Among the fields that one can enter in the online sphere, the podcasting industry has become one of the most popular. Entering the podcasting industry gives people a voice that they can use to speak about basically anything they want to; there’s a freedom there that not every endeavor has to offer. Jordan Harbinger, often referred to as “The Larry King of Podcasting,” is a Wall Street lawyer turned interview talk show host, and a communications and social dynamics expert. Jordan sits down with Steve Sims to talk about the growing field of the podcasting industry. If you’re starting out in podcasts or are interested in growing yours, this conversation between Jordan and Steve is definitely for you!
Listen to the podcast here:
Jordan Harbinger: The Larry King Of Podcasting
Many of you may have heard if you like podcasts, a phenomenal show called The Art of Charm. This was Jordan Harbinger’s move into the podcast world and he dominated it. After leaving The Art of Charm, he’s now got his own show, The Jordan Harbinger Show. You’ll want to listen to that show because it’s fantastic. It is a masterclass on how to do podcasts. I’ll tell you quite openly, I didn’t listen to it in the beginning, that’s why some of the earlier episodes weren’t as good as they get now. Jordan Harbinger breaks down how he got into it, why it’s important, why it’s the platform people should be focusing on. He talks about the policy, which shook me up. I loved it. If you’ve got any interest in what goes into making a podcast, if you’ve got any interest in doing a podcast, you’re going to want to read this. Jordan Harbinger was a cool cat, I like him. I am proud to call him a friend. Enjoy the episode.
Jordan, welcome to the show.
Thanks for having me. I appreciate it.
I’m excited about having you here. We’ve known each other for years.
I’m trying to think where we even met. That’s how it’s been a long relationship when it all blurs together.
For some reason when I think of you, Jayson Gaignard pops up. I’m sure it’s one of the masterminds. I remember chatting with you and then you telling me that you’re this podcast guy. I had no idea at the time the podcast would become so big because they were quite big then. Without a doubt, The Art of Charm, I still now get people to contact me going, “I heard you on Jordan’s The Art of Charm.” That was one of the biggest shows at the time and they’ve got bigger now. Let’s start at the beginning. Do you have a background in audio or radio that got you into podcasts?
No. It’s funny, that was the other way around. When people come up and say, “I heard you on that old show,” you tell them, “I have a new show now.” You’ve got to flaunt the new show out there.
We’re going to be talking about The Jordan Harbinger Show. Everyone should be going over there and listen to your guests. Your guests are good and your questions are brilliant. The way you run the show, you are a masterclass on how to do a podcast.
I appreciate you saying that. It’s nice to be appreciated.
Give us a background of how you got into it.
I was originally a lawyer. I still technically am an attorney. When I was in high school, I was the kid who could figure out the geometry on the day of the test or the day before, cram, and do it. I thought, “Life is going to be easy for me. I can cram.” I got to college and I was like, “Everybody at the University of Michigan is smart. Maybe I should do some work.” Luckily, everybody was getting drunk all the time at Michigan. What I was able to do was simply go to class and do my homework and I was in the top half or third of the class, however, it works. When I got to Wall Street, everyone was smart and everyone worked hard. I thought I’m going to get fired. What I did was I decided that I was going to figure out how to bring business to the law firm and the way to do that was networking. Nobody had a clue what that even meant.
I didn’t know what that meant. I thought it meant getting business cards and handing them out to everyone that you meet. I thought when people do that to me, I throw them away. There’s got to be more to the story. I decided to take networking classes and I took Dale Carnegie. I took all these different learning annex type of classes. I realized that everything I was learning was basic. “Look them in the eye and have a firm handshake.” I was thinking if I’m not getting a million-dollar law deal for my law firm, it’s not because I didn’t have a firm handshake or had some eye contact problem. It’s because people don’t like you. Some guy in a sweater vest teaching a class at the local YMCA on networking is not going to be able to get nuanced enough for me to apply this stuff. That’s when I started being, “I’m on my own for this.” I started reading books on psychology, persuasion, influence and started getting in touch with those authors. It was tough.
I started applying things, going out, and trying things on my own. I would reach out to the authors of these books and sometimes I’d say, “Here’s what I’m doing. I’m working on this nonverbal communication. I tried this persuasion thing.” I’d get an email back from some of these guys or women and they would go, “I haven’t received an email like this in a long time. You are thinking about this. Good for you. Try this and this next time,” and I would do that. I started to get informal coaching from some of these people because I was one of the few people who read the book. This was years ago. This was before everybody could reach out to somebody on social media and be like, “Hi, I read your book. Help me.” This is me having to dig for someone. They don’t have an email address. I find them in the yellow pages or the white pages and call them. They said, “I’ll talk to you, random fan.” It wasn’t creepy.
