Effectively Grow Your Community with Wolf 359’s Gabriel Urbina

Click here to listen to “Effectively Grow Your Community with Wolf 359’s Gabriel Urbina”

You can have the most state-of-the-art equipment, the most professional audio processing software, and the best podcast host in the game, but that doesn’t mean anything if your podcast doesn’t get listened to.  You should always create for yourself, make something that you’re proud to go back and listen to at the end of the day, but the biggest draw of podcasting as a medium is the idea that you can share the stories you want to tell with the people around you and interact with them as they experience your content.

No one knows more about the power of listenership and community than Gabriel Urbina, creator and head writer of Wolf 359, Time Bombs, and No Bad Ideas.  During Podcast Movement in Orlando, Florida, we got the chance to sit down and chat about his experience in growing listenership and community.

Best known for Wolf 359 (an audio drama about the dysfunctional crew aboard a space station orbiting the star Wolf 359), Gabriel wasn’t afraid to try new things with his show.  Which meant he wasn’t afraid when those new things fell a little flat.

“It was really completely organic, to the point that we were surprised when it happened, kind of.  Me and Zach Valenti and Sarah Shachat and the other people that worked on Wolf 359, when the show first started, we tried a couple hair-brained experiments.  Like, Oh, we’re gonna do guerilla marketing, we’re gonna get people listening, and it’s gonna be awesome!  And none of it worked.  People left. If anything, people were curious to listen to the show, but now?  No, I’ve been annoyed, I want to leave.

Despite the initial audience of Wolf 359 being on the smaller side, he kept putting his all into his creative team, and his writing.  And when his show finally blew up, it was on the same site that boosted Welcome to Night Vale: the micro-blogging platform Tumblr.

“Kind of in parallel to that, a really amazing, really dedicated, really really attentive and creative and insightful kind of fan community grew up on the Tumblr-sphere . . . and on the Twitter-sphere.  But it all kind of happened around us, and one day somebody told us, “What do you guys think about this conversation that is happening, and we were like, There’s a conversation?” 

Over the course of its four-season run, the show amassed over six million downloads.  At its height, it earned over $3000 per episode via Patreon, and inspired countless artistic exploits including animated trailers, comics, and 3D art.  But no matter how big it grew – or maybe because of how big it grew – Gabriel and the team he’d built to back Wolf 359 kept the heart of the show the same.

“We did a podcast for a year and a half, and we tried our best to make it good.  And everything that happened around that grew out of that. We were making it with this ethos of, “We are doing exactly the show we want to make,” which means we are putting in all the weird things we love, all the quirkiness, all the oddity, and all the wild swings from comedy to heartbreak.  And we really made it with a little bit of this attitude of, well it’s what WE love, you know, it’s made so niche and so tailored for the cast that who knows if anyone else will really jive with it.  It may be too specific to find an audience. But no, it absolutely did find its audience.”

You can check out his site here, where you can learn more about Wolf 359, No Bad Ideas, and his other creative endeavors.  And don’t forget to check out the full interview (recorded at Podcast Movement!) to learn more about what sort of impact community and collaboration can have on your podcast!

Using Private Podcasts For Training and Internal Communication – VMware

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While there’s nothing wrong with newsletters, emails, and group conference calls, some companies like VMWare have taken a step further and implemented internal podcasts for communication and training purposes.  

According to Marty Boyzuck, Director of Enablement Technology Architecture & Design of VMWare, it’s not a new concept.  Out of all the careers he’s had and places he’s worked, several things led him to use private podcasting through audio and video podcasting.

“One was a great experience I had in a past life working, actually, with a group in HP Software, where we had done – and this was many years ago – we had done kind of an internal version of podcasting . . . very manual, very difficult, we weren’t able to leverage ease of publishing and the simplicity that you get on a podcasting platform like Podbean, you had to do it all manually.  We had great success in the field with our audience.  

“And as I moved into the world here at VMWare, we’d been pushing this agenda for many years and finally got the right combination of people who believed in the need for greater and better communication, as well as a little extra budget available for one quarter.  We got to try the pilot and, as expected, it was as successful with the field as we want it to be, and it’s just kind of grown from there.”

VMware creates their podcasts on a quarterly system, according to Marty, to allow for the fact that not everyone can sit down at the same time to listen, especially when employees are traveling or out of the office.  

“Our learning management system and our other communications tools really didn’t have a good offline playback experience available within them.  So as people, especially this technical audience that does a lot of traveling, you know, they’re not able to sit down and take their training or review information when they’re on a plane.  Whereas everyone else loads up some podcasts to have available for their plane ride, you get to enjoy episodes while you’re logging miles. So it was really the fact that we couldn’t deliver the training they were asking for in any other way, other than the podcast-type solution.”

