Imagine creating not one, not two, but THREE versions of every podcast episode you produce.
That’s what Jay Clouse does with Creator Science. See, last year he made the decision to make his podcast “YouTube-first,” which means focusing on video production, then mastering it for audio.
If you produce a podcast, you already know that it’s time-consuming. While Christina Nicholson showed us it doesn’t have to take a lot of time for you personally, there’s still a lot that goes into an episode.
And Jay is creating a YouTube version, an audio version, and a separate Spotify video version.
This is complicated by the fact that Jay’s revenue model varies depending on the platform.
But this work isn’t for nothing! As we’ll see, he’s making a few long-term bets about the future of podcast content.
👉 In this issue
What’s Creator Science About?
Creator Science (formerly Creative Elements) focuses on how you can be a professional content creator, and how to be successful:
This is a fantastic mission statement: it’s clear about whom it helps, how they’re helped, and it even gives a time frame.
There are countless folks who talk about how they did it 4, 7, or even 10 years ago. But the landscape changes fast. Creator Science helps you keep up.
Jay has also been experimenting more with solo shows, as noted in the description: “You’ll also hear firsthand experiments and actionable advice from the host, Jay Clouse.”
Producing Solo Shows
Jay cites two reasons why he’s creating more solo shows:
- They’re easier to produce than interviews.
- He wants to build and leverage better relationships with his listeners.
I’m a big fan of mini podcasts for these exact reasons. When you make a solo episode, aside from worrying about the tech and research side of production, you’re not at the mercy of someone else’s schedule.
You can also record 2+ solo episodes in the same time it takes you do to one interview, all told.
But there’s the relationship-building side as well. Here’s how Jay puts it:
This is such an excellent point. While you can form that relationship as an interviewer, your listeners are eager to learn more about you and what you do.
That’s important to keep in mind as you create your podcast…especially if you’re a business owner.
Your Takeaway: Understand that you’re building a relationship with your listeners — and they likely want to learn more about you.
Streamlining Research by Knowing the Guests
Jay’s podcast is still primarily interviews, and his approach is pretty interesting.
He manages his process flow in Notion. When someone signs up with SavvyCal, they get added as a page, that’s visualized via a Kanban board.
What struck me about Jay’s scheduling process is how much information he captures from guests at first:
This was eye-opening for me, as experience has taught me to get as much info up-front as possible, but I could be missing an opportunity…especially with big guests.
Of-course, big guests aren’t necessarily the key to good content or good growth.
In his course, Podcast Like the Pros, he mentions trying to get a big guest early on, because that lends credibility to your show…a perfect example of social proof.
But as someone with a super credible show, Jay has begun to take a different approach. He wants to have guests that it’s easy to have a conversation with:
Jay explains that you want to find a sweet spot for the conversation: you don’t want to know everything because it can feel flat — more like a profile than a conversation. But you don’t want to go in blind because you’re unable to guide the conversation, and craft the right story.
So, Jay picks people whom he knows or is familiar with…and it’s paying off!
His recent conversation with Chenell Basilio of Growth in Reverse has become his second most popular episode, behind Seth Godin, which is his first -ever episode.
It suits Jay to do this for two reasons:
- He’s super connected to creators2
- The bulk of his production time can be spent in post.
Jay spends a lot of time in post — he’s essentially creating 3 versions of his podcast.
Being Video First
Jay has made the conscious choice to make his podcast video-first. That means he records with video in mind, and edits it as video content.
Then he’ll send the audio out to be mastered by an audio engineer, before adding it back to the video. He’ll then upload that video and mastered audio to his host, Megaphone.
He’ll upload a completely separate version of the video to YouTube. You’ll see why in a minute.
I asked Jay if the juice is worth the squeeze. Here’s what he had to say:
It was very reminiscent of Walt Disney, who insisted on using color as soon as he possibly could. Disney Animation Studios created the colorful cartoon called Flowers and Tress all the way back in 1932 when they debuted Technicolor.
Why? Because Walt knew that even though the technology was new, it would become standard, and he didn’t want the studio going back to reproduce everything in color.
But there was another reason. From waltdisney.org (emphasis mine):
Walt Disney’s pioneering work in color was not, however, a mere gimmick to attract moviegoers to the latest technical fad. Color provided different opportunities for telling stories unique to the enhanced medium. The expressive range of the technique yielded new potential as Disney continued to experiment in creating narrative pathos onscreen.
