When you’re creating your content, do you ever stop and think about how your audience will perceive it, or how they will take your message at heart? From a writer’s perspective, today’s guest, Shane Snow, teaches us how to create bingeable content. Shane is an award-winning journalist, entrepreneur, author, and the Co-Founder of the content marketing platform called Contently. Tapping into the feeling of the audience, Shane explains that how you show up in the world directly impacts the way others feel about your content. He also discusses the underlying principles of bingeability, and reveals how he manages his dream team to create articles and newsletters.
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Content Binge-ability Principles That Build Trust With Shane Snow
I had an opportunity to interview someone who I’m a big fan of and whose content I binge on. I thought that would be great and different for us. I met Shane Snow, who’s going to be my guest, at an Influencers Dinner that was sponsored by Jon Levy. He’s a podcaster as well. He has some podcasts. Jon’s podfaded but it’s a great show and you should check it out because the style of his show is fascinating as well. I met him at this event that he does where he invites interesting and provocative thinkers to come in and give a little salon-style speech. They might say something for fifteen minutes, read from their book, sing a song, share a story, or do a Q&A.
On the night I met Shane, we were at this cool speakeasy underground in LA. It was a cool theater space that was down there and it was a part of a building that an architect owns. It’s late at night because that’s when all of these run, they run late. Shane decided to do a little bit of a PowerPoint because he could and he was showing some diagrams and different types of things from his book, Smartcuts of which I had heard of but I hadn’t read it at that time.
I immediately went on my Kindle, downloaded, and bought it right there on the spot. I read it and I’ve been a fan ever since so I’ve been following him. He started a newsletter on LinkedIn and that newsletter is something that I frequently share with friends, family, coworkers, clients, and other things because there are a lot of great thought-provoking concepts in there. I’m excited to have him here because it’s not often. There have been a few times where I’m such a fan of who I get to interview so this is exciting for me. I hope I don’t geek out. There you go.
Shane Snow is an award-winning journalist. He’s an explorer and entrepreneur, author and he speaks globally about innovation, teamwork, and has performed on Broadway. He’s been in the running for the Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Journalism. He has helped expose gun traffickers and explored abandoned buildings around the world. Also, eating only ice cream for weeks in the name of science, that must have been a hard job and taught hundreds of thousands of people to work better through his books, including his number one bestseller, Dream Teams, The Storytelling Edge, and Smartcuts.
His writing has appeared in GQ, Fast Company, Wired, The New Yorker, and more. He’s a board member of the media technology company, Contently, and the journalism nonprofit, The Hatch Institute. I’m excited to have you here. This perspective is on a different type of binge factor. In this case, I’m the binger, the binge listener, the binge-watcher, the binge reader, and he is the creator. Let’s take a look at this flip on The Binge Factor with Shane Snow.
Shane, welcome to the show. I’m so excited to have you here.
I’m happy to be here too.
I interview a lot of people but I don’t always get to interview people whose content I consume. Your newsletter that you produce on LinkedIn and that you produce out of your site because I’ve been subscribed to both places. It doesn’t matter but I share it frequently with members of my team, mentorship clients, or other things like that. Sometimes we don’t even realize the power of the content that we’re creating. Are you finding that?
With my own content, it’s hard as a writer to know what’s sometimes happening. I see the view counts of how many people open my newsletters or read my articles but the percentage of people who write in and say something ends up being low. I talk to other author friends of mine and sometimes it feels like the only people who are reading are people who are angry because when someone’s angry, they’re more likely to write in when you’re a writer because you’re not interacting with your audience as much. However, I do every once in a while, put out little surveys and fillers to ask my audience what’s valuable to them. That’s when I feel a little bit more confident about people paying attention because I’ll get the feedback of, “I’ve been following this for a long time. Here are the things that I want to hear more.” That’s great because now I know that I’m on track or the track I can try to be on.
