You must always aim to grow your podcast listenership as time passes by. If you are already hitting your local audience goals, expanding your podcast to international listeners should be your next goal. For this episode, Tracy Hazzard is joined by Khudania Ajay of the KAJ Masterclass Live, who discusses how to build and boost your podcast on a global scale! Khudania generously shares insights and tips on building a consistent audience, engaging with listeners, and making yourself a trusted resource of your chosen niche. If you want to build your podcast into something that people from all over the world will tune in to, this enlightening conversation is for you!
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How To Successfully Build And Boost Your Podcast To International Listeners With Khudania Ajay Of The KAJ Masterclass Live
I have got an international podcaster in this episode. We’re talking to someone from New Delhi, India. It’s so exciting. I’ve been on his show so I also have experience being on the other side of the mic with him. Khudania Ajay is a writer, a podcast host, and an independent journalist based out of New Delhi. He hosts The KAJ Masterclass LIVE powered by The KAJ Studio. In his twenty-plus years in the media, he has worked with CNBC India, Reuters, Press Trust of India, and others.
He is now fully focused on profiting his audience through his live masterclass. He is a Master’s in Political Science from the University of Delhi. He holds a PG Diploma in Journalism from the renowned Indian Institute of Mass Communication, IIMC New Delhi. He is full of energy. We’ve got a time change going on between the two of us and he is up and full of energy. It was so much fun to be on his live show and he brought that same energy to my show, even though it’s recorded. I think you’re going to find this fascinating. Let’s talk to KAJ and hear some more about The KAJ Masterclass LIVE and how Khudania Ajay builds his podcast and his international audience.
AJ, I’m so glad to have you here. I love that you call your podcast a masterclass in itself. I think that’s brilliant. I’m sure you tossed around a lot of names for the show. What made you dial in and want to call it The KAJ Masterclass LIVE?
That’s a good question, Tracy. There are a lot of meanings to this particular word. Even though it may sound like a small format or abbreviation of my own name, that is only a very small reason. In India and especially in Eastern India, KAJ is another word for work in Hindi or several regional languages. When this masterclass idea came in, it was about a lot of these masters who come to the show. They bring so much information and insights mostly with regard to work, people in different forms of work, and the way they are doing business, even in workplaces or in big businesses. It works well for everybody. That was that synergy.
The other reason was being from a news agency background in India, I work with Reuters and an Indian news agency, the Press Trust of India. The biggest news agency that we have all used initials. We hardly use bylines. When we transmit a copy, our initials will tell people within the system who has edited this copy or who has finally seen this copy. Because of my name, my initials were KAJ. It reminds me a lot of those people who have worked with me in PTI about this name. I thought, “Why not put all these things together and make it much more useful in terms of meaning for myself, as well as meaning in terms of work for a lot of people who understand?” Also, it sounds cool.
It sounds cool. Your audience means your early adopters. The people who already have been following you in the news, following your articles, and following the way that you are, they’re your first early adopters. They’re the ones who knew you so there’s a synergy to that. I do love that, and I love that’s a play on words for you. That makes it so interesting too like, “Am I going to get working here?” I’m starting to understand that. It’s wonderful to have that multi-level title to it. That’s working for you.
I’ve been on your show. That’s fun that I already have that experience of being on your show. One of the major things that are so exciting about your show is the energy level you bring. Do you think that you would have this high energy level if it wasn’t live or if you didn’t have that live interaction or if you were just recording it?
Let me put it this way. I look at live shows as living a full life in those 30 minutes, 35 minutes or 40 minutes. You live a life, and when you live a life in real-time, it’s full of zest. Anybody you look at should look at it that way. When I do that live, I don’t plan it like that. I am just like that, but when you are doing that live, it’s not about me. I forget that I exist. I always look at it as this is what I have learned. This is the way I am.
It’s not that I’m trying anything extra. That’s why it becomes so easy for me. I look at only the guest. Why the guest? It’s because the guest is the expert. He or she is the master. He or she is bringing that value to the audience. Today, it’s live. Tomorrow, it’s recorded and in different formats, whether it’s in audio, video or text. I want to take it to many more places if I could, but I’m only one man. My wife and a couple of other people help me, but mostly it’s my wife.
