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Podcasting Luminaries: The Genealogy Gems Podcast

Lisa Louise Cooke has taken her passion into profit. Having been podcasting for 4 1/2 years with the Genealogy Gems Podcast she has created a thriving engaged community and has become an expert within the genealogy world, even producing and hosting a podcast for the #1 Genealogy Magazine in the US, *The Family Tree Magazine. Do you want riveting content? Try subscribing to Genealogy Gems Podcast!*

Fun, Fame or Profit? Why are you doing the show?

I’ve always been passionate about family history, and I love to teach others how to climb their own family tree, so when I published my first episode I was just excited at the prospect of being able to reach and help more people.

But why we start podcasting isn’t always what helps us keep going because it’s a lot of hard work. That’s where the fun and profit comes in. Creating each episode is a fulfilling creative endeavor. I get in the zone and can’t wait to see how it will turn out. And not being able to pay bills will bring a podcast to it’s knees faster than anything. I’m very fortunate that my podcast has evolved into a profitable career.

What is your most memorable feedback from a listener?

Seeing listeners email pop into my inbox is always a thrill. Over the years I’ve received hundreds of messages, so it’s very hard to say which is the most memorable. Folks write me to tell me how listening to the podcast has led them to a long lost ancestor or a parent they’ve never met before. Here are just some that come to mind:

“All right, you've now done two consecutive podcasts that had me crying while listening and vowing that I had to drop you a note just to say thanks…And then you did it again in Episode 39. Your story of reconciling with your Dad after so many years, and finding the family treasures. Again, you had me so capitvated, with tears rolling down my face as I listened. “ Sean in Minnesota

“You have a fantastic podcast! You keep a "smile" in your voice throughout the podcast. Wonderfully refreshing…We have been spending a lot of time together lately Lisa Louise. You have been going with me on walks with my dog, on drives into the town and even talking me to sleep at night! Finally I went to your site today to subscribe to your newsletter. Its like I can't get enough of what you have to teach.” Simona in Scotland.

“When I listen to the podcast, it's like inviting a friend into my home for a visit. I'm a Premium member as well!!” Debra, USA.

Any notable names of listeners you have heard from over the years?

I’m not sure who’s out there listening but I’ve been fortunate to have several notables on the show: Lisa Kudrow (Friends), Vanessa Williams (Soul Food), Rose O’Donnell, The Lennon Sisters, the band Venice, Director Ali Selim (Sweet Land), and Tim Russell (A Prairie Home Companion) in addition to many “stars” of the genealogy world.

What advise would you give a new podcaster so that they keep going!

To prevent “podfading” you have several things to consider before you ever switch on your microphone:

Do you have the time? Your audience will expect consistency. You can’t expect them to be loyal if you’re not. When I first started, each episode took me a week to create a 30 minute episode. And 80% of that time was preparing and writing – NOT recording! Better to do 10 minute episodes and be consistent than 45 minute episodes and be MIA. The good news is that if you put a great process in place you can dramatically reduce the amount of time it takes to create an episode.

What is your goal? What do you want your listeners to get from you show? Do you want to be known as an expert in your niche? Do you want / need to make money? Thinking these questions through and having a game plan will keep you focused and encouraged. I post reminders on my desktop about why I’m doing what I’m doing so that when times get tough and I feel like giving up I can quickly remind myself why I should keep going.

How important is podcasting to the success of other revenue generating opportunities you currently have?

My podcast is critical to my relationship with my audience. Thankfully it’s an intimate medium because they hear your voice (rather than just reading.) It’s how I keep them informed about my latest offerings. It also provides an avenue for me to connect with other movers and shakers in my field through interviews. I spend time getting to know them, promoting them and staying connected.

It’s all about relationships – pay attention to your relationships and you’ll be in good shape.

Podcasting by itself really isn’t a money maker for most people. You need products that your loyal listeners can purchase. I take a very diversified approach, and I have many income streams that branch out from my podcast. In the fast moving age of technology I think this is best approach.

Did you start off podcasting and that lead into a business or did you see podcasting as a necessary support for an existing business?

