“Let the silence do the work.”
– Cal Fussman
Many of you have asked me about strategies for building a popular blog and podcast. I’ve covered some aspects of growing a podcast in a previous post, and then Mari Takahashi (@atomicmari)—a successful ballerina, gamer, and content creator—sent me some very good questions that I haven’t discussed before.
This episode goes into detail about how I’ve built The Tim Ferriss Show into a podcast that has almost 300 million downloads and how my blog receives between three and four million unique visitors per month.
There are certainly bigger podcasts and blogs, but I share how I’ve been able to grow both with only a couple full-time employees and a few part-time assistants. Enjoy!
You can find the transcript of this episode here. Transcripts of all episodes can be found here.
- Listen to it on iTunes.
- Stream by clicking here.
- Download as an MP3 by right-clicking here and choosing “save as.”
Want to hear another solo episode where I answer your questions? Listen to this episode where I discuss how I would update The 4-Hour Workweek today. I discuss common questions and misperceptions, and how I would adjust certain chapters and recommendations. Listen to it here (stream below or right-click to download):
This podcast is brought to you by Four Sigmatic. While I often praise this company’s Lion’s Mane Mushroom Coffee, I asked the founders if they could help me improve my sleep. Their answer: Reishi Mushroom Elixir. They made a special batch for me and my listeners that comes without sweetener; you can try it at bedtime with a little honey or nut milk, or you can just add hot water to your single-serving packet and embrace its bitterness like I do.
Try it right now by going to foursigmatic.com/ferriss and using the code Ferriss to get 20 percent off this rare, limited run of Reishi Mushroom Elixir. If you are in the experimental mindset, I do not think you’ll be disappointed.
This podcast is also brought to you by FreshBooks. FreshBooks is the #1 cloud bookkeeping software, which is used by a ton of the start-ups I advise and many of the contractors I work with. It is the easiest way to send invoices, get paid, track your time, and track your clients.
FreshBooks tells you when your clients have viewed your invoices, helps you customize your invoices, track your hours, automatically organize your receipts, have late payment reminders sent automatically and much more.
Right now you can get a free month of complete and unrestricted use. You do not need a credit card for the trial. To claim your free month and see how the brand new Freshbooks can change your business, go to FreshBooks.com/Tim and enter “Tim Ferriss” in the “how did you hear about us” section.
QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.
Scroll below for links and show notes…
Selected Links from the Episode
- Connect with Mari Takahashi:
Website | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook | YouTube
- Zoom H6 Six-Track Portable Recorder
- XLR 3 Pin Microphone Cable (6 feet)
- Shure KSM8/N Dualdyne Vocal Microphone
- Shure SM58-LC Cardioid Vocal Microphone without Cable
- Panasonic Eneloop Rechargable Batteries
- Audio-Technica ATR2100-USB Cardioid Dynamic USB/XLR Microphone
- Ecamm Call Recorder
- Yellowtec: iXm
- Built to Sell: Creating a Business That Can Thrive Without You by John Warrillow
- Tribe of Mentors Intro
- The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich by Timothy Ferriss
- How I Built a #1-Ranked Podcast With 60M+ Downloads
- The 4-Hour Chef Official Trailer
- Contextual Advertising
- Native Advertising
- Wait But Why
- Broken Windows Theory
- What equipment do I use on the road; does it differ from what I use at home? [09:32]
- How do I set myself — and my guest — up for a good interview? [14:08]
- What does Cal Fussman mean when he says “Let the silence do the work?” [23:57]
- Questions I’ve stopped asking in interviews. [25:32]
- How far ahead do I bank content or episodes? [27:34]
- Do I recommend seeking out a podcast network? What are the advantages and disadvantages of belonging to one? [30:15]
- Different approaches to monetizing and ranking. [34:02]
- Is it better to name a blog after oneself for recognition, or use a company name to reach a broader audience? [38:40]
- What do I suggest for a blogging platform? [40:20]
- Pointers for getting started blogging without worrying about it being perfect. [43:40]
- What should be outsourced in the interest of saving time? [45:28]
- How do I handle scheduling/automating social media or podcasts? [47:11]
- How much revenue can you get from ads on your blog? [48:20]
- Do users stay longer on a blog that has no advertisements? Is embedded affiliate income a better strategy to bring in revenue? [49:28]
- At what point is it necessary to seek out guest editors to contribute to a blog? [51:05]
- Are there any widgets I can’t live without? [52:37]
- How do I handle comments? [53:20]
- Final thoughts on what it really takes to build popular — and sustainable — podcasts and blogs. [55:11]
- Mari Takahashi
- Bryan Callen
- Brendan Schaub
- James Lipton
- Edward Norton
- Terry Crews
- Cal Fussman
- Mikhail Gorbachev
- George Clooney
- Muhammad Ali
- Derek Sivers
- Elon Musk
- Steve Jobs
- Tony Robbins
- Barack Obama
- Brian Lam
- Tim Urban
- Seth Godin
The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 900 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.
