This is How You Evolve Your Podcast with MongoDB’s Michael Lynn
Lindsay Tjepkema: Welcome to the Casted podcast. I'm Lindsay Tjepkema, CEO and co- founder of Casted. And I'm bringing you the conversations with the most innovative and forward thinking podcasters in the B2B world. These brilliant marketers are harnessing the power of podcasting to reach their revenue goals, to rev their thought leadership engines, and to amplify their voices in the marketplace. Let's dive in to this week's conversation. You've been doing this for a couple years now, probably longer, as far as how your story goes. But let's talk about the origin story. How did MongoDB in particular, get started with podcasting?
Michael Lynn: It was somewhere close to three years ago that Nic Raboy, my colleague at MongoDB, mentioned that he was going to be working on starting a podcast at MongoDB with another colleague. I have a great interest in performing, in communications, and I think it's a great vehicle. So without any experience, I kind of wedged my way into that project. And Nick and I launched the podcast in January of, I want to say, 2019. I can't remember. My memory so bad. But we set out to do one show a week. And Nick and I traded back and forth searching for ideas for episodes. Eventually, Nick went another direction, and I just continued to do it on my own. And I've so enjoyed the process of building the podcast and focusing on providing real solid value to the customers of MongoDB, but even software developers in general. The goal of the podcast from the very early days, and it remains to this day, to inspire, to motivate, and to educate software developers, make their lives easier. And that is just the joy for me.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Okay. And you've already actually dropped a couple breadcrumbs for me, as far as what's changed since the beginning. And so started with three, and then there were two, and now there's you. So, there's that.
Michael Lynn: Well, the story continues. Sorry to interrupt you, but-
Lindsay Tjepkema: No, that's what I was going to ask.
Michael Lynn: ... No, I'm actually trying to scale. And we've brought Shane McAllister in, so if you listen to the MongoDB podcast today, you'll hear several voices in the host's seat, Shane McAllister being one of them and myself. And sometimes I'm out doing the interviews. I'll go to conferences and fire up the microphone, and Shane will do the introductions for those. So, we continue to change the flavor of who's hosting.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Which is super smart for lots of reasons. But looking at, again, kind of sticking with the origin story for a little bit, it was, tell me again, the mission. It was very succinct.
Michael Lynn: Yeah, yeah. To inspire, to motivate, and to educate software developers, make their lives easier.
Lindsay Tjepkema: I love that. And has that always been it? Did you set out to say, "That's what we want to do, podcast is a great way to do it." Was that kind of from day one?
Michael Lynn: Yeah. Yeah, I think from very early on. Yeah, from day one. We intentionally tried to not make it kind of this salesy thing where we're trying to push MongoDB product. As developer advocates, we just want to connect with developers and make sure that they know the product, sure. But really, MongoDB is such a great platform. It's beyond just a software product. It's a platform that developers can use to speed the process of developing great applications. And I wanted the podcast to be that too, to be just a great place where you can get great information and learn about not only MongoDB, but the way that other software developers are improving the velocity of their development efforts.
Lindsay Tjepkema: I love that. Okay, so that sounds like the mission and kind of the strategy and the vision for it, right? Getting really tactical, you talked about kind of who was involved, what was involved. We use Zoom right now and a lot of others do too, but what did the setup look like? Was it you and a microphone? Did you have somebody with yourself or somebody else with some expertise that had some fancy equipment? What did that initial setup look like, from day one?
Michael Lynn: It was pretty bare bones. I was initially using a USB microphone straight into the laptop. And one day it just blew out, so I started to do some research on my own, and I found this beautiful thing. It's a Shure microphone, and it's just the best. I mean, the sound has been fantastic, and it's so good that I've bought several. Now in terms of recording, Zoom is great. They're a great company. I think they've done amazing things to move their product forward, especially in some pretty crazy times with COIVD and the Pandemic. I found another product that at the time we started using it, just provided some really great benefits over Zoom, and it's called, Zencastr. They allow you to record locally to your laptop and then trickle upload. And it's really high def, it's like 44 hertz versus 32, which you get from Zoom. So, you get a really rich audio experience. And you get single track per guest, which Zoom has upgraded, they've enhanced, and now you can get a track per guest. That was really important, because if I talk over you or you talk over me, you're going to want to be able to control that. So, Zencastr is how we record.
Lindsay Tjepkema: You talked about how it started. Let's talk about how it's going. What has changed, or are you still pretty much there with that initial setup? What's changed over the last two or three years?
