Buzzcast

How I Built This: Buzzsprout

May 10, 2021 Episode 51
Buzzcast
How I Built This: Buzzsprout
Chapters
0:00
Coming up with the name
1:37
How Kevin and Tom met
3:36
The early days of the company
7:08
Shifting away from client services
12:13
Buzzsprout's origin story
14:54
Making Buzzsprout easy to use
18:58
Podcast Movement 2014
22:12
The recording booth
26:29
Shifting our focus
31:22
Party at Disney World
34:44
Reflecting on 100k podcasts
Buzzcast
How I Built This: Buzzsprout
May 10, 2021 Episode 51

In this special edition of Buzzcast, hear from Buzzsprout's cofounders Tom and Kevin as they recount how the company was first started, important decisions that shaped the culture at Buzzsprout, and why the future is bright for podcasting.

Special shoutout to the podcast that inspired the format for this week's special episode, "How I Built This with Guy Raz."

Join us inside the Buzzsprout Podcast Community on Facebook to let us know if we should do more fun episodes like this in the future.

Review Buzzcast in Podchaser or Apple Podcasts to let us know what you think of the show.

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

In this special edition of Buzzcast, hear from Buzzsprout's cofounders Tom and Kevin as they recount how the company was first started, important decisions that shaped the culture at Buzzsprout, and why the future is bright for podcasting.

Special shoutout to the podcast that inspired the format for this week's special episode, "How I Built This with Guy Raz."

Join us inside the Buzzsprout Podcast Community on Facebook to let us know if we should do more fun episodes like this in the future.

Review Buzzcast in Podchaser or Apple Podcasts to let us know what you think of the show.

Tom:

I'm 99% sure that we'd already registered Buzzsprout just as a prospect for a product in the future, something about Buzzsprout It sounded, you know, like buzz that it would be something that people wanted to talk about sprout kind of sounds like a movement. So that was where it came from.

Travis:

You're listening to Buzzcast. The podcast takes you behind the scenes of what's going on in the podcasting industry, and breaks down what it means for you as an independent podcast creator. I'm Travis Albritton. Now, it's hard to imagine podcasting before its current form, that now it seems like every one of their brother is starting a podcast. But if you rewind just 15 years, that was not necessarily the case that there weren't podcast hosting companies like Buzzsprout that you could simply sign up for. And then they would just take care of everything else. You had to learn how to encode your own RSS feed, you had to store your file somewhere, you had to make sure that everything was formatted correctly, that you had everything tagged with enclosures. And yeah, it was a lot. So you can imagine when people were just getting into podcasting in its very early stages, that there were a lot of things to figure out. And one of those early podcast hosts was Buzzsprout. So in this episode, we wanted to do a nice little behind the scenes, how I built this journey into the past, to hear from Kevin and Tom, two of the co founders of Buzzsprout, about not only how Buzzsprout came to be, but even how they met. So Kevin, what was your recollection of how you and Tom initially met, way back in the 90s, before you were working together and before Buzzsprout was even a company,

Kevin:

the history of Tom and I had as a very funny, an interesting kind of meeting. We met when I was still in college, he was a few years out of college. And we met at a I went to University of Florida, so did he, there's a young life property, which is like a summer camp for youth, a couple of hours outside of Gainesville. And I would go over there and just work weekends doing, you know, property maintenance stuff or whatever. Anyway, Tom was involved in young life as well at the time. So we met one weekend at this property. And I had a motorcycle at the time, because if you know anything about University of Florida, there's no way to park a car. So if you're able, most a lot of students get motorcycles or scooters or something. The point is, is that Tom had a motorcycle again when he was in college, and he had since gotten rid of it. saw me drive up on a motorcycle and he's like, Oh my gosh, man, I haven't run a motorcycle in a couple years. Can I take yours for a spin

Unknown:

motorcycle, and

Kevin:

Tom being the salesman that he is somehow, in a span of five minutes convinced me to hand over the keys to my motorcycle and he was gone. Like out of the property gone. I had no idea this guy was. So another guy who I know happened to be there that weekend walks up a few minutes later. He's like, what are you doing out here in the parking lot? I'm like, man, I just got here. Some guy who I just met, convinced me to take my motorcycle and he's gone. And he was supposed to be back in five minutes. It's now been 10. I don't know where he is. He's like, Who is this guy? I don't know. He said his name was Tom. He has, you know, brown hair. He's like, wait, was it Tom Rossi? I was like, yeah. And then he's like, Oh, my gosh, that guy's got you know, he's he's crazy. Like, you'd be ridiculous. You never want to learn him your motorcycle. So I'm freaking out. I'm like, What did I just do? Anyway, Tom comes back a few minutes later, he's like, actually ran out of gas took me a while to figure out where the reserve tank was sorry about that. I'm like, okay, I thought you like stole my bike. And that's, that's how we met. But they were all just messing with me. Tom's obviously a great guy, not somebody who would steal your motorcycle. And that was the beginning of a friendship. That's been 25 plus years. I mean, I don't know exactly how many years but yeah, a long time.

