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How to be a prolific, consistent, fan magnet with content stacking

This is a guest podcast by Colin Gray, founder of ThePodcastHost.com. Read the bio at the end for a bit more about his work. 

I’ve written far and wide about the engagement power of Podcasting. It’s second to none, I believe, in engaging with a community, building trust and creating fans.

But, the trouble with podcasting is that it has tiny wee arms. Seriously. It’s like a Tyrannosaurus Rex: all power and potential, but no reach. The Rex can see a crowd of potential fans, right there in front of it. But, it just can’t reach across the chasm of apathy and ignorance that separates them.

Meanwhile, the long-armed Blog-a-mimus and the gangly-limbed Video-saurus reach out, casually, and snatch up viewers left and right. The problem is, they sometimes struggle to overpower them, turning them into fans. These armful dinos don’t quite have the same power to engage, y’see.

What we need here is a bit of teamwork. What if the Blog-a-mimus and the Video-saurus could do the reaching? They’ll help out with turning visitors into loyal subjects too, of course. But it’s the Pod-Rex (stretching this now…) that has the teeth to truly turn them into captive fans.

A High-Reach Funnel for Fanatical Fans

Content Stacking isn’t about Dinosaurs. It’s about the funnel that this shoe-horned metaphor tenuously describes. Let’s gallop back to the present and take a look at how the funnel looks.

Text First

Text is the biggest reach you have. Nothing hits the search pages like a page full of words. Text can also engage, but, in many cases, only so far. Unless you have the writing chops of a best-selling author, it’s tricky to truly affect people with writing.

So, the job of your blog is to capture potential fans, engage them as far as possible, and then direct them to the higher engagement mediums. Such as…

Video Second

We all know YouTube is the 2nd biggest search engine in the world, so it definitely has reach. But, the video content itself isn’t indexed, and it’s harder to link through to other resources. So, it’s more limited than text.

What Video does add is greater engagement. Now you’re showing personality, voice, honesty and vulnerability. That’s what starts to build engagement and trust.

But, attention is tricky in video. For all but the natural presenters among us, this limits the speed of progress. As a mere mortal, you’re lucky to get more than a few minutes of viewing time on YouTube thanks to the full-attention it requires.

Therefore, the job of video is to help with reach and, more importantly, to start to build engagement. Once you catch a bit of engagement, video can pass viewers on to the podcast.

Podcasting Last

Podcasting is where attention is maximized, where trust is built and where fanatical fans are forged.

Of course, there are copious examples of people grabbing attention, trust and fans using text and video. But I really do believe that, for most of us, Podcasting is the best and easiest way to achieve it.

Quickly, why? Because speaking into a mic is easier, less technical, less intimidating and more natural than either writing or presenting to a camera. Speaking is something we do naturally, and listening to a voice on it’s own is intimate, personal. The combined effect is amazing.

If you want some evidence on that, where else can you find hundreds of thousands of fans listening to one guy, on his own, talking about history for up to 3 hours at a time? I don’t think that could happen on any other digital medium.

Being Prolific

To do this right, we need all three mediums, then.

“Colin, are you mental?! I struggle to stay consistent with only a blog!”

I know… But, that’s where the Content Stacking structure comes in. This is designed to keep things easy, consistent and good quality. Not only that, but it helps you to be truly prolific. I’ll show you that it’s possible to release a blog, a podcast and 3 or 4 videos every week, at a minimum.

Let’s cover the basics.

Break Your Ideas into Seasons

The first step is moving towards a new content format: themed seasons. This isn’t required, you can do the rest without. But, trust me, it amplifies the effects 10-fold.

Try this: take the next content idea you come up with and spend a little while breaking it down. And down, and down, and down. Right into it’s component parts.

For example: Building a Mountain Bike.

I could do an episode on that subject, covering the basics. But, instead, let’s break it up:

  1. Choosing the Right Wheels
  2. Fitting a Saddle and Seatpost
  3. The Drivetrain
  4. Choosing a Frame
  5. Fitting Brakes
  6. And on…

Let’s not stop there, though. Take the first one:

  1. Choose the Right Wheels
    1. Covering Wheel Sizes
    2. Choosing the Right Hub
    3. Choosing and installing spokes
    4. Types of Rims
    5. Picking Tires for Your Style

Again, I could go even further, breaking wheel sizes down into 3 groups, or tires into Downhill and Cross-country. But, you get the point. What could have been 1 episode now turns into an in-depth course on building a mountain bike. It could be split over perhaps 10 or 15 episodes.

And that’s just what it is: a course.

You’re thinking like a teacher here, treating a season of content as a fully fledged curriculum on that subject. This leads to a few brilliant side-effects.

First, the conception, the planning, is done in one session and you then have a content plan for months. This makes you consistent.

Second, you start to build addictive content. That means leading listeners from one linked episode to the next, building their knowledge each time and encouraging repeat listens. This grows your audience.

Third, you create huge evergreen resources that you can re-purpose into eBooks, audiobooks, courses or products. This is how you begin to become prolific.

For more on seasons and why I’m fanatical about them, check out this post on seasons based podcasting.

OK, good start, but how do we tie together all three mediums and get truly prolific?

