Delivering More for Season 4 of How I Built It

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Season 3 isn’t wrapped yet, but I’ve already started thinking of better ways to deliver for Season 4, coming in January. When I started How I Built it, I didn’t think I would see the success the show has had. It’s a formidable part of my income, it’s got over 100,000 downloads, and it’s growing in popularity.

When you first start anything, you are just finding your sea legs. Over a year in (and a fun obsession with this project), and I’ve got my bearings. I’m ready to go to the next level.

There are 3 areas where I want to improve my podcast: sound quality, user experience, and delivering more for my sponsors.

Sound Quality

I’ve written about this before. In the off-season, I plan to purchase some better equipment, and not just a mic.

I work in an upstairs office of a town house that shares a wall with a nursery. While software editing has been successful for me until this point, I want to handle as much as possible in the analog to get the best, noise free audio. A dynamic SLR mic will be a big step because it’s more forgiving of the environment than a USB mic or my current condenser mic.

On top of that, there’s a pretty nice piece of hardware that my friend Shawn told me about. It will add a noise gate and some other effects on the audio going in so I don’t have to add post-production software filters. If the baby is crying or there’s outside noise, this will filter it out.

Monitoring Sound

I also need to get a shock mount and better studio monitors (need is subjective here). The shock mount will prevent movement vibrations from going into the mic. Studio monitors (or really good speakers/headphones) will let me hear things I otherwise wouldn’t on basic speakers; another nod to Shawn for giving me a crash course in that recently.

Overall this means better sound quality without as much audio editing, and being able to pick up sounds I’m currently not hearing. It will take my podcast one step closer to studio quality production.

User Experience

There are a few ways I plan on improving the user experience (UX) of the show. The first big way is the website.

Redesigning howibuilt.it

I have some early planning for how I’m going to update the design of the site for Season 4. The current design showcases new cover photos, make episodes more searchable, and encourages click throughs to pages. The site will see big improvements in Season4.

I want to make binging easier, and put a focus on moving from episode to episode.Twitter’s design is closer to what I’d like to go for.

Twitter's Design will work well for How I Built It

I can place multiple episodes with embedded audio on a page, and include the title and sponsors. On the left, I can advertise the next episode, and on the right, current sponsors and other information.

I also intent to add transcripts starting in Season 4.

Creating a Community

The How I Built It Facebook Page is a group now, where I can engage with listeners. As a member, you will be able to promote what you’re building, ask questions to upcoming guests, and talk about the latest episode with other listeners!

On top of that, I’ve added some metrics to really try and understand who is listening and how.

“Redesigning” the Format

Finding my sea legs, I just wanted to put out good content. I booked who I thought would be great and asked them questions I wanted to know. A bit more established now, I plan to perform small experiments here and there.

The first thing I want to do is group similar episodes together. If I interview 4 people about different e-commerce projects, I want to make that an arch. Aside from having a common theme (and hopefully common takeaways for the listeners), it will also help me book sponsors that can reliably market to a similar group of people over several weeks.

Going Beyond WordPress

I also want to make small ventures into the non-tech space, taking to people about physical products, manufacturing, or just building with their hands. I’m most excited for this; there will be some great takeaways for everyone.

Finally, I’m tinkering with the format of each episode. Right now there are 2 minutes at the beginning for sponsors, followed by a recap, the episode, and closing remarks/a CTA. I haven’t nailed this down yet, but I want to try reordering elements of the show.

This brings me to my 3rd and final area of improvement.

Deliver More for my Sponsors

I want to become more of a partner to my sponsors. They are what keep the show going, and I want to make sure that I deliver a good return on their investment.

More Visibility

Part of the site redesign will give sponsors more visibility, without alienating listeners. I plan to do that with better logo placement, including sponsor listings below embeds, and placing the “current sponsors” box towards the top of the page. I’ve also fixed a bug in my RSS feed, so sponsor logos should propagate to all feed readers now.

Pushing to Social Media More

Right now, I push my sponsors to Twitter three times a week, and it’s more or less just a link. In Season 4, I’ll leverage all social channels (like Facebook), and push people to listen to the offers my sponsors have for them instead of just linking to them. I want to make sure everyone is hearing the great value my sponsors give to listeners.

Mid- and End-roll Spots

My show is 30-35 minutes long, so I’ve always resisted a mid-roll spot. I don’t want to break up good content or the flow of the show. However, I’m considering it for Season 4 for half and full season sponsors, if it can be done in an undistracting way.

End-roll spots are coming, and have already started in the later episodes of Season 3. Closing out the show by reiterating who the sponsors are is something I should do as a thank you to them and a reminder to the listeners that their support makes the show possible.

Working Closely with Long Term Sponsors

I also want to sell my sponsor spots at a minimum of 4 episodes (though there will be an option for 2). Part of the reason I want to group similar guests together is that justifying 4 consecutive weeks is easier if I can assume a similar audience for those 4 weeks.

I will also gather feedback from my repeat sponsors in the off-season to see what works for them, and what they hope to gain from continued sponsorship.

I’m incredibly grateful to them for investing in me and the show up until this point. I want to show them I’m also invested in their success.

That’s a lot!

I’m clocking in at 1100+ words here, but I have to say I’m really excited for Season 4. With all of the changes planned, it should be fun for me and the listeners.

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