Michael Lynn: Yeah, that's been pretty static. It's been working. With Zencastr, we've struggled with how to get really good audio from guests. But fortunately, with the enhancements that Zencastr have made, and Zoom as well, we can get really good audio with some really basic equipment. I do want to mention another component that I use, and folks, all of the people at Mongo B use, it's called, Krisp with a K. And it's installed on your laptop, it runs great in a Mac environment. And it enables us to, using AI, eliminate the background noise. It understands there's thousands of... Like right now, you may not know this, but there's a loud lawnmower that's cutting the grass outside my window. You won't hear that.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Mine too. I actually keep going on mute because, yep, my neighbors are getting their lawn mowed right now. So, the joys of recording from home.
Michael Lynn: Right? Yeah, exactly. So Krip. ai is a great tool for the podcaster toolkit.
Lindsay Tjepkema: So that's super helpful, because I think that there is a perception that to get started in podcasting, you have to have a studio, you have to have some big setup, and that's not the case. You invest in a couple little areas and you use what you got and you roll with it, literally.
Michael Lynn: Yeah. I've spoken with a number of startups that are looking to get the message out to increase awareness of their products, and podcasting is a great way to do that. And they're always shocked when I describe the basic setup that they really needed to get going. I've duplicated this very same setup with about four or five companies now, and it's just amazing how quickly you can get a podcast up and going. From concept, you prove out the concept, to interest and passion. You need that behind the mic, you need somebody with a passion. And then from there, it's the basic work of registering the podcast, getting set up with Casted, which has been a phenomenal experience for me. And then just connecting up the directories and making sure that you're synchronizing and publishing your RSS feed. So yeah, it's been a blast.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Yeah. And thanks for that. I'm interested in the type of investment, and I don't mean just financial, I mean time. You spend a lot of time on this. What did that investment look like, and how has that evolved?
Michael Lynn: What's the requirement to get something off the ground in the podcast space? You're going to need at least a percentage of someone's time, obviously. Right? We started with something like 20% of Nick's and my time, and we were able to get a weekly show off the ground. Some weeks we missed because we had other commitments and shows came up and conferences, but it was at least 40% of two people's time. And it grew from there. And I think if there's a prescription, I'd say, look at what you want to accomplish. What is it you want to accomplish? The best conversations I have with people that want to appear on the podcast, the first and the best thing that I can start talking to them about is their goals. And what is the goal of being on the podcast? I would ask the same of someone who's thinking about implementing a podcast for their business. What do you want to accomplish from that? There's many things that you can accomplish. And in fact, I took the time and wrote an article on this. I'll give you the link for that. Maybe we can include it in the show notes. But it's the top four reasons that your tech company needs a podcast. Depending on what space you're in, you can really raise awareness of your products. You can really lead thought. You can become a thought leader in this space. And by the way, if you're in the tech space, or even if you're out of the tech space, you have an audience waiting to hear your voice on a podcast, most likely. I mean, if you look at the statistics of people that are increasing, it's just the hockey stick of growth in the podcasting space is phenomenally mind blowing. Everyone has listened to one or more podcasts. It's literally a library waiting for you across literally every possible interest space. Kind of got into a ramble there. I'm not sure if I answered your question.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Yeah. No, no, that's great. And actually you're leading into something else I wanted to talk about, which is you're pretty established now. I think that's very safe to say. You're a couple years in, well over a hundred episodes, couple of shows. What does growth and success mean to you? Are you focused on growing an audience? How are you doing that? Let's sit there for a little bit. Now that you've got the shows up and running, you're going strong, you've found your stride, what does growth look like right now?
Michael Lynn: The first and easiest metric to focus on is listeners, just focus on listeners. And we did that for the first two and a half years that we were publishing. Just looking at the number of listeners for each episode, and then trying to understand what the differences are in the content and how that impacts the number of listeners. There are some episodes that remain evergreen because the content is just so usable across time. But as we've matured, I'm now beginning to look more at interaction, being smart about the calls to action in the podcast. And one thing I'm still wrestling with is how to effectively call someone to take an action with my voice. So obviously, it's super difficult to say a URL, especially a longer one, and have someone actually remember it while they're probably on the treadmill or in the car, and then come home, remember it, and then type it in. That's next to zero. That's a super difficult thing to do. But there are other things that you can do. You can leverage URL shortening, effective show notes, which Casted has been phenomenal, really phenomenal there, helping to craft compelling show notes that people will actually read and engage with. And that's the key, so getting folks to engage.
