Growing A Successful Membership Podcast with Tony Merkel

Growing A Successful Membership Podcast with Tony Merkel
Growing A Successful Membership Podcast with Tony Merkel

Jul 22 2021 | 00:41:32

Episode 0 July 22, 2021 00:41:32

Hosted By

Stuart Barefoot

Show Notes

On this episode of the Audience podcast, Craig talks with Tony Merkel from the Confessionals podcast. Tony was able to live the dream: quit his job and become a full-time podcaster. Today on Audience, Tony talks about creating a community, suggestions for new podcasters, and lessons that he has learned about audience growth. Tony shares his bootstrap knowledge to help new podcasters but he also shares an inspirational message about being passionate about the things you love, and not being afraid to dream.

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Today you’ll learn about:

  • His own origins: driving truck, building a family, the start of Confessionals
  • Tony’s first steps into podcasting
  • Juggling different players, hosting sites, and apps
  • Lessons learned about audience growth
  • The evolution to monetization
  • Being honest about how you see and treat your podcast
  • Understanding social media
  • What Tony does to create an inviting and engaging website and community


Tony email: 

The Confessionals podcast: 

The Confessionals podcast Instagram: 

Hammer Lane Legends podcast:

Castos Academy: 

Castos, private podcast: 

Castos, website:

Castos, YouTube:  

Clubhouse video: 

