In episode 6 of On the Mic, Nathan Spell and Lindsay Boyd have a chance to sit down with the founder of Cloud 10 Media, Sim Sarna, and pick his brain on developing compelling podcast content, getting started in the space, and learning patience during the process.

Podcast Transcript

From teaching the art of Podcasting at USC to launch in Cloud 10 Media Sim Sarna is no stranger to launching podcasts. In this episode, Nathan Spell. And I were very excited to sit down and pick SIM's brain on developing compelling Podcast content, how to get started and having patients during the process. So let's go. It started. That's the great thing about Sam's dot com. They grow with you as much fun as I had. I couldn't wait to get back to my sleep number bed. I love my third love bras. They're hands down the most comfortable bras I've ever owned. I love making blue apron.

I love it. It's my me time Sim, thank you so much for joining us today. I wanted to start off by diving into your background a bit. I read that you actually teach a class at USC, that centers around Podcast creation. Thank you so much for bringing it up. That's actually my favorite thing in the world to do a lot. So it's been about three years now. I teach a class called creating the hip Podcast and it's a, like I said, third year. And honestly I went to USC and my favorite classes when I was a film student, there were the classes where people from the industry would come in and, and impart their wisdom, bring in guests from the industry and offer up internships where you actually can see them, talk to them, feel them touch them.

(1m 26s):
They're real people that are in the industry. I always wanted to do a class slimmer similar to those types of classes. So when the opportunity came about a few years ago, I took advantage of it and it's, it's been amazing. So every class I bring in a guest from either in front of the mic are behind the mic, different genres of podcasts, and we just have a conversation. Then they actually help the guests. And I, we help our students with their podcasts, which become their final projects. And I'm going to be spending the next few hours, grading finals, final projects because they just finished. And we have a, we have our, our final wrap-up party tomorrow. Our semester is over and I'm looking forward to, to, to, to the next year.

(2m 6s):
I only teach falls, but, but I love it. And it's my favorite thing. I actually bring in a bunch of interns from, from our class and a couple of them I'm now have a full-time job. So it's working out, working out as a, quite as a feeder system as well for us, which is exciting. Just out of curiosity, when they create Podcast, do they have to just do like one episode or do they do like a series for their final project? Well, for the, a for the final, they actually have to do a full pilot plus a full campaign artwork. They have to submit it through a host. You know, our preferred host, a simple cast. They, they they're, they have to learn how to pitch the project. Some of them do fake Ad. Some of them are doing incredible stuff.

(2m 46s):
Audio dramas with real actors. I mean, a few of them actually carrying on their Podcast. Some of my former students who have now graduated are continuing on their podcast. I know one of them, Victoria Garrick, she has probably 20,000 downloads on hers. She's a personal development, used to play volleyball for Mic, and she's doing an incredible job. And, and I think, yeah, Daniella still has hers. And she works for me now a full time as well. Yeah, I'm, I'm really, I really just love working with the university and just really bringing, bringing in a ushering in a new group of Podcast here. It's, it's a lot of fun for me. I get a lot out of it. Yeah, that's really cool. I wish I wish that that class was offered whenever I was in school. That sounds like a really cool experience for sure.

(3m 28s):
Yeah. It's been a, it's been great. I'm curious. Could you maybe talk to us a bit about what made you take the leap into founding Cloud 10? Yeah. Well, it's always been my dream, I guess, you know, going back to when I used to produce movies a long time ago, I always wanted it to be a studio head of some type, a much easier to become a studio head in Podcasting than it is in movies, a desk, especially since the, the costs are much lower. But when I create, I co-created on a fair to say is unqualified years ago, five years ago, ended up being a very popular show that opened up a bunch of doors for me. And I have discovered that I really truly love the process of working with talented people to create shows.

(4m 9s):
And I want to continue doing that. So now our, our, our Cloud 10, our network, whatever you want to call it, our studio production company, I still don't even know what, it's, what I consider ourselves. We, we, we do it all, but yeah, we have about eight or nine shows now and are launching about five or six new shows next year. And we're having a lot of fun in, and, and we're happy because, you know, if we can make money and have fun and put out content that we are proud of. And then, then I think we're all doing a good thing. I was wondering if you can maybe also talk to us a bit about some of the shows that you have on Cloud 10. I know that your, your working with some really awesome names, how did you transition into working with, with some of the, the talent that you're working with now? Yeah, I've known a few.

