Podcasting from the factory floor

We were once an economy of factories. Now we’re an economy of ideas. The factory was a place of innovation, it converted cotton to cloth, grain to flour, ore to steel. The factory changed the landscape of our economy. It started in Manchester. Now we’re doing it again. In tech. In Manchester. At thestartupfactory.tech.

tsf.tech helps entrepreneurs and innovators develop their early stage startup thinking, build prototypes and MVPs. We craft the early versions of their tech product vision. We enable the spirit of entrepreneurship by getting tech products built, shipped off the factory floor and out of the factory door.

We’re a team of software engineers, designers, analysts, thinkers and doers, agile practitioners, optimists, coffee aficionados and bloggers. We’re also gamers, walkers, parents, dog lovers, campers, chess players, musicians, five-a-siders, home-brewers, travellers and gardeners.

And now we’re podcasters. Check out from the factory floor: https://buff.ly/3iieJU1

I see so many people with those small white air pods in their ears these days. To visit a modern tech workplace is to walk into a room with a dozen songs playing simultaneously but to hear none of them. Everyone is sat working away with headphones on, alone in their own world. Listen to the silence, let it ring on, no language just sound, that’s all we need to know. Staying in the same place, just staying out the time, touching from a distance, further all the time. It has never been easier to tune in to your own personalised soundtrack of music, audio books, personal development lessons or conversational podcasts.

The podcast is the latest mass-market, personal yet social, communication innovation, an episodic series of spoken word digital audio files that we can download to a personal device for convenient, easy listening. Streaming applications and podcast services provide a simple, integrated way to manage personal consumption across different content sources and playback devices.

Our from the factory floor podcast series features one or more of our team engaged in conversations on our research, expertise and reflections – a slice-of-life startup stories, a mashup of Alan Turing meets Harry Potter. It’s Gone Fishing for startup tech entrepreneurs. We start out with scripted themes and content but then improvised, free flowing conversation naturally emerges. Our title, from the factory floor is an attribution to the spirit and energy of Factory Records, reflecting our Mancunian joie-de-vivre.

We were motivated to create a podcast for a number of reasons. We’re a handsome team but more faces for radio than video, so podcasting was the medium to share and express our personal passions, increase our professional visibility, and put a toe in the water of the current trend of micro-influences sharing their knowledge. We’re also active advocates of the Open Source ethos, so hope to contribute and cultivate a community of like-minded listeners where our contribution can spark someone to launch their own startup venture.

So where did all this start? ‘Podcast’ is a portmanteau, a combination of iPod and broadcast, the term first suggested by The Guardian columnist Ben Hammersley in February 2004. Use of the term podcast predated Apple’s addition of formal support for podcasting to the iPod and its iTunes platform, which created some copyright issues back in the day around the use of ‘Pod’ in product names.

In October 2000, the concept of attaching sound and video files in RSS feeds was developed by Tritan Louis, with the idea implemented by Dave Winer, a software developer and an author of the RSS format, and podcasting became a recognised medium for distributing audio content. The first application to make this process feasible was iPodderX, developed by August Trometer and Ray Slakinski. This shift occurred as a result of the evolution of internet capabilities along with increased consumer access to cheaper hardware and software for audio recording and editing.

Things moved on when Apple released iTunes 4.9, which added formal support for podcasts, thus negating the need to use a separate program to download and transfer them to a mobile device. This made access to podcasts more convenient and widespread. Within a year, many podcasts from public radio networks like placed many of their radio shows on the iTunes platform, some using podcasting as their only distribution system.

So what have we learned from our own podcasting adventures, and why should you consider developing your own podcast strategy? Here are my ten takeaways of the business and personal benefits from podcasting, for you and your startup.

1.     Develop empathy for your listener We all love the sound of our own voice, but the real skill to creating something people will listen to is putting yourself in their headphones – it’s not about what you want to say but what they want to hear on your subject. This means investing time to prepare and research your content, so that that you have something interesting, different and memorable to say as ‘takeaways’ for your audience. Showing customer empathy is a key trait for successful entrepreneurs.

2.     Use your voice to convey emotion and create rapport It’s easy to be animated telling stories and talking when with friends, but when that red button is pushed, we can freeze. It’s all about the delivery…once more with feeling. I’ve found working on podcasts has made me relax and able to speak more conversationally, and be a better listener, something I will take into my everyday business communication. I try to convey feeling and emotion when speaking, being light-hearted, smiling, laughing, and showing I’m enjoying the event – hopefully this comes across in my voice. I try to make the podcast a dynamic thirty-minutes of storytelling. Podcasting enables us to share our human side through conveying our personality.

