Host, Jennifer Tribe: When is a podcast not just a podcast? How can you profitably spin your podcast into new forms and revenue streams? That’s the topic we’re diving into today with my guest, Juleyka Lantigua.
Juleyka is a force in the podcast industry. You may already know her in fact from her weekly newsletter called Podcasting Seriously, her industry speaking appearances or many free workshops, or her interviews on other podcasts like this one. She is generous with her time and expertise.
As the founder and CEO of LWC Studios, Juleyka has had a hand in producing more than 30 podcasts over the last four years, including the multi-award-winning 70 Million, about how locals are tackling jail reform in the United States.
And she builds IP — intellectual property — extensions into every project she launches.
Jennifer: Hi Juleyka, welcome to Supercasters.
Guest, Juleyka Lantigua: Hi, thank you for having me.
The audience decides
Jennifer: Let’s start with a really broad question to set the stage for today’s conversation. From your perspective as the head of a studio, what do you think it takes to be successful in podcasting today, in this crowded and rapidly growing market?
Juleyka: Oh, you have to have a really good idea today. I think that that is the key. I mean, generally speaking, to be a creative force, you have to have a really good idea. But I think in podcasting, because we are so welcoming as an industry, because if you're willing to put in the work, if you're willing to make friends, if you're willing to be a community player, we welcome you. But it's the audience that decides if you get to stay. And so I think having the strongest possible idea that really differentiates you and that is well matched to your strengths. I mean, that's really important. And I think people take that for granted. You can have a brilliant idea, but maybe you're not the right person to execute that idea. And so you've got to be able to confidently answer those two questions. Yes, I have a great idea. And yes, I am absolutely the right person to execute on this idea, because even if your community of podcasters is very welcoming and very enthusiastic and we support you, ultimately, it's the audience that gets to decide if you are worth keeping on their playlists, quite literally.
Jennifer: Jumping right into the discussion about IP extensions. In the context of our audience today, this would be, they have a podcast, but what else could they do with that content? So why do you think it's important to think about IP extensions in the first place?
Being siloed is no longer the way
Juleyka: Because we are in a multimedia environment, so being siloed is no longer the way that people consume media, right? People don't only listen to the radio, they don't only watch Netflix, they don't only anything. And so your idea has to be able to not just survive, but thrive in different areas so that you can attract different audiences for the idea. And so that's where I think IP extensions before you launch your show are really important. Right. And so when I started my company, I made a list. I made a really long list of original show ideas or concepts. Sometimes they were just a few words strung together that needed more development. I needed to prove to myself that I could generate enough ideas that if a third of them failed or I couldn't develop them properly, I still had enough ideas to pull from.
Juleyka: And then once I made that list, I made a list for each of those ideas, the ones that I thought were really viable, of other potential iterations for those ideas. Could they be a book? Could they be a film? Could they be a syndicated show? Could they be a line of products? Could they be live events? Could they be a curriculum? And so when we launch a show, I am always very clear about what will the next iteration of the show be. And right now, we're in the process of doing that with our original three shows. So Latina to Latina, 70 Million, and Feeling My Flo. So all three of those shows have matured enough and have succeeded enough that now I am moving into exploring how else are we iterating with the show? What other platform is it going to be living on?
Jennifer: OK, so a couple of interesting things there. First of all, what jumped out at me is you are a podcast studio, film studio also, but really podcast first, podcast company. And yet when you're developing your podcasts, you're not just thinking about podcasts, you're already thinking about the other places that you could take it.
Jennifer: You're thinking about these things before you've even launched the podcast. What if you started your podcast three years ago? You're already three years into it and you weren't thinking about those extensions then. Can you start thinking about them now?
Juleyka: You have to start thinking about them now. Yes, because again, it goes back to if the idea is strong enough, it can live in multiple ways. Think about Star Trek, think about Star Wars, think about the Marvel Universe. Those started out as comic books, and look at where it is now. And it used to be that you could just be extremely successful in one lane when there were basically three lanes. There were books, there was radio, and there was television. There were three lanes. Well, now there's 500 lanes. And so you've got to decide, can my idea be successful in six or seven or eight lanes of those 500 lanes and then literally create a plan in which you roll out the idea in each lane based on how you're measuring success.
Juleyka: And again, we're a network, but this really applies really specifically to the individual podcaster. The way that the lawyer could iterate is maybe after generating inbound sales, they can start doing workshops that they charge for. They can do that for individuals or they can do that on a corporate level. Maybe for the store owner, you decide that you're going to introduce a new product and you're going to have a tasting for that product and you invite the folks that are listening to your show. And so that's another way to iterate. And who knows what happens after you get 20 or 30 people to come into your store to taste this new product. Maybe they give you an idea about maybe you should be doing this once a month. Maybe you invite local chefs from the community, maybe you partner with another restaurant. See what happens? You are naturally putting yourself in a place where ideas can be generated from your original idea, because you're now putting your original idea in the context of how people are relating to it, and this is why it goes back to making money and podcasting is all about establishing and strengthening that community around your show.
