The Story of the Indie Business Podcast

This post shares the story of how I started and grew the Indie Business Podcast … before the word “podcast” really existed. It also kicks off a a series of encore presentations of all of my podcasts from 2005 to 2010.

Before “podcasting,” live or recorded online audio shows were known as “digital radio shows.” I guess you might say I'm a bit of a “podcasting” pioneer, since the only person I personally know of who was hosting “digital radio shows” before me was Jim Blasingame of the Small Business Advocate. This is therefore not only the story of my podcast, but a review of advances in audio technology over the past decade. It's also a lesson on how important it is to clarify your business vision early on, and continuously adapt to evolving technologies.

How I Started Podcasting

(While the word “podcasting” wasn't commonly used when I started out, I'll use that term here for brevity.)

In 2005, the Indie Business Network was 5 years old. It was growing, as was my family. I had two wee ones, one of whom was still nursing. As a stay-at-home-parent entrepreneur, the minutes available to me to lead my business were seriously restricted.

My business work time was further limited by the fact that I was dreadfully sleep deprived, especially since my husband worked the night shift as a cameraman at ABC News.

At the time, I reached my target audience of Makers and Handmade Entrepreneurs through an email newsletter, this blog, entrepreneurial training via audio cassette tape recordings, and the occasional in-person conference or meetup. I knew that I would never grow the way I wanted to unless I found new ways to leverage technology to reach more people. I began to investigate opportunities, and soon discovered services that allowed me to “broadcast” a radio show live on the Internet.

I discovered two possible vendors: World Talk Radio and Global Talk Radio. (Blog Talk Radio did not exist until 2006.) Global Talk Radio was less expensive, so I chose that.

Founded by former Los Angeles radio announcer, Kevin Dawson, Global Talk Radio was an audio hosting platform that allowed me to interview guests on a recorded telephone conference call line, while Kevin streamed the conversation live from his studio to a page on the Global Talk Radio website.

Welcome to the Lifestyle CEO Show!

I hosted the pilot show, “the Lifestyle CEO Internet Radio Show,” on September 21, 2005.

For $375 a month, Kevin supplied produced and live streamed each of my weekly shows from 2005 to 2010. That's 48 shows a year for five years, for a total, give or take, of 240 shows. Each episode was 45 to 50 minutes long after editing. After a live episode concluded, Kevin edited the audio file, uploaded it to his Global Talk Radio website, and sent me an embed code so I could stream the audio file from his website to mine.

Here is how my show page looked at Global Talk Radio's website:

Here is how my show page looked at my website:

The website was divided into several pages, one for each year. Each page featured the guests for that year. As you can see, the above page is from 2007.

I put a lot of effort into making the site aesthetically appealing. You could see a picture of the show guest, along with the topic of the show with a brief description. I linked to the guest's website, as well as to a show sponsor. You could click a link to stream the show right from the website. If the guest was an author, I included an affiliate Amazon link to make it easy for listeners to buy their book.

I also included a download link, though Kevin finally told me that you could not download a file from a remote website, so the link never worked. (How's that for a great example of winging it, and figuring things out as you go? I think we eventually removed the download option, but I sure felt tech savvy while it was there!)

By 2008, social media was barreling through the landscape of the Internet like an freight train with no brakes, mainly through MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter. My head was spinning. I saw a huge opportunity to reach even more people, so I signed up for every social media outlet as soon as I heard about it.

I did my best to convince Kevin to use social media to market his services and help clients like me by promoting our shows across his branded social media platforms. I convinced him to establish the Global Talk Radio Twitter account, but after a few months, the handwriting was on the wall. Kevin hated social media, and no matter how much I pleaded, he was not going to use it with any regularity. By this time, the monthly price for Kevin's services had increased to $400.

While I was still getting superb service from Kevin, I knew that advances in technology meant that the cost of his services should have been decreasing and not increasing. This was the case especially since, with social media, we could leverage each other's followings to increase sponsorships that would help both of us reach more people and become more profitable.

Time for a Change

I watched Kevin very closely. By this time, we were friends. While I liked Kevin as a person, and he did a great job for me, I perceived that he was not excited about the direction online audio production was going. I noticed that fewer and fewer people were signing up for his service. I also noticed that he rarely Tweeted about my show. (Here is one of those few Tweets!)

Meanwhile, he embedded an ad for his services at the beginning of each of my episodes. This fact, combined with Kevin's plan to increase my monthly fee to $475 convinced me that I had make a change. I turned to Blog Talk Radio, which was free (it's no longer free), and the only other platform I knew about at the time. (World Talk Radio had closed down by then.)

I did not like using Blog Talk Radio. It was clunky and the audio quality was inferior to what my listeners had become accustomed to. Not only that, I had responsibility for the entire show. Gone were the days when Kevin worried about audio levels and editing. I had to learn how to manage all of that myself, plus I had to find guests, read their books, prepare questions, and be ready to hit the ground running the minute I opened their audio feed.

Then, after the show, I had to do whatever editing was necessary, and format the audio file in a way that would fit on my website. It was exhausting. Despite that fact that I missed Kevin more than ever, I knew that if I hung in there, technology would eventually catch up with me.