Comment Rules: Remember what Fonzie was like? Cool. That’s how we’re gonna be — cool. Critical is fine, but if you’re rude, we’ll delete your stuff. Please do not put your URL in the comment text and please use your PERSONAL name or initials and not your business name, as the latter comes off like spam. Have fun and thanks for adding to the conversation! (Thanks to Brian Oberkirch for the inspiration.)
44 Replies to “How to Build Popular Podcasts and Blogs (#296)”
Tim… if you put the Zoom 6 in ‘interface’ mode you can use your Shure for computer-based interviews rather than the ATR2100.
I have the Zoom H4N pro and I use interface mode and ecamm call recorder when doing interviews via the web. It works very well!
Are there transcriptions available for those that are Deaf? Maybe I missed it, but it doesn’t seem so. Is there a reason for that? I’d love to be able to follow along with this podcast, but I can’t since I can’t hear. Thanks for the work you do Tim! Your books are awesome 😁
I absolutely love my ATR2100. Dollar for Dollar the best USB mic ever?
Great episode Tim.
I love your podcast! I would love for you to interview Dr. Eduardo Rodriguez on the podcast. He performed the most extensive facial transplant at Johns Hopkins in 2012 and then he outdid himself with an even more extensive facial transplant in 2015 as chair of the department of plastic surgery at NYU. I have had the incredible privilege of hearing him speak, and his story of his search for the “more” is one of the most inspirational stories I have heard. He is undoubtedly a Titan.
nice wine, the mascot!! Harlan’s #2
thanks for all you do Tim!
Thank you so much for this podcast, brother! I’m one of your 1,000 true fans, and recently got my thumb out my ass and started acting and not just listening. This was a very practical podcast. Cheers for that!
Tim great info and appreciate the advice on your tools. My question is What should I focus on first, the content or the following? I recently started a podcast here in Marble Falls TX called [Moderator: podcast name removed.] where we will be interviewing entrepreneurs, executives, retired athletes, coaches, etc who reside around this area (side note, if you have never been to Marble Falls, or Horseshoe Bay and you live in Austin you’re totally missing out. It’s only a 45 mine drive, wineries, lakes, a world class tennis facility, and so much more). We have two shows in the books and a really good following. I wrote one blog and it had 400+ hits from facebook alone in one day. I want to start my side hustle which would provide content for business owners and am wondering if I should use this website I built for our podcast show [Moderator: link removed.] as my platform? Should I put some good blog content on there that would build a following, and then start another site with more rich content for my niche market and try to direct my current followers? Or should I start another blog specific to my niche now and try to run both separate from each other?
Many thanks for what you do and cheers from Horseshoe Bay!
Thanks Tim. Great timing since my main focus is on optimising the quality and growth of my own blog and podcast. Since I love being – first and foremost – a niche media company and creating niche content that I love and think will help my listeners, I’ve been able to sustain the work ethic over the long term to build an audience (albeit much smaller than yours: >10k monthly visits / 2-3k download per podcast episode / 8 eps per month).
I’m now exploring various ways to monetise without losing the principles which have made it grow and attract great fans. I’ve considered, and in some cases acted on: creating a niche product, affiliates, podcast sponsors, and consulting.
I know that before, you’ve said on an FB live that if you were starting from scratch, you might start a podcast as your first business. However, assuming you’re waiting for 100k downloads per episode before you monetise, I would be very interested to learn how you would advise early bloggers / podcasters on monetisation strategies if they are looking to commit to this full-time (no primary income via job). So essentially elaborating on what you were talking about at the end of this episode.
Moreover, would love to hear you elaborate on “category” (perhaps I’m being too lazy and need to read Blue Ocean Strategy, though I have read 22 Immutable Laws). I often wonder if I’m making the mistake on trying to compete with someone like you, in that my theme is productivity in health, business and lifestyle. However, I’ve created a lot of niche content within high intensity strength training a la Dr Doug McGuff and been successful in capturing a top position in that category in podcasting. I wonder whether I should continue with my higher level theme and continue to create niche content or transition to the HIT category focus entirely. Would love your thoughts on this in a reply or future episode if you have time!
I’m so grateful for your amazing work.
I really enjoyed this podcast Tim, always something to look forward to with a bowl of egg and black bean salad #4HourBody
“Let the silence do the work”.
I was walking my dog when listening to that bit. Context is everything.
–Robert 412-977-3526 call/text
Great podcast, Tim. I don’t come here to tell you that often enough.