It’s interesting that you said I was watching Inside Bill’s Brain which is about Bill Gates and the journalist who wrote the article that Melinda Gates read that set them off on the path of developing toilets in the third world and that whole thing. He was on it and he was saying, “You don’t know that someone that influential is going to not only read what you’re writing but take it and do something about it. You don’t know until they tell you.” That’s such a hard thing and that feedback loop is difficult for writers and it always has been.
My version of that story is much less influential, but one of the crazier things that happened to me is I have a tattoo on my forearm of a rocket. I’m into space and rockets. In my first book, I wrote about SpaceX and their quest to build rockets that can independently get to orbit and eventually go to Mars. Someone took a photo of my rocket. It’s a SpaceX Falcon 9 Rocket and somehow that photo ended up in front of Elon Musk who sent an email to every SpaceX employee of my tattoo saying, “Good work, everybody. We’re in tattoos,” or something like that.Content is the thing that ends up being shareable. Click To Tweet
“We’ve got so far that now we’re cult tattoo material.”
That email got forwarded to me so I have an email that says, “From ElonMusk@SpaceX.com,” and it’s a photo of my own tattoo. That’s my craziest one of those. You never know where things are going to go especially if you’re putting a lot of stuff out there. It’s not like I’m putting my tattoos out there.
You and I met at an Influencers Dinner with Jon Levy. He’s a good friend of my brother-in-law so that’s how I know him and got to meet him. It’s that nice circle of meeting people. The night that I saw you, you were giving a little talk about Smartcuts. Was that your 1st or 2nd book?
It’s my first book.
I had heard about it, but I hadn’t read the whole book. I think maybe I saw an excerpt somewhere where someone was talking about one of your concepts or something. What happened at that point was the way that you presented something about what you were doing there got me saying, “I like the way his brain works. I’d like to read more.” That’s what we don’t see happening when we read an article. When I read an article and that happens, I say, “I want to read more,” and I start consuming more. We don’t as writers or as podcasters, or any of those things get to see that point at which it goes from that first entry point where they find something about you and consuming more and more. We don’t start to see the similarity between the person who’s subscribed to our newsletter or bought our book. We don’t get to see that. That’s a shame.
The closest thing that I can think of to any feedback like that is looking at the popular Kindle highlights of the book which I haven’t done in quite a while. I often check this when I get a new non-fiction book. I look at what are the highlighted parts. It spoils the ending but this idea is one of the reasons why Netflix, for example, can make such binge-able content. They know exactly what you watch next. They know if you hit pause and rewind and you watch the same episode over and over again. They know all about the behavior of someone who’s discovering a new show or a new director or whatever. They use that to inform what they make next. It would be cool as an author to get those analytics. I don’t know if in podcasting you get some amount of that. You get downloads, but you don’t know the re-listens and what they listen to next.
We can get a sense of binge-listening happening when you see a pattern of a lot of listens at once, but you realize that your daily downloads are not the same. Your daily downloads are at a certain level, but then all of a sudden, in a weekend you have this huge spike of listenership typically that means one subscriber listening to all your shows depending on how many you have. That’s the only way you could do until they reach out to you. That’s what happened the first time. My first show was on 3D printing. It was called WTFFF?! and someone reached out to me after we’ve done maybe 100 episodes and tweeted something about, “Are you going to cover this topic? I’ve only gotten through the first 50 episodes this weekend.” That’s the way they worded it and I went, “People are binge-listening to us?” That was the first that the thought occurred to me that it happened.
The problem with it is it’s a verbal media so the shareability isn’t the same. We don’t get that opportunity to get the highlights and know what parts are resonating with them. What are they sharing with their friends? What are they telling them about? Hopefully, they say listen to the episode, but we don’t get about that excerpt part, which I love. That’s the exciting part. That’s why we turn everything into blog posts. Hopefully, it will happen. Somebody will tweet a paragraph.
