How To Grow Your Podcast Network With Niklas Hildebrand

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Episode Summary

Join us as we sit down with Niklas Hildebrand, the founder of Audry, which is a platform dedicated to podcast cross-promotion and networking. We talk about ways you can grow your network, how to approach monetizing your show and how important sound quality really is when it comes to podcasting. Enjoy!

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Episode Transcript

[Excerpt] Niklas: But if you want to get started, be prepared for the grind, be prepared that it’s not going to be an instant success. So that is number one and pick a topic that you want to talk about that, you know, you will be able to talk about for a while.

[00:00:35] Nemanja: Welcome to the Nootka Sound Podcast, I’m your host Nemanja Koljaja, a professional Sound Engineer, Audio Editor and Podcast Producer and a CEO and Founder of Nootka Sound, a professional podcast production facility. Today we’re talking to Niklas Hildebrand, the founder of Audry, a platform for connecting like-minded podcasts for cross promotion and partnerships.

Well, Niklas, thank you so much for being here, welcome to the show

[00:01:02] Niklas: Thanks for having me.

[00:01:03] Nemanja: The first thing I’d like to know is what is Audry.

[00:01:06] Niklas: Yeah, sure. Audry, we build it as a platform that started in March. So as a relatively young platform, we have just launched a few months ago and it’s all about connecting podcastsers with other podcasters to give them more opportunities to grow their podcast, and just ultimately be more successful in their passion or hobby or profession. However they see that and manage that podcast.

[00:01:29] Nemanja: Interesting. And can you tell me, how did you come up with the idea for Audrey and how the whole thing started?

[00:01:35] Niklas: Yeah, for sure. I mean, last couple of years before Audry my cofounders, or the same cofounder that I started Audry with have been very active in the creative space. We were very active in the influence marketing fields and we have quite a bit of experience in how to promote content, how to help content creators monetize and ultimately grow their reach. And podcast seemed like a very interesting opportunity that we came across last year. And then we started creating Audrey. Why we find podcasts so interesting is because we are avid podcast listeners ourselves. We saw through talks to our clients that podcast has been interesting for brands to advertising. We talked to podcasters, and one of the main problems is actually discoverability you don’t have the options to go viral as easily as on Instagram on YouTube and so on. And we just felt there’s an actual demand for podcasters to have a platform. To have a place they can go. But it can overcome these restrictions of the general market. And that’s why we stopped at Audry as an internal project that we just launched. I’m actually overwhelmed by how much people seem to like it and have the need to actually connect with other podcasts.

[00:02:49] Nemanja: Okay. The platform is currently free for everyone who is looking to join. So I’m interested in hearing what is your revenue model at the moment?

[00:02:57] Niklas: Exactly. So the platform as it is right now, which is the place to connect and just find other podcasts is free and will stay with the current features free indefinitely. So we’re not planning to charge any fees to just be a member. So right now we’re not monetizing or profiting or driving any revenue from the Audry platform directly. There are ideas that we have, and other projects that we’re working on that are allowing us to generate revenues in the future. But these will be either premium features that we’re working on adding more value or being ways for podcasters to monetize their reach and audience and find sponsors because you’ve seen that the same as trying to find a bigger audience, but podcasts can be difficult if you’re not part of a major network, the same goes for opportunities to actually earn from your content or from your reach. So we have multiple things planned until the end of the year. Well, we want to help talk us also on that front, make progress, be more successful and get access to channels and partnerships that they would no longer have access to. But yeah, right now we’re not doing, making any money off the platform, with the current features it will stay that way. We’re not looking to monetize the platform with the basic model.

[00:04:10] Nemanja: Okay. And speaking of which, what do you think is the best way to monetize a podcast?

