Story Shuffle live recording during the Philadelphia Podcast Festival: Annette John-Hall, Christopher Wink, Michaela Winberg, Juliana Reyes.

What I learned hosting a weekly podcast for six months

For six months, I hosted a pre-planned, ‘pop-up’ weekly podcast featuring my favorites from six years of recording stories told by friends at an every-other-event I called Story Shuffle.

I closed that project with a live recording during the Philadelphia Podcast Festival.

I’ll continue to host Story Shuffle events but the podcast of the same name is officially closed up. It was always the plan, to serve as a kind of an experiment with the form. Here are a few notes from the project.

  • This was successful, because my personal goals were clear. I wanted to close our a more than six-year project with a bang, during which I wanted to develop my own storytelling skills and learn some more lessons about podcasting. Oh, and it was fun to have a few hundred listeners.
  • Differentiation matters. I put some real time into deciding why Story Shuffle wasn’t just a smaller version of dozens of other storytelling events. I went back to our roots and found it. Story Shuffle was many people’s first time telling a story, and almost always we were hearing stories that had never been told before. Because we weren’t overly coaching people and, without judges, people weren’t motivated to over-perform, we had ourselves a first-draft storytelling event, which became the distinction.
  • I love experimental projects with clear ends. I never wanted to add a weekly podcast to my life for long. But I did want to close out Story Shuffle with purpose and learn some about podcasting. I devised a project that allowed me to do both.
  • At best, I had a few hundred downloads per episode but the podcast did gain listernership as the show went on, showing it built. There also were a few episodes that stood out and did well, in the first 24-hours, I was only getting a few dozen downloads. It took time to build up listening.
  • I created a template social image in Google Slides and had my intern production assistant create new ones for each episode and send them out on social. I could have done way more with network marketing if that was my priority.
  • Some of my favorite episodes include our final one, one with camp stories and one I participated in.
  • I hired myself an intern through the college newspaper I once worked for. She was absolutely wonderful (thanks Michaela!) I paid her a little bit (just $10 an hour), which won’t make anyone rich but did help get quality candidates. I had more than 15 applicants to work on producing a podcast.
  • You can make recording a podcast quick but it takes plan. Michaela and I were able to record an episode in a half hour, and she’d put an hour or so on production, which I then was editing for the first few episodes but struggled to keep up as my year got busier. One reason we were able to do that so quickly was that our source material was enormous: I had recorded some 300 stories over six years, and we spent time before we launched the project deciding our favorites.
  • I badly wanted to try a weekly podcast, after my only other hosting experience was an 18-month run with a monthly publishing schedule. I felt it lacked an engine to build an audience.
  • This is how we recorded: