Apr 7, 2022

10 Lessons From 10 Years of the We Are Libertarians Podcast Network

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Chris Spangle
Chris Spangle has been podcasting since 2007 and has hosted over 4,000 hours of shows while editing and uploading 18,000 episodes for a total of 30 million downloads on dozens of shows. With his unparalleled experience, he takes you behind the curtain to show you the building of the Podcasting and Platforms brand.
Episode details

March 8, 2022 was the tenth anniversary of my podcast, The Chris Spangle Show. Originally launched as We Are Libertarians, it has blossomed into a podcast network with a ton of friendships and shows that have come out of it. I share the following ten lessons I've learned hosting a weekly show for a decade:

  1. Listen to your audience

  2. Be ready to adapt as technology changes

  3. Invest in quality

  4. You will want to quit

  5. Make it a group project

  6. Always be recruiting

  7. Evolve your show as you evolve

  8. Obsess over the value you’re giving a listener

  9. The content on the air is more important than any other aspect of the business

  10. Have fun



My name is Chris Spangle. It is great to have you with me here today.

And on March 8, we celebrated 10 years of we're libertarians, that was the podcast that I started back on May 8 2012. With my friends, Creighton Harrington and Chris Gault, it actually started may 1 or second, we recorded an episode and I didn't hit record. So it actually started in early March, but lost a lot of episodes in those early days, believe me, if you haven't hit record on your recorder. I was a professional at that, if anything in the early days, but in the last 10 years, we've had such an amazing time, creating this really cool project for libertarians and for ourselves more than anybody else.

So just to go through some of the numbers of what's come out of this podcast that I started with my friends 10 years ago, here's some of the numbers, 5 million downloads on the what's now called the Chris spangle show 2799 episodes across all the different shows that we've had, we've had 328 patrons. I wish we had them all still now. But we have a great number of patrons. Some would say the greatest 75 Different co hosts 13 websites, seven different trips where I covered events, six live shows at a comedy club, where we got people together. Five and a half marriages. I'll let you figure out the half. But my own marriage came out of this wedding out of this podcast, four different email newsletters that we've started to. We started a magazine and yes, one fist fight. So there's been lots of fighting to but think about that. 75 different co hosts, hundreds of guests, all these different episodes 2000 And what was it 799 episodes.

And all of that continues today. We've got around, I think 15 different shows on the network. It is now the we're libertarians Podcast Network, and the Chris spangle show we found through the 2020 election that people kind of got confused between the network and the podcast. And so I split those two out. And it also kind of made it a little less like people felt if they're listening to a weird libertarians podcast that they're being propagandized to become libertarians. And I didn't want people to feel that way. That's what's happening. But I don't want you to feel that way. So, but think of that, I mean, really out of all of this effort, so much friendships so much community has come out of it, got 100,000 Facebook followers, got multiple groups that have come out of it, a discord where people game with each other. And that is one of the coolest things about having a podcast is the community that comes out of that that's really what I get out of it. I make a good living.

I'm trying to raise more money through my Patreon and advertising and through doing things like this. So I can do this full time as a career. But first and foremost is the friendship circles. You know, there's a group chat of 20 people that I talk to on a daily basis, and we really just share our lives with each other. And that came around this mutual interest in libertarianism. And I wanted to share with you the 10 things that I have learned through the 10 years of doing my podcast. And this is no in no particular order of importance, but I just wanted to kind of tell you what if if I could go back and talk to myself 10 years ago when I started the podcast, this is what I would say.

Listen to your audience. I think it's really important for you to have constant contact with your audience. I recently just reached out to a bunch of our patrons I think I talked to about 20 of them. I to be honest with you felt very disconnected from my audience. We we had a Facebook group taken away by Facebook for I posted a meme of Jeffrey Dahmer at five guys and said gee, this doesn't taste like five guys and an immature stupid in April. private group. Yes, part of those community standards. Yes, Facebook's community standards, no. And so they they took the group from us, but it kind of alienated me a little bit from our audience. And so I didn't really have a good sense of what value my audience got out of it. So I decided to talk to the people that directly give me value through my Patreon and I had a conversation with 20 different people that love the show. And I would have bet you, I would have bet money, that growing the libertarian movement would have been the number one piece of value that I was giving my audience. And to a person, they all said, the value I get out of your podcast is that you bring me a balanced view of the news. And it helps me understand the world better. And I don't feel like I'm being bamboozled into one in the team writer, Team Blue. And so that helps me adjust how I want to think about the future as a podcaster. And how I want to craft my show and what I want to do with it.

