It’s never too late to pursue your passion and live a life of purpose. This has been the message of Paul Vogelzang, an award-winning blogger, writer, and producer who is well-known for his down to earth accessible reporting style. His podcast, The Not Old – Better Show, continuously provides advice and engaging conversations to the 50-plus age community. Paul shares how he got fired at the age of 58, the struggle he faced upon trying to land a job, and the events leading up to starting his podcast show. He provides tips on how aspiring podcasters can encourage engagement, monetize their show, and become binge-listenable.
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Getting Off The Marketing Rollercoaster
I am here with an interesting podcaster. He’s the host of The Not Old – Better Show. I’ve got Paul Vogelzang. Paul, you are a broadcaster. You’re an award-winning journalist. You’ve interviewed sports, entertainment, health, nutrition experts and even some ordinary people who are doing extraordinary things. I love that. Your message is that it’s never too late to pursue your passions and live a life of purpose, adventure and significance. Paul, thank you for being here.
Thank you, Tracy. It’s a pleasure to talk with you.
I do want to lay out a few stats that you have here, just to get people an idea of how good a podcaster you are. You did 242,000 plays. The information I have might be old.
No. You’re on.
You have 242 million total plays, which is amazing. How many episodes in total do you have?
I’ve done about 400 episodes since starting about a few years ago.
This list of prominent guests is amazing: Octavia Spencer, Taraji P. Henson, Ron Howard, Judy Collins, Meryl Streep. You’ve got some big players, Tim McGraw, Sully. You interviewed Sully, I love that. Emma Stone, Tom Cruise, you’ve got a ton of people. Those are some amazing access and interesting stories I bet you’ve got there.
Definitely, some of those names bring back some wonderful memories. Not too long ago, it was a pleasure to talk to these people and to learn from them. That’s what the podcast is about. I’m learning, people my age are still learning and we love to hear from people who are doing the same.
How did you get started podcasting? What made you decide to be a podcaster?
I actually have a little bit of a history in it in so far as my wife, Gretchen, and I started a podcast several years ago. It was the very first mom podcast, MommyCast. We did MommyCast Latina with Gretchen’s cohost, Paige Heninger. That we did for about six years, which was a lot of fun. I served as a producer. I definitely got the bug after the mom stories ran out. We put the show on hiatus, but I’d never really lost the bug, then I lost my job. All stories have twists and turns and mine is not too unusual certainly for somebody my age. I’d been a long-time federal government employee. I moved to the private sector and ended up in a layoff that was tough emotionally and then tough professionally. I was 58 at the time. It was about a few years ago. I could not get a job. The company I worked for had a pretty significant outplacement service. I went on a ton of interviews, but I just could not get anything. It got to be a little discouraging. I would go on a lot of interviews, but I wouldn’t get hired.
I interviewed one day with a young woman and she was great. I have my wife and I have two boys, so I love kids. This woman asked me some questions during the interview that honestly, I didn’t even know how to answer. She asked me what my favorite cake was and I didn’t even understand what that meant. I felt out of it. I really felt old at that point. I laughed at the whole thing afterwards and I started writing about that. I started writing first on LinkedIn, I started getting enough activity around some of those posts that I thought, “This is going somewhere.” I remembered my podcasting days and I thought some of these people would be interesting to talk to on a podcast. That led to the podcast and I’ve been doing it for four years. My first guest, my dream guest, actually was Judy Collins.
I tell you that was the one that jumped out on the list for me. She fascinates me.
She’s a very interesting person. In addition to her music, she does some wonderful things in film, she’s an author, so she’s got a lot of talents. She was my dream guest and I was able to get to her early on in the process of doing the podcast. Within a year, she released a new album. Her publicist called me and wanted to have her back on the show. I had a chance to talk to her twice. Some of those things really resulted in some great times.
That’s some interesting things, but I bet there’s something that’s even more interesting that’s happened to you from podcasting. I’ve got to hear the stories because you’ve got some I’m sure.
I’m based here in the Washington, DC area. I continue to work for several government agencies. One of those agencies is the Department of Defense. For my 61st birthday, a little bit prior to that birthday, I got a chance to jump out of an airplane at 17,000 feet with the US Army Golden Knights. That was incredible. Initially, I thought, “This is going to be fantastic. This will be just a snap. These people will train me.” I was very confident. As soon as we started climbing in the airplane, I thought, “I have made a mistake.” It was me and about eight or ten other US Army Golden Knights, probably five or six guys, several women. It was a wonderful experience. They helped me the whole way. I jumped in tandem and so I didn’t jump by myself. That then led to some additional work with the Department of Defense where I went to fly with the Blue Angels.