As a leading tech company, one of their biggest concerns was with privacy – after all, they work with enterprise-level operating systems, and even a small leak could be devastating to their entire company.

“Of course this content had to be secure.  So that was the big piece that really drove us to Podbean is that ability to have a SSO-authenticated verification before people are able to download and consume this content.  So it was really driven by the audience themselves.”

His advice for companies that are considering starting their own internal podcasts?

“In my opinion, the key is finding the passionate amateur, the prosumer in the audience that wants to take it to the next level, and give them enough budget to get the Adobe studio, to get a decent microphone and a mixer if you need to, and just show them how to use it.  I think that’s the key to really building up podcast culture and keeping it going, is finding people that really want to take it on, and give them what they need to make it happen.” 

Podcasts are another tool at your disposal to enhance training and communications in your company.  Check out our interview with Marty on Podcasting Smarter. Click here to learn more about utilizing podcasts for corporate training and internal communications.

The Throughline of True Crime: Josh Hallmark on Empathy, Inverting Genre, and Making The Most of Podcast Advertising

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What does it mean to be human?

That’s not the question Josh Hallmark set out with when he first started his podcast Our Americana.  It probably wasn’t even the question brought up with his following podcasts Playlist or The Karen and Ellen Letters.  But it’s the question he answers in his true crime podcast, True Crime Bullsh**: The Story of Israel Keyes.

He describes it as a “serialized true crime story which looks at serial killer Israel Keyes, but also kind of deconstructs the genre of true crime, and how it affects listeners and people within the true crime community.”

“I was just so fascinated with Israel Keyes and the story of him,” Hallmark says, “and I think it’s a unique story because it kind of like true crime in reverse.  I think we’re used to a victim and a crime and then looking for a killer. And here we have a killer, but we don’t know who his victims were?   And he had this crazy thing with the FBI where they were not going to release his name to the press as long as he was cooperating with them. So it kind of already, as a story, spun the true-crime genre on its head a bit, so I immediately started devouring everything I could about Israel Keyes – which, because of this deal, there wasn’t a lot.”

This podcast is a culmination of three years’ worth of research, investigation, and expert-consulting – three years, he said, that needed to come to fruition.

“Our Americana was just a whim,” he says.  “It was something I was doing just to like, satisfy myself, and then it took off like, ‘Oh, this is great!’ With True Crime Bullsh**, I put so much work and money into it that I just could not let if fail.  So I had to be as proactive as possible.”

Hallmark’s gone down every road he can to raise funds for his show – advertising, merchandise, Patreon, even running booths at conventions to spread the word as much as possible before the show even launched.  But of all the tools at his disposal, he says PodAds helped him do more than raise money – it helped him save time.

“Because I’m one person and I can only do so much – especially producing four shows – is a lot of what I have to rely on is kind of ‘set it and forget it.’  Do as much as I can upfront so that whatever is happening will pay off on its own. And I think PodAds has been phenomenal for that because I get offers to do ad insertion to old episodes, and so I’ve just kind of been like doing my own thing.  And I’ll get notifications saying that someone wants to place an ad in episodes thirteen through seventeen. It’s like, ‘Awesome! All I have to do is click a button, and there’s a new monetization tool that I have done very little work to implement.’   And then the money just shows up and it’s a dream.”

But money isn’t the most important part of podcasting (though it can play a large role).   

“Empathy was really important to me in all of this,” he says, “And also to humanize them because while to us he’s a monster, he had a kid and girlfriends and family members, and great, deep friendships.  And by making him a monster, we’re not humanzing those people, and the experiences they had with him. I think that’s so critical in creating empathy for other criminals’ families.  

“And what happened to his family after his arrest is one of the most heart-breaking stories I’ve ever heard, and that to me became kind of the throughline for this whole story.  Just like, this is not just about the killer and his victims. It is equally as important, but it’s more than just that beat of crime, victim, criminal.”  

True Crime Bullsh** stands out from the other rising true crime podcasts not just because of the choice of topic, but because of the choice of direction.  It can be easy to forget that everyone – from the killers to the victims to family members and bystanders – has a life, has emotions, exists as a person beyond just being a name in a story.  Josh Hallmark makes you see that they’re just people, much like anyone else is, even if they’re surrounded by circumstances as bizarre and heart-breaking and these.  

What does it mean to be human?  Check out True Crime Bullsh** and discover the answer for yourself.  

About The Author
By day, a marketing writer for Podbean. By night, surrounded by eclectic projects like stop-motion puppets, half-knit sweaters, and a violin that won’t learn to play itself. Certified Fresh(c) by both a bachelor’s degree and a master’s in English.

