Have you ever fallen off the podcasting wagon? Or come close? In tough times, it can be useful to consider the idea of the minimum viable podcast. So long as you’re willing to never compromise on producing useful audio, this version of the MVP can be extremely helpful in keeping you moving forward.
In this episode, Jonny and Jerod discuss the following:
- The mantra of a Showrunner Podcasting Course member that inspired this episode
- How the software concept of MVP can be applied to podcasting
- Why the idea of minimum viable podcast is not an excuse to compromise on quality
- What elements of your podcast are essential, and which ones are not
Plus, Jerod has some exciting news to share at the beginning.
Listen, learn, enjoy …
The Show Notes
- This episode is brought to you by Acuity Scheduling.
- Follow Jerod on Twitter: @jerodmorris
- Follow Jonny on Twitter: @jonnastor
- Showrunner FM
No. 072 How to Create a MVP (Minimum Viable Podcast)
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, a podcast from Rainmaker.FM dedicated to helping you create remarkable audience experiences through audio. This is episode No. 72. I am your host, Jerod Morris, VP of marketing for Rainmaker Digital. I will be joined momentarily, as I always am, by my coffee-connoisseur co-host, Jonny Nastor, the host of Hack the Entrepreneur.
This episode is brought to you by Acuity Scheduling. Acuity Scheduling makes scheduling meetings online easy. Clients can view your real-time availability, self-book appointments with you, fill out forms, and even pay you online. To learn more and get a 45-day free trial, visit AcuityScheduling.com/Showrunner.
Jonny, what’s going on man? How are you?
Jonny Nastor: Doing well. Looking forward to getting back into this.
Jerod Morris: Me too. Hey, on Slack a couple hours ago, I told you that I had news.
Jonny Nastor: You did.
Jerod’s Exciting News
Jerod Morris: It just happened this morning, and it’s really interesting timing considering what we talked about last episode with how do you decide whether you’re going to start a new show or not. I do a weekly radio spot in Indiana. I got this obviously based on The Assembly Call. The guy who I do the weekly radio spot with just was named program director at the radio station, called me up today and said he wants our Assembly Call team to do an hour radio show for the radio station. Basically like a ‘this week in Indiana basketball’ type thing.
Jonny Nastor: Wow.
Jerod Morris: Yeah, which is really awesome. Here’s the thing. I don’t want to get into this too much because, if you want to hear us talk about how do you know if you want to say yes, how do you know if you want to do a new show, definitely go back and listen to episode No. 71, our last episode. I had the exact same reaction you did.
You just said, “Wow.” And I said, “Hell, yes.” Obviously we’re going to do it. That’s how I knew that I wanted to do it. It’s like just that immediate, visceral hell yes, then talked about it with the guys, kind of looked at the opportunity. Obviously, you say hell yes, but then you actually want to make sure that you’re ready for the time commitment.
Every single thing points to it being a great opportunity, a can’t miss opportunity, a complete hell yes. So that was the answer, was hell yes, and we’re going to do it. I just thought it was really interesting timing and just yet another example of what can happen from a podcast, from creating a good show, and from sticking with a show. Obviously, it’s taken us six years to get to this point to where we’re getting these kind of offers. But it’s really exciting and really fun, and I wanted to share that with you and with the audience.
Jonny Nastor: That’s really awesome, man. Congratulations.
Jerod Morris: It is. It’s so much fun to get those ‘hell yes’ opportunities, too. So much better than the ones that are just okay opportunities, you have to hem and haw a little bit, and you don’t know exactly what you’re going to do. Man, when those opportunities come, they are exciting. I’m really excited to do this.
This is going to be something new because it’s not going to be a live show. We’re actually going to produce four 12-minute segments and then send them to them. Then they’re going to put them in and play them live on the radio. It’s going to be a little different. So as we go through this process — and I figure out how we do it, and then do we start a new podcast feed with those episodes, like how all that goes — I’ll be sure to let folks know.
I think this idea of being able to get some opportunities on the radio from what you’re doing with your show, this is not going to be a rare thing. I think a lot of radio stations are looking for good content. You can position yourself to take advantage of that. It’s a great way to grow your audience.
