Why I’m Changing Things Up At the School of Podcasting

startpodcastingThis needs a bit of backstory, so stick with me.

I remember when I was in my early twenties talking to my Mom. I was impressed with myself, and I felt I had turned out OK, so I asked my Mom what her philosophy was when it came to raising children, or in this case, raising me. Her answer was, “I tried my best not to say No. If something was going to hurt you, then I would say No, but for the most part, I let you do whatever you wanted. Then I felt as long as you didn’t give me a reason NOT to trust you, I would trust you.

When I was interviewed for the Messengers documentary, I was asked why am I so passionate about podcasting. I thought about it, and here is why:

  1. I spent myself into bankruptcy trying to have children. My wife at the time had female issues, and we weren’t able to conceive. I’ve always wanted children. I grew up waiting for the day when I could play catch with someone in the backyard. So when that door closed, I was understandably disappointed. I was also married to someone who didn’t handle that news as well and became a raging alcoholic, but that’s another story for another time.
  2. A few years later someone tried to carjack me. When I refused to get out of the car, I put it in reverse and pulled away. As I was pulling away, he shot at me, and the bullet bounced off my window (which would’ve hit me in the head/neck region). Let me repeat that, the bullet bounced off my window and went into the door. So in my head, I’m still here, and obviously, God wants me here for something, but I’m not sure what it was.
  3. A few years later podcasting came along, and it scratches every itch I have. I remember thinking, “Oh, I see. Podcasting is why I’m here.

So in a way, the people I help are the children I never had. All that to say, I want to follow my Mom’s example and avoid saying no.

When I was at Podcast Movement, I had some discussions with people who said very nice things about me. They kept explaining how I was THE Dave Jackson, and I needed to change the way I was marketing the School of Podcasting, and I needed to charge WAY MORE than I was. I was doing a podcast for a company that had me talking marketing strategies all the time. The one that kept coming up was scarcity. You see Disney do this with DVDs. They will bring back a movie for a limited time. You have to buy it while you have the chance. It’s a good strategy and works well for many brands. There is one problem.

It didn’t work for my brand.

To be more specific, it didn’t work for me personally. I was telling people who want to learn, “Not now.” I was telling them to go sign up for the newsletter. As a teacher, there is ONE THING you REALLY want, and that is an eager student. I had them in front of me, and telling them no. I’ve explained my plans (to restructure) to the current members of the School of Podcasting and when I explained that the next time the doors open they aren’t going to close I now know this is the right thing to do. More than one said they scratched their heads, that it didn’t seem to make sense to them. It’s a great strategy, but not for the School of Podcasting. Here are some other things why I’m doing this.

People would sign up for a month, pay top dollar, go through the tutorials and leave. I was making just as much money as if multiple people had signed up. So the thought was that I would be able to give more personalized attention to these people (which I did). I planted a seed of a relationship, but I never got to watch it bloom. They came for 30 days and left.

I was supposed to get a “More motivated” student as it cost more to join. While this may be partially right, I also found out that people with deeper pockets were just as busy (if not more) than people with not so deep pockets. One of the perks of buying a year in advance was you got more one on one time. Yet the people who purchased this rarely took advantage of it. So I had added a feature that nobody was using. Was this a feature then?

I was told if your prices are too low, people won’t respect you. I get that. I am going to lower them a bit, but not as low as they were. I’m removing features I thought delivered value, but nobody was using. People who paid more before will have their memberships extended.

I looked in the mirror and asked why I did this. Part of my motivation was trying to make other people happy. I sincerely appreciate the kind words that my friends said at Podcast Movement. The problem is they were comparing me to other podcast consultants who make ten times more than I do. They want me to succeed, and for that I’m grateful. However, comparing me to these people made me miserable. It added stress to my life. It lead to me feeling like what I was doing wasn’t good enough. One day I woke up, went my job at Libsyn (and by that I mean my five-foot commute to work from home), I helped people all day with their podcasts. I then had some great one on one consulting calls. During the day I answered questions from the School of Podcasting members. My bills are paid. My health is better than it has been in 20 years, and I’m happy. Yeah, you heard me. I’m happy. I don’t care what other people are making with their podcast. I wish them well. Here is the bottom line:

I’m here to help people. If you ask for help, I’m going to do my best to avoid saying no.

So on September 30th (International Podcasting Day), I’m reopening the doors to the School of Podcasting. While it’s been closed, I’ve moved the membership area to a new platform (thinkific). Thinkific makes it super easy to maintain, and it’s more flexible. I will offer subscriptions, and I will offer the ability to purchase just the course you need. I’ve removed some features so I could lower my prices (those “features” are the ones nobody was using) and I’m adding more things to the School that I think will truly benefit the members.

It’s my podcast. It’s my brand.

I’m allowed to change it, and in the end, nobody will punch me in the face.