View Full Transcript

Episode Transcript

Speaker 0 00:00:06 Hello, welcome back to the audience podcast. I'm your host Craig Hewitt from Casos giving Matt a break from the podcast this week and brought on a special guest Tony Merkel from the confessionals podcast. And this episode, I interviewed Tony to kind of hear his, his origin story of how he went from driving a truck to being a full-time podcast or running a membership site and making a living and providing for his family as a podcaster. We say it in the episode, but it literally is living the dream. And in this episode, I am happy to dive in and kind of peel back the onion of a lot of the things that seem really obvious. And self-evident in Tony's journey of going from just an idea to quitting his job and being a full-time professional podcaster. There's a lot of nuance in the story that Tony tells here. So to tell the rest of the story, here's Tony Merkel from the confessional podcast. So like, honestly, just like understand more about kind of how, like where all this came from, where you are now. Like, this is your full-time deal. It sounds like your wife is involved too. Like tell me kind of the, the Batman origin story and kind of like where you are now. I Speaker 1 00:01:11 Was a truck driver. Full-time truck driver drove tractor trailers. Uh, I got my CDL when I was 21. I come from a father who was a truck driver and, uh, he never wanted me to drive truck. And then a long story short, I wound up driving truck for the same company he's at. He really, uh, you know, didn't want to see it, but at the same time he knew I needed to provide for the family and I had to do what I had to do. And, uh, it was good because my wife and I got married young, we were 21 and we didn't have kids for the first 10 years of our marriage. And so it was just her and I, and so, I mean, driving truck was more than enough. Then we were trying to think about some things about his as far as like when we had kids, how we were gonna raise kids. Speaker 1 00:01:48 And, uh, she decided that she wanted to be a stay at home mom and, and be hands-on. And so, uh, we were planning on starting a family and I told her, I said, all right, we'll just quit your job. She really hated her job anyways. And so before we had kids, she quit her job and we were kind of testing the waters financially. And, um, we were making it work, but I could see the writing on the wall that long-term just the two of us. It would be tight. And then, you know, with a kid or two, it was going to be, Tony has to get another job and driving truck. There's no way I can get a part-time job and say, yeah, I'll be in at six o'clock tonight to work my part-time job, because I never know what I'm gonna be done every day, driving truck. Speaker 1 00:02:23 I mean, one day it could be five. Next day could be nine o'clock, 10 o'clock at night. So I had to figure out something I could do on the side to create an income. And a friend of mine, who's like one of my best friends. Now he contacted me. We didn't know each other at the time, but he had seen some stuff that I was doing on YouTube with paranormal type stuff. And, you know, just me kind of talking and thinking out loud and letting people into my mind. He told me, he said, you know, I think you should consider doing a podcast and coming from him who was a full-time podcast or at that time, you know, I kind of listened to what he had to say. And I started podcasting maybe like three months later, actually it was on January, 2017, January 19th, 2017. I started the confessionals podcast where it's a paranormal show where I sit around and I have four stations with ordinary people about their bizarre experiences they've been through in their life. Speaker 1 00:03:13 And, uh, we cover a wide range of topics and I believe in that kind of stuff. And I thought, you know, there's TV shows all the time about this stuff. So clearly there's people who have experiences and, you know, there's people who are interested in these topics. And I thought, you know, create a platform where ordinary people could just talk about what they'd been through and kind of get it off their chest. And the show started growing and, and, you know, the whole time I was pursuing the podcast, it wasn't as much of a hobby as much as it was, uh, me trying to generate something that maybe could turn into an income few years down the road that I could help supplement my career as a truck driver and support the family. So I treated it very seriously from day one. I mean, I, I was working on the podcast probably right away, almost eight hours a day. Speaker 1 00:03:58 I'd come home from work. I kissed my wife I'd go upstairs. And a lot of times I didn't even know what I was doing. Like, I don't know what to do with podcasting. I, I just sat in front of the computer and when start searching on, you know, internet search sites that you know how to start podcasting, how to fix this on my audio and just kind of piece by piece, listening to my show with a realistic ear and being like, okay, I don't like that about, about my audio. I want to fix that. How do I do it? And I started looking around and I'll go to bed at two, three o'clock in the morning, get up at eight o'clock in the morning to go to work. And I did that right away. And for the first year we didn't have any kids that year in December, our first child was born. Speaker 1 00:04:35 And, uh, it gave me a whole year of podcasting pretty much where I could just solely focus on that. And my wife, you know, she was bought into the process too. And, uh, I think from working so hard on it at the beginning and gave me a good jumpstart and the show started snowballing. I just started seeing like the emails starting to come in. And, you know, I had a lot of people wanting to be on the show and my focus started becoming, okay, I got something here. I got to keep it rolling. Like the balls rolling downhill. Let's just keep it moving, keep the momentum going. And, uh, we did a pretty good job doing that throughout the years. And it's gotten to the point now where the podcast gets, uh, about 25 to 30,000 downloads a week on, you know, a new episode. Speaker 1 00:05:15 So I put out a new episode on Tuesdays and that's a public show and that gets a bunch of downloads. And then on Thursdays, we put out member shows on the website initially, and that was a place where people could sign up to become a member $7 a month and they could get an extra show a week or any other content. And, uh, it became pretty frustrating pretty quickly because it became evident that just having the website up with member episodes was not going to be enough for people. As far as convenience goes, then you had the tech side of things where, you know, people are emailing you saying the player's not working on my phone. Well, then you start thinking, okay, well what's what kind of phone do you have? And then you find out that certain things aren't working right with Android phones and certain things aren't working right