Jonny Nastor: Yeah, and if you were on the email list prior to us changing, and prior to our break back in June, I believe, I put the link in there that week. The thing I was sharing was this great video and article by a guy who’s a vet on the radio. He’s been helping podcasters create shows that will get bought up by radio stations and put on.
There was this pie chart, and it showed exactly. He was like, “You can’t be off by six seconds or 12 seconds. You have to be bang on, on these things because this is how radio works.” He’s like, “But if you can create your segments like this, there’s these places to distribute your content,” which is amazing. It might actually be useful to go back and see that. Now, that brings me back to that. That’s awesome.
Jerod Morris: Maybe we’ll do a full episode on that in the future, too, because I think that has some legs.
Jonny Nastor: I think you’re right. It goes back to the whole you don’t even know who’s listening to your show.
Jerod Morris: Exactly. All right, are you ready to hop into today’s main topic because you have prepared a good one for us, Jonny.
Jonny Nastor: Sure, let’s do it.
Jerod Morris: All right, let’s do it.
Jonny, I will let you take the reins here because you put this one together for us. I’m excited to dive in on this one.
The Mantra of a Showrunner Podcasting Course Member That Inspired This Episode
Jonny Nastor: Yeah, for sure. Today’s episode is how to create an MVP, minimum viable podcast. It’s kind of a play on words. MVP in the typical — it’s not typical — the atypical software business sense, it’s minimum viable product. But we’re using it in the minimum viable podcast.
Inside the Facebook, The Showrunner Course members Facebook group, there’s been some discussions lately. It seemed like once somebody admitted to it, then other people came in like, “Oh, me too. I just haven’t wanted to say it,” about falling off the podcasting horse or just the life getting in the way. This is people with either 20 episodes, 50 episodes, 60 episodes, 100 episodes into it, and then things just getting in the way and not being able to get it done.
One of the course members, Melissa D., came in and shared this mantra with somebody else who was having this issue. It really helped a lot of people, and it really helped me. Then it also sort of gave birth to the idea of this topic today.
Melissa D. came in after somebody said they fell off the podcasting horse. She said, “My best advice is simply a mantra I use all the time.”
She says, “Of all the practices we engage in, the most important practice is just getting back on the wagon. It’s a very good thing to make a very short wagon, i.e., to set the bar really low. What is the least you could do to create a minimum viable podcast? Remember, you always get to take a fresh start. Stumbling is not an excuse to beat yourself up. It’s an opportunity to practice my golden formula — which is self-awareness, plus self-compassion equals the key to everything good. In other words, notice what’s working and what’s not working. Notice how it feels when you’re off the wagon compared to when you’re on it, and treat yourself kindly. Forgive yourself for being human. And as I like to say, ‘Don’t beat yourself up. Love yourself up.'”
Jerod Morris: There’s just so much to love in that mantra.
Jonny Nastor: I love it. It’s so awesome. I don’t even want to undersell it or undervalue it by literally just pulling out the minimum viable podcast part. But that really caught my attention. Because I think most of us, if not all of us, do beat ourselves up when this happens. Life does happen.
Hopefully today’s episode will help us so that we can focus on determining for ourselves what a minimum viable podcast is so that, hopefully, you can get back on the wagon quicker — not the wagon, but the horse — hopefully maybe not even fall off it because you’ll be willing to let go of certain things that just aren’t necessary to keep a viable podcast running.
Jerod Morris: The thing is — and we deal with this a lot, Jonny, we’ve dealt with it ourselves, we’ve talked with folks who deal with this — you are going to fall off the wagon. You hit those dips, you get frustrated with your show, and all these things. There’s two things that have to happen when that happens when you fall off the wagon, you’re thinking about stopping your show or maybe you even have.
The first is, of course, to find some kind of inspiration to get going again — which, of course, this mantra from Melissa does. This idea of “self-awareness plus self-compassion is the key to everything good.” She is so spot on with that. There is no need to beat yourself up because almost every single showrunner who has ever started a show has faced that self-doubt, has fallen off the wagon, has quit, has been in some similar situation to that.
