Podcasting 🎧 can be a great way to build a community around your brand and position you as an expert in your field. But the real question is, are you in the right position to flip the switch and commit to launching one? It requires investing various resources, including time, money, production, equipment, and networking. The last thing you want is to go all-in, only to pull the plug with nothing to show for your efforts.
Fear not, aspiring caster of pods 🤗 Despite knowing the risks, Freemius pulled the trigger anyway and spent two years planning our podcast plugin.fm, which we launched in May 2023. To be clear, the first season wasn’t an instant success, but we’re pushing ahead with season 2 because we want to:
- Continue providing value to the software creator ecosystem
- Help new product makers on their journeys by uncovering sage advice
- Expand our network of industry experts to interview to provide even more insights to tap into
And because we’ve taken the leap of faith already, we can share our experiences, lessons, and insights, and — hopefully — they will resonate with you in a way that helps you kickstart your podcasting journey.
You’ll also get to save time and have knowledge gaps (and pitfalls) filled in by learning from our experience. As Tim Ferriss suggests in Tools of Titans, picking low-hanging fruit is often the best way to get ahead.
But first: A breakdown of why we thought launching plugin.fm was a good idea.
The Genesis of plugin.fm
Our ‘why’ for starting a podcast was simple. plugin.fm forms part of our value-first philosophy because it helps us offer actionable tips for software creators and businesses informed by the lived experiences of inspiring experts.
We’ve been lucky enough to make solid connections with industry leaders over the years.
For this reason, we wanted to create a platform for them to inspire, entertain, and educate entrepreneurs, indie developers, and ‘lifestyle’ software product makers.
Also, we are a SaaS engine for selling software products, which wouldn’t be possible without our awesome partners. Therefore, we wanted to build an even stronger connection with our community, market our services, and amplify our voice within the industry.
Allow our founder and CEO Vova Feldman to expand:
You can find out even more in Freemius Launches plugin.fm 🚀💥 A Podcast for Software Entrepreneurs to Kickstart & Grow Their Product Businesses.
Why Launching plugin.fm Was the Right Move for Freemius
I’m sure you’d agree that there’s no sense in going fishing without bait and a hook. In other words, Freemius has a few lucky lures in our business’s tackle box that we collected over the years:
- We’re an established business in the WordPress and SaaS ecosystems, which means potential guests and our target audience are more likely to buy into our mission.
- We have dedicated content marketing and video teams to oversee production and distribution. Podcasting can be as simple or complicated as you want it to be, but launching a project with some degree of professionalism requires a few hands on deck.
- Our founder and CEO Vova Feldman has an extensive network of industry experts we can pitch to, thanks to many years of relationship-building through events and conferences like WordCamps.
- We’re clear on our mission and the niche we’re providing value to. I can’t stress this enough: Since podcasting is a resource-heavy effort, winging it and hoping to strike gold with no real vision or strategy is NOT conducive to success.
You may not have a large business footprint, team, or network in place (yet), and that’s perfectly fine. That said, these factors do contribute to the feasibility of podcasting based on your situation. I recommend doing a SWOT Analysis if launching a podcast is something you’re seriously considering.
Planning and Launching
Steal With Your Ears First
Vova had been toying with starting a podcast long before the planning stage. He listened to various podcasts — ranging from niche to more commercial — and formed an idea about what he liked and disliked about how each was presented. This helped him envision how the Freemius podcast would look like from a style, content, and presentation standpoint.
But more importantly, it helped him figure out what he wanted to achieve with plugin.fm and how it could provide value to other software entrepreneurs. This, in turn, helped with guest selection and outreach (more on this soon).
Choosing the Right Name
Picking a name was challenging.
We wanted it to appeal to the WordPress community but also not focus on it exclusively, since the idea was to attract the greater software creator ecosystem.
In the end, we were lucky enough to settle on “plugin.fm”, which is a cool play on words.
Finding a Good Host
If you’re a new software creator, we recommend that you host your podcast to capitalize on exposure.
However, if your business is more established (ergo demanding) or you’re microphone-shy, consider recruiting a host to do the talking for you.
It’s what we did, and we couldn’t be happier with Patrick Rauland’s people skills and energetic interview expertise.
“We decided on a host before we even started thinking about guests. We wanted someone who understands e-commerce, software products, and marketing, and has software development experience,” Vova says.
The Look of the Thing
plugin.fm went through quite a few iterations before we settled on design elements.
The first order of business was deciding on a logo. “We had about ten variants before we came up with the final version, which illustrates the letter P in the form of a studio cable plug known as a ¼-inch TS,” says Vitalii Romaniuk, Lead Designer at Freemius.
The evolution of plugin.fm’s logo
Next up was the landing page, which went through several iterations. The design team created a wireframe document to establish the layout and actioned improvements with feedback from multiple team members.
When designing a landing page, we invested a lot of effort to build an easy-to-navigate UX.
You can have an amazing page design but if it’s not supported by quality UX, it’s worthless.
Getting it right requires experimenting and trying different versions.