with iPhone phones, which usually isn't the case. iPhone usually was pretty good. And so I came up with so many solutions over the years trying to fix things. I started telling the Android users try using duck, duck go because duck, duck go tends to work well with the Android phones. And what a mess Speaker 0 00:06:12 Though. Right? Like having to manage all that. Absolutely. Speaker 1 00:06:15 It was a mess. SoundCloud was I thought an option because I started using the player and I turned on the option for people to hit a button and listen through the SoundCloud app. And I was like, okay, cool. We got an app now. And it's easy. Just go to the website, you hit the button. It redirects you to the, the app. Problem is no Android phone would work like that at all. So all these years I had SoundCloud and it was a nice option for iPhone users, but the Android users, they never were able to use the SoundCloud app and SoundCloud themselves, customer service was virtually, non-existent like literally no email, no phone number, nothing. So I'm paying for this service. And I couldn't even contact anybody to ask if they could fix something. And so that's when I was like, I need a nap. Speaker 1 00:07:00 I need an app for this show. And, uh, I started looking into that, but as a podcaster who features ordinary people and their unique stories, I had to really worry about the piracy side of things. I can't have something that I'm putting out for members be able to be downloaded and then shared on YouTube later for the world and rendering my business model useless. And I was looking into the app situation and I could not find a whole lot of solutions to help me. And it was about two years of searching until I found cast. Now this is not a slow process. And yeah, this was a very slow process. I should say. When I found you guys and the partnership you guys had with member spaces, which I use for my website, I was like, you gotta be kidding me. I read their, their instructions on how to do everything through, you know, a member space sharing. And I was like, this is what I've been looking for. I think, and it was writing with my nose the whole time. Speaker 0 00:08:00 It's really helpful. I think to give kind of a background. And like, for me personally, it's like a super inspirational story. You follow a similar track that I did was like started my first podcast while I still had a day job and ran it on the side and then started the business kind of associated with podcasting very much as a nights and weekends thing and grew it to where it eventually kind of became my full-time job and then kind of re that evolved into this. And so definitely get the like late nights, weekends, early mornings, stealing an hour away at work here and there to, to work on stuff. I want to dive into something you glossed over. And I know it, it shouldn't be glossed over because this is where a lot of people struggle or they get to this point. And then they, they can't figure out how to make this work, which is audience growth. Speaker 0 00:08:46 Right? You said, you're, you know, 20, 25,000 downloads an episode, which is nothing to shake a stick at. I mean, that's, that's definitely like the 1% of the 1% think, but that didn't just happen. Right. That's not just creating great content. I think great content is something you have to have to make that happen. But can you talk about kind of things that you did and things that you learned along the way from like 2017, when you started to where you really felt like this was snowballing and like people were coming in and you found a way to attract people to listen to your show. Cause I think that's really the key to be able to then say, Hey, this can be my full-time deal and I can charge money in this can be a real career. So Speaker 1 00:09:27 Right in the beginning of the podcast, when I was game planning, the whole thing as a truck driver, you're like, I'm the kind of person when I set my mind to do something I'm really going to do it. You're not going to tell me I'm not going to do it. And I'm also the kind of person that if I don't want to do something, I'm not going to do it. And you know, my wife learned that pretty early on and she's kind of worked around me on a lot of things, but I'm, I'm driving down the truck down the road and the truck all day, you know, three months before launching the show, thinking about what do I want out of the show? How do I want it to sound? And, um, one thing about me is I wound up going to college. I didn't graduate, but I did wind up going to college for a pastoral ministry at one time. Speaker 1 00:10:03 And so like the idea of public speaking and talking to people I had in my head that I wanted to be, you know, loose, relatable, charismatic, you know, just kind of like, I want people to be able to not feel like they're listening to somebody reading a script or trying to teach them, like educate them on, you know, listen to my research. I wanted it to just be real conversation. And that's when it hit me. I was like, you know what? I want this to be like the paranormal of Joe Rogan podcasts, just where you sit down with somebody, you talk with them about their life or whatever. I want the people to feel like they're just sitting down at a table with me and listening to two people have a conversation. And, uh, I thought that was really attractive. It was for me as a listener of podcasts. Speaker 1 00:10:42 So I started game planning. What can I do? And before I went to college, though, I was actually accepted into a school called full sail university. I was going to right out of high school and moved to Florida. I was 17 years old though. And they didn't have any dorms. And I was like, that's not a good idea. And at full sail, I was going to study audio production. This was like a passion of mine. So like, it was kind of like coming back full circle, but with being so into the audio recording side of things, one thing that I wanted to make sure from day one is that I had really good audio because I figured, you know, what, if you're full of crap, but you really have good audio. It might take people three episodes to figure that out. And so you can get more downloads. Speaker 1 00:11:19 So I started really focusing on the audio side of things. So that was appealing. I think for a lot of people pretty much within the first month or so that I had decent audio and it progressively got better and not helped retain people because it doesn't hurt their ears. They don't have that subconscious feeling of I'm going to hit play. But I know I've got to turn it all the way up and kind of put my ear against the speaker to hear anything. So that was a focus. But then, like I said mentioned earlier about how, when I started, I was up late at night trying to find things to dust, throw mud against the wall, seeing what stuck part of that process was networking. And there's other paranormal podcasts out there there's people that are maybe interested in similar things or, you know, they would be a good guest to have because they have a huge following. Speaker 1 00:11:56 And, uh, they kind of relate to these topics. And so I started reaching out to, you know, possible guests that could come on, but the big thing was networking with other content creators, YouTubers. I would shoot them an email and just say, Hey, you know, my show is called the confessionals. This is what I do. And I was wondering if you'd like to do some cross promotion, I'm open to suggestions. And I, you know, for every hundred emails you send, you get like two or three people back coming back to you saying, you know, yeah, sure. I remember distinctly. The first one that I got that I was really excited about was a YouTuber, I think is what channel was called, Mr. Creepypasta had over a million subscribers. And he said he would run a little, you know, 30, 45 second ad that I record for, you know, his YouTube video. Speaker 1 00:12:37 And he did. And I saw the process work at that point. I was like, oh, this is actually something that, you know, people would do. They would, you know, do cross-promotion. So sometimes it would be actually bringing them on my show and interviewing them and promoting their show. And they would do the same for me. Sometimes it would just be recording 30 to 60 minute clip of an advertising, literally like, you know, you produce, you put music in, you say, Hey everybody, my name is Tony Merkel. I'm for the confessionals podcast. And you just, you know, advertise your show. And, uh, you do swaps like that. Sometimes it'd be HOD swaps where you record one show and you both put it on your streams, but getting access to other people's audience, I thought was key. And that was what I really focused on. And you got to play the numbers game too. Speaker 1 00:13:17 So if somebody has, let's just say somebody has a hundred thousand downloads a week on their podcast stream. Well, that's awesome. And you want, you want to get in front of that audience, but you have to have a realistic expectation. Next week, after that interview airs, you're not going to get a hundred thousand downloads because when you go there, you have to one bring it. I try to coach other podcasters and people who are aspiring to be podcasts. What I did, it's a lot of work. So I know a lot of people wind up not doing it, but when you go on somebody else's show you, can't just be like, hi, I'm Tony. Yeah. I have a podcast. It's pretty cool. I'd love to, for people to check it out and just be kind of boring. You got to bring it. You got to like really bring a laxity because what you're doing is you're advertising yourself and your show to that audience. Speaker 1 00:14:00 And when you bring your a game, let's say there's a hundred thousand people. You're probably going to get maybe like 20, 10 to 20,000 people of that a hundred thousand that actually are interested in you. And just because they're interested in you doesn't mean they're going to leave this podcast or after it's over and go find you, seek you out, hit play, hit subscribe, and start listening to your show of that 10 to 20,000 people. There's a, there's even a smaller amount that actually do that. And then have that, that Mt. They go and listen. And some of those people don't even like your show and they don't have a return. And so I realized doing that numbers game that you got to put the work in and you got to network with as many and anybody as possible. And so that's what I really focused on hard in the beginning. Speaker 1 00:14:41 And I got away from it after a while, just because the ball was rolling. And I, and Craig, as you know, podcasting, as you get more into it, there's a lot of work to do. And I think sometimes people just think that maybe aren't podcasting that, you know, you just hit record, you record it and you publish it. And it's like, ah, there's a lot of stuff. Not even just the production side of things, but it becomes a business and social and all that stuff. So I kinda got away from it after a while, but recently I've been getting back into it because a lot of people have been asking me to come on their shows. And so I'm just kind of like making my rounds again and kind of gearing up for another pushup networking. Cause I think that's what helps build the show. Speaker 0 00:15:17 That's cool to hear it. Yeah. I mean, I think that podcasting and we tell customers and prospective customers, this it's easy to do a bad podcast. Right. Cause you just fire up zoom like we're doing and you talk and then you publish it and yeah, it's boring a lot of times. It's not, it doesn't sound interesting talking about like sound design and audio quality, the story isn't there, the person doing the interviewing, hasn't done the research to be able to ask interesting questions and then like, that's just the content creation side of it. And then there's the business and marketing and promotion and networking and all of that stuff that, that honestly like we, I hate to say we've seen enough of this, but like we've seen enough customers to, to see patterns start being established where you have the ones that take it really seriously and treat their podcasts. Like a business are successful. You know, I don't know if it's like the chicken or the egg, but you treat this like a business and you you're intentional about promoting your show and networking and getting your voice out there. And yeah, those were the shows like yours that have a hundred thousand downloads a month and that's a business and the ones that just record and publish it, they kind of get what they put into it, I guess. Speaker 1 00:16:20 Yeah. And I, I think one thing that I've noticed over the years is that the seriousness of reality, when it comes to your podcast and how you view it, if you are supported through a company like wandery or you know, your Rogan, you have all this money at first fine, but somebody who's just starting, like I did just starting a podcast and a truck driver. I'm starting a podcast. That podcast is not going to have a chance. If you're not honest with yourself about your podcast, there are a lot of people who start podcasts and they put out their first episode. They're very excited about which everybody is. And at that point, from that point, they never develop a critical ear to what they're doing. And seriously have introspective illness where they think, what can I do to make this even better? I like it now, but what can I do to make it even better? They just kind of ride that wave of emotion. That it's a great podcast. And it's like not long run. Like you have to be serious about what can we improve that? Like you have to be serious about yourself because if you're not, the audience will be, and they'll dictate ultimately by how many people are actually returning and listening to your show. Speaker 0 00:17:25 So we're at this point where you have tens and twenties of thousands of downloads per episode, and you decide that you can kind of monetize the podcast directly and kind of make a real business of this. What