Let your personality shine through: People may come to your podcast for the content, but they’re only going to stick around if they like you. This doesn’t mean you should change to be more “likable,” but rather be the most authentic version of yourself possible for an audience that’s obsessed with you.
As part of my series of interviews about “5 things you need to know to create a very successful podcast”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Patrick Hinds.
Patrick Hinds is the founder of Obsessed Network, a podcast network for the True-Crime Obsessed. In 2017 he and his co-host Gillian Pensavalle launched True Crime Obsessed, a true crime/comedy podcast that recaps true crime documentaries with humor, sass, heart, and just the right amount of snark. An instant hit, TCO has recently been featured in The New York Times and Vulture, and after a series of sold-out live shows in New York City, the podcast launched an international tour including shows in New Orleans, Chicago, Seattle, and Toronto. This fall, True Crime Obsessed will be the first podcast to ever play live on Broadway.
Prior to creating True Crime Obsessed, Hinds began his podcasting journey in 2013 as the creator, co-producer, and host of the popular Theater People podcast, a show featuring full-length interviews with Tony winners, Broadway legends, and theater’s brightest stars. Theater People was notably included in NPR’s 2016 hand-picked list of the best podcasts on the internet, was cited by BuzzFeed as one of the 22 best pop-culture podcasts online and was named an honoree in the category of “Best Podcast” by the 2016 Webby Awards. In 2016, Hinds launched Broadway Backstory, a documentary-style podcast that found out how new shows develop from an idea to a full Broadway production. Broadway Backstory was nominated for a Webby Award in 2018. He was also tapped by Disney Theatrical Productions to produce and host The Official Disney on Broadway Podcast.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit of your “personal backstory? What is your background and what eventually brought you to this particular career path?
Igrew up in Massachusetts and went to Emerson College in Boston. I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do with my life at that point, so I did a number of internships in radio and TV. My TV internship led to a job at CNBC in New York City after graduation. I was completely wrong for the job, but NYC was a perfect fit, so I quit the job and began a long haul of restaurant jobs while I tried to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I discovered podcasts in 2009 as I had a long commute to a job, and listening to podcasts made the commute doable. When my favorite podcast, a show called Downstage Center, where the host did in-depth interviews with Broadway stars, stopped producing new episodes, I decided I’d pick up the mantle. I immediately fell in love with the business of making podcasts. As the industry grew and evolved, I’ve tried to grow and evolve with it. When I decided that I wanted to try to make a living as a podcaster, my friend Gillian Pensavalle and I decided to fuse our fascination with true crime and our love of documentaries together, and that’s how True Crime Obsessed was born.
Can you share a story about the most interesting thing that has happened to you since you started podcasting?
Last year, we decided that we wanted to do a huge True Crime Obsessed live show on gay pride weekend in New York City. It was the 50th anniversary of The Stonewall Riots (largely considered to be the birth of the gay civil rights movement in the US), and NYC was expecting millions of people to descend upon the city that weekend. So we rented a 600-seat theater, hired a few fierce drag queens and did our largest and most fabulous live show. It was insane, and the best part was that the morning of the show, I led walking tours for our listeners around the historic gay sites of the West Village. Anyone who bought a ticket to the show was welcome to attend. I led six tours that morning and had the opportunity to meet listeners in person and share with them my knowledge of and passion for the gay history of my city. It was incredible and an absolute dream come true.
Can you share a story about the biggest or funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson or takeaways you learned from that?
When Gillian and I started talking about making a true-crime podcast, I really wanted to make a sort of nerdy, straight forward, high brow-ish show. It would incorporate news, interviews and a discussion of a true-crime documentary or podcast that we were both into. When we sat down to make the podcast, we decided we’d discuss the documentary The Imposter, which we both loved. We were about two minutes into our discussion and Gillian had me cracking up. I had no idea she was so funny or that we could have a funny conversation discussing something as serious as that film, but we went with it. When I was editing the first episode together, the most engaging and interesting part of what we’d made was the downright hilarious conversation we’d had about The Imposter. So we decided that we should lean into it — there were no other true crime/comedy podcasts recapping documentaries, and so we decided that that should be our show. The lesson learned was flexibility: let the podcast be what it wants to be. If we’d tried to force our original idea, it never would have worked. I’m so glad we listened to our instincts, took a leap, and created something completely original in the crowded world of true crime podcasts.