I found that a lot of the content that I’ve had referred to me that I’ve ended up checking out has been because of the bites of either from stories, studies, or something from a podcast that’s clear and surprising enough that someone’s able to then rehearse to me. That causes me to look it up and it’s much easier to do that with a blog post or something written that you can copy-paste and send them a link to so it’s a story that you orally recount. Before blogs and podcasts, that’s how books went viral. You read something, you’re at the pub, and tell the gang about it.
Maybe recite a section if you have a good memory.
It’s the same principle. Ultimately, content is the thing that ends up being shareable. Certain media are easier to binge, but harder to sniff out and share.
Absolutely so we’ve got to find a way to do both. It’s been interesting. As I’ve been reading some of your newsletter items and things, you’re building on both your books Dream Teams and Smartcuts. You’re building on some of the concepts that you have there. You had one that was about trust, building trust, benevolence, how the factors of all of that, and that pillar of trust over time. It was fascinating to me because it resonated exactly what I’ve been telling podcasters for a long time. I’ve been telling all our clients and everybody here on The Binge Factor.
If you come with a surface first mindset instead of a, “What am I going to get out of this podcast in terms of promoting me?” If I push out and I’m giving, serving, and I’m giving you information that is useful to you, what I realized is it’s tapping into that benevolence factor first and what I call it the reversal of the know, like and trust factor. You build the trust first and they want to get to know you and binge on everything you have.
On both sides of say, an interview show or a conversation podcast, there are a lot of people that can go out and get great guests and interview them, whose podcasts are never going to get that popular. People are not going to trust them, the host, as much as other hosts. They may show they have the expertise, the competence and may be smart, but if they don’t convey the warmth and they sincerely care about the audience, about their guests, that will come through. The content will be different. People subscribe and binge because of who they’re getting the content from, in large part. Especially these days where anyone can make content. It’s less about trying to find the perfect absolute best person on this topic. There are lots of people talking about every topic but it’s the person who I trust that’s going to give me the content that I can feel good about spending and trading my time for. That is a function of benevolence, warmth and passion, not of expertise.
The expertise comes in later.
It’s almost like the table stakes.
I usually go over the binge factor for every person. I would love for you to talk about some of the things that you believe are the binge-able factors. First, I want to let you know what I’ve chosen to binge on your content. That is because there are a smartness and open-mindedness, which I know is one of your topics in one of your areas. You call it intellectual humility, in your book, and there’s this open-mindedness to the approach that you take to everything that comes across in every article that you put out and that I appreciate. I grew up with a broader worldview than most. I lived outside of the country for a long period of time when I was young.
In South Africa, when I was about 9 and 10 years old. My dad was on a project there so it was at the height of apartheid, so different worldview. I have a view of the world that’s a little bit 1960s and understanding what was going on there but with a modern view of, “It doesn’t have to be like this.” It’s a little bit different but when I look at that, I don’t get that a lot in other people’s content. When I found this flip of perspective and thinking, it was like, “I can’t always talk to someone like that in my community. I don’t always get the opportunity to have that in the people that surround me,” but I can get it when I consume some great content.
That’s such a nice compliment. I was getting a little bit of chills hearing you say that. Thank you for telling me. It’s been important to me as a writer to the reason I do. I love exploring, learning and I want to know what I don’t know. That approach carries through in what I do. I’m not writing about everything and I often have to go back and correct my thinking.
You’re open to that so that’s a good thing.
I like to think of myself as if I’m on a journey. The analogy I have in my head is I’m in the jungle with the machete 2 feet in front of my audience. They are on this journey and I’m exploring a little bit ahead because I am a little bit more manic and curious. We’re all trying to learn this. I’m not calling back having discovered all the answers after 50 years of having done it. I’m exploring, connecting dots, and hacking vines with a machete so I like to take that approach.
That’s a great approach as to whether you’re a podcast or whatever. When we started our 3D Print podcast, I’m not an engineer. I didn’t do engineering drawings. Luckily, I had a partner, my husband. The two of us were able to complement each other nicely but I had a high curiosity level so it enabled us to ask a lot of great questions and be a little bit ahead of everybody else. That’s a factor of having a high degree of curiosity and curiosity into the welfare and interests of other people, not only your own. Having to be both is a good thing.
For me, the thing that I’m trying to optimize for is influence. In the way that we met through Jon Levy’s Influencers network and not influence for individual gain but influence for, “I want to help people to help other people,” it’s that second-order effect. When I think of that as the metric not that I can measure it, but the metric for what I’m trying to accomplish with my writing, it changes how you write and how you explore. Exploring to help the person who’s 2 feet behind me to see further themselves. Chances are they’re going to be someone who’s a much better business person than I’ll ever be but this bit of exploration that I help them see can help them help a lot of people. Having that lens makes me happy and it also made a way that insulates my ego from, “If I don’t make a billion dollars off of doing this, at least maybe I’m helping other people to do things.” Maybe there’s something there that I’m tricking myself for when not that many people read my stuff. For me, it does help and I suspect that mindset is helpful with the podcasters that you work with and you see are the ones that are truly trying to help people. They will earn more trust and have more fun at the same time.
Sometimes we think about that in terms of soothing our ego, but at the same time, it sets you up in a place to be in a more authentic place of curiosity. If you’re truly doing it to try and understand where people need to go, what they need to do, and you’re willing to be out at the forefront of that, you’re a great guide. That comes through and it does translate into more binge-able content, which should translate into more circulation, sales, and jobs. It should and in some ways, it does. You’re doing some interesting things. You’re on the board of Contently. Tell us a little bit about that because I want to understand the content. It seems that’s what everybody’s talking about.
The brief history of Contently is years ago, a couple of friends of mine and I created what we thought was going to be a marketplace for journalists who were laid off from their jobs in newspapers and magazines to get work as freelancers. What it turned into is a lot of the people who wanted to hire freelancers who were high paid with a lot of professional experience. The customers that had the most money to pay and were eager that couldn’t find this, tended to be brands who wanted to do content marketing.
The New York Times can find the journalist in Alaska if they need to. They don’t need a company like Contently to broker talent for them but when Pepsi wants to do a campaign about World Water Week and need journalists to go and interview experts in environmental science, water preservation, clean water and stuff, they don’t know where to go to find talents. That’s what Contently originally ended up doing. Out of that, we built software to help manage and measure content. We found ourselves in the middle of this industry.
Our job was to not connect talent with content wanters or content providers with content publishers and companies but also to help them use content to build relationships with audiences. Also to help them treat their talents in a way that helps them to get the best work out of them so they could serve the audience. We learned a lot about remote teamwork for one, managing people who aren’t in your office who don’t work for you.
It’s valuable now.
It’s super relevant now. Contently has made the transition to everyone working from home as a piece of cake.
We didn’t have a hiccup either.
For a decade, we’ve been trying to help shape the course of the brand publishing industry so people do it ethically and effectively so they’re not wasting money or wasting people’s time. I was a journalist first and I started that. I was still writing part-time on the side while running Contently. A few years ago, I stepped out and now I’m on the board. I’ve come back to full-time being a journalist. Much of what I learned from helping brands manage freelancers and be publishers has fed back into my own content process.
A lot of it has to do with what we’re talking about, understanding what the audience wants and not leading with what you want from the audience. Not trying to sell them the thing, but giving them a lot of value and content so there’s no question that they’ve gotten value from you. If you do have something that you want to sell, in my case, companies can pay me to speak, train their employees or take courses from me, you’re not going to do that until you’ve read 100 articles of mine. That’s fine but that’s how it works. You build that trust over time before you should feel good about asking for someone to make a transaction. That’s the main thing that I learned from that.
Do you find this thing where all of a sudden someone reaches out to you and they’re already ready to hire you and you’re like, “We have our first conversation?” That’s because they have consumed a lot of content before they reach out.
