going to listen to this.” Somebody will send me their show or something, and I either fast-forward through it … I typically don’t even do that anymore because I have a feeling it’s not going to get any better if you started out like this. That’s just me, but I think that the feedback I’ve gotten, or lack of feedback in that way, is a strong indicator that I’m not alone in it.
The Problems with Bad Intros
Jerod Morris: Yeah. Let’s talk about a few problems with bad intros, and I brainstormed a few of these on our note sheet here. It can train your audience to fast-forward. If it does, now you miss out on the opportunities that you have in the intro. We’re going to get to those in a minute because there are some things you should be doing with your intro.
This is not wasted space that you should speed through as quickly as possible. You need an intro. There are reasons for it to be there, but you want to be strategic about it.
If you’re training your audience to fast-forward through those, you’re not getting any of those benefits. You’re also training your audience to dread the beginning of your show, and you don’t want that. Your content may be good enough that it keeps people coming back, and they’ll suffer through this or fast-forward through it. But you don’t want them to think, “All right, let me get through this crappy first five minutes until they get to the good stuff.” Why have the crappy first five minutes then? Just get past that.
Also, if there is disorientation, it can lead to confusion during the show. I’ll explain this a little bit more in a bit. You have to create an intro that caters to both new audience members who are listening to your show for the very first time and your old audience members who have been with you for 100 plus episodes. Obviously, those are two totally different people, but you need to serve both of them with the same intro.
If you have a bad intro, it can disorient one or the other group, and that can then lead to them getting off on the wrong foot and then not being in the right frame of mind, not being enthusiastic, or not knowing what’s going on once you do get to the main topic.
Any other, Jonny, problems with bad intros that you want to highlight here before we dive into what an intro is actually for?
Jonny Nastor: I think a bad intro is a symptom of a much larger problem of a bad show. I don’t think you can be really loose, not staying to the point, not focusing on your audience in your intro, and then all of a sudden tighten up and put on a great show. I think that, even if the person doesn’t fast-forward through it, I think they’ve already set up to just be distracted and do other stuff.
You said something there, and this is interesting actually. We do this two different ways, on The Showrunner and on Hack the Entrepreneur. How you said it needs to orient people, new people, new listeners, their first listen, and then people who have been around for however long on their journey. You always say, “Welcome back to The Showrunner.” I consciously never say, “Welcome back to Hack the Entrepreneur.”
It’s weird because I’ve done it, and then re-done it, rerecorded it, because I’m like, “No, I’m not welcoming back.” To me, it’s too presumptive that I’ve got you back already. I’m always under the assumption this is the first time you’ve ever heard me. It’s always like, “Hey, hey, welcome to Hack the Entrepreneur. I’m your host.” It gives them exactly what they need to start. Now let’s get into the guest, and then let’s roll into the show. I don’t know if that does anything.
Jerod Morris: See, I like that when you have a new show. But don’t you think, at this point, with the number of listeners and number of repeat listeners you have, you can now assume that the amount of people listening to your show is now tilted in favor, is weighted in favor of returning listeners, where that wasn’t the case at the beginning? I would actually argue that, as your show evolves, that kind of intro should evolve with it.
Jonny Nastor: Yeah, exactly. Again, I don’t have data one way or the other. It’s something that I just really want to nourish the people that every single day are discovering my show for the first time. Maybe they’d feel like they were part of something that was bigger than them and me together. You know what I mean?
Jerod Morris: That is one of those things I don’t think there’s necessarily a right answer to it. It’s probably the one that you believe in the most that is going to work the best. I don’t know. It could be worth trying, though.
Jonny Nastor: Yeah, that’s true. That’s true.
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The Four Objectives You Should Have for Your Intro
Jerod Morris: Jonny, let’s talk real quick about what an intro is for. I listed three goals that I have for my intro, and I’d love to get your feedback, too.
Number one, I think your intro establishes the tone and pacing of your show. Obviously, your music choice is a big part of that. Number two, you orient your audience, which we just talked about — new and old. I mentioned a conversation I had with a guy who runs a radio show and is turning it into a podcast. That was one of the pieces of feedback that I gave to him is that I think it’s important to let people know that this podcast is a recording of a radio program.
Then how people, if they do want to listen live so that they can ask questions, because later on in the show, they take questions. I remembered as I was first listening, I was like, “Wait a minute, he just asked for us to call in. Can I call in?” I think it’s important to establish that, orient it up front.