How long have you been podcasting and how many shows have you aired?
We’ve been making True Crime Obsessed for two and a half years. We have 124 episodes on our regular feed and over 130 full bonus episodes on our Patreon subscription feed. It’s a lot!
What are the main takeaways, lessons or messages that you want your listeners to walk away with after listening to your show?
The most important thing our show offers in the world of true crime is the opportunity to talk about really hard or dark times in a more lighthearted way. We’re proud of the fact that we can find humor in these stories without ever making fun of the victim or the crime. Somehow we’ve found a way to feed people’s true crime cravings without giving them nightmares.
In your opinion what makes your podcast binge-listenable? What do you think makes your podcast unique from the others in your category? What do you think is special about you as a host, your guests, or your content?
There are lots of things that make a podcast binge-listenable, but the most important thing is that the content needs to be engaging and the hosts need to be people you want to spend time with. True Crime Obsessed is unique in that we recap true crime documentaries — we’re not investigating or trying to solve cases, we’re just reacting to the story being told in the documentary. We always have LOTS of feelings about it, which is where the humor comes in. We also use clips from the documentary in the podcast, so listeners really get to experience what we’re talking about. There really isn’t another podcast out there that sounds like True Crime Obsessed. The most rewarding thing about making the podcast so far is how our listeners really seem to relate to Gillian and me as people. Our listeners really feel like they know us. I think this is because we never hold back — we laugh, we cry and we try to be as authentic as possible.
Doing something on a consistent basis is not easy. Podcasting every work-day, or even every week can be monotonous. What would you recommend to others about how to maintain discipline and consistency? What would you recommend to others about how to avoid burnout?
You have to love your podcast. I really love it. That doesn’t mean you’ll always love making your podcast or that there won’t be periods when you just don’t feel like it (we’re not robots, after all!), but if you absolutely love the thing you’re making, you’ll feel called to make it. You’ll think about it while doing other things, you’ll find yourself making dinner and lost in thought about how to make your podcast better. Other than that, there is no trick or advice I can share about being consistent. Set a goal and work your hardest to achieve it, it’s that simple (and that complicated!).
What resources do you get your inspiration for materials from?
Other podcasts. I’m truly obsessed with the world of podcasting, and that has really helped me achieve success in the podcasting industry. I’ve also gone out of my way to establish friendships with other podcasters and that has helped fuel creativity and also given me resources to ask for help, guidance, and support.
Ok, fantastic. Let’s now shift to the main questions of our discussion. Is there someone in the podcasting world who you think is a great model for how to run a really fantastic podcast?
I’m sure this is everyone’s answer, but Ira Glass. He’s the great mentor that most of us will never meet. He said something once that I’m going to butcher here, but it was something like, “just know that when you create something, it won’t be great at first — the product won’t be as good as your taste — but don’t let that stop you. Keep going, do a lot of work, and the volume of work will eventually help to close that gap.” I really took that to heart. I’ve made a LOT of podcasts. Between the ten or so podcasts I’ve made over the years, I probably have close to 600 podcast episodes floating around the internet. And I’m just starting to get good at it. So that Ira Glass quote has really driven me. OOH! AND, he’s famously a BIG stickler for details in his shows. So that makes me feel a little less crazy about being the same for mine.
What are the ingredients that make that podcast so successful? If you could break that down into a blueprint, what would that blueprint look like?
Love the podcast you’re making. Keep making it, even if you’re not fully satisfied with the quality at the beginning. Be your MOST authentic self and know that this is the MOST important ingredient. And then get good at marketing — this is maybe the boring part, but figure out how to run cheap Facebook ads that target your intended audience. Get all the social media handles and make creative posts about your episodes. If you want your show to be successful, you have to find a way to breakthrough.