[00:04:16] Niklas: I think ultimately that’s a bit up to the podcast in terms of what their whole sort of creator actually wants and what they are fine with doing. And on the other hand, what kind of podcasts it is and what do they talk about. So some of the biggest and most successful podcasts, let\s use Joe Rogan as the ultimate extreme, they have a lot of brand partnerships, so they just mention brands organically and get paid based on the reach that they achieve. So this is the most classic way of advertising is find a brand partner if you can, and then agree on a deal whether will you within your podcast episode mention their website, the coupon code, something like that. And then ultimately get paid for that, which is one option, not many have, but it’s one that many podcasts like that have a lot of reach and there’s also other options, which are a bit more complicated. There’s the one where some podcasts offer subscription now for listeners through Patreon, for example. So you pay a monthly fee as a donation, almost to the podcast, which is a very nice and probably the most ideal monetization for podcasters because it’s steady. It’s consistent and you can plan ahead and it’s kind of a safe, a nice little income. If you can manage to get loyal listeners to actually subscribe. And the last one is there’s models now popping up that are interesting for some podcasts. Many don’t like them. For others they are great is where ad spots are injected or placed within a podcast. So your client provides a snippet of an advertising. You can insert it in your audio file, you’re a sound engineer, knowing probably can put it anywhere. And then you get paid based on that, which is a less authentic way because it’s a precreated spot, but it’s also way. So what is the best is ultimately to you on how you value advertising and what kind of advertising you’re fine with. And also ultimately if you have the audience to drive subscriptions, for example, which then might be more feasible for some types of podcasts than others.

[00:06:18] Nemanja: Yeah, totally. When you mentioned the audio snippet, actually, the way I imagined Audry and the way cross promotion works is exactly in such a way to have actually a snippet or a mid roll and to have it to play in another podcast. And can you tell me what are some of the types you can cross promote your podcast with Audry?

[00:06:39] Niklas: So the way it is designed now, it’s more of a social network. In that sense, they can meet, discuss what you want to do and you ultimately execute in any partnership. So right now we facilitate the matching, we facilitate communication and the discovery of podcasts, but the ultimate partnership, we don’t structure. So if you want to do a shout out where you mentioned someone organically and they mentioned you, and it’s something you can do, we have seen some podcasts who trailer swaps, where same as the trailer you sent me for your show, they swap trailers into the feeds and then drop them as a promotion. So this is up to the podcasters right now. While we are looking into, and which will be part of the more advanced features that we’re working on. Is exactly what you just mentioned, where we provide the technology that allows podcasters to execute these partnerships in a way easier way. We already today support for example, trailer. So you can upload the trailer for your podcast. If we have this feature or when we have this feature implanted, we could automate this exchange, which on the one hand makes it easier to partner up with other podcasts, but on the other hand, also gives you more control, cause you cannot be a hundred percent guaranteed that it’s a fair exchange. So even if you have 10 times as many, listeners us per episode, for example. So it is automation where you can guarantee that you get the same amount of listens that you also give to the other person, right? So we want to make sure that it’s always a fair exchange. And we place high value on verifying reach our podcasters so this is a platform that you can trust and we want to provide the execution of technology while you still structure what you want to do. And we don’t enforce the actual structure of any partnership.

[00:08:25] Nemanja: And then if I understood correctly, you will be overseeing the transaction. Right. And making sure everything is  you know fair and done according to the plan.

[00:08:35] Niklas: Exactly. So right now the communication works mostly through a chat. We support the entire communication through the platform and in the future, the way we’re imagining it. And that’s the way we’re planning it. And right now is that you still agree with the other partner on how you want this partnership to be, whether it’s a trailer swap, whether it’s a shout out, whether you drop an episode in your feed, like another podcast episode in your feed to all your listeners, an entire episode, you agree on all these things. And then Audrey will be managing the actual execution. So you configure everything and we ensure that it’s actually happening the way you both agreed on.

[00:09:18] Nemanja: Interesting. How big is Audrey’s network right now?

[00:09:22] Niklas: We started in March now and close to 4,000 podcasts have signed up since early March. So we’re growing by a few hundred every week. It’s getting more every week. So we’re very happy with actually how many podcasts are signing up and consistently joining the platform. There is a clear majority of English speaking podcasts. So we do a lot of reach out to podcasts that we think could benefit from platform like Audrey. So we don’t contact anyone that is already has millions of listeners. So we focus on specific niche podcasts that could fit the overall community, but as the community is growing there’s more and more diversity and more and more podcasts.

[00:10:03Nemanja:] Awesome. That’s a big number, actually. I’m guessing it’s global. Will it focus on English speaking podcasts or are there foreign languages there as well?

