I’m doing some rebranding with this podcast. I’m changing the name from Creative Studio: podcasting experiments to Podcasting Experiments from the Creative Studio. Right now, I’m just announcing it here in the audio, but in the next episode or two, you’ll see some changes in the visual branding.
We will be talking with Glenn Hebert, also known as Glenn the Geek and America’s Horse Husband. He began the Horse Radio Network in 2006 and has grown it into a successful business. We’ll talk about treating your podcast as a business, the advantage of a strong niche, and the power of involving listeners.
Now, before we jump into the interview for today, let’s pause for a MetaMoment. This is where we review one or two podcasts about podcasting on this podcast about podcasting.
Today’s MetaMoment is...Podcasters’ Roundtable. It is hosted by Ray Ortega and regular co-hosts Daniel J. Lewis and Dave Jackson. They bring on different podcasters to have roundtable discussions about different aspects of podcasting. It is very interesting because you get to hear different sides of the many issues in the podcasting industry. You can find out more by going to PodcastersRoundtable.com.
How Glenn got into podcasting
Glenn was working for a horse retail company back in 2006, and after listening to Leo Laporte’s podcast Earth to Twit, he decided to start one of his own. Back in those days, it wasn’t easy, but he figured out all the tech and began the Talking Equine show for the retailer he worked for. The retailer eventually sold the company so the podcast stopped, and Glenn went into consulting, but in the meantime decided to do more podcasting because it was fun.
It was getting a little bit easier to listen because iTunes had come out, so he started the Horse Radio Network. They started with 1 show—The Stable Scoop Show—but had the network from the very first episode. Glenn always new he wanted a network and knew he had to start somewhere, so one show was the beginning. That show is still going after 9 years, and his first co-host only just left after 460+ episodes. She got a really good job and wouldn’t have time, so now they’re rebranding that show but it has been a sad change. It was hard for the audience too because she’s been there every week for 9 years so the audience was invested in her too.
Treating your podcast like a business
Glenn started out treating podcasting like a business because he always wanted it to be a business. He admires the podcasters who are just doing it for fun, but his intention was always for it to eventually be his livelihood and allow his wife to leave her job (which she has now done) to work in the business too. Everything they do is calculated as ‘how can we make income off of that’ but that doesn’t mean the listeners’ experience isn’t a part of the goal too. Making the listeners happy makes them want to buy the product advertised, which makes the sponsors happy, which allows the business to make money and continue producing content. It’s a circle and Glenn looks at how to keep everybody in the circle happy, including his and his wife having fun, and not trading their values for the business.
Their mission statement is ‘uniting the horse world one show at a time’ and they’ve managed to achieve that. They have over 70 media partners, magazines, blogs, websites and things, so those media partners are all contributing and now some of those are working with each other. It’s been a conduit for a lot of people to gather, and it’s the building of relationships that has caused the Horse Radio Network to grow to the point where they are now. Relationship building and looking at it as a business from day 1 was always the plan for Glenn because those relationships are what make a business. It’s a lot of work, and they work more now than they did in their jobs and are making less money, but Glenn says they are having fun.
The advantage of a strong niche
Horse people are not just passionate about their hobby, they are addicted: they spend all their time and all their money on horses and all their free time talking to other people about horses. That’s the advantage Horse Radio Network has because they have walked into an addicted group. It’s a perfect audience because they truly are invested 100 hours a week in their hobby. They’re working for their hobby, so it has been easy to get them involved. Glenn is always thinking about how to get everybody involved—listener, sponsor, host—in the circle.
The power of involving listeners as much as possible
Glenn has a myriad of ways the network involves listeners. Firstly, the 250 Patreon donators—who are called Auditors—have become a focus group. They get their own private Facebook group, which is extremely active, and they’ve become like a big family. The auditor group is involved in almost every decision the network makes, from picking the music for The Stable Scoop show rebrand to doing product reviews for their sponsors in exchange for free products. This has led to an increase in regular Patreon donators, which is great for the business so it has been a valuable way to keep everybody in the circle happy. Other ways the network gets audience involved is through regular segments, like submitting content for the very popular Really Bad Ads segment on Fridays to go into the draw for a monthly prize. Other successful listener involvements strategies are game shows like trivia, listener round tables, movie reviews, live reports from events like horse shows and Q & A sessions with professional riders.
The Cyber Monday Radio-Thon and continual innovation
Every year on Cyber Monday the Horse Radio Network does a 12-hour holiday radio-thon, including 32 hosts, 100s of phone calls, big name guests and many listener submissions of voicemails, songs, poetry etc. Last year, as well as giving away $5000 worth of prizes, there were 20 advertisers involved and it was a huge money maker for the network. Sponsors always want to get involved because being Cyber Monday, there is a direct response: they advertise their products and then right away the listeners go and buy it for Christmas.
Although they started the radio-thon to raise money, Glenn says they also needed to stay ahead of the crowd. There is finally some competition in the horse podcasting world but he knows they have to keep innovating to stay first. His advice to other podcasters is to think outside the box and keep involving the listeners. Some niches are broader, which can be tougher to deal with, but every niche can make something work that involves the listeners. They want to be involved. When you’re experimenting with new segments or new ideas, put them at the end of the regular show, after the music. Call it a bonus and see what response you get! Keeping in regular touch with your regular devoted listeners is so important: sometimes it’s the simplest stuff that means the most to them, like a simple birthday shout out on air.
You can find more about Glenn’s work and the Horse Radio Network at www.horseradionetwork.com