As an avid runner, I set out two years ago to train myself to run 10k. The training routine involves long stretches of time where the mind needs some level of distraction to avoid becoming a distraction itself. Normally, I would cobble together some Spotify playlists with energizing music to listen to while logging valuable miles, but over time, the familiarity with these playlists would lessen their effectiveness.
I decided to head over to Reddit, the Internet's premier spot for crowdsourced knowledge, and see if a) there was a running forum and b) if they had any recommendations for what to listen to when running. Lo and behold, this was very popular thread and one suggestion I saw over and over again was to ditch the music and get some podcasts.
I had heard of the concept before, but had never listened to one. I quickly started searching iTunes for anything that might catch my attention. After downloading a few episodes of The Tim Ferriss Show, TED Radio Hour, Grantland (RIP), and Planet Money and taking them out for a run, I was 100% all in on podcasts as a medium. They were a great way to keep my mind focused on something other than the tedium of pounding pavement, as well as being great for learning and staying informed. The storytelling, great conversations, information, and consumption format flipped a switch in me to make me look deeper into the format, both for professional purposes as a content creator and personal purposes as someone who values a good conversation.
I began to wonder... I could start a Spanish language podcast of my own. Simply talk to people I find interesting who have something to offer to Panama and are doing things differently. The kind of person who is always pushing, prodding, and testing assumptions. The kind of person who is always beta testing.
After a quick brainstorming session and some google fu, I snatched up siempreenbeta.com (always in beta in Spanish). I applied some of the knowledge I had gained from listening to some of the podcasts mentioned above by invoking one of the 22 Inmutable Laws of Marketing and staked a claim to my podcast's niche in the market - almost the best podcast in Panama.
I developed a graphic identity, playing off the concept of ideas (the lightbulb, light rays) and the format (pressing play) and quickly began to reach out to people I knew who fit the criteria of the kind of guest I wanted to build the show around. I familiarized myself with voice specific audio post-production processes - fortunately, due to my background in video production and being an active musician, I already had the software and hardware to meet the show's technical demands.
The questionnaire/interview guide was (and in many ways still is) a work in progress, but the overarching goal was to avoid rote answers and invite the guests to talk freely and evoke a comfortable conversation rather than interview - I am not now, nor have I ever been or will ever be a journalist and that is not my intention.
In addition to the podcast episodes, I wanted to also have a blog to keep the show's spirit of being in a continual process and provide updates as to what we're doing, how things are looking, where we recognize we can get better, what we did well, etc.
These blog entries ("from the continual beta"), along with episode specific content for social media channels such as images, teasers, quotes from the guests, and things that generally pertain to the themes of Siempre en Beta, there was a natural stream of content that could be easily placed in an editorial calendar to keep content published on a regular basis.
Besides hosting the show and blog entires, the website features integration with social media channels on the right column bar, some pages dedicated to answering questions and familiarizing the audience with podcasts - Panama is a small country, and the demographic that would listen to podcasts is a smaller percentage than larger, more digitally connected countries. I would very much like to find studies on this for Panama or carry one out if need be. I also included a production credits page to make mention of all the content creators whose work helped make Siempre en Beta possible.
Episodes entries followed a structure:
- Introduction (which also helped me when providing the intro for the episode in the recording itself - freestyling an introduction isn't easy!)
- Episode recording with show notes - I would love if there was a way to hyperlink certain points in the recording for my audience's convenience, but alas, it looks like we're stuck with manual pinpointing for the time being.
- Interesting links - often times, guests have an interesting project or social media channel for the audience to follow.
Results and Lessons Learned
Since I run this project in my spare time, and spare time is an increasingly scarce resource, I have not been successful in maintaining the necessary rhythm to keep an audience fully invested. I have personally had a great time setting things up and recording/editing episodes, but I would like to make changes to the format and workflow involved to automate more processes and provide quality content on a more valuable investment of time.
Due to my workload between 2015-2016, I accidentally managed to take a year off, but am focused on bringing it back with at least 2 episodes a month.
I will make a more concerted effort to pinpoint the metrics (downloads, webpage traffic, social media followers) to shore up what I would eventually like to do with Siempre en Beta - more specialized episodes regarding themes rather than guests, perhaps some video content, outsourcing contributions. It is, after all... always in beta.
*Shortly after launching the project, New Balance premiered an advertising campaign using the very same name - Always in Beta. I was mildly annoyed at first, but in keeping with some of the lessons I picked up from the 22 Inmutable Laws of Marketing (notice how that's the 2nd time I've plugged that book. The advice is from 1994 but remains timeless. Pick it up, well worth the investment), I ran with it and "welcomed them to the Beta" and paid no more mind. I did this for two reasons - first to get any reaction out of my system, and two, to give the show's brand a little bit of an identity.
Actually, there's also a third reason - I also wanted to establish the respective timelines for launching the brands just to show that both things were born independent of one another. Though I was mildly dismayed that I wasn't alone with the concept, I also felt some validation that one guy with a laptop and some spare time was able to apply himself and arrive at the same conclusion as a high priced marketing team working at the behest of a sporting apparel giant.