The Podcast about…the Podcast (Sam Corcos, Josh Clemente & Ben Grynol)
Levels Head of Growth, Ben Grynol, sat down with Co-Founders, Sam Corcos and Josh Clemente, to chat about the current process for our podcast, “A Whole New Level.” They dig into what’s working, what isn’t and what can change moving forward.
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This meta-episode of A Whole New Level digs into the subject of the podcast itself. Here, Levels Head of Growth, Ben Grynol, sat down with Co-Founders Sam Corcos and Josh Clemente. They chatted about the current process for producing the podcast, what’s working well, and the elements they are looking to change moving forward. From building community to attracting new employees to developing an ethos of expertise, a podcast can be an excellent tool that accomplishes multiple goals.
03:41 – Identifying the Levels podcast audience
Josh shares his thoughts on why the podcast should deeply resonate with the Levels community so that they come back to listen again and again.
I just feel strongly that the podcast, this is about who it’s for. In my opinion, it is not the most effective way to communicate with our team. It is a very effective way to communicate with potential candidates and our community. So I feel strongly that that is the category that we want to resonate with and also create the highest adherence. So when thinking about that, I think that we want to maximize the number of episodes that people listen to as opposed to maximizing the volume of content that goes out. So I actually think that producing more consistent listeners is more important than producing more total listens.
04:35 – A valuable recruitment tool
Sam has firsthand proof that the podcast works wonders as a recruiting tool for new employees.
I interview almost every person who we’re considering for a job at Levels. And those are all recorded, you can see them. But the thing that comes up all the time is the podcast. So it is a huge source of value for recruiting. And remember that those people become part of the team. So this is not just a recruiting tool. Those are also of people on the team. In one of the calls I had today, somebody brought up how incredibly refreshing and powerful it was to hear a conversation just with me and Josh talking about like, what does paternalism mean at a company? How do we think about that? And I listen to that episode myself after Josh and I did it, I was like, “That feels like inside baseball. Why would anybody want to hear that?” But when, empirically the podcast and episodes like that come up in probably one out of three calls that I do. That kind of information is incredibly valuable to people who want to understand how we operate. And especially for potential candidates, they’re taking a leap of faith when they join a company. And knowing that the leaders of the company are thinking about things in a certain way, it really increases their confidence in joining the team.
09:19 – Using content to answer questions
Sam explained that there is huge value in having ready-to-go content that answers questions and solves problems. The podcast fills that need well.
I want a piece of content that answers every question. If you are looking to find out more about, like we want to do something on employee equity, we should have a piece of content for that. I think a great example of this as it relates to editorial is somebody posted on Twitter today, like, hey, what do you guys think about the nuance of glucose? And I posted two things and then Josh posted two more things. And it’s like, not a lot of people have read those posts, but the fact that we’ve solved this in content is so incredibly powerful. And I think of it similarly with podcast, it’s like, somebody might ask the question, what’s it like this aspect of Levels? How does this thing work? It’s like, oh, we have a podcast on that.
14:22 – A podcast that caters to different audiences
Ben said that Levels does not necessarily create episodes for a specific audience. Rather, they are creating content for those who want to listen.
It’s okay that the blog can have a different audience than the podcast. Meaning there will be people who just listen to the podcast that don’t read the blog and there will be people that just read the blog that don’t listen to the podcast. And then there’s the overlap in the Venn diagram of both, because of the nature of the content that being housed. Three-week road trip, interesting conversation to some, and others have no interest in it. So I think it’s entirely okay if we say we are not necessarily creating this for a specific audience, we are creating it for those who want to listen to this.
16:17 – Follower metrics are secondary
Sam said that listener metrics are great, but the team recognizes that some of the content is more niche than other content.
We need to make sure that anytime we talk about them, we need to hedge aggressively like you do with growth metrics. It’s like, hey, look, isn’t it interesting we had 50,000 listens on our podcast or whatever the number is? That’s cool. For the record, we’re not optimizing for this. It’s just like a nice manatee metric in a milestone. We’re not optimizing for number of listeners. And it’s like, I gave the example in the last call where I expect my Twitter profile will probably never be more than like five or 10,000 people because the type of content is super wonky and specific and narrow. Casey’s will be much more accessible to a lot more people. The Levels brand will be even more accessible to more people.
19:59 – Establishing legitimacy
Josh enjoys the fact that the podcast and its featured guests establish a deep sense of legitimacy for the Levels brand and the experts they partner with.
It’s establishing legitimacy in the industry or subject matter that we’re working with. So equally interesting to you, the potential candidate who listens to you and I talk about paternalistic policies should be that we’re not coops and that we have the blessing and interest and buy-in of these sorts of folks and can speak competently. Having Casey being able to spar with someone like Dr. Lustig at the same level is really an impressive validation of the team.
34:47- Deciding what content to feature
Ben made the point that the act of brainstorming and selecting podcast topics needs to be part of a more organized process.
We don’t really have goal posts. We sort of do, but there aren’t really goal posts so we can be like, you know what? Why don’t we record one about the sun? If we couldn’t tell ourselves why we don’t do it, it’s really easy to just dumping all of these things in and all of a sudden, we’re like, if we looked at metrics, it might be like in the past 13 days, there have been 21 ideas for podcasts and all of a sudden we’re taking up bandwidth because we’re replying to each other about the idea of doing them and what is the level of priority associated with it? So it’s almost one of those things where it’s like, if something is an idea that a person feels really strongly about, i.e., I feel really strongly about X, Y, and Z, that we should do it. Let’s do that. Otherwise, maybe a better way of doing it is just people can dump ideas constantly across the team into this Whole New Level ideas doc. Great. Otherwise, everything seems like it’s a priority, we’re just like, it would be the equivalent of like constantly all of us being so excited about product features that we’re just dumping it in the product feed.
39:31 – Setting an intent for each episode
Sam said that in reality, there is an endless well of content that can be discussed on the podcast. The key is setting a clear intention for each episode.
The biggest thing that we need to figure out is the intent of each episode. And to Josh’s point of like, we might run out of good ideas, I can absolutely guarantee you I had this exact same conversation about there’s only like 10 articles that could be written on metabolic health. We still have a huge backlog of things to write and Haney has been working on this for a year and we’re adding more and more editors and writers. There’s an infinite amount of content that can be written here just like there’s an infinite amount of content we could record for the blog. So that is least concerning to me. I think the goal needs to be, we should figure out in this call, like, what is the intent behind an episode? And that should be the filter mechanism.
50:40 – The role of the podcast introduction
Ben is committed to including an introduction for each episode that primes the listener and makes the podcast feel warm and inviting.
The reason I’d say that about the intro, this is as a podcast listener, anyone that I know that is an avid podcast listener and listens to certain types of content that being like Mark Mayer and that being like anything Gimlet related, NPR, This American Life is notorious for this, people look forward to the intro because they’re usually like a bit of POV philosophical lens on priming the listener. And some people like you, Sam, you just skip them. And other people, they’re like, “My favorite part of the whole thing is hearing that.” They just like that. So it gives us a brand voice, if you want to call it that, it’s kind of like having a certain aesthetic to your Instagram feed. It’s like, by doing this, this is something that other people can’t replicate and they like it. That’s been feedback consistently. They’re just like, it makes it feel warm and inviting. It’s like something like that. You feel like you’re inviting the person in and if somebody chooses to fast forward, great, but I still think it’s important to do that.