You are a very successful podcaster yourself. Can you share with our readers the five things you need to know to create an extremely successful podcast? (Please share a story or example for each, if you can.)
- Love making your podcast: if you find yourself thinking about your podcast while you’re doing other things, you’re on the right track.
- Be obsessed with podcasts: listening to a whole bunch of other podcasts is the best thing you can do to help you get better at making yours.
- Find community within the podcasting world: befriending other podcasters offers a great opportunity to cross-promote shows, learn from each other, feel connected to the industry, and find support from people who understand what you’re doing
- Learn how to market your show: having a successful podcast means being (or getting) good at a lot of things. Primarily, this means social media. Get all the social media handles and find creative ways to talk about your show/episodes.
- Let your personality shine through: people may come to your podcast for the content, but they’re only going to stick around if they like you. This doesn’t mean you should change to be more “likable,” but rather be the most authentic version of yourself possible for an audience that’s obsessed with you. We say all the time that True Crime Obsessed isn’t for everyone — I laugh like a crazy person and Gillian gets super mad sometimes, and some people hate that. Fine. Our podcast isn’t for them. But that’s who we are. And we’re here for the tribe of people who love it.
Can you share some insight from your experience about the best ways to 1) book great guests; 2) increase listeners; 3) produce it in a professional way; 4) encourage engagement, and 5) the best way to monetize it? (Please share a story or example for each, if you can.)
- Book great guests have a great, SHORT pitch. Whether you’re emailing or DMing prospective guests on social media, most people will only read the first few lines of your message. Let them know who you are, what you’re talking about, and why they’re the perfect guest in as few words as possible.
- The best way to increase listeners is to cross-promote with other podcasters, get on other podcasts, and use free social media to promote your show/episodes. If you have the money, buy Facebook and Instagram ads — it really makes a difference.
- You want your podcast to sound as good as possible. Get good mics and record in a quiet space. Listen to other podcasts to figure out the kind of style you like and then emulate that. And don’t be afraid to reach out and ask questions of your favorite podcasters. Also, Transom.org is a great resource for easy to understand articles for the technical side of podcasting.
- Encourage engagement: respond to every email, tweet, Facebook message, etc. I always say that you build a podcast audience, one listener, at a time. If a listener reaches out to you in any way, respond. That’s how you build listener loyalty and encourage listeners to share your content with their friends.
- Monetize: there are two ways to monetize your podcast: 1. Build your audience to about 20,000 downloads per episode within the first 30 days to attract advertisers. 2. Patreon — a platform designed for people to give a little bit of money each month to creators to sustain their work. Some niche podcasts will never be able to attract enough listeners to get advertising dollars (I made Broadway podcasts for years, so I know ALL about this), but they can build a very dedicated small audience. In this case, your audience may be very happy to pitch in a few bucks a month to keep your show going.
For someone looking to start their own podcast, which equipment would you recommend that they start with?
I’m truly terrible at this part. The best thing I did was walk into the B&H store in New York City and tell them what I was doing and what my budget was. They took it from there. Again, I’ll direct you to Transom.org for more technical information for new podcasters.
Ok. We are almost done. 🙂 Because of your position and work, you are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I’ve actually been thinking about this a lot lately. Maybe it’s because I just turned 42, or because I’m a dad and wondering what kind of planet will exist for my kid when she’s my age, but here’s what I’ve come up with. Bear with me, it may sound a little strange. I would ask everyone to buy two pieces of used clothes this year. Not in addition to new clothes, but instead of. I read recently that buying just one piece of used clothing a year instead of new would save nearly 6 billion pounds of car emissions, which is roughly the same as taking a half-million cars off the road for an entire year. To me, this is a super accomplishable thing that anyone can do that can literally help save the planet.
How can our readers follow you online?
Thank you so much for sharing your time and your excellent insights! We wish you continued success.