11 Steps To 12 Million Downloads: The Nathan Latka Podcast
Jan 26, 2021
It's December 2016 and I'm nervous.
I'm sat in a bedroom in my parents house nervously sipping my coffee waiting for 9pm.
Because at 9pm, I'm going face to face with online marketing's most controversial player: Nathan Latka.
Yes, me... the very early stage entrepreneur had managed to hustle an interview spot on Latka's relatively new podcast: The Top (read on to find out how this happened).
And twenty minutes later, after a very unconvincing performance, it's over and my episode moves through The Top's highly tuned podcast producing machine to be spit out onto his RSS feed two months later.
You can actually check out that episode here:
Though please don't ;)
Nathan has since gone on to leverage that very podcast into one of the biggest media brands in the SaaS space:
$1.5m in revenue last year (just on the podcast)
25k email addresses
10k physical magazine customers
This post explains...
Step 1 - Niche Down
Nathan Latka's (more on the name in the next step!) targeting strategy resembles a barbell shape...
Broad at the start, focussed in the middle then broad again at the end.
I would argue that the podcast... and Nathan's media empire would be significantly less valuable without this narrow, middle section of the bar.
Everyone has to get known for something. One way of getting known for something is to release close to 1,500 interviews on the topic, just Nathan has done:
Because of this, Nathan is now known as the SaaS guy.
Even Google knows Nathan as the SaaS guy:
Why did Nathan choose SaaS?
Pre-podcast Nathan started and grew a SaaS business called Heyo, before SaaS was such a big thing. It was a topic that he has the most experience in and probably the topic that he forecast would experience significant growth over the next five years.
And up until the pandemic... it did:
To summarise, Nathan:
Chose a niche he had experience in
Chose a niche that had a good chance of growing
As you read through the following ten steps, try also to imagine a world where Nathan wasn't the SaaS guy... where Nathan was a "marketing guy" or a "b2b guy"...
I hope you will see that much of the following strategies for growth and monetisation would simply not work.
LEARNING: Even if it's just for a part of your for podcasting journey: become known for something.
Step 2 - SEO Optimised Name
As mentioned, Nathan's podcast strategy started out broad.
He was browsing through potential keyword ideas one morning and saw that the volume for one term was significantly higher than the rest...
"the top podcast"
This term was generating significant volume for obvious reasons.
Nathan jumped on and I suspect, generated a significant chunk of extra downloads during the early days of his show as he mopped up this warm traffic.
This does highlight a broader challenge in the world of podcasting:
It is possibly the worst way to build an audience
But is an insanely good way to build a relationship with an existing audience
Audio content discoverability is approximately a decade behind written content discoverability.
If you write and publish a REALLY GOOD, SEO optimised blog post on your new blog... you can expect Google to send organic traffic. This is not the same with audio content.
Therefore, in the early days, you need to do everything you can to generate downloads.
LEARNING: In the early days, do anything and everything you can to grow downloads.
Step 3 - Leverage Assets
Nathan is a hustler.
He'll sniff out and capitalise on value before you realise what has happened.
As I mentioned during the intro to this post... I somehow got chatting to Nathan back in 2016, I shared that we had some success growing Instagram profiles.
He suggested that I grow his Instagram profile for a number of weeks in exchange for appearing on his podcast.
This is masterful... Nathan realises the value of his podcast platform.
Regardless of how big your audience is: giving guests exposure to this audience has value.
And if you don't think the time or expertise of the guest is valuable enough for you or your audience for them to bring them on... then why not ask the guest to provide more value?
This could be through the promotion of the episode, referring more guests or growing your Instagram profile ;)
LEARNING: If you don't think a guest is good enough to come on your show: ask them to do something for you.
Step 4 - Systemise
Nathan is known for extreme systemisation.
I mean... if you want to release a daily podcast episode every day for five years, you will need systems.
The more your systemise... the more you can spend less time on the admin work required to deliver a podcast and more time on growth.
Nathan blocks out chunks of his calendar with podcast interviews, so he can go back to back, often on Saturdays:
Nathan also has an army of contractors, paid per task to execute on tasks behind the scenes.
I don't know for sure, but I expect that Nathan's role in the full podcast process, from guest booking to release and promotion is limited to to the only part that he actually needs to do: the recording.
The rest is handled by humans and computers, giving Nathan back his time to focus on other things... like growth.
LEARNING: Build systems with humans and computers to claim back your time to focus on growth.
Step 5 - Build A Backlog
The #1 predictor of podcast success is: consistency.
It's a hell of a lot easier to generate a 1,000 downloads per day if you have a backlog of 1,000 episodes.
Nathan is known to have a backlog of up to three months worth of episodes... that is approximately 90 unreleased episodes in the backlog.
Won't the guests get annoyed when they have been recorded but not released?
Possibly... but the benefits outweigh the downside.
It ensures consistency.
The #1 predictor of podcasting success.
Nathan took things one step further in the early days: he kept things as cheap as possible.
This meant that regardless of whether he actually generated listeners (and therefore sponsorship revenue), he would be able to persevere long enough to build the audience over the long term and collect the invaluable data we will talk about in later steps.
