John Lee Dumas is the man behind EntrepreneurOnFire, a daily podcast listened to across 145 countries that boasts over 250,000 unique downloads a month. EntrepreneurOnFire revolves around interviews with inspiring and successful entrepreneurs and has featured guests ranging from Seth Godin to Tim Ferriss. John provides additional resources through Fire Nation Elite, a community of entrepreneurs, and Podcast Launch, a step-by-step podcasting guide (featuring 15 videos) that has become Amazon's top publication on podcasting.
I spoke with John in August, 2013 to learn more about the strategies supporting his podcast and entrepreneurial success. Below is a summary of his insights on podcasting, finding a good mentor, landing great interview subjects, efficiently and prolifically turning out content, and cultivating revenue streams.
Three Factors that Contribute to Podcast Popularity
Three factors played a significant role in EntrepreneurOnFire's early success:
- High profile interview subjects
- A daily publication schedule
- The "New and Noteworthy" section of iTunes
John's faster-than-expected podcasting success can be partially attributed to his high caliber guests, who not only made his show interesting, but also promoted EntrepreneurOnFire amongst their sizable followings. These initial high profile guest appearances, combined with interviews with lesser-known but in credibly-inspiring entrepreneurs, were enough to catch the attention of easily-distracted podcast listeners.
It didn't hurt that John published a new podcast every day. Because early episodes of EntrepreneurOnFire were not only engaging but numerous, the podcast had a far easier time gaining traction than equivalently-worthwhile counterparts that only released new podcasts every week.
New podcasts are given a shot at catching online audiences' attention before being forced to contend with more established players through iTunes' New and Noteworthy section, which prominently features series that are under eight weeks old. Thanks to its prolific nature and high quality, John's podcast was featured in this section, which helped him build a robust core audience before his first eight weeks were up.
We can therefore learn from John's early podcasting experience that it pays to prolifically publish engaging, well-produced content (ideally featuring the work of high profile people who might then be encouraged to promote it amongst their personal audiences) and take advantage of iTunes' New and Noteworthy privileges while they last.
How to Land Great Interviews
John landed some of his highest profile guests thanks to his mentor, Jaime Tardy (of the Eventual Millionaire podcast), who facilitated several helpful introductions (by getting him into VIP parties at BlogWorld NYC). The initial impressive interviews John landed, as mentioned above, contributed to his early podcasting success. John leveraged this success to reach out to even more high profile entrepreneurs, this time leveraging his impressive download stats in place of VIP party access.
Though John initially reached out to lesser-known entrepreneurs independently, promising interview subjects began reaching out to him once EntrepreneurOnFire gained popularity. Now, John receives multiple inquiries about interviews every dat and has entrepreneur interviews booked for the next three months.
The key to landing great interviews therefore appears to lie not in constant outreach, but rather in strategic first moves that enable one to create the type of show, publication, or destination on which people want to be featured.
Tips on Landing a Great Mentor
Jaime Tardy played a key role in John's early success by giving him excellent strategic advice and providing him with game-changing introductions. How did John manage to land such a fantastic mentor? He asked.
- Sent Jaime an email
- Explained that he has been listening to her podcast for quite some time and admired her work (which is true)
- Explained that he was interested in starting a podcast of his own within her niche (hence he could use her expertise)
- Explained the premise of his podcast and how it would be work (365 interviews with inspiring, successful entrepreneurs a year)
- Asked how much it would cost to have her help as a mentor
Jaime's services as a mentor were not cheap ($1,000 a month), however because she is an experienced professional within the specific niche John sought to enter, she was able to provide unique, invaluable advice, which made her mentoring well worth the cost. Should you know of an individual who could make or break your career in a new field through helpful advice and introductions, consider the cost of his or her advice and attention to be a very worthwhile investment.
How to Publish Prolifically
By publishing a new, high-quality, 30-minute podcast every day of the year (even on holidays), John has achieved that which many people (even seasoned podcasters) find to be impossible. He attributes his ability to release podcasts to efficiently to regimented, disciplined batching.
Every Monday, John does eight interviews. From 8:00am to 4:00pm, every hour, on the hour, John records a new interview. By the end of the day, he has finished creating eight podcasts- that covers an entire week, plus leaves one extra day's worth of wiggle room (and let's not forget that John started his podcast with an arsenal of backup episodes as well).
Batching leaves John free to work on other projects during the rest of his week, and frees him from having to constantly put something else off to create content. Batching also enables John to create content without being distracted. On Mondays, John shuts everything else out- calls, emails, you name it.
John batches many things related to his work; not just his podcast creation. Every Thursday, for example, he schedules back-to-back interviews for all of the guest appearances he makes on other content creators' blogs, podcasts, and publications. Should you have trouble consistently publishing content, you might therefore consider setting aside one day, afternoon, or evening every week that is devoted specifically to content creation. If held to religiously, John's approach can make a world of difference!
How to Design Profitable Products and Services
John sees a simple process underlying the creation of many content-related services (e.g. those provided by major bloggers and podcasters):
- A blogger/podcaster/content creator gains an audience
- That audience tells the content creator what they want and need
- The content creator develops a simple version of a solution and tests it with those who requested it
- Based on feedback received, the content creator then refines that solution and rolls out a final product
Every time your audience presents new needs and problems, you have the opportunity to develop new solutions.
Common Monetization Streams for Bloggers and Podcasters
John shares that there are three very common monetization streams for those in the blogging and podcasting field:
- Sponsorships: such as short segments of a podcast in which you mention a sponsor's product
- Products: such as books and courses
- Special services: such as consulting services or membership in exclusive groups
Because John publishes daily podcasts, he has roughly 60 sponsorship slots that can be filled each month (two spots per podcast) and earns five figures from sponsorship revenue alone on a monthly basis. John is able to land well-paying sponsors thanks to the high number of downloads EntrepreneurOnFire gets every month, so this revenue stream is only within reach of podcasters and bloggers who have very sizable audiences. This monetization option is also only feasible amongst those whose content is relevant to potential sponsors' products and services. Thankfully, John is able to work with sponsors that provide very useful services to entrepreneurs (a huge segment of his audience). His goal is to provide something of value through sponsorships by making them short, relevant, and coupled with discounts.
Products make for an excellent source of passive income, as most do not require recurring labor on your part. John has been very pleased with the performance of his 38-page podcasting guide available on Amazon, which he offers at a pretty low price and makes available for free on a periodic basis through Amazon's Kindle Select program. John's low-cost/occasionally-free pricing strategy has made his guide available to a broader audience, introduced new people to his podcast (which drives up sponsorship revenue), and ultimately boosted book sales (thanks to the fact that he has over 140 five star reviews and free downloads can certainly contribute to more reviews).
John offers special services in the form of Fire Nation Elite, an exclusive community of entrepreneurs who pay $165 a month to be part of an online mastermind. Entrepreneurs use Fire Nation Elite to converse with fellow professionals who will hold them accountable and provide valuable feedback. The program earns John five figures a month and is largely successful thanks to the fact that he crafted the community to meet very specific needs expressed by his audience (again, this harkens back to John's philosophy regarding the design of profitable services).
If you take anything away form John's insights, let it be the knowledge that:
- Endorsements from high profile people can give you a great head start
- Being prolific helps
- Batching makes prolific publication possible
- To create profitable products and services, you must furst build a loyal audience that tells you what it wants and needs
- You can monetize content through sponsorships, products, and special services designed to meet your audience's needs