Unique storytelling opportunities. Jay knows now, much like Walt did then, that this new process is expensive, time-consuming, and not mass-market ready.
But it will be, and his podcast has an advantage other podcasts don’t. Just look at this interview with Paddy Galloway:
B-roll, helpful visuals, interesting transitions. It’s definitely very engaging. It’s also not visuals-reliant, so you can watch, or listen.
And with YouTube integrating podcasts into their music app, Jay isn’t just making a podcast that stands out. It’s more convenient, too. Imagine watching the video, then going out to run errands, but continuing to listen in the app. It’s seamless.
Oh…and by the way, according to a report published by Cumulus Media:
YouTube is now the most utilized podcast listening platform in the U.S.: 29% say it is the platform they use the most, followed by Spotify (17%) and Apple (16%)
How Being Video First Affects His Overall Process
There are a few things Jay considers as he’s video-first.
One is big picture. He goes into each episode with a specific, narrow scope. That way he can think of the packaging for the episode — title, description, thumbnail — ahead of time.
He’s also spending most of his editing time on the first 90 seconds of the video. Jay knows the hook makes or breaks you on YouTube (and in audio, for that matter). So, he wants to make sure that the intro is perfect for two reasons:
- It aides retention. Hook the viewer early on, and they’ll stick around.
- He can reuse that 90 second intro as a teaser trailer on social media.
In other word: Jay is thinking about the story he’s telling before the interview even gets recorded. Another reason he should be familiar with the creator’s work already.
There’s another, more subtle change in his process by being video first: he doesn’t take notes during the interview. When you’re on-camera, it’s very distracting, and he’s trying to make the best video possible.
Yet another reason he should know the story he wants to tell ahead of time.
Your Takeaway: Think about how you can improve the storytelling in your podcast by leveraging new technologies.
Creating the Show Notes
So, how does Jay handle the show notes?
Because he knows the story he’s telling, he has a pretty specific format that he’s perfected. Someone on his team with take the episode and cover these 3 points:
- A high-level bio of the guest
- Social proof to instill confidence in the listener
- The topics they talk about
This is SUPER smart: what they do, why the audience should trust them, and what they’ll talk about.
The Decision to not Direct-Sell Sponsors
One of the reasons Jay’s process is slightly more complicated is because of how he sells ads…which is to say, he doesn’t.
Instead, he leverages these methods for sponsorship:
The HubSpot Network: Jay joined the HubSpot Network earlier this year, so they get at least a couple of spots in each episode.
Podglomerate: Jay’s old podcast network, Podglomerate, still sells the lion’s share of his ad inventory for him. This allows him to focus on the rest of his podcast, while knowing the spots are going to fill up.
Brand Deals: If he works out a deal directly with brands, he’ll do the insertion on YouTube only.
For HubSpot and Podglomerate, the ads are inserted dynamically — something his host, Megaphone, specializes in. This is called Dynamic Ad Insertion (DAI) and you’ve likely heard these types of ads. If you’ve ever thought, “Wow, it’s weird that this massive podcast has an ad for something specific to my area,” it was DAI.
Jay has some controls over what gets advertised, but they are generally targeted, and he doesn’t always do the read himself, or even know what they’re going to be ahead of time.
For YouTube, he brokers direct deals.
Sponsors on YouTube
I know what you’re thinking. “Didn’t you just say he doesn’t sell ads himself?” That’s mostly true. But that doesn’t mean opportunities don’t arise anyway. Jay has a popular newsletter (where the ads are primarily sold by the ConvertKit Sponsor Network), and a strong social media following.
And notice the exception there: the brand deals won’t make it into the audio version of the show; only the YouTube version gets them.
This is why he’s essentially creating 3 versions of his podcast:
- A video to upload to Megaphone, which puts the video on Spotify (with no ads, but presumably video-specific ads in the future)
- A mastered version of the audio, which gets put back into the video. Megaphone will then split them apart for the podcast feed.
- A YouTube-only version of the video, which doesn’t include the breaks for DAI, but will include baked-in brand deals.