Lindsay Tjepkema: It sounds like you've been pretty steadfast in kind of the who's it for and why are you doing it of your show, but how has that perhaps matured? Maybe not changed, but matured as you've gone from, "We're going to get this show up and running. We're going to create it, we're going to launch it, we're going to publish it, we're going to do it," to "We're going to grow it." How has your approach matured?
Michael Lynn: I think we're still on the continuum on the maturity growth curve. I think there's been some conscious effort to grow and focusing on how we can better address the market of listeners. And there's been some kind of unconscious growth, just in the growth of myself and the other folks that appear on the podcast in the interviewing style. It's less straight up the middle, less, please talk about MongoDB, please tell the world how great MongoDB is. And it's more about, like I said, the mission that we set out to early on. Tell folks the things that you're doing that are impacting your world in a positive way. And I think that resonates with audiences. They can recognize that we're really just trying to help them, and that translates to more listens per listener as well as more shares per listener.
Lindsay Tjepkema: For sure. And so, what does ultimate success look like? So, let's start with today. What does success look like right now? At the end of this year and you look back and you say, "Wow, this is a really good year for our show because..."
Michael Lynn: That's a great question. I mean, the answer that I tell my bosses and the answer they want to hear is, increases in the number of listeners. And that's still the first and foremost thing. But for me, I think success goes beyond that. And it's really about recognizable change as a result of the content on the podcast. And some of that's word of mouth, some of that's folks approaching me to speak at different events. And I think that the content has always remained pretty MongoDB tangential. I mean, it's tangentially about MongoDB, but it's been more about software development and data in general. So, we're going through the process now of looking at the name. Is the name hindering us? Are we not getting to people because the name of the podcast is MongoDB? So, we're taking a look at that. And I think success would be, if we land on another name, finding a way that the name and the brand carry the message that has already been delivered. Does the name represent that? So, that's a big one for me. And I'm just now in the process of writing the brief, the project brief to rebrand the podcast, so watch this space.
Lindsay Tjepkema: I was going to say, we can crowdsource right here right now, so-
Michael Lynn: I love it. Yeah. Hey, names-
Lindsay Tjepkema: Send in your-
Michael Lynn: If you've got suggestions, send your name suggestions for podcasts for the MongoDB podcast to podcast @ mongodb. com.
Lindsay Tjepkema: There you go. We'll see what happens, because this is fun. But also, it's true. I mean, we actually have that. We have the Casted podcast, which could not be more on the nose of, it's Casted's podcast. If you come in contact with anything Casted related, and do you want to learn more? And you're like, "Well, obviously Casted probably has a podcast. I wonder what it is." It's Casted podcast. But then we also have this amplified marketing podcast that is much more exhumed out. And it's like, maybe if you don't even know who Casted is, here's what the subject matter is all about. And it's tough. Or do you go something really cute? I mean, ZoomInfo has one called, Talk Data to Me, which is adorable. But if you were like, gosh, I need to look for ZoomInfo podcast, that's not as related to the brand. So, it's tough. And then there's ones that are accurate for the industry or the vertical that you're in, but they're already taken, or it's too basic. Right? So, it's tough. Naming a show is very difficult.
Michael Lynn: Well, let me turn the tables and ask you, what was behind the decision to create multiple podcasts?
Lindsay Tjepkema: Yes. So I always go back to, who's it for and why are you doing it? So, the Casted podcast was our start. That's where we started a couple months after we started the company. And we've pulled it even closer to vest to say, it's how we talk to our customers about things that are really closely related to Casted. We don't feel so much like, "Oh, it's a shameless plug, because we're talking about Casted sometimes." It's definitely not ever intended to be a commercial, but it's okay if we talk about Casted or how are you using Casted to do X, Y, and Z because it's a Casted podcast. Whereas, Amplified Marketing Podcast is not, right? If Casted is mentioned, cool, but it's much more for the marketer who is leveraging audio and video to drive brand and business growth. And here's how. And again, it's tough. And I think as we've seen other brands branch out with several shows... Drift is a great example where they have different shows for different people within their audience set. So they have product, one that's related to product and one that's related to really entry level marketers, and another that's about the path to being a CMO. They've evolved over time, but I know a couple few years ago that was their approach. As different subsets of their audience emerged, they would speak to them even more directly and get even more niche with their content as new shows emerged.