We’re all like a one-man show in podcasting so often, but we have a few hidden people behind us. Thank goodness. Your show has this energy about it and I’m going to dive right into the binge factor right now because I want the audience to learn that. The binge factor of The KAJ show is so powerfully energetic. It’s energy at a level that is hyped up and wonderful. It’s infectious, and to have an energy that’s infectious is powerful.
When I started, I did not know that the guests are seeing it that way.
They are. We’re feeding off of it.
For me, it was a very natural way of being like this. When I am doing that, let’s say 30 seconds or 40 seconds of coming live from this, it’s not about me. In journalism, you have something called a dateline. I’m telling people where the guest is. In every news or any story, it’s the first few lines that are the most important. Your intro and the guest. Your audience should know what is coming up for them. Even if it’s very natural and obvious, when they listen to the same thing, it becomes something important for them, and they wait.
Even guests are very happy to listen. Perhaps they become part of the show and I tell them they’re coming live from New York or coming live from Costa Rica or any other place. They suddenly feel much more connected than it’s about me. In those 25 or 20 seconds, you have it with them. It’s not just the guest but also the audience, and not only for that time but for later on. I’m lucky that way.
You are because that high energy level is infectious to the guest and the audience. What it does is it gets this more embracing mood that you’re in as a listener. You’re sitting there raptured with the idea of what’s going to happen, who’s going to talk next, and what’s the question going to be. It has this engagement level because of the infectious energy you bring to it. That’s what makes your show so bingeable.
It makes me want to go back and listen even though I didn’t get to listen to that one live. More importantly, it does make me want to find out when you are live and join you live. That’s a critical path that a lot of podcasters don’t have dialed in. They don’t know how to get someone to show up when they are live or when they are doing something where they can take questions or be engaging. They don’t know how to do that, and you do.
The good part is I want to share something with the podcasting community or podcasters. Because there is enough engagement in terms of the audience and the guests, the guests are also willing to share it much more enthusiastically. I am getting quite a number of queries without thinking of monetization in terms of advertisers and other stuff.
What is happening is podcast agencies and PR companies from outside and from India have started approaching me for collaborations and tie up. There is a big tie-up with an artificial intelligence company that is talking about nutrition and all that stuff, and it’s going to be live. I also got some artificial intelligence companies from speech-to-text and text-to-speech tools. They talked about the presentation style.
I’ve been in television background. I’ve trained, but I have not been trained as an anchor or presenter. Being in the news agency background in the field, we are trained to work within the shadows. We rarely get the bylines in news agencies but some of them, you get. Even on the television side like in CNBC, I was the assignment editor. My job was to make sure that everything is smooth and the systems are running. I am interacting and talk to all the reporters across the country and outside.
I did not have a formal desktop anchoring, but I always thought about how I deal with normal people when I talk with my friends or how we are talking. Why do you have pretensions when you are talking online? It’s around 12:00 midnight here in India. Why should it be different if I’m talking to Tracy, and I like talking to her, then it should be like you are talking in real life. The biggest thing is you have a thing called podcasting. You have the tools, and it is not bound by a few minutes here and there. Why not utilize those tools to be more human, reach people, and connect with them? That is what podcasting is all about.
It’s about connection. You were mentioning this and this was one of the questions that I have for you. You came from behind the scenes in this newsroom model. What did you find is the biggest challenge coming to the other side of the mic essentially?
I don’t know if there was any challenge. You can say I’m one of the exceptions, but I’ll tell you the reason behind this. I came from a very small place. I was born in a very small village with no electricity. I’ve been very lucky to meet a lot of good people in life. Even though I had my own share of financial problems and every other problem, I met a lot of good people. I felt that when you meet people with open hearts, you also get to meet a lot of good people. Especially being in Delhi gave me good exposure in terms of my social life.
In Delhi, I had the opportunity to be part of the student union and all that stuff. People elected me as the president of the college. That gave me the chance to speak to students hundreds of times all the time. That was the stepping stone for me. It’s not in terms of politics but in terms of connecting with people. Perhaps, that is the most important reason. It’s that understanding of journalism, but also the real understanding of connecting with people in front of you. As one guest was saying, “You are here and that’s the most important thing.” I can understand why she’s saying that.
It’s a privilege to meet those people and a privilege that you can be yourself. I’m speaking to this because the biggest challenge podcasting will have is whether the guests and the host are able to connect the same way that they had set out. If that will be there, there is a future. If not, as you can see, the pod fade is high. It will not just be for hosts but also for guests.The biggest challenge podcasting will have in going days is whether the guest and the post can connect the same way they had actually set out. Click To Tweet
You’re very right there. That is a good point. The guests find it less valuable and then you’re going to have to fade from that side and value attrition as well. There’s something about the idea of your perspectives. I’m pretty sure that if I asked you what’s one of the returns on investments you find from your show, you would absolutely say that it was the fact that you get to reach so far out into the world, and bring perspectives in. Was there anything about podcasting and using this media type that surprised you?
As I said, the podfade from the guest side should not be set because that will be not good for the industry. What has surprised me is that aspect. The guest is not an expert or she’s an expert in the trade they are in. As a host, it is your responsibility to make it interesting. What’s interesting is not just about talking. What’s interesting is the value.
People were talking for hours and the sweet spot is 37 minutes. Who will still wait for 37 minutes to get that value? When you talk of my show, I want them to feel that they are getting value from the moment it comes live or even recorded. If they don’t, then that person is gone. Why should you not give value? Adam from Grow Your Show told me, “What I like about your show is that you don’t beat around the bush.”
I’m telling you that not because I’m talking about myself, but because I’m concerned about podcasting as an industry. It has only given me. I have not given it anything. I only try to use whatever I have learned as an editor and all the journalism as a human being, and as a relationship man. Networking is not. I don’t look at things to bring it to that. With due respect to all the people who have cats and dogs, he said, “You don’t talk about their dogs and cats.” If I need to talk about that, I will talk. If I spend 15 minutes talking about that, tell me, Tracy, who is interested in profiles of people now? You get those profiles on LinkedIn and everywhere.
That’s what bios are for.
If you bring the same thing in a video version or an audio version, do you think anybody would be interested in the long run?
No. The thing is that I find that the podcast that had the most bingeability and the most long-term hit the nitty-gritty helpful things or the things that I do want to know. I think that’s where your journalistic background has been so helpful. In news, you got to get to it very quickly. You got to get to the heart of the story. You got to make a human connection and get some useful takeaway. Something I’m going to remember and tell, “On the news, I heard this.” You want to remember it. That’s where I think you have a benefit over a lot of other podcasters where it takes some time to find that rhythm and to find that place that they’re good at and adding value.
I don’t look at them as other podcasters. I look at them as part of my community. I’m ready to share anything that I know because it benefits me also. Firstly, the quality of content goes better. You see the mainstream media is where things are happening. A lot of people who are coming to my show are a lot of journalist friends of mine. Most of my connections on LinkedIn, half of them are journalists, ex-journalists, public relations people or somewhere related to media, not only in India but outside.
A lot of people who are consuming podcasts are also people who are not looking at them purely as podcasts. They’re looking at it in terms of content that can add value to what they are wanting to achieve in life. My motive is selfish. If other podcasters are bringing better content, and we together give the whole bunch of people who want to consume good content, it keeps the industry vibrant and thriving.
This is where you and I are totally aligned because I so agree AJ. If we raise everybody up, the whole industry is better. The listeners will consume more because they’re going to love it more.
Through your show, I want to tell anybody who wants to seek any type of assistance, advice or anything, just reach out to me and I will try to do that. If anybody wants to speak, I’ll speak. I will not charge anything for you.
Let’s talk about some of these little bits of nitty-gritty things, AJ. Let’s talk about it. You and I met through PodMatch, which is one way to get guests. Have you found other ways in which you can go out and reach for guests that are outside your community, and bring new perspectives into your audience? How do you go about doing that?
I am a bit of a different type of podcaster because of my background in journalism, and not just journalism, my own personal network gives me that extra edge that I can get a lot of guests. That is why I did not start with my guesting from India. I wanted to move into a different territory, the international territory where I did not know people.
I could have gotten hundreds of people from here itself, from the network, either college network or journalism network, but then I would be starting with something very familiar. I wanted to try something very different to get some fresh perspectives of things and ideas for the Indian audience. Those ideas also must go to the international audience, whoever finds them interesting.