Travis:

Yeah, that is definitely a very interesting story of how the two of you guys met. Now, I know not too long after that you started working together, in during the 90s during the early days of the internet, but before the.com bubble burst. So Tom, tell me a little bit about what that work was like before you were working on Buzzsprout. before you're working on some of these other products that we currently have within kind of the broader company. What kind of work were you doing? And what was that, like on a day to day basis,

Tom:

we were doing Client Services. So this was early on in the internet age, where people were just starting to understand the importance of having a website. And we were basically just contracting ourselves out, to do design work and to build to build websites for people. But what we really wanted to do was more than just brochures, we wanted to build applications. And so we would take on very complicated projects, building an interface, user experience around some type of application. And those are the kinds of projects that we took on. So when Kevin came on board, Kevin came on and really led all that design work. My background had been more on the technical side, and just the nature of client services, most of my time. was spent actually doing sales. So you're constantly getting the next client. So you'd build this wonderful application, you'd hand over the keys to your customer. And then, you know, maybe they contact you every once in a while to add more features or, or do something else. But that's kind of the existence that we had. At the beginning. It was really trying to find our way and figure out what was what was going to happen as this as the industry matured. Yeah,

Kevin:

we I mean, we would do just about anything, like when you're in Client Services work, we had projects that we would, you know, we'd liked more than others. But if somebody came, and we were capable of doing it, really how much we like doing that type of work was it was a very small part of the equation. Because that business, at least our experience in it was like feast or famine, like, it seemed like we had clients knocking down our door, and we just didn't have the time to get it done. Or there was no work available, and no matter where we looked high and low. And so in order to survive and work in a business like that, you can't be too picky, like it comes down to, are we capable of doing the work? Do they have the budget to make it a profitable project for us? And then if so, how can we make this happen, schedule wise with the resources that we have available? And sometimes, you know, that means you got to add people to the team. When the work isn't there. Unfortunately, you have to figure out what do you do with these resources when there's not billable work for them? But yeah, we took on everything from marketing websites to web application work to telephony systems, which is like phone systems integrated with websites and everything in between. No mobile development back then mobile phones weren't a thing. But if it was, if it was online, whether it be advertising related or more software side, we honed our skills and learn how to do all that stuff.

Travis:

So he started off by doing Client Services work for individuals and companies building web applications. What made you shift to more of a product focused business model? Was there anything in particular any major events that really forced your hand in a way? Or was it something that just came naturally as the company evolved, and as you learned more about what the internet was turning into?

Tom:

Yeah, we had built the company around Client Services. And we worked half of our customers, about half were nonprofits. And about half were for profits, we wanted to make an impact we wanted. When we started the company, it was about helping businesses, and nonprofits understand the impact of the Internet, and how it was going to change the way that they do business online. So we wanted to always work with both for profit, and nonprofit customers. So as a result, about 50% of our customers were nonprofit. So September 11, happens, and it just devastates it. I mean, it devastates everyone, because they're trying to figure out what what's going to happen. I mean, there was talk about whether Wall Street was gonna be next, and whether the stock market was gonna stop. And anybody who was considering a capital expenditure, which is everything that we did, everything that we did was a capital expense for their building an application. So in order for them to pay for that, that's a capital expense, which are the first things to kind of go when you're nervous about the future. And so all all of our customers and potential customers, they just froze everything. And so I'm sitting on an exceptional staff. And at that time, Kevin is leading all of our web development, both the design and the programming, he's leading the whole department, and we don't have a lot of prospects. So we had some ideas for things that we wanted to build. And that became our first product, because everybody's got it. Everybody's got to do something, got to come in the office and, and, and do something. So that's actually we got forced into really building that first product.