I would write to their AOL email address or university address if they’re a professor or I’ll mail them some letter. It was an old school. That got me farther along, but what I realized was a lot of the people who wrote these books, they didn’t know how to apply a lot of it in the context that I wanted either. I started the podcast in part because I thought if I have a show, these people will talk to me. It’s the media. I can get them to jump on the phone and chat for half an hour and I can ask them all the questions I want. I don’t have to corner them and ask them one question at some mixer or book signing at a bookstore. It was almost like a trick to get people to mentor me, help me out, and get a bunch of their time. What happened was we made a show that ended up becoming popular. That was a lot of fun. I was originally trying to not get fired as an attorney and try to figure out how to bring in business so that I could eventually make a partner maybe. The show was an afterthought. It was a vehicle. It was a racket in the beginning.
How long did it go for? It had a good run. How long was the timeframe for The Art of Charm?
I started in 2006 and I left the company in 2018.
2006, what was the landscape like for podcasts then? Were there many podcasts around then?
No, there were probably 800 or there was a little bit more. I remember reading an article, there were 800. I have no way to verify that now. Looking in the directory, there was no cover art in iTunes at the time. There were no graphics in iTunes. I don’t believe you could buy music on iTunes either or they had just started that option. Most people would take their CDs and rip their CDs into iTunes. It was an organization for music. Podcasts were the thing at the bottom that if you navigated through it, you could find some shows and download them. There were not that many. I loved every second of it. I was recording in my friend’s basement. The way that we got into radio was a friend of a friend who had written a book and he got invited to go on SiriusXM Satellite Radio to talk about his book. He did and they loved him. Then they invited him back.
He lived in Virginia and he was like, “I’m not going to drive up to New York again. This is a pain in the butt. Why don’t you take my guest spot on this show?” He made the intro and said, “You should interview this guy, Jordan. He’s interesting. He’s similar to me in certain ways.” This radio station said, “Sure if you’re not going to come, we’ll interview these guys.” I went in there, did the show, and this is where luck comes in. The station manager just happened to be listening to them at the time because he thought the topic was interesting. I was talking about dating and nonverbal communication, things like that. When the show was over, he came down with the talent booker and they were like, “Why don’t you come back next week? Do you want to go to other shows? This was interesting.” I said, “Yeah. I have a podcast. Do you know what that is?” He said, “I do because I’m an audio guy.” I handed him a card. I happened to have a card that tells people how to find my podcast. Two weeks later, I emailed him and I said, “I don’t suppose you’ve had a chance to listen to this podcast.”
He goes, “I’ve been bingeing on this. Do you want your own show on Satellite Radio? We can’t pay you that much, but you can come and do your show on Satellite Radio.” I said, “Absolutely.” I was living in New York and I was doing the law thing. I said, “The only hitch is it has to be either on the weekend or late at night so that I can come and do it after my job at this law firm.” He said, “How about Friday night at 7:00?” I said, “Great.” Every Friday night, I would change out of my law clothes or if I didn’t have time, I would literally run to the subway and rush up to Midtown Manhattan from Wall Street, get up there, grab one of those food carts full of food because I was starving and hadn’t eaten dinner yet and the run-up to the top floor. There were many times where I would literally slide in front of the microphone. It was a live radio show with callers. My producer would be like, “Where are you? The music is playing.” I burst through the door like Kramer with a sweaty Banana Republic dress shirt on, chinos and dress shoes that had scrapes on them because I wiped out, climbing the subway stairs.
How long did you do the show on the radio?
I think it was 3 or 3.5 years. I’m glad about this. The whole time I had the radio show, I continued to do the podcast because I thought, “I have a boss at this radio station, but I don’t have a boss when I do the podcast and I can funnel radio listeners.” They didn’t care. They were, “You can advertise your podcast all you want because nobody listens to podcasts. Nobody knows how. Nobody’s going to quit their SiriusXM subscription because they go to podcasts.” I thought, “That’s what you think, but I’m not going to correct you on this.” I funneled a bunch of our show listeners from that radio show to the podcast. Now, radio companies are hiring podcasters and trying to bring them on the air because they have popular shows and radio is decreasing every year.
You’re almost like the pirate radio period when people used to have stations on the old ship when I was in Europe. You were right there at the beginning of the Wild Wild West of podcasts.
I didn’t know where the term pirate radio came from and I thought it was because they were stealing the airwaves and not licensed, like pirating software.
Tell people what pirate radio is and where it came from.
Apparently, and correct me if I get this wrong, what happened was there were fishing trawlers that would float around in the waters outside of the UK and they would broadcast radio stations from the boats. They called them pirate radio because they were at the same time not licensed by whatever your FCC is over in the UK. They were illegally broadcasting. I don’t know if it was music or talk or whatever. Were they broadcasting political messages? I have no idea, but they were considered pirate ships, so pirate radio was coined. I thought it somebody who drove around in a Jeep or had a radio station in their house and played their station over an existing radio station.