did that transition look like? Like how did you go from, we have the show to where offering members specific episodes. Did you get a lot of like pushback from listeners saying, oh, I can't believe you sold. And like, this is crazy that everything isn't free. Like, can you walk us through that? Yeah. Speaker 1 00:17:55 And that definitely happened. And I jumped the gun on it. You know, this is part of the learning curve. My first year. I think I was probably in October when I initially I signed up with member space and I was offering member episodes. Cause I literally made the decision because I was like, I have so many people that are emailing me might as well monetize. And it was too soon. The numbers of the show weren't there yet. So like why, like I said earlier, you're playing a numbers game, the fractions, it wasn't worth it to begin with. I was charging too much money. I had no idea how much I should be charging and it just didn't go. So I dropped it and then I wound up going to Patrion and um, you know, along the way, even now, sometimes people will say something like, you know, you know, your show used to be good until you started charging for all the good content. Speaker 1 00:18:39 And it's like, I always use this example. You don't go into a restaurant, a five-star restaurant or the best food, eat it, love it. And walk back to that chef and say, Hey, that was amazing, but I'm not paying for it. You don't go into an art gallery, loved the best painting on the wall, pick it off the wall and say, this is amazing. And I'm not going to pay for it to the artist. You don't do that. And for whatever reason, when it comes to this kind of stuff, people just assume and think that whatever you're making sometimes isn't worth paying for. And I think the key is not changing certain things. So like I never didn't give a free show a week, every week on Tuesdays, there's a free show. Always has been, always will be anything extra is membership stuff. And so I moved to Patrion and that was a, it was a nice option. Speaker 1 00:19:23 You know, I had maybe like a 250 patrons, which, you know, wasn't bad, but I did notice that there were logistical nightmares on my end and on the consumer end because I couldn't even find my own content and maybe Patriot has changed since then, but I couldn't find my own content because it was literally just pretty much a feed. And the only way to really find anything is if you tagged it ahead of time, you know, you'd have to scroll, scroll, scroll to find something. And so I bailed on that and uh, I went to the memberships again with member space, that model. And I started building that way, but that was when I went into the second time around with member space. It was, um, I would say probably about two and a half, three years into podcasting. When I finally went for real on monetization before it was like a feature like if you could support me, that'd be great. Speaker 1 00:20:13 And the only thing I was the only thing I was offering on Patrion, it wasn't extra content. I was just allowing people that their patron to be able to, uh, watch me do the interviews are going to hear in the future live. That's all I offered. And you know, I think that wasn't very special because people could say, well, I'm going to hear it anyways in the future and it's gonna be produced. It's going to sound better. You know? And so the, the trick for me was going to my own website where people felt like they could go to the place they love and settle in and listen to content that they're never going to hear anywhere else. And that's like I mentioned earlier about the piracy issue, the benefit with my show is that for 95% of the people that are on my show, they're just ordinary people everyday lives that contact me. Speaker 1 00:20:57 You're never going to hear their story anywhere else. I mean, it's not like I have a researcher on where, oh, I don't want to pay for that. So I'll just YouTube it, you know, through this podcast, you're not going to hear it anywhere else. And so people really, really kind of settled into this idea of memberships, where they get to hear more of the show. They love have a unique story that they're not going to hear anywhere else. And that seemed to really kind of help pick up steam, you know, with the monetization side. But you know, to answer what you said earlier and stuff. I mean, yeah, I think there's always going to be people who don't appreciate your effort and just want to diminish it. They think they're happy to consume it for free, but if you decide that you think that, you know, it might be worth pursuing monetization, there's going to be the naysayers. Speaker 1 00:21:38 And, uh, I think that the whole troll side of things, most pod-casters and content creators, aren't built to handle that at first. Nobody, nobody knows how to deal with that kind of stuff until you're in the fire and you start figuring it out and any word of advice to people, I would say, just learn how to ignore it as fast as possible, just know your heart. And if you're doing something that you feel is pure and you're, you're just trying to, you know, be a kind person you're doing the best you can, the people who want to hate on you just ignore them because it's not worth your Headspace or bandwidth. Speaker 0 00:22:10 Yeah. That's really good advice. It, it is hard to kind of accept and implement that. I think on a lot of fronts with, with doing anything in public. But yeah, I agree. I mean, I, I have a hard time with it. Sometimes I'm actually not like a huge social media person. Cause it's, it's tough to face some of the challenge there, I think, but I think everybody has their, has their avenue for kind of expressing themselves for me, it's podcasting, like, you know, we, I run three different podcasts, right. And so that's the way that I'm able to do it. And so I think that's, that's just one thing I would add there is like, it's not Twitter for everyone, right? It's it's Facebook, it's a community, it's a podcast, it's a YouTube channel. Find your place where you're comfortable creating the content and are comfortable in the kind of level of, of engagement that, that comes with that, I guess. Speaker 1 00:22:52 Yeah. I tend to gravitate towards Instagram for me personally, just because it's more tame people there for pictures and videos. So like they're not there to, you know, like on Facebook with a long forum of, you know, 10 paragraphs of why you suck, you know? So, uh, it's, it's a little bit more gentle for me on Instagram. Speaker 0 00:23:10 Yeah. That's interesting. That's interesting. Do you think that that is conducive to the type of content that you talk about or the format that you publish there? Like you're doing Instagram stories or is it mostly just like still image based or, or like why, why do you think Instagram for you? Well, Speaker 1 00:23:29 For me personally, I have my own personal feeling of, I just enjoy Instagram more, but for the consumer side of things, we do a mix of a lot of things. I