My podcast had helped me reach thousands more people than I otherwise would have, so I knew I had to press forward making the most of what I had at the time. By this time (late 2009), more and more people were discovering that podcasting is a great way to reach your target audience with a message tailored precisely to their needs and interests.

Podcasting helps you reach your target audience with a message tailored precisely to their needs and interests.Click To Tweet

Donna Maria, Indie Business Network

Somewhere in all of this, the Lifestyle CEO Show became the Indie Business Podcast, to complement the Indie Business Network brand. I muddled through with Blog Talk Radio for about a year. By 2012, I took a break to reassess the direction of the show and focus on other business opportunities.

Technology Finally Catches Up With Me!

In 2013, technology finally caught up with me and I discovered a great new podcasting service called Blubrry. In August 2013, I re-launched the show with this little test episode, and I've been hosting and producing Indie Business Podcast ever since.

Converting the Files

Even though Kevin and I parted ways, he still had my podcast audio files. While I had moved on with my business, in the back of my mind, I always regretted not dealing with my files before ending my business relationship with Kevin.

After we parted ways, Kevin and I had lost touch. My life and business continued to grow enormously. I was busy with new projects, so I avoided what I knew would be the huge and expensive task of getting my files and formatting them in a way that added value to my content portfolio. I put it on the back burner, always figuring I'd get to it later.

This was easy to do since, even I had the files, I would not have known what to do with them, or how to store them. While MP3 files were not new when I started podcasting in 2005, and Apple launched the iTunes store in 2003, the technology was not widely available to small business owners and consumers. At the time, iTunes was a Mac-only product and I had a PC. Even if I had gotten my hands on my MP3 files back then, I would not have been able to afford to convert or store them online.

Eventually, I knew I had to bite the bullet and deal with the files. When I finally decided to do so, I realized that I no longer had Kevin's phone number. I emailed him several times, but received got a reply. I began to panic. I knew Kevin had closed Global Talk Radio, but what if he had passed away or something? I kicked myself hundreds of times for being so stupid.

Fortunately, Kevin's old website was still up, and I scoured every nook and cranny of it until I found a phone number. When I called, it was a relief to hear Kevin's voice on the voice mail recorder. Maybe it was not too late after all. I left a message. Then, I left another message. I'm sure I must have called five times before Kevin returned my call.

It was such a relief to hear his voice. I told him what I wanted, all of my shows in MP3 format. My heart dropped at his reply.

The files, Kevin said, were stored in the hard drive of a dusty old PC that he was about to discard. He didn't even know if he could boot it up again. I begged him to try, promising to pay him any amount to secure those files. I even told him I'd send an overnight box for him to send the PC to me, and I would hire someone to do it myself.

Good Relationships Pay Off

Kevin told me that he would try to get the files for me, even though he had moved on in his life and really didn't have the time.

He also told me that the only reason he was going to do it was because he valued the great business partnership we had for so many years, and he considered me to have been one of his best customers ever. He would do it for me, he said, because he liked me.

My heart flooded with relief. I cried right there on the phone because I knew that if Kevin could start that PC, he would do everything he could to get my files off of it.

I sent him a hefty deposit and waited. I didn't breathe until I heard back from him. When he finally called me back, it was with great news. Kevin was able to revive the PC, my files were there, and they actually still played.

We negotiated a rate for Kevin to convert and re-save all 240 (give or take) files. Over the course of about six months, Kevin converted every single show file into MP3 format and saved each one to a drive where I could access them. I am forever grateful to Kevin for helping me embrace a new technology which has helped me impact hundreds of thousands of entrepreneurs over the years.

I got my podcast files back. Yay!

Lessons Learned

I have learned several lessons from my podcasting journey. I'll post more in depth about them at another time, but let me just pass on a few important nuggets now.

  1. Do not fear technology. Technology is your friend.
  2. When you know exactly who your target audience is, it's easier to use technology to your advantage.
  3. Always save your original files. Kevin told me that had I contacted him with the request to convert my files just a few months after I did, they would have no longer been available.

What's Next? The Vault

Now, I'm going to share all of my original podcast episodes with you! I'm calling these encore podcasts Vault episodes, to distinguish them from current episodes of the Indie Business Podcast.

Each of my podcasts, even the oldest one, contains evergreen content that is just as useful today as it was when it was recorded. Some of the technologies we discuss in the episodes have changed, but the fundamental entrepreneurial and life principles are still the same.

I am opening the Indie Business Podcast Vault to you, and I think you are going to love it.

My team and I are the process of deciding on a schedule to release the podcasts from the vault. I'll update you on that later. I'm excited to share the podcast vault with you!

Binge on all of my Indie Business Podcast Episodes

While you're waiting for the vault to open, you can listen to over 50 Indie Business Podcast episode right now at this link.

I can't wait to share all of my podcasts with you!

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About Donna Maria Coles Johnson

Donna Maria is an author, podcaster, attorney, and the founder and CEO of the Indie Business Network, providing affordable product liability insurance and mentoring. Donna Maria teaches Makers and Creative Entrepreneurs how to use technology and community to build a profitable, sustainable business.