(4m 49s):
I have some of the talent that I've worked like Tofor has been a friend of mine for a long time. We do a show called minor adventure as a tool for grace. I've met people just through working in films, the relationships that I've had, I've, I've showed a track on my track record with unqualified was a great for years. And then that opened up a bunch of doors for me. And I met people through unqualified as well. And then of course, I still have to, to win in the room. And I I'm, I'm up up against some of the big boys and girls like iHeartRadio and, and a Spotify and Podcast, one people that have a cadence 13, and mid-roll all amazing companies that have money to spend that I could offer talents and some real money. So I I'm always like the, the little guy in there.

(5m 30s):
And so I have to somehow be scrappier. And just to show that I can somehow compete with those guys. And luckily, luckily I'm still hanging in there, I'm in the game right now. And I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that my team, we put a lot of personal attention into every single show. We don't have any desire to become a huge network because a, we want to make sure that we could carefully focus on the shows that we have right now and grow those shows and nurture those shows. We have teams that work on every single episode and that's something that's really important to me. That's something I learned from, from film that, you know, every single episode for me is a, it's important to respect the listeners' time. My students, there are the first question they'll always ask me in class is how long should my Podcast be? And I always say, it's, it's a it's whatever length you need it to be.

(6m 13s):
I don't mind if your podcast is an hour and a half as long it's as an hour and a half, that's compelling that you want to listen to me just to respect the listener's time. And that's why I'm a big advocate of editing. And I'm sitting across from my head of post production, Josh right now, who is one of the best editors around. And he works really hard and takes a lot of time with it. And I think that a lot of these talk format shows people don't really take the time to a developer, ah, and research these shows and you know, our, our head of production, Alison who works on a couple of our bigger shows like sibling revelry with Kate Hudson and Oliver Hudson, and the Sophia bushes show a work in progress. She does a lot of work beforehand to research the show, to book the show, to make sure everything is perfect.

(6m 54s):
That's An before we didn't get to the actual production part and then everything in the production, every, every, all of the production has to be smooth. Then after that, you know, when we take over, when Josh takes over with our producing team for, for the editorial, that has to be perfect. And then of course, a social media and the release efforts for every single episode have to be perfect as well. I mean, it's just, there's a lot that goes into it. I'm leaving out a hundred things with a checklist of a hundred or 200 things that we do, including the right tags to make sure that the episode is released the proper way in our opinion. But we're not the only ones that do it a lot. There's so many people that do it. Well, It sounds like there's just so many details from start to finish that you guys put a lot of thought and care into it. I'm curious.

(7m 34s):
How do you think the actual production quality effects the listenership of a show? I, I can tell you personally, even if it's a guest or a show, I really want to hear if I look at the story notes and the episode description within the first couple of minutes, if the audio quality is in gray, I'm going to turn it off because there's too much other great content that actually take the time to do it properly. I feel like it doesn't take that much work to set up a proper Mike's to, by the proper mix of Bri the proper recording devices and not that expensive either. And if you do it the right way, then your editor's going to have a lot less trouble in. Post-production trying to clean up really bad sound. I think it's a, it's important to have a proper audio in, and it's not that hard to do well.

(8m 18s):
It really isn't. I think it's, I think it's lazy. If you can't, honestly, you can take our mobile device, a zoom H six, take it anywhere. And as long as you can pick the right room, it'll sound like you're in a studio. If you have the right plugins, Josh, are you nodding your head? Yes. If you have a right plugins in pro tools or logic or whatever you want to use to clean up the sound, I know that I know some of our, our talent record do their Ad reads the Ad reads that you provide for us in their closets, you know, in their walk-in closets, because that's, you know, especially if there's some carpet on the ground and you know, it sounds like they are in a suit. Yeah. And I think it's the interesting thing about like that we're Podcasting is now. I mean, there's so much competition there for, you know, listeners attention. I agree with you.