Sam Corcos (00:00:07):
I think one principle is we shouldn’t manufacture episodes. We should never feel the pressure of like, oh man, we got to ship another episode this week. Let’s figure out what to do. I am 100% okay shipping zero episodes in a given week if there’s just nothing interesting to talk about, not an issue at all. This is not Seinfeld which comes on at the same time every week. And it’s in the days before things were recorded and if you’re not there, you’re going to miss it. This is evergreen content, we can lean into that.
Ben Grynol (00:00:45):
I’m Ben Grynol, part of the early startup team here at Levels. We’re building tech that helps people to understand their metabolic health. And this is your front row seat to everything we do. This is A Whole New Level. If you’ve ever watched Seinfeld, you probably saw that episode when Jerry and George, they talk about the show about nothing. That’s really what Seinfeld was about. It was a show about nothing. That was the show. It was a pretty funny episode and kind of meta.
Ben Grynol (00:01:28):
Ironically, we ended up having a conversation about the future of the podcast with Sam Corcos and Josh Clemente, two of the co-founders at Levels. The three of us, we sat down and we discussed the future of the podcast, what we’ve learned to date and how we might think about it moving forward. It was a little bit meta, but we ended up recording this because we record everything internally. It was what we call a decision meeting or a Zoom call that we turn into a Loom and we post publicly for visibility within our team. It helps us to refine our thinking, to challenge each other’s assumptions and to think about how we might change things moving forward. It was really fun to do, lots of laughs, lots of challenges in thought process, but it was a very necessary conversation to have. So here’s where we dug in
Ben Grynol (00:02:19):
To set the context for this conversation, we are talking about the podcast, some of the thoughts around next steps, we’re going to go through, you have a bunch of questions and thoughts here, we’ll just go through them one by one. And then we’ll go through this agenda that I’ve got, which I think a lot of it will have crossover. So everything we talk about, let’s make the assumption unless you guys disagree. What we talk about should be our plan for the next six months. So let’s make the commitment, say this is our six month plan unless something’s drastically different with the podcast, then we can reassess in six months and see how things are looking.
Ben Grynol (00:02:54):
Right now, the podcast is starting to take more time than it used to. So when this thing started, it was only allowed two hours a week, one hour was recording and the other 30 minutes of editing and 30 minutes of uploading. And that was really easy to do. Even when we went to two a week, I was like, “Oh, well, this just is four hours now. Who cares? It’s not a big deal.” And all of a sudden, it feels like around August when we started shipping faster, we started experimenting more and being reactive, then it was taking up more time because we got off of the cadence of having a schedule looking forward that was easy to fill in with bandwidth as opposed to just push it out. So before getting to that, is there anything that either of you feels really strongly about with the podcast?
Josh Clemente (00:03:41):
I just feel strongly that the podcast, this is about who it’s for. In my opinion, it is not the most effective way to communicate with our team. It is a very effective way to communicate with potential candidates and our community. So I feel strongly that that is the category that we want to resonate with and also create the highest adherence. So when thinking about that, I think that we want to maximize the number of episodes that people listen to as opposed to maximizing the volume of content that goes out. So I actually think that producing more consistent listeners is more important than producing more total listens. Those are the things I feel strongly.
Sam Corcos (00:04:20):
Yeah. I would say I would agree that I don’t think that maximizing number of listens is the goal. I do think that something that I can tell you from a lot of my interviews, I interview almost every person who we’re considering for a job at Levels. And those are all recorded, you can see them. But the thing that comes up all the time is the podcast. So it is a huge source of value for recruiting. And remember that those people become part of the team. So this is not just a recruiting tool. Those are also of people on the team. In one of the calls I had today, somebody brought up how incredibly refreshing and powerful it was to hear a conversation just with me and Josh talking about like, what does paternalism mean at a company? How do we think about that? And I listen to that episode myself after Josh and I did it, I was like, “That feels like inside baseball. Why would anybody want to hear that?”
Sam Corcos (00:05:26):
But when I empirically the podcast and episodes like that come up in probably one out of three calls that I do, that kind of information is incredibly valuable to people who want to understand how we operate. And especially for potential candidates, they’re taking a leap of faith when they join a company. And knowing that the leaders of the company are thinking about things in a certain way, it really increases their confidence in joining the team.
Josh Clemente (00:06:00):
Yeah. Just to follow up on that, I completely agree. So I think that once someone crosses the threshold into the company, and I’d be curious if we could find the direct facts on this, but my guess is that don’t go to the podcast to learn about how you and I feel about, say, paternalistic policies. My guess is that they go to threads or direct feedback from you or decision call or something. Prior to that, I think it’s exceptional. Maybe I wasn’t clear enough when I was saying what I feel strongly about.
Josh Clemente (00:06:34):
That is one of the things I feel strongly about is that every candidate that you talk to, I would hope would mention the podcast and say how each episode is the thing they look forward to most and they’re learning from and that two things could go wrong. One, we produce content that is not interesting to them, that seems like failure mode, or we just optimized for listens the way that, say, content marketing initiative that might be built. Neither of those is interesting to me, it’s that our diehard believers, whether community or potential candidates or those two things are the same thing are adhering to, listening to and caring about the content we produced.
Josh Clemente (00:07:12):
So when we’ve had a couple themes where it was like this, this sort of feed, like the shock and blast style feed becomes noise to me over time. I think we would’ve missed the boat if that candidate said, I used to love the podcast, but then it just like, you guys started pushing out so many and such varied topics that sometimes there’d be this gem of Josh and Sam talking about this thing and then the next one be a throwaway conversation, and so I stopped listening. That feels like a failure.
Sam Corcos (00:07:40):
So this was a similar conversation that we had related to our blog and editorial. And the pushback was we shouldn’t publish too much content because if we do, it’s not reasonable that somebody would be able to keep up with all of the content we’re publishing in the blog. So we should keep our cadence at something that’s reasonable and consumable by a person. And I think I fundamentally disagree with that.
Sam Corcos (00:08:07):
So I think we’re in alignment on maximizing listens is not the goal. It also just creates this lowest common denominator problem. And this is actually, I posted this on threads as well, that the Destin from Smarter Every Day posted something on this recently, where he mentioned how he noticed that the voice of his podcast was starting to get co-opted by the YouTube algorithm. He was like, “I started this YouTube channel just to do cool stuff and to just record myself. And now everything I do has this huge production overhead. It’s like, no, I’m going back to what I want this channel to be. I’m going to go back to doing that.” And so I’m totally on board with the, we should not maximize for views. That is not the North Star. It’s maybe an interesting vanity metric for us, it’s a fun thing to see, but the first principle you have there, Josh. So the two were not maximizing for listens, but do maximize for the ability for somebody to listen to every episode and get value from them.
Josh Clemente (00:09:11):
Sam Corcos (00:09:12):
Yeah, retention. That’s right. You’re thinking more of like a retention metric. I think of it more like, I want a piece of content that answers every question. If you are looking to find out more about, like we want to do something on employee equity, we should have a piece of content for that. I think a great example of this as it relates to editorial is somebody posted on Twitter today, like, hey, what do you guys think about the nuance of glucose? And I posted two things and then Josh posted two more things. And it’s like, not a lot of people have read those posts, but the fact that we’ve solved this in content is so incredibly powerful. And I think of it similarly with podcast, it’s like, somebody might ask the question, what’s it like this aspect of Levels? How does this thing work? It’s like, oh, we have a podcast on that. Here it is.
