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How to Become a Digital Media Showrunner
2nd April 2015 • The Digital Entrepreneur • Rainmaker Digital LLC
00:00:00 00:34:19

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What can digital media producers learn from “old” media and the people who’ve been creating it for decades? Almost everything.

One of the recurring themes we talk about around this company is the critical importance of becoming the producer of your own media, building your own media asset, building your own audience.


On one hand, the Internet economy has given entrepreneurs and freelancers little choice in the matter.

On the other, we’ve been given an unprecedented opportunity to build and grow the kinds of businesses our parents and grandparents could not dream of.

Jerod Morris and Jon Nastor have been working on a brand new show for the Rainmaker.FM digital marketing podcast network, and it’s ready for you now.

But before you head over there, I wanted to ask Jerod just a few questions about this “Showrunner” concept of creating audio media, and what it means for almost anyone looking to build an audience that will build their business …

In this 34-minute episode Jerod Morris and I discuss:

  • What a Showrunner is and does
  • The four elements of being a good Showrunner
  • Who should consider becoming a new media producer
  • What we can (and should) learn from traditional media
  • A simple shortcut to becoming a Showrunner

Listen to The Digital Entrepreneur below ...

The Show Notes

The Transcript

How to Become a Digital Media Showrunner

Robert Bruce: This is New Rainmaker with Brian Clark, but with Robert Bruce and Jerod Morris. What happened? We stole Brian s show, Jerod.

Jerod Morris: We did. I’m just excited to be the latest cog in the Copyblogger employee-generated content machine man.

Robert Bruce: Did you hear that? Did you hear my outburst?

Jerod Morris: I did. I get why that’s a good term. I liked your description of why it’s not good.

Robert Bruce: I don’t know what’s wrong with me. Sometimes it gets to me. I shouldn’t say those things out loud, but there you have it.

Jerod Morris: No, you should. You love people, Robert, and that comes across, and that you respect the human condition.

Robert Bruce: Yes. And art in general.

Jerod Morris: Yes.

Robert Bruce: What are we going to do with this show today? We have Brian s show hostage? We can do anything we want. We can burn it to the ground. We can create something great out of it. What are we going to do here? Brian’s in San Diego giving a speech. He’s out of town. He can do nothing about the content of this episode.

Jerod Morris: We could toss Fight Club and Big Lebowski quotes back and forth, so he listens to it.

Robert Bruce: That’s the problem. See? Then he’ll like that. It might be an opportunity to just completely … Anyway. I’m sure those will be in there anyway.

OK. Jerod Morris, VP of Rainmaker.FM. You have had some changes in your job description and in your daily professional life occur in the last few weeks. You want to talk about any of that? Some interesting stuff going on for you.

Jerod Morris: Yeah. After spending a couple of years over there on the Copyblogger blog side, I’ve come over to the Rainmaker side, which is bittersweet in a sense because I’m not getting to work quite as closely with Demian and Stefanie and the people I was working with there. There’s always a little sadness there, but I’m excited about the new opportunity. I think I wrote in an email recently that it’s exciting to work for a company where you can leave a position that you love so much and still be even more excited about what you get to do next. Obviously, I love podcasting and audio and everything about the platform. I’m excited to be able to spend more time over here working on it.

Robert Bruce: Yeah. The good news for Copyblogger and the Copyblogger audience is Pamela Wilson is taking over, over there under Sonia Simone and with Stefanie Flaxman and Demian Farnworth. Could you say that maybe that’s even a better deal for the Copyblogger audience?

Jerod Morris: Without question. That s one thing that makes it a good move to make. As you look back and you say, “Oh, yeah, that place is going to be an even better shape now.” She’s going to do the job 200% better. It’s good. It’s better for all.

Robert Bruce: In all fairness, I felt the same way when I handed you the keys over there. Yeah, I think it’s a good deal. I’m certainly very pleased that you’re coming to Rainmaker.FM and the Rainmaker Platform. It’s going to be an interesting year, my friend.

Jerod Morris: It is.

Robert Bruce: We’ll see what’s in store. On that note, you and Brian have been wrestling with a concept that is going to be the topic of this episode of New Rainmaker. It’s interesting because it has roots in what has come to be known as ‘old media.’ This idea of the person, specifically television, the person that puts it all together is the creative force and the visionary force behind a particular show. Let’s just talk generally about this concept first.