[00:10:12] Niklas: So right now we allow anybody who wants. And the only prerequisite is that you have a podcast, so you can not create an account if you don’t have a podcast. So you always need to sign up with a podcast. There’s also a part of the mechanic that we introduced. So we don’t have any non podcasters to sign up. We don’t want anyone to spam the podcasters with other requests that are not related to partnering up for promotions and growing. Our network  right now is mostly English speaking, which was a practical way of doing it just because, there’s a lot of interesting podcasts, it’s the most, the biggest group of podcasts, but we also see podcasts from all over the world, but the majority is clearly English speaking right now. So it’s mostly the UK, the US, Australia, Canada, and we also have podcasts from the Congo and South America. Asia. There’s plenty of those from all over the world.

[00:11:05] Nemanja: Yeah. Can you tell me what are some of the ways you can grow your audience, which is a topic that you covered in your blog?

[00:11:10] Niklas: Yeah, sure. In general, with our blog, we’re working on a big contents that actually help and use tips on how to grow some of the things that we have on there right now came directly from talking to podcasters that were already a bit bigger understanding how they worked and how they found success. And all the tips are around growing for free. So we want to provide tools where you don’t actually just spend money to grow your podcast. And some of the easiest ways or the most, I’d say easy to start and get started with are social medias. So a lot of podcasters grow  through Twitter, a lot of professional podcasts grow through LinkedIn. If they have a professional network ther and it’s a professional podcast and not atalk show casual kind of podcasts. So other social media is a very good driver of listeners and has a chance to get you more viral. Especially Twitter is the most common say for podcasts, there;s also Instagram and Facebook, but it’s very rare. This is in general to get the message out and to make people aware, that the podcast exists because as you know, just from being available, And let’s say on Spotify or Apple podcasts doesn’t necessarily get you listeners because nobody knows about it. That would be the most basic thing you can do on your own, where you don’t need to talk to anyone. You can just start today. The other thing is actually cross promotions, which is part of why we built this platform. Sometimes there’s or very often then, there’s an overlap with the audience of someone else, but you’re not direct competition. So you a sound engineer, you talk about how to create a podcast, but there might other place in the audio space of a podcast that talk about music, for example. Because you could have a common theme, which is all about how to make sound work and sound good. But one comes more from the music direction. You come move from the actually editing direction. The audiences might have an overlap of people that could be interested in both so that it gives you access to a way larger audience. That is very relevant to actually what you’re doing. So these people will have a hard time discovering you randomly, but they’re partnering up with other podcasts. You have the chance to really get directly into their ear as part of a native interview or content partnership, for example, or just a shout out and is a great way if you find the right partners to laser target and audience that fits your content rather than going super broad and spraying and praying.

[00:13:39] Nemanja: Yeah, so true. I have to agree. I mean, it’s a lot easier to get people hooked to your show that are already listening to podcasts or already into the topic you’re covering. So yeah. How important do you think the sound quality is when it comes to having a successful show?

[00:13:57] Niklas: I guess it depends a little bit on also the topic. I think overall, obviously we don’t want to have a sound that is painful in the ear and that is annoying to listen to and if there’s a sound in the back that is a very annoying it’s obviously not great. So I’m not sure if it needs to have studio level super high quality in the sense that for the audiophiles among us, but there’s definitely needs to be as set up that goes beyond just having I’d say an Apple headphone set in your ear when you do it, it can work, but usually people should really focus on how their podcasts sound. And all the most successful ones have invested significantly into their audio setup just makes it easier. It makes it nice. Gives a constant quality level. It is consistent across episodes which just overall adds value to podcast also the sense of how people perceive it when they first listened to it. Your fans might already be fine if there’s a drop of quality at one point, but for any new listeners, you want to sound professional. You want to have a set up where people feel like you’re actually trying hard and not just winging it every time. I think it’s quite important, but there’s probably different degrees. You don’t probably need to invest 5,000 euros to get started, but as you grow and as you want to be more professional should invest some money into equipment.

[00:15:20] Nemanja: Yeah. And a good side to that is that the actual audio equipment is accessible and cheap. I mean, you can get a pretty decent mic and an audio interface for a couple of hundred of bucks, and that’s basically all you need.