I may not be the correct person to say where I can get the guests because other people have their limitations. I will tell you, there are so many ways you can reach out. The fault is not about the designation of a guest. It does not matter. If you start looking at CEOs, founders, entrepreneurs or even the president of the United States, it does not matter if you do not have the right questions to ask.
How do you get the right question? To get the right questions, you got to understand who that person is. It’s not about, “I struggle in my life so I’ve reached here.” That is not going to understand. You got to know how to ask questions that also challenges their mind to come out with something innovative and something different which they are very proud of themselves. There was a question that made me chisel my own knowledge.
It made me refine my message so that I could express it better and articulate it. That’s an interesting way to look at your relationship with your Q&A, your questions and answers, and how you’re doing that. I can see how you do that in your show because you are actively listening and asking the next right question. I do see that. Your show flow has a very experienced questioning model.
How do you research? I’ll tell you an example. There are some guests, and now I’m on Calendly. Most of my life is not on Calendly. A lot of people find it open. I’m not going to put my whole life on Calendly. It’s just to help me and the guests. Several times, I have seen guests booked in the morning for the evening time or afternoon time. I want to tell guests, “If you want that sort of a host, don’t go for it.” In a practical situation, nobody will be able to do research on you and ask you any questions. Even if you feel that the slot is empty or the host is free, you are not going to get value.
You got to have time for that. That’s such a good point.
Value yourself, and if you’re getting a slot, it does not mean you jump for it. The host must do that research, and research is not just about a one-pager. The questions have to flow in a manner that tells a story. That story cannot be told by you. That has to be told by the guest. How do you ensure that? That is the only hard work that I do. The biggest hard work is to put it on social media.
In fact, interviews are easy. The difficult part is to put it on social media. To add to this, even guests, I must tell you, you have told me that you are an expert but if I ask you to tell me five points or five tips that you talk about, you have got only one. I then have to move out to another question. A lot of people are not from my background. Again, they’ll move to the cat and dog and you lose your audience.
Do not let that happen. Tell your guest that you are an expert. Secondly, if your guest is saying that they are an expert, you got to qualify it. You tell your audience that it’s there. That is why in my YouTube description, I pick up some lines because not everybody is truthful. They may brag about their profiles. People tell it during job processes also. I write about a particular person in his own words or in our own words. You qualify that. You are not saying it. You must do it.
There was somebody who was an expert but he did not have an official qualification. I asked bluntly, “How do my audience listen to you?” Before that, they should know if they’re listening to the right person and if they should trust it because this is important information. People may get it in their heads and they may start following you.
If you are true to the information, even if you are a podcaster, you are still providing information through your guests. It is your duty to ensure that you are qualifying your guests and any information that they are sharing. At least, I may make mistakes but I will still try and do as best to make sure that I’m not making mistakes just because I’m being lazy about it.Podcasters provide information through their guests. It is their duty to ensure that they are qualifying them or any information they are sharing. Click To Tweet
Not all of us in podcasting are trained journalists. We don’t always have a process, but we do need to come to one that is vetting research. That at least does a minimum level of double-check system. Also, make sure it’s going to be good content and a good story as you put out before as stated there. Let’s talk a little bit about the audience because listener growth and other things are a big struggle for almost every podcaster out there.
You mentioned the idea of making sure social media is happening and that is listener growth, but you have the unique ability to work within this growth in the Indian audience. That’s an interesting model as well. What can you tell us about the Indian listeners and what they’re looking for and what you’re seeing on the growth side there? We’d love your perspective on that because when do I get to talk to someone who’s uniquely suited to have some expertise in this area?
When you are talking about audience, any audience that listens to you or watches your video or anything is coming for two things. It’s either entertainment or information. It’s information that helps them and that they can use. It’s like Google. If you are searching for something, you want that answer immediately and at the top. That’s why Google is working on those snippets so that you immediately get them. That’s the whole challenge for Google. That’s the way they’re trying to refine it as much as possible.
It is the same about podcasts. Otherwise, people will not have the time as you go by. They are also looking at value for themselves. Indian audiences are also not very different in that respect. In fact, the Indian audience is looking for more value. There is a huge workforce. They want to understand, which sectors are going to be doing good for them to try for jobs. They are also looking at what’s happening at workplaces and what are the best practices outside.