The inspiration isn’t enough. The good feeling isn’t enough. You need an actual strategy. You need an actual plan of action to move forward because clearly something wasn’t working right before. Now you need something different. That’s why this idea of minimum viable podcast is so great and why I’m excited to talk about it today. We can help give you that inspiration part and get you excited. Hopefully following what Melissa says here, you can find some of that yourself.
The minimum viable podcast, then, is that simple, put one foot in front of the other, don’t make it too complicated formula to actually getting back out there and getting your show going again — which is so important. Today, we want to focus on this idea, the minimum viable podcast.
First, I want to take a quick break and tell you about Acuity Scheduling, the sponsor for this week’s episode of The Showrunner. Now, you know how challenging the back and forth of booking appointments, meetings, and podcasts guests can be. Jonny and I talk about it a lot on here. I’ve actually dealt with this with The Digital Entrepreneur with scheduling.
What’s really nice is, I have Caroline Early, who just does so much great work for us at Rainmaker.FM and over at Digital Commerce Institute. She actually helps me schedule, and you can imagine how difficult it would be for her to be scheduling appointments, recording appointments, if she had to go back and forth on the email, “Hey, does this time work good for you? Oh, Jerod, is this good for you?” — all that run around, if we didn’t use some kind of scheduling software. It makes it so much simpler both for scheduling, for rescheduling, for keeping it all organized.
I am acutely aware of how important this kind of a program is. Think about that. What if you never had to ask again, “What time works for you?” — that question that is the bane of all of our existences who schedule stuff.
Well, Acuity Scheduling makes the entire process of scheduling appointments easy. It works with your existing Google, Office 365, iCloud, or Outlook Calendar. Clients can view your availability and self-book appointments, complete on-boarding forms, and even submit payment so you can get back to running your business. Acuity Scheduling also helps you avoid no shows with automatic text and email reminders. Plus, it’s simple to use, and they offer phenomenal customer support.
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Jonny Nastor: I definitely enjoyed the ad read. That was really good.
Jerod Morris: Did you?
Why Scheduling Software Is Part of a Minimum Viable Podcast Workflow
Jonny Nastor: Yeah, that was really good. I guess this kind of fits into our topic. Besides the things you need — you have to have hosting, obviously. You have to have all those kinds of things. To me, the one which I would put into that is scheduling software. That whole trying to schedule guests, that’s why guests just don’t respond to you because you’re just trying to like bounce them back times, and everyone’s too busy for that these days.
Jerod Morris: I can’t even fathom doing an interview show without scheduling software, seriously.
Jonny Nastor: People come in to my inbox and send me things almost daily without it. It’s just like, “I can’t do this.” I’ve actually set up my own other link now for my scheduling software that sends them to another part of my calendar. Where it’s like, “You’ve just got to use mine then because this is crazy.”
Jerod Morris: Is this the point you’re making, would you consider scheduling software part of a minimum viable podcast? Or at least part of a minimum viable podcast workflow?
Jonny Nastor: Yes. This can be kind of interesting. Just to give you a peek behind the curtain, I created this outline for this show just a few hours ago. Jerod is just seeing it now. I’ve gone through and I just listed a bunch of things that I considered necessary for a show. Necessary as in what’s minimum, and then also there’s a full list of things that I think when we start we think are necessary. There’s definitely room for exploration of whether all of those are absolutely necessary.
I’ve highlighted some, and those are the ones that I think are the MVP of this process. But I think that Jerod’s probably going to disagree or see a different perspective on some of them. This could get interesting. That’s to give you guys an idea of what we’re trying to accomplish here.
Jerod Morris: It’s really important, too, to draw the distinction between MVP and ideal. When we talk about minimum viable podcast, we’re not talking about the ideal podcast with the perfect website and the autoresponders, every single possible thing you can have. This is you just want to get back out there, get going, get a podcast that people can listen to and subscribe to, and get moving.