As you were talking I kept finding my mind wandering to the big question for a first-timer: which media form should I start with?
I saw another comment in which the commenter claims you say you would begin with podcasting over books or blogs these days but I don’t know if that is true.
Let me frame the question briefly.
I’ve read everything in your blog about how to do blogs, podcasts, books, book launches, etc. I’ve read many other sources on the same topics.
I am completely unknown.
I have an absolutely unique proposition that only I can articulate. In other words I have a view I’ve seen no where else. When I announce that view to the world no one else will be able to describe it like I do.
Hopefully in a decade or less it will impact the world for good but the value is in my ability to deliver it as much as it is in the information itself. I have no worries about being scooped.
My inclination is to write a book first. I get pushback on that when I’ve talked to publishers.
If I begin to blog first I see arguments against that.
If I podcast first or create a YouTube stream I am unsure I will connect in those media although, in truth, I could possibly be great in either of them.
Do you have insight into this problem from your position and place now having used all of them?
How about start a blog, publishing posts on your journey as a writer in the making? I started blogging in 2002 and podcasting in 2006. I will publish my first forthcoming book on (black) tea, during this year.
Connie Ragen Green has written the book, Book Blog Broadcast: The Trifecta of Entrepreneurial Success. Maybe this book could give inspiration to do all the three things over time? 😉
Did you ever get an answer?
Awesome Podcast Tim. Thanks. Jeff
I listened to this episode during my weekend walk. As a long-time blogger and podcaster, I nodded several times during the episode! 😉
Due to the fact that I have been talking on new media (including podcasting) for 10+ years, I have inspired several individuals to start their own podcasts.
I will link to this episode in the next solo episode of my podcast show. The subject title will be along the lines of “pen-name, pivoting, podcasting”…
Trying to find a link to comment on a bullet point in your last 5-bullet Friday on Sturgill Simpson. A huge thank you from one Tim to another for “discovering” this guy and his band. As a non US resident it is hard to find. I have been a fan of Corb Lund who is in a similar genre.
Question from a video editor and media producer:
You mentioned you own audio recording set up, which is always clean and crisp, but what about your interviewees? I imagine many have little to no technical knowledge of audio recording and very basic equipment (like a laptop or smartphone). I’ve never listened to an episode that was low quality or distracting. How do advise your guests to get the best audio quality from their end? Do you have to clean it up in post? Any tools or tips are greatly appreciated.
Thanks, Tim, as always, for sharing your valuable insights!
Great question. Tim – did you once mention that you send your interviewees a microphone to use (faint memory of that in a prior episode)? Kevin
Thank you so much for this! As an aspiring blogger, I’m eager to check it out. BUT, I also wanted to comment because I’m interested in another thing. I know you were an awesome wrestler but you’ve acquired a lot of injuries, and I’m wondering if you do any “prehab” or prevention exercises to prevent injuring yourself or anything that really helped you when you were competing? I’d love to hear it since I’m going to be a collegiate runner next year! Thank you!
I ran 8 miles on the trail today listening to this one–thanks for the company. I noticed my oldest reading Tribe of Mentors. I have recommended your blogs, podcast, books as a resource for my own business. I asked him, why now? His answer? Apparently Frank Ocean is a big fan of yours…appreciated the discussion of your tools for recording. I will be making a few edits…
This is a great podcast episode for most of us who are listening to it. The main reason is that we are all trying to build something of our own. Even if it’s not a blog or podcast for many, the principles do apply at some level to building a great life or any type of business.
I am writing notes on these podcasts you are releasing on my blog just because it helps me pay even more attention to it and what we pay attention to, is what we’ll attract. The saying you many times emphasize, which is “you are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with” is definitely a realistic one, even if you could argue it’s not. Sitting on the shoulders of giants is always a good idea.
Thanks and looking forward to more great podcasts
What are the video camera models in the picture?
Great sharing as always. As a fellow podcaster, this was super valuable advice. This piece complements your previous blog post on “launching a podcast” extremely well. I feel like I’m getting a masterclass directly delivered by you, and it’s awesome!
I have been using the Audio Technica mic along with Skype + ecamm call recorder. It’s been a fantastic low-budget setup for my own needs.
[Moderator: additional text and blog information removed.]
Im a college student reading the four hour work week and just reached the challenge to contact my Yoda. Welp… your my Yoda. What im wondering is what other books would you recommend for me in order to learn to optimize my success in the future.
This came at the perfect time! My wife and I are doing video interviews with a CEO of a large non-profit, a police officer, and (hopefully) a pro golfer as promotional material for a new children’s book that we are launching soon. The interview tips and preinterview tips you have here will help out a ton!