[00:15:35] Niklas: And I guess I do really depends on also who you are and that is creating content. If you are a company, you probably want to have a very crisp high quality content production set up because it’s basically in part of your content marketing strategy. So anything that is sub par will reflect you as a company. And if you are, let’s say a group of friends and you have a casual podcast every weekend to meet and talk about whatever is happening in your life. So specific casual topic then it’s less important. So it really should think who is my audience and what am I trying to achieve with this? And also what is the topic? And then you need to make a decision of what kind of quality level is right for you.

[00:16:18] Nemanja: Yeah. Cool. And a follow up question. Can you tell me what is the right way to approach creating a target audience for your podcast?

[00:16:27] Niklas: That is a tricky question because in general, the more way I think about it and the way we also think about with the platform is that you don’t really create a target audience, but basically you create content and you find your target audience for that content. I think there’s multiple ways. Some people just start a podcast to make money. And they basically look at who’s the most addressable biggest audience, and then they create a content for that. But in most cases, what we see as people are passionate about a topic, they create a podcast for that. And then the question is, who is your audience?

Who is this relevant to and how you reach those? I think the bigger challenge is really finding the people that enjoy your podcast or being able to reach them and address them or find them rather than that, you build an audience and then build the podcast on top of it. It’s usually the other way around.

[00:17:17] Nemanja: And do you think anybody can be a podcast host?

[00:17:20] Niklas: Technically for sure. In setting up a podcast, in theory, with the most basic setup, doesn’t take long. Some of the cheapest microphone and with a free hosting platform, you can basically get started in a day with the most basic thing. But I think being a successful podcast, host definitely takes persistence and patience. So we have great podcasts on the platform, super high quality productions, and still only have a few hundred listeners after few years. And they’re still very passionate about building it. So I feel like you need a very different mindset than a content creator on Instagram. For example, as a podcaster you don’t get instant gratification. You don’t post daily pictures or videos, but  usually have a weekly to biweekly schedule. So there’s way more strategy needed to grow a podcast takes longer to get bigger and there’s more and more work, usually involved with creating it. So I’d say anyone can start a podcast, but probably most people are not persistent in that to actually keep going.

[00:18:27] Nemanja: Yeah, I totally agree. In my experience in podcasting kind of slow and steady wins the race. And it really does take a lot of time and a lot more patience. So I think that’s just the nature of the podcast as a medium, as you said, you know, you don’t upload as often and then it just takes longer to settle with an audience.

[00:18:49] Niklas: Yeah, it’s a very intimate, medium, so definitely it’s clear to me that podcast listeners have a closer relationship to a podcast host if they are subscribers or listeners regularly, but yeah, it takes way longer to build these kinds of relationships. So there’s also the thing about the audiences is a more trusting relationship. So once you get there, it’s just much tougher and harder and takes longer than with another content format.

[00:19:18] Nemanja: Interesting. And what do you think is responsible for that kind of intimate relationship between a podcast host and the listeners?

[00:19:27] Niklas: On one thing is for sure that the content length is on average way longer. So when I’m listening to a podcast, I’m prepared to spend an hour to two hours listening to this host or setup, or this podcast that I’m listening to. Right. It’s way more than just scrolling past the picture on Instagram or watching a small 10 minute video. Also, it’s very intimate in the sense that I’m basically doing nothing else I might be vacuuming, for example, or might be cooking as something like those that are most active activities that I personally can do. Because I cannot listen to a podcast and work at the same time, for example, that is too distracting. I lose concentration on either of those. So it’s just way more focused. You’re more engaged with the actual content. So I actively listen. There’s nothing else I’m doing, goes straight into my ears. There’s no distractions. And the voice is a very different way of engaging with the person than just through pictures.

[00:20:28] Nemanja: Yeah, totally. Okay. What are some of the skills you can improve that can make you a better show host?