You mentioned several guests I’d have a chance to talk to. It’s interesting, as you start this process getting into podcasting and helping other people. You know this because your podcast helps so many people. I look at my podcast in that same way. I like to shine the light on the guests and I like to have their stories be told. With the Golden Knights, I wanted to tell their story. I think they’re a great bunch of people. They work hard for our country and they deserve to have some good things said about them. I did several stories about the Golden Knights. Each one of the Air Force bases and the Army bases, they have their own in-house publications, a radio station, often they’ll have a television station and they’ll have a newspaper. I did a piece for the papers. I did a piece for their television, their network inside the walls of the various bases. I did an audio program for them and it really got a lot of attention. I still, to this day, get people who reach out and say, “You jumped out of.” It’s been a lot of fun.
You started this podcast, The Not Old – Better Show, after you’d already done one. You probably didn’t make a ton of mistakes this time around, but I’m sure you did when you were starting MommyCast. I’d love to know what was some of the funniest mistakes you made in those early days? There are a lot of starters out here who are you looking for your advice.
Two moms and then me, a husband of one of the moms, we decided that we would try to build the very first website that we created for MommyCast called Ruby on Rails. It was a nightmare. It was a clunky website. It never really did what we wanted to in those days. This was back in probably 2003 or 2004, those early days. There wasn’t a WordPress then that we can use. That was a huge mistake. We started doing more and more travel with the moms. One day at an airport, we would frequently travel with the kids. One of Paige’s little girls ran through one of the airport doors that was a prohibited entry and exit door, set off alarms throughout the airport. There’s not much you can do but just laugh, but the airport didn’t think it was very funny. They didn’t like that at all. That’s the world of moms.
What were some of the lessons that you learned early on that focused your show so that you can be better for your listeners, so that you can give them better takeaways, that you can give them better lessons and better guests next time? Did you learn something along the way early on?
That’s such a great question because that’s something that I thought an awful lot about as I’ve made my way now into this new podcast that I’m working on. The biggest lesson certainly for and for many it will be obvious, but that is to pay attention to your audience. That’s your customer. As a result, we learned with MommyCast that we had to follow-up with the moms. If they sent us an email, we needed to be responsive. The same is true now with my show, The Not Old – Better Show. That’s given me this insight into what the audience wants, but it’s also built a tremendous rapport. The other lesson that I’ve learned is to be willing to change. A lot of people my age, I love them, but they get stuck in their ruts. It doesn’t mean you need to necessarily embrace technology because there’s a lot of technology out there, but I think you need to try to experience some new things perhaps. That’s meant an awful lot to me too is to be willing to try to interview a guest that might not normally be on my list.
Not everybody has to be 50-plus on your guest list.
My guide in terms of who I interview, if somebody really appeals to me, then I interview them. I’m passionate about it that my audience will be passionate in hearing the interview that I do with them.
It’s occurring to me as you were saying that, did you ever question that was there enough of an audience who’s 50-plus? I get that all the time. Do they even know what a podcast is? It took my mom a little while, but she does know how to push the button on her phone. Did you ever question that?
I certainly did. You have said something that I really like. You have to have more than hope. You have to have a plan. My plan initially was that I would reach out to a large senior organization based in Washington DC and I would go see them. I don’t live too far outside of Washington, DC so I drove in and met with them and they laughed me out of the room. They said, “We’ve tried a podcast. Nobody listens to podcasts. Nobody your age is going to listen to podcasts.” That put a little bit of a chip on my shoulder. The corner turned when this same organization reached out and they said, “Would you help us with the project that we’ve got going on with your podcast?” I thought, “That makes it.”
I want to dive into our five different tips for aspiring podcasters to be successful. I want to point out to my audience what you did there. You actually researched me. You listened and you quoted back to me. I have to tell you, very few guests do that. I make it a practice and I see that you do too, of making sure that I research my guests. I want to make sure that they know that I’ve listened to them, that I know who they are and that I cared because it builds a better rapport. When it goes the other way and your guests does it with you, that is wow. Kudos to you because that shows how seriously you take your podcast and how seriously you take everything that you undertake in here to making sure that it’s going to be valuable. To me, that’s my big tip back to the audience. You confirmed this happened. I needed it. Please listen to Paul.
