How I Built The Tim Ferriss Show to 700+ Million Downloads — An Immersive Explanation of All Aspects and Key Decisions (Featuring Chris Hutchins) (#538)

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Chris Hutchins (@hutchins) is an avid life hacker and financial optimizer. He’s the host of All the Hacks podcast and the Head of New Product Strategy at Wealthfront.

Previously, Chris was co-founder and CEO of Grove (acquired by Wealthfront), co-founder of Milk (acquired by Google), and a partner at Google Ventures, where he focused on seed and early stage investments.

Chris reached out with many questions about podcasting. He had already read much of what I had written, listened to several interviews, and this is intended to be an updated guide to all things podcasting.

Please enjoy!

Listen to the episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Overcast, Podcast Addict, Pocket Casts, Stitcher, Castbox, Google Podcasts, Amazon Musicor on your favorite podcast platform. You can watch the interview on YouTube here.

Brought to you by LinkedIn Jobs recruitment platform with 770M+ users, Athletic Greens all-in-one nutritional supplement, and Helix Sleep premium mattresses. More on all three below.

#538: How I Built The Tim Ferriss Show to 700+ Million Downloads — An Immersive Explanation of All Aspects and Key Decisions (Featuring Chris Hutchins)


This episode is brought to you by Athletic Greens. I get asked all the time, “If you could only use one supplement, what would it be?” My answer is usually Athletic Greens, my all-in-one nutritional insurance. I recommended it in The 4-Hour Body in 2010 and did not get paid to do so. I do my best with nutrient-dense meals, of course, but AG further covers my bases with vitamins, minerals, and whole-food-sourced micronutrients that support gut health and the immune system. 

Right now, Athletic Greens is offering you their Vitamin D Liquid Formula free with your first subscription purchase—a vital nutrient for a strong immune system and strong bones. Visit AthleticGreens.com/Tim to claim this special offer today and receive the free Vitamin D Liquid Formula (and five free travel packs) with your first subscription purchase! That’s up to a one-year supply of Vitamin D as added value when you try their delicious and comprehensive all-in-one daily greens product.


This episode is brought to you by Helix SleepHelix was selected as the #1 overall mattress of 2020 by GQ magazine, Wired, Apartment Therapy, and many others. With Helix, there’s a specific mattress to meet each and every body’s unique comfort needs. Just take their quiz—only two minutes to complete—that matches your body type and sleep preferences to the perfect mattress for you. They have a 10-year warranty, and you get to try it out for a hundred nights, risk free. They’ll even pick it up from you if you don’t love it. And now, to my dear listeners, Helix is offering up to 200 dollars off all mattress orders plus two free pillows at HelixSleep.com/Tim.


This episode is brought to you by LinkedIn Jobs. Whether you are looking to hire now for a critical role or thinking about needs that you may have in the future, LinkedIn Jobs can help. LinkedIn screens candidates for the hard and soft skills you’re looking for and puts your job in front of candidates looking for job opportunities that match what you have to offer.

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What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.

SCROLL BELOW FOR LINKS AND SHOW NOTES…

Want to hear one of my favorite conversations with a fascinating polymath? Listen to this episode with Kevin Kelly, in which we discuss population implosions, The Long Now Foundation, organizational methods for learning, and much more!

#25: Kevin Kelly – WIRED Co-Founder, Polymath, Most Interesting Man In The World

SELECTED LINKS FROM THE EPISODE

  • Connect with Chris Hutchins:

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | LinkedIn

SHOW NOTES

Note from the editor: Timestamps will be added shortly.