Kevin:

Yeah, it's so m sites was the thing. But while I was still an employee, under Tom's original company, and we started building that, and it, you know, in the SAS world, when you build the software products, sometimes they take a while before they start generating any significant revenue. And so we were building that at the same time, we continue to do client service work. And things were slowing down this way the economy was slowing down. This was right and post 911. A lot of our customers were in the nonprofit space. And so nonprofits tightened up because they were very concerned as the economy turned down, what that was going to do to their support, their financial resources, resources that were coming in. And so Tom was having to slowly make some really hard decisions about his company, and how many staff he was going to be able to keep on and just due to the type of person that I am in nature of my relationship with Tom like, I never, I just couldn't envision that conversation like Tom and I having a conversation about I can't afford to keep you on staff. And so I didn't want to leave but I felt like you know, it was just a really hard point in the business and, and one of my best friends in the whole world was in charge of this thing. And so I had an opportunity to take a job at an advertising agency, which is what I studied in college, and I never got an opportunity to really explore. So I decided to take it, which again, led to another really hard conversation with Tom letting know, you know, before you have to let me go, I'm going to leave, and I don't want to, but we handled it as best we could and remained really close friends. And so I took that job and did it for a couple years. m sites was built and functioning at the time, but it was slowly starting to produce enough income, where that could sustain one or two people. And so while that's happening, Tom is doing that all by himself, basically, at this point. And I was just working a job in the ad ad agency down in Miami, keeping in touch with Tom and I started developing an idea for another product while I was down there a time tracking product. And so the two of us kept in touch. And it finally got to the point where M Seitz was making enough money where he felt like he could support not just him, but maybe him plus somebody else. I had this idea for tech, which I'd gone pretty far, at least on the front end side of developing, but I didn't have the backend built. So we said, you know, like, it's gonna be hard on both of us, Tom took on some extra part time work to make ends meet, but we decided to go for it. And bootstrap a new company together the two of us as partners with an app that couldn't support two people. And another app that wasn't even built yet. But let's let's go for it. So pretty much sold, and liquidated, everything we had and moved into, you know, humble abodes and worked out of home offices, and decided to start the software company that we were going to build our own products, and not take outside work and just focus on building software and see if we could make it work.

Travis:

So at what point was Buzzsprout born? So you've started working with these, you know, nonprofits and church groups, and creating products and resources for them since that was a big part of your client base at the time. When did Buzzsprout come on the radar? When did you guys decide? That's the next product we should try to build? And yeah, like, how did how did you actually come up with the idea for Buzzsprout?

Tom:

What happened is a lot of those campus ministries that signed up for m sites, a lot of those campus people went on to become church pastors. So next thing you know, our customer base has changed over time as it grows, as M sites has grown. Now the majority of our customers are actually churches. And so they start reaching out and saying, hey, I want to put my sermons online, rather than burning a CD, or recording a tape. In the old days back when you actually burned

Travis:

CDs. Yes,

Tom:

yeah. Seriously. The the church that I went to had a multi disc burner that you would burn like 10 at a time, at the end of the sermon, you would just burn all these CDs, and then you would go pass them out to the people that you know, weren't able to make it to the service. So we had a lot of people that were reaching out m sites, customers that were saying, I want to get my sermons online. What do I need to do? They didn't know the concept of a podcast. And I didn't I don't think I even knew. But Kevin was the one. I'm like, do what do we what do we tell him? What do we do? And so he figured out how to build an RSS feed, he wrote how to build an RSS feed like a like a help document, and how to upload your files to different just straight up file hosts, I think in GoDaddy at one point, but even before GoDaddy, I think dream host and these other cheap services that you could just upload an mp3 to, and then he would show them how to build an RSS feed. But it was really complicated. It always led to tons of questions. And they didn't, they didn't understand how to how to make their mp3 is in the right format so that people could download them. And so it was constantly, constantly something that we had to update this help article of how to get your sermons online. So Kevin, start saying, Well, I think we can make this easy for them, we could build, we could build an app that really makes it easy for them to just take the recording, upload it. And then we distribute it to all the different, different ways that people might want to subscribe to that RSS feed, whether it's with a podcast player, or even at the time, there was tons of RSS readers. So that is the genesis of Buzzsprout.