think, to be honest with you, I think we could do social media a lot better. Me and my wife run the whole ship here and we're trying our best, but I think that there w we don't, I don't, I don't know if we totally understand the ins and outs of social media, enough to capitalize on the little nuances that can help you grow and stuff on social. But I think on our Instagram, we have probably like 8,500 people following us. And, uh, what we do is we put out pictures, videos means, you know, sometimes I'll make a meme with my face on the character, moving around and stuff, Instagram stories, like just literally last night at midnight, I made an Instagram story and the stories can be creative. Speaker 1 00:24:15 I mean, for instance, I took a, I took a screen recording of, you know, shooting video on my phone of the caste dose app. And this Thursday, today was the first time that I launched a member show on the Castro's app. And so at midnight that went live. And so at midnight, I made a screenshot of me on the app, scrolling to the episode, hitting play and letting it play for 10 seconds. And I put that on the Instagram stories for people to see that we have our first member episode on the app, you know, things like that. So, I mean, it gets people excited, but engaging people as well in the comment sections, you know, just, you know, when they say, I love the show telling me love, you love them for loving the show. You know, when you see it, I mean, you can't just be Hawking comments all the time that you won't get anything done. But for me, at least I try not to ever feel like I'm above the comments. Like Rogan doesn't have to do that. I mean, but, uh, me listen, like I appreciate the listeners and I want them to know, I appreciate them, especially if they say, Hey, I love you. I want to say, I love you for loving me, you know? So, you know, show that support and stuff. So I don't know, I'm probably not answering the question much, but that's kind of how we run a Instagram. Speaker 0 00:25:24 That's cool. That's good to hear. And I mean, I think you're talking about Rogan. Like Rogan is not going to be Rogan forever because not him specifically, but like those top creators become complacent. Right? And, and folks like you who are hungry and are doing things the right way are catching up with them all the time. I think. And it's, I think it's just amazing from my perspective, both as like a creator and like from a platform level, the things we see people doing to really gain ground very quickly on some of these big creators is, is awesome because it kind of levels the playing field and democratizes the opportunities that we all have. And like, your story is a, is a perfect example of that. It's just fascinating. Like, I think 10 years ago, this was not a thing at all. Right. And now, yeah. I mean, going from doing whatever to being a professional podcast or, and that being your thing, you wake up and do every day is it's like a dream, right? Like you never would have thought this was possible a few years ago. No, Speaker 1 00:26:14 I mean, I was sitting upstairs and living with my wife last night after we ate dinner and the kids are playing and stuff. And I just told her, I was like, you know, I don't know what the future holds. I don't know. I mean, it could be just a blip on the radar, but as long as this life lasts where things are working like this for us, I want to enjoy every second of it. I mean, th this is absolutely amazing. I really do like driving truck. It gets fun for me. And so if I ever one day have to go back to driving truck, it's the end of the world for me. But this being able to be around my three-year-old and my one-year-old, my wife and my, like I said earlier, my wife's a stay at home mom. So like, we're all underneath the roof, but at the same time, this is absolutely awesome. Speaker 1 00:26:55 And no, there anybody thinking, I'm not getting tired of my wife, she's not get tired of me. Like, you know, I'm, I'm down in the studio during the day working a lot. And so we do have that kind of separation and stuff. So we're not going to show those nerves, but it's been, it's been absolutely amazing. And, uh, one of my things is I just want to be a very available parent coming from a dad who was a truck driver, you know, I barely saw him. And that was probably for the best sometimes cause him and I would clash a lot. And, uh, I didn't want that for my kids. I wanted my kids to know who I was. I wanted to know who they were, especially as they got older and, uh, be more available. And, uh, podcasting has offered that for us at least momentarily. And I'm trying to be very real realistic though. You just, I don't want to take anything for granted. I got to keep working. I got to keep grinding because I I'm the kind of person, if I, if I kind of put it on cruise control at this point, I feel like I'm going backwards. And so I just got it. Speaker 0 00:27:47 Yeah. And I think you're spot on. And I think that I don't get the sense that you will put it on cruise control and that's absolutely the right the right way to go. Tony. I want to circle back to something you said earlier that really kind of struck a chord with me, which is, you know, people come to my website and they settle in and they listen to content. Can you talk about the things that you do on the site? And I know, so your site is on Squarespace, right? And you use member space as your membership kind of management platform there, but can you talk about the things that you do on the site to, to create that kind of like warm and welcoming feeling? Cause I think that's really important when you look at like a membership platform. Speaker 1 00:28:23 Yeah. And so, so anybody who doesn't know Squarespace allows you to design your own website and I'm not a website designer. I literally early stages of podcasting. I was maybe like four or five weeks in, I didn't have a website and it just hit me. I should probably have a website because this is all digital and I need to have something that's my storefront. And so I created the website myself and I've had it ever since, and it's not like the most amazing, but you know, for somebody who doesn't know what he's doing, you know, you figure it out over time. So when I was doing the memberships, I didn't want to just do, okay, here's your show. And, you know, have this like list of shows that just one after another it's boring, it's just boring to look at. It's not welcoming. And so on the main site, I have a homepage where there's past shows, there's the blog listing. Speaker 1 00:29:09 There's the episodes. It's just, it's fun to look at it. It's set up in a way where it's a homepage and then you can dig into the website and it's layered from there. Well, I wanted to replicate that on for the members. So they're at the top of the page. There's a tab called members. And if you were to hit, there's a, there's a dropdown menu. But if you were to hit just members or when the dropdown menu happens, members home, it redirects