Sam Corcos (00:10:06):
I think that it’s tied into the, Ben talks a little bit about the variety show concept, which is people who listen to the podcast will know if Sam is on the podcast, it’s going to be something boring and wonky. If Casey is on the podcast, it’s going to be something metabolic health related. If Josh is on the podcast, it’s going to be about something else. The personalities are going to be different and it’s going to have many different types of content. And so I listen to every episode of the podcast, I find them really interesting and fun. Ben, you actually, I think we did a survey on this for the team. Do you know what percentage of the team does listen to the podcast?
Ben Grynol (00:10:45):
Very high. I think it was like 10 is 13 and it might have been like 11. So two set now. So a small sample set, but quite high.
Josh Clemente (00:10:57):
Yeah. Again, I think we agree. Maybe where I also see a larger community outside of potential candidates is I think we also want to deliver the educational information about what we’re doing and why that goes beyond the company building stuff. It is interesting for some people to hear about the stock option policy or thoughts behind it if they are potentially going to work there, but most people in the larger community would probably not be interested in that. So I think we should have some content that is getting the message out, having people like Sinclair and Dr. Lustig and such on there to talk deeply. And that might be a Casey variety show.
Josh Clemente (00:11:42):
But yeah, I feel like we’re pretty close on what we think the utility of the podcast is other than communicating directly to the team, our active team. Okay. Let me take a step back. I think anything we put on the podcast, we should also have published already at threads or have available in a policy. It’s just like we shouldn’t be driving company policy to our ICs through the podcast. That’s how I feel about it.
Sam Corcos (00:12:04):
I just added another one, who is it not for, which is also a question that’s worth answering.
Ben Grynol (00:12:11):
Who do you think it’s not for?
Sam Corcos (00:12:13):
I think it’s not for, I think about podcasts in the context of the every podcast can have its own unique audience. And so we don’t need our podcast to have the same audience as Dr. Hyman or Ben Greenfield. Those audiences already exist. We’re in a unique situation where we can create our own audience and we can decide who that is. And a lot of times these audiences won’t have a ton of overlap. So like, do we want to make a top 1% health and wellness podcasts? I’m not sure that we do.
Sam Corcos (00:12:58):
And we’ll take Peter Attia as an example, where he could have a much bigger podcast if he was going to use a more pejorative term, if he made his content more accessible for the layman, he would’ve a much larger audience, but like the Peter Attia episode with Dr. Shulman is very technical. And yeah. And so he’s basically decided my audience is not going to be for people who have not read multiple books on this topic. I’m going to pick the elite class of people. And Dr. Hyman has picked exactly the opposite, which is make it really easy and accessible. It opens him up to criticism from people who say like, he’s not scientifically rigorous, which is not true. He’s just talking to a different audience.
Sam Corcos (00:13:52):
So we should pick which audience are we going for? I think the core audience is going to be people who want to follow along with our company. So like, so who is it not? I would say it’s not mainstream health and wellness. It’s probably who it’s not. That doesn’t mean those types of people won’t be interested. A lot of those people will follow along, but we are not going to make content specifically for them to the exclusion of who our primary audience is. Does that make sense?
Ben Grynol (00:14:22):
Yeah. And I would push it to say that, and it is probably important clarification to make is that it’s okay that the blog can have a different audience than the podcast. Meaning there will be people who just listen to the podcast that don’t read the blog and there will be people that just read the blog that don’t listen to the podcast. And then there’s the overlap in the Venn diagram of the both because of the nature of the content that being housed three week road trip, interesting conversation to some and others have no interest in it. So I think it’s entirely okay if we say we are not necessarily creating this for a specific audience, we are creating it for those who want to listen to this.
Ben Grynol (00:15:09):
I think people who want an amalgamation of all the content knowing they might not listen to any or all of it, like Rogan is a good example where I don’t listen to any of his MMA stuff, no interest. The comedy stuff, the car stuff, the hunting stuff, the archeology is interesting. So who’s the podcast for? We’re aligned there. It’s for mostly for the community potential hires and then the Levels team and any partners, anyone who’s interested in what we’re doing.
Sam Corcos (00:15:40):
Ben Grynol (00:15:41):
Okay. So that’s good. What metrics, this is a very important one to anchor on that we’ve been, I wouldn’t say loose, it’s just we didn’t really have any thought about it for, and I think it is important to say we’re not going to index on any metric because then that’s going to make us data-driven instead of data-informed. Meaning we’ll just start to execute against the ones that are performing well and miss the long tail.
Sam Corcos (00:16:09):
Yep. Yeah. This is why I think it’s fine to measure these things, but we need to make sure that anytime we talk about them, we need to hedge aggressively like you do with a growth metrics. It’s like, hey, look, isn’t it interesting we had 50,000 listens on our podcast or whatever the number is? That’s cool. For the record, we’re not optimizing for this. It’s just like a nice manatee metric in a milestone. We’re not optimizing from number of listeners. And it’s like, I gave the example in the last call where I expect my Twitter profile will probably never be more than like five or 10,000 of people because the type of content is super wonky and specific and narrow. Casey’s will be much more accessible to a lot more people. The Levels brand will be even more accessible to more people.
Sam Corcos (00:17:07):
So just thinking about what distribution channel is relevant for what audience, it’s okay if some of our podcasts like maybe the our road trip is our lowest engagement, lowest listening of any podcast, but the like 50 or a 100 people that listened to it are people who are thinking like, should I accept this job offer or not?
Ben Grynol (00:17:31):
You can’t put a quant metric on something like that.
Sam Corcos (00:17:35):
Ben Grynol (00:17:35):
You can’t buy a recruiter to do that.
Sam Corcos (00:17:37):
No. And if that’s the kind of thing that moves the needle on it, that episode might be worth. If it moves the needle on two highers, that’s like a $100,000 episode.
Ben Grynol (00:17:49):
At least. So aligned on that.
Sam Corcos (00:17:54):
Yeah. And I think an interesting thing that might be helpful as well is now that we’re starting to put together. So I think do we have any follows on what metrics, if any, are we optimizing for?
Ben Grynol (00:18:08):
I don’t think it’s anything. I think it’s just like, we are, I think it’s like decision, we are not optimizing for metrics, period. And that becomes, how do we decide what type of content to schedule? Different conversation, but it’s just not around the discussion of this type of content does really well. So we’re going to do more of that. It’s just like that’s off the table for discussion.
Sam Corcos (00:18:34):
Yep. Yeah. And I don’t think it’s in the audio strategy, but I think it’s worth calling out like one that SmarterEveryDay thing that I link to. And also your conversation with the Acquired people about the Web3 stuff and the crypto stuff, just saying like, it’s okay. This is what happens when you optimize too much for the algorithm is you lose your voice and you become the wrong kind of podcast. So just like, know what it is we want to solve for and just focus on that. I think it’s adding that into the meat of the document.
Ben Grynol (00:19:12):
Yeah. And providing color on the example of Acquired for anybody who might watch with kids, they’ve done some podcasts. I think that one of the biggest they did ever was on Bitcoin, now been surpassed, but they did a few crypto podcasts and those episodes have crushed the most. And so they’re like, we could just fall into the trap of becoming another crypto podcast, but the ones that really resonate are the episodes about like Oprah and the NBA, which don’t crush the same way as far as metrics go, but are really meaningful to the entire community.