Because it's important for you to understand what value you're giving to people, and to understand what they're hearing. Because I'll tell you, I mean, I talk to people who thought I couldn't be more of a righty, and I talked to people listen to me, because I'm a lefty, like, even the people who support your podcast hear different things. But if you talk to enough of your audience, you start to kind of hear that consistent thread. And it can help you adapt your content to meet the needs of the people that you're talking to. Because really giving value to your audience, giving value to your listeners is the single most important thing you can do when you're doing the podcast. Number two, be ready to adapt as technology changes. When I started my podcast, I started with a tower computer recording into the computer, I was putting the podcast episode into the backend of my website that I think maybe podcast hosts existed at the time, but I didn't know about them. Now things are radically different. Just 10 years later, I'm on my third different podcast host, which basically is the thing where the file is hosted. And you know, that has changed how you know, advertise, it has advertising revenue attached to it, which has completely changed. I mean, I pay my bandwidth, I basically have free podcast hosting, because the ads that we place through the different episodes of the podcasts. You know, the board that I'm recording in the road podcast, or pro,

this was a five years ago, it was a five foot tower of equipment between mic processors and the board itself, and headphone jacks and sound effects boards. And it's all now in this thing that is the size of like a 13 inch MacBook. So it's really cool to have all of these different technological changes, and you're gonna want to upgrade but you don't want to get stuck too long. In the same place. I have worked with people who have used technology for 20 years

there. I have worked with people who have used the same technology for a long time and they get stuck. And the longer you use a piece of technology, be it a software or a hardware, it gets harder to adapt. So just think about adapting and trying to keep an eye on some of the software stuff. The content is the most important thing. But part of podcasting and the fun of it is the new gear and the new equipment and the new software and the new all this stuff, right. So make sure that you keep an eye on that stuff. Invest in quality.

One thing that helped us stand out early on is that everybody was using blog talk radio, which was like a call and platform. So it sounded like you're listening to people talking to each other on voicemail, and it was terrible. And so I knew that one way I could stand out was having a really good sounding podcast. Now that leading advantage has kind of disappeared over time as things have become so much cheaper, and it's a lot easier, but it means your competition is stiffer. You've got to sound good. You got to sound really professional or else people are gonna bounce there. They had a little forgiveness back then. Not much but a little now they have no forgiveness for bad sound quality.

So if you're going to do a podcast and you want it to really succeed and it's not just kind of a fun little hobby between you and a couple friends and you're okay with fire listeners, you got to really invest a little bit of money. You will want to quit this is a yearly thing that I go through. I have all 10 years. I want to quit. I don't want to do my show this week. I just want to sleep in on Saturday morning. I don't want to have to wake up with the pressure of doing an episode I don't want to you know I'm sitting here on a man I don't want to book it. I got to do a bonus episode tonight. I'm tired and burnt out. Nobody listening. I haven't gotten any new patron Patreon members in three weeks or month or maybe I've got no Patreon with the patrons. There's always always a reason you're always I'm, maybe I'm a negative person, but everybody that I talked to has that moment of self doubt, usually around nine months. And every nine months, there's just a moment where you're like, I want to quit. But if I had quit, I wouldn't be married to my wife, I wouldn't have the great friends circle that I have, I wouldn't have a second income. And so that's why I always tell you find something that you're really interested in, because you're going to want to quit, and you have to just keep going. Because I have always found that I look back and I go, I'm so glad I didn't, I couldn't just veg on the couch and not put in this effort to do this thing. But my life would be so much poor without the experience, make it a group project. And by this, I don't just mean have different co hosts. But there's somebody in your audience that will want to do Canva to help you do promo images. There's somebody in your audience that wants to edit video, there's somebody in your audience that wants to write articles for your website, there's somebody that wants to start a magazine, and they need your clout to help push that there's some, there's a lot of people listening that want to help. And by having that, you know, going back to listening to your audience and talking to them, you're going to identify those people, don't be afraid to throw up a volunteer board and say, Hey, I can't pay you. But I'd love for you to participate in this group project. You know, always make sure that people know that like this is your a group project and that you're kind of managing things and people have respected that throughout. But they've loved that they don't have the responsibility sometimes that they have somebody else that is out there kind of helping recruit people so they can kind of become friendly with others.

And that leads to the next one, which is always be recruiting because if you're going to solicit jobs, that person is going to get burnt out in a month, 12 months, two years down color. And that leads to the next one, which is always be recruiting. Because if you're going to have those positions in those openings, make sure that you are recruiting people to fill those positions. Because burnout happens people get busy, the people who were involved 10 years ago are no longer involved, because they're married now and they have kids or they have a different job, or they were college students and other adults, they can't make fart jokes on the radio, right like, so you're always going to have to be recruiting co hosts who is going to have to be recruiting, but the responsibilities on your shoulders. And it's it's hard to kind of delegate some of that stuff. But if you delegate it, just remember, that person's going to disappear at some point. And if you want to continue doing that thing, you know, like when we had the