While I’m here, I just wanted to say thanks for all the amazing content you’ve shared over the years. I’ve been following along the journey since 2008, first your blog, and now your podcast. I already have all the books you’ve written (4WW, 4HB, 4HC, ToT, and ToM) and am committed to buying any new book you will write 🙂 Keep it up brother!
Another great Q&A session Tim. Thank you!
6 minutes of ads before starting the podcast? I’ve listened to much shorter podcasts than your ads.
I’m really considering not listening to your podcasts anymore, it’s too much ads.
Did you miss the ad revenue he’s getting for his ads? More importantly, he doesn’t sandwich them in the middle like others do. While I don’t always listen to all the ads on either side (b/c I’ve often heard them repeatedly) every now and again there’s a gem in there. And since I usually listen to podcasts on the go, I often catch the deets at the end when I can’t zip thru them.
The TON of free content Tim has shared comes home for a measly 6 minutes during the intro and again on the outro.
Did you miss the point of what I said? I didn’t criticize the ads. I criticized the long duration of the ads. Yes, 6 minutes of ads is just too much. I take about 15 minutes of drive to my work, I don’t want to spend almost half of the time with ads.
1-2 minutes of ads I can fully understand, more is just too much.
The single best take away for me was the chunking of time to prepare for posts/videos and then other times when you bring in the camera crew to shoot them. It makes total sense, and previous posts you have shared said as much, but I hadn’t put pieces together. My team & I are now scheduling out time to plan out our blogs, newsletter, and videos on our non-patient days! Really insightful.
Side note, feel for you on the ‘cedar flu.’ The more I hear about your health problems, the more I relate to what you’re going thru. Check your twitter for a recommendation I sent. We can talk more about it if you have questions.
Sorry, but this is sort of like Seth Godin telling eveyone his blogs work because he breaks the rules of blogging. That may be true, but he also happens to be Seth Godin.
Shouldn’t rule nr 1 of building a successful podcast or blog be write a NY Times bestseller?
Just a thought.
This episode made me late to the gym! The insights into Tim Tim Talk Talk as a business – and so, points of your personal business philosophy – were a privilege to hear, thank you. I especially enjoyed the detail from 30-50 minutes. And, one-clicked on Draft No. 4 by John McPhee, so overdue to enter the world of McPhee 🙂 Thank you Tim.
Love this episode and great insight! Been working on a Podcast of my own, 33 episodes out. Motivation is what keeps going.
Didn’t quite get the point of dealing with sponsors, at around 36 minutes. On one hand Tim says he doesn’t give discounts to sponsors for buying many episodes because he expect the value of the podcast to increase. But he also says he gives discounts if sponsors prebook episodes. Doesn’t the pre-booking discount contradict the logic of not giving disounts for booking many episodes?
Tim… this charger is awesome with eneloop batteries. Can even “recover” old rechargeables so they come back to life!
La Crosse Technology BC700-CBP Alpha Power Battery Charger
[Moderator: link removed.]
My site is no where near popular but I am trying to stick with the 4 hours work week to have a much productive work and effort hopefully. Thanks Tim for the wonderful tips though.
Another gem, thank you Tim! I found this very interesting and almost like a mini 4hr workweek for blogging and podcasts 😉 I would definitely love to hear more about creating shareable content – what do influencers look for, long form vs short form content, etc. – anything to do with growing your blog and increasing shares and audience. Anyway thanks for everything you do! You’re awesome sir! All the best, JP (Irishman, living in London, aiming for the moon)
Tim, great insights, thank you.
One question – re the cost per cpm, how do you handle capping the total payment a sponsor might make? Do you set the total cpms they’ll pay for up front, or do they pay $xx per cpm over, say, the first week after the podcast runs? No one seems to address this part in their breakdowns, would appreciate your colour.
Tim, thanks. I really enjoyed listening to this (and yes, I realize you posted this a few months back; just only recently listened to this particular one). It is interesting to hear your approach – especially because you make it seem very effortless and get the most out of your guests, but obviously, you have put in a lot of thoughtful work behind the scenes in order to do so.
Just curious, and am not even sure you read these comments – you mention you have editorial assistants. How do you go about hiring for those positions? Do you advertise or just hire based off of who you know/word of mouth? And what is something that potential applicants can do to distinguish themselves from the rest of the pool?
Thanks for any insight you can provide!
Hi Tim and friends.
Re: what to do if you are interviewing someone in another town. Do you send them a microphone and recorder with an express pack post? Argh what’s the solution? I’m sure I heard this somewhere in your pods but am trying to find it. Can you clarify? Or can someone?
Thanks for this post! Really helpful! And the ATR2100 works great!
Thanks Tim. This is a great episode and I enjoy your work. Keep it up. Very informative.