Sam Corcos (00:19:43):
Yep. Yeah. I think we should dig deeper into intent. So let’s take the Lustig or Sinclair or Gottfried or any of these really intelligent folks on our podcast. What would be the goal of that?
Josh Clemente (00:19:59):
It’s establishing legitimacy in the industry or subject matter that we’re working with. So equally interesting to you, the potential candidate who listens to you and I talk about paternalistic policies should be that we’re not coops and that we have the blessing and interest and buy-in of these sorts of folks and can speak competently. Having Casey being able to spar with someone like Dr. Lustig at the same level is really an impressive validation of the team.
Sam Corcos (00:20:30):
Yeah. I think that’s a perfectly valid idea. I hadn’t actually thought about that, but that’s a really good idea of like, it establishes legitimacy. And so that’s one pillar. I think in the world where the goal is getting the word out on metabolic health, there are probably more effective ways to do that. So I forget who it was. One of the other founders we talked to said like, you should think of your advisors as if they are on your team. And so you should find ways to add value to them as if they are Casey Means, get them press, get them on podcasts, work with them in that capacity. And I’ve really tried to take that to heart. And so if we get Lustig, if we get Rob placed on a podcast like Dave Asprey podcast or Ben Greenfield podcast or one of these podcasts that has massively more distribution to get the word out, that’s a much bigger hit for us than having them on our podcast, unless the intent is to just have that brand association of legitimacy. And I think that’s a totally valid reason to do it.
Josh Clemente (00:21:36):
Yeah. I agree with you there. We shouldn’t be intent on having all of the validation coming through our channel, obviously makes sense to branch out the way we have with our podcast campaigns. I think it goes a long way to just see that validation and listen to that validation.
Sam Corcos (00:21:52):
Yeah. I wonder… So establishing legitimacy is totally valid and I’m fully on board with that. The people who are looking out are building the company stuff interlaced with super legitimate people talking about the stuff really helps with the brand. I think another valid use case for the external speaker on metabolic health is an anchor for content. So a lot of Casey’s podcasts right now are, we want to do a content piece on something like metabolic health and kids. And so she might do a podcast with Rob and with Kelly to talk about this. And then that just becomes a content piece. And it’s just this multimedia strategy where it’s an anchor point for content. I think that’s totally valid as well.
Sam Corcos (00:22:39):
I think of it as a, it’s also a landing place for content that it doesn’t really make sense to place elsewhere. Hypothetically, we really need Casey to talk about metabolic health and its effect on like eye health. And we can’t really find a podcast that we can go on that would want to talk to Casey about this. So we could just do an episode ourselves and have that anchor piece of content that we can use. That’s another use case that I see as an anchor point for a landing place for maybe more obscure content.
Ben Grynol (00:23:15):
That makes sense. So that’s one of the things. The other is based on, even if we don’t look at metrics, we just look at what we’ve qualitatively heard people are interested in is like roughly 40% level C, maybe it’s a little more, but we still do want metabolic health content. The business and startups ones are the ones that seem to fall the flattest, or at least maybe our current execution.
Sam Corcos (00:23:39):
I think that we shouldn’t do those types of content, but not those people, just the content type. I think we talked about this before, but like the Seth example, I think that could have been a totally valid piece of content if it was handled with the same tone as Andy Schabelman, of like, hey, these are the things we’re doing, what do you think about this? And he’s like, “I think authenticity is a terrible idea.” Like, well, okay, what about this? What about that?
Sam Corcos (00:24:11):
And having it be conversational and trying to learn from him as opposed to bantering on a topic, like the conversations that are, like if we do hypothetically a podcast with Andrew Chen, I don’t want it to be a summary of his book, right? We’re not going to say, so Cold Start Problem, tell us about your book. It’s going to be, “Hey, so Andrew, I read your book and we’ve been trying to figure out this idea of context problem. You have a whole chapter on this. So I’ll give you our case study is we’re trying to figure out when does it make sense for us to start curating our content?” There’s no obvious way to know when to do that. What sort of outcome should we expect if we start putting in effort into optimizing content for different audiences if you’re interested in X, Y, or Z, and just asking him questions about that, about very specific things, as opposed to like, tell me more about your book.
Sam Corcos (00:25:21):
There’s a Venn diagram here, but I think part of where we have maybe some semantic disagreement is around rerecording things to make them sharper. Sometimes it makes the content more concise and specific, but it also has the potential to change the tone and they become in presentation mode to become an actor. And I think he would lose a lot. It’s the difference between a telenovela and a reality TV show, if that makes sense. In one of them, it’s like this incredibly dramatized version that nobody believes is real. And the other is like following people around running gun style. It’s a totally different feel to how the content is produced. So I think that’s something we need to be a little bit more, we need to err more on the side of friendly conversational content.
Sam Corcos (00:26:18):
I listened to the cut of the one with Miz and Zach and the content is really good, but it very much felt like a presentation, which is maybe fine for that type of content, but it felt like a presentation. I’m going to do a podcast episode with Henry from Carta, and it’s going to be, I know the answers to about half of the questions, but there are other questions that I don’t really know the answer to, but I’m going to set them up with from the position of genuine curiosity. And so I don’t know if that means maybe instead of having Miz do it, we have Tom be the other person or Braden and say, ask questions of like, yeah, so I have a list here. What does this mean? What does that mean? How am I supposed to understand what this means? And then maybe seeing each other face to face, maybe that changes the tone of the conversation where it doesn’t feel like you’re presenting to an audience. You’re just explaining this to Braden. And it has a totally different tone in that conversation.
Sam Corcos (00:27:31):
As I mentioned, the Seth Godin one felt weird. It only clicked to me when I heard the audio of you and Andy Schabelman talk when I saw how different the tone was in those conversations. And it felt like one felt like a podcast recording and the other felt like a genuine conversation. And so I think we, this is just going to take practice with people, but we need to get more towards genuine conversation.
Ben Grynol (00:28:03):
So that’s one of the things. The other is the two a week. And I don’t think that is an anchor either. I think if there was a good reason to ship a third, we broke the roadmap, we shipped a third, so be it. But we don’t try to gamify it where we’re just trying to manufacture content we’re aligned on that. Meaning we’re going to do crypto because it resonated. And ironically, side note, Miz and I were on the community call last night, probably for 15 minutes, all the Acquired community, it was small call. It was like 25 people or something. All they talked about was A Whole New Level. It was insane. It was literally insane. And we’re talking about exactly this, how not to lean into things based on metrics. And it was interesting. It was actually a great feedback to get.
Sam Corcos (00:28:50):
Yeah. Let me quickly jump in on one of the things that you said. So maybe another strongly held opinion is that I don’t think publication cadence matters. I don’t think that we need to be like a sitcom that goes out 6:00 PM on Thursdays. I think if we go a whole week without publishing something, I don’t think anyone’s going to care if we publish five things in one week, because we had all these great conversations and like, oh wow, we just have a bunch more content. Let’s just ship them all now. We don’t need to wait until next Friday or February to ship those because we’re backlogged. I’m not convinced that that matters. This is like the nature of async and evergreen content is that the day that you ship it doesn’t really matter all that much.
Ben Grynol (00:29:39):
Not disagreeing with that outlook. What I do disagree with is trying to, and I’m not suggesting this is what you’re saying, but trying to say like, now we’re committing to four a week or five a week. That gets really hard because you get scattered. And so saying like, assume we have five in the pipeline, the answer I don’t think is ship five in the week. It’s, hey, let’s ship over the course of eight days, let’s ship five based on a little bit.