[00:20:34] Niklas: One thing is probably talking or speaking style that you have as a person, a lot of people seem to be less prepared than others. When doing their podcast. So there’s a lot of ums and ahs and pauses that are not really necessary. So I would advise to practice at least specific speaking style. A lot of people go too fast and then get lost. There’s other podcasts done at super high quality where people just are very good at havingthe right sentences that you could actually print. So if you would have a copy of what they said during the podcast, and then they come up in these conversation, you could print it. It will look fine. Whereas other podcasts make somebody listen to them, but you would not want to read it, also speak clearly, make sure your audio is correct so that whatever you’re saying is very clear. And then depending on what your podcast is, you need to be more or less engaging if you’re interviewing others, making sure that you’re a good interviewer. There’s a bunch of guides online way to look up and if you’re a guest. You  should also try to be or working on other podcasts, should try to add value and not ramble on. I think there’s a number one thing. Try not to ramble and be prepared what you’re saying because it’s very easy to spot if you’re not doing that.

[00:21:51] Nemanja: Yeah. That’s some really helpful advice there actually. Okay. Do you have some advice for someone who’s looking to take up podcasting?

[00:22:01] Niklas: Yeah, we’re helping people connect, we are not necessarily maybe the best consultants on if you want to get started, but if you want to get started, be prepared for the grind, we prepared that it’s not going to be an instant success. So that is number one and pick a topic that you want to talk about that, you know, you will be able to talk about for a while. If it’s just something that we’ll only do one episode or two, and also will make it harder to come up with more content down the line. So come up with a theme with a rough theme, doesn’t need to be a hundred percent perfect. But something where you can see yourself doing this for quite a while. Because you will be if you want to be big and probably don’t start out with the idea that you will make a lot of money very quickly, because that’s very unlikely that this is actually happening, unless you’re very lucky.

[00:22:49] Nemanja: Okay. Going back to Audrey, what are your plans for the future?

[00:22:54] Niklas: Yeah, I already touched upon this a little bit earlier. So we have right after discovery, which is not bad, but can still be improved for the bunch or features. So what we’re trying to do right now is really help people connect with other podcasts, just through smart recommendations, through better filtering sends you really the growth of the community. So there’s more and more podcasts. It’s more likely that you find someone that is super relevant for you as a partner. This is on the basic plan we have right now, some of the other features that we’re working on, are already the facilitation of the actual partnerships, where we are the platform in the middle of helps you execute all the partnerships and creates this level of trust where you can be sure. That there’s no funny business going on. And we verify that everything that’s happening is actually happening the way you agreed on. So there’s one part. Another part is that we are looking into ways of helping podcasters become more successful in other fields. So right now it’s all about partnering up. I mean growing, but we get more and more questions from podcasters, whether you could help them with actually getting sponsorships, working with brands, but generally helping them make money off their podcasts and their content. And this is something we are actively looking into right now to see how can we help add value to podcasters because that’s all primarily customer of the platform without going overly aggressive in any direction. That just benefits advertising. So we want to be very careful before we launch anything in that direction, but we’ve been very actively investigating on how we can also help on that front.

[00:24:38] Nemanja: Yeah. Well, I can’t wait to see what happens next. I gotta be honest. And do you see any big changes coming to the podcasting format in the near future?

[00:24:47] Niklas: Yeah, that’s a good question. So now you’ve seen changes overall. One thing that is clear is that the growth of podcasts is not stopping. So there’s now so many podcasts being created every day, globally. The more podcasts on the Apple store and Spotify are growing at a rate which is pretty crazy. So I’m expecting that it is a lot and it’s going to change, but it’s hard to say what will be the big trends in the actual content. So there’s more and more brands going into podcasting. So more and more companies are hopping onto this podcasting. One trend I see is also that podcasts being used as a public content, but internal content there’s a bunch of larger companies that are creating podcasts internally just for their employees. And one big trend that I see a lot of people working on is actually more educational content. So right now it’s a lot of story-driven content education in the sense that it does interviews with experts. But if you look to how audio is being used in China, for example, what podcasting is very different compared to the West, there’s a lot of educational, actual content where you learn a language or learn certain skills. And I feel like this is very underdeveloped. And the non-Chinese markets and I’m very excited to see how people will jump on that. And whether it is a 15 minute Spanish learning session, such as Duolingo, but in audio form or something else, curious to see, but that’s definitely a trend where I see more and more people working on it.