It wasn’t even a sinister politics you see in Europe, predominantly England. You have to have a TV license and you have to have a radio license. If you don’t have those things, then you can’t listen to the radio that you bought that morning. If you’ve got a radio station that shouldn’t be on there, like 97.5 or something, you could tune in and you would listen to all the latest hits from what has become now the biggest radio stars form these ships floating around the shores. There was no politics. It was a talk show, Howard Stern stuff, big radio music shows. It was a way of getting around the license thing. It was a cool period, but you were in the form of podcasts.
It did feel like that because I remember putting the show online originally not because I was like, “We’re going to get a worldwide audience.” I put the show online because I was telling people about networking, relationship development, and dating at bars and school. They would be like, “I am so interested in this. I want to learn more.” I found myself repeating my conversations often with people or I’d be having a conversation with somebody like an author at a bar. The people next to us would be like, “This is interesting. Do you guys mind if we join you?” I’d have men and women crowding around and I thought, “We should record this. That way, when people ask me the same questions, I can hand them a CD.” I was burning CDs and handing them out, and it got expensive. Also, people were like, “I gave that to my roommate and he loves it.” “I gave it to my brother when I went home for Christmas and he loves it. I need another one.”
I started charging $5, then $20. People were like, “I need ten of these.” They would go around and sell them or give them away. I thought, “If only there was a way to put an MP3 file on the internet for people to download.” That’s how I discovered podcasting. I didn’t hear about podcasting and think, “I need to do this.” I had the need to put a sound file online and had nowhere to do that. There was no YouTube either at this point. I was uploading the files to a server. My friend was like, “Instead of saying go to JordanHarbinger.com and then having a list of MP3s for people to download, we can tell them to open up iTunes,” which a lot of people were starting to get at that point. We could say, “Find The Jordan Harbinger Show,” or the early version of whatever it was. They would search for it and find it then. In our first year, twenty downloads were from Ann Arbor, Michigan. That was the whole point.
People started throwing away our business cards at the bars. I told the bar owner, “Can you not throw these away? I’m trying to build this show.” He’d be, “I’ll keep them on the bar. I thought this was weird multilevel marketing.” I’m like, “No, it’s my show.” He said, “We’ll use them as coasters if you want.” I said, “Great.” People will be like, “What is this?” We’d make these funny business cards that said, “That girl you’ve just bought this drink for isn’t interested in you. Go to this URL.” People would shove it in their pocket and they’d be laughing. These guys would roll their eyes and shove the card in their pocket and then show the girl. She’d be like, “No, you should definitely go to that URL. Thanks for the drink. Bye.” It was funny to see that. We started to gain a viral following in our town. We started getting emails from other people, “I go to your school. Where are you guys going to be on Thursday?” We would run into show fans in the bars that we went to.
We started checking our analytics and we’d see like, “We had thirteen downloads from South Africa last month. That’s weird. That must be a mistake.” We’d see downloads from Europe. Eventually, on the show, I’d say, “If you’re listening to us in South Africa, can you shoot me an email? Who are you?” This is when it felt like pirate radio. I’d get an email from somebody and they’d go, “Jordan, I’m a game warden at a Safari park. My job is to run around and look for poachers. We don’t have radio stations out here because I’m in the middle of nowhere. I’m in the middle of a Safari park. I burned your podcast to a Sony MiniDisc. I listened to it in the Jeep because I’m out for days at a time. I camp when I go out here because I’m hundreds of miles into South Africa.” I thought that is cool.
He goes, “Why don’t you come to the Safari park and I’ll take you around.” I thought, “That’s an opportunity I’ve got to do.” I didn’t have the money to do that in law school, but it was unbelievably amazing to have that. I remember thinking, “This is incredible. This is a format that is next level. I can sit in my basement, upload this MP3 file to the internet and people can find it in directories of podcasts that they’re looking for. People from Africa, Europe, Asia, and North America are all finding this and sending me an email.” That was incredible. That was an insane feeling to me.
What kind of download subscriber numbers did you get to in your peak of The Art of Charm?
The highest we ever got with the old show was I believe two million downloads a month or four. It’s hard to remember because it’s starting to blur together now. Let’s say it was four. I think that’s a bit on the high end. We were getting it at one point four million downloads per month, which was awesome. It was incredible to see that.
Let’s be blunt. You can be in something now and the difference in technology over three years is equivalent of a decade in the ‘80s and ‘90s. Stuff is moving so fast now. For you to be in there from the Wild Wild West of talking about things like burning, and I remember those Sony MiniDiscs. I thought I was Bill Gates because I had this bit of technology. When they went into the Sony stick and using flash drives, remember of all of that and it wasn’t years ago. Stuff changes quickly. The podcasting world, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that while you knew you had something, did you think you would become what it is now? The second part of that question is, where is it now? What is your view of the podcast world now?
Did I ever think it would be this big? No, of course not. It never even was supposed to be big. People even forgot about them. They were a thing for a couple of years and then people stopped talking about them. They grew slowly because of word of mouth, but it wasn’t a thing until the last years. This is like the second inning of podcasting. A lot of people think like, “It’s peak podcast, everybody’s got a podcast.” Blogging went through the same thing where everybody had a blog and now you don’t look at blogs often. You might have a few that turned into real big sites like TechCrunch, which is a newspaper. Engadget used to just be a blog. Podcasting technology, we’re using SquadCast.fm. It’s an awesome product that lets us see each other and records locally. It doesn’t sound like Zoom. It doesn’t sound like Skype. This is built for professional use, but it’s still early days for this tech.
Until this year, I had so much trouble booking big names for The Jordan Harbinger Show because they would go, “I don’t know what a podcast is. I only do print media.” They don’t believe in digital. Judge Judy told me, “I only do print,” and I went, “That’s fine. You’re 75 or 80 years old.” Even comedians who were starting to see podcasting be a thing because of guys like Marc Maron, they would still be like, “It’s niche.” I remember Howard Stern saying, “Nobody’s doing podcasting.” Adam Carolla was in it and that was a huge show. Some guests would go on Carolla and go, “It’s funny until you did this podcasting. We thought that was a bunch of losers. It’s like a fat guy in a couch.” They don’t know that this is a big thing. Now that Spotify dropped $350 million acquiring a couple of companies in the podcast niche, there’s a lot of money coming into this space. I couldn’t get a guest on the show. I couldn’t beg for podcast advertisements years ago. There was none.
You could sell a GoDaddy domain name and you get $30 referral credit years ago. Now I’ve got twelve shows a month. I’ve run 60 ads through those twelve shows, which isn’t a lot. My show’s an hour long, but those ads go for $3,000 each. Conan O’Brien, if you want an ad on that show, you’ve got to drop $40,000. It’s absolutely incredible. This is just the beginning. If you look at statistics on podcasts, and I won’t get too into the weeds here, but compared to radio, radio monetizes at $0.10 per listener hour. I’m not sure how that works or what that means. Podcasts are 10% of that. That means that podcasts are under monetized by a factor of ten. What that means is the several hundred million dollars we have going through podcasts, there are going to be billions of dollars going through podcasting in the next 5 to 10 years. It’s a growth industry.
Now that people see money, that brings in talent, like a basketball league brings in talent or when soccer is famous in Europe. All your top talent goes and plays soccer. They don’t play American football. They don’t play ice hockey. With podcasting, we’re starting to see comedians be like, “I’m going to earn my living on a podcast, not touring around or trying to write for a TV show or pitching pilots to TV networks and being broke all the time. I can do a podcast or write comedy podcasts or write storytelling podcasts.” We see professional screenwriters writing podcasts now because they make a lot more money and they have a lot stronger chance of getting made than a TV show pilot or a movie.
You brought up a number of things there. I’m thankful you’re taking the time to chat with me. One of the things that you mentioned was a lot of talent is coming into the podcast world. You brought up SquadCast. We’re not getting paid to advertise, but I subscribed to it. I’m a great fan of it. I will personally vouch for SquadCast. I think it’s a great group. That’s who I use for my podcast. It’s not who I use for all of my podcasts. In the beginning, if you go back to episodes 1, 2, and 3, the sound quality is far less because I’ve never had SquadCast. A big shout-out to Mark and all those boys over there doing it. It brings in great talent, but it doesn’t cost a lot of money. You can be running a podcast for less than $50 a month easily.
You’re getting every mum and their dog going, “I’ve got a podcast on gardening.” “I’ve got a podcast on painting boats.” A mutual friend of ours, Ari Meisel, and you were with me in Encino that time, Ari turned around to me and said, “You don’t do a podcast. Why not?” I said, “I don’t know.” He said, “You should.” I started a podcast. I bought the worst mic in the world. I bought a Blue Yeti, plugged it in, and went into Skype. I had a shitty sound. It was all wrong, but I started. My point is, what are the basics that you should have to start a podcast? Why do you do a podcast? How do you get it out to the masses? We’re going to go into The Jordan Harbinger Story.
The thing that’s great about podcasting is when I started, Guitar Center, which is where I bought my first audio interface which is a thing that plugs into your computer and then you can plug a microphone into it, they didn’t have USB microphones that were better than those little tiny lapel things for a phone call. I had to special order something. They didn’t carry it at the store because nobody was using that kind of thing. I remember this conversation clearly. The cheapest one they had on sale was an MXL Studio microphone. It was way too sensitive to be used for a podcast. It was a studio microphone. It was $90 on sale. They said, “You want to use this. You want to plug that into your computer. Why?” “We’re recording on the computer.” They were like, “Why don’t you record on this super expensive recording thing?” I was like, “No, I don’t want a DAT tape recorder. It’s got to be digital. We’re uploading it to the internet.”
They ordered this thing. When we finally got it, we plugged the microphones in and it was awesome. We were recording, talking and it would show up in GarageBand or whatever the earliest audio recording software was at that point. I don’t even know if GarageBand existed. It was cool. You can get a USB microphone, you can get high-quality microphones or medium quality microphones that plug right into the computer, and you don’t need a special interface. You can upload your audio. You can interview guests using SquadCast.fm. You can record your audio on your computer. It’s easy. Editing is easy and visual. You can also outsource a lot of that stuff for $50 to somebody in the Philippines or wherever.In the podcasting world, stuff changes very quickly. Click To Tweet
They will edit your whole hour-long show. It’s easy to start a show now. What’s great about it now is it’s democratized. Anybody can start one. The bad thing is it’s so crowded because anyone can start one. The differentiator, this is where I got lucky coming in so early, I was able to build a skillset of broadcasting and interviewing. That’s what sets The Jordan Harbinger Show apart. Back then, our show was pretty bad, but we were the only game in town that was talking about nonverbal communication, dating, picking up girls, whatever the topic of the day was. We were the only game in town period. Now, you said it, there’s probably a podcast about painting boats.
I was listening to your show because the first show that I did, I was concerned about not talking. I think I talked 90% and the guests 10%. Interviewing someone is tough. I decided in the end not to interview anybody just to have a conversation because we can do that. It is a skillset that you learn and you do go from bad to hopefully good, then hopefully better. Let’s pick on the guy painting boats. I’m sure there are three people in the world that love painting boats. Let’s say he wants to scale his podcast. How does he get people to listen in? How does he market it? How does he promote it? How does he do it?
That’s the hardest part because growing a podcast is tough. I saw stats on this. This was from TechCrunch and it was about podcast movement, which is a thing I went to. It showed the way that people find podcasts. It was the first way was social media. Now that the whole area is massively crowded. I think that also counts like YouTube and celebrities sharing things on social media. The other way that people find out about podcasts is word of mouth. Fifty-seven percent of people find podcasts through word of mouth, but people only talk about podcasts and share them with other people when they’re good. Nobody’s sharing the terrible show that you record in your basement as we did back in the day, except they were because we were the only game in town. Now, the table stakes are, “Knows how to conduct a good interview, has good guests, if it’s that kind of show, is fun, entertaining, has good audio quality.”
We even see celebrities get taken down because it’s like, “The audio quality is not good. You’re rambling on,” that kind of thing. It doesn’t work. Aside from that, from other podcasts, and that’s our strategy, is how you grow. We were word of mouth. There’s not a whole lot you can do about that but produce good content. I have made it a mission to go on as many other shows as I could. For a long time, I said yes to everything. I went on hundreds of shows, so people would hear about my show or me from that podcast. Going down to 42% podcast apps, software platforms, and then everything else is below that. Word of mouth and from other podcasts is the main way that people find out about podcasts. If you’re not famous, that’s probably the only way that people are going to find out about your show.
I’ve got one more thing to come into and then we’re going to go into the new show, the new realm, how you’ve developed that, the mistakes and the pitfalls, etc. You brought up there that I had a bit of a disagreement with you. I want to challenge you. I want to play with you. I did your show, it was clearly one of the best shows you ever had. You sent out a PDF once and it was how to select if this podcast is right for you to be a guest on. Do you remember that?
I still send that out to people who have been on the show. It’s like, “You might be on a lot of shows. Here’s a PDF about whether or not you should say yes.”
I’m wondering if it’s changed from the first time I got it. You said something about Judge Judy. When I was doing a lot of media in my concierge business, in the late ‘90s and the early 2000s, people would contact me and they’d say, “We want to do an interview. It’s going to be online.” I’d say to them, “Is it also going to be in print?” They’d be like, “No.” I’d be like, “I don’t want it. I’m only interested in a print.” Times changed and I got print and digital. People would contact me and they go, “We haven’t got print, but we’ve got a digital space.” I’ll be, “I want it.” I learned very early on that I can share digital, but I can’t share print. When podcasts came up and I had to start marketing my book, I could again pay a fortune on Facebook Ads. I could start promoting. I could get JVs affiliates. If I got my voice on a podcast and I had you send me that form that said, “How does selective a podcast is good for you?”
A lot of people, will start a podcast and they will get bored six months later, then it’s dead and gone. It’s out with the Jurassic. What does happen is if they start to get a little bit of momentum when people start subscribing, they start listening to some of your earlier episodes as well to see the growth. It’s evergreen. It’s like being on a bookshelf forever. I had a sheet that told me how to pick to be on a podcast. “Did they have a podcast? Was it a human being I was talking to?” I was a podcast slut and I got on. It’s funny because you know I’m a big fat guy that liked burger steaks and drinking whiskey. I was on a ton of fitness podcasts. I’m doing a speech for a bridal convention. I was on a bridal podcast. If they would have me, I was on it. You said you were on a lot of podcasts. Have you changed that? Would you still keep the rules about how to be on someone’s podcast?
