[Notes] Tim Ferriss: “How to Build Popular Podcasts and Blogs”

I recently listened to Tim Ferriss’s podcast episode on “How to Build Popular Podcasts and Blogs”:

How to Build Popular Podcasts and Blogs

As someone who loves podcasting, I found a ton of practical advice in here.

The only thing is that Tim didn’t include show notes…and the episode is an hour in length.

So I listened to the episode a second time and captured my notes here. Enjoy!

How big a production team?

Tim keeps it pretty minimal in terms of staffing and production.


Gear recommendations

Zoom H6 recorder

Shure KSM8 microphone

Shure SM58 microphone (lower end)

Always stock new or rechargeable batteries

ATR 2100 microphone + Skype + ecamm call recorder

IXM Yellowtec


Pointers on being a good interviewer

Reframe: how do you set yourself up for a successful interviewer?

It’s all about the prep

Use video even if only audio is recorded — familiarity

Rules to interviewee

  1. “You have final cut.” (telling the guest: can be raw and cursing, can always cut things out, but can’t put things in. Be verbose.)
  2. Can always go for a bathroom break
  3. Tell them what your first question is (“my first question is X”)
  4. Overall flow guidance (“You will have a chance to promote your book in the 3rd part”). Don’t surprise them in the interview — no “gotchas.”
  5. Anything that’s off limits? (e.g. politics, scandals)
  6. Any “greatest hits” stories you have? We can draw on those.

—Sample structure—

  • Start personal first (their background)
  • Rapid-fire questions
  • Time to plug stuff
  • Final ask or recommendation? Parting thoughts?
  • Don’t go in there expecting to ask >10 questions. Take your time and don’t over prepare.

Ask questions that you genuinely care about; that you are actually curious about.

For polished interviewees: do a smart icebreaker that isn’t something they usually talk about. (e.g. surfing for Edward Norton)

“Let the silence do the work” -> don’t feel need to interject all the time. Let them think through answers. Can edit later. (actually sounds similar to advice from the Smart Passive Income podcast)

Collect good questions that you hear in other podcasts — adjust as necessary.


The release process

Tim records twice a week (Mondays/Fridays)

Content creation weeks -> once a quarter, one full week of audio/video recordings, editorial decisions

Releases 6 episodes / month

Usually keeps at least 4 episodes in the queue…in case he gets sick and can’t do anything.

iTunes algorithm favors frequent publication

  • Put out preview episodes (a few minutes only)
  • First week of release? Put out 3-4 episodes in the first week. Be aggressive in promotion.


On podcast networks

Networks offer:

  • Production assistance
  • Advertising sales


  • Off-loading labor
  • Help with ad sales


  • Less money for you
  • Networks typically can’t sell @ $60 if you are going after a premium audience

CPM rate: cost per thousand downloads

Typical rate = $15

Premium example rate = $60


On ads

Don’t worry about monetizing at the beginning.

Start with scratching your own itch.

Monetize after 100K downloads/episode

Not too early. Build up the audience first and then you can command your price

Ad renewal rate is important for Tim

  • he’s lazy and doesn’t want to constantly pitch to sponsors
  • wants happy long-term sponsors
  • his prices are non-negotiable.

Vette sponsors very carefully.

Sponsor selection

  • Tim actually uses the products -> strong preference for consumer products.
  • Will poll his audience on Twitter for impressions of sponsored products -> rate from 1-10 -> needs to be 7.5 or higher for Tim to consider it.
  • Ends up rejecting 90%+ of products from this process


On naming blogs/podcasts

Naming after yourself vs. business name?

Use a business name if you think you’ll sell the business at some point.


On platforms

Tim likes WordPress. Why?

  • Open source
  • Not subject to the whims of a platform (e.g. Facebook)
  • Similarities to email: agnostic of platform and can port to another hosting provider
  • Has great out-of-the-box SEO tools (at least, it doesn’t piss off Google)

Email vs. social media

  • Email is the bread-and-butter way to reach people.
  • Facebook analogy: like opening a super profitable store on top of an active volcano. Never know when things will change / blow up / etc.
  • Direct means of communication that can’t be taken away.


On content

Be super specific – don’t write anything for the entire world.

Do not try to please everyone.

Write for 1-2 of your friends. (same principle Tim used to write “The 4 Hour Work Week”)

Tim likes to write his own stuff. But out-sourcing content to help is also valid.

Logo design – hire someone or use 99designs.

Music – hire someone. Use royalty free music or hire someone to compose original music.


On marketing & publication

Consider using Edgar or Buffer for scheduling posts throughout the day, strategically

Blue Ocean Strategy: create your own unique space

Tim doesn’t like affiliate links

Guest content creators? Not absolutely necessary. (example: Tim Urban’s “Wait But Why”)

Build evergreen content -> long-form content is OK with Tim -> stand the test of time.

Build your site to optimize for email capture — get those email subscribers.

Allow comments? Tim likes it. Likes reading feedback.

But there are lots of sites that don’t allow comments. (e.g. Seth Godin)

Make your website an extension of you. Make your own rules to fit your needs.

Create content that you’re passionate about. Otherwise others will out-work and out-passion you.

That’s it! It’s a great episode and I recommend that you listen to the audio in its entirety.




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