(8m 59s):
Like, if I'm listening to a show and right off the bat, it's, it's sounds, you know, poorly produced. It's a turnoff for me, you know, I can't make it through this Too much. Other great content is so much of the great content out there. So you're right. You're absolutely right. So one of the questions that we encounter most often from new creative folks out there is how can I get started in the podcasting space? If you had to pick your top five tips for launching a podcast, what would they be? I, I it's, for me, it's, it's, it's different. I mean, it's easy to launch a podcast. I think, I think with two taps of a button, there are apps now where you could launch a podcast, but it's another thing to be consistent about it.

(9m 38s):
And that's where people really fall short to do it the right way to do it every single week and not get frustrated. They don't see the downloads go up. I think pod fade is a word that is going to be in the dictionary one day. I'm sure, even though there are 800,000 whatever registered Podcast, I just read how many of them are actually current, where they put out weekly or biweekly or monthly or daily content. I think that consistency is important. That's the first thing. So if you have to make a commitment to it, and then once you have that, then you just have to make sure that you focus on the content. You have to make sure the content is original and getting it out there in the right way, the best way to get a podcast out there is through other podcasts.

(10m 19s):
So make sure you can either guest on other podcasts or if you have the money or can raise the money by mid roll ad spots or feed drops into onto other podcasts. That's a great way to a, to promote your show. And a lot of the big networks do that very well. I mean, we do that as well. I think that that's, that's a good place to start. There are no barriers to entry. I, I encourage everyone to start a podcast, even if you're doing it as a hobby, even if it's a brand extension for your job, whether you're a doctor, lawyer, engineer, you can all have branded podcasts or a niche podcasts within your sector, and you can get a lot of people and get, can get a lot of value out of it. So that's the other tip I have is make sure that whatever podcasts you do put out there, make sure that there's a lot of value in that podcast, whatever that value may be Well with all the, with all the elements that you're talking about that go into creating a Podcast.

(11m 7s):
There's obviously, there's the idea of there's being consistent. And there's the sound. I mean, if you were advising a new podcast or where would you tell them to really focus at the beginning, Developing your voice, meaning not your actual voice, your vocal chords, but figuring out what, if you figuring out what your messages, what, what, what it, why are you doing this Podcast? There needs to be a reason there, there has to be a reason. And once you figure that out, then make sure that you develop the right show, the right content, and then make sure that there is an audience for it. There is a lot of stuff we need to figure out. There's so many meetings that I take everyday with celebrities that we want to start a podcast that I have no idea what to do, but they think that just because Dax Shepard is making X amount of millions of dollars year, that they can do it too.

(11m 55s):
And it's not that easy. You know, it's not that there's, it's just because you're a celebrity. You can't just go out there and, and expect to print cash. It doesn't work that way. And you guys know this, there are celebrities that are popping in to the space every single day. And there are shows of mine that you all have rejected as far as Advertising. Again, it's not that easy, just because you have millions of followers on Instagram. It doesn't mean that you should have a Podcast there in there. It's it's ah, there's a lot that goes into it before you can even start. That's how I feel. I think that's a really good advice. I think with everyone thinking about Podcast more and you know, so many people deciding they want to start, you know, the advice to really start with like why you want to start a podcast.

(12m 35s):
And what is going to be About is, is really, really good. Yes. And making money, shouldn't be the reason. And I think that's a lot of people think that many people feel that, that they based on previous success brain based on the fact that a Podcasting is in the news, as far as a company is coming in and buying up production companies that people feel like they can be right for an acquisition or their show can make millions of dollars for a network that could be right for an acquisition. I don't know. I just feel like at this point, even though there are more dollars being poured into Podcasting there it's I still feel like content will always be King and you have to make the right shows with him, The right host.

(13m 15s):
Yeah. I know a lot of people going into it, thinking that it's just going to be overnight. There's a lot of work into planning your content and in ensuring that it's engaging, Here's another tip. Patients. People feel that, that if they're not seeing results right away, that they're doing something wrong and sometimes they just need to let the show develop. I mean, I can, I can think of examples of shows that I have finally become successful after, after a couple of years, if you're in the game long enough, and then people will maybe we'll discover your content. If you continue to put out good, consistent content, I wouldn't wait too long, but there's at a certain point. You'll know, you'll know if you should leave the game. So I'm curious, how do your hosts feel about incorporating Ad reads into their episodes?