Once everyone was satisfied with the landing page’s UX, the next step was defining the design language.
Palette-wise, the initial version was less contrasted with more emphasis on purple. The main focus of each episode cover on the website is the guest, and we wanted this to stand out. We designed the website to work in both light and dark mode, and decided to go with a darker tone for both. We did this to ensure the guest’s image would ‘pop’ on each episode’s cover.
Since the podcast was created by Freemius, we also decided to link it with our mascot, Freebo. Currently, he is enjoying listening to the podcast in our hero section 😉
Before-and-after evolution of the landing page with the darker tones more apparent in the latter
The Nitty Gritty/Admin
This is obvious checklist stuff, but you need to ensure the following is in place before you launch:
- Logo and branding
- Registered domain name
- Social channels
- Accounts on various podcasting platforms
Guest Selection and Outreach
Curating a rich and varied guestlist for each season of your podcast is important, as this is ultimately the foundation upon which it will be built.
You need to ensure your podcast stands out from others in your niche.
During your first season, your guest list will primarily be dependent on the folks you already have developed relationships with. [Nothing’s stopping you from reaching out to people you don’t know, of course, but it’ll be more difficult since your podcast isn’t established yet.]
plugin.fm is a topic-based podcast (more on this under ‘Interview Preparation’), so when we started out, we considered people we had relationships with along with their unique knowledge, know-how, background, etc. From there, we could pinpoint interesting topics to discuss with them for our first season. Essentially, it boiled down to a combo of personal relationships and what the people in our network could bring to the party in terms of topics.
When reaching out to guests at this stage, you also need to sell them on your podcast’s mission and vision. If they buy into it, most will probably leap at the opportunity to be featured as it creates exposure for them and their brands.
For the second season, we were able to use a different approach, which entailed identifying topics and considering which people — both inside and outside our network — would be the best to discuss them. We were also able to leverage many of our previous guests’ contacts and networks … and even shoot for the stars (keep your eyes peeled 😁).
I was involved with this phase of podcast creation and — let me tell you — it ain’t no picnic.
One of the most important lessons we learned from season one is to keep introductions succinct.
We wanted to sketch the guest’s background to highlight their titles and achievements to hype them up and make them the star.
However, after analyzing YouTube data, we determined that episodes were losing guests in the intro (or close to it).
For season 2, we’re focusing on creating punchier intros while ensuring they still talk the guest up and create good energy for the episode.
It’s important to note that interviews are a direct reflection of your podcast’s purpose.
For Freemius, plugin.fm is not a promotional exercise but a value-driven mission.
Many podcasts are guest-driven, which means the episode focuses on the person, their company, their background, some insights, etc.
We chose a different route with plugin.fm and focused on topic-based interviews.
Of course, we’re not saying the guest isn’t important, but the focus is on how their experience relates to the topic and backs up their thoughts and ideas.
And to get a topic across effectively requires focusing on questions that drive a narrative.
plugin.fm’s questions aren’t random; they carry a story, which makes the interview more interesting and engaging.
Achieving this requires doing extensive research for every guest and piecing it together in a way that isn’t overly scripted. There’s an argument to be made for ‘winging it’ to achieve organic flow, but we find this approach too risky.
Our first priority when interviewing guests is to ensure we’re getting valuable information and not wasting the opportunity. Moreover, many of our guests are extremely busy and won’t have time for a do-over if the interview goes pear-shaped. We prefer assurance and guarantee instead of improvising and potentially ending up with subpar material.
Before reaching out to a guest, we always make sure we know exactly what topic we’d like to discuss. It’s critical because it shows we know what we’re talking about, and makes guests feel confident that they resonate with and contribute valuable information on the topic from their experience, which improves the chances that the guest will agree to be interviewed.
Another thing to bear in mind is that podcast episodes can easily go on for an hour or more. Therefore, listeners often need something to grab and reengage them halfway through the episode. At this stage, it’s important to create FOMO and reengage the listener. In other words, let them know they should keep listening because the guest is about to reveal something valuable and interesting. We’ll let you in on how we’re going to try and achieve this in season 2 further down 😉
We also learned you can never anticipate everything during an interview. For this reason, we asked Patrick to write down some highlights directly after the interview which we could potentially weave into a revised introduction to pump up the audience. There’s still room for us to improve when it comes to commentary and engaging the audience by building anticipation.
Also worth noting:
- Share the interview questions with each guest beforehand and invite them to tweak/tailor the intro and the questions themselves to make it a collaborative affair. This ensures that both parties get the most out of the process.
- In the outro, thank the guest for their time and knowledge and relay additional information about your podcast (social channels, etc.).
- Doing SEO and keyword research will help your episodes rank higher in search, but ensure you don’t lose sight of your mission. “I’ve learned that sometimes, SEO and keywords aren’t everything,” says Ymreb Concepcion, SEO Specialist at Freemius. You still need to think about an interesting topic and what hooks to use for the episode to be successful. You need to make sure your podcast can connect with your audience. The keywords will just make it easier to find, but the content itself should be interesting enough for people to pay attention, and to retain their attention.