I started podcasting first. I went into it with the faith that if I followed my instincts and worked hard it would become clear to me what to do next. And it did. I can look back and see how everything up until I began podcasting laid the foundation for this amazing career built around my passion for family history.

Podcasting has led to establishing myself as an international conference speaker, author and publisher, writer for a national magazine, online instructor and much more! My business has grown by leaps and bounds, and my podcasts are central to that. I start each day with gratitude and give it everything I’ve got!

What piece of advice would give others looking to generate revenue from podcasting whether directly or indirectly?

  • Work WAY more than 40 hours a week
  • Write a book and promote it on your show
  • Diversify: Establish multiple income streams
  • Provide fantastic content
  • Provide customer service that exceeds expectations
  • Be patient – full time income doesn’t come overnight – but for me it did come.
  • Put your family first: they will be there much longer than your podcast or your business!

If you charge for access to your podcasts or premium, how did your audience react

when you started doing this? How did you handle this?

I launched Genealogy Gems Premium Membership within a year of starting the podcast. I am committed to providing lots of great free content, but there are fans who want more and I saw membership as an ideal way to deliver it. And because I love podcasting it was critical to my long term success that I have a product in place that could pay the bills and not hugely cut in to my time. Membership is ideal for that because when I produce a premium show or video it can service 100 or 10,000 members.

How your audience reacts is very much in your control. It’s all about how you position it. I let my audience know that I am committed to providing the free podcasts. But I also told them that if they love the free show, they’re going to love being a member. And then I made sure there was top notch content for them to love! My listeners were thrilled and joined right in. They are awesome!!

How to join the Genealogy Gems Podcast Community:

Check out Lisa's newest book, "The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox, 2011" available at at the store on her website.

Wanna podcast? Join the libsyn team, here's your first step. Want your own App for your show? Get started here

More from our PODCAST LUMINARIES SERIES making money from their podcast!

Are you ready for some Football? We're Talking Serious Football Podcasts

Madden PodcastLibsyn's hometown is Pittsburgh, PA.  Pittsburghers take football season very, VERY seriously. has a whole roster (pun intended) of football podcasts to help you stay informed this football season. First up - say hello to one of our newest shows - EA Sport's Madden NFL 12 Podcast.

The EA Sports Madden NFL 12 Podcast, a weekly hour-long audio podcast, covers the latest in Madden NFL 12 news, rosters and team updates. Created for NFL football fans, the show provides a unique behind the scene look at the all-time favorite football related video game and commentary on the NFL and Fantasy Football. Included is a recap of NFL weekly games, injury reports, insight on the upcoming schedule and weekly picks.

But the serious fan know you need more than just one podcasts.  We told you Libsyn was ready for the football season!  MAdden NFL is just the beginning.  Check out these NFL podcasts:

We've got even more football podcasts for the serious fan, created by the fans themselves - check out these fancasts:

Follow Libsyn on Tumblr too!

So much good stuff to share, so little time.  Just wanted to make sure you know about our Tumblr blog -  We post links we like about podcasting and social media over there.  If you are a Tumblr user or just want to see what else we have to share please check us out over on Tumblr. (And in case you didn't know we are on Facebook and Twitter too! and @libsyn 

Podcasting Luminaries: ESL Pod

Podcasting since July 2005, ESL Pod has been providing accessible quality education to those that perhaps do not have access to learning English as a second language. Both Dr. Jeff McQuillan and Dr. Lucy Tse are highly qualified professors with over 30 years of experience. If you are looking to refine your English or perhaps know someone looking to learn English as a second language have them Subscribe to ESL Pod!

Fun, Fame or Profit? Why are you doing the show?

Well, two of the three! I started the podcast as a way of getting around traditional publishing gatekeepers in my field, education. Both I and my colleague, Lucy Tse, had worked for more than 10 years in academia as professors of applied linguistics and education, and later as a publishing consultants and editors.

After having read about podcasting in the New York Times in early 2005, I realized that this was a way of reaching the "end user" - for me, the learner - directly, without having to get the approval of a publishing house or even another teacher. So we started English as a Second Language Podcast to help adults improve their acquisition of English.