This is certainly worth is for Jay. He’s getting enough downloads, and has enough ad breaks, that he’s generating money from the show that makes the extra effort a no-brainer.
But it’s all about using that extra effort wisely.
Your Takeaway: Experiment with different methods of monetization. Consider what options are out there and try something you haven’t before.
Short Form Videos Don’t Drive Growth
Something that Jay has been experimenting a lot with is short form content. He used to have his editor pull out clips to share on social media. But it didn’t work out. Here’s what he had to say:
After realizing this, Jay felt his editor’s time was better spent perfecting those first 90 seconds.
So…what is Jay doing to drive growth?
Thinking About Listener Churn
First, let’s look at something Jay said that really struck me:
This is something that Sounds Profitable wrote about last year. While they don’t have a lot of data on it right now3, it’s something all podcasters should be cognizant of — kudos to Jay for realizing it’s a problem!
How Jay Drives Growth
Back to how Jay drives growth. He’s not doing a lot of repurposing, and we’ve noted that clips don’t really work.
Is his show just growing organically? This tweet should provide some insight:
There are a couple of takeaways here:
- He changed the show’s category
- He joined a network.
Furthermore, he mentioned those trailers we talked about earlier.
So, what can you glean from Jay’s process?
The first is to reevaluate your show’s categories every once in a while. Make sure the category you’re in fits with your show’s mission.
While joining a network isn’t for everyone, you can create your own network with friends or other podcasters.
See, one of the great things the HubSpot Network does is require each show to promote one of their other shows in every episode.
You can reach out to hosts of similar podcasts and see if they’d be willing to do the same thing. If you find 4–6 podcasts, you can do a sort of round-robin promotion schedule to help each other gain new listeners.
Your Takeaway: Experiment with Podcast Promo Swaps and creating your own network of podcasts.
Using Creator Science to Improve Your Podcast Workflow
There are so many incredible takeaways from Jay’s process, and of-course it all comes down to experimenting. There’s a reason his show is called Creator Science, after all.
Build the Relationship with Your Audience
Jay recognizes that building a relationship with your audience means giving them more of you. As he said, it’s a smart business decision.
Instead of always giving air time to a guest, try some solo shows.
Or, if you don’t like talking by yourself, bring on a cohost you have great chemistry with. Jay’s even experimenting with recurring guests with whom he has a good rapport.
Improve Your Storytelling
He said a story is how your message lives on. And to prove it, he tells this haunting story about a time he stayed in a hotel and got a late-night call5.
My dad would always ask me how I could remember every line of every movie I ever watched, when I couldn’t remember anything from Math class earlier that day.
There were no stories in Math class. Stories stick where facts don’t.
Jay knows it, Mike knows it, Walt Disney knew it.
If you want your podcast to catch people’s attention…if you want people to share it…you need to tell good stories.
As you approach your next set of episodes, think about the story you want to tell.
Try Different Ways to Monetize
You’ve likely heard that you need multiple income streams. But you should also try different approaches to those income streams.
Jay relies on his podcast network, his ads network, the ConvertKit Sponsor Network, and his ability to land brand deals.
As you consider monetization, think about the different avenues you can explore. Just like Disney has movies, merch, parks, and other experiences, you can make some small bets on how to best monetize.
If you want to go the sponsored route, remember you may not need to sell the ads yourself. And what you give up in revenue, you’ll save in a ton of time.
You could also try affiliate links to start. Or selling your own product.
The possibilities are endless — it’s up to you to think outside the box!
Create Your Own “Network”
Finally, one of the best things you can to do grow your podcast is podcast swaps. You’re getting your show in-front of look-alike audiences, and at least some of that audience will check out your show.
Jay is part of a podcast network that has each show promote another show.
We see this with iHeartRadio, Wondery, and countless other networks as well. They know their audience, and understand that one show’s audience will likely want to listen to other, similar shows.
Now, how can you create your own “network?” You don’t need official branding or a name.
You just need to find 4–6 podcasts you’re willing to work with. Create a promotion schedule with them where you’re each promoting the other shows, round-robin style.
Create some copy for the other hosts to read where you essentially give potential listeners your mission statement, and how to listen.
Doing this helped double my podcast downloads last year — from 34,000 to 70,000 per month.
If you’re going to pick one takeaway from Jay’s process, make it this one.