Michael Lynn: Something new to listen to.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Yeah. Yeah. Okay. So we talked about what success looks like, looking forward, kind of where you are and looking ahead, what about looking back? What are some of the things that you're really proud of that you can point to about the shows?
Michael Lynn: I'm really proud of the work we've done with the interns.
Lindsay Tjepkema: I love that. Tell me more.
Michael Lynn: Yeah, giving the interns a seat at the microphone. Obviously giving them some background, like what the podcast is about, what the goals and missions are, and how we do things from a technical perspective, and then cutting them loose and asking them to get creative. The first day I met this last intern that we had this summer, I had a mic in his hand. And I asked him to go into the conference we were at and just get creative and ask questions. And you're going to learn from that. You're going to learn whether or not you want to be behind the microphone, number one. And number two, you'll cultivate or identify your curiosity bone. If you got this curiosity thing, you're going to build on it. And this summer, the intern lived it, like he jumped into it and it was just so fantastic. And the other thing that I'm really proud about is focusing on the individuals. We want to talk tech, right? We want to inform people and educate them about tech, but we also want to do that through the lens of personal stories. And some of the stories that we've told are really just heartwarming for me, to bring to light. The last one we did was Luce Carter. She's a developer advocate, my colleague, and she's phenomenal at what she does, but she struggles with imposter syndrome, a little ADHD. She struggles with being on the spectrum. And to shed light on that phenomenal story of, here's someone who is in a role that requires you to be gregarious and outgoing and marketing, constantly talking to people, and struggle with those things. I mean, it really... it's hope and inspiration. I'm proud of that.
Lindsay Tjepkema: That's very cool. The theme and the common thread that I'm sensing in a lot of your responses here is very human. So you're a developer advocate, and somebody who might come across your show with MongoDB might be like, "Okay, this is probably very technical, very techy." But there's a whole lot of human there, from how you're approaching conversations, why you're doing the show, how you're giving interns potentially life- changing opportunities to get the courage and the experience and having such conversations. Through the whole, who's it for and why are you doing it, I'd even dare to say maybe even what you get out of it is very, very human.
Michael Lynn: Yeah, I think you're right.
Lindsay Tjepkema: What advice would you have for other brands that are either getting started with a show or have one and are trying to say, "Okay, what now? What next? How do I grow this thing? How do I grow my audience? What do I do?"
Michael Lynn: Do it, number one. Just jump in and do it with great partners. Henry Ford said, "Experience is the supreme value in life." I mean, doing it, you're going to get so much experience. Being willing to fail to find out, to fail to succeed is a great quality. It is risky, right? You need to get buy-in from leaders, and you need to be able to focus on some of the things and agree on what some of the metrics are that are going to indicate that this is a successful thing. We started several. The Unicode podcast, our Spanish podcast, was started with just that. It's like, "Hey, let's wade in. Let's see if we can interest listeners enough that they'll tell others, and we'll look at the numbers. And if we can get a significant audience within three months, six months, then we'll continue to do it." And it's been that way. It's been successful. So my advice would be, do it and measure.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Very important. Yes. Well, that's fantastic. Thank you so much for shedding some light on the how and also the why of what you're doing with shows at MongoDB. That's very cool. I love what you're doing, so congrats.
Michael Lynn: Well, Lindsay, thank you.
Lindsay Tjepkema: Well, that's our show. Thank you so much for tuning in. And if you are ready to harness the power of podcasting for your brand strategy, make sure that you click the link in our show notes to subscribe to the Casted newsletter and all of our shows, and for all the latest content from our team of experts to yours. Until next time.
Strongly setting the intention for your podcast is crucial for success. Without intentional goals and ways to measure your progress, it’s hard to see where you’re going. In this podcast episode, Michael Lynn describes the origin story of MongoDB's journey into podcasting, and how it has evolved over time into the intentional and successful podcast it is today.
"I wanted the podcast to be a great place where you can get great information and learn about not only MongoDB, but the way that other software developers are improving the velocity of their development efforts."
Michael Lynn is the Principal Developer Advocate at MongoDB, and the host of the MongoDB Podcast, a show that aims to inspire, motivate, and educate software developers. He has been instrumental in growing the podcast from its humble beginnings to the successful show it is today. What started as a two-man show has evolved into something even more intentional, and they’ve expanded to have multiple hosts.