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Look at and Feel Like Pat Flynn – New Smart Passive Income Theme For WordPress

Pat Flynn understands branding. He understands that one wrong move can damage your reputation. His show notes for a podcast are designed so you could pass a test on the subject. I’m a fan of his book Will It Fly, I like his Smart Podcast Player, and now he recently partner with StudioPress so you can make your website look like his Smart Passive Income website (which has always been very polished and professional. This runs on the Geneisis Framework ($59) and then Patt’s SPI Theme is $99. 

This video gives a brief overview, but shows there is a ton of documentation (along with the support of the StudioPress support team).

Unfortunately, the monthly income noted on Pat’s sight is sold separately….

Check it out at StudioPress

iTunes New and Noteworthy Myths BUSTED

I was reading an article and while most of the information in it is fine, do I dare say “Good,” there was some information that was absolute crap and it is EASY to prove wrong. Case in point.

If you simply launch with only one episode on your first day, and someone subscribes to your podcast, then you only get one download. BUT, if you launch with five episodes and they subscribe, then you get five downloads, which will help to raise your rankings within iTunes.

THIS IS NOT TRUE. Depending on what app, the app’s configuration you may get zero downloads. In most cases you have to manually go in and download them

New & Noteworthy is your goal for the first eight weeks — being featured is only attainable once, so you need to make those first eight weeks count.

Not true. Multiple shows (especially TV show that come and go with the seasons) go in and and out of New and Noteworthy.

Another strategy to keep in mind when reaching out to other podcasts is to ask if they would be open to exchanging honest ratings and reviews.

People think they can get away with this by throwing in the word “honest.”  OK, I’m going to honestly kick you in the shin. Does tat make it OK. If you’re audience is not motivate to leave you a review, instead of asking strangers why not look at yourself (or better yet, your audience ) and ask them WHY they won’t review you.

The iTunes algorithm works off of downloads, ratings, and reviews.

Nobody official knows the secret sauce, but to not even include subscribers, in my opinion, almost voids this whole article.

if you can get 50 you will be well on your way to ranking in the top of iTunes

Nope. My Because of my Podcast had over 60 great reviews. It’s not about rating and reviews. It’s about subscribers

Big name guests will help grow your audience

While it sounds good, “Big Name Guests” rarely take the time to promote your show. It’s not the size of the guest that brings value. It’s the value that makes the guest “Big.”


Yes, you should try to maximize your launch and get people talking about it. Shouldn’t you be doing that on episode 138 as well?

If you want to start podcasting and avoid the headaches and get strategies and worksheets to help you create content that will get people talking about your show, join the School of Podcasting


Growing Your Podcast Audience

I was at Podcamp Pittsburgh last weekend. They had a speaker cancel at the last minute, so I went into a room and 20 minutes later I came out to deliver a presentation on How to Grow Your Podcast Audience.

In the talk I talk about:

Making sure your show doesn’t turn people off

The importance of headlines

Edit is not a four letter word

Step by step guide to growing your audience

Things that don’t work.

Live Q &A (My apologies I didn’t always repeat the question)

The Podcast Awards Scandal? – Hatting the System

So I’m going to attempt to tell this story by just using facts. To provide full disclosure, I was nominated in the Education category and lost. The weird thing is I didn’t lose to Grammar Girl. That is what I expected as – let’s face it – when you’re an answer on the TV show Jeopardy!, you’re probably going to beat my little podcast about podcasting. So here are some facts.

Todd Cochrane (the man behind the podcast awards) had attempted to sell the awards to the New Media Expo. While the New Media expo controlled them last year, due to other circumstances the control of the awards was returned to Todd.

The Podcast Awards show website was out of date. That is why Todd Cochrane launched a Gofund me campaign to redo the site. He is looking for $25,000 to redo the site. When you host a site that has voting on it, it is not your typical website. There is lots of extra security and tools needed to attempt to keep out people who would game the system (cheat). I once had a website (battlingbands.com) where there was almost no prize, and people would cheat like crazy. I went through probably 5-7 scripts before  I shut down the site.

Two more facts: I’m a Brian Ibbot fan, as I’ve known him since the very first podcasting event in Ontario California. I’m also a big Todd Cochrane fan as we also go “way back.”

The Podcast Awards:

“The People’s Choice Podcast Awards is designed to allow fans to show their appreciation by nominating their favorite shows. Then through a peer / listener review process of the top 25 nominated shows, a slate of 10 podcast for each category is determined. Daily voting for a 2-week period is designed to show engagement and allow show of all sizes to compete for a Podcast Award. Through listener engagement the true power of podcast audience ultimately determine the annual winners.

The 11th Annual that will recognize the best podcasters in the world by allowing the people (Listeners and Podcasters) to nominate, and then vote for their favorite podcast.”

The Rules

For the nomination process, ” The nomination page can only be filled in once. IP and Email tracking is in place along with other anti-cheating mechanisms. Each nomination will be verified by email which will require a confirmation by web based url.” According the rules, “Voting will last for 15 days, and listeners can vote once a day.”

