15 Podcasters To Be Inspired By

A lot of people start podcasting because they want to make a show like Joe Rogan. But that's a terrible role model, because he was a comedian and celebrity for over a decade before he started podcasting, and on top of that he's been podcasting for 10 years too. So trying to make something that's been going on that long is pretty much impossible. Here's some ideas for podcaster role models to consider.

You probably don't have super powers

One of the best way to promote a podcast is to use your super powers. Here are a list of them:

  • Tell your 1 million Twitter followers.
  • Go on TV and tell the world about your podast.
  • Cross promote it on your other popular podcasts you make.
  • Spend tons of money promoting it.
  • Tell your customers about it.
  • Practice making great audio for years.

Here's how that looks in practice.

  • When Bill Burr, Tim Ferriss, Oprah, Gary Vaynerchuk, or Joe Rogan made a podast they told their 1 million followers to check it out. On day one they had a huge audience listening.
  • When Rachel Maddow, Conan O'Brien,Dr. Phil, and Trevor Noah made a podcast, they told the viewers of their popular TV shows to go listen.
  • When a new Wondery or Gimlet or iHeartRadio shows comes out, it's cross promoted on all the other shows within that network. Serial was a huge hit in part because This American Life had over 1 million listeners and played the first episode on their radio program.
  • Paying $20 for a Facebook ad might get you a handful of listeners. Not enough to move the needle. But if you spend $10,000 you can get some significant listeners.
  • When Trader Joes launched a podcast, they had a sign on every checkout in their stores telling people to listen. When Firefox launched their show they had a little banner show up on a new browser tab saying to go listen.
  • When Roman Mars made 99% invisible he had already spent a long time as a producer for the hit podcast Snap Judgment.

Chances are you can't do any of that. And trying to play ball with shows like that is really hard. Change your focus to something more realistic, and practical.

Podcasts with Great Origin Stories

You can hear interviews with podcasters on podcasts like Longform, The Wolf Den, The Podcast Digest, Chartable Radio, and Podcast Junkies. Check these shows out and find podcasters you already know and like and listen to how they got started. This is a great way to learn what it takes to get to where they are.

Here is a list of podcasters I think have great origin stories. These are people who started with nothing, as nobodies in the world, and made something that has gained exceptional success. Try to find some that you can identify with, and perhaps try to follow in their footsteps. Because you are much more likely starting out just like they did.

Jordan Harbinger (The Jordan Harbinger Show)

Can you imagine quitting your day job to go start a show with your name in the title? That's what Jordan did! He was a lawyer, but wasn't feeling satisfied there. He started interviewing other successful people to learn from and teach other lawyers how to network, sell, and persuade. He eventually realized he can turn his interviews into a podcast and he did. He got a lot of business from this which allowed him to leave being a lawyer and do podcasting full time. Now he just discusses people skills on his show but the podcast has grown to a huge audience. Jordan is getting over 5 million downloads a month and his podcast and other businesses bring him over $1 million a year in revenue.

Pat Flynn (Smart Passive Income)

In 2008 nobody heard of Pat Flynn. He quit his architecture job and built a small website to help people study for an exam. It was making some ok income. But this little income he was getting gave him the passion and drive to learn more so he started the Smart Passive Income podcast in 2010. He would interview other entrepreneurs on how they grew their business from nothing. His podcast offered a lot of value to people wanting to do this also so it grew in success. From the success of his podcast he's written 2 books, launched multiple other websites, and started a 2nd podcast. Now he's making over $2 Million a year on his podcasts and businesses.

He never joined a network and has stayed independent this whole time.

"Casey" (Casefile)

The host of the True Crime podcast Casefile is actually anonymous. Which by definition means he started out as a nobody. The story is he got injured and while in the hospital bed he listened to a lot of podcasts and thought he could make one too. So he did. Starting from absolute scratch and all by himself he made a few episodes. People loved it and it grew organically right away. I think he got lucky that people finished Serial and were hungry for more true crime and this one was next on the list. The popularity soon gave him the ability to hire extra help like writers and sound designers and editors. Today his podcast consistently is on the top 200 of Apple Podcasts and has well over 1 million+ subscribers.

He never joined a network and has stayed independent this whole time.

Aaron Mahnke (Lore)

Aaron was a struggling writer. He wrote some stuff but was having a really hard time getting it to sell. He was a nobody. He narrated one of his stories into a mic and shared it with a friend. His friend said "this is a podcast" and Aaron then figured out how to make it into a podcast and publish it. People loved it right away and it rose in popularity. I think he got lucky with the timing. There weren't a lot of good storytelling podcasts out there to choose from so people tried his and got hooked. Now Aaron's show Lore has become a TV show on Amazon, he's written several books, and has launched additional podcasts. His podcast Lore consistently is in the top 200 in Apple podcasts and he has well over 1 million subscribers.

He never joined a network and has stayed independent this whole time.

Hear his origin story from Podcast Movement.

Jason (Myths and Legends)

Jason told his story on the The Podcast Digest. He's another one who started as nobody, had a passion for storytelling, made a show, and it took off. I would guess he's around 1 million subscribers now and his show is in the top 200 of Apple Podcasts. Jason has also kept his show independent and never joined a network either.