Iterating ideas with your audience
Jennifer: I find that interesting because I was thinking, even when we were talking about IP extensions, I was thinking about how do you take your subject matter or your content and package it in a different way. So I'm a podcast, but maybe now I'm going to do a graphic novel. But what I hear you saying is that it's not necessarily the content that needs to be repackaged. It's how you can offer additional things to the audience that's interested in your podcast. Would you say that's right?
Juleyka: That's half of it, right. So, yes, half of it is what do you originate that you offer? But the second half is how are they already using it that you can actually learn from and then you can scale? For example, we knew with 70 Million when we launched that part of the commitment was to be a resource. So, number one, we are open source. So everything original that we create, including our transcripts, including our resource guides, including obviously the audio, it's all open source. Anyone and everyone is welcome to use it. No licensing, no royalties, no permissions. So that was a direct welcome to anyone to iterate with our idea.
Juleyka: What would you do with it? Are you going to use it in your documentary. Are you going to use it in your activism? Are you going to use it in your classrooms? And so very quickly, after season one, we started getting lots of emails from professors who said, Oh my God, this is completely wonderful. I'm using it in my sociology class. I'm using it in my criminal justice class. I'm using it in my law classes. I'm using it in all of these places. And so for Season 2, OK, let's complement what our community is already doing by creating annotated transcripts. And so now all of our transcripts are annotated and they have sometimes a couple of hundred links in them leading to the resources that we cite in the reporting and to additional resources.
Juleyka: And so there we are expanding the definition of what 70 Million can be as a podcast to now have it be a really legitimate academic resource for people who want to be able to utilize that information in their own work. And the result of that has been that, for example, Representative AOC and Senator Booker cited one of our episodes in a letter that they wrote to Congress about a criminal justice report. I mean, it's really incredible. Sometimes I'm just like, how did that even happen? We've had amicus briefs to state supreme courts that cite our reporting. There is no way for me to even think about how I could begin to make that happen. But the community knows how to make it happen. They're the ones who are taking it and they're the ones who are creating forward with it in ways that are really meaningful to them.
The external viability test
Jennifer: I love that feedback loop and looking to your audience for ideas and taking what they're doing and expanding on it. How do you know when you're ready to extend? I'm sure there are a lot of people I, for one, would come in to it and be like, OK, I could do a podcast, but I could do this, that and the other thing. And I'd be so excited to start those other things that I might spread myself too thin. So how do you know when that core podcast has enough traction or is ready for those extensions to start?
Juleyka: Well, you've got to meet your initial set of success metrics. So before you launch, you decided I want to get to XY downloads. I want to get to XY listenthrough rate. I want to get on the Bello list or I want, you know, like whatever that success metric is for you, you've got to make sure that you make those initially. That's your lowest bar basically. And then after that, the next bar should be, especially if you want to really make money, should be an external test. So one of the first external tests of the viability of your show is whether someone will pay you to reach your audience. So it doesn't matter if it's the local pizza shop or if it's the local radio station or whoever it might be.
Juleyka: As long as you can prove that you have a worthwhile audience that someone is interested in reaching and they will pay you for that, that's a really strong proof of concept for your show. And that is definitely going to require extra work, you should have an EBK or a media kit, you should have an advertising rate, you should know the metrics of your show inside out. You'd be amazed how many podcasters who have been podcasting for several years don't know what their listenthrough rate is. Don't know what the median age of their listeners are. Don't know what their top 10 markets are. These are things that you should know inside and out. You should be able to quantify the community that you're building around your show with actual metrics. It's really, really important.
Jennifer: So somebody external willing to pay to reach your audience, would you say that a viable subscription program where the audience is paying you directly—is that an alternate checkmark or is that different?
Juleyka: It’s not alternate. It's different. I think that's very different. Because that is your audience saying, yes, this is really valuable to me. In fact, it's so valuable I'm going to put my money into it. Because I want you to continue to make the show that has become really important to me. So that's a great metric. But that is not the same as an external metric.
Creating a proof of concept
Jennifer: In terms of evaluating whether you can extend your podcast though, would that not be a great criteria? Is there a market for this graphic novel? Well, my audience is already paying me for a podcast, so I think yes.
Juleyka: Yeah. Well, you should ask them. I mean, this is also really surprising to me how many people have never surveyed their audience. You should be surveying your audience every year, at least once a year. And then if you do have an idea, run it by them, set up a five person focus group. That's really all you need— five intelligent people who have been listening for a few months or even for the duration of the show and go to them and say, hey, I'm thinking about doing this. What do you think? And you'd be amazed at how insightful your listeners are about your show.
Juleyka: And it's really important to ask them before you try things and then after that pilot. Make a small investment in time and resources to create a pilot, a proof of concept for whatever the next thing is that you want to iterate with your show and then bring that back to the community and say, hey, I made the thing. What do you think? Give me feedback. Is it working? Did I do what I said I was going to do? Do you like it? That feedback loop is really, really vital when you are pushing your creativity, when you are trying to break ground in another medium for your show.
Jennifer: So let's talk. I mean, at the beginning of the conversation, you talked about all of these different things that you could spin off from your podcast. How do you figure out which ones make the most sense for you? And do you have to limit yourself like you could say, OK, I could do these 10 things. What are the two that are really going to move the needle for me? How do you start evaluating those things?
Juleyka: So it's not about you. That's the first thing. And this is one of the heartbreaking truths about podcasting, that it's really not about you. It's about your listener. And so you could be enamored with an idea. You could think, Oh my God, I am so qualified, so wonderfully gifted. I am the right person to do this. And your audience can be like, I don't think so. And that's what matters. So it's not whether you think that your show can iterate on another platform, it's whether your audience thinks that it can iterate on another platform. So again, you've got to go back to them and ask them. You've got to mock something up. You've got to present your idea, your hope, your vision to them and say, hey, what do you think? Do you think this might work?
Juleyka: And then you have to look back at your surveys and look at how your audience has deepened and how it has grown and see if there are context clues in there that can really say, Oh you know, maybe the graphic novel should not be next. Maybe you should be thinking about doing a web series next. Because if you look at, for example, the growth of the people who listen on YouTube, that's in double digits. Oh, OK. So the growth for my show is coming from YouTube. I need to be on YouTube. So that's really important when you're making that decision. You've got to go with your new idea where your audience already is, because they're going to be the first adopters. They're going to be the first people to buy into whatever it is that you want to offer next.
Know everything you can, and evolve
Juleyka: So my advice is know everything you can know about your audience and not just the downloads. The download is useless. I know that's a radical notion, but the download, if you think about it, is absolutely useless. It's 60 seconds of audio at the top of the show. And so what you really want to understand is what's your average listenthrough rate. Look at who is listening. So typically the audience age distribution turns into like a little pyramid. So who's at the top of that pyramid? That's who your show is for. And make sure that who your show is actually for is who you're actually making the show for. I am also surprised at how people say to me, oh, I'm making a show for millennials. And it turns out that it's mostly Gen Xers listening to their show. And so you've got to look at that.
Juleyka: The other thing you have to look at is whether your show has evolved. If you’ve been making the show for more than a year, there should be a clear evolution to the show editorially and content wise. So you should not be making the exact same show you made for your first six episodes when you're in episode 30 or 40. There has to have been some maturation. There has to have been learning that was then applied to the show. And this goes to your ability to evolve an idea. It goes to your ability to adjust to your audience. It goes to our ability to also adjust to how the industry is moving. Four years ago when I started, it was perfectly fine to do an episode that was an hour, an hour and 15 minutes. No way can you launch a podcast where you say to people, Oh yeah, my episodes are going to be an hour and 15 minutes. That's just not going to fly. And so that's just one of the ways that you have to adjust. And so that's the first part of it.
Juleyka: The second part of it is you've got to do your market research. So we're thinking about doing a graphic novel for Feeling My Flo. And the first thing I did was order a bunch of graphic novels, a couple of them that were based on podcasts and a couple of them that were just very successful for our tween audience. And I'm going to pore over those and I'm going to make copious notes about what characteristics those have that our show has. And so that's part of my market research. Because, one, I want examples that it has been done and it has been successfully done. But two, I also want to test whether what we have been doing will actually translate. And I won't know that until I sit and I read through all of these graphic novels and I try to extract what are those characteristics that make the graphic novel good that we already embedded into the show, because I'm not going to change the show to make it fit into a graphic novel. And guess what?
Juleyka: I might come away having read some really dope graphic novels and then realizing, oh, this does not make sense for our show at all, because the character development is different, because the story arcs are different, because we have way too much scientific information, like whatever that might be that I might learn, I have to be open to that. And then the third part of that is ask your audience. Quite literally, ask your audience and say to them, hey, I've got this crazy idea for something I want to make with the show. What do you think? Would that work? Would you listen to that? Would you buy that for someone you love? Would you share that and then listen to that feedback from your audience?
Jennifer: It all comes back to knowing your audience, doesn’t it. Great insights. All right, we’re going to end this main episode here and move the conversation now into a private room for Supercasters subscribers only. Over there, we’ll be digging into how to turn your extension ideas into reality.
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Thanks for joining us.
- LWC Studios
- Podcasting, Seriously (newsletter)
- 70 Million (podcast)
- Latina to Latina (podcast)
- Feeling My Flo (podcast)
- Juleyka Lantigua (Twitter)