For the first 8-10 months, it was purely for fun. Then we became one of the top-ranked podcasts in several countries, and decided that if we were to do this right, we needed to make money off the podcast so we could devote the time necessary. So in May, 2006, we launched a "premium" service for $10 a month that entitles members to an 8-10 page Learning Guide for each of our three weekly episodes or lessons.

As for fame, that was never really an issue. We've preferred to fly under the radar for the most part, relying on word of mouth publicity and the occasional boost from iTunes featuring us on their podcast home page. We've never run ads or done press releases or tried to promote ourselves with the mainstream media (who, for the most part, have ignored us, in all languages!). That might change soon as we begin to branch out into other markets, but its worked just fine for us so far.

What advise would you give a new podcaster so that they keep going!

It is hard to answer this question without sounding trite, but sometimes the hackneyed answer is the right one: You've got to love what you do and know what you love. Both elements - loving and knowing - are important. You have to love what you do because that enthusiasm will come through to your listeners, who will be infected by it and want to continue listening to you.

I honestly love sitting in front of my microphone and teaching via the podcast. It's like I'm having this one-on-one conversation simultaneously with tens of thousands of students, and I don't even have to take roll!

Part of loving what you do is loving your listeners, in the sense of caring about them. When you care about someone, you're honest with them, you are sincere. Insincerity and lack of enthusiasm are immediately detectable by your audience.

Living in Los Angeles, I get to hear the greatest sports broadcaster that's ever lived, Vin Scully, call the Dodger baseball games each summer. Vin comes across as this completely honest, sincere guy who cares about his listeners. I won't ever be a tenth as good as Scully, but that's my goal, my target. When people trust you, they'll listen to you.

You also have to know what you love. You can fool people for a while, I suppose, but eventually if you don't have the chops to do what you're doing, the knowledge to back up what you say, that will become apparent to your listeners.

If I'm going to spend my time listening to you for 15 or 30 minutes, you better know what you're talking about, because there are 500,000 other podcasts out there I can switch to in a heartbeat.

In my field, language teaching, there are thousands of people who teach languages without really knowing what they're doing, both on the Internet and in the traditional classroom. When you think about it, language teaching has probably been one of the most spectacular failures of our educational system. There are some complex historical reasons for that, both in the U.S. and in other countries, but core problem is that teachers and would-be teachers aren't familiar with the basic principles of language acquisition.

One of the goals of our podcast is to bring the findings of the past 30 years of second language acquisition research and apply them in a way that helps people improve their proficiency.

If you charge for access to your podcasts or premium, how did your audience react when you started doing this? How did you handle this?

When we launched the premium service in 2006, we kept all of the audio files for free, charging only for the supplemental PDF Learning Guides, so we didn't take anything away from the free service. We just added something to it. I think that helped ease the transition.

Our audio files are still free - we've just released our 1000th episode! We never got any complaints (or very few), and instead get emails every day thanking us for the free lessons we offer. This has worked for us so far, even though only a small fraction of our listeners actually join up as paying members.

As in direct market advertising, which I had done for a previous business venture, you rely on a percentage of people - and I mean a very small percentage of people - to buy what you're selling.

We don't ever release numbers on paid subscribers, but the approach is really very simple. Your podcast is your "flyer" which you send out to X number of people at a cost of Y. Taking a certain response rate (say, 1%), you multiply that by the price of your service per user to get your potential revenue, then subtract your costs.

For us, when that figure exceeded what we were making in our other business ventures, we dropped the latter and devoted ourselves full-time to producing the podcast. Our costs have gone up slightly since the early days, with contractors who handle post-production, editing, the website, and customer service, but for the most part we've kept costs to a minimum, and do 90% of the work ourselves.

It helped that I had started business before this one, so I knew that keeping costs down can make the difference between a profitable business and a failing one. I don't even have a decent business card! We all work from home offices, and I still use the same $150 dollars of equipment to record that I had in '06 (a Shure SM-58 and a Eurorack UB802 mixer).