What a Showrunner Is and Does

Jerod Morris: Like Brian said on the last episode of New Rainmaker, it was really inspired by television. It’s really a television reference, this idea of a showrunner. I don’t recall really being that familiar with it before just a few years ago when Breaking Bad got huge.

Robert Bruce: Yeah, I think of the same thing.

Jerod Morris: Yeah. And Vince Gilligan, obviously, was the showrunner. I was, and still am, a huge fan of that show. That’s where I really first became familiar with the term. You got Matt Weiner on Mad Men and a lot of these other ones that, like you said, they’re really the driving force and the visionary, the person that executes and makes it all happen. I think for any type of show or media property like this — like what we’re producing with Rainmaker.FM — having that one person, the showrunner, obviously, it’s worked out great. You think of some of the best television shows ever in history, and they’ve got specific people behind them that you associate with them. I think there’s a reason for that.

Robert Bruce: Yeah. I think the first time I became aware of this word was when Dan Harmon, I think, was he fired from Parks and Rec, or am I getting all of this wrong?

Jerod Morris: It was from Community.

Robert Bruce: Community. Right. It kind of bubbled up this idea of the showrunner, bubbled up into the popular culture and more into the mainstream. I don’t know if it’s a new term necessarily or it’s been around for decades, but I like this concept. You’re coming out with a new show, and in fact, it’s already out by the time this airs.

Jerod Morris: Yes.

Robert Bruce: It’s called the Showrunner. I want to know why you decided to name it that.

Jerod Morris: I like the idea of what we just talked about, of that person executing their vision for this content property because I think it’s a very empowering term. First off, I liked it because of the Breaking Bad reference because, frankly, when I think showrunner, I think Breaking Bad. So any time I get to associate something with that, I like to do it. More than that, really, I knew I wanted to do a show about podcasting and try and transfer some of the lessons that I’ve learned about podcasting to others and, also, just have a vehicle to go learn more.

So I knew I wanted to do that kind of show, but I wanted the idea of it to be something that really empowered people, if they have something they want to say and a reason to say it, to really get out there, have the tools and the motivation to do it. That idea of a showrunner is really empowering in that sense because you realize you can take this and stir it in whatever direction you want as long as it’s audience-focused. I think the best TV shows have done that. I think the best podcasts do that. All of that gets encompassed in that term. That’s why it just seemed to fit so perfectly.

Robert Bruce: Yeah. I don t, and I know you don’t want, this to be a big ad for your new podcast, but this is a really cool concept. It goes to the heart of everything we talk about all the time, this idea of becoming the producer of your own media, building your own media asset, building your own audience over time. I think that’s what’s going to be so cool about your show. You shot the first episode to me and a few other people, and it s really, really good by the way.

Jerod Morris: Thank you.

Robert Bruce: This is a really important concept to grasp. I like the hook that the word ‘showrunner’ gives to it because it really does make it a shortcut to this concept of building your own media asset. It’s a podcast about podcasting, right?

Jerod Morris: Mm-hmm.

Robert Bruce: We’ve had these discussions over and over again, but tell me why you think we’re betting so big on audio content specifically now.

Jerod Morris: I think there’s really two reasons. Number one is simply looking at what’s already happened, looking at the boom in podcast listenership and subscriptions. You guys have read the stats off a couple times already on New Rainmaker. I list them in the first episode of Showrunner, so we don’t need to get into those. But people know. There’s a billion downloads on iTunes. People are listening.

The thing is when you look into the future, you look at every social and cultural and technological trend, and it really does seem to suggest that this on-demand audio content is, not just the present, but really the future of content consumption because it fits in to so much of what we desire individually, which is content on-demand and content that is convenient — basically, education or entertainment, depending on our mood or our goals, when we want it, where we want it. There’s no better way to get that than with audio content.

Back when Copyblogger started, text was really the way to go. Because even back then, there were podcasts, but the audience wasn’t necessarily ready for it. We’ve had this convergence of there’s more content, there’s a receptive audience. That’s just going to continue to grow, which is what makes right now really a good time to get into it because it’s not so saturated that your voice can’t be heard. But the audience is growing so much that, depending on what audience you choose, there’s a really great opportunity to get out there and start building an audience, or furthering your audience with audio content.