Sam Corcos (00:30:07):
I think maybe a better KPI would be number shipped per month or maybe number shipped per quarter. And it’s more of like a goal. So if we say the goal is to ship five episodes per month, that’s probably reasonable. And if we end up shipping five or four, that’s fine. If we ship 20, that’s fine too. If we end up with enough content where we think it’s good enough to ship, that’s a different set of questions on like, what should we ship?
Ben Grynol (00:30:38):
Yeah. With the exception of, this is where I’ll push back on it, with the exception of if somehow you ended up with 20, but we’ve all agreed that we’re trying to keep a quarterly roadmap that is roughly two a week, then how the heck did we end up, if we agree, we don’t want to be reactive, how do we end up with 20? That seems like, and I know you’re not suggesting like 20 is the number. It’s like if we end up with so much surplus, then that means that we’re not adhering to our idea of like, let’s have a roadmap so that we’re not being reactive. We’re using like Tony’s got freed up bandwidth so that he can work on high value video projects. And this is a side project.
Ben Grynol (00:31:16):
I don’t think that by minimizing the amount of time because we’re scheduling, I think it’s just making us more impactful with the way we use time. Whereas if we’re just reactive, then all of a sudden, we’re not efficient, because we’re always context switching to be like, okay, this one and then that. So do you have different thoughts on the idea of scheduling further out like that?
Sam Corcos (00:31:37):
Yeah, I think I do. I think maybe we’re talking about different things as it relates to being reactive or not. I think we actually should largely be reactive for these. I would be okay if the publication cadence was one a week. The only reason why we increased it was that we were something like 10 weeks backlogged and it’s like, I would rather just have this piece of content out. And I think the specific situation was I’d recorded a podcast two weeks earlier and that exact topic came up in a conversation and I was already done and I basically I’d tell the person, “Oh yeah, yeah. I’ll send it to you in six weeks when it’s finally released.” It’s like, that’s silly. I should just send it to them now. It should just be on the internet. Why are we waiting six weeks?
Sam Corcos (00:32:20):
And so we didn’t increase the cadence because we wanted to increase the amount of content available. It was just, there’s no point in having a backlog. So the question of should it be reactive? I think the answer is that. As new and interesting opportunities come up like Henry from Carta, who wants to do a podcast on how companies should think about equity and secondary sales and a lot of this really new and interesting cutting-edge stuff in the startup world, that could be a really cool podcast. And we can record that sometime in the future. When it’s done, we can ship it, but there’s no urgency to that. So there’s difference in reactivity and urgency, if that makes sense.
Josh Clemente (00:33:03):
Yeah. My feel here is I agree with you, Sam, for two reasons that we should not have a recorded backlog that is weeks or months old for two reasons. One is I agree it’s silly. And second, the information is aging immediately. So it’s like once it comes out could be not even relevant, especially if it’s talking about inside the company stuff that changes constantly.
Josh Clemente (00:33:27):
So I agree, but I also think we should be doing this in just-in-time manufacturing strategy where it’s, we have to cap the amount of resources we’re dumping into this and we shouldn’t have a week where Tony is scrambling to get five episodes recorded because we should agree that the amount of resources we’re willing to spend on this X, Tony has the responsibility to push back if someone’s trying to throw an additional amount on him or will be prioritized. And instead, we have a backlog of potential topics. And so the topics are evergreen. Talking about X staying with that person will always be a possibility and we can mix and match when that gets recorded. If something better comes up that’s more immediate, bump that that initial conversation back, record this one and ship it.
Josh Clemente (00:34:10):
And to me, that’s like, it would be awesome if we’re recording and shipping two episodes a week, meaning they are literally recorded and shipped in the same week. That would be great. It’s super fresh, it’s like nothing sitting stagnant and we’re also not using too many resources and being hyper reactive to things that pop up.
Ben Grynol (00:34:28):
Yeah. That’s exact same outlook. I think when I say reactive, what I mean by reactive is the barrier to entry, the barrier to creating a, hey, we should do a podcast about this thread is so low and it becomes really easy to ideate because everything could make a, especially because we don’t really have goal posts. We sort of do, but there aren’t really goal posts so we can be like, you know what? Why don’t we record one about the sun? If we couldn’t tell ourselves why we don’t do it, it’s really easy to just dumping all of these things in and all of a sudden, we’re like, if we looked at metrics, it might be like in the past 13 days, there have been 21 ideas for podcasts and all of a sudden we’re taking up bandwidth because we’re replying to each other about the idea of doing them and what is the level of priority associated with it?
Ben Grynol (00:35:21):
So it’s almost one of those things where it’s like, if something is an idea that a person feels really strongly about, i.e., I feel really strongly about X, Y, and Z, that we should do it. Let’s do that. Otherwise, maybe a better way of doing it is just people can dump ideas constantly across the team into this Whole New Level ideas doc. Great. Otherwise, everything seems like it’s a priority, we’re just like, it would be the equivalent of like constantly all of us being so excited about product features that we’re just dumping it in the product feed. And then we’re like, we’re not even building anymore. We’re just like, it’d be cool. Is this feature? And it’s like, there are a lot, we’ve got a lot. So I don’t know, does that resonate in the framing of reactivity the way I look at it?
Sam Corcos (00:36:06):
I think one principle is we shouldn’t manufacture episodes. We should never feel the pressure of like, oh man, we got to ship another episode this week. Let’s figure what to do. I am 100% okay shipping zero episodes in a given week if there’s just nothing interesting to talk about, not an issue at all. This is not Seinfeld which comes on at the same time every week. And it’s in the days before things were recorded and if you’re not there, you’re going to miss it. This is evergreen content, we can lean into that.
Josh Clemente (00:36:38):
That is something else that when we were initially talking about super high volume, being the new norm, I was really stressed about. So I completely agree with this. I’d rather have no episode than a forced one. I don’t want us to just throw ideas at the wall and just record them. We can generate a lot of ideas, but there should be a filter process. I could actually go through some of the episodes and be like, that actually doesn’t look that interesting to me. Someone could push back, but I have thought that about a number of episodes that I’ve seen in that table, which it’s like, maybe I’ll be wrong and I’m willing to suspend that doubt and listen. But at the same time, if a higher quality idea comes up, let’s prioritize.
Josh Clemente (00:37:16):
I think we need some mechanism there where we have fixed resources that we’re willing to spend, we have a backlog of concepts, we have a prioritization mechanism where Tony has to say, “Okay, you have a great new idea that just popped up. Here’s what we’re recording this week. One of these has to be bumped in order to record this one instead.” And we just say, “Actually, it’s not as good as those two. So let’s just push it to next week”
Ben Grynol (00:37:36):
Personally, I’ve spent very little, zero time ideating episodes. Sam has a ton that come up in his mind across the team. If we even wanted to, if you go into the ideas doc, there are very few in there that wouldn’t make a good episode. If you look at it, you’re like, “Yeah, that would be very interesting to me.” When you start going down them, there are very few when you start extracting to be like, that is not good content. I think it’s just a matter of saying, okay, we have a lot of strong ideas. Let’s start to choose some of the best ones and actually plan them because we’re not able to manufacture, we’re not able to schedule the ones that, there are ones in the doc that I’m like, I am positive that’s I a killer episode, but we’re just being reactive to like, let’s do that one because that one just came up in threads and like, when should we do it? Tomorrow.