The Diamond Club Plan

The Diamond Club (featuring a picture of Brian Ibbot) has a reddit group. They got together and voted on who they would vote for as a group (if you wanted to).

Voting Results

The full list was as follows:

Peoples Choice -No Agenda
Arts – The Beerists
Business -The Bizarre Briefing
Education -Scam School
Entertainment -We Have Concerns
Games & Hobbies -The Angry Chicken
GLBT -Diary of a Trans Woman
Government & Organizations -Politics Politics Politics
Kids & Family -Hypothetical Help
Music – Joe and Meg’s Musical Adventure
News & Politics – No Agenda
Science & Medicine – Weird Things
Society – Culture – The Phileas Club
Sports & Recreation -Mat Men
Technology – Hak5
TV & Film -Cordkillers

If you had any issues you could contact @HatTheSystem which is a twitter account with Brian Ibbot’s face across the top header. The purpose of the twitter account was to remind people to vote.

According to this website (and per Brian on his show The Morning Stream) this is the second year they’ve use this tool. The first year they were 7/7 for the shows they supported.

This year they were 14/17 shows (82%). According to Brian, he had nothing to do with the technology. It was created by a listener. He did acknowledge that his face is all over the branding of the tools. Here is the episode where Scott and Brian talk about the awards ceremony

So What Did They Do?

They made a Bookmarklet. What is a bookmarklet?

“a small software application stored as a bookmark in a web browser, which typically allows a user to interact with the currently loaded web page in some way.” – wikipedia.

In this case it made it easier to vote for their selected shows. It didn’t automatically populate anything. It didn’t submit the vote. All it did was help point out who to vote for, and type in the voter’s email address for them.

Then they trained their community how to use it

Is It Cheating?

If you have a contest that involves getting something off a top shelf, and someone comes in with a step stool, is it cheating?

Did the rules say you’re not allowed to bring in a step stool? No? Then I guess it’s not cheating.

Even if everybody else was going to do it without standing on any kind of stool.

It reminds me a bit of performance enhancing drugs in sports. If it’s not illegal, then it’s not cheating and you better take these drugs if you want to compete (even if they shrink your testicles).

There seemed to be a “It’s not how you play the game, it is if you win or lose” vibe when I listened to the Morning Stream this morning. Oops, I’m getting away from facts and mixing in opinion.

In the end, each of the votes had to be confirmed by a person. If you used the tool and wanted to deviate from the default settings you could. It was all voluntary.

Sure, they made it easier to start your voting process, but they still needed to be confirmed via email to make them count.


It’s About an Engaged Audience

If the goal of the podcast awards was to see who had the most engaged audience, then here again the Diamond Club wins. I know my audience didn’t offer to build a tool to make it easier to vote. I didn’t setup a special twitter account for those who wanted reminders to vote. You can’t argue that they have the most engaged audience.

I am Confused By the Motive

On one hand, the Diamond Club seems to despise the awards. They thought they were stupid. In one chat room I saw:

+ArtgineerKAPT_Kipper, eh, you’d have to prove the podcasts award are relevant in the first place lol when I looked at his Twitter feed I saw this:


Nothing Lost

That leads me to believe they did this to bring the awards down.

If the awards suck, then why go through so much trouble to win one?

What is the point of winning 82% of the awards to pee all over them?

That doesn’t make much sense to me.

You will see the comments in the video below as they watched the presentation were not kind.

Podcast Awards Hatting the System Version

Quick Reactions Are Often Not the Best

The first response from the Awards upon hearing about the bookmarlet was “Cheated Exposed during awards ceremony. We are going to proceed with an Investigation. An Illegal Off-site voting system apparently was used.” Later this was changed to a message that explained that a bookmarklet had been used, and that this makes a show more educated in a specific field (bookmarklets), but not a better show. Later another update to the podcast awards stated, “If some feel an apology on out negative reaction to this tool so be it we apologize. This tool will invoke significant change though, if the awards survive. ”

Whack the Mole

As someone who has lived through the hell of the podcast awards (I helped Rick Calvert when they were part of the New Media Expo), my hat goes off to Todd Cochrane as this is A TON of work. I’m sure Todd will come up with some new rules, people will complain, some will say its fixed, and the cycle will repeat. The next year, Todd will adjust the rules, someone will find a loop hole, people will complain, some will say its fixed, and well, I guess that is our society.

Would I blame Todd if he quit putting in the effort? No. Would I be sad? Yes. The Awards are like that Annoying Uncle at the picnic. He is kind of annoying (the voting process), but picnics would be so different without him. It is cool when you see “little independent” podacasters occasionally take down a giant corporate team.

Is the Diamond club filled creative geniuses, or did they overstep the bounds of fair play? The goal was to get your audience to vote for you. They did. They made it easier. They announced it on twitter, showed what they were going to do on YouTube (via an unlisted video – so you could share it, but it wasn’t 100% public.). Here again we are walking a fine line of what “Secret” means.

It gave them an advantage.

Unfair advantage?

That is up to you to decide.