Everybody is looking for something for themselves. In terms of cryptos, people are looking at what is happening in the world. In India, our government has taxed these things to a great extent and it’s still not official. We don’t give legitimacy to cryptos and all, but people want to know about this. It is the responsibility of people who are giving information to give undiluted information.It is the responsibility of those who inform to ensure that they offer undiluted information. Click To Tweet
I did not know about crypto when I started talking about it. Now, I understand a bit, but if somebody tells me, “Tell me about something which is good or bad,” I will not because I’m not a qualified person. If some guest talks about it, I will tell them, “This is what the guest is saying. I’m not saying anything. Why should I endorse anything without being an expert on I? It’s not my piece.”
There are people out there who do go down that route. Their whole monetization model is constant endorsements. As an audience member and as a concerted listener, you know the difference between someone who’s hawking anything and someone who’s presenting you with great information for you to make a decision. It’s different.
Tracy, they got to declare it because people are making investment and financial decisions based on that in any other field or any other product. You’ve got to tell. When people approach me for podcasting and all, I will never do anything which takes away my right to ask questions. It’s not that I’m an investigative journalist. I’m not doing that. I’m not here to be sitting on judgment on anybody.
When I’m talking to you, I don’t have anything in my head. We are just talking. In the same way, when I’m talking to a guest, I want to talk to the guest, but I also have to earn money. I’m not an influencer. I’m not looking at advertising or Google ads and all that stuff. It’s not going to work. It’s peanuts. If you start depending on that, it means you are walking the wrong path.
I so agree. I’m going to call it the influencer advertising model of podcasting, and then there’s the informational promotional model, which is a little bit different. You are not running that fine line on it either. You made a decision that you’re not going to sell out your audience for small dollar amounts. You want to have the integrity of that.
The thin line that I need to walk is still, “How do I monetize?” I’m not monetizing. That’s why I was talking about eBooks. That is the valid way you can do it.
We talked about that before. AJ was talking to me that some of the ideas that he has for future monetization, which is my next question because this is a third set of questions that we usually ask about alternative forms of monetization, what your monetization plans might be, and where you see the value going. One of the areas that you want to explore next is eBooks. That’s an interesting model for you because that compilation model, especially as you get towards so many shows in your catalog, the idea of being able to group them together and make them easier to consume is a nice model.
I’m not looking purely at the monetization part of it. Right now, I put my content on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and all other places. I also put it on Medium and Substack. I put the video. I put that whole stuff and I do it for two things. One is that it is there. It helps in SEO and you don’t need to learn SEO here. If anybody types, it will pop. This way, it has created around 150 to 200 interviews on Medium and Substack out of nowhere. I wish I could use that whole transcript down there, but then I don’t have that much bandwidth. All that transcript I need to go through. I wish I had that.
We’re going to have to talk about that so that I could support you on that side.
Coming to the eBooks part, eBooks give that opportunity. It takes the content to a fresh level. All that expertise that the guest has given gets scanned and people can use it for a long time. You don’t go and sell it for a very high level of money. You make it affordable or free if possible. I can give it at an affordable rate, but people who would be doing all that work also need to earn money because they need to get permission from all the people who have appeared on your podcast. Indian guests can agree, but internationally, you still want to make sure those who have appeared on your show don’t have any problems and all that stuff. You don’t want anybody to feel aggrieved later on.
You certainly do want to double-screen it because that’s also another opportunity. Things happen in businesses. Even though you may have loved this great interview that you did and it’s doing well in your podcast, that person’s business no longer exists or the story has shifted over time. You do have to do a second level of screening. That’s an important point that you’re making AJ. You do a second set of vetting and a second confirmation on the fact that they’re in on this.
That’s very important. Once you take their consent, it means they have also given that consent that whatever they have spoken in that particular video or audio, it means that they have given consent for you to use that for transcription and anything else and use it for your eBooks.
The last question before we head out here, and I wanted to dive into it a little bit because your show is this play on work. How has your work changed and grown because of adding podcasts to your content mix?
I’ll tell you how I started podcasting and it’s not a long scope. In 2020, I was already an independent journalist. I am advising people and companies if they’re coming to me. I have a very active social life. There are a lot of people from my hometown in Delhi here. I have studied here in Delhi for college. I’ve done my journalism here. A lot of people already know me.