you to the member homepage where there's a video. If it's 32nd video of an advertisement of a YouTube YouTube, show them doing theirs, a playlist. There's a mix that I made of these because I became known for having like real high energy mashups and mixes and stuff at the end of my show as an outro song. So I made a mix for people. Speaker 1 00:29:52 There's a playlist of all the overtime shows I do, which is added stuff. So like there's the member shows on Thursdays, but then sometimes on Tuesdays, I'm talking to somebody who has a lot of this stuff and it goes longer than it's going to go longer than an hour. So what I do is I created an overtime section for members where we do like always the first hour, we do an hour show for Tuesdays and then the extra hour, hour and a half, sometimes two hours goes on the overtime section for the members. And so there's a playlist of all the overtime shows I've done. And then as you scroll down every week, I update this section where it just shows the, that Thursday member show and then underneath it, it shows every ended updates and scroll. It's like a scroll bar with, uh, past episodes for members. Speaker 1 00:30:35 And then there's past live shows that I've done on video with call-ins and things like that. And that's just the homepage. And then as you go through it, there's the member episodes. And when you click on the member episodes, that's where that list kind of pops up. But every episode is its own blog post. So like there's a list of the titles, you click on it and then it opens up a new page where there's the player for that episode. There's the description, there's the show art. And then, you know, comments, there's a comment section. And I think that's huge. I've seen people who don't have comments available on their website. You want to be able to retain people wherever you're trying to get them to go. You want them to be able to retain, you want to retain them there as long, as much as possible. Speaker 1 00:31:16 And so the best way to do that in my mind is the comments, because they say something that somebody else says something, and there's a conversation going and you have nothing to do with it. Like you're not talking, they're just engaging with each other. And when I see members, you know, people who listen to my show, engaging with each other and I'm not even part of the conversation like warms my heart. It makes me feel like I have kids that are playing together nicely, you know, it's, it's great. And then, uh, another thing that I offer is a forum section, which kind of replicates on a bigger scale, the whole, uh, the comments and, uh, members, when they sign up for the forum, they have access to creating topics. And the whole thing. I mean, it's literally my forums that I use. They're like, um, Facebook, you know, 2010 ish, you know, where there's instant messaging, you can actually DM or like live chat with me. Speaker 1 00:32:06 You can live chat with other forum members. There's the private messenger that there's like a lot of different things you can do. It's kind of like a, like a cheap, uh, old school type of social network without the money that, that backs. And that's something that, you know, I could do better at, I don't really engage a ton in the forums. You know, I, I split so much of my time up that forums tend to kind of fall to the wayside, but then over time, people, themselves, they're still in there, they're still doing their thing. And it's when you realize that you are building something that is sustainable in the sense that people don't necessarily need you all the time in order to be there, they can kind of survive on their own because they enjoy the environment and they enjoy the people. And so that was like the whole goal to begin with is to create a membership section where people just felt like this is a landing spot. It's not just hitting play, but I can hit the comment section of that episode. I can go to the forums. It's easy to look at. It doesn't hurt my eyes. It's not hard to find things. I think that was key for me to making sure that the website was welcoming enough, that people are like, oh, this is great. Cause you don't want people saying this sucks. I'm not, I'm never coming back here again. You know, so yeah. That's kind of like the whole mindset behind it for me. Speaker 0 00:33:19 Uh, that's awesome. That's cool to hear kind of the, the mindset and the kind of pieces you have in place there. I think it's really helpful for folks considering doing a similar kind of thing. So that's, that's cool. Thanks for sharing that, Tony, is there anything else that you would like to share just around, like where you are kind of what maybe is in the future or things like for other folks who are interested in pursuing a similar path that they might take away? Speaker 1 00:33:41 I would say feel free to dream. I don't know how old people are typically when they're starting podcasts, but I imagine most of them are adults because kids are probably playing video games. And so many times as adults, we get caught up in the nine to five and we are just so focused on paying the bills and making things work. As far as the house, real life happens, divorce has happened. Finances, all that, that we've kind of, I think, forget how to dream, but that it's okay as an adult to dream. Now I'm a prime example of this. I was 31, I think when I started podcasting and talking about paranormal stuff, ghostly stuff, UFO's aliens, big foot. I'm a truck driver. Like I'm not, I'm not working in a soft environment and there's the guys at work. They're teasing me. They're like, what are you talking about Bigfoot? Speaker 1 00:34:25 Like, it's just like, I was like, you know what? I'm on a different level than these guys. Like I'm okay with dreaming. I'm okay with trying to better my life. You guys, there's guys here have been here for 30 years and that's, that's fine. But I think a lot of times we forget how to dream and that it's okay to have dreams and pursuit things in life as we get older. And I just kept on grinding on that and stuff. And I don't stop on that. Like the podcast, the confessionals is, was the launching point of me publicly saying, I'm stepping outside this box, I'm stepping outside the system. I'm not going to just accept and settle that I'm a truck driver and that's it. I'm just a dump truck driver by myself driving down the road. I knew I could offer more to the world. Speaker 1 00:35:05 And so the confessionals was a launching point for that. But since then I started a second podcast called hammer lane legends, where me and my dad, every Sunday, we come into the studio and we interview other people who are in the transportation industry and they share crazy wild experiences from the road. And, uh, we're doing that show. And that was a dream because when we get to work together, me and my dad, we talk about trucking and it's just a fun show. And then I had this idea to start Legion of legends for YouTube, our YouTube channel for the