You know what? When you do that, then you’ll add this, and then you’ll add that. Instead of overwhelming yourself with all of that right now, this is what you need to take those first few steps. That’s the goal. Just want to make sure people realize, if we don’t say, “It’s part of the minimum viable podcast,” that doesn’t mean it’s not a best practice or that it shouldn’t be part of your ideal showrunner strategy. But this is a strategy for someone who’s in maybe a little bit of a different place.
Jonny Nastor: Exactly. We’ve all been in those places and possibly are right now. It’s that 80/20 rule. What are the 20 percent you can do that gets you that 80 percent results. Because 80 percent is better than zero, and falling off the horse brings you to zero. We’re trying to avoid that.
How the Software Concept of MVP Can Be Applied to Podcasting
Jonny Nastor: Just to give you a quick idea of what MVP is. Jerod and I both come from software, so we’ve heard the term a lot. MVP is not most valuable player. It’s ‘minimum viable product.’ In product development, the minimum viable product is a product with just enough features to gather validated learning about the product and it’s continued development.
When you’re building out a product, say software, you would come up with a very, very minimum viable thing that you could create and put out to your market to see if it is viable. Rather than just guessing, putting way too much time, energy, and resources into creating this giant, full-fledged product and then finding out that nobody even cares about it, it’s this idea that’s come up with called the MVP.
We’re just taking it to podcasting. I think that even sometimes if you went to this MVP, you might stay there for one episode. You might stay there for 10 episodes. You might stay there for 20 episodes — until you get that time and resources and energy back to kind of go to the full-fledged foundation of a real show.
Why the Idea of Minimum Viable Podcast Is Not an Excuse to Compromise on Quality
Jerod Morris: Let’s make one more distinction, too. MVP does not mean low quality. What you put out as the MVP has to still be tip-top quality. It just means it may be … it could have five parts, and you’re only putting out one part, that’s your minimum viable. But it is still of the utmost quality. People will judge you based on quality. Now, it doesn’t have to have the full scope that you hope maybe it has some day in the future. But what you put out does have to have the quality that you want to be representative of your brand and your product.
Sometimes people think, “Oh, I can just put this little crappy thing out.” It needs to be good. It needs to be high quality. Make sure you don’t mistake that.
Jonny Nastor: Yeah, great distinction. In software, actually, it’s been sort of pushed further to viable isn’t good enough. It has to be useful. Like your show has to be useful to your audience. It’s absolutely necessary that there’s a minimum usefulness too — or else there’s no point in even doing it, for you or your audience. Great distinction.
What Elements of Your Podcast Are Essential, and Which Ones Are Not
Jonny Nastor: Now, I’ve broken this into two separate what I’m going to call ‘viability points.’ There’s the overall show viability. These are your one time setups where, once you’ve done this and your show’s launched, you don’t have to worry about it anymore. But there’s definitely things that have to be there. Typically, what this conversation is going to be around is the second part, which is the ‘publishing viability.’ This is where you fall off the horse. Typically, it’s not called falling off the horse if you haven’t even launched a show, and you’re just thinking about it. That’s not even getting on the horse yet. You’ve got to get on it before you can fall off it.
For show viability, again, these are the one-time setups, I’ve got listed here, you need to have your topic. If you went back … and I actually did this. I went to Showrunner.FM, back to our very first episodes, and I went through and I saw. We cover all these different things. If we’re talking about something you’re not sure about, go back and listen to the archives. There’s the topic. You obviously have to know your topic, and you need a show name before you start.
Then you need to come up with artwork that fits into your marketplace, which we go over in great detail. You need the intro/outro music, and you need to determine a format for your show. To me, that is the creation of the show right there.
Beyond that, you need distribution. That can be a website. That can be an email opt-in form to build up your email list, and then your podcast feed, which is on your hosting, which gets distributed out to directories — which gets you distribution, which gets you listeners.
Then there’s social media. We’ve covered this in great detail, but that’s having your own social media accounts for your show or else personal ones where you can promote. Then there’s iTunes, Google Play, which are just podcast directories themselves. But they’re by far the two biggest ones and the ones that you should focus on first.