Absolutely. A large company that’s working on vaccines now, who I had met one of their executives a long time ago and they’ve been reading my stuff for years. They reached out and had me virtually talk to their executive team about how to manage their team of scientists during this hard time based on all the Dream Teams stuff. It was several years in the making. You reached out to me after we met a few years ago and I had no idea that you’ve been reading my newsletters. My opportunity to speak to your audience and to learn from you is a function of all of that time that apparently spent paying attention to my stuff. Thank you for that.
I’m glad you mentioned Dream Teams because I definitely want to touch on that. It’s a challenging book because it challenges a lot of our preconceived notions about what makes great innovation. I’ve worked in innovation for a long time and you mentioned a story in there about Herman Miller, which was my second job. I’m sitting on it. I can see the top of my Aeron Chair back there and that’s an original Aeron chair from the first runs that they did in 1994 and 1995. I worked back with them back then. I experienced and I knew the story firsthand from Bill Stumpf and Don Chadwick about how the focus groups went.
My job at Herman Miller was to do color materials and finishes management. I would work with every single design team and help them integrate the surface materials because those were standard across all their products. My job was to help them integrate them, develop new ones like the armrests that were on the Aeron chair and new colors for the back. Even though everybody sees it in black, it used to come in a dozen different colors. Back when it was the height of the tech boom. There were flashy colors going out there.
Lime green, I remember.
I was responsible for helping with that. They told me the story about the focus groups and how bad it was. I came out of design school, I’d worked in the textile industry for a while and I always had this bad taste in my mouth about focus groups too. I didn’t understand that but Herman Miller has a different approach to them. It’s not only that they do them, but they have secondary and third types of groups that they run after it. That’s why it didn’t kill it there. That’s the part of the story you may not have heard. The focus group didn’t kill the chair. First off, because everybody believed in it and so believed in the mission of the project.Who we think of as our team is not usually what our team is. Click To Tweet
Secondly, they went to these other stages of it and what happened over time is that they would then take the chair and they would do different types of research. We did this in the color materials and finish group. We would take all of our finishes because changing color palettes on architects and designers is a dangerous thing. They get upset. It’s like, “I can’t buy my Coca-Cola red.” It’s that kind of thing. What we did was we would take the materials, do research about the usefulness of them and all the different things. At the same time that we were asking them more qualitative questions about things, we were getting buy-in for the idea that the paradigm was going to shift. We learned that from the Aeron team. That is what they did.
They got buy-ins from facility managers who are going to realize how much easier this chair was to take care of and clean from the HR department who might be getting a lot of ergonomic complaints about how their back hurts and other things like that. They would have different sizes that would now accommodate that. They would address the point to each one of those groups and make sure that they were knowledgeable that this was coming. They would tell all their friends and at conferences, they talked about this chair that was coming and that’s how it ended up being the bestselling chair. It is a part of your Dream Teams idea. You get people to cast in from the different departments that are going to be affected by the change. In this case, they cast it from their client base.
One of the things that I struggled a lot with was the title of the book. The title says what the book is about but the main concept is who we think of as our team is not usually what our team is. Our team can be a lot bigger and more interesting than people all sitting together at this desk in this office. The team that can launch a product can include all these people who will be affected who can help shape it, get buy-in to it, but also help spread the word. I’m trying to remember exactly the thing that I focused on. When you’re making a product, you often test it on people who are like you.
You were talking about another company, G-Corp, who did the extremist. I’ve found over time that having done over 250 new products that are in the consumer market. Over time, you can also take the outliers that sometimes that’s not the best strategy in consumer retail. You can do it when you have the power of a big brand like Herman Miller then you can take that risk. You can’t always when you’re a small business, have a single product line, or something like that. How do you take into consideration that those extreme customer use cases but turn it into something that is still mainstream acceptable? That’s the difficult part. It’s the innovation level. How do you do that?
This is interesting to me because I have a 60-person team worldwide now but the majority of my team is overseas and I’m building the US team. I keep thinking about how I am going to build that dream team so your book has been timely to me. You were mentioning about highlighting. One of the things I found myself getting into as I was highlighting, I was like, “We do that. We’re like that,” and debunk it in the next section. I’m thinking to myself, maybe I should go back to it and un-highlight that section so you don’t think I missed the point. I did highlight it and went on and realized, “He’s trying to debunk that.” That’s your style of writing.