I keep those rules because the problem is, if you’re growing a show, go on everything in the beginning. Fine, but if you wrote a book about something and you’re a popular writer. You’re going to get duped by a lot of podcasters because what podcasters do often is they’ll BS what’s going on and they’ll say, “I have seven million downloads.” Everyone’s like, “Wow.” What they don’t tell you is those seven million downloads are from the last seven years of them doing the show. They get a million downloads a year. It’s still a decent amount. What they don’t tell you then is that they do a show every day, so when you start to divide it up, you’re like, “A couple of hundred people listen to this,” or even a few thousand, but it’s misleading because they’ll go, “I did this show. It has millions of people listening.” That’s a little bit unfair because then somebody else who’s honest and says, “I have 10,000 downloads per episode.” They go, “This other guy has millions.” No, they gave you a different number. I try to decode those numbers for people.
One of the problems I have with that though, and I’m now getting a benefit out of this because I’m challenging the concept here, is I’ve been on some of America’s, Europe’s, and Asia’s largest podcasts. I will say this to you. I still get contacted with reference to our podcast.
We had you on my new show.
People talk about it. I was on some of the other big platforms as well. I would get a tiny uptick when you go on a podcast and maybe the guy who’s got 10,000 listeners, but they may be loyal listeners. What I’m saying is if you’ve got a million downloads and you’ve got 10,000 downloads, that’s not always your answer. Here’s an easier answer. If you’ve got time in your day, be on the podcast. You’ve got nothing to lose. It doesn’t cost you anything in the early stage.
I would agree with that. If you’ve got time in your day, definitely. If you’re trying to prioritize and you’re going, “This person says they have eight million,” look at the number of iTunes reviews they have. If they got 24 reviews, somebody is not telling the truth. With YouTube, you can say, “I have a huge YouTube channel,” then I go to your YouTube channel and you have a thousand subscribers. You don’t have a huge YouTube channel. Podcasts are opaque. They’ll go, “I’m a top 50 show.” Top 50 in what? Your sub-category? Were you top 50 for a day when you launched it and you’ve been gone since then? I want to decrypt it because people think, “Why are you blowing the whistle on us?” A lot of podcasters didn’t like that document that I produced, that PDF. The reason is that I was blowing the whistle on their bullshit. It’s important to do that. That’s at JordanHarbinger.com/guestguide. The reason this is important is that we have to blow the whistle on these people who are lying because it’s bad.
Let’s say I get a good author on the show, but I’ve lied about my numbers. They go, “I went on a podcast that had eight million downloads. That’s what the guy said. I didn’t see any uptick. Nobody talked about it. I didn’t see any sales uptick. This is garbage. I’m pissed off.” Then they say, “I’m not going to go on any podcasts anymore,” or “I’m only going to go on a podcast if a celebrity invites me on.” That’s bad for the rest of the podcasters. It’s like a prisoner’s dilemma. If we all tell the truth then we can impress people by doing good work. If we all lie, nobody does podcasts. If one person lies, they get a benefit, and then everybody else is screwed. We have to be careful. I produced this document because people come on my show. A lot of other podcasters listen to The Jordan Harbinger Show. People reach out and go, “I heard you were on Jordan. I have millions of downloads too.” Over the course of eight years, you have millions, not every week. That’s a different story. It’s a different game.
That happened to me. I’ve got a lot of people to reach out to me afterward. At the time, I had a lot of time available to me. I think both structures are smart, but it depends on where you are in your business. It depends on where you are in building up your brand. Regarding what you’ve done now, you’re a part of undoubtedly one of the first, easily one of the best podcasts. You all split ways left The Art of Charm, and launched your own podcast. Moving into a new era, was it harder to get people to follow you? Did they still pick up on the fact that it’s still Jordan Harbinger? I believe they tried to keep The Art of Charm going. How did you find that new surface to run on?
At first, I had a nasty split with them and then they said, “Good luck, buddy. You’re screwed now.” That was the literal situation. I ended up taking the majority of the team with me, which is great. When I had to rebuild from zero, I freaked out. The loyalty of an audience to a show host should not be underestimated because what happened was the guys, and one of whom is using my last name which is creepy, over at The Art of Charm, they still do that podcast, but it’s terrible. The majority of the listeners have left. The network doesn’t work with them anymore. The advertisers don’t work with them anymore and they can’t book any guests for the most part. It’s very difficult for them. People can tell the difference in the voice because I’ve conducted a good interview and those guys tend to ramble and talk about themselves. The reason that the audience left was that they were loyal to me as a host. They wanted the good content that we were producing. It’s hard to imitate that.