One of my close friends asked me one day during COVID. He’s also from Delhi University and from my hometown. He said, “KAJ, a lot of people know us in real life, but is it serving enough purpose for us to keep employed or earning throughout our lives? Even if those people know us, they are not from our line of work. For that, how is online considering our existence? Do they know us?” It struck me and then I thought, “Even if they know you offline, does the online world recognize you?” That was one of the things that set me thinking.
I lost The KAJ Masterclass in 2021, though I started a bit of podcasting in July 2020. That was solo. I was just trying out to understand things and how it was going. There’s a lot of other work I was already involved with. I then saw that shift happening. People did not know at that time that Substack was taking off. Medium was coming in. I was talking to a lot of people in the PR industry and the media industry. A lot of people had not even heard those names.
Several of them do not know even now. Medium maybe, but not Substack. Now, they know. I then saw that shift. I thought, “This whole industry is going towards a direction where everything is moving towards subscriber-based content,” and not towards advertiser-based content like newspapers because if there are no advertisers in newspapers, it will cost a lot of money to buy.
That was the time I thought, “Why not go with that?” In 2021, I made a small promo. I launched The KAJ Masterclass. The time for old-world content is gone and you must start looking. I started working on that. I did a few interviews. By that time, I was very much sure that there is a big market that is looking for content, but they are not looking at it only from the mainstream media. They are looking elsewhere. In January, I started doing live shows. In mid of January, I started my first show. If you ask me, there are maybe around 175 to 200 live shows that I’ve done.
You have been a content machine. You have put out a lot of content, and it all has that level of value and quality. I’m so impressed with what you’ve built so quickly with your show. It deserves so much credit. That’s why I want to make sure that I brought you here to the show so that other Binge Factor listeners can take a listen to your show, get exposed to it, and see the level that you’re bringing to the podcasting world. AJ, I can’t thank you enough for being on my show, for bringing this level of energy to the podcasting industry, and for helping to raise the tide for everyone.
Thank you, Tracy. I did not come to podcasting. It is like you want something, and then podcasting pulled me in. Alex’s company has a big role to play. It was like you have a boat but you don’t have the river. How do you use it? That’s why I keep on saying openly to Alex that it means so much to me. Several things I’m not able to tell even on this podcast, but it was divine providence that once I suddenly saw somebody writing about PodMatch, I thought, “Why not try it?
It is like you are thinking about one bottle of water and there are several rivers flowing. People want to be there. Why open your savings account and use it when there is a full river flowing, and people want to be guests and speak out about so many things? The only thing is you have to make sure of the type of guests you are getting. Do a bit of research on them so that you are bringing true people, and not advertising for people who may not be as true as they want to sound because there are no checks and balances there.
Thank you so much for being on the show. I am so glad and I look forward to building a bigger relationship with you and staying in touch over time.
Thank you. You are a friend now. At any point in time, you want me to wherever I can utilize my expertise, I’m always available, but even for the larger podcasting world, I’m available. I’m not talking about money. When we’ll talk about money, we’ll talk about it. I have to also take care of my bread and butter, but when I talk of value, at that time, I forget about money.
Thank you so much, AJ.
What I found the most fascinating about talking with KAJ is thinking about this idea that he’s looking for undiluted information. He wants it straight from that person. He wants the realism of their reaction to it. He wants the unvarnished truth of how things are working or how it feels or how you might accomplish something. Your passion for it, your excitement about it or your lack of or your disappointment in it. It might be the other way.
That’s such a storyteller’s view of it but in a much more journalistic integrity way that he’s got about how he does everything. To have that broadcaster energy that he brings to everything, I think it’s a fabulous show. It has got such uniqueness to it that is something worth listening to and checking out. I don’t want you to miss this. The KAJ Masterclass LIVE, you want to check out that podcast and hear what he’s doing and how he’s making it work. You might get some excitement, some energy, and some different levels of things added to your podcast just by listening and checking out how he does things.
This is exactly the kind of thing I want to bring here to you on the show so you can get some new ideas. You can figure out how to shift your show and how to launch it finally, and make podcasting work for you and your business. Thanks, everyone. I’ll be back next time with another podcast host here on the show.
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