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Anže Tomić explains why I don’t need a Podcast

In Meaningful work interviews I talk to people about their area of work and expertise to better understand what they do and why it matters to them.

Anže Tomič is most known for his podcasts Apparatus pogovori and Glave. He makes technology and media approachable to people that wouldn’t otherwise care.

I wanted to talk to Anže to see if he has any advice for me on how to approach interviews and all the media and brand myths around that. I expected basic tips on how to get started but instead got deep insights on business models and economics of the creator-led industry.

How do people introduce you?

Tech journalist and podcaster. I’m always kind of amazed that they need to add the podcaster part as if it’s something special.

Why podcasts?

Short version: I listened to a lot of them and I wanted to make them. The first podcast that I listened to was not a podcast but a radio show on XFM – Ricky Gervais Show that was airing every Saturday in London and it lasted about 2 hours. Someone actually recorded the show, cut out all the music so that it’s just the dialogue between hosts, and uploaded it to the internet. It’s at least 90 hours of content and I listened to this at least 8 times.

At the time I worked at Radio Študent and started noticing the trend of the radio moving online and decided that I also want to do this.

Should this conversation be a podcast and should I start a podcast instead of writing down a summary?

That’s a good question. I don’t think it really matters as it’s more about providing information. Pick a medium that you’re more comfortable in. As far as I know you, it seems that you prefer writing. You’re the one that’s asking questions and you need to be comfortable so that you can create your work. Personally, I can convey more when I’m working with audio compared to text. I want to underline the personal part. Since you asked “if you should” I think the answer is that it depends, yo! (Anže wanted to make sure that the last part made it to the final edit).

Is there anything else I should think about if I’m deciding between text or podcasts?

Not really. I used to advise people to do podcasts because they were new. But now they’re mainstream and it’s just like advising someone to go start a blog. I’m happy that it became so popular as a medium but it’s not special on its own anymore.

I describe it as like going to the cinema. You don’t go watch the movie Avengers, you just go watch Avengers. There’s no movie anymore. I’m also seeing this with the podcast shows. People now listen to Odbita do bita they don’t listen to podcast Odbita do bita. There are many of these kinds of shows now and people know how to interact with them.

There are two additional considerations. Time is definitely a factor. Both text and audio require editing time. With audio, you also need to make sure that the person that you’re interviewing sounds good and can talk coherently. With text, it’s much easier to make them look good.

Does that mean that you are a brand now?

No. I think it’s tied to personality and personal brands. It’s now much easier for someone to move between networks. It used to be that a TV or a radio show was more than just the host. I don’t believe that this is true anymore. That’s why you see so many shows these days that are named after the hosts.

It seems that I’m on a path to establish my own personal brand. Do you have any advice for me?

Keep doing what you’re doing. Talk to as many people as you can. That’s the easiest hack to grow your presence. That’s how you ensure that people will know about you since every person that you talk to will bring their people to you. It’s “the easiest” that still requires a lot of work.

Everyone that you talk to has their own audience. They will share your interview with them. People will see you and the more often you do it the more people see you. Rinse and repeat. I really think that this is a good way to do this.

It’s the same model that many international podcasters were following. They started with interviews and only after they’ve built a following they started doing other types of shows.

I’ve made 208 podcast interviews throughout the years. This allowed me to build a really strong network and personal following. When I decided to pause my podcast for now I felt comfortable that I could restart it again later.

One more tip is to make sure that you ask people to share. There’s no shame in trying to cut through the noise of social media by explicitly asking your guests to share and tag you.

You should also decide if you’re doing this as a hobby or as a job. If you want to make this part of your income you should make sure to ask your audience to support you as soon as possible. Running sponsorship and ads early on is also another way to approach this.

Do you think all digital creators should have their own Patreon-like account in 2021?

Yes, definitely. Creating quality content takes time and it’s real work. I think it’s perfectly valid to ask your audience to support you if they like what you are doing. Initially, it feels a bit strange since a lot of our existing economy is supported by Venture Capital and Big Tech. But when you think about it’s also a very simple model. Ask people to support what they like by directly paying for it so that you can continue doing your work. Modern online tools make it really easy to do that.

With the Patreon model, how do you ensure that you stay true to the work that you want to keep doing? How do you not sell out so that you can get a bigger audience?

Is having a large audience really your goal? You don’t need to underestimate niche audiences and what they value. Since you are publishing in English you have access to many more niches. When you’re publishing in large languages you can have very niche topics like 12th Century Classical Composers and you can still be successful. 

You can think about it in terms of Kevin Kelly’s 1000 true fans. Your business model is to build a core audience of your true fans that support your work so you can create it full time. Unless you decide that you want to have a huge audience because being famous and rich is your goal. Then you’ll probably need to create mainstream content.

Do you see any point in creating content in the Slovenian language? Will your next podcast show be in English?

The English language gives you access to more people and there is also much more competition. It becomes more important when you’re creating niche content. When I look at what my friends from the USA are doing I see that it’s quite possible to make a living doing 5 very niche shows. They can do it because they have enough potential English-speaking audience.

I think you can still accomplish things when producing content in Slovenian and I think I’ll keep my work in Slovenian.

Do you think having a strong Eastern European accent is a problem when creating content in English?

I think it’s a huge advantage. It’s what differentiates you from the competition and makes you unique. If you have a good vocabulary and can speak it’s better if you don’t try to hide your accent. I can confirm this based on my personal experience.

Is there any other advice that you often give to new creators?

You need to persevere and grow. When you read or listen to your first work after two years you need to be ashamed of it. If you’re happy with it you haven’t accomplished anything. In the beginning, your work will suck. With time you’ll get feedback and you’ll be able to adjust it so it becomes better. We see all these successful people and they seem so polished. What we don’t see is all the work that came before. 

Who are your heroes that you’re learning from?

Gervais, Merchant, and Pilkington in terms of spoken radio.

John Siracusa, and Jason Snell in terms of quality tech podcasts.

I’m mostly learning by following the work of people that I admire. Sometimes they’ll also explain their processes and thinking.

What I learned from talking with Anže

  • There’s no expectation of working for free in niche verticals. It’s completely acceptable to create Patreons and ask people to support your work.
  • I need to stop thinking in terms of “open source” economics where everyone expects everything for free. I can (and should!) create paid products and different consulting offers.
  • Embracing the differences is the new black. Provide value, entertain and lean into what makes you different from everyone else.

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