Then, also, you can introduce a call to action in your intro. In many cases, you should. That might be an ad in the beginning, like we’ve started doing with The Showrunner. On The Assembly Call, we introduce our call to action to join The Assembly Call — “Go to AssemblyCall.com/Join to activate your free membership today.” It’s real quick there in the intro, but then when we reintroduce it later in an actual ad spot inside of the show, they’ve already heard it. It’s their second time, and it just helps to reinforce that.
To me, Jonny, those are the three things an intro should do: establish tone and pacing, orient the audience, both new and old, and introduce an important call to action — whether that’s to your own site, to your own content, or for an advertiser. What are the biggest goals of an intro to you?
Jonny Nastor: I’m going to 100 percent agree with the tone and pacing. I’m going to put the focus onto pacing for me. I like keeping up that pace, that there’s going to be no extra stuff in here. It’s going to be just what you need.
Then, to me, though, my biggest goal is to get them into the show fast, but then also to build interest and intrigue in my guest — meaning, it needs to answer, “Why should I listen to this?” — especially because I’m getting away from the Seth Godins and the Gary Vaynerchuks on my show all the time. It’s very much guests that they probably haven’t heard of, but they have amazing stories and can share, can help a lot, and can benefit. It really needs to do that. I have structured my intro, my guest intro in that way.
One of the biggest ways, which I did on the last episode of The Showrunner with Glenn Rubenstein, was I set up the guest and build upon them, stack all the benefits of the guest and what they’ve accomplished without saying the guest name until the very last two words of the intro — 100 percent taken from late-night television. Any of those people that have those shows, that’s just how you do it. You build that excitement, anticipation, get people really listening, and then it’s like, “Okay, now welcome to the show, Glenn.” Then we jump into it.
To me, that is my focus. If I cannot get them intrigued in this guest within that 30-second intro, I don’t think they’re going to stick through for the next 30 minutes. That’s just how it is. That’s 100 percent, to me, what is my job. And to me, it’s making it as compact, as exact, and as intriguing as possible.
Jerod Morris: That’s a great addition, and I’m glad you said that. Frankly, you can view an individual podcast episode a lot like you would a blog post. Just like the headline of a blog post or the headline of a podcast episode is to get people to click play, now your intro is to intrigue them and get them to continue on the page.
I think the things I mentioned are what you should try to include in your intro if you can, but it’s so essential, Jonny, to make sure that you don’t lose sight of that overarching goal, which you mentioned — is to get people to continue on and listen to the episode. Build that impulse. Keep them there. Keep them enthusiastic so that they’re intrigued to stay and listen to whatever story it is that you’re about to tell.
We do that with Digital Entrepreneur, too, and I took that directly from Hack the Entrepreneur, which is introducing the guests just like you do, save the name for the end. It’s a great way to build impulse. Of course, all of this, context is important. What your show is about, the goal of your show, and what you’re doing with your show is going to be so important. Especially for an interview show, I think, Jonny, what you just mentioned is so important.
How to Orient Your Audience — An Example Using Hack the Entrepreneur
Jonny Nastor: Yeah. Another thing, to go back to your orient the audience, I’m going to put you on the spot here, and I’m going to use your brain for this. This is something I’ve actually been thinking about for about 100 episodes. I don’t know how to tackle it within my intro. I find that people, either guests of my show or people who find my show today, they listen to it, they come on Twitter or they email me, and they’re like, “Oh, I really like your show, blah, blah, blah,” all the usual stuff. Then, “Your hack at the end.”
Anybody that doesn’t know, I pull out a snippet of the interview or what my guest says at the end. I replay it, and then I do a 30-second to three-minute essay around a deeper meaning of that. I don’t in any way set that up at the beginning or orient them to wait for that. People know it when they’re there and they’ve been there.
But I think that there’s actually a lot of people who listen to the show for a first time, like most podcasts, they might get halfway through, and if I had told them to wait for something or to expect something. You know what I mean? Without it being this long-winded explanation that I just did about what happens at the end of my show, I think it would be really cool to somehow tie it together, the front and back in the intro.
