You probably listen to podcasts.

If you don’t, you’re under a rock or you’re a step behind on the next big thing.

“Wait, did he just say next big thing? Podcasts have been around since 2005.”

Look, I get it. You’re probably an avid podcast listener and you listen to all the shows—ALL the great shows—and feel like the space is already pretty saturated, but it’s not!

Compare podcasts to blogs. Blogs used to be cool. You used to be somebody if you had a blog until everyone had one and you were no longer special just for having one. That’s where podcasts are right now. Yes, they’re starting to get more popular, but it’s not to ubiquitous level yet.

I mean heck, the podcasts app didn’t even come default on iPhones until iOS8! People are just now starting to catch on to realizing the value of podcasts.

I expect exponential growth in overall podcast downloads in the next 3 years (2015–2017).

What Makes a Podcast as Good as a Book?

Just how valuable is a podcast?

Let me just say this:

In 2015, you are going to wish you started a podcast a year ago.

Podcasts are a fantastic way to grow an audience. You’re getting someone’s attention. In theory, you’re also providing value. You’re building familiarity. People feel like they know you. That’s what they’re going to say when they meet you at conferences: they feel like they know you.

A well-produced podcast can be just as good a book. It can potentially be even better, because books require your hands, your eyes, and your attention. Podcasts only require your attention.

However, notice the key phrase there: well-produced. Podcasts can be a like a good book, but most are not.

The trouble is, people miss the “well-produced” part. The vast majority of podcasts and not well-produced.

What do I mean by well-produced?

  • Yes, sound, but not just sound.
  • Yes, consistency, but not just consistency.
  • I’m talking about content.

What makes books so great? Good books are edited. They take time—years, even. It’s a consolidation of the most valuable knowledge someone has.

But good books are also really hard to produce. What makes books so hard to produce? The same things: the editing, the consolidation, and the valuable knowledge that you have to acquire in the first place in order to write a book.

Most people who have written a book say it’s the most difficult thing you’ll ever do in your whole life.

I can attest to that. I’m still in the process of writing The Overlap Technique. It requires a tremendous amount of focus.

It’s a monumental task to distill your message down to its essence.

That means removing everything that doesn’t support your core message.

We’re talking about relentless editing. Good books are edited.

Here’s the problem: the podcasting medium lends itself heavily to ramblers—people that think out loud. Now, there’s nothing wrong with thinking out loud, but the kind of thinking out loud I’m talking about is where podcasters turn on the mic and essentially “figure something out” that they don’t understanad on the air.

Can you imagine if someone wrote a book about something they didn’t understand? You write books to save people time! You write books to share your knowledge and expertise with people!

It’s a disservice not to know your message before you deliver it to your audience.

Spend time reflecting on what you have to say before you open your mouth.

What do you have to say? You need to know this. You need to know this first. If you have no experience, then go get the experience. Don’t start a blog or a newsletter or a video show or a podcast about something you have no insight on. Immerse yourself in that world. Learn the language. Gain some experience. Position yourself around people who you can learn from. Make things. Do things. Ship things. Get that experience and then teach what you you know.

Newsflash: People have better things to do than sit around listening to you rambling about something you don’t know and you’re figuring out on the air.

Are You An Out-Loud Thinker?

If you are a person who thinks out loud, think out loud to yourself first to determine you message—then re-present it.

  • Turn on your recording, ramble about whatever you want and think out loud.
  • Now listen back to it.
  • Transcribe it.
  • Re-write it, and read what you wrote.
  • Now toss the transcription out and say it in your own words from memory.
  • Do this over and over and over again. Repeat this process of refinement.

Turning on the recording for your podcast and streaming your consciousness is a disservice to your audience and your listeners.

I have a lot to share. I have a lot of knowledge and insight—not just in my mind, but written out in dozens upon hundreds of documents I’ve written. Yet, I still prepare before every single podcast episode. I’m preparing beforehand, I’m writing an outline, I’m thinking about what the listener is going to get from this:

  • What is the takeaway?
  • What can I give them that is going to be valuable?

By the way, if you’re not listening to my podcast, go check it out. If you’re enjoying these videos, we talk about the same things in the podcast and go even deeper. It’s all about helping you make a living with your passion in an online world.

Well, That’s Great for You, Sean

Now if you’re thinking, “Well, that’s all great for you Sean, but my listeners like to hear me ramble. They think it’s human and they can relate to it.”

Well let me introduce you to what we refer to on the podcast as #harshsean.

That’s great, you go and do that! You enjoy the heck out of those 30 listeners that will tolerate your rambling and put up with your stream of consciousness.

Meanwhile, everyone else is going to take this advice—they’re going to prepare, practice and edit the message that they have to share and you can sit on the sidelines, bewildered, when they get hundreds of thousands of downloads and hundreds of 5-star ratings.

I’m not being harsh for the sake of being abrasive. I’m just cutting through the BS and I’m going to give you the advice you need, not the advice you want because I care about your long term success.

The reason books are so valuable is because they’re edited. They’re messages that are prepared. They’re messages that people have poured their heart and soul into and spent time with. They’re thinking about it beforehand—before they’re putting it out into the world.

You want your podcast to be like a good book? Then know your message. You need to know what you have to say, who it’s for, and why they need it.

Prepare beforehand and have a reason for talking into a microphone.

If you’re a rambler, you don’t have any excuses. It doesn’t mean you can only turn on the mic and stream your consciousness, it just means you have a few extra steps to be valuable.

  • Record.
  • Listen back.
  • Transcribe it.
  • Re-write it.
  • Read it again.
  • Throw away the transcript.
  • Deliver it from memory.

That’s going to make it authentically you, and that’s going to ensure that it’s valuable.