Travis:

Now I know one thing that's been a calling card for Buzzsprout, even from the very beginning, was that it's very easy to use that you don't have to be technically proficient, you don't need to be, you know, internet savvy in any kind of way, in order to start a podcast and to use Buzzsprout to distribute it. So what were the some of the decisions that were made in creating the products Buzzsprout that were different than what other companies were doing at the time in order to make it more user friendly? Yeah. And

Kevin:

so there was a couple things that we did a couple decisions that we made early on to really hone in on that focus. In the podcast hosting space. Like, when you think about a business model, you think about what are our costs? And then like, how much do we have to charge for a product? So we have some margin in there. And that's like our profit, right? And it's pretty easy in the hosting space, you're sorry, you're charged for server space, like how many? How much space on hard drives? Do we need to store all these audio files? And then how much bandwidth Do we have to pay for for people to send them to us in the first place, and then for us to send them out to the world. So that's our cost side. And we did not want to, like that felt too technical to us to be able to talk about hosting in those terms. Most hosts, Lipson included, and maybe there was one or two other competitors that were starting to pop up on the scene, at the time, we were developing this, we're all talking about megabytes, they were all talking about, you can get 250 megabytes a month, or 500 megabytes a month for this amount, or, you know, gigabyte, or whatever, for this amount. They were talking about different bandwidth restrictions and everything else. And we wanted to make that really simple. Like, at the end of the day, who knows how much how big my files are, you know, unless you're really technical and right click on your all your files and go to info or properties or whatever, and see how big it is. And and if you change the compression on it, that could be a different size. Well, you know, what should I compress that? Like, is my file bigger than it needs to be? am I paying for a bigger package I need? So to avoid all that complexity and all the technical stuff. We said, Well, what about time, like time everyone understands time, I got on the phone with Travis. And we recorded this podcast, and we talked for 45 minutes. So if I do that, you know, four times a month, I don't want to push for those episodes, I need about three hours or so of content. And so that was one of the decisions that we made, is we're going to sell our plans based on time, we're not going to sell them based on megabytes. Like, we're just going to make it as simple as possible for people to think about what plan do I need? Well, how long do you want to talk every month? How much audio Do you want to push up? So that was one thing. I mean, another thing that we made, and I just touched on it briefly was the idea of like compressing a file, like if I record a file with you and hit save and export and save it to my desktop. I shouldn't have to worry about is that in the right format? Is that saved as an mp3 at 96k mana or 190 2k? stereo? Or 120 8k? stereo? Or should it be a file? Or who knows? Like mp4 there's there's a million different ways to save an audio file. So which is the right one, which is the best one? How am I going to sound is it going to be you know, too compressed or not compressed enough and all that other stuff. So we said you know what, let's let's help our customers out with that as well. Let's let them upload any type of audio file as long as it's a valid audio file or a video file. And we'll just compress it into the right format for podcasting. And so that was another thing that was that was very different than what other people were doing. Other people were saying log into the FTP site and drag and drop your files in there. But whatever you give us is what we're going to serve. Sometimes that works. Sometimes it doesn't, it makes the podcaster have to have a certain level of technical expertise that we were trying to avoid. Again, like everyone, and anyone should be able to podcast without having to sit down and read podcasting for dummies or go through white papers or other technical resources.

Travis:

Well, as someone who started podcasting with Buzzsprout, I'm grateful I didn't have to learn about FTP sites or anything like that. Now, I want to fast forward a few years after the creation of Buzzsprout, I believe in 2009 to the year 2014, which I know is a big turning point in Buzzsprout. History. And that was the first year that we the collective we Buzzsprout. We sent someone from the company to podcast movement that it was the first year of podcast movement, the conference. And that was it was at this conference that Buzzsprout really took on a life of its own. So tell me a little bit about that story. And what happened at podcast movement that year that had such a big impact on Buzzsprout.

Tom:

Sure. So again, Buzzsprout is a very fun product to work on. But it does not generate the it's just not as profitable as some of our other products. But it's so much more fun.

Travis:

And so are you talking about at the time or even currently

Tom:

at the time? Oh, well, definitely. Yeah, no, it's true today. But now it's great. Now, it's the only thing that we work on. But at the time, you know, we had other products, we have other competing interests. And so when you think about how do I grow the business, how do I how do I continue to do what we do Buzzsprout was not the first thing that you would go to, you would think, oh, we need to grow these other areas. But anybody who did business development wanted to work on Buzzsprout. So we wanted to just explore could Buzzsprout get to a place where it would be really profitable for us to spend time in. I don't go Kevin doesn't go to this conference. But one of the guys on the team who wanted to explore growing by Buzzsprout he's convinced that if we go to a conference that like this could be a way for us to do that. And so he goes, and he brings john, who's our most senior developer, but john, very personable, and so he wants to go, he wants to just meet podcasters. And we're thinking you guys are gonna go, but you're gonna get there. And everybody's gonna know who Buzzsprout is, they're already using Buzzsprout. Because how many podcasts are there? I mean, come on, really. And so we're thinking that they're going to go and they're just exploring this idea of, could we? Could we really grow Buzzsprout? Could it grow into something bigger? And is it worth our business development resources, they go to this conference, expecting to see tons of our customers there, and they get there. And no one knows whose Buzzsprout is, no one knows who Buzzsprout is. So they go, and they're talking to people. And they're still kind of entrenched in an older way of thinking about podcasting. Like they're doing really technical things that Buzzsprout has solved. Like, you don't have to do that anymore. Like you can focus on content. Buzzsprout makes your life so much easier. And so they go and they start talking to different people, and they start exploring it and they come back with the report of guys. No one knows who Buzzsprout is, there was two ways to receive that report. Right? is one is your a failure. Nobody knows who you are. or two, oh my gosh, the opportunity is so much greater than you've given it credit for. And we really did feel, oh my gosh, the opportunity for Buzzsprout is much greater than we ever expected. And so that was when we kind of justified spending more, it's still experimental, because we don't know can we really grow Buzzsprout? can we can we figure out how to crack that nut. And we were excited because the payoff would be so much better, because it's a product that we really enjoyed working on. And so that's what we did is we started working on selling Buzzsprout more how Who are these people? Why don't they know about Buzzsprout? So we started going to the conferences, and really engaging in the community in a different way than we had in the past. Okay, so

Travis:

you get back from that podcast movement, you received the report from john saying, guys, the potential is here, there are so many more people that we didn't even know about the we're getting into podcasting, we should go for it. And then that following year, going back to podcast movement, you wanted to come back with more of a strategy, more of an intention to really stand out and try and connect with podcasters and really start to make a name for Buzzsprout in the industry. So Kevin, I know that you and Alban created this recording booth, something that Buzzsprout really become known for, from conference to conference that this recording booth almost in a way became synonymous with how people thought about Buzzsprout. So tell me a little bit about the origin of the booth, where it came from, why you built it. And what the early responses were when people saw the booth at these podcasts conferences.

Kevin:

Yeah, the story of the recording booth. It's you know, it started off with just a brainstorm session between Alban Brooke and myself, of we're gonna go to these conferences, how do we stand out? Right, there's a couple different ways to stand out one you can you can spend a ton of money and buy a huge sponsorship package, but we didn't have money to spend like that at that time. And so what else can we do? Well, we can give out some cool t shirts. Yeah, we're gonna do t shirts, we're gonna make a nice t shirts. You can give out swag and all this other kind of stuff. Again, our experience is most of that stuff goes in the trash. So what can we do to differentiate ourselves? And we thought, well, it would be really great. If we're at a podcasting conference. What do people do at a podcasting conference, they meet other podcasters they network, they probably want to have them on their show. And a lot of them probably try to connect after like, give me your Give me your information. I'll connect with you afterwards, I do a recording session. Well, what about just how about, we hop in this booth right now and just record it while we're here. Like this is where the energy is where the vibe is happening. I'm feeling in the moment right now let's go record. So we wanted to, like that felt fun, I felt exciting. It felt like that's a much better way to spend a little bit of money and time to provide this fun experience and a way to stand out. And so Alvin and I started sketching ideas on a piece of paper and we started small from, you know, some little plexiglass dividers that we could set up on a desktop. And somehow that morphed into Alvin and I spending about a week building a huge podcasting studio. So you know, just mark that down under the list of skills that you have to have to be an early Buzzsprout employee is carpentry is evidently pretty important. Albert and I decided to go to Home Depot and buy seven door panels because we felt like that those were the right size. And we would hinge them all together and make a big, like, basically a portable room so you could pop it up and spring these doors up and if you put it up against a wall, you have a room and then the three center doors we cut out big holes and filled them with plexiglass so people could have some visibility into what's going on behind this big wall. And the people inside could look out and then we bought some, you know, pretty much prosumer level recording equipment. So we bought some audio interfaces and some nice dynamic mics and some nice boom arms and assembled this whole thing and put some signage on the front of it, you know, Buzzsprout recording studio, I think we actually called the first one podcast movement recording studio sponsored by Buzzsprout. Because again, funds were tight. And so we were trying to make deals. So we called podcast movement. And we're like, we want to do this big thing, but we don't have enough money to buy a big enough booth. How about you, you know, give us a deal on the space, we'll bring the booth we'll work together. And so they were awesome and supportive and loved the idea. And we made it happen. So we built it from scratch. And what's funny is so many people at the conference came up and they're like, tell us about what you do. And we're like, well, we're podcasting host, you know, it's, it's, you know, $12 a month, it's really simple to use, and they're like, Oh, that's great. That's great. But how do I get the booth, I want to buy the booth. We're like, well, we don't sell podcasting boots. They're like, why not? That's what you should totally be selling. This is amazing.

