To podcast or not to podcast?

I’m Gregor, one half of Story Shop (soon to be one-third).

As we navigate the Coronavirus pandemic, I’ve battled with the same question as most other men in their 30s; “should I start a podcast”?

Podcasting is one of those things that everyone thinks they could and should do. But like starting a restaurant, or writing a novel, it’s much harder than it looks.

I love podcasts, they’ve been a huge part of my life since 2007, when Adam and Joe, Bill Simmons and James Richardson, and the gang on Guardian Football weekly first entered my ears.

I’ve loved pizza since 1990, and I’ve never once considered becoming a pizza chef. What is it about the power of podcasting which gives people an unstoppable urge to make their own?

The main reason is the barrier to entry is low and it’s completely subjective. What separates a good and bad podcast is hard to put your finger on, until you hear a really good one.

Podcasts fall into two categories, high perceived effort, and low perceived effort.

Low perceived effort podcasts

“Low perceived effort podcasts” lull people into a false sense of security. Anyone can order a mic from Amazon, download Skype, and call a friend or two for an interview or to discuss the issues of the day.

These are typically conducted as an interview, e.g. :

  • The Joe Rogan Experience
  • How I Built This w/ Guy Raz
  • The CMO Podcast w/ Jim Stengel
  • Black on the Air w/ Larry Wilmore
  • Grounded w/ Louis TherouX

Or, as a round table where guests can pontificate on the news of the day, such as:

  • Pod Save America
  • Code Switch
  • Business Casual
  • Press Box
  • Guardian Football / Politics Weekly

(Solo podcasts like the Daily Stoic, Naval and Akimbo with Seth Godin are a grey area. Anyone could technically start doing this without much planning, but it would take a unique person to fight off the imposter syndrome which would no doubt loom large as a potential podcaster prepares to push record without the help of a guest or a co-host.)

Although I’ve classed these podcasts as “low” perceived effort. They are not low actual effort.

To create a podcast in the same stratosphere as those listed have done, it typically relies on a) an incredibly interesting guest with a unique point of view and b) a host who is both incredibly knowledgeable, inquisitive and knows when and how to get out the way.

High perceived effort podcasts

Budding amateur podcasters are far less likely to try what I would class as a “high perceived effort podcast”. For one, these usually require a bit of editing.

These podcasts interrogate a specific issue or tell a longer form story.

They either tend to be carefully chosen experts deployed to build a narrative to break a story down and tell it, over the course of a single podcast, like:

  • The Daily
  • This American Life
  •  Hidden Brain,
  • Revisionist History
  • Freakonomics

Or stories told over a matter of weeks or months, for example:

  • The Last Days of August,
  • Serial
  • Slow Burn
  • Bad Blood
  • Business Wars

These podcasts require a huge amount of investment to get somewhere of huge value. They are essentially documentaries in podcast form.

It’s far more time-consuming than pontificating or interviewing. That’s why this route is rarely explored as a side-hustle.

My podcast

My podcast is low-perceived effort. Extremely low-perceived effort. Because it doesn’t exist. I’ve talked about it a lot since December. This has been high-perceived effort for the people who’ve listened to me drone on about it.

I had enquired about booking a studio, and had my first guest lined up, but then the Coronavirus gave a very convenient excuse which was compounded by everyone in the Western world ordering a podcast mic on Amazon. So now I’m back here, writing this blog.

Does the world need my podcast?  Regardless of whether or not we shake our current predicament, I don’t think my podcast will have had much to do with it.

People like Zara Janjua and Nashy are doing a brilliant job already, telling the stories of Scottish entrepreneurs, but I think there are so many exciting entrepreneurs in our country doing brilliant things. So there could be room for a couple more podcasts…

Besides, I can’t spend the rest of my 30s asking myself whether I should start a podcast. It’s time to decide one way or the other.

A podcast I’ve really enjoyed these last few weeks The Founder’s Journal by Alex Lieberman, the CEO of Morning Brew. His podcast is an unfiltered look into what it’s like to run a company – including all the mistakes.

This has been immensely valuable as I can learn from how he wrestles with serious issues: from staying laser-focused on a mission to how to make sure you build a business which is diverse and inclusive.

Recently, on LinkedIn, he said something which resonated with me a lot: “Talking shop with creative, empathetic and inspired entrepreneurs will never get old.”

That’s the type of person we want to work with at Story Shop, and it’s the type of person I’d like to talk to on my podcast…if I ever do start one.

Get in touch to help me break free from the nagging imposter’s syndrome asking “why would anyone want to hear from me”, or to give me some cold hard home truths about how the world already has enough podcasts.

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