If Nathan knows that a podcast episode may cost him $100 to organise, edit and promote (not including his time), then he knows that producing 100 episodes won't be a massive financial burden.
Again: consistency is key.
LEARNING: Even if it's just for a part of your for podcasting journey: become known for something.
Step 6 - Results Based Advertising
As shared in this podcast episode with Courtland Allen of Indie Hackers, Nathan asks advertisers about their current cost per acquisition from other channels before they invest in advertising.
He will then aim to beat this through advertising on his podcast.
If things are looking a little dry before the end of the campaign, Nathan will then include them in social posts or on his daily email to boost exposure.
Now I'm not sure if you've ever tried to ask your Google or Facebook Ads rep to ask them about giving you more clicks if your CPA is too high...
But let me tell you what will happen: they will laugh you out of the Zoom call.
Having an advertiser that is actually concerned with your CPA?
Completely unheard of.
And who does Nathan sell advertising to?
His guests of course ;)
But more on that in Step 9...
LEARNING: If you have advertisers, make their CPA, your problem.
Step 7 - Collect & Monetise Data
Let's get more advanced...
Whether you know it or not, when you interview people for your podcast: you're collecting data.
And if that data is well-structured, high value and can give someone an edge... then it has monetisation potential.
Nathan's interviews aren't really interviews. They are interrogations.
There are a number of gems on his feed where the entrepreneur has ended the interview early due to Nathan's prying questions. Never one to shy away from controversy, Nathan keeps these bloopers on the podcast feed.
But what Nathan lacks in nice, fluffy feelings, he gains in hard, monetisable data.
All information on the guests business is inserted into the GetLatka database of SaaS businesses.
He then sells this data back to VC's, private equity firms and other SaaS founder's at monthly or annual subscriptions:
I don't know of anyone else in the podcast game that has realised and acted upon the value generated from data collected from guests.
LEARNING: What other assets can your guests provide that could be of value to you or your audience?
Step 8 - Syndicate Data
But that isn't the only way Nathan monetises his data...
He also employs freelance writers to convert audio content from interviews into written content published on the GetLatka blog: blog.getlatka.com
GetLatka.com's current domain authority is 58 and growing... it's also pulling in a modest 3.4k organic sessions per month:
And of course, these traffic can be funnelled back into podcast subscribers, feeding the media flywheel.
But it doesn't stop there...
Nathan also has created one of the most expensive magazines in the world... from this same podcast data:
Each article is a freelance writer summarising a podcast interview...
$29 for one or $300 per year:
To quickly summurise, Nathan's twenty-minute interview with a SaaS CEO is leveraged into the following media assets:
Data entries in GetLatka
LEARNING: Again, how can you take data from your podcast to generate SEO value or even directly monetise...
Step 9 - Monetise Guests
As we learnt in Step 6, Nathan will go back to his complete guest backlog to offer them advertising slots...
But Nathan also generates revenue in another way from his guests.
Typically, a large part of Nathan's interviews would centre around the financing of a guests SaaS business:
Have they raise money?
If yes, where from and what type?
Over time, Nathan has installed a belief that equity financing (selling part of a business in exchange for funding) can sometimes lead to a bad result for founders. Instead, there is another way: debt financing (borrowing money at a certain interest rate).
And can guess who is borrowing and therefore generating further revenue for Latka?
Podcast guests ;)
LEARNING: What can you sell your guests?
Step 10 - Convert Listeners To Leads
A podcast download is less valuable to a marketer than a web page visit.
Because you can retarget a site visit... you can't retarget a download.
This is a problem for the marketer, as there is nothing they can do to communicate, and ideally influence podcast subscribers (apart from releasing more episodes of course).
Because of this, a massive challenge that podcasters experience is:
How do we convert listeners into leads
Let's find out how Latka does this.
Nathan recently placed an audio ad at the start of each episode on his RSS feed that directs people to a URL where they are able to subscribe to an ad free version of the show, that also has earlier access to interviews.
There is a small monthly fee for this, but Nathan also mentions in the ad that you can request free access... and that he grants all these requests.
When subscribed, you are given a private RSS feed to add into your podcast listening app... and guess what?
Nathan now has your email address.
This is building an email list that further expands Nathan's media empire.
Our podcast hosting software: bCast is structured around enabling podcasters to grow their email list, if you're in the market for a host... check us out ;)
LEARNING: What can you offer the people that listen to your podcast in exchange for their email address?
Step 11 - The Trump Strategy
Nathan is playing the long game.
He's investing in impressions for the Latka brand:
He knows that over time, if you plaster your name on everything... this brand recognition can lead to cash.
I like to call this The Trump Strategy.
I'm too familiar with Trumps real estate deals, but I of the understanding that Trump can make cash through simply allowing a hotel somewhere in the world to use his name.
This brings him:
Cash to invest in more impressions
And the cycle continues...
When will we see the first Latka real estate licensing deal?
LEARNING: Invest in brand name impressions for long term gains
And there we go team...
Nathan's ability to monetise the value that is podcast creates is second to none... if you can implement one or two of the strategies from this post, it could have a massive impact on the profitability and of your show.
I hope you enjoyed this breakdown as much as I enjoyed writing and researching it.
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