Ben Grynol (00:38:27):
And it’s okay to do that now and again, but it just becomes one of these things where it’s like, we’re not even, not that we’re trying to make episodes that we think will resonate with somebody for a certain reason, but we’re like, I’m pretty sure it would be a good episode for our team to hear and interesting for the community to hear about house three week road trip. I really do think that would be a good piece of content. It’s not going to land with everyone and it might not fit the feed and we might not do one ever like that again, but we have to experiment with those, right?
Sam Corcos (00:38:56):
So I think we should reanchor the KPIs around delivery. I think the goal for the podcast should be somewhere between zero and a 100 episodes a week. I really do not care. Somewhere in that range. And we don’t need to set a target of like, we should try to ship two episodes a week. I really sincerely actually don’t care. The only reason why we increased it to two was because we had the backlog. I’m fine with it being one. I’m also fine with it being zero. It really makes no difference to me.
Sam Corcos (00:39:29):
So I think the biggest thing that we need to figure out is the intent of each episode. And to Josh’s point of like, we might run out of good ideas, I can absolutely guarantee you I had this exact same conversation about there’s only like 10 articles that could be written on metabolic health. We still have a huge backlog of things to write and Haney has been working on this for a year and we’re adding more and more editors and writers. There’s an infinite amount of content that can be written here just like there’s an infinite amount of content we could record for the blog. So that is least concerning to me. I think the goal needs to be, we should figure out in this call, like, what is the intent behind an episode? And that should be the filter mechanism.
Josh Clemente (00:40:11):
Yeah. Operating in the paradigm where there is infinite fuel for the podcast. I do question whether there’s infinite continuous quality fuel available. So I’m going to just say, all right, we definitely have enough for two. If there’s infinite available, why aren’t we putting infinite resources towards recording all of it and putting it all on the feed immediately? There’s some boundary where we’re investing too much time and effort into the podcast. That’s why I’m saying, let’s set the upper bound for what we are going to invest resource-wise into recording each week. That sounds like it’s somewhere around two episodes. And then we use the intent filter to decide what we’re going to record up for those two.
Sam Corcos (00:40:51):
Let’s do this thought exercise here. Let’s assume for the sake of the experiment of the argument here. There’s infinite potential for interesting episodes that would be useful. We won’t try to define what is useful. Let’s just assume that it is a thing that we should have that conversation as well. But I don’t think that indexing on number of podcasts is necessarily the right definition for how many resources are we willing to put into it. It’s more like, what is the maximum amount of time we are willing to commit from Ben and Tony? If we say we’re willing to commit 10 hours of Ben and Tony’s time to the podcast per week, that’s probably a good constraint, but it also means that in theory, Tony could find an editor that could do all of these and then that 10 hours could end up being up to 30 episodes a week. So it’s a hypothetical. So I’m not sure that number of episodes is a good constraint there.
Sam Corcos (00:41:51):
So hypothetically, if I were to do this episode with Henry and it’s just him and I talking, kind of like what I did with Marc Randolph, it’s just him and I talking, there’s not really a ton of editing that needs to be done, it’s not a whole lot of Ben and Tony’s time, especially if we can find an external editor, should we say like, well, okay, that fits into the two episode cap, we have to bump a different episode, even though it only took hypothetically 15 minutes of Tony’s time?
Ben Grynol (00:42:19):
I think we’re aligned on that. We don’t want to overinvest time. We just want to put out as much content with as little effort, we’ll say that with as much ease and process as we can.
Sam Corcos (00:42:32):
Ben Grynol (00:42:33):
So let’s not even worry about what is the cadence in publication. It’s just, we’re going to aim for four a month, like you said, one a week. And we’re probably going to do a lot more than that.
Sam Corcos (00:42:43):
Or less. It doesn’t really matter. If we do less than four in a month, somebody should just mention that, like, “Hey, we did less than four this month.” We should probably cap it at some percentage of your time and Tony’s time. Maximum investment that we’re willing to put in is three hours per week of Ben and 10 hours per week of Tony. And if it requires more time to edit any of that, it’ll basically just stay as a raw audio file until one of you has capacity to handle this. I’m totally fine with that as a constraint. It seems like arbitrarily anchoring it on an output metric, which is number of podcasts seem strange to me.
Ben Grynol (00:43:23):
So one thing I’ve been thinking about is there’s a minimum bar for quality for a blog post to go up, that meaning we will use aesthetic as like the analog. So we wouldn’t ever ship a blog post that didn’t have a header image. I think we all agree on that, right? Even though the content doesn’t change because we’d be like, there would not be a world that I can imagine where we’d say, well, Haney had limited bandwidth or whomever we outsourced to to pick a header image for this thing that matched, because it was going to take an extra 15 minutes of their time. So we decided to ship anyway because the information was the same. That doesn’t meet the minimum bar of our blog.
Ben Grynol (00:44:03):
And the same thing happens with the podcast where like the minimum bar and this is something I also feel strongly about is that you feel strongly about putting back in a personalized intro. I was of the school of thought that we could get away without it. The point is that that’s the header image and the more we’re losing that, the more disconnected it feels. And so where I noticed it is we didn’t have time to record an intro about the Scott, Andrew, Sam episode. That one went out and it just felt flat in the feed, not just from a content perspective, from a production, it felt like it was missing the header image. And I was like, “Man, we got to…” Tony had brought it up too. And he’s like, “Yeah, we have to do this thing.”
Sam Corcos (00:44:53):
Yeah. I think maybe that’s an expectation, but I have two people in the last three days bring up that specific episode as like a really good episode. These are, I think, mostly engineers that I was interviewing say like, “Yeah, it’s really cool to hear you and Andrew and Scott talking about, thinking through what communication should look like in your company. That was such a cool thing that you guys try to avoid slot machines and bad behavior in communication.”
Ben Grynol (00:45:22):
Let me push back. I’ll let you finish your thought. Here’s what doesn’t make sense though, this is me being objective about it. Here at Levels, we’re building tech, blah, blah, blah, intro music drops. And three people start talking. And the bias is that like, I know that Sam’s voice and I know that’s Andrew, I know that’s Scott. No one has a clue who are these people talk? Assume that was the first episode you ever listened to and three people are just talking, it could be interesting content, but we sure didn’t tee it up. And then all of a sudden-
Sam Corcos (00:45:51):
But I don’t know if you have to. So let’s say you jump into a random episode of Seinfeld. Do you know the entire context of the relationship history of Elaine and Jerry? No, you have no idea what’s going on. These are just people and they’re just talking about stuff. They’re like, “Oh, that’s interesting.”
Ben Grynol (00:46:07):
If you’ve never watched the show before, it’s different. But the point is I feel pretty strongly that we should have intros for every episode as opposed to trying to do this thing of making people record, because the idea was, hey, this is going to make it really scalable. But it’s ineffective where I have to ask Tony like, “Okay, is there an intro for that one?” And he is like, “No. Can you do one quickly?” That’s the reactivity. Whereas now I’m going to try and record, I think it’s nine episodes moving forward. It’ll take 45 minutes. I’m just going to go file, file, file, Tony, go get them, done. And that’s the next nine. I don’t even need to think about it. That’s one of the things.