Travis:

No, no, no, you're

Kevin:

missing it. We don't. Not. Were you by podcasting booth.

Travis:

Yeah, I can attest, having set up the booth a couple of times, I'm really grateful that we're in the software business, and that we just get to focus on helping podcasters instead of making mobile recording studio, that's a whole whole different animal. So we've gone to several conferences at this point in the story of Buzzsprout. And now other podcast hosts are starting to pop up on the scene, podcasting is becoming more mainstream cereal, the podcast has really broken through, and people are starting to take podcasting more seriously. And I know that's within the last couple of years, we've made a pretty intentional shifts in the way that we think about Buzzsprout. And the way that we work on Buzzsprout as a product, and how we talk about it to our customers and to people who are interested in starting podcasts. Kevin, can you tell me a little bit about that shift like why we made that shift away from simply being an easy way to start podcasting and into something that we could grow into potentially,

Kevin:

right, while in the market changed significantly. And what we're interested in doing is solving problems that other people aren't. And so when we launched Buzzsprout, being a simple way for podcasters to launch their podcast was different. And over time, there are other competitors that popped on the scene, and provided their own simple solutions, right. And I'm not saying that, like they copied us or anything like they were unique in their approach. But they were solving the same problem. And they were doing a pretty good job of it. Of course, I'm biased, I think that we did the best job of it. But that was me, right? So there's different flavors of people solving the same problem. And they were all kind of relatively good. So like we weren't satisfied with that we didn't want to continue to compete and play the same game against all these other people that were coming into the space trying to solve the same problem. And so just being kind of creators by nature, we said, well, what's another problem that podcasters have, that we can help them solve, and if anybody has stepped in the podcasting for any amount of time, you realize, well, the hurdle of entry in the podcasting is now pretty low. You know, Buzzsprout, might have been one of the first to make it simple. But there's lots of options now that are pretty simple to get a podcast started. So what's the next challenge, and the next challenge that we were excited about helping people solve was to grow a professional show to some level of success defined by the individual creator. So for some people that might be, I just want to be able to make a larger impact on the world, you know, get more downloads, get more exposure, but it's still a hobby for me, like I'm not looking to monetize, I'm not looking to grow influence, I just want to get my message out to as many people as possible. Another goal could be like, I want to be a full time professional podcaster, I want to make income from this, I want to get on the biggest stages in front of the biggest people and build a name for myself in the space. So if that's kind of the spectrum of goals, regardless of where your goal falls in there, we want to help you achieve it. And so that was a shift that I think occurred probably in 2018 2019, that was being refined, but in involved us creating tools to help people regardless of where those goals were. So lots of marketing tools, lots of like transcripts is a great example, writing transcript tools for people to be able to make their show accessible to a larger audience, at the same time get more of an SEO benefit, which is kind of a marketing benefit. We launched tools like visual soundbite tools to be able to promote your show on various social media sites. We introduced chapter marker tools. So we started building a lot of stuff into Buzzsprout. Like at the core of Buzzsprout. What we were up to that point was what's now looked upon as kind of a commodity which is just hosting, right? Like anybody in the hosting space would provide that same service we like we call it table stakes, which is you give us a place to store files, and you give us some download data on like how many people listened. But beyond that, there's this huge opportunity and that's what we've gotten really excited about in the past couple years. Which is how do I create a really professional show without having to invest hours and hours, months years and learning a bunch of technology like still keeping it simple, like still staying true to who we are. But I want a really professional show, I want to be able to market it really well. And I don't want it to take me 40 hours a week to do it.