(13m 58s):
Some hosts love, love it. They love the fact that a, they have that connection with their audience. So if it's a product that they believe in and they could speak to the product authentically and, and then you, and of course, any of you guys see the conversion, then everyone, then everyone's happy. And I think that the brands are happy and you guys can tell me this when, when they get to a real endorsement out of a host, because then it, then it feels like they're really getting a bargain, especially considering the fact that the celebrities make tons of money through Instagram and public appearances and whatnot. But if you get big talent to really speak about a product authentically, you know, then, then everyone's happy. The brands are happy. The talent is happy.

(14m 39s):
And, and of course a listener is happy because they have a product that everyone loves. I don't really love the ads where, where the hosts don't really put much into it. Maybe they'll do, they'll just read the copy straight. And then it just becomes completely, you know, it's, it's copy that. You've heard on, on every other podcasts that you listen too. So, and then of course, you know, then you guys, aren't happy. 'cause, you know, you don't see conversions on a performance. And then, ah, and then of course I have to have that conversation with, with a talent saying, Hey, it's, it's a, you know, we need to do something different and it's not working out. You're the performance numbers aren't there. And I, you know, it's, it's a mixed bag. It really is. But I guess the, the key takeaway is a, is a, the Advertising to be great because we're still in that performance-based a world where you need to really sell the listener On, on the product.

(15m 26s):
So you can track it with a URL or a vanity or a promo code. But when it works, it works really well. And, and you guys know what shows work. Some of our shows work really, really well, and that's when the brands continue to run with them and everyone's happy. And the other thing I wanted to say, Oh, is that lists if the ads are red, well, listeners love it. Especially when they're funny. I love, I love the pod, save America guys. They do a great job with their, with their reads. Let me know. I'll, I'll plug one of my shows and let's honeymoon with the Moshe Kasher Natasha Ligero. I think their reads are amazing as R a M a Missy piles and constantly reads on a, the mother load. They're they're a parenting show. So yeah, when you, and, and you, and you guys have seen this, when you, you know, when you guys re up on, on the ads and new brains are coming in, that means everything everyone's, everything's working.

(16m 12s):
And then I love it when I get Twitter messages or, or you see Instagram messages saying how much they loved a certain Ad, you know, and, and I know you guys love that as well. One very specific example of that, that has just stuck with me throughout the years, it's risk. He sings a song. He wrote a song for And I heard that at his live shows, the audience actually requests that song and they all sing it together. Amazing. I love that. That's incredible. See that works on the brands are, are, are finally becoming aware of the fact that Podcast ads are working. I think that we're going to see more thoughtful ad campaigns as well, a more integrated ads.

(16m 56s):
There's there's a lot that is going to happen in 2020, in 2021. With that in mind, I'm curious, you know, we've talked about how important it is for ads to be authentic and engaging. What are some ways that your hosts might inject their own brand of creativity into their ad reads? I mean, that is depending on the host, I, I feel that the host reads should be really in the voice of the host and the Podcast. I don't, I don't think that it should be jarring. I feel that it should be natural, even, you know, even though bill Simmons, when he, when he goes to a break, he says, we're going to go to a break. And it was a quick flash, but it still feels like you're still listening to a continuation of the Podcast when he does his Ad reads. And I like how he does his, he does a combination of you read some copy, and then he does his own little, a little editorial on his own.

(17m 39s):
Then he goes back to some copy. But my favorite are the ones where there's two, co-hosts where there's two hosts and the, and they have to back and forth. So it really depends on the style of the show and the host's voice, but, but it's, it is an art form it's hard to do. Well. This has been really great. I've really enjoyed speaking with you in, and I really thank you for taking the time to talk to us today. Thank you both so much. And please say hello to Christine and Steve, and who am I missing? Marshall Russel and Kurt and Jennifer and everyone else. I just wanted to say to everyone, listening that I love, love, love working with Ad Results. You guys do an amazing job, and I hope we can continue to be partners for years and years.

(18m 20s):
If you enjoyed this episode, be sure to subscribe for updates on future episodes and leave us a comment with your feedback, questions, or ideas for future segments. Be sure to join us next time. As we dive into our newest series, sound matters, covering the importance of sound equipment and environment. If you would like more info on Ad Results Media and what we do, please visit our website at Ad Results. Media dot com. This podcast was written by Lindsay Boyd and Nathan Spell with sound mixing and editing by Freddie Trey Hill. This Podcast is an Ad Results, Media production.