I like to look at common wisdom, take it apart, see when it does apply and when it’s no longer relevant. A lot of times, our instincts are the things that hold us back. The things that are good or that have been good are the things that precisely prevent us from getting better. From my writing, a lot of what I like to do is make a case for something, shatter that case, reassess it and say, “Here’s how these things all line up together.” I like to take people down the wrong path sometimes but I can show them the path that I want them to see.
It’s a useful strategy for how you do that. Would it translate into a video or a podcast? That’s something that you have to think about the way that you present your content. Would that work in a different media? Sometimes it doesn’t and we have to think carefully about that.
When thinking about the theme of your show and what makes binge-worthy content. I will say that a lot of my inspiration for how I set up the case for things that I want to teach in my writing, especially in a longer form like in magazines and books, I get from television. I used to map out great episodes of television that I loved and take notes like a nerd while watching Alias, which was my favorite for a long time.
It’s my favorite too. See, I knew we had a similar mindset here. Here we go.
I would take notes scene by scene. Here’s what’s happening, how each scene starts and ends, the cliffhangers, and what’s happening with these characters, which is not a fun way to watch TV but I would do that. I thought that the way certain television shows are written brilliantly makes it impossible to stop. Drawing from that psychology and the strategies that some of the great TV and movie writing works is what feeds into some of that stuff that you see in my books.
I want you to get fully on board with something and to throw in a twist that basically and undeniably makes you rethink everything that you read and also have to get to the end because of how this line up. I also do a JJ Abrams thing where you start with this story and you cut it off at the part where you want to know what happens. It’s like three months earlier and you learn the backstory. I often do that with stuff that’s a little bit harder to get through or maybe science stuff that maybe is not what you would, on your own, want to read a chapter about.
You certainly don’t want to start the article without the science part.
In the context of this cliffhanger story, you’re like, “Whatever this science stuff is that I’m reading now has to have to do with whether this person is going to live or die or if their car is going to go off the cliff or whatever.” I come back to the story. That’s directly told from TV.
We call that open looping techniques. You’re open looping them because I also don’t want to have an unfinished story. That’s a personality trait of your listeners. If you want them to listen to the whole show or read the whole book or the article, you’ve got to follow them through to keep that story maintained so that keeps them interested in saying, “I can’t stop now, even though I’m frustrated with this.” “I disagree with his opinion. I’ve got to keep going because I’ve got to know the end of that story.” That’s human nature. It’s a stage technique that I was taught by the person who taught me some speaking skills.
That says to me that you would require a structured show, which makes sense because you’re an investigative journalist at heart. That’s the core of who you are so you take more time with research and have a more setup show. Much of podcasting is like we’re doing now. It’s an ad hoc casual improv. That may not be satisfying both to you as the host, to the people who follow you and fans of yours when you translate into a new media type but you are already aware of it so that’s a good thing.
Thanks. I think of the TV as an analogy. There are some shows that you look at someone like Colbert, who’s talented on the fly. He does not know what his guest is going to say. Maybe they do some prep, but he doesn’t know what they’re going to say. He’s ready to roll no matter what direction things go. That is a special talent and makes for a great host and there are a lot of great podcast hosts that can do that. That gives me anxiety. I can answer the questions if it’s topics that I know about and care about but from managing the flow of entertainment and education, without knowing exactly where things are going, that gives me anxiety versus a more planned out American lifestyle.