Thank you. That’s nice of you to say, Tracy. You’re right. First of all, you and your husband, Tom, have done some amazing things, and not just the podcast which is truly amazing but your business. It was actually very enjoyable to learn a little bit about you. I find that I enjoy learning about my guests. Not that I’m Matt Drudge here or not that I try to be some gotcha journalist. It’s that I’m curious and I think that’s important as we age and at any age. I do think that’s ultimately what bring guests back to the program like Judy Collins. I interviewed Deborah Riley who is the Production Director for Game of Thrones. She’s won four Emmy’s for her work on Game of Thrones. She was a second-time guest and she wanted to be back on in anticipation of season eight.
Some of the people don’t think Game of Thrones is a 50-plus thing but some of us, I’m not quite 50 yet but I’m getting really close, have been reading the books that long. I’ve been waiting for it.Be willing to change. It doesn't necessarily mean you need to embrace technology, but try to experience some new things. Click To Tweet
That’s how I started with it too is with the books.
Let’s go into our five tips. It’s not just about getting great guests and doing that, but how do you book great guests? How do you find them and get them booked?
My first tip, and again this won’t be a surprise to anybody, is I’m a pest. I’m super polite. If I want to talk to somebody, I reach out a couple of times, a couple of different ways, just in the same way that you reached out to me. You and I have connected on LinkedIn. I use LinkedIn quite a bit. I use a lot of social media extensively to track people down. I like to think of myself as a bit of a sleuth. I try to uncover different places where I might connect with somebody. I tried to learn a little bit about someone up front so that I’ll send an introductory subject line interview request email to them saying a little bit about who my audience is and how they will relate to what this particular guest has to say. I’m a pest about it, but then I incorporate a lot of who I am and what I do into that initial email so that they get a sense that I know what I’m talking about.
What about increasing listeners?
That’s another one. You have to try a lot of different things. For me, I have a pretty engaged Facebook group page. I have a personal page too, but I have a Facebook group page that is very strong. I’ve done a couple of Facebook Live events and those get quite a bit of activity and engagement. They live on beyond that one particular moment. LinkedIn has been a good source for me. I think the other thing that has helped an awful lot, and Tracy, you know this as a journalist and as a writer, is I reach out to publications and I volunteer myself. I basically say, “You’ve got this wonderful editorial or you’ve got this great interview that you’ve done with so and so. Why not take it from the page and turn it into a podcast and then you can post it and I’ll post it and we’ll cover both audiences and you can take credit for doing it?” That’s been a real boon too and it’s worked really well. I was able to get my podcast onto PBS’ Next Avenue site. That probably doubled my audience just getting that distribution. That’s been wonderful.
That’s a really great advice about it because in that sense, you were going into niche publications and the areas where their audience is clearly all in your world. You’ve got some nice-looking equipment there. You produce like a professional and I’m sure that you had to get a system in place because you were podcasting before and there were lots of the systems that are out there now and lots of the services. How do you produce like a pro? How do you make it easier?
During the research phase of the work, I literally will write my show notes right at that point. I’ll learn enough about the guests that I’ve got things pretty well in place for my actual transcribed show notes. That I do right up front. That saves me a lot of time and then I’m not recreating from after the fact. That’s been very helpful for me. At the same time that I do that, I embed links into those show notes so that I have those quickly. I do go out and I make sure to have photos of exactly what it is that I’m talking about. I’m careful about photos. Sometimes I will use some Adobe stock if I don’t have anything that’s really creative, but often I’ll use something that might have copyright associated with it. I’ll go out and get permission for that right up front. That has helped me a lot.
From the standpoint of just the pure production part of it, I’m not too sophisticated in the gear that I use for my editing. I use GarageBand and I think that’s a tool that maybe somebody might look down their nose at. I tell you it has been a wonderful tool for me. It’s super simple and it makes sense and I can do it quickly and I can turn out. I end up doing all the editing myself. I was like you and probably like a lot of your audience who are going to first embark on this. That keeps it very simple for me. I try to rely on social media to act as that distribution hub. That keeps things very simple for me.
You’ve got this Facebook group and you’ve mentioned that you have an audience who reach out to you. How do you encourage more engagement?
The real way is to ask questions. I do that through social media. I’ll ask if somebody has heard Judy Collins’ latest music. I’ll ask if somebody has seen a recent film. I’ll ask about people’s opinions about specific subjects. Not that I try to turn this like it’s some talk show on Sunday morning or something like that. I am interested though in just knowing about people. That lends itself very nicely to people talking back and that adds to the engagement. Often, what happens on the group page on Facebook is people will talk amongst themselves. I curate it a little bit, I moderate it a little bit and I leave it alone a little bit too.
How do you monetize your show so you can keep doing this?