Working Smart As Well As Hard: Dr. Scott Cooper on Local Sponsors, History as a Story, and His Experience with PodAds

When Dr. Scott Cooper sits to record his podcast, he’s surrounded by an eclectic collection of odds and ends in his office-turned-recording studio.  Such items include: a 1980s bathroom condom machine he restored, skeletons (though he assured us they’re not human), smoking memorabilia (including packs of cigarettes from the 1940s), and – one of the strangest things yet – a saw he almost cut his leg off with.

“It still has blood on it,” he says.  “I engraved it with the date and the time, and I hung it on the wall.”

Not every item in his office has such a morbid history to it, but that doesn’t mean they have no history altogether.  Quite the contrary. Every item has an era attached to it, a memory or a meaning that brings his collection to a new light.  You definitely don’t have to be a history buff like Scott to appreciate the antiquity on his shelves. But if there’s one thing that’ll get you on track to being one, it’s his podcast.

Every-Day History

Cooper records multiple episodes of his podcast History of Every Day at a time.  He has to, really – when he’s not working on his podcast, quite a bit of his time is devoted to teaching people about history.

“I actually work with several different schools.  I’m an adjunct professor for three different universities, and during the day I’m a full-time high school history teacher.  I’m a busy guy! I don’t sleep much, and I get a lot done. Let’s put it that way. And the nice thing about being able to record and not sleep is I can record an entire month’s worth of daily podcasts in one evening and then schedule them out.”

His podcast started small, in the same desire that sees him in all these teaching positions: to share his knowledge and love of history with the people around him.

“I’ve always wanted to do a podcast.  It just seemed second-nature to me, to get in and say, ‘You know what?  I talk about history every day, I teach history every day, and to be able to talk about what happened on this day in history?’  Because people always asked me before, “Hey, what’s the special date today? Is it National Frankfurter Day?”  And I was able to come up with that off the top of my head, so it just kinda fit hand-in-hand to be able to do that in a podcast format.”

Not only is he sharing his podcast around town, it’s been implemented by other schools and other teachers as a learning aid.  Classrooms coast-to-coast use his daily podcast as a way to introduce the day’s topic and kickstart their students’ ability to get into the subject.

“I get emails from time to time from schools around the country that listen to my podcast as a bellringer, so they start the day off with that in history class.  They say, ‘Let’s talk about what happened on this day in history,’ and since it’s so short, it really gives the students an overview. There’s a lot of schools out there that will use this as a two-minute ‘Let’s warm up, this is what I’m gonna play’, just to get you in the mode of ‘let’s talk about history now”.”  

The irony of it all?

“I hated history in high school!  Hated it, as most people did.  Just, truly disliked history.  I cannot stand the old-school history teachers (there’s still some out there!) that will talk for two hours, and then have you regurgitate exactly what they talked about.  I was actually in the corporate world for a while before I got into education. And just kinda fell in love with history when I started to realize that I have the gift for gab and I have a story-telling ability.  So when I talk about history . . . I tell all my classes this: history is not something you memorize, it’s a story.”

Advertising

With a big, wide-spread podcast like History of Every Day, there’s got to be some options for monetization – right?  

“I have received a few advertisements, some things from different organizations that recorded their own [ads] and threw them in there.  It’s not much money, but it’s interesting to see what people want to advertise. Some of them were pretty local. One of them was very local – they only wanted to pay if it was in like, a one square mile area of where they were at . . .  One of them was the university, which was kind of nice.”

The university being, of course, Indiana University, in his home town of Bloomington.  Cooper describes it as an oasis in the corn-filled state of Indiana, a place to slide on some Birkenstocks and those 80’s knit ponchos and just enjoy the scenery.  (This also happens to be a university famed for quite a few alumni, including the best-selling author Suzanne Collins, but that’s a whole different talk for another time.)  

As of the time of the interview Cooper currently runs his intro through PodAds, using the dynamic ad-insertion service as a way to introduce his episodes.  Not only does it give him more time to focus on teaching and recording, it also gives him an example of how he’d insert his ads to show future sponsors.

“What I do is I have an intro that I put in there that I use for my pre-podcast, a fifteen to twenty-second spot that I recorded.  I will use that also when I do go out and get some advertisements for people to listen to, I always point them to my intro, which is just where I talk about what I do and all that.  You gotta be creative.”

History of Every Day currently has 364 episodes (almost the full year!), with over a hundred-thousand downloads.  It exists as a reminder that every day has a chunk of history attached to it, and that there’s always a little time to learn something new.  So if you’re looking for some cool history to impress your family and friends, Dr. Cooper’s podcast is one of the best ways to go.

Check out The History Of Every Day on Social Media
Twitter: https://twitter.com/HistoryHereNow
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/historyofeveryday

About The Author
By day, a marketing writer for Podbean. By night, surrounded by eclectic projects like stop-motion puppets, half-knit sweaters, and a violin that won’t learn to play itself. Certified Fresh(c) by both a bachelor’s degree and a master’s in English.