you know, if you have have a network like I do, where you recruit hosts, they may be on your network for a lot of years, like Boss Hog of liberty, Brian Nichols, or they may be around for six months. And so if you have a goal of having five active podcasts on your network, you better be recruiting and making sure that you have six or seven. So when the when the inevitable happens that somebody else isn't as committed or their life changes, or they're just kind of done with the experiment in the hobby, then you as a business owner, have somebody to slot in there. Or if somebody is doing your Canva images to promote your podcast on social media. That's an important thing, right? Well, you better have somebody, if you just have open dialogue with those people and say, Hey, thank you for doing this, I really appreciate it. You know, when you feel like you're ready, you'll kind of know they're not ready to keep doing it when they haven't updated it like three or four weeks. And they're like, oh, man, I'm so sorry. Give them what they want, which is release them from the responsibility. Be cool about it be friendly. You know, not everybody is going to stick with the group project for a long time. You've got to evolve as you as your show evolves. So this is an important thing like your show, my show is totally different.

It started out as a Libertarian Party of Indiana podcast for college students to reach out to college students, because it was a new technology that mainly young people were using, and I figured it'd be a good way to kind of get our message out as an organization to college students. Well, it didn't work. By about episode four, it was very clear, nobody was nobody in the college libertarian space was even remotely interested. But I kind of had fun doing it with my co host. So we just kept doing it. And it has evolved into something that's you know, it's not about college libertarians and Indiana's anymore Is it it's about dissecting the news from an independent point of view to help people understand the context of current events. And it took a lot of personal evolution and effort to get to that point, a lot of listening to my audience, and a lot of trying new things and being afraid to fail in front of other people and giving up some of those sacred cows kind of saying, Yeah, this was our identity or this was the type of show that we did. But you know, we were a comedy show for libertarians for a long time. And then I just kind of outgrew that right and it wasn't that anymore and The thing that people liked more than that was the fact that we were kind of informing them in a very, you know, more straight laced point of view. And so I had to be afraid to kind of let go, what I knew was working to evolve it to a place where I I'm at now where you people have a better idea of what I do, they're more willing to give me radio interviews, they're more willing to listen to me as a serious person than when I'm making fart jokes. But that's part of the personal evolution of me and the show.

Next lesson is obsess over the value that you're giving to your listener, it's really important for you need to know what value you're giving I talk about this all the time, and give them that value. I won't belabor the point because I talked about it earlier. But this is a really important thing. The content on the air is more important than any other aspect in the business. Right. So the show is more important than the Facebook page, the show is more important than the new idea. The show is more important than the Podcast Network. The show is more important than, you know video, right? So you have that anchor piece of content. For me, it's always audio podcasting, I've got a lot of websites that are attached to that kind of stuff. The thing that's most important is making sure that that audio podcast is really good. You got to prioritize what your anchor piece of content is, above all else. Last one, have fun. Just enjoy it. It's a hobby. It's supposed to be fun. Don't put pressure on yourself, you should be consistent. You should do a show every week, you should do a show it when you make that promise to the listeners, it's important. If you can't get it done that week, don't kill yourself. Right? It's the 8020 rule. My friend Michael Matthews, who's not my friend, I've never met him. But I listened to his podcast. And I think he's my friend talks about in his new diet book muscle muscle for life. Dieting is 80% success, and you're going to fail 20% of the time and just be gentle with yourself when you fail that 20% of the time. Same rule applies here.

2014, I was going through a divorce. I couldn't get out an episode sometimes for a month. But I didn't close down my podcast and stop doing it, I came back to it, I've always felt a sense of like, Alright, I need a break for a couple weeks. But I'm going to keep coming back and doing it. And the audience is forgiving of that. If you take two months, they're not as forgiving. They might drop you, but the people who are hardcore still gonna keep you in their feed. So just be gentle with yourself and have fun doing it. If you're not having fun, then don't do it. You know, I mean, for me, it's, it's generally fun to read the news and talk about it and read history and talk about how history applies to politics. I'd be doing it with a podcast or no podcast. So for me, that's fun. I'm just kind of being more disciplined with it to structure it. So it comes out in the air. But that structure to me is fun, right? So don't kill yourself. You know, it's, it's even at the level that I'm at, you've got to be serious about it. There are people that are paying me to do this stuff. So I think of it as a job as a responsibility. But at the end of the day, the point is to have fun.

So thank you so much for listening, I hope that you got some value out of this. If you did, please share this. The only way to grow for a small new brand like podcasting and platforms or your podcast is to get people to talk about it. Because organic growth on social media isn't the same thing as it used to be in the way that I built. We are libertarians, and word of mouth is king. So if you are out there and you're listening and you're like man, I want more of this, please share it tag us we'll retweet you and give you a little bit of exposure. I also want to recommend you go to podcasting platforms calm, I change the website around, sign up for the email newsletter, there's a new membership, we've got a Slack going with a bunch of other new podcasters that you can hang out with and talk with. And then there's also going to be a special bonus show every month including all those members. So please sign up now at podcasting. platforms.com Don't miss out. And thank you. We will see you again next Wednesday.