You mentioned this too early on. There was skepticism in many corners about whether or not this particular podcast would reach an audience that was worth a darn, so to speak. I had a lot of different ideas about that subject. I know enough about my age group and enough about some of the conditions that my age group faces after going through a difficult time period. I felt after I lost my job that I was alone. I felt a little isolated. There is this real sense amongst my age group of maybe they are losing their communication or contact with close friends or family. Isolation was something that I have used almost as a marketing tool because I communicate with sponsors in a way that I tell them, “Here’s who I connected, here are the number of emails that I get every single day. Here’s how much engagement that represents.” I’ve also created what I call a one-pager that’s a simple 8.5×11 PDF that has a list of some of the people that you mentioned that I’ve interviewed.
We’ll put that up so that people can take a look at that because it is impressive. Some of them have little charts about how many audiences they have and things like that. You’re showing what’s valuable to the audience like who you’ve talked to, quotes that have happened. That is a different approach and it’s a much better approach. I applaud you for that.
Thanks, Tracy. I appreciate it. A lot of marketers need to be educated about the audience and they need to be educated about what it means to the audience to have some of those interviews at their fingertips. The other thing that I show marketers is the sheer number of places where people can find my show. I often say it’s like real estate. It’s location. I need to be everywhere that my audience are. With respect to sponsor specifically, I’ve only been able to get sponsors just about in the last couple of months.
I want everyone to hear that because you’re 400-plus episodes in and you just started to get them. A lot of people come in with this preconceived notion that sponsorships are going to happen magically and it’s going to be easy. It’s really not.
You’ve got to love what you do. Passion counts for a lot. I love this. It is what I do full-time. Initially, I was living off of savings. My wife has a small business that she owns. They weren’t quite as rosy as when I was working full-time for other organizations, but that’s changed. That shows that if there’s a listenership for a podcast like mine, people can do something very creative and passionate and find an audience too that they can monetize. They’re out there. We all know its complete, exciting means of communication that podcasting represents. Sponsors are starting to learn that too. There are some great organizations out there that you can plug into that will serve as a marketing rep. I work with a couple of those too. Those have been great. They’ve actually become friends. It’s out there. It’s important to treat it as a business because the sponsor is a business often and they’re going to want you to be as serious about what you’re doing.
Some people are considering podcasting out there. They’re thinking about it. You have had a little more experience doing a couple of different kinds. Are there reasons that they should consider it and are there maybe some that shouldn’t do it?
I would say that if you have a business, you should do it. Even if you have ten listeners, even if you’re struggling after six months to get 50 people to pay attention, it is still almost an essential for a business. I know, Tracy, that you offer great advice on this subject too. There aren’t many businesses out there that couldn’t benefit from a podcast. If you’re going to be a storyteller, if you’re going to do a solo podcast that you want to do as a hobby, that’s great too. You brought up this really interesting point. That is true that if you start to put into an equation all the hours that we work on putting a podcast together, then you factor that against the amount of money that you might make from it, it results in a very low hourly wage. You have to want to do it. You have to be super passionate in order to get it done. The other real key to it is to figure out what some of your goals are early on. Have a plan to make sure that you have some goals that, “By six months, I want to have X number of listeners or I want to have this distribution source. At twelve months, I want to be able to say I got across these various directories.” Some of those goals will help people take that first step. If they’re a business, I think they ought to consider it.You’ve got to love what you do. Passion counts for a lot. Click To Tweet
You’re making some points though that there are some intangibles or impacts to your core business or to your plans or to those goals but you don’t realize they’re going to happen until you start doing it. What were some of those things, the opportunities, the sales or the business opportunities that happen to you because of the podcast?
There were a few. I certainly had a couple low valleys prior to starting it out. As I started reaching out to people, the people were positive and encouraging. I thought that was wonderful. In particular, on LinkedIn, it probably skews a little bit older and in terms of its particular membership. I would get these emails from people saying, “You want to talk to this person,” and was just very happenstance, with that tiny nudge or a little bit of an introduction from one person to the next like how you and I met. That paves the way for an awful lot of doors to open if you get some of those kinds of things rolling for yourself. Some of it was pure serendipity. Some of it was hard streetlight shoe leather on the pavement. Some of it was a matter of things one leading to the next and being open. I needed to learn how to change and adapt. I had to figure out, “I’m on my own, I need to leverage what I do best but not rely totally on me in terms of beating this big, broad audience. I need to look for some help with some other people.” I wasn’t shy about asking for that.