Travis:

Yes. And as a podcaster, that personally uses all of these tools not just for making our Buzzsprout content, but for all content and being able to teach these tools to our podcasters. I'm really grateful that we've made this shift. And it just makes it a super cool product to work on. Right when you're empowering and equipping people to make amazing content that's changing the world, you know, not even in hyperbole, but in real terms, changing the world and sharing messages that they care about. And growing businesses. It's it's all very, very exciting. Now, one thing that Buzzsprout did last year, which it was the first time I'd ever seen someone do something like this at any company that I had been a part of, which is we threw this massive party at Disney World. So why don't you tell us the story of splitsville? How that party came to be? Kevin, I want to I want to hear from you first. And then Tom, if you can chime in with your perspective. Talk to me a little bit about why we decided to throw this massive party at pod fest. And you know what you were hoping to achieve by doing it

Kevin:

podcast movement, one of the biggest conferences, podcasts conferences in the world. The second biggest that I'm aware of, and I think they've since had the largest world's largest like virtual conferences, pod fest. And this one has always been near and dear to our hearts, because it's takes place in Florida. So it's local conference for us. And we've been able to just build a great relationship with the founder of podfest. Chris, and we've gone to every pod fest since this first one, I think I don't know how many he's on. So I'm not even gonna say but we've done a lot of them. And so the conference is right in our backyard, got a great relationship with the founder of the conference. We're there every year. And Buzzsprout customer base is starting to grow. So we thought this would be a great opportunity to do something special for Buzzsprout customers, a great way to meet them face to face, and just thank them for for being a customer, connect with them, get to know them better, and just have fun together. That's really what we wanted to do. And so knowing Florida, knowing the locations knowing the menu in the areas around, they were having podfest right in the backyard of Disney Springs, which used to be Downtown Disney. They've got this really cool bowling alley, they're called splitsville. And you can rent it out for private parties. You can have anywhere from, you know, like three to 500 people there, we thought that would be a great place to get as many Buzzsprout people together as possible. So in February of 2020, we rented out the top floor of splitsville and invited any Buzzsprout customer that was going to pod fest to come to this party right before pod fest kicked off later that night.

Tom:

splitsville that that will be I mean, that's just a party that will live in infamy in the history of our company, because it was just, it was so much fun to be able to celebrate with our podcasters, we knew that the writing was kind of on the wall that we would would that we would become the number one paid post. And Kevin really wanted to, to blow things up. He's like, let's do let's, let's have a party, let's celebrate with our podcasters. And let's just do it in an exceptional way. We're not going to look at ROI, we're just going to look at this as a way to celebrate and have fun. And, you know, let's just let's just do it. And so Kevin, Marshall and I are the three partners that run the company, and Marshall and I were like, Kevin, we don't want to know, just go do it. Like we don't want just tell us how much it's gonna cost at the end. But don't tell us any of the details. Because Marshall and I are not the guys, they're gonna come up with these fun, crazy ideas. Whereas, you know, Kevin's trying to figure out if we could rent Disney World. So I think that's, that's kind of the dynamic that's at play with the partners. But Kevin has this idea of, let's have a massive party, let's invite all of our Buzzsprout podcasters to go. And that was the splitsville event. And it was it was so great. We brought the whole team because it was in Orlando. So the whole team was able to go down and walk around and talk to people that use Buzzsprout. And it was so encouraging. It was just, it's an incredible experience as a person who's I write a lot of the code for for Buzzsprout. You're not interacting with customers that often and certainly not in person. And so that was that was just an amazing experience. So as

Travis:

we catch up to kind of present day, it was not too long ago, I believe, just a couple of months ago, where Buzzsprout crossed 100,000 active podcasts. So 100,000 people were using Buzzsprout To create and produce podcast content and sharing it with the world. And that is a huge milestone, like it is a huge, it is a big deal. But I know that we don't internally look at that number, as a measure of success, at least the way that we talk about Buzzsprout. Internally, we don't really communicate or talk about numbers, like, you know, revenue, or how many podcasters are using our service. But it is, at the same time a really incredible and special opportunity that we've been able to grow Buzzsprout to this point. So I just love to hear from both of you. How you think about this milestone, like what does it mean to you to reflect on 100,000 active podcasts, what that means for Buzzsprout as a company, and then also for you individually, and how you think about the opportunity that we now have to make or break so many people's podcasts?

Kevin:

You know, I mean, I don't really know what to make of it. I mean, exactly what you said is true. We don't we don't measure our success by the number of active podcasts we have. We don't set goals, saying we want this many new active podcasts and this many weeks or months or years. You know, people look at me very get very strange look from people when they say like, what's what's on the horizon for Buzzsprout, what six months, what's a year out what's what's the five year goal we don't, that's just not how we operate. We operate no more than six weeks at a time. Now, it doesn't mean that we don't have some dreams are big ideas that take a little bit more time to formulate before they fit into one of these six week work cycles. But we really genuinely work six weeks at a time and we try to stay disciplined to that. It's It's a weird thing to say about yourself. But I don't think it's because we're not capable of it. Or because we're simple minded people, we just generally believe it's a waste of time to think too far ahead. Like when you plan six months or a year in advance, all you're doing is you're you're putting chips on the betting table, and there's no reason to put them down yet. Like you can you can wait a while before you put those chips down. And the longer you wait, the more information you'll have. And so when we put when we place a bet six weeks at a time, those are very low risk bets, right? If we miss on everything we do in a six week cycle, we've only we only lost six weeks. If we put a plan that we put a five year plan together, and we stick to that plan, then we get it wrong. like think about how much you've lost. That's a massive bet. And so I'm super proud and excited that we have 100,000 active podcasts. But I'm not thinking, Oh, well how long until we hit 200. Or how long until we hit 300. That's that's not how we operate. how we operate is, is the product that we're building six weeks at a time the best product that we can build our customers happy. Our interactions with our customers good and positive? are we helping to define and move the podcasting space and the healthy direction? Are we continuing to support independent podcasters and their success in their passion projects in their hobbies and their businesses. That's what's important to us. And I think as long as we do that, then whatever other opportunities appear in the space, we're well positioned to react to quickly. And maybe we make some decisions that cause others to react quickly. But we're under no illusions that we're the biggest in the space. Regardless of how successful we were. We're in a space that has the biggest titans of industry doing similar things to what we're doing. I mean, there's there we're playing with Apple, we're playing with Spotify, we're playing with Google, and Amazon, like the biggest companies in tech have some interest in podcasting. And so I want to stay humble, and I want to stay hungry, and I want to stay aggressive. But I want to always remember who it is that we're serving, and how can we help them be successful. And I think as long as we continue to do that and make the best decisions, we can six weeks at a time. It doesn't matter if we have 100,000 or 100 million podcasts, I think I'm going to be satisfied and fulfilled regardless of where that number is.

Tom:

What had an impact on me was when we got together and said, Could we be the number one paid hosts? Could we be can we be the biggest host out there that does what we do. And that was it wasn't ever anything that we were motivated by. But Kevin kind of threw the gauntlet down and said, hey, let's try it just for fun. Like, let's just, let's just go for it. And we hunkered down and we focused and that's what we did. And so I feel like it was kind of crossing a finish finish line to a certain extent of can we do it? Yeah, we can. That doesn't mean that that needs to be our focus forever. That doesn't mean that that's the way that we need to operate the company. Because we always say things like, you know, the numbers aren't what matters and it's the people and the product and the customers. That's what really matters doesn't really matter. You know, the numbers outside of the fact that we need to pay our bills. And this was Testing well, but could we do it? Could we could we make our product that you know, attractive. And anyways, so the long story short, I feel like for me, there was a great accomplishment of crossing that milestone. And that is not the end all be all, it was just a goal that we had, that was fun for us to do. But I am humbled and excited at the place that we've reached, because what it allows us to do is to focus on our team to focus on building an environment that is a great place to work where the best talent in the industry wants to be a part of what you're doing. And being the best product for a specific demographic of people, people that are looking for an easy way for them to get their message out there to the world. I've always been excited about that message. That's enough to motivate me. And so it's, it's, it's humbling to see the message resonate, and to have people on the team that are willing to commit to being a part of of what we're doing. I'm much more excited about that than I am about the number of podcasts that are hosted on Buzzsprout. Well, thank

Travis:

you so much, Tom, and Kevin for sitting down with me and, and sharing the story of Buzzsprout, where we came from where we are, and I'm just excited about the future. I think the future is bright for podcasting. And we're just really excited to partner with you listening to this episode, to help you share a message that you're passionate about with the world and give you all the tools that you need to do that successfully. Now, if you're listening to this episode, and you really enjoyed it, you really enjoyed a different flair, different format than we normally do. Then let us know jump into the Buzzsprout podcast community over in Facebook on our Facebook group. And let us know what you thought about this episode. If you have other ideas for special episodes we can create in the future we'd love to hear those ideas as well. And and hopefully this gave you a better understanding of how the company that you use probably for your podcast came to be and why it's designed the way that it is hopefully by hearing from Kevin and Tom and their stories and and the things that they shared. You just got to know Buzzsprout a little bit better. Well thank you for tuning into this very special episode of Buzzcast. We hope you enjoyed it. And we'll catch you in the next one. Keep podcasting

Coming up with the name
How Kevin and Tom met
The early days of the company
Shifting away from client services
Buzzsprout's origin story
Making Buzzsprout easy to use
Podcast Movement 2014
The recording booth
Shifting our focus
Party at Disney World
Reflecting on 100k podcasts