How Tim Ferriss, Joe Rogan, Ezra Klein, and The Daily Make Their Podcasts

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Last updated:
May 25, 2021
How Tim Ferriss, Joe Rogan, Ezra Klein, and The Daily Make Their Podcasts

The Tim Ferriss Show

Tim Ferriss is the author of the book 4 Hour Week, an early investor in Facebook, Uber, Alibaba, Twitter, Duolingo, Shopify, and many more.

He is well-known for always finding the most efficient way to make more money with less input. Quoted as an “Oprah of Audio”, Ferriss is now charging $54,000 per podcast episode sponsorship at his The Tim Ferriss Show podcast.

Podcast Gear

  • Recorder: Zoom H6 Six-Track Portable Recorder
  • Stage microphone: Shure SM58-LC Cardioid Vocal Microphone without Cable
  • Mic cable: XLR 3 Pin Microphone Cable (6 feet)
  • Foam covers: Bluecell 5 Pack of Microphone Windscreen Foam Covers
  • Travel mic: Audio-Technica ATR2100-USB Cardioid Dynamic USB/XLR Microphone
  • Post-production intros: Yellowtec: iXm
  • Post-production editor: Auphonic

Tips from Tim Ferriss on Starting a Podcast

By the time Tim Ferriss started The Tim Ferriss Show, he already had bestselling books and a big blog. However, coming to a party with the pre-existing audience isn’t enough: countless YouTube icons, celebrities, and bestselling authors start podcasts only to abandon them a few weeks later.

  • Upload 2-3 pre-recorded episodes when you launch. Prepare several episodes in advance and upload them all as soon as you launch your podcast. This seems to help with podcast rankings, which can be self-propagating: the better your rankings are, the more people see you, the better your ranking becomes, and so on.
  • Keep the format simple. Most beginner podcasters quit simply because they get overwhelmed with professional equipment and editing. Tim Ferriss decided to record and publish entire conversations rather than specific highlights to minimize the editing time. He also uses extremely simple gear setup and admits to using Skype for the first 20 or so interviews: “You do NOT need concert hall-quality audio; most people will be listening in the subway or car anyway, and they’ll forgive you if recordings are rough around the edges.“ But this was 2014. Back then, there weren’t many great tools for remote podcasting. Read our blog post on remote podcasting tools to see how much the landscape has changed.

Tool tip: If you are thinking of starting your own podcast, Riverside.fm is an amazing tool, as it doesn’t require any additional equipment apart from a laptop and headphones.

  • Be referential. From Marcus Aurelius to James Clear, Tim peppers in relevant references to keep his target listeners and interviewees entertained. 
  • Don’t pursue sponsors until you have a critical mass of listeners. Tim Ferriss didn’t accept sponsors or advertisers until his podcast has reached over 100,000 downloads per episode. Looking for sponsors can become too distracting for novice podcasters and bloggers. Instead, for the first 3-9 months, focus on producing increasingly better work and put monetization efforts on hold.
  • Effective advertising. When he did start monetizing his podcast, Tim uses conversation to make his advertising sound compelling, going into lengths on how he uses the advertised products himself. 
  • Get transcripts and send highlights with pitch ideas to journalists. Tim Ferriss has done it himself on numerous occasions, and it has resulted in outstanding original pieces, where print or text journalists come up with the story angle on their own.
  • Use graphics. You can use a blog to promote your podcast. If you choose this route, utilize graphics to increase listens or podcast downloads for your target platform: make the “Listen” or “Download” button exceptionally clear. In the podcast directories you’re in, make sure that your visuals hint at your content and are attention-grabbing.
  • Experiment constantly. It’s easy to think that polished, labor-intensive episodes get more downloads. However, in reality, the opposite is the case - easy, low-labor conversations become the most trending. Tim shares, “Podcasting isn’t radio, and there aren’t any hard-and-fast rules.” He admits that experimentation keeps things fun: he has tested solo Q&As based on Reddit submissions, conversations in a sauna, audiobook excerpts, drunk dialing fans via Skype, and more. 

The Joe Rogan Experience

There are countless podcasters that exist today, but among the most famous and successful ones is American actor, comedian, martial artist, sports commentator, and TV host Joe Rogan. His podcast, The Joe Rogan Experience, was launched in 2009 and, by 2015, it became one of the world’s most popular podcasts receiving millions of views with each episode.

Joe Rogan Podcast Studio Gear

  • Microphone: Shure SM7B Vocal Dynamic Microphone
  • Mic boom: Gator Frameworks Deluxe Desktop Mic Boom Stand (3000 series)
  • Headphones: Sennheiser HD280PRO Headphones
  • Headphone amplifier: Behringer POWERPLAY HA8000
  • Podcast unit: Altinex Podcast Tilt ‘N Plug Jr. (TNP130)
  • Mixer: Behringer XENYX X1222USB
  • Audio interface: Universal Audio Apollo FireWire Audio Interface
  • Digital audio recorder: TASCAM DR-100 Portable Digital Recorder
  • Camera: Canon VIXIA HF G40 Full HD Camcorder
  • Multi-Camera production system: Blackmagic Design ATEM Television Studio Pro HD Live Production Switcher

What’s Next: The Spotify Deal

Joe Rogan has recently signed an exclusive agreement with Spotify that is estimated to be worth $100M. As of 2021, the podcast is to be housed on Spotify exclusively and removed from any other podcasting platforms. 

What makes this deal so significant is that these types of figures are extremely rare in a podcasting world. Rogan is now expected to earn more money than most of the musicians on Spotify, which means that his podcast concept is much more valuable than any musician.

How Did Joe Rogan Become So Popular?

There is no doubt that Joe Rogan is famous for many things. However, The Joe Rogan Experience has become one of Joe’s most successful projects.