Jerod Morris: I have an idea for this. On Podcast on the Brink, which is another podcast that I host, we do the episode number, “Hey, this is episode No. 170, and this episode is dedicated to the 170 field goals that Calbert Cheaney made his senior year at Indiana.” Then I would go on, “He’s an ex-player of the Hoosiers … ,” kind of meant as a nod to the past. I talk about this guy for about a minute and a half, two minutes celebrating a traditional player in IU history. I got some feedback that the intro was too long. I thought, “Well, okay, I still want to do this, but how can I put this at the end?
What I started doing is, “You’re listening to episode No. 170 of Podcast on the Brink. This is dedicated to the 170 field goal attempts that this IU legend made in his senior season. To find out who it is, stick around to the end of the episode,” then go on with the rest of the intro. That builds a little bit of the impulse, opened that loop, and then you close it at the end. It gets you through the intro quicker.
Yours could be as simple as, and I don’t know exactly how you would fit this in, but you could just say, “Make sure you stick around when we pull out the hack.” Obviously, word it much more elegantly. Yours could be as simple as that, or you could find a way to work into the intro with the person. I’d have to think about how to do that, but just mentioning it so that just to open that loop so that they know to stick around.
Or even right before you transition to the show, “Hey, make sure that you stick around. You’re going to hear so much great stuff over the next 30 minutes, stick around for the end, and I’ll tell you the single most important thing I learned from this episode. Here we go.” Something like that.
Jonny Nastor: I like that. This actually, when you do it pre-roll-ish, like you do with Podcast on the Brink, it made me think of something that I actually really like about shows for intros. There’s only one or two shows I’ve heard do it, but they literally pull out a five-second or 10-second snippet and play it at the very beginning.
Jerod Morris: Yeah, we did that on The Lede for a while.
Jonny Nastor: To me, it’s like the hack, but it’s at the beginning. Especially if it’s somebody says something and then there’s laughter. I was like, “Oh, this is going to be fun.” It really sets the tone of the show right there. Then I just like, “Okay, now get through the intro,” because I want to get to that part of the conversation.
Jerod Morris: Yeah, and if you want an example of that, Unemployable does that. They do it on Brian’s show, Unemployable, and we did it on The Lede. Now, it will add to your production time, obviously, so you have to balance all of this with how much time you can take for production. Yeah, ideally, I would do that on all of my shows. I love that, pulling a great quote out to kick off the show. I love that.
Jonny Nastor: I know with the hack that I pull out, I have my PDF, and there’s spots for 10 different times. I just literally mark down a timestamp. Right now, it’s 21:34 in our conversation. If I was just writing down two of those numbers during the whole thing, then it’s easy at the end to go back and just pull out five seconds from there. All I’m saying is, if you’re out there listening, wondering, “How would I do this?” you don’t have to go back and listen to the whole thing again and again. You can do it as you’re going through it and get into the flow of it.
Jerod Morris: Yeah.
Jonny Nastor: That, to me, actually, now that we’re getting into this whole intro thing, I would love to hear more people do that. I think that most people out there listening really enjoy that. If you can find a way to work that in, I think it will help your listen through and people getting all the way through your show.
Jerod Morris: Yeah, I agree.
Jonny Nastor: I’ve never called it ‘listen through’ before.
Jerod Morris: Dude, it’s great!
Jonny Nastor: But I’m now referring to it as listen through.
Jerod Morris: That’s awesome.
Steps You Can Take, Right Now, to Improve Your Intro
Jerod Morris: Okay, we’ve got a few minutes left here in this episode, so let’s give folks some takeaways for what they can do right after they get done listening to the show to figure it out. What I’m hoping, literally what I’m hoping that you are feeling as you’re listening to this, is a little bit of panic. A little bit of panic like, “Holy crap, I need to go to check out my intro. I might be doing things wrong.”
In this case, I don’t think that’s bad. That’ll get you to go back and listen to your show, which I know we’ve talked about before on the show the importance of doing it. I even have lapses in time where I don’t go back and listen to my show. It’s such an important thing to do once a month, once every couple months, just to make sure that you’re hearing it because this is exactly what happened.
I redid the intro for The Assembly Call last year. I wanted to get all this information in. I wanted to let people know that it’s a live show that was being broadcast as a podcast, let people know how to get on our email list, let them know the live URL to come visit us. Then I was trying to get these songs in — way too much. The intro, it was cool. I liked it. I thought it was well-produced, but it took like two, two and a half minutes just to get into the actual meat of the show. Once I produced it, I hadn’t really listened to it, and then I finally listened to it again.