Structure: The Bane & Love of my Life

A lot of people hate structure. Particularly creative people.

– “Ooh woe, I can’t have a schedule, it’s stifle my creativity!”

– “Goodness gracious, this template will simply massacre my innovation!”

Nonsense. Nothing kills creativity and innovation like a blank page. Nothing inspires creativity and innovation like constraints.

It doesn't matter WHAT content structure you use. It DOES matter that you HAVE one! Click To Tweet

It’s not important WHAT structure you use, but it is important that you HAVE a structure. It helps with consistency because it makes planning and creation much easier. And, more importantly, a regular structure helps you to go prolific.

What’s a Structure?

Starting with podcasting or video, you might already have a rough structure and don’t know it. Here’s an example structure for a regular industry show:

  1. Introduction
  2. Industry News
  3. Content Feature
  4. Tip of the Week

This is a great start in going prolific. At a minimum, if you already podcast, then you could start to video your show too. This would allow you to put out the entire audio track as a podcast episode. Next, break the 4 segments down into 4 short video episodes for YouTube.

Easy: 5 pieces of content over 2 mediums and not much more work than you’re already doing for the podcast. Worried about the extra editing? Don’t worry, it can be kept to a minimum if you treat the show as live and follow a minimum effective editing approach. I can run through this process with a 20 minute show in less than 20 minutes.

The best bit about this approach is that you’re playing to each medium’s strength: short and keyword targetted content for YouTube, and long and deep content for a Podcast.

But, we want to encourage bulk-viewing AND tie in blogging. That’s where there reach is. Let’s go further and create a new structure.

  1. Topic Overview
  2. Theory
  3. Case Study
  4. Actions

If you’re a teacher, you’ll recognize this as just one way to run a good lesson.

The overview gives a high level intro to the subject, enough that anyone can get an idea of the big picture. The theory then delves into the detail of the subject. The case study puts that theory in context with a real life example or story. Finally, the actions tells the learner what to do with what they just learned. It encourages action. Read more on content structuring here if you’re interested.

The key concept is that each section is stand-alone, but it does encourage consumption of the other segments. This leads to the full content stack.

How Do we Stack it?

There are many ways to do it, but here’s a simple example:

  1. Create a bullet-point plan for the episode, outlining each section. (You may have already done this when you planned the season.)
  2. Write a theory blog post based on sections 1 (overview), 2 (theory) and 4 (actions).
  3. Write a case study blog post based on sections 1, 3 (case study) and 4.
  4. Record a video with good audio based on that blog post (this is super-quick because you’ve just rehearsed the show in writing.)
  5. Take the audio from the video recording and release it as a podcast, using the theory blog post as shownotes.
  6. Split the video into 4 sections and release them as YouTube videos.

Hey presto, you now have 7 separate pieces of content, covering audio, video and text, all from one content idea.

Planning is the hard bit, really. So, creating multiple bits of content from one plan makes a lot of sense. It saves tonnes of time, creates prolific amounts of content and squeezes as much juice as possible from every content idea.

The plan is the hard bit, so make sure to create a myriad of content from it! @thepodcasthost Click To Tweet

Even better, because they’re all linked, they naturally pass visitors from one medium to the other. A reader might navigate from your blog to the video to view a clip that reiterates the point. A viewer might navigate from YouTube to the full Podcast to find audio that they can review in the car. This encourages higher and higher engagement with each element that your viewers consume.

Structure + Seasons?

Oh yes. This is where the big payoffs come in.

Imagine a season 12 episodes long where I teach people how to build a mountain bike. What does that produce?

Look at the huge assets you’ve just created as a part of your normal content creation routine. This is what can happen when you plan a season and implement a structure.

Yes, this content is all available for free, but people will consistently pay for the convenience of receiving it all packaged up neatly.

Content structure + seasons can lead to huge evergreen content assets, with no extra effort! Click To Tweet

Alternatively, remove older seasons from public view and turn them into paid products. Or, add some how-to videos, some tasks, a few bonus resources and, suddenly, you have a full-scale online course to sell. It’s up to you how far you take it.

Make it Your Own

The Theory > Case Study structure I’ve shown here is one I use a lot, and it works in a range of industries. If you’re more entertainment based, then the first structure might be closer to the mark.

Similarly, regarding seasons, if you’re entertainment based it can require a bit of sideways-thinking. You might theme seasons around a format (“This season we’re doing quick fire questions to comedians…”) or a concept (“10 best games from our childhood”). I know you’ll be able to find a way to make it work for you.

Long term planning and structure can be dirty words in the creative industry. But, trust me, it’s the difference between an amateur and a pro. Pros get it all out, every week, without fail. So, start stacking!


Colin is a podcaster, a writer and a speaker, and teaches new media skills at ThePodcastHost.com. If you fancy launching your own show, try his email course that helps you launch your 1st episode in 5 days.  He and his team run a network of shows, from Podcraft to Mountain Bikes Apart, and teach how to Podcast inside their Academy’s courses and live support. Outside work, you can usually find him on the nearest mountain biking trail, or vainly attempting to wrangle his kids on an ill-fated camping trip.

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