Everything I needed to learn on the technical side I learned from Rob Walch's Podcast411 website back in the day (thanks, Rob!) and a few pieces of advice here and there at the early podcast conventions.

I should mention that we tried to do some advertising in the early stages but that was never enough to support ourselves full-time, and I don't think it ever would be. We have a very unique market: People who don't speak or understand very well the language we are using in the podcast!

In addition, our listeners are spread out across more than 200 countries and a dozen different demographic profiles, from high school students to businesswomen to retirees. It's not an easy market to advertise to. I think almost all of the language learning podcasts that imitated our format in the years after our launch followed this same business model of a "freemium" service.

Wanna podcast? Join the libsyn team, here's your first step.

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Podcasting Luminaries: Danny Pena (Gamertag Radio)

Danny Pena and Gamertag Radio have been rockin' the podcasting world since 2005. During these past 6 years GTR has been featured by high profile main stream media and has steadily built a devoted following. GTR continues to innovate with their Podcast App which features exclusive content as well as their fan product launch parties. Subscribe!

Fun, Fame or Profit? Why are you doing the show?

I started online radio back in 2001 and podcasting with my show, "Gamertag Radio," in 2005. I love it. We're still doing this is because of the fans. They are the reason we continue with the show. Also, I don't see anything wrong with making some money with something you love to do. This is how we pay the bills, travel for more content, buy better equipment for the show and create community parties for our fans.

What has changed the most in your recording setup since you started?

If you listen to our first show, the sound quality was horrible. For my birthday, my girlfriend surprised me with my first podcasting studio. Better mics and mixer. I also have a Microtrack made by M-Audio for interviews and event coverage, like E3 in Los Angeles.

What tools on libsyn have you found most helpful in building your brand/podcast?

One of my favorites is having an app for smartphones thanks to libsyn. This is a great way for fans to download the show while they are away from home or if they want to get extra content via the app.

During E3 we uploaded more than 60 videos just for our mobile app users, and sometimes we do special giveaways just for them.

Have you found that social media has expanded your listener base/reach? (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Google+, etc)

Social media is a great "keep in touch" tool. It's helped us stay in touch with our fans more than anything. It creates a special emotional connection with fans. That's very important for podcasters: to always try your best to stay in touch with your fans. No matter what.

We get more new fans to our website via search engines than social media, but one thing I have to say that I like about social media is that fans are always spreading the word to their friends about the show through their different social media platforms.

How has or has podcasting helped create opportunities for you?

Because of our podcast, we've been featured on TV (MTV True Life, In The Qube), newspapers, magazines and major websites (Wall Street Journal, CNN, Engadget, IGN, etc). We've also had the opportunities to throw product launch parties for gaming companies.

Just a few years ago, MTV contacted us to join their new ad network, called "MTV Tribes," and libsyn has also helped us in the past with advertisment. All this happened because of our hard work in not only our podcast, but on our website too. Having a team that's always willing to take the show to a whole new level is always a big plus too.

For those new podcasters out there: Don't worry about numbers. Podcasting is all about people with passion. Without passion, your podcast is dead. Stay working and try your best to network with other podcasters. Opportunities will come.

You want to see some awesome videos of the GTR Fan and Launch parties, check out: HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE

Wanna dive into GamerTag Radio? Audience Feedback 786-273-7GTR or godfree (at) gamertagradio (dot) com.

Wanna podcast? Join the libsyn team, here's your first step. Want your own App for your show? Get started here


Podcasting Luminaries: Dan Carlin

Podcasting since 2005, Dan Carlin has built a steady, strong and powerful body of work, as well as an engaged following. Make sure you check out and subscribe to Hardcore History and Common Sense with Dan Carlin...if you don't, you are seriously missing out.

Fun, Fame or Profit? Why are you doing the show?

Well, this is my work. I was a radio personality before technology eliminated the requirement that I be employed by someone who owned a broadcast transmitter in order to be heard by a wide audience.

I don't need a radio station to reach listeners anymore. This is like a dream come true for me. Work from creative constraints...complete control over all elements of the operation.