You know yourself so that’s a good thing but it makes it longer for you to jump into that media type because you’ve got to make sure it’s right for you. That’s wonderful. One of the things I want to mention before we go are things like your Dream Teams. The way that you layout the content and the complexity of the subject you’re tackling too. Building a dream team doesn’t happen instantly. You have a checklist at the back of your book, but I looked at it and I was like, “That’s a lot of stuff to check off.” It would take me a long time to build all of that in, refine all of that, and get it right for my organization. This isn’t something where it’s like a blueprint. You follow it, it’s done, start it up and it works.Who we think of as our team is not usually what our team is. Click To Tweet
It’s a trial and error and that’s part of the process of your book as well. A good podcast or learning experience is something that’s both educational and entertaining. Edutaining does that where it’s keeping you engaged enough along the way, giving you enough of the story, understanding, and the conceptual basis for me to say, “I can tackle these things. I can’t tackle those. That may be why I’m going to call Shane and have them come in and talk to my team.” That’s maybe why people make that choice.
Part of what I try to focus on when I can is underlying principles. The world is going to change and it’s going to keep on changing. Technology will change, but human nature and human behavior are fundamental things that are built into who we are and are a lot less likely to change. I like to focus on those things and that’s why you get to the back of Dream Teams and you see a checklist. If you’re in business and you’re trying to build a good culture, or whatever and it is foundational stuff that might require you to make some big changes in this because it’s the underlying principles that we’ve gotten through it. Also, I don’t want to be under any illusions that I can solve everyone’s specific business problems.
If I can help you to think from the right starting point about how you can solve your business problems, you’re going to be smarter than me at tackling that. I can give you some tools for understanding people and some thinking processes that can help you do a better job than you would have before. That’s my goal. For me, that’s how I can help the most people have the most influence without getting caught in the weeds in a way but also, I want to give people the wrong advice either. That’s why I don’t focus on one sector. I don’t have the confidence but I can deliver the kinds of industry expertise that some people already have but if I can deliver the underlying principles, that can make a big difference.
I was thinking about how I have, because of the show, analyzing the underlying principles of binge-ability, the binge factors, I should have an S on the end because they’re more. The one that you touched on is the one that is probably the most prevalent. It’s not what you’re putting out there but it’s also in how I perceive it and receive it in my mindset, my open-mindedness, and all of those things. When you’re in the position of curiosity and how you push out your content and information out there as an exploration and not like, “This is how it needs to be in decision-making and checklist time,” total blueprint. When you put it out there, it allows me to sift through that, take it in and move my perspective up into a place that I needed expansion on. That’s a good place. When you do that, that’s human nature to want more of that because it makes me better than I feel that I am at this stage. It is the characteristic of the listener. A great brand is how it’s perceived not what they say they are.
This speaks to something that I’m passionate about, the power of storytelling. It’s a lot easier to get someone to consider changing their mind to be more open about something or changing the way they do things if you use a story as a mechanism to get them to remember and to get them to feel. That also plays into the curiosity thing. When you started sharing about how you grew up with a part of your childhood abroad, my first reaction was, “Where? I want to know that story.” You hooked me with that in a way that makes me more likely to care about whatever lesson it is that you’re going to share as a result of that.
It also makes you more human and makes me perceive you in a way that does build more trust. A lot of people want the checklist, quick fix, and quick advice. If they’re ready for it, great, and if it’s relevant at some point, great. Life’s usually more complicated than that and often the things, the medicine we need to take are the things we need to reconsider being open to are harder. We resist that, however, learning the stories behind the people who haven’t worked, feeling or the emotion of the things that people have been through makes us a little bit more open to making the hard changes, hard journey and believing in people who are the hosts of the shows or the authors of these things. The stories are the things that get us on board a lot more. Anyone can find some stats and find some bullets of advice. That’s a big factor. Anything binge-able that keeps my attention for hours at a time is going to be a great story.
I’m glad you mentioned that because that’s your other book, The Storytelling Edge. I’m glad you mentioned that because that’s one of the things that make some of the best podcasts the most successful ones. They have a story woven into it or they pull a story out of their great guests that no one’s heard before. Those are the ones that definitely have a binge factor edge up. What are you working on now? Is our new book in the works? Is there something you can give us a hint at especially big fans?