Here are a few lessons on growing a successful podcast that we can get out of Joe Rogan’s story:

  • Use YouTube to build an audience. Originally, Joe Rogan has launched his podcast on YouTube - a great platform to develop an entirely new video podcasting audience. YouTube allowed him to expand his listeners to much younger people and those who aren’t ready to install a podcast-dedicated app yet.
  • Content repurposing. Joe cut clips from his long-form conversations and distributes them across different platforms. Many of them have gone viral. Here’s an example below from his Instagram channel. Hot tip: When thinking about the questions, think about distinctive keywords that lead to shareable soundbites. 
  • Do it yourself. Having considerable experience in the entertainment industry, Joe had many connections at his disposal. However, he chose to produce the podcast all by himself, without joining any network in the beginning, until the Spotify deal came along.
  • Don’t run after money. The Joe Rogan Experience was really Rogan’s passion project. He never tried to monetize his podcast or paid his marketing team for promotion. Instead, Rogan has let the show following grow organically, waiting for the listener to come to him.
  • Focus on creating great content. The sole goal Rogan was trying to achieve with his podcast was to create long-form, high-quality, engaging content. He didn’t waste time announcing his podcast launch and never asked for reviews. Instead, he invested the time into building quality content to make sure that people like it and come back for more.

The Ezra Klein Show

Starting as a columnist and editor at The Washington Post where he created his Wonkblog column, Ezra Klein later founded and became an editor in chief (and then an editor at large) of Vox, started his own podcast The Ezra Klein Show, and wrote the book “Why We’re Polarized”.

The first episode of The Ezra Klein Show aired in 2016, and, in January 2021, almost five years later, Ezra joined New York Times Opinion with the new version of the show. And while the show has grown and changed, developing new themes and obsessions, one thing remains unchanged: Ezra always talks about things that matter.

What Makes Ezra Klein Different?

The Ezra Klein Show is a podcast where real conversations about ideas that matter happen. Here are a few strategies that Ezra Klein follows to stand out from the mass:

  • Start with a hook. Lure listeners in with either a compelling introduction or a great interview excerpt. 
  • Get out of the comfort zone. Ezra is willing to get out of the comfort zone and develop a deep understanding of various aspects of the community.
  • Choose the right guests. He always invites interesting guests and speakers and isn’t afraid to confront opposing opinions.
  • Be present. Ezra is present as a human being in each episode. This means that he isn’t afraid to bring his personality into the game and is open to accept new opinions.
  • Keep your ego in check. As a journalist, Klein always checks his ego and doesn’t take things personally during a disagreement. Instead, he focuses on what he can learn from the conversation.
  • Don’t skip interview prep. Ezra Klein always puts a lot of effort into interview preparation and production value.
  • Work on your interview skills. Ezra Klein possesses great interview skills and takes a step further with probing questions to prompt insightful conversations. Interestingly, Ezra was self-conscious of his own voice early on in his career, so he honed his interviewing skills to make his podcast engaging.

The Importance of Being Present in the Show

One of the major factors behind the success of The Ezra Klein Show lies in the fact that Klein is very present as a human being in his podcast: he lets his own show change the way he sees the world and lives his life.

While Klein does not formally divide the show into categories, he acknowledges the six main themes that are most prevalent throughout the show:

  1. Best-of: Ezra’s favorite conversations on a variety of topics.
  2. Living better: the episodes that have changed the way he lives his life.
  3. Many lenses: the shows that have changed the way Ezra Klein sees the world.
  4. Productive disagreement: the episodes where the guest and Klein have disagreed significantly but learned from each other.
  5. Living morally: the conversations that have inspired him to become a better person.
  6. Climate change series: a series of episodes on the big questions behind the global climate crisis.

The Daily

The Daily podcast from The New York Times is an outstanding example of an audio podcast with the power to appeal to both the current audience as well as a broader customer base.

The Daily is much more than a well-funded podcast: its issues-driven coverage effectively attracts new listeners, while successfully reaching and deepening the trust of the established readership of The New York Times. 

What’s Behind The Daily’s Success

As of 2020, The Daily news podcasts attract 4 million listeners daily: the show is almost twice as large as the paper was at its peak. The podcast is an incredible way to boost the brand of The New York Times, especially among younger people.

Let’s take a look at what strategies contribute to the podcast’s outstanding success:

  • Reach a broader audience. Audio is one of the most popular content channels to date. The fantastic thing about audio recordings is that they can be listened to as a secondary activity: the audience may be driving, cooking, or exercising while listening to the podcast. The Daily has expanded the audience of The New York Times and has truly transformed the company, especially in terms of its digital experience.
  • Create deeper connections with the audience through omnichannel initiatives. The Daily news podcasts help to establish deeper trusting relationships with the audience through podcast subscriptions, email signups, and other related marketing channels. Most importantly, it highlights world-class journalism - the number one factor that makes The New York Times stand out from the competition.
  • Stay true to the brand. Rather than creating a podcast that moves away from the well-known The New York Times brand, the company has chosen to translate its text experience into audio as closely as possible. The Daily largely leverages the existing resources and uses the company’s staff of professional journalists, its written coverage, and its signature inquiry reporting style to determine the tone and format of the show.
  • Look for additional revenue sources. The New York Times podcast is free, but its ultimate goal is to increase subscriptions to the brand’s paid content. It also generates some additional revenue through paid advertising.

The Bottom Line

Every podcast is unique, and there is no single recipe to run a world-class show. However, what is common between Joe Rogan, Tim Ferriss, Ezra Klein, and The Daily is that each of these shows has developed its own memorable style and identity and delivers only top-quality content.

If you are interested in becoming a host of your own podcast, invest the time into thorough preparation, working on your interview skills, and developing a unique concept and brand identity. 

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