Some creative projects are quick and fun. Like writing a LinkedIn post.
Some are detailed, time-consuming and require a ton of prior work - like launching an online course.
But some projects possess you. Consume you. They take you through a roller-coaster ride of hope, anticipation, unrealistic expectations, disappointment, worry, fear … and then back to cautiously optimistic hope…
The ‘Story Rules Podcast’ has been one such project.
A project which completes the missing C in my intellectual life.
Let’s dive in.
The Missing C
I’ve written before about The 5Cs of Thought Leadership. In order to be a thought leader, you need to: Consume - Cerebrate - Confer - Create - Coach.
I wouldn’t be too much of a ‘Storytelling expert’ if I didn’t do these 5Cs myself. So let’s look at how I stack-up on each of these:
So, the missing C for me? Confer.
Which is why, I needed to - I wanted to - start the Story Rules Podcast.
That sounds so convincing, right?
Except, all this ‘missing C’ business is left-brain rationalisation that I came up with months after having made my decision.
I. Just. Wanted. To. Start. A. Podcast. Period.
The trouble was - I had to manage some really high expectations of an irritating and highly-opinionated person.
My own podcast-listening self.
A tale of high expectations and painfully slow progress
I started listening to podcasts sometime in 2014/15, as a way to ‘temptation-bundle’ my way to do a daily walk. While those walks now rarely happen, the podcast habit has stayed.
Podcasts have helped me navigate long drives, enjoy boring housework (during the peak lockdown) and the occasional commute. I’ve laughed, cried or been left awestruck listening to a Revisionist History, Cautionary Tales or Radiolab episode. I’ve marvelled at how hosts like Guy Raz know just the right questions to ask, the right pauses to make and how to use music in an unobtrusive yet sure way, adding just the right layer of emotion to the conversation.
In short, podcasts have been my favourite content medium (after the big screen of course).
And so, when it came to creating my own show, there was a battle brewing in my brain between two personalities - the Experienced Podcast Listener and the Wannabe Creator:
Experienced Listener: “You got this buddy. All you need to do is to figure out the format, have great guests, research their work, prepare and ask thought-provoking questions, coax out insightful answers, listen and let them talk, record well… then create a transcript, read the entire conversation, edit it smartly, add intros and outros, get a great audio editor, throw in some good music, add a hook, write engaging show notes, list time-stamps, create striking cover art, choose the right distribution platform, and then of course market the podcast to a large audience… Easy peasy”
Wannabe Creator: (gulp)
Experienced Listener: “Oh don’t worry - what’s the worst that could happen? People may not listen to it at all? Or maybe those who listen to it respond that it is either too long, too boring, not professional enough, too detailed, too slow and oh, did I mention too long?
Naah, nothing to worry about”
Wannabe Creator: “Wait, why am I doing this again?”
And so that’s been my journey over the past eight-odd months.
Yes, that’s how long it’s been since I started work on this project. I actually recorded my first conversation - with a great guest (keeping it a surprise!) - way back in August-2020. But since then many things intervened - two cohorts of my first online data-storytelling course for instance - and progress was painfully slow.
Then in January-21, I went through a guided annual planning exercise. It was okayish useful, but one clear takeaway for me was to pick the Podcast project as the most important one to focus on in the near term. And so I set myself a goal - to launch the podcast by the first quarter - before 31st March.
So I recorded three more episodes (making it four in all). Then Sanket (my trusted Ops and Tech Manager) painfully did a word-for-word transcript of the first episode. I baulked at editing it, but then finally came around to going through the 20,000-word file. Made edits. Re-recorded some portions. Added an intro and a summary. Recorded them.
Found a great audio editor (Kartik Rajan, highly recommended!) and sent him the files along with detailed edit instructions.
Found someone great at visual design (Kanchan Hans, who actually reached out on her own, at the right time… again highly recommended!) and got the cover-art done.
Then I wrote and recorded a 3-min intro to the podcast series.
And so, I was all set to announce and launch the podcast … right here - in this very newsletter email!
(Would’ve been so cool to grandly announce the first episode right about here, no?)
Ah, that’s where we get to the twist in the tale.
…and a twist in the tale
For podcasts, most folks choose to host it on a free platform called Anchor. Now there’s conflicting information on this, but I wasn’t so sure of hosting it on a Spotify-owned platform. It just seemed risky from a content-ownership and distribution point of view. (if anyone has some good writing on this, please share!).
So late night on Thursday (25-Mar), I was looking at something called LibSyn (which had been recommended by a podcasting expert on her course). LibSyn turned out to be a terrible and buggy website with even my credit card payment not going through.
So at around 11 in the night, I try Anchor. Turns out their servers were down and I’m not even able to register my email (if that’s not a sign, then I don’t know what is).
Finally, I just searched in desparation - podcast hosting services - and went with the first hit on Google.
A platform called Buzzsprout.
Simple interface, clear plans, ability to start with a free plan - it ticked a lot of boxes. So I went about adding all the podcast details.
And that’s when the bombshell hit.
Ideally, we should have looked at the procedure for launching a new podcast. I somehow assumed it would be similar to starting a new blog. Write, hit publish, and voila - anyone on the internet can read your stuff.
Doesn’t work like that for a podcast. A podcast is almost like publishing an app. The overlords at Apple and Google (and other podcasting ‘directories’) need to give you their ok.
In these days of super quick turnaround times and real-time service, guess how many minutes do these titans of tech take to approve your podcast?
(Upto) Two weeks.
Oops. There goes the 31-March launch target*!
Anyway. We just uploaded the episode and filled in the details and have submitted the podcast for approval. Hopefully will happen within the next two weeks!
And so, while I’m super-excited to be sharing the first episode with you once it is launched, I thought, in the meantime, I can regale you with this story.
The story of the Story Rules Podcast.
Let’s hope it has a happy ending.
*Not meeting targets is ok though at Story Rules. My boss at work is surprisingly lenient and understanding when it comes to these things.