There are a few things in the works. I’m spending a lot of my time writing articles and doing training programs around the shift to remote work and whatever was going through now because it’s needed. It’s the application on the Dream Teams stuff I’ve been working on for so long. The fun thing that I’m working on is not a book. It’s a TV project that we’re in negotiations now to get produced. I can’t quite share. There’s a big story afoot.
That’s great, though. You cannot be timelier because all of us on the other end, should we have to be remote yet again, will want more content. Shane, thank you for coming on the show. I appreciate it. I’m glad we’ve gotten this chance to talk one-on-one, which I’ve been looking forward to for some time.
Thank you. This is wonderful.
I hope you all enjoyed that as much as I did. I thought it was fascinating to get into his mind about how he creates, how he writes, what he thinks about, and how important that process is to him. It’s not something he does casually, it’s something he spent time and effort thinking about how he’s going to structure it. How is he going to write this article? How is he going to write his book? How is he going to share the information out there? He’s always thinking not only about his own process, but he’s thinking about how it’s being perceived by the reader. As he’s talking on our show, that’s the audience.
Thinking about that, we don’t often spend quite enough time thinking through our show sometimes. We get into the franticness of making sure that we’re producing our next episode, we’re getting on that and everything. This taught me because I’m working on a series where I’ve had to be a little more research-driven and I had to do a little more prep work. I think that it bodes well for how I like to show up. I’ve slowed down a little bit, not taking quite as many episode interviews as I do each week has helped me take more time in the preparation process. I was glad to hear him say that. The other thing that I wanted to mention that he said is, he was talking a little bit about Colbert and a little bit about how people binge on things and what those binge-ability characteristics might be and the underlying principles of it. It made me think of something that I talked about all the time.
Another great writer that I appreciate is Malcolm Gladwell. Malcolm Gladwell was on The Stephen Colbert show. Stephen Colbert asked him, “Why did you start a podcast?” He said, “Because you think with your eyes, but you feel with your ears.” Sometimes we do have to raise the power of what we’re doing out of the medium of writing, moving into listening, and getting into interviewing. If you’re not ready yet to do that great structured show that Shane and I were talking about that he might create someday, that Alias model.
If you’re not ready to do that, going and guesting, making sure that you’re telling these stories, sharing new pieces of information, and sharing bits about your process and yourself like Shane did is a great way for you to get exposure. Also, get in touch with that feeling part where we connect more with you and want to binge more on what you do provide and how you show up in the world. In Shane’s case, those are his great books, articles, and newsletter. Make sure you connect up with all of Shane’s information. Thank you to Shane for coming on the show. I had a fabulous time getting to interview someone I admire. I hope that you all got a good sense of it from the other side and from a different media type about the power of written words and the power of what that does over time.
Even though we don’t see all of the people who touch us and who are getting information from us, but living in that world of, “I’m helping people help other people,” and if you live in that like Shane does, you’re going to have a more binge-able show and have more success. You’re going to feel more satisfied with the results because you can’t always see all your subscribers and you don’t always know who they are, but the ripples of how they touch, they come back to you later tenfold. Thank you for reading. I can’t wait to bring you another episode of The Binge Factor.
- Shane Snow
- Jon Levy
- Podcasts – Influencers Podcast
- LinkedIn – Shane Snow
- Dream Teams
- The Storytelling Edge
- The Hatch Institute
About Shane Show
Shane Snow is an award-winning journalist, explorer, and entrepreneur, and the author. He speaks globally about innovation and teamwork, has performed comedy on Broadway, and been in the running for the Pulitzer Prize for investigative journalism.
Snow has helped expose gun traffickers, explored abandoned buildings around the world, eaten only ice cream for weeks in the name of science, and taught hundreds of thousands of people to work better through his books, including the #1 business bestseller Dream Teams.
Snow’s writing has appeared in GQ, Fast Company, Wired, The New Yorker, and more. He is also a board member of the media technology company Contently, and the journalism nonprofit The Hatch Institute.
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