The Fantasy Footballers

While a lot of the popular sports podcasts are being hosted by celebrities, or pro atheletes, The Fantasy Footballers was started by 3 guys working at a video game company. They were buds and had good energy between each other and had a strong Twitter game so their show spread well. Now their show has earned over 50 million downloads and podcasting about football is their full time job.

Chapo Trap House

This show was started by 3 guys. All 3 had been vocal on Twitter about politics, grew a sizeable following, and all 3 were invited to be a guest on a podcast. The reception from their guest performance gave them the encouragement to start their own podcast called Chapo Trap House. Keep in mind they had only known each other from Twitter previously. Today Chapo Trap house is the highest earning Patreon account making over $100,000 a month. While yes they used their existing Twitter following to kick things off it's still amazing that one can build such wealth and fame from just Twitter and podcasting without any prior skills in radio.

John Lee Dumas (Entrepreneur on Fire)

JLD was working in the real estate business but was inspired by Pat Flynn to start his own company. So JLD created the Entrepreneur on Fire podcast which interviews entrepreneurs. By doing a daily show and bringing on a lot of popular entrepreneurs his show grew quickly. He's been able to publish books, online courses and more. In just April of 2019 JLD has made $169,807 from his podcast and other projects.

Jake Brennan (Disgraceland)

Jake was burnt out working in the advertising industry. He had a new baby and was wondering what to do with his life. He asked his friends "if you could hire me to do one job, what would it be?" His wife and friend said tell stories. So he took his love of music and went down into his basement and told stories about musicians. It quickly grew popular and he joined iHeartRadio and upgraded his studio to an old barber shop. Jake's show is now hanging out in the top 200 of Apple Podcasts and it's bringing him a full time income.

Megan Tan

Megan Tan started the podcast Mellenial as sort of a fun little thing to do by herself. This had some success but ultimately got her a job at Gimlet.

Tally Abecassis

Tally Abecassis had taken a break from documentary film making to have a child, and while being a stay at home mother got an itch to make a podcast all by herself. Now, her show First Day Back, has been picked up by EW Scripps and Stitcher.

Amanda McLoughlin

Amanda McLoughlin started the Spirits podcast, brought it to success, has started a whole network, and now even is creating a big podcasting studio in New York.

Wendy Zuckerman (Science Vs)

Wendy Zuckerman created a podcast called Science Vs just on a whim while working for the Australian Broadcast Company. Gimlet media loved it so much they acquired the show from her and brought her to New York to keep working on it full time.

Amy Porterfield (Online Marketing Made Easy Podcast)

Amy Porterfield took her skills in online marketing and created a podcast to teach others about it. Her podcast has hundreds of thousands of monthly listeners and she's used it to promote classes and workshops which has made her very successful.

Karina Longworth (You Must Remember This)

Karina Longworth started You Must Remember This as a passion project, all by herself, while working as a film critic. Her podcast has well over 100,000 subscribers, and was recently picked up by Slate.

Origins of Podcasters With Super Powers

These podcasters and shows all had a running start before making their hit show. They didn't start with nothing. They had some kind of super power to work with.

  • Dan Carlin was a radio host before making Hardcore History. This gave him a lot of previous understanding of radio/audio, storytelling, mics, and an audience to promote it to.
  • Invisibilia started by former This American Life producers who also had enough connections to get their first season to play on All Things Considered, Radiolab, and Morning Edition.
  • Roman Mars made 99% Invisible after he was a long time producer of Snap Judgment, and used his connections to have his show play on NPR.
  • Serial and S-Town both started by producers from This American Life and used This American Life to promote the show.
  • Reply All. PJ and Alex were working for WNYC, the NPR station in NYC. There they started the show TLDR. And from there Gimlet picked it up and turned it into Reply All. By the time Reply All was created, PJ and Alex had already years of radio experience under their belt. And because Gimlet was started by a former NPR producer they were able to get episodes of Reply All to play on This American Life and do other major marketing.
  • Joe Rogan had been a comedian/TV host long before thinking about a podcast.
  • Rooster Teeth was started by independent film students who first made Red vs Blue in 2003 which had huge success. After publishing smash hit internet videos for 5 years then they created a podcast in 2008. They are now a multi-million dollar media company with over 300 employees. It should be no wonder that their podcast is amazing with a large budget and big team behind it.
  • Jocko Podcast. Jocko Willink wrote a book about his life in the Navy. While publishing the book he appeared on Tim Ferris, Joe Rogan, and Dan Harriss' podcasts. Using this newly acquired fame he began his own podcast which is very popular.
  • The Misfits Podcast was started by a pack of very popular YouTubers. They were able to use their existing large audience to promote their show.
  • The Criminal podcast was started by two women who were NPR radio producers previously. They were experienced on how to make great radio stories and had connections within NPR.
  • When Bill Simmons made a podcast he was already a famous sports commentator on ESPN.
  • Ear Hustle was the winning idea for a podcast competition Radiotopia was running. Because it was the winning idea it got funded right away and had Sr producers who were very skilled at making great audio stories. Perhaps without the funding or the Sr leadership the show may not have been as successful.

The point of this post is to recognize how something great begins. It takes a lot of practice. But if you put the effort in, you too might have great success in podcasting.

Jack Rhysider

Jack Rhysider

Jack Rhysider is the creator of the podcast Darknet Diaries and is completely consumed by podcasts right now.

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15 Podcasters To Be Inspired By
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