Then we did a whole episode on directory submissions where we went through and I went over a year’s worth of history of mine and looked at which one’s worked, which one’s didn’t. Then there’s sponsors, which to me brings in … obviously, it’s not always necessary at the very beginning to even be thinking about that. But if we’re talking about viability, one of our four core elements is to have it so that there’s monetization, that it earns money, and can continue to be viable to you as a showrunner.
Those would be the ones that I’m covering. Now, I guess I would like to see, to you, Jerod, from those ones, which ones are minimum viable?
Jerod Morris: I think you’ve got to have your topic. I think you’ve got to have a show name. But you could change your show name. Ideally, you wouldn’t, but that’s one thing here. Same thing with artwork. You need artwork, but it doesn’t have to be your final artwork. You don’t have to go spend $300 at 99designs to get your artwork. That can come when you’re 100 episodes in like it did for us at The Assembly Call. You do need to have something here, and it needs to be good, like what you could create over at Canva. It can’t just be some MS Paint thing. You want it to look okay, but it doesn’t need to be perfect. It’s got to be viable. It’s got to be useful.
I agree with all this branding stuff — name, artwork, intro/outro music. You need something. It needs to sound good, but don’t get so paralyzed thinking that it has to be the final one, that it has to be perfect. Same thing with format. You have to have a format, but you can change your format. I think that’s important because people can get paralyzed with that kind of thing.
Website’s the interesting one. I think for a minimum viable podcast, as long as you have a feed … you can go get a feed at Libsyn. You don’t even necessarily have to have a website. If your goal is just to put a podcast out there, you could put a minimum viable podcast out there without some of this other stuff, without social media.
Now, I think once you start taking the next step, if this podcast is going to make money, if it’s going to drive business results for you, and if that is part of, to you, what makes it viable, then you’re going to need these elements. I think what your goal is with your show is going to dictate which ones of these are necessary and which ones are not.
For me, I would never put a podcast out without a website to go along with it because it wouldn’t even be viable for me to do that. But I can see arguments made by other people where maybe they wouldn’t want to do that. You just have to really sit down, understand what you want this podcast to do. I think that will help you decide which ones of these you have to have.
Jonny Nastor: I love it. The website one, I had it so that it wasn’t considered viable, and that’s only because I’m exploring the idea in my head of doing a show without a site.
Jerod Morris: Woah.
Jonny Nastor: I don’t know. It might just be something that we’ve all done, and we’ve always done it. And there’s other reasons. If there’s a business around it or it’s like an addition to an existing thing, then yes, you have a site, and you might as well be publishing to there. I think that one could be variable.
Email opt-ins, I was two and a half months into Hack the Entrepreneur before I even had an email opt-in up. To me, you need the topic. You need the show name. You need the artwork. You need the music. You need the format. Then you need a feed. The feed is absolutely necessary because you can’t distribute it and nobody can subscribe to it without it.
Jerod Morris: Feed is definitely necessary. Again, a website, email opt-in, those are ideal. You should have those. Don’t mistake us. But if you’re just in this place where you have to go from an MVP, then they can be considered optional. That’s the only time.
Jonny Nastor: If you’re getting started right now and you’re just held up with too many things, then yes, let’s just go to the MVP. Social media, to me, it’s good to grab the names before your show’s launched so that somebody else doesn’t grab them. But they’re free to grab. They don’t have to be used right now.
Then I said directory submissions, which is, to me, strictly iTunes and Google Play. Again, go back to the episode where we talk about directories, and there’s 50 of them or 100 of them that is worth your time, at some point, to go through it. But it’s not absolutely necessary right now beyond iTunes and Google Play, which will bring you must of your submissions. Then monetization, again, is a cool benefit but not necessary right now.
Let’s move to falling off the podcasting horse. This is what I’m going to call ‘publishing viability,’ and this is on a per episode. You’re on episode 28 right now, say, of your show, Jerod, and life is just getting in the way. You now have to do a radio show, too. You now have a brand-new beautiful baby daughter. You have all these things. You don’t want to necessarily fall off the horse, but I want to explore what it’s going to take for you to feel like you’re doing enough to get the show out and make it kind of move forward. Maybe not as much as it could by doing everything.