  • Who is Chris Hutchins, and how many episodes of his new podcast, All the Hacks, does he have under his belt thus far?
  • A few choice pieces of advice anyone should consider when aspiring to start a podcast: you don’t have to commit forever, only do this if you’d do it for free, and don’t worry about how big (or small) your audience is.
  • Don’t commit to forever, but start with a reasonable number of episodes to aim for (I chose six). If you don’t love the direction it’s going, change direction until you do. Choose a game you can win.
  • Expect technical SNAFUs. Always have a backup plan. Better: have several. “Two is one, and one is none.”
  • Is it still early in the days of podcasting and ripe with opportunity, or is it too crowded and people should consider new mediums for content?
  • Why did Chris want to start a podcast, and what has made it worthwhile to continue?
  • Gear I use and why most of my podcast conversations are done remotely.
  • How many technical difficulties would I endure before just rescheduling an interview? What precautions do I take to make this less likely?
  • An easy way to test if your remote guest’s proper external mic is selected.
  • I once advised podcasters against recording on video, but I’ve obviously changed my tune. What are the pros and cons?
  • How different did my operation look when I was just getting started, and how has it evolved over time with the addition of metrics for monetization and staff to assist with production?
  • What Chris has considered when weighing the rewards of monetization versus its costs, and my two cents’ worth on sponsorship best practices and options available. (Bonus: why my books aren’t available in paperback.)
  • Can’t get big-name guests? Prioritize getting good guests even if they’re not household names. People like good content more than they like bad content with a fancy name (and you’ll probably like not having to get through a phalanx of publicists and lawyers and managers for a year to get that “famous” but potentially less interesting guest).
  • How I’ve found guests from the very beginning.
  • Chris asked me to listen to some of his podcast episodes and give my honest feedback. Here are my thoughts on his interview with Leigh Rowan (note: not a household name, but an incredible guest who brought his A game).
  • You may not be able to “fix” a bad guest no matter how well-practiced you are as an interviewer. But you can always record long and edit liberally.
  • Questions I ask and conversations I’ll have with guests to put them at ease and get them to a place where they can trust the process.
  • Why I find Twitter to be an excellent, low-risk way to source guests. But there are right ways and wrong ways to go about it.
  • Illustrating the importance of technical redundancy, Chris confesses that he had to re-record the interview with Leigh Rowan from scratch. At least it was a lesson learned on day one.
  • The value of reading transcripts (and, perhaps more painfully, audience feedback on social media) of your interviews early on in order to improve, as well as other methods of soliciting torture from select friends for personal development.
  • Why becoming a better interviewer is really becoming your best self as an interviewer. Remember: what’s worked for Joe Rogan or James Lipton or Larry King may not work for you.
  • How long do I spend on prep prior to an interview? What are some helpful shortcuts and processes to squeeze the most juice out of this time?
  • Have I ever done too much research before an interview — to the point that the ensuing conversation was devoid of any meaningful surprises? How might I avoid such a scenario?
  • What might cause me to push pause on publishing an interview, and how do I break the news diplomatically to the guest? What efforts can be made to salvage something useful from the experience for both parties?
  • Do I always read a guest’s new book before I interview them?
  • Have I ever had to pause during an interview to regroup and replan its direction? Do I have a way to afford a guest the same opportunity? What steps do I take to make sure the guest and I sound as good as possible?
  • Chris says I understand my audience well. How did I build that understanding, and what did I learn about relating to an audience from Wait But Why‘s Tim Urban?
  • Tip: How to avoid getting your AirPods case mixed up with a significant other/family member/roommate who lives with you.
  • Do I pay attention to number of podcast downloads and other listener-quantifying metrics? What would motivate extra scrutiny of those numbers? Bonus: a Kevin Rose-approved Chartable tip.
  • Why you probably want to funnel your listeners to your own website instead of something like a Facebook page that uses algorithims you can’t control.
  • Is growth as important as creating good content? What are the most effective ways to grow an audience that will find that good content?
  • Is there a point to putting audio-only content on a video platform like YouTube? While growth has no magic bullet and the tools are forever changing, here are some evergreen references that might help you find the anchor that will work for your needs.
  • Want to be of the best service to yourself and your audience? Stop trying to please all of the people all of the time. Find the cadence, content, and and frequency that fulfills you first.
  • Someone might tune in to your podcast for a certain guest, but if they come back, it’s because of you. This being said, is it necessary to go out of your way to remind listeners that you exist in every episode?
  • How can you make your good question a great question while making your guest sound even smarter and get your listeners personally invested in the conversation?
  • Speaking of which, what is one of Chris’ best investments?
  • How (and why) did I make the transition from being “The 4-Hour Guy” to the host of The Tim Ferriss Show (rather than starting something like The 4-Hour Podcast)?
  • You have a personal brand (even if you’ve never tried to build one). But how do you know what it entails?
  • To eliminate the bother of selling ads and securing sponsors, is it worth it to join a podcast network that promises to take care of monetization for you (for a hefty cut)?
  • How do I handle a follow-up question if I’ve thought of it well past the point it would make sense to fit it into the conversation?
  • Do I have any tactics for getting introductions to potential guests from other people in my existing network?
  • A question you can ask to improve your interviewing prowess (courtesy of Adam Grant).
  • What kind of processes do I go through when I reassess the direction of the podcast after reaching a preestablished milestone?
  • The time-saving power of batching recording sessions.
  • Parting thoughts.

PEOPLE MENTIONED

The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 700 million downloads. It has been selected for “Best of Apple Podcasts” three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it’s been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.