confessionals, where I take the ideas that we've heard about for years on the professionals, different stories, these legends, and I go out hunting for them. And so right now I'm accumulating camera equipment and things like that. Next Friday, I'm going into an overnight situation where me and my brother is spending a night in an old world war II, prisoner of war camp in the middle of the woods out in nowhere. Speaker 1 00:35:53 And you know, people are like, well, what if something happens? Like that's the freaking point, but like all this stuff stems from dreaming. You know, I like working with audio production stuff. I, that was the initial dream out of high school. I wanted to be a music producer. Well, I didn't, I'm now a podcaster, but there's other people who have, you know, shows that maybe need some help audio wise. Well, I produce other people's podcasts as well. I also, I have like a little side business. I don't really advertise. It's not really for advertising purposes, but it's a media company where I approach people who I think that they have great content. They have a lot to say they don't have a podcast, but they really could be a podcast or if they want it to be. And I approached them and I say, listen, like you have a following, you have a lot of good things to say, I liked the way you, you relay your message when you're on other people's podcasts. Speaker 1 00:36:44 Like say you're an author. I think you should consider starting a podcast. And I do those kinds of things and I help build, take people's knowledge and they're already there. They're already there. They already have the content. They just don't know the audio side of things. And so they're not pod-casters. And I would give them that platform and we start podcasting and, you know, I build their shows for them anywhere from the intros to the production of the weekly shows, building outros, getting it uploaded and shout out to the world, all that stuff. I take care of it all for them because it's not their thing, but they really could be podcasts if they wanted to be. And that's where I kind of come in. So that was a dream. And so I guess my thing is this, like, those are some things that I'm doing. Speaker 1 00:37:20 And it all stems from me being comfortable in my own skin as an adult with a family and saying, you know what, I'm a truck driver, but I can be more than a truck driver and having that dream and just pursuing it. And you're going to have people tease you along the way. They're not going to believe in the dream. Nobody believes in everybody's dream all the time, but do you, and just keep pushing forward, keep your blinders on, head down and just keep going. And I'll just say, I'll share this quick story real quick. I did this, I did this one time. It wasn't the best use of money. Let's just be honest. But, um, as a truck driver, the guys are teasing me and everything and the show's growing and, uh, I didn't have a ton of money, but I was just so fed up with the guys at work that I had this idea. Speaker 1 00:38:01 I'm driving down the highway and I see billboards. And I'm like, oh, I know what I'm doing. So for the month of October, Halloween month, I'm a paranormal show. I took out a digital billboard right at the ramp where all our trucks get onto the highway in the morning, like 60 drivers every morning for the entire month, they had to see my advertisement on the highway. And it was like, they're like, dude, I saw your advertising or your billboard, this, that, and the other. I was like, yeah. And they're like, it's going that. Well, I mean, it wasn't well as I was portraying, but I was like, yeah, man. Yeah, go on real is my big middle finger to everybody. Like I was just, you know, I just have to do this just to rub their face in it because they tease me for so many years and things are starting to go well for me. And I just got to do it, you know? Speaker 0 00:38:44 Nah, it's probably made a lot of them kind of reconsider their, their stance on it. Right. So you probably did them a favor, right? No way. Speaker 1 00:38:51 I'll tell you my last week driving truck, when the guys found out that I'm going to do this full time, there were guys who were like, that takes a lot of honies man. And I was like, no, it doesn't because I've been working like this as a full-time job, essentially. I was putting that kind of effort into it from day one. So it's not like this happened over night for me, but there, there were guys that were just so celebratory with me. I couldn't believe it. I mean the last two weeks of me being there, all these guys were just coming up and like, dude, man, you worked so hard these years and I know it teased you and, and, and all this stuff, but you freaking did it, man. And I think that's really cool. And it was really cool to see the, the, the transformation of people's mindsets. I can't tell you how many guys at work my last week there is like, how do I find your podcast? That's awesome. Just like, uh, well, why don't you just start off with hammer lane legends, because that's a trucking podcast. I think you'll like that a little bit more so, but yeah, it's been a, it's been very interesting. Speaker 0 00:39:50 That's awesome. That's awesome. I can imagine a lot of folks will have questions and want to kind of reach out to connect with you after hearing this story. What where's the, where's the best place and best way to get touch? Speaker 1 00:40:01 Yeah. The best thing is to email me. I have the longest email in the world. I could have done better at that point, but, um, the email is the I get tired of typing it. So I imagine people are tired, tired of hearing it, but the, you can email me and reach out with questions and stuff. My wife gets all the emails first and stuff, but, uh, she knows that with certain things, like if somebody's asking for advice or thoughts or something, she passes it on to me and I'll get back to you and, uh, try to help people if they have any questions on how to build a podcast and I'll do my best to can. Cause I believe giving back to the community. I mean, I know the kind of effort I put in and it's like, I'm just going to tell you what I did. Speaker 1 00:40:47 And I know there's because I've seen it before. There's people who, once they find out the kind of work I put in, they're like, ah, maybe it's not for me, but the people who do put the work in and they start trying, listen, I got a friend now I got an ally. I got somebody in the podcast industry pursuing hard work and we're allies. So I don't have to worry about, you know, I could always just say, Hey, you know, you want to come on my show. Can I come on your show? It's always good to have friends in this industry. And so for me, I think it's just a smart thing business wise and just being a kind person to help people when you can, Speaker 0 00:41:19 Tony, this is a lot of fun. Thanks for taking some time to chat through this. I appreciate it. Absolutely. Thanks for having me.

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