It’s like YouTube. You and I are funny and we could have a funny TV show, but if we showed up and we booted Jimmy Kimmel off and you and I just did his show, the audience would be pissed off and they wouldn’t tune in. That’s exactly what happened with The Art of Charm. People left in droves. I still get emails every day like, “I can’t believe it. I was so behind on the show because I went to Africa to work at a missionary. I found that the new episodes were not you,” or, “I went on hiatus because I had twins that I couldn’t listen anymore. I worked from home.” I still get new listeners back. The Jordan Harbinger Show grew fast because the majority of the audience bounced right away. They left the old show pretty much immediately and googled, “Where’s Jordan?” I went on 115 or 125 shows within the six months that I left. I announced it everywhere that I had The Jordan Harbinger Show. I rebuilt the audience fast. Now, The Jordan Harbinger Show is bigger than The Art of Charm ever was even at its peak. The reason for that is a loyal audience, working hard on good content, and I don’t have a creepy ass name like Art of Charm.
To get through the bullshit, reviews are one thing, but how can someone go along and see that they’ve got ten million downloads? Is there any site that you can see how many downloads a podcast gets?
There’s not and that’s very problematic because you end up with a bunch of people that are stumbling around in the dark. If you go to JordanHarbinger.com/guestguide, what I suggest people do is if they’re friends with the person or they have any relationship with the booker or the host of that show, just do it. If somebody’s starting a new podcast and they want you as a guest, it would be nice of you to do that show. They shouldn’t feel entitled to your time. When I started The Jordan Harbinger Show, I called you and I was like, “We’re probably not as big as we’re going to be in a bit, but would you come on my show?” You said, “Yes.” You didn’t say, “How many downloads do you have?” because we have a relationship. I recommend always being cool with anybody who you have a relationship with. Do their show, help them out with their project. A little goes a long way.
I would ask people what number of downloads they have per episode. Most people are not going to bald-faced lie. If I think that they’re full of it or they seem to not know their downloads per episode, not downloads per month, not downloads per week, not total downloads, but downloads per episode. if they don’t know that, I start to look at things like, “How many Apple Podcast reviews do they have? Do they have less than 100? If so, they probably don’t have several thousand listeners. They certainly don’t have several million.” If they have less than 100 Apple Podcast reviews, it doesn’t mean it’s not worth your time. It means that it’s a small show. The other metric is do they have 50 or more episodes released? That’s important because most people quit podcasting. The stat is like episode thirteen is the magic number. Most people quit at that number or before.
If somebody has 50 episodes, they care about it and they don’t care how many people listen, but they care about their show, which might make it a worthwhile interview. Nobody who has less than 50 has 100,000 downloads per episode unless they’re a celebrity. It’s not possible. I say, “How many episodes do you have?” If you don’t know your number of downloads per episode, they go, “60.” I go, “You’ve got 60. You’ve got 110 iTunes reviews and you say you have thousands and thousands of downloads per month, but you don’t know per episode. I’ll do the show because you’re trying hard. You care a lot. You’ve been around for a while.” What you don’t want is to go, “I’ll do the show because this person wants me to do it.” They have all these downloads and then you do it and they quit before they release your episode or you’re their launch episode.
They want to have you on but they say they have all these downloads, but they’re guessing. A lot of people take a lot of liberties with what they do. I’ve got good friends that are good marketers that say things like, “I tell them I have a hundred thousand downloads per episode because that’s where I’m going to be by the end of the year.” I’m like, “How many do you have now?” “12,000.” “You’re not going to be there at the end of the year. You’re going to be there at the end of the decade, unless you spend $2 million on advertising. Even then, you’re not going to have that numbers.” You’ve got to be careful. People will make predictions and those predictions are inaccurate. I try to base it on the data because otherwise, you can waste a lot of time doing an hour at a time doing shows that nobody listens to.
I’d never thought about the 50 in the can. I’ll have to check what I’ve got now. I don’t know if this is normal, but I love them because they’re a great way of hanging out with people I love. I get to have a chat. Like you say, it goes off to someone and these things can get piled into Dropbox, and then they can be zapped over to someone. It can be edited and it could be launched. I have fun with it. That’s brilliant advice. You’ve now moved into quite simply your own platform, The Jordan Harbinger Show. What are you doing that you did differently or were amplifying the character you were without all the baggage of The Art of Charm?
