How a novice launched a newsletter and podcast
You have to learn new technologies to reach your audiences where they gather
You’re reading the My News Biz newsletter, which I send every Thursday. My goal is to help digital media entrepreneurs find viable business models.
A friend of mine, Loren Feldman, made a career change a few years ago from magazine editor to digital media entrepreneur. He has been developing an ambitious enterprise that combines a daily email newsletter and a weekly podcast about small business owners — 21 Hats.
I wanted to get started with both a newsletter and podcast, so I decided to pick his brain about the technologies he was using.
I had long been an advocate of the power of email newsletters but didn’t have one myself. I took his advice and used the Substack platform to launch my weekly newsletter, My News Biz, at the end of 2020. That has gone well. The newsletter ties into my blog about Entrepreneurial Journalism.
What I always liked about newsletters is that they are a direct personal communication. Someone who signs up has chosen this content specifically. It’s unlike the passive kind of consumption of content on social media news feeds or search results. Newsletters go directly into the mailbox of one person. Frankly, this free newsletter has generated far more readers of my work than search or social.
The podcast adventure
Around this same time, I was writing about my love of podcasts and the power of the human voice in journalism. Podcasting was an exciting new medium, and I thought maybe I should try my hand at it. I knew something about writing for broadcast after doing a weekly TV segment years earlier. But I knew nothing about the new digital production technologies for producing podcasts.
Again, my friend Loren talked me through the pros and cons of various tools. I settled on a free podcast production service that would be easy for a novice to use, Anchor.fm.
Well, it’s easy to use for most people. I tend to be clumsy with technology because I’m too impatient and don’t always follow all the instructions in the proper order. I want to get started even when I don’t have all the right tools or know how to use them properly.
Still, I made a dozen podcasts in the spring of 2021. The results were not entirely satisfying because of sound quality and pacing. I left them in limbo. They were all available online, but I didn’t promote them and virtually no one listened to them.
The relaunch, new and improved
But lately, with more time on my hands (I hit mandatory retirement age), I went back to those podcasts. I killed a couple of them as unsalvageable, but the rest I polished a bit with the Anchor editing tools to make them somewhat more consistent. They’re not studio quality, but they’re presentable.
I decided on a short format for the episodes in which I was the only person speaking. Several experts on podcasting that I follow suggested that a format of 6 to 10 minutes might be the best for this type of episode. And then the Reuter’s Institute’s study on podcasting suggested that there are four popular news formats, one of which runs for 10 to 15 minutes. Less is more.
So here are a couple of mine that I recommend. What we should tell entrepreneurs about risk (6:59 run time) received the most plays and shares even without my promoting it much. It touches on several biases that mislead entrepreneurs into being excessively optimistic.
Another, Five keys to news media viability (8:39 run time), summarizes the findings of research I did with two colleagues at the University of Navarra. We took an in-depth look at 20 media organizations on four continents and identified some success strategies.
For the interview format, I did two two longer Zoom interviews that I published first on YouTube and then added an audio-only version on Anchor. In the first one, below, I interviewed Jakub Parusinski, a media consultant and digital strategist focused on Central and Eastern Europe (podcast version here).
In the other, I interviewed a former colleague of mine, Joanna Sullivan, editor of the Baltimore Business Journal on how digital media have changed her job and about careers in journalism. (podcast version here).
'Reasons for optimism', podcast version
All of you faithful followers of this newsletter know that I have been publishing a series on "Reasons for optimism" about the news media. And now I have just started publishing podcast versions.
They are trimmed down versions of the newsletter, and I have edited them to be more appropriate for a listening audience rather than for readers. Let me know what you think.
Reasons for optimism #1: Andrew Yang on how to de-polarize politics and media, (6:46 run time)
Reasons for optimism #2: Edwy Plenel and Mediapart in France, (7:09 run time)
Reasons for optimism #3: Journalists innovating around the world, (6:41 run time)
I'll be posting further podcast versions in the weeks to come.
This newsletter is based on a blog post on my website, Entrepreneurial Journalism.