This week our show, WPwatercooler, recorded our 43rd episode. I noticed some chatter on Twitter tonight about all the new WordPress podcasts. People wonder if it's a good thing. They wonder if they'll all survive.
I don't know about all that. I can't predict the future. But here's what I can do. I can be generous with all our secrets, in the case that it helps others succeed too. We did, after all, just cross the 2.5 million view mark. Another milestone this week was that we also crossed the 1,000 subscriber mark.
These are all my opinions and may not reflect my partner's – Jason Tucker – or other key cast members of our show.
Secret 1: Doing the Show for Us
When you read “doing the show for us” maybe you're thinking that I'm going to tell you that you have to have your heart in the right place. I think that's important, but that's not what I'm talking about.
What I'm talking about is the reason the cast and guests get on the show – regardless of any audience at all. That's why I call it internal. Ignoring the audience completely.
If the show isn't enjoyable and engaging for the people doing it, if there's no reason for them to want to adjust their schedules to make it on the show, then it's not worth doing.
In our case, our core cast really enjoys hanging out. It's an extension of real-life relationships and provides a connecting point outside of a meetup. So getting the right cast together, who want to spend time together, and enjoy the format of the show, is critical.
This is why the DradCast also works so well! Because those guys would be hanging out together even if no one was watching. Of course they don't have that problem. If you're not watching them, go check them out!
Secret 2: Doing the Show for Them
Putting on a show, or rather, putting on 43 shows, takes time and energy. So the people who are putting it on – people like Jason Tucker – have to have a reason to do it. Because all things being equal, it's easier to sleep or play video games.
When Jason and I first started talking about the show, we had one clear motivation that we didn't tell anyone. It was our secret. Since we've had some level of success, I feel comfortable sharing it. Ready?
We wanted to introduce our friends, our amazing friends, to the rest of the world.
We thought a show that had a large and consistent cast, not just one or two of us, and not just guests, would give us an opportunity to showcase the incredible talent that we have down here in Southern California.
Steve Zehngut, Sé Reed and Suzette Franck, are all awesome in their own right. If we could create a show where people could meet and get to know them, it would be worth it. And of course, that still left us space to bring on other amazing folks.
But notice the purpose, like the motivation, were internal. It had little to do with hitting numbers. We'd get up on a Monday morning and do it again, even if there were no viewers, because our intention was to enjoy ourselves and introduce these awesome people to the world.
In some ways I think this is the same secret that the Matt Report leverages. He introduces us regularly to amazing people; t o people we might never meet if it wasn't for him.
Secret 3: The Diversity of Roles
When I was thinking about our core cast I had spent a lot of time watching the TV show Leverage. I like watching TV from a business perspective. I want to know what makes them work. And when I find formulas that work, I want to leverage them – in writing, in leading, and in podcasting.
Leverage is a show where they tell you up front each of the cast member's roles – the hitter, the grifter, the hacker, the thief, the mastermind. These roles are prescribed and what makes the show fun (if you like it) is to see how they all come together to make it work. It's no different than the old Mission Impossible shows, or even the A Team.
We have a WordPress evangelist, a small business expert, a mobile and applications guru, and a video guy. Notice I didn't say that we had five plugin developers. I'm not saying that couldn't work, but I think the reason our show works is because we have a diversity of roles – and that drives a diversity of opinions.
Secret 4: An Opinionated Show
When I talk to people about the show, from a producer's perspective, I tell people that our show is a cross between Seinfeld (consistent cast on a show about nothing) and the View (four women with strongly held opinions that debate them). That's our show in a nutshell.
Of course when I talk to people about product development, I tell them to create opinionated products. Products should have a take on the world around them. They should declare who they're for and who they're not for (just as important!).
Our show is the same. It's clearly for some people and also clearly not for some people. I don't mind that. In fact, I embrace it. Because the people who love the show watch more than one episode. And the people who don't like it leave and ignore us and cost us nothing.
If you've ever watched the View, there are some people on that show that annoy me. But half of the fun when I see it (which isn't often, just so you know) is to watch what the other woman will say or do. I take sides. And I like watching the back and forth.
When people share their take on our show, they often love or hate some of our cast. But they're never lukewarm. And that's perfect!
Secret 5: A Show about WordPress, not for WordPress
If you watch the WPwatercooler more than once, you'll realize that while we cover some news, it's not the core of the show. We're not keeping the WordPress community up to date on the latest stuff going on in the community. Other shows and sites have a good handle on that already and there's no need for us to step into that.
Instead, you'll notice that our show (when we do it right) answers questions about WordPress that others just getting into the community might have.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not suggesting our show is educational in nature. After all, it's a show about nothing. But that nothing revolves around trying to educate the fringe rather than the center. And I think that draws a larger audience because there are more folks out there on the edge than in the center.
In the end, I think shows that have the intention to solve a felt-need, to solve a problem, have more traction than shows that don't. The traction is proportional, in my opinion, with the size of the need. So because the need for education at the fringe is large, and we're trying to do a little something about it, I think we get a good amount of traction.
That or Jason and I keep hitting replay all day.
So there you go. Now you know our secrets. I really hope this helps you spin up your own show.