Ben Grynol (00:46:45):
And then the other one that I feel strongly about is that unless it’s a very, very good Zoom call, we shouldn’t release something that wasn’t meant to be a podcast as a podcast because it’s just not rounded enough in general. I think the cultural one worked, the Schabelman one worked, the one with you and Andrew and Scott was like, if it felt like a Zoom call, it felt kind of fly on the wall. And I think if you guys sat down to record it as a podcast, it’s not that you would be acting and turned on more. It just that the communication would be more pointed and it probably would be just like a little bit sharper conversation. That’s again, this is my outlook on it. But totally open to if you guys feel differently.
Josh Clemente (00:47:28):
I have an idea on this that I’ve been chewing on for a little while, which is that I agree with you, Ben. It feels out of sync with some of the other episodes. We have a very quality scale a little bit. Maybe we should add a text block or some identifier to the episodes that are Levels raw or something like that, something that’s, this is literally a conversation between three people and anytime we’re going to do that, anytime there’s a possibility we’re going to take a Zoom recording and put it into a podcast, just have that context set. And so Sam, Andrew and Scott would have started that conversation by saying, look, this is weird. We’re just the three of us talking, but I’m Sam Corcos, I’m CEO Levels. I’m Andrew Conner. I’m Scott. Introduce yourselves and start your normal conversation, even though you may not even use it for a podcast. And the reason being that’s one 30 second thing just so that people know the voices so they can follow along.
Sam Corcos (00:48:23):
Yeah. Or like the intros can just be much simpler. The intro that Ben could do for that episode is, and here’s Andrew, Head of Engineering, Scott, Head of Product, and Sam, CEO, talking about communication at levels.
Josh Clemente (00:48:38):
Yeah. That’s what I mean though, is like having that primes those episodes even more.
Sam Corcos (00:48:43):
I think we might be making a lot of assumptions about this around what quality looks like. This is maybe because I’m not listening to them in a vacuum. There’s a like skip ahead 20 seconds or 10 seconds thing on the pod, but once it gets to the intro, I skip the intro every time, because I already know with context here, I don’t need to listen to two minutes of intro. Maybe some people do find value in the intro if they’re coming in from a vacuum and they don’t know anything about like, what is Levels? Where am I? I don’t know. How much context is necessary. Nobody jumps into like season 12 episode four of the Walking Dead expecting to know the history of every character. I think most of the people coming into this have some context and we can have the intros be simple of just who are the people? What are they going to talk about? Maybe that’s what we pare it down to. We don’t need to give a long explanation of like, this is why startups think about this thing. I think people will self-select them to those.
Josh Clemente (00:49:42):
Yeah. I’m just saying that if we have individuals identify themselves, it takes them 10 seconds and it takes no Ben time. And then your voice is identified because if you do have someone who’s never heard Sam or Scott talk, the figuring out who’s who may not actually happen because unlike Seinfeld, you can keep watching the episodes and eventually discover all the context. Whereas with one episode, you may not understand that Andrew is Head of Engineering and Scott is Head of Product because that context didn’t emerge.
Sam Corcos (00:50:12):
Does it matter?
Josh Clemente (00:50:13):
Yeah, it does. Yeah, especially if you’re someone who’s interested in who’s running engineering at the company and how they think about these things. If you don’t know who’s whom, at least makes the conversation interpretable. And my point is just, it adds literally incremental time to the conversation. Maybe it’s too awkward to start Zoom calls like that, but it’s also strange that we take Zoom calls and turn them into podcasts. So why not add a little more strange on top of it?
Ben Grynol (00:50:40):
Yeah. The reason I’d say that about the intro, this is as a podcast listener, anyone that I know that is an avid podcast listener and listens to certain types of content that being like Mark Mayer and that being like anything Gimlet related, NPR, This American Life is notorious for this, people look forward to the intro because it’s a bit of a, they’re usually like a bit of POV philosophical lens on priming the listener. And some people like you, Sam, you just skip them. And other people, they’re like, “My favorite part of the whole thing is hearing that.” They just like that.
Ben Grynol (00:51:17):
So it gives us a brand voice, if you want to call it that, it’s kind of like having a certain aesthetic to your Instagram feed. It’s like, by doing this, this is something that other people can’t replicate and they like it. That’s been feedback consistently. They’re just like, it makes it feel warm and inviting. It’s like something like that. You feel like you’re inviting the person in and if somebody chooses to fast forward, great, but I still think it’s important to do that.
Sam Corcos (00:51:41):
How could we test whether this matters or not?
Ben Grynol (00:51:44):
This one’s very hard. This becomes like testing. Did the blog post perform worse without the header image? Quantitatively, I can tell you that the engineer, what was it, the eng, like use of Slack episode? We called that. The retention rate is really low on that one and it’s really low on the cultural handbook. Downloads are high on the cultural one, but that’s also why I feel strongly about the like, if you record it as a podcast, I think it would resonate, the retention rate is like, when I checked, it was like 14 minutes of listen time.
Sam Corcos (00:52:16):
Yeah. But I don’t think it has to be. I think a lot of people are listening to it and they’re like, “Oh, this is a fly in the wall episode. I’m going to go to a different one.”
Ben Grynol (00:52:23):
No, but that’s my point is like, so let’s just benchmark it. The Slack episode, you guys sat down and recorded that as an episode, you had the Zoom call, you’re like, “Man, let’s do this as an episode.” And because you were just a little more pointed, it’s like just cleaning up the blog post. Because you’re more pointed, retention rate was like 52 minutes. And because it was a Zoom call and it wasn’t really like, it didn’t land quite right, it was 14 minutes. Objectively, we should just anchor on, even if we’re trying to get away from metrics, the better one was the one where people were engaged the whole time. So that’s why I feel strongly about certain things. I’m trying to ignore data related to downloads, but trying to look at it and benchmark certain things to say what makes the podcast good with certain episode, not from a topic standpoint, just from an execution perspective?
Josh Clemente (00:53:13):
Which one was 52 minutes?
Ben Grynol (00:53:15):
Lots of them. Lots of the podcast episodes will be full retention or very close. 46 minutes of a 58 minute episode is a very long. Like last night when they acquired call, they were blown away at our retention rates. They’re like, “What?” But then when you see all these really good retention rates and then the ones that are scrappy, like the two Zoom calls that we’ve released, even the Andy Schabelman one actually, the three Zoom calls we’ve released had very low retention rates like 14 minutes.
Sam Corcos (00:53:45):
But is that something that we care about?
Ben Grynol (00:53:49):
I think so, because hypothetically, if you did, that’s back to my point of like hypothetically, Andy and I sat down and recorded it as a podcast and we could get 50 minutes out of it, then we should just do that.
Sam Corcos (00:54:00):
Sure. And that would be better, but that would take more time. And I think this ties into retention is lower for the casual conversation that Josh and I had trying to figure out company culture stuff. Retention is low, but several people mention that episode as a really good look inside the company and might move the needle on hiring someone. It was pretty great. And if not a ton of people, listen, I think that’s fine.
Ben Grynol (00:54:26):
Can I interject you? Because here’s my, the only thing I have a different viewpoint on, I’ll get into all the nuance of just releasing Zoom calls. I’m not saying we should never do it, but here’s an example of how we can be better. So Miz says, “Hey, we need something that talks about vacation and team time off.” And we say, “Great, we’re going to have three of us on, we’re going to talk on Zoom and it’s going to be an open conversation.” And then we release that and that becomes a podcast. The alternative is let’s record a podcast. We consciously go into it. What would be interesting content? The narrative, the story of how taking three weeks off or it doesn’t matter [inaudible 00:55:11]. But that to me feels tighter. The analog, and this is what I’ve been thinking lots about, the analog is the equivalent of when you sit down to listen to music, and I know you’re not a music listener avid.