And the technology matured just as the radio business was becoming truly unbearable. It seemed like the most natural transition in the world to move from the brick-and-mortar version of broadcasting to the Internet one.

I think I do the podcast(s) for all the reasons you suggested (and more). Add to your list the opportunity to create and be creative. A podcast is an enormous blank canvas. There is so much room for invention and creative latitude. It's one of the best things about podcasts that they are NOT part of the homogenized Old Media culture that operates along a narrow spectrum of creativity, and panders to the lowest common denominator.

In podcasting, virtually anything goes...niche audiences can be targeted...and there are no focus groups to water down your ideas. All sorts of artistic gambles and experiments become possible.

One of the things I love about podcasting (it probably falls under the "fame" motivation!) is the permanence of the work you do. In radio if you did a good show (or a bad one) it was gone into the ether right after you were done. These podcasts, however, are akin to creating something carved in "digital stone".

This work we do will outlive us (in some dark, dusty corner of cyberspace).

I have often said that podcast episodes are a lot more like record albums or music CDs than radio or television broadcasts. It isn't about how many listeners your podcast/show has right NOW, it's about how many people will actually hear or see any given piece of work you produce before the Earth is swallowed up by the Sun (or our civilization goes dark...whichever comes first). I have often thought, "I wonder how many people will eventually be exposed to this episode?".

It's marvelously satisfying to think that people as yet unborn may hear our work (long after we are gone). Why not though? The books of authors from another age are still read and the music of long dead musicians continues to be played (and heard, and PAID FOR!).

The Roman orator Cicero said that "writing is the only true form of immortality". I think you could add podcasting as well. Remembering this fact helps us to keep focused on quality when we are putting the shows together. After all...crappy episodes are forever too.

What tools on libsyn have you found most helpful in building your brand/podcast?

Anything that helps us to know more about the audience is extremely valuable. Libsyn has been continually upgrading their capability in this regard since we first began our relationship with them.

We have been podcasting since June 2005 and we have been on libsyn since Summer 2006. Until we began using libsyn we really had no clear idea of how many people were even listening. Now we can break down trends in listenership, track progress using graphs, see how popular we are (or are not) in all the nations around the world.

This information does two things. It gives us concrete information that we can use to show other entities (such as advertisers) how many people are listening. It also becomes the tool we use to measure the effectiveness of anything else we do to increase listeners. Did that recent series of promotions we did increase the audience size? We go to libsyn to find out.

How has or has podcasting helped create opportunities for you?

There's no downside to having lots of people exposed to your work (as long as you are pleased with it).

I think of how hard it was for anyone to try to get any sort of exposure for their art/work/talent/ideas 20 years ago and it was nigh impossible. Back then a person couldn't even show an audience what they had to offer unless they got some sort of "big break" that usually required all sorts of luck (and perhaps a ton of artistic compromises). But when you upload a podcast episode you never know who might hear it.

As a certain semi-mythical figure that I work with once said: "It's not always how MANY people are listening, but who those people listening ARE."

A podcast is like an advertisement for the creativity, skills and talent of the people doing it. Imagine that a young Eddie Murphy, George Carlin or Lenny Bruce came around today. They would all be huge podcasting talents because their work would stand on its own and people would share it virally.

They could do what they did without interference from those worried about ratings or language or advertiser sentiment. Once people heard/saw their work and once the audience reaction was clear other opportunities would follow.

Podcasting is the best career move I've ever made. More people have been exposed to what I do than ever were in either my television or my radio days. And that exposure has been international in scope.

Do you know how much money someone would have paid for exposure like this two decades ago?

Do you know how much the bandwidth would be costing us right now if operations like libsyn didn't exist?

Wanna check out Dan talking about "podcasting" as an artform? Watch this video. In addition to Dan's incredible amount of new content, he's got a catalog of history podcasts. Here is a direct link to one of Dan's history episodes, #33 "Old School Toughness."

Dan Carlin also has a pretty engaged audience, check out the awesome online forum!

Wanna podcast? Join the libsyn team, here's your first step.