[00:26:24] Nemanja: Yeah, that’s something we touched upon in the couple of episodes already about the educational aspect of podcasting. I didn’t know about the China though, but I think there is definitely some potential that we are not using at the moment. And speaking of which, what do you think is so special about the podcast as a medium? Why are so many people attracted to it?

[00:26:46] Niklas: There’s multiple reasons why I believe podcasts are now so big, even though they have been existing for a long time, the podcast is not a new medium, they have been around for as long as Instagram as long as Facebook, but it didn’t have the breakthrough right now there’s multiple reasons that are proven and others, which are probably more cultural. One is on the technology side. For example, mobile internet has gotten faster. Internet data plans have gotten better on your phone. So it’s more realistic to actually download and stream podcast episodes. So people now use Spotify on the go, you know, are able to download entire podcast episode without already emptying your data plan the first week. So technology has made it way easier to actually consume this kind of long form content. Another thing is the big shifts of people have earpods in their ears all the time, Bluetooth, headphones, and all this kind of technology. But they’re always on with audio. But then instead of listening to music, you can also on the way to work, listen to a podcast. So just a whole shift in how people consume and listen to audio has really brought more attention to podcasts. And obviously there have been more and more professional podcast producers and big podcasts that have just made people aware that it exists. But if you look at statistics nowadays, the average person in the U S already spends more time on their smartphone listening to audio then they use social media. So, the audio consumption is already way higher than the social media usage. And then the audio consumption is split in podcast, music on the form of audio might consume, but that has been a big shift in technology. But also the cultural thing how we use headphones and how normal it’s just a Bluetooth headphones on and just listen to audio all this time, all the time.

[00:28:39] Nemanja: That’s an interesting perspective. And there’s definitely truth in that. Okay. What are some of the podcasts that you enjoy listening in your spare time?

[00:28:48] Niklas: There’s more. That it’s very diverse. So, I mean, as a founder, I  always like to listen to the smartest people in the space and just see the people that are, think about the big picture in many different directions, not even related directly to podcasting. So I really enjoy the a16z podcast, which is by Andreessen Horowitz from the U S they have great discussions around what is happening globally in general. So they talk about the audio space, but they also talk about healthcare, they talk about fintech and so great big picture podcasts by people that are in the space and constantly looking for investments. who is changing the market and  who’s changing the status quo, which is one that I really enjoy. There’s another one that I listened to, which is more Germany based since we also based in Germany, which is about local politics, local news, 30 minutes break down every day on what has happened. One of the big things, which is great, especially in a way to work. When commuting, it’s get a breakdown of everything that’s happened and you know news for the day and there’s a couple of casual ones that I’ll listen to. That are more relaxing and a comedy podcast, there’s a couple of ones, depending what mood I’ll pick one, but yeah, a16z I can definitely recommend as the greatest one for founders and also to get a bigger picture.

[00:30:14] Nemanja: Okay. Where can our listeners reach you and check out Audry?

[00:30:18] Niklas: I mean, Audry, you can  find on audry.io and that’s A U D R Y.IO. That’s the on direct landing page tells you about Audry and what we do, and you can sign up immediately. If you have a podcast, if you want to reach out to me directly, if you have any questions, you can just email me directly at niklas@audry.io Same domain, Niklas, NIKLAS. And also feel free to link it in the show notes. If anyone wants to reach out, I’d be happy to connect but there’s multiple emails going on, but this one goes directly to my inbox is the easiest way to reach me.

[00:30:52] Nemanja: Okay, Nicholas, thank you so much for your time. And do you have any last words for it?

[00:30:57] Niklas: If anyone has any ideas or any opinions, also, especially as they differ from what I said today, feel free to reach out and connect, always happy to hear what other people have to say, especially with podcasters as there’s many people, that have created a podcast and have way more experience with actually the creation of a podcasts where we focus on helping podcast connect. So feel free to reach out, share your opinion. If you disagree, let me know why and what you think is the truth.

[00:31:25] Nemanja: Alright, thanks so much for doing this.

[00:31:27] Niklas: Yeah, thank you for the invitation. Happy to be part of your podcast.

[00:31:32] Nemanja: That’s it!

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