3.     Being creative and thinking on your feet Producing podcast content is a creative endeavour. It’s a good feeling to create something out of nothing with a spark. The focus on generating your own unique content forces you to focus on improving your creativity. You need to give yourself enough time to develop your thinking, creativity is part lightbulb moment, part process and practice.

Thinking on your feet in the moment is an act of creativity that podcasting will develop. We have a script and some key hook lines, but inevitably the podcast goes off script and improv kicks in. You need to be an agile and nimble thinker to keep the conversation flowing whilst masking the faux pas – again a key skill for entrepreneurs.

4.     Time management and flexibility Being able to manage your time is key to most successful entrepreneurial ventures, making every moment count can make the difference between a great outcome and mediocrity or losing your way. This is also true with producing podcasts, there are lots of moving parts that come with producing good output on a regular basis. Being organised without being rigid, I’ve found the disciplined needed has provided valuable lessons in my organisational skills.

5.     It is a personal development experience Podcasting has added to my personal development curriculum. In preparation and research, I’ve listened to some amazing podcasting on a wide variety of subjects. There are inspirational people out there sharing amazing insights through their podcasts. When you get together with your co-hosts or research for each episode, this gives you a chance to collect information you may not have noticed before

6.     Podcasts are far more than repurposed content Podcasting means more than simply additional background content, it has to standalone in its own right and be something that engages, entertains, educates and inspires your audience. One of the most common ways people listen is on the commute into work, so you have the opportunity to really grab their attention in a moment when they have no distractions.

7.     Make it authentic A lot of podcasts are simple, just a few folks seemingly chatting away about something that they’re really passionate about. Some are polished and highly professional, including theme music, sound effects, professional editing. These are great to listen to, but they take a lot more time, effort and cost to produce. The more home-baked efforts – like ours – on the other hand, might have a few rough edges, but it means you can get it out consistently every week, and grow a loyal following.

8.     Creating a personal brand that builds connection The growth of the internet has enabled various technology enabled marketing strategies. Podcasting is one of these as outlined earlier, a tool to create a personal brand, extend your reach, engagement and connectivity of your personality beyond the traditional boundaries.

Podcasts have become the new talk radio on mobile devices, creating awareness and increasing traffic generation for new audiences to get you noticed. Podcasts can help in building familiarity and traction, as listeners usually subscribe to the series and regularly listen. As long as your series continues, your audience is quite likely to keep listening.

9.     Podcasting is an alternative to video Whilst video marketing is a vital part of the digital marketing mix, it’s good to step away from the screen these days. Equally, not everyone is comfortable to shoot videos. As a result, podcasting is a channel to develop your reputation with a reduced budget and investment of time compared to videos.

We are no strangers to information overload. With the internet filled with an ample amount of written content, audio information can be a welcoming media. Although podcasts are a one-sided medium, it can create effective relationships with listeners by giving the listeners an opportunity to get to know the person speaking on the podcast – you can’t see that so well in a blog. It’s a good start to building a relationship and creating trust. This encourages listeners to be associated with the brand. This, in turn, leads to improved conversion.

10.   Where is the value to my potential customers? The value comes from the content you are providing, and the authority in your voice. Being able to give specific insights as an expert in your space, and knowing exactly who you are listening too, creates value for your potential customers. By offering insights and experiential advice, wrapped by your own personality, podcasts give that personal transparency and authenticity, which makes you stand you out from the crowd. Edison Research estimates that 90 million people in the U.S. have listened to a podcast in the last month – that’s a good reach.

You won’t find a better way of learning than the humble podcast as a listener, nor getting your point of view or brand awareness increased as a broadcaster. We all want convenience, so by transforming your blog posts (and other content) into easily digestible audio versions, you’re delivering that accessibility.

Put yourself in your audience’s shoes. Would you want to read an entire blog post, or listen to an energising conversation about the subject matter on your way to work, at the gym, or while making dinner? Having an easy, convenient way to absorb information is the key to creating an engaged audience that has commercial potential.

People are carrying around an entire library of podcasts in their pockets every day, listening on-the-go and have capacity to find and absorb much more information from a digital conversation than a traditional blog post. Go on, find your voice, once more with feeling!

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Wherever you are on your startup journey, get in touch and let’s unpack your thinking together and see where we can help turn your idea into a reality.