I spend a great deal of time talking about the need to make podcasting better, not just easier. I’m not one for mission/vision statements, but something very like that phrase appears on all of my social media bios, so I guess I have one?
But candidly, I'm more than a little concerned that the message received is “don’t do easy things”, which is not at all what I’m trying to say. So let me be clear: the majority of the work you do as a podcaster should be easy.
Plotting Out Podcasting’s Good And Easy Bits
I often turn to 2x2 grids to help me think about concepts on a broader level. They’re common enough in business, but in case you haven’t seen one, they look like this:
For this exercise, my X-axis (side-to-side) graphs difficulty, increasing to the easy on the left to hard on the right. The Y-axis (up-and-down) graphs quality, with bad on the bottom getting better to good on the top.
Armed with that grid, now think through the various tasks you have to do during the course of your job as a podcaster and you place them accordingly. Absolute scale isn’t important. It’s all relative.
When you start placing your tasks on the graph, you’ll see that they each fall into the quadrants on that graph. I find it helpful to name those quadrants. For this, we’ll start in the upper-left corner and work our way through in a clockwise fashion:
- Staples (upper-left) - Always easy to do and always with at least good quality
- Solo (upper-right) - Always somewhat difficult to do with at least good quality
- Aspirational (lower-right) - Always difficult and always below-average quality
- Inexcusable (lower-left) - Always easy and always less-than-acceptable quality
I’m not going to presume which tasks go in which quadrant for you. Maybe you work really hard at the editorial stage, slicing out big chunks of sub-par audio so your episodes are extremely compelling. Hard work and good quality: drop it in the Solo quadrant.
Or you might struggle for hours trying to make engaging content to share socially to promote your latest episode, and you’re not seeing the engagement levels you want. Hard work and low quality: that goes in the Aspirational quadrant.
Or maybe you’re a fountain of ideas and have no problem pulling together an excellent episode with the most basic of planning. It’s easy for you and it sounds great? Add that to the Staples quadrant.
But if you half-ass your episode details—either in-app or on-site—because you can’t be bothered to do better, well that’s something to add to the Inexcusable quadrant. And something you should stop doing, to be honest. Hence the name.
Applying Focus To Your Podcast
With a good mapping of all the things you do as part of being a podcaster, your mind should absolutely start thinking about what to change. And yes, get everything out of the Inexcusable quadrant! Outsource them if you can afford it. Or at least put in more effort so they move to the Aspirational quadrant. They may not yet be good, but you’ll at least be trying to make them better.
It’s natural to want to make things in the Aspirational quadrant better. And while I agree with that in principle, I advise you to take it slowly. Working harder on these items will certainly move them more to the right. But simply adding effort won’t necessarily move them up the quality scale. That may take training or other forms of skill development. Which you absolutely should do! But you probably can’t do all of it at once.
It may seem counterintuitive, but the goal isn’t to move as many tasks as possible into the Solo quadrant, where we find the highest quality, most difficult tasks. I agree with The Toyes that hard work good and hard work fine, but too much hard work can be difficult to stick with. For both sides of the equation.
The name Solo refers to a soloist during a musical performance. While there are plenty of exceptions, there’s a reason solos are only a small part of a song. Most rational people don’t want to sit through a 17-minute Yngwie Malmsteen solo, let alone an entire album of nothing but 17-minute guitar solos. (And I say this as someone who loves good Yngwie riff as much as the next aging headbanger.)
There are times when I absolutely am in the mood to listen to technically proficient musicians completely dominate an extremely complex piece of music. Those performers have their loyal fans who’ll hungrily consume concept albums all day long. Sometimes without being stoned out of their gourds.
But that ain’t most people.
And that’s what the Staples quadrant is and why I’ve named it so. Staples are things you return to again and again. Better-than-average to great quality work that doesn’t take a huge amount of effort. Not from you to make. And not from your audience to enjoy.
Here's a secret. Outside of other picky podcasters, none of the regular, rational humans listening to your show have any idea how easy or hard it is to make a podcast. They cannot differentiate between high-effort and low-effort. Nor do they care.
All they want is the work of yours they're seeing, reading, listening to, consuming, or interacting with is of good quality. Easy or hard? They care not.
Better 2x2s With Two!
This exercise is a lot of fun to do with another podcaster. So share this episode with them and come to the virtual table with your 2x2 grids. Share all the aspects that you each go through when you’re plying your podcasting trade—talking into the mic, working in your DAW, marketing, episode ideation, etc.—and help each other figure where it belongs on your respective 2x2 grids.
Then you can encourage each other to work to make even more of the good things you do easier on yourself. Because we should never be afraid of doing easy things when the quality is high.
If you love this idea, please go to BuyMeACoffee.com/evoterra and let a virtual coffee show me your love.
I shall be back tomorrow with yet another Podcast Pontifications.