Balsamiq - Should Balsamiq Have a Podcast?

The latest news from Balsamiq:
What’s it like to host a podcast? Should Balsamiq start one?
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There are so many pros and so many cons to having a podcast.
Let’s explore them!

We love podcasts!

Podcasts are great, aren’t they?

They turn boring tasks like running, driving, or washing dishes into something fun and productive.

Podcasts are very intimate: you often listen to them alone, in your earphones, or in your car. Episode after episode, you get to know the show hosts and start feeling like they’re good friends, even if they don’t really know you exist. 😊

Every week I look forward to new episodes of my favorite podcasts (Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me, bootstrapped.fm, the Prof G show) and YouTube series (Laura Kampf, Blondihacks, Sampson Boat Co, Essential Craftsman). It feels like receiving a long phone call from a good friend or family member.

We love podcasts so much that we decided to sponsor many of them last year, and will sponsor many more this year. You can read all about it in last month’s newsletter.

I’ve also been a guest on many podcasts over the years, and always enjoyed the experience.
 

Should we have our own podcast?

Clearly, we like the experiences of listening to, supporting, and participating in podcasts. But would we like the experience of running one?

We’ve been trying to answer this question for a few years now. To get us started, our marketing strategist Francesca did an online research on all things podcasting, which listed all the pros and cons we found on the web. Unfortunately, extensive as it was, the research didn’t result in us having a clear preference.

We considered producing one season worth of episodes, just to see how it felt, but decided against it because we didn’t want to start something and abandon it quickly, or feel tied to it.

If only there was a way to try things out without having to commit to it long term!

Well, recently such an opportunity fell into my lap, thanks to Steve McLeod, host of the Bootstrapped podcast. Here’s how he describes it:
A weekly podcast is a hungry beast that I, as host, need to keep feeding every week. To avoid burning out, I wanted to take a break for a few weeks. But as my podcast is also my child, I could only hand it over to an acting host I trusted to give it care and attention. I asked Peldi to step in for me because I felt he was just the right person to take on the role of guest host and caring parent.
I jumped at the opportunity! Steve asked me to record 5 episodes: just enough to learn what it feels like to host a podcast, without committing to a long-term effort.
 

What it’s like to guest-host a podcast

First, I looked at the people I follow on Twitter and people I’ve heard speak at different conferences, and made a list of possible guests to interview.

I ran the list by Steve to make sure he thought they’d be a good fit for the audience, and we came up with a shortlist for the 5 episodes, plus a couple of backups.

Then Steve gave me the email template he uses to recruit guests. It’s actually pretty simple:
Subject: Interested in coming on the Bootstrapped podcast?

When I'm not running my company, I run the Bootstrapped podcast.

I heard you on [other podcast] recently, and I thought to myself, XXX would make a good guest!

I think some things you are doing that would appeal to our listeners are:
*
*
*

Interested?
---
With that, I went to work!

I wanted to do a good job and ask interesting questions, so I studied each of the guests. I listened to their talks, read their websites, listened to previous podcast interviews… this was A TON of work! I’d say at least 4 hours for each guest.

After the usual back and forth with each guest to schedule the call, I made a list of possible questions and put them in an order that flowed well. This was tricky because each episode is only about 30 minutes long, so you can only really discuss 2 or 3 topics.

I sent the draft of the questions to each guest so they could prepare their answers, and a few days later, we did the recording!

This part was fun, it felt like a theater performance, a choreographed 2-person dance. It’s only loosely scripted, so it’s mostly improvising and feeding off of each other’s answers, probing when it could lead to some interesting insight. I enjoyed this part quite a bit.

Here’s what I learned from each of the guests:
  • Aleth Gueguen gave us an update on how GDPR is being enforced, and great suggestions on how new founders can start off on the right foot when it comes to data privacy.

  • Geraldine DeRuiter and Rand Fishkin talked about the common ups and downs that come with being your own boss.

  • Asia Orangio gave us a masterclass in how to interview users for customer research.