Binge listenable, that’s a term I use all the time here, “How to be binge listenable.” We’re in a bingeable world. We love to binge-watch Game of Thrones. My daughter and son-in-law have binge-watched back from the beginning. We’re all for it, so that’s happening. Is your show binge listenable? If so, why? What’s so special about it? What makes it great for binge listening?
That’s a nice way of putting it. Binge listenable is a great way to describe a lot of things. I would use that modestly, humbly, I would say that the show is being listenable because I have a real variety of people, the people that you might not find in other places. I work very closely with the Smithsonian. They bring in some wonderful people that you might not normally hear about. I’ve had a chance to talk to the Smithsonian faculty about various religions that are important to how people understand better now. That’s been wonderful. Those subjects are very popular with my audience. I also talk about technology and I think that’s an important one. I try to have quite a bit of variety. In that way, it’s very binge listenable. I do find that my own metrics will prove that people are paying attention for more than just the twenty-minute duration of a show. They’ll bounce to the next show and they’ll bounce from there. It seems to bear itself out.
How can people find you besides your show, on social media? You mentioned your Facebook page. Can you give me a couple of places they can find you?
I mentioned LinkedIn and I’m there as Paul Vogelzang. I’m on Facebook in a couple of ways, both as Paul Vogelzang and also as Not Old – Better Show. You can find me on Twitter, @NotOldBetter. I’m on Instagram, @NotOldBetter.
You got it consistent. The reason I asked is that sometimes it’s not. You also have YouTube though.
You can find me on YouTube in the same way, The Not Old – Better Show on YouTube. Social media has been a real boon for me because I didn’t have budget for any kind of marketing. Social media represented that.
You’ve had amazing guests. You’ve had some of your dream guests on, but you’ve got to always have the next one. Who’s your next dream guest? Maybe if we tag them, they’ll say, “Yes, I’m coming on the show because I want to be in the company of Judy Collins and Sully.”
My next dream guest is to interview John Lithgow and Blythe Danner. They have a movie out and I’m going to be a pest to their team. John Lithgow has a play on Broadway. These people are busy but they’re also people that are ideally suited for my audience. This particular movie is about a gentleman who is alone. He’s a little bit isolated as a matter of fact and he meets somebody, Blythe Danner, who just captures his attention. It’s a lovely love story. It’s the kind of thing that will appeal to my audience. As a result, I’m passionate about it and so I’m going for it.
Go for that. If anyone out there knows their agents, you message us. Paul is going to make it. Do you have any last words for our audience, things you want to share with them that I haven’t talked about, haven’t asked you yet?
You’ve done a good job, you always do. Your show is wonderful. The only thing that I would just say is getting back to your question about how people should get started. They should find things that they love in life and that will keep them going. That does it in so many ways. It keeps you focused and keeps you happy. If you talk about that, it will come through.
Thank you, Paul. I’m so glad you’re here. Feed Your Brand Center of Influence audience, I want to highlight here that there are some amazing audience of all ages out in the podcast world. For you to discount that because you’re not one of them, that’s a mistake. When I started my first podcast, WTFFF?! 3D Printing, I thought I was going to have these young students. I turned out to have lots of retirees who were in the IT industry before and engineers. I had literal rocket scientists. I was like, “Now I’m intimidated because I was not the audience I thought I was going to have.” You flex with that and when you find that out and you find out who that core audience is and you deliver to them, that’s when you’ve got a great show. That’s what Paul has built here, The Not Old – Better Show. I love the name. You’ve got to check it out. It’s amazing. Until next time, this is Tracy Hazzard on the Center of Influence.
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About Paul Vogelzang
Paul Vogelzang is an award-winning blogger, writer, and producer, known for a down to earth accessible reporting style, offering advice and conversation for men and women in the 50 + age community. Paul has a deep media background and was one of the founding editors of MommyCast & MommyCast Latina, he is wildly popular, very first mom podcast in audio and video, and its producer from 2004 to 2009.
MommyCast has been featured in the Hollywood Reporter, Washingtonian Magazine, BusinessWeek, and Variety magazines, and the USA Today & Wall Street Journal newspapers, among many others.
Paul’s current, but also an award-winning podcast, The Not Old – Better Show launched in 2014. Paul continues to share vibrant, focused, entertaining content on the show and writes frequently about the subjects of fashion, grooming, entertainment, technology and relationships for those in the 50+ age community.
With over 100 shows in the archive, you’re bound to find something you love from among the exclusive Smithsonian programs, the excellent, insightful author interviews, and the fun, engaging talk that’s always better. Talk about better…The Not Old Better Show.
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