Robert Bruce: Yeah. I think we and others have made the case that audio is an extremely legitimate and powerful way to reach the audience that you’re looking to reach. Again, this idea of a showrunner is a great metaphor to wrap your head around — what you’re doing when you create a new show that the sole purpose of which is to power your business.

We’ve talked Rainmaker.FM as a network, as a whole that, first and foremost, we want to please, delight, entertain, instruct our audience. We want to give them all of that as much as we’re able. It’s not perfect all the time by any means. There’s that piece. We want to grow that audience. It freaks people out sometimes. Even now, even after everything that we and others have done with things like Copyblogger and content marketing in general, that a couple of conversations I’ve had is that the whole purpose of this network is to build the audience in order to build our business, which, content marketing 101. And that’s an indirect way of giving people what they want, and then giving people what they want on the free side and on the pay side.

Jerod Morris: Yeah. The other thing, too, is with the reasons for why podcasting is growing, and on-demand audio content, and why we’re betting on it is because our company has basically been built on building connections with an audience. There is a next level of connection that you can build through an audio podcast that you just can’t with text.

Text is great, but there is a larger length between the content creator and the person consuming it. If I’m listening to your podcast and you’re right there in my ears, again, it’s like you’re sitting next to me on my drive to work or strolling with me when I’m walking my dog. There’s that connection that is really big. Obviously, that’s big when it comes to building an audience.

Like Michael Hyatt said on a previous episode of New Rainmaker actually, when you start talking about for business and for sales even, building that ‘know, like, and trust’ factor is so important. Even just looking at podcasts from that standpoint because it allows for deeper connection and allows for even more of that ‘know, like and trust,’ it can really help you with those goals as well. It’s just a very holistic content medium for any type of content marketing strategy.

Robert Bruce: Let’s say we’re speaking to somebody who’s bought in. They see what so many businesses and individuals are doing with audio, with podcasting. They see what we’re doing, and they say, “OK, I get it. I think that looking around at my own audience is something I need to do or it’s just something I really want to do.” There’s a lot of passionate audiophiles out there. Old school radio fans, which I certainly am — I know you are — that want to be a part of this and part of the future of audio content. Give me a short list. What are the basic elements of a good showrunner?

The Four Elements of Being a Good Showrunner

Jerod Morris: There are really four that stand out to me. Number one is being audience-focused. That’s the most important thing. I really think that as people look at what topic they want to run their show about, there’s really two different ways to look at it. You can look at what you’re excited about and interested in creating content about, but then there’s also the element of how can you really impact an audience with it. I was explaining this to someone the other day. I could do a podcast about Fantasy Football because it’s interesting to me and I would like talking about it, but I don’t really care if your Fantasy Football team does better on Sunday because of my advice.

Similarly, I love podcasting. I love talking about it. It’s very interesting, but I do care if you launch a podcast because of something I said or your podcast gets better because of something I said. I think choosing a topic where you have that extra layer of audience focus and care is very important. I think the best showrunners come from a place of that audience focus. I also think there’s a commitment to quality, both just in terms of audio quality and the presentation. That is very important because, when that quality is not there, it puts up a barrier between the content consumer and the content creator that doesn’t allow you to maximize the connection that makes podcasts so powerful.

Perseverance is obviously very important because, as you well know, when you’re doing a show, there are going to be some tough times in there. And you’ve got to keep going because that’s how you get better and that’s how you develop the fourth element, which is authenticity. Ultimately, that’s what takes a showrunner from just someone who has a podcast to a showrunner who’s connecting with an audience, is the ability to be truly authentic behind the mic to the point where whoever is listening really thinks that you’re just there talking to them. That’s where you really develop that connection.

Wrapped up in those is consistency and reliability, which is important because you ve got to show up as expected, and people have to know they can count on you. Really, to me, when I look at it, if you have those four things, then you’re really going to succeed in the long term as a showrunner.

Robert Bruce: What do you think the deal is with consistency? We all know that it is utterly important, and I could argue that it may be even the...