I’m sitting there listening to it, and I’m like, “Man, this is boring.” Obviously, if I’m thinking it’s boring, what’s the audience thinking? I actually had Heather listen to it, my wife, and she listens to the show. She knows the show. She’s listening to it … and she’s always watches live, so she doesn’t really listen to the podcast so had never really heard the podcast intro. She was like, “Yeah, that’s way too long. Get on with it already.”
I went back and cut everything down to where it takes about 45 seconds now, and it’s tight. It orients the listener. It introduces a call to action. It does everything that I wanted to do, but it was so much quicker and so much more efficient. I’d never gotten feedback on the intro before, but after we changed it, then I got feedback like, “Thank you so much for shortening this and making it better.” I was like, “Oh man, I wish I had realized this was an issue at first.”
If you want to know what to do, number one, go listen to an episode of your show right now. If you hit stop on the rest of this episode of us and just go listen to an episode of your show, we won’t take it personally. In fact, we’ll feel like we’ve succeeded. Think about, what’s your gut reaction? Does it fulfill the goals that you have for your intro, the goals that we stated above, or maybe some additional goals that you have specific to your show?
Then number two, ask a few select audience members. I wouldn’t ask everybody, “Hey, what do you think of our show?” Maybe your wife or husband, or boyfriend or girlfriend, or a couple people that have been with you for a long time. People who you can really trust that will give you a good answer, good feedback, ask them, and then consider starting fresh. Sometimes we get bogged down with how we’ve always done our intro, but how would you organize it if you were starting your show today?
Maybe just redo your intro. Give your intro a fresh coat of paint. I’m not saying you have to do that, but I do think just looking at it from a fresh perspective — would you say things the same way? Would you organize it the same way? Would you establish the same pacing that you are, or have things changed?
Just take a fresh look at it. You may realize that your show has evolved, you have evolved, and your intro should evolve with it, but it’s still back the intro that you had 100 episodes ago. Could be time for something fresh. That’s what I would say.
Jonny, any words of advice for listeners on what they can do right now to ensure that their intro is not silently killing their show?
Jonny Nastor: Yeah, one thing I would add is, wherever it is you record your episodes, right above your monitor you have that list that is your audience of one, obviously, the person you are speaking to. Right beside that, I want you to put up a piece of paper, and in a big, giant black marker just write, “Leave them wanting more.” People will always come back if you leave them wanting more. People will not come back to your show if they just get bored and you’ve gone on too long.
Every time you think that maybe you’re going on too long, just stop, and leave them wanting more. Trust me, people won’t stop listening because you’ve left them wanting more. It will never happen. They’re always just going to come back, and they’re going to come back excited then to want more — rather than just like, “Oh my god, I can’t believe I have to go through this again.”
Just really stay focused. This is always about your audience. It’s not about you getting to tell everything about yourself. Start a personal blog or something, or an audio blog, if that’s what you have to do. Focus your show on your audience, and always leave them wanting more.
Jerod Morris: Yes. Now, the only caveat there is make sure that you have fulfilled the promise that you’ve made with your headline. You’ve got to make sure that you do that. Don’t leave people wanting more when it comes to that. That will get people to stop listening. But so long as you have fulfilled what you promised to do with your headline and with any kind of promise that you made in your intro or your description text, then, yes, don’t ramble on and on. Leave them wanting more. I agree completely. I guess we should leave them wanting more.
Jonny Nastor: Yeah, we should.
Jerod Morris: So go to Showrunner.FM. Join the email list. You’ll get our weekly newsletter, as well as the rundown and the link to that week’s episode. We really love having you on there. It’s our chance to get in your inbox each week. I know Jonny and I both really enjoy writing those emails. We alternate. One week it’s from me. One week it’s from Jonny. We’ll tell you about that week’s episode and then plus anything cool or new that we’ve learned. Sometimes we’ll put some cool links in there, recommend something we’ve found out. It’s our chance to connect with you in a different way than we do here on the podcast. Go to Showrunner.FM, and join that list.
Jonny Nastor: If you want to find out what kind of ice cream I actually do eat, it’ll be in the newsletter. That’s the only place. I’m not going to put it into the intro or the outro. That’s newsletter stuff, baby.
Jerod Morris: Well, now I have to subscribe because I have to find out. I have to know. All right, everybody, we’ll talk to you next week on another brand-new episode of The Showrunner.
Jonny Nastor: Take care.