What do you think is necessary to keep you on schedule and keep people getting your new show to their phone, where most people are consuming it anyways?
The Essential Elements for Staying On-Schedule and Keeping Listeners Tuned In
Jerod Morris: I think, obviously, you’ve got to create a good, useful episode. That’s number one important thing — create a good, useful piece of audio. Then, I think you can go pretty basic with the show notes. I think you can give an intro. I think you can provide some basic bullet points so that people understand. The kind of thing that if you just sat down after recording the show that you could bang out in five or 10 minutes while it’s fresh on the top of your mind. I think those are the minimum viable show notes that you need.
Then everything beyond that is something extra. Social media promotion, doing some of those other things, this is all ideal. These are all things you should be doing, but if it’s just, “I need to get this episode out.” Again, don’t just crap together some episode just to fill your schedule — make it good. Make it useful. Otherwise, you’re better off letting your audience know that you’re going on a hiatus, taking a break, or running something from the archive.
Assuming that you can create that good episode, don’t let the show notes intimidate you because we know that only a small portion of people even go to the show notes anyway. They’re good. They’re ideal. They can add value. But going a little bit simpler with the show notes with a good episode is better than not even doing a good episode because you’re intimidated by the show notes, the social media promotion, and goodness gracious, all this other stuff that you have to do to keep up with the machine.
Pare that machine down to some basic show notes, and that’s good enough. Then you can start adding stuff to it in the future as your schedule starts to open up, or maybe you add some efficiencies into what you’re doing that gives you some more freedom to do that.
Jonny Nastor: I love it. I guess it’s obviously assumed that you’ve created this useful episode already, the audio part of it.
Jerod Morris: Right, that part’s got to be there.
Jonny Nastor: I realize I didn’t really put that in. In the discussion in the Facebook group, one of the members had a really good episode recorded for, I think, four to five weeks, but it was all the other parts of publishing — the show notes, the artwork, the promotion — that was just stumping them and made them fall off the horse. All I’m trying to do is, if you have that good piece of on-demand audio, if what’s stopping is all these other things, then just pare down what it is and find your 20 percent that will give you your 80 percent. When you can, get back to doing the full.
I did this through the summer because I got really busy. We moved. We were traveling, all kinds of things. I actually stopped doing artwork for episodes. I stopped doing full social media promotion, and I stopped the bullet points on my show notes. Honestly, I haven’t even seen a change in traffic on my site, and downloads have actually gone up since June — so take that as you will.
Jerod Morris: Maybe that helps you to refocus on what you’re doing. Maybe the time that you’re investing in that isn’t worth it. Sometimes, going through this process can be a blessing because it can really help you figure out what really matters.
Jonny Nastor: Exactly. It’s just really this whole understanding that an MVP’s not optimal, but it’s a matter of posting or not. And if it’s a matter of publishing or not, that’s when you need to go off this. We all fall off the horse sometimes. We totally do. It happens. It’s happened to us … no, it hasn’t really with The Showrunner. We took a break, though, because we needed to.
When you’re about to fall off the horse, come back, think about that, and find your MVP approach. It’s going to be different for everyone, but it’s going to be just geared to reduce when and for how long that we actually fall off that horse.
You still won’t be able to stop it, and as Melissa said at the beginning, just don’t be hard on yourself anyways when it does happen. This won’t stop it completely. It’s just sort of an exploration of what is possible to help us when this starts to happen.
Jerod Morris: Absolutely. Well said, Jonny.
How to Take Your Showrunning to the Next Level
Jerod Morris: With that said, we will alert you to go to Showrunner.FM and join The Showrunner. Get our weekly newsletter, Jonny and I alternate it. It’s our chance to get into your inbox, email you once a week. The best part about that is, when you reply to those emails, we reply back. If you ever have questions, anything like that, we’d love to help you out. The people on our email list, obviously, you’ve declared yourself a showrunner, and we love helping you out.
Go to Showrunner.FM, get on the email list, and of course, make sure that you’re back here next week for another brand-new episode of The Showrunner. Take care.