Sometimes, a bad idea seems so good at the time. Something easy and silly or just plain dumb hits you and you think, “I can do that. I can’t see any reason that shouldn’t succeed.” And sometimes the reason it feels that way is you didn’t really think it through, or you had to try it and find out why it was a bad idea in the first place.
Let me share with you my bad podcast idea and what made it so bad.
I have been told a few times I have a good voice. I thought it would be funny to take tweets people sent me and read them live. Short and sweet, people could send me something short to read, and they could have a good laugh hearing it read back. Silly, funny and fun to make. Thus Tweets Read Live was created:
The idea itself isn’t without it’s appeal. I thought it would be fun, and it kind of was. Part of the problem was I was begging people to send me tweets to read and hardly getting any back. I’m sure it was annoying to people who weren’t interested, and by all accounts most people weren’t interested. The first episode was the only episode to come out.
So what made it such a bad idea? Let me count a few of the ways:
It was meaningless. The first thing you should ask yourself when you are going to put effort into a new project is whether or not it has a purpose. Does this thing I am about to invest my time and effort in have any meaning, either for myself or for others? And since we are talking about something that is going to be consumed by other people, we should be foremost asking whether it means anything to the people who we see consuming it. In this case, it certainly did not. A fun little thing for people, sure, but was there a reason to download it? Was there a reason to listen to it? Mostly not.
It wasn’t a part of anything more. Not everything has to be associated with anything bigger, but in this case, this would have been a fun segment of something larger, like a comedy or variety show. As a stand alone podcast, it wasn’t enough. At least, not to me.
It had no connection with the audience. There are so many places you can go to get your fix for just about anything you are interested in. Why go somewhere you don’t have any connection to? Nearly every interest is covered on the internet. There is plenty of room for more, but there isn’t room in people’s attention for something they don’t connect with. TRL didn’t have any real connection with it’s intended audience.
It was vain. I was putting my voice out there in a way that screamed “Listen to how awesome I sound.” Which is vanity defined. I might have a decent voice, but putting out something centered entirely on how awesome I think I sound is pretty self-centered. And when you are being self-centered, you are trying to make your connection with your audience entirely about you. I didn’t think of it that way at the time, but looking back, yes. Vain.
It relied on the audience I was failing in the first place. Take all of those things above, add them up, and ask who is going to contribute something to be read on the show? Pretty much no one. Even your friends and family would get sick of it quickly.
I didn’t think of any of these things when I made Tweets Read Live. I just wanted to make something. The more nefarious motivations (ego, self-indulgence, etc) didn’t cross my mind at the time of it’s creation. But in hindsight, they are all there. It all seems pretty obvious now.
I did gain a few things from it. I have a deeper understanding of the criteria that should go in to every online venture I start. I feel like I am applying those lessons in the things I create, including Pod Geek. And I learned more about setting up podcasts and dealing with the iTunes store (yes, TRL is still on iTunes, clogging up the already jam packed podcast section). Those are skills that come in handy.
I don’t regret creating Tweets Read Live. I think I learned a lot from it. And the only way to really learn about what works is to test your ideas in the world. Seth Godin talks about shipping your work, putting it in the market, and seeing what happens. But then you learn from what works and what doesn’t.
And then you do it again, only better.