I’m amplifying the character that I was without all the baggage of the old brand. What I do know is I still spend 10 to 20 hours preparing for each guest. I travel to them. I do the interviews in person. I film them sometimes. I’ve stepped up the quality of the show. My interview skills are better than they were a few years ago. That’s the way this goes. I’m very conscious about my interview skills, the way that I speak, and the way that I structured the show. My producer skills are better than they were a few years ago. Everything has improved quite a bit and I take it more seriously now before I had to shill coaching programs. Now, I just do the show. I don’t have to worry about people having a temper tantrum in my inbox because we didn’t sell enough eBooks that month, which is what I was dealing with at the old company. Now I can focus on doing a quality show, quality product. That means a lot because that means I can treat my relationship with the audience, advocate for them, and making sure that they are happy with what they’re hearing. That’s my primary and only concern. There’s a lot of freedom in that.
What does the future for Jordan Harbinger look like?
I’ve got some amazing interviews lined up. That’s short-term, but I’m also starting to write for magazines like Newsweek about things that I cover on the show. I’m almost mutating into this print media journalist in a way. I’m doing deep dives with these people that a lot of people never get a chance to talk to, like world leaders and people who are studying fringe science or maybe not fringe science and getting a chance to dive in with some amazing folks. That for me has been exciting. I had a kid, so I’m enjoying the fact that I work from home. I can or cannot travel a lot. I’m planning on spending a lot of time with my kids when they’re young and when they’re older. Having this job is in many ways very freeing because I know a lot of people who do speaking gigs. They’re out twice a week. They’re on the road five days a year or more. I don’t want to live in hotels and speak in conference rooms over-air-conditioned hotels. I don’t want that. I like being at home. Sixty percent of my job is reading and you can’t beat that.
Would you say that this satisfies your inquisitive nosy bastard self?
Yes, definitely. People go, “How do you decide who gets on the show?” “It’s mostly what I’m interested in.” “Don’t you have complicated metrics about what your audience wants and this, that and the other thing?” I’m like, “We do have that, but truth be told, I don’t care that much.” I figure if my audience is like me even 50%, then anything I’m interested in is going to have a massive overlap with what most people in the audience want. As long as I don’t get too indulgent about my own weird curiosity every single time, I’m going to have the audience with me the majority of the time. That to me is important. I can do an episode about traveling to North Korea or about somebody who got kidnapped in Pakistan or about the rise of China. I’m going to have the majority of the audience be like, “If Jordan’s onboard, I’m on board,” and they’ll at least give it a shot. That means a lot.Word of mouth is one of the main ways that people find out about podcasts. Click To Tweet
I am going to give a big shout-out to your show. Anyone that likes listening to podcasts should listen to The Jordan Harbinger Show. Anyone that wants to start a podcast and wants to know what level they need to play at needs to listen to your show so that they can focus on you and reverse engineer it as a masterclass. I’ve got to endorse not only your character, your style, and your interview technique. As you said, and as what everyone learns when they start doing a podcast, it’s an incredible skill that I haven’t perfected. I don’t think you’ve perfected, but you are good at it. It’s a tough thing.
Thank you very much. I don’t think I’ve perfected it either. It’s a work in progress. If you want to be the best in the world, you have to constantly be rocking it and working hard. That’s what I’m doing with the interviewing and the show.
I love it a lot. As you said, “If you haven’t got much to do in the day, ignore it, be on everyone’s show. If you’re starting to build up, prioritize, use this.” I think the thing that’s going to stick with me, and there’s quite a lot here, is the 50 can. I had no thought about 50 in the can. I appreciate you being on the show.
Thanks so much for having me. I appreciate it.
This is another episode of the show. I hope you enjoyed the episode. If you want to come and hang out with me and with some of my friends, maybe you should come to one of our Speakeasies. How do you do this? Head over to SteveDSims.com, look up Next Event, click it, and get involved. We’ll find out what your problems are and how we can help you. We’ll give you a tremendous event. Hopefully, we’ll see you at a Speakeasy one day in the future. All the best.
- The Art of Charm
- The Jordan Harbinger Show
- Jordan Harbinger
About Jordan Harbinger
Jordan Harbinger, often referred to as “The Larry King of podcasting,” is a Wall Street lawyer turned interview talk show host, and a communications and social dynamics expert. Jordan began broadcasting in 2006. He receives over six million downloads every month, making The Jordan Harbinger Show one of the most popular podcasts in the world. The show was awarded Apple’s “Best of 2018” and is one of the most downloaded shows of the year. The mission of The Jordan Harbinger Show is to help you become a better informed, more critical thinker – so you can get a much deeper understanding of how the world works and make sense of what’s really happening.
Jordan Harbinger has always had an affinity for social influence, interpersonal dynamics, and social engineering, helping private companies test the security of their communications systems and working with law enforcement agencies before he was even old enough to drive. Jordan spent several years abroad in Europe and the developing world, including South America, Eastern Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, and he speaks five languages. He has also worked for various governments and NGOs overseas, traveled through war zones, and been kidnapped — twice. He’ll tell you the only reason he’s still alive and kicking is because of his ability to talk his way into (and out of) just about any type of situation. Jordan Harbinger is a member of the Northern California Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.