What I Learned from One Year of Podcasting: Part One

If it’s broke, fix it!

In the world of Silicon Valley there is the moment called “The Pivot”. It’s the moment when you realize the product you were creating just doesn’t work and you have to adjust. YouTube started with the hope of being a dating website. Twitter started as a podcasting subscription service. Twitch, a multi-billion dollar streaming service, started as a website called justin.tv, where you could watch a guy live stream his life 24 hours a day. All of these companies realized that the product they were creating just wasn’t working. The idea that they had invested time, money and passion into was failing and they needed to change course, they needed to pivot.

Nick and I started our podcast almost exactly one year ago. When we first started we knew we wanted to do a show but we didn’t necessarily know what show we wanted to do. We kicked around a few ideas and settled on a non-format-format. We would do a random show that talked about whatever we wanted to for that particular week. Our first show was going to be a “State of the NFL” discussion following the 2015-2016 season. We set up the mics and my 2009 Mac Book pro, a dinosaur by laptop standards, and we recorded. We talked for about 45 - 50 min, our long windedness knows no bounds, immediately upon stopping we both knew that the show sucked. Neither of us felt like it was entertaining and not for an audience but for US! So we went to lunch to re-access the situation. We talked about a movie podcast and I brought up a fledgling idea about randomly selecting Netflix films so that we could do a movie show and have a unique hook. As lifelong film fans we said, what the hell let’s try that. We sat down and recorded out first episode and that show instantly felt like fun to us.

As the show got started we stuck to our randomizer format for the most part. We had a couple “special” episodes early on where we discussed Keanu on episode 7 and Frank and Cindy in episode 8, but mostly we watched and discussed whatever the randomizer selected. As time wore on the format became more of a burden than a joy. The films being selected rarely excited either of us. But we were enjoying creating the show. Recording the episodes was always fun. The films? Not so much. So without mention we started to boost the star rating on the randomizer in an effort to get more enjoyable films… it really didn’t work. We had diamonds in the rough (Samsara, Victoria, Drug War, Retribution, Closure, Sophie’s Choice) but mostly we just had rough, really rough, and really really rough. The show had started to become a chore.

As the end of 2016 wound down we began to experiment with different “specialty” episodes and those were like a breathe of fresh air. Watching the films was fun, We were getting to analyze films that we loved or had always wanted to watch. But in an effort to stick with the random format we always drifted back to the randomizer. We made a mistake. It took far too long but we finally decided, hey this is not fun. Let’s change it. We had been clinging to the notion that a podcast had to have a hook? It had to have something that separates it from the rest but if we aren't having fun, then what's the point? We also kept getting the feedback from people that they didn’t want to hear discussions of films they didn’t want to see and weren’t going to see. So we have finally decided to change the show. Our final randomized show is episode 41, A Drummer’s Dream and Boy Meets Girl . That show was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. While not terrible films there is just very little technique to discuss. Little art to enjoy. They are straight forward independent films that serve niche audiences that neither Nick or I are members of. We have finally decided to PIVOT!

Starting with episode 42 we will now just watch and discuss films that we WANT to watch and discuss. We are still using Netflix because we like it and it’s convenient but now the films will just be chosen because we are excited to watch and talk about them. The recent Oscar nominated documentary 13th was chosen for this reason for episode 40 and that show was a lot of fun to record. We have also realized that the show needed a name change. Not creatively, we will always be Long Winded as F#@%, but practically. Having the word F#@% in your title makes it a lot harder to find and promote. I guess that’s why Marc Maron called his show WTF! So we are now officially LWAF.

The main lesson I learned this year was to be willing to adjust and change paths. Be open to change and trust your instincts. We knew right away the first episode we ever recorded didn’t work. We should have been quicker to realize the randomizer was a drag on the show. If you’re creating a show, or anything for that matter and there is a voice in the back of your head nagging at you, LISTEN! Hopefully our changes to the show will reflect our renewed excitement. We hope that you see the difference in the show and stay with us for many shows to come!

Stay tuned!

Next week part two of this blog post will discuss what I learned about movies and movie making in my first year of podcasting!

by Joe Vallero