  • Trine Falbe taught us how to design responsible products that treat users with the respect they deserve.

  • Ed Freyfogle and I chatted about how sometimes business owners can feel stuck and trapped by their own business.


Having a chance to have such interesting conversations was my favorite part of this whole experiment.

After each show, I would send the Zoom recordings to Steve via Dropbox, and he would send them to his editor for publishing the next week.

Steve also took care of the marketing of each episode, via the bootstrapped.fm website and Twitter account.
 

What I learned from the guest-hosting experience

I learned a lot.

The positives:
  • Having a chance to meet and chat with great people is fantastic. The chat itself is a great experience, and I like to think that now my guests consider me a friend, or at least an acquaintance. 😊 I don’t like networking very much, but I always like to make new friends! 😊
  • I liked to have a platform to use to elevate voices that people might not normally hear from.
  • Being able to casually tell people “I have a podcast” felt pretty good… I imagine that’s how writers or actors feel… I might be wrong but it felt pretty glamorous. 😉
  • Seeing the episodes being published each week was a thrill… it felt like releasing a new small product, or a new feature, each week.
 

The negatives:

  • It’s SO. MUCH. WORK. I am now convinced that to do a half-decent podcast, you need at least 3 people working on it. The big fancy podcasts have about a dozen people working on them! 😬
  • It creates deadlines. We like to work without deadlines as much as possible, so this is a big problem. I can totally understand why a lot of creators burn out after a while. We have a hard enough time keeping up with this monthly newsletter… doing weekly shows sounds super stressful.
  • You get very little feedback! This was a surprise to me. I’m used to having a tight feedback loop with our customers, via our forums or Slack community. Podcasts are different: all you get is ‘number of listens’, which doesn’t tell you very much at all about what topics were more interesting than others. I really didn’t like this aspect, it felt like screaming into the void. I decided I’m not narcissistic enough to be able to do that for an extended period of time, I don’t like the sound of my own voice that much  😉
  • The ‘one host’ format has a danger of feeding a bit of a cult of personality. I’m actively trying to make Balsamiq be less about me as the founder, so I fear that if I were to host the podcast, it might go in the wrong direction, reinforcing the Peldi <---> Balsamiq branding I’m trying to break. We could of course have multiple hosts from Balsamiq, each dealing with a different class of topics.

So… should Balsamiq have a podcast?

I was hoping that the guest-hosting experience would make the choice abundantly clear for us, but alas, it didn’t. 😞 There are big cons, but enough pros to keep the option alive.

Clearly, we don’t have the resources to dedicate to it right now, but we think it could be useful for our community, and in the long run would even consider growing our team to make it happen.

This is where you, our inner circle, come in. Please help us decide!

If you think we should start a Balsamiq podcast, please fill in this quick survey.
 
Take the Survey
It should only take 5 minutes, and will be instrumental in helping us decide what to do. Thanks so much!
 

Product news

We did another small bug-fix release, while we finalize several new features. Here’s a sneak preview of one of them, coming next month:
 

You’ll be able to search our extensive documentation and contact our Support team without having to leave the editor!

Wireframing Academy news

Some highlights from this past month:  

UX/UI links for July

Company news

We always slow down a bit in the summer, as people take well deserved vacations.

Sponsorships and raffles: this month we sponsored Black Women Who Tech’s Roadmap to Billions, You Got This, and several more!

Notable recipients of our Free Software Program for July are:
  • Engineers Without Borders Switzerland, which supports communities to cover their basic needs in a sustainable manner.
  • Accessible Community, which supports small organizations on their journey to reach and engage people with disabilities.
  • GirlsCoding, which motivates kids – and especially girls – to learn about computer science through a series of hands-on workshops.

That's it for this month!

Thanks for being part of our inner circle! Here’s the link to the survey again. 😊

See you next month, with more behind-the-scenes news from your friends at Balsamiq!
Peldi for the Balsamiq Team
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