Subscribe and grab a free copy to start Mastering SEO on the WordPress.org Repository
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Hosting and Production
It’s important to understand what you need to get out of your equipment setup.
The most important aspect of podcasting is, of course, the audio. There was quite a bit of back-and-forth between our Head of Video Zee Hazan and Video Editor Emiliano Pioli with our host Patrick to get this right in the beginning, but eventually, we settled on a Rode Podcaster.
If you’re recording each episode for YouTube too, you need to invest in a decent camera. Patrick uses a Logitech B910 HD Webcam and has been considering upgrading his setup with a teleprompter.
Additionally, the space where you’ll be recording needs to be visually appealing.
I’m not saying you should have a full-fledged studio but… Just be professional and don’t leave your socks hanging in the background, okay? 🤣 You can always upgrade your space in the future as your podcast progresses.
Use Smart Tools
Don’t make life hard for yourself.
“Manually uploading each new episode to Spotify, Google, Apple, etc. takes up way too much time — you want to keep this stuff central. This is why we use Simplecast for publishing, distribution, and analytics,” says Mary Jane Aniciete, our Administrative Assistant.
Transcribing podcast episodes makes editing and subtitle creation much easier, too. We use Descript for this. In addition, we use Zencastr to optimize some of the technical aspects of recording podcasts. It produces an audio and video file for every person, creates a merged or non-merged view, etc.
Launching a Podcast
In the beginning, the idea was to first and foremost use Freemius’s channels to launch plugin.fm. We have a newsletter, a blog, and a decent number of followers on social media.
The second strategy was to get it featured in other newsletters and publications in our ecosystem and to reach out to people in our network and ask them to amplify the message by sharing it with their audiences on social media and such.
However, getting published in other publications is hard work and is largely based on personal relationships. We’ve also started publishing blog articles relevant to podcasting, and we’ve attempted to get listed on third-party websites that share lists of top podcasts.
The lesson? No matter what you’re promoting, you need to build an audience. “I can’t stress the importance of this enough. People with thousands of followers already have so many eyeballs at the ready when they’re launching something new. I think I underestimated the power of social media in launching a podcast,” Vova says.
A recent conversation with WordPress evangelist and podcaster Matt Medeiros led to another revelation: other podcasts are a great way to promote your own since you’re targeting people who actively listen to them.
After learning this, Vova has actively been reaching out to podcasters he knows personally to ask to be featured as a guest. “I’m open about the fact that I can share my expertise and insights and that I’d also like to make use of the opportunity to promote plugin.fm,” he says.
Side note: This is related to content distribution on YouTube, but there must be a strong correlation between the thumbnail of a video, the title of the video, and the first 5 to 20 seconds. People click on a video, anticipating information based on the visual and title. If the video fails to deliver, you’ll very likely lose them.
Freemius’s Reflections and Future Plans
After season 1 of plugin.fm, Vova, Patrick, Head of Content Scott Murcott, and Head of Video Zee Hazan met to discuss successes and areas for improvement, and also to bring additional ideas to the table.
To re-emphasize, we need to improve our intros by shortening and making them more conversational so they sound less scripted and more like Patrick’s own words.
Something else we noticed is that it’s great to interview guests who are also podcasters or regularly engage in podcasts or video interviews. They have very professional setups and backgrounds and are often more comfortable and easy with expressing themselves, so it pays to feature them on your podcast as much as possible.
In addition to taking the time to craft better, more tantalizing hooks for episode topics, we’re introducing the ‘sinker’ — a term we learned from Rand Fishkin that describes a tactic to keep the listener engaged throughout the episode.
A sinker is a nugget thrown into the middle of an interview and designed to grab the listener by triggering an emotion. In other words, a kind of curveball that piques their attention and makes them stick around a little longer. There’s no magic formula for creating a sinker; it will require some research and brainstorming on your part.
But all in all, Vova believes Freemius did a good job with season 1 of plugin.fm. “We took a lot of time to think it through: the audience, the premise, the launch, distribution, the theme, the design, the production — all of it.” He does, however, acknowledge that not all software creators are privileged to have large teams that can facilitate big projects and that getting into the podcasting game is very much about making do. “The best thing you can do is to start simple and improve over time.”
Thanks for Hearing Us Out 🎙️
Launching a podcast is like embarking on a quest, and we want you to benefit from our journey — maybe we could learn from yours in the future 😉
We’re still figuring things out and tweaking our approach, but that’s the beauty of it. So far, our podcasting escapade has taught us to keep intros short, choose guests wisely, and plan interviews with a narrative in mind. Oh, and be sure not to underestimate the power of a strong social media game + following — you’ll need it for distribution.
If you enjoyed reading this article, be sure to watch out for season 2 of plugin.fm, where we’ll be featuring leading software creators and entrepreneurs who’ve made their marks in the industry. I can’t reveal too much, but our first episode’s guest is a doozy. 😅😁