Sam Corcos (00:55:27):
I’m familiar with the concept, though.
Ben Grynol (00:55:31):
You want to listen to Springsteen’s finished song and you don’t want to listen to like 15 minutes of him figuring out the parts. You want a little bit tighter version on average.
Sam Corcos (00:55:42):
Yeah, it depends on the audience, right? If you are a Bruce Springsteen’s fam, you want to see the process. That would be so cool.
Ben Grynol (00:55:50):
You do. I love the process. I love the process with a grain of salt. I just think that there’s, if somebody is going to go to a concert, you want the concert to feel tight. If you know that you are watching somebody practice, then that’s the heuristic, you’re like, “I know that’s just the person practicing.” But I think that if we oscillate between practicing versus being in concert, they’re going to be two different outcomes. So I’m not saying we should never do it. I just think that if we are going to do it, we should be really sure that that’s the strongest deliverable of that topic. Meaning like if we think, if we sat down and recorded this as a more tightly articulated conversation, it would feel a lot higher quality. Does that make sense?
Sam Corcos (00:56:43):
It makes sense. I’m just not sure that I agree with it. So it’s like people who go, you’re basically saying like, the difference between going to improv and a standup comedy show, right?
Ben Grynol (00:56:57):
You got it.
Sam Corcos (00:56:59):
One of them is a format that the guy has been working on for like 10 years and this is his act. I saw Jerry Seinfeld live and he’s doing the act that he’s been refining for the last 30 years, he’s still giving that act. And it’s very polished. On the other hand is improv. And personally, I like improv more than a standout because I love seeing the creative process, people making mistakes. It’s so cool to just watch that happen.
Sam Corcos (00:57:35):
And for people who… I was at in event that had weird series of circumstances, a bunch of musicians ended up at this thing who hadn’t seen each other in a long time. And they ended up, it was supposed to just be one guy doing the act. And it ended up being five different artists, all just jamming and making music in real time, new songs, just out of thin air. And it was just so cool to watch it. And I’m not really a music person, but just watching them riff off each other and you could just see them building on top of it. And if you’re a snobby person, who’s like, no, it didn’t feel like a polished song, I think that was dumb. Like, cool. You’re not the audience for this.
Sam Corcos (00:58:19):
If you’re the kind of person… I’ll give you another similar example. So my brother is really, really into music. He plays basically every instrument. He has jam nights with his friends all the time. He’s really into music. His favorite bands are jam bands like Snarky Puppy, String Cheese Incident, bands that most people have never heard of. But people who love music love these guys. And they don’t record music. They have no albums. The only music they have is something that somebody recorded and posted on the internet or just like a jam session. Their concerts are jam sessions and their audience are music lovers, not people who go to Coachella. They could not care less about the Coachella crowd. They want people who are into it and who understand it. That I think is the dynamic with what we should be approaching is we don’t care about the Coachella people. If you only want to hear the hits of the finely polished version, hey, go find a different podcast. If you are interested in the improv behind the scenes, how the sausage is made, this is your show.
Ben Grynol (00:59:31):
Yeah. Subjectively, I’m a huge fan of everything behind the scenes, everything documentary style. And I personally love that, but you still want in documentary filmmaking that is behind the scenes, you still want it to be trimmed down to a nice tight narrative. So that there’s a balance. I think what we have to be cognizant of is we don’t just put anything on the blog. There’s still like, Haney’s a gatekeeper to the blog. Imagine if we could just write a piece that was smelling hydrangeas is good for your metabolic health. Something that was like a little hoo-hoo in out there, not science fact. And we just wrote it and we had the ability to hit publish or pretty close. Haney would be like, “Man, that’s not getting on the blog. That doesn’t meet the quality bar. It’s poorly written. It’s doesn’t have the flow that we have. It’s missing the data. That’s what I mean.
Ben Grynol (01:00:28):
So to sum it up, I’m totally into releasing Zoom calls when they meet the bar. But I want to be sure that there’s still enough diligence that if a gatekeeper, that being, let’s say gatekeeper is Tony or if I’m the gatekeeper or somebody’s got to be a gatekeeper to say, this does not meet the bar of the feed, because if people are, we’re asking a lot every time we want somebody to listen to it and they have the ability to not listen and there’s no way you can close a window. And we’re not trying to get a 100% hit rate for everybody who listens gets value. That’s not the intent. It’s just more, we want to make sure that it’s representative of the company being like they put out thoughtful material that people can learn from. That’s what I mean.
Sam Corcos (01:01:17):
Yeah. I 100% understand the sentiment. What I think I am arguing for is that one, we lower the bar. And two, we know where the bar is. This was an actual conversation that happened related to our blog, which was-
Ben Grynol (01:01:35):
Oh, I know what you’re talking about.
Sam Corcos (01:01:37):
So I said, we need to make content for different audiences. We need to have the layman content. And the argument against it, which came from many people on the team was we can’t because it’ll dilute the quality of the blog because right now we just have these ultimate guides written by Casey and they’re super comprehensive. The median article has 50 scientific references. If we start throwing in things like what to get at Chipotle, we’re going to lose credibility and no one will take our blog seriously anymore. This was their argument. I understand it, I’m sympathetic to it, but I don’t think that this concept of like brand dilution is as real as people think it is. I think it actually tends to be the opposite, which is people will self-select into whatever kind of content they’re interested in. I think this really just becomes, it really just puts more emphasis on curation. And we have to be more intentional about how we distribute this information to people.
Sam Corcos (01:02:37):
So jumping onto the third point within this one is photographers don’t just throw out their photos on the internet. And there’s truth to that. However, I could also make the argument that we shouldn’t publish all of our weekly all-hands or our investor updates because they’re not a finalized form. They’re just like internal document. And we should polish them before we finish them. We should consolidate them into something. So like a presentation intended for this audience, but we just throw them all out there. And I think that we shouldn’t index too heavily on, like everyone thinks of podcasts as this thing. And it doesn’t have to be that. A podcast doesn’t have to be every episode is the Bruce Springsteen final edit. It can be something else if we want it to be.
Ben Grynol (01:03:31):
I agree on that. A, I love experimentation, B, subjectively, I think that companies can be too precious about content curation and perfection. And that’s not my-
Sam Corcos (01:03:47):
Yeah. Yeah. You’re usually the anchor on the other side of this.
Ben Grynol (01:03:51):
So that’s my point is that I’m down, maybe a better way of summing it up. I’m down to release Zoom calls, but I still want there to be some gatekeeper process, not gatekeeper like-
Sam Corcos (01:04:02):
I get it.
Ben Grynol (01:04:03):
But there are some that just-
Sam Corcos (01:04:06):
Doesn’t lower the bar.
Ben Grynol (01:04:07):
That’s what I mean is like, I’m open to doing it. I don’t think we should, especially we’ve agreed on it, I don’t think we should ever revert back to the like, well, look, we released it and the metrics said it didn’t land. It’s like, we know it’s not going to land, you’re not even caring about metrics. All I want to do is know that if a Zoom call comes up as an opportunity to put out, should we put it out that there’s still someone that can vet and curate and say, I don’t think this meets the bar? It might be like one out of 10 times that that happens, but I don’t want it to become a situation where we’re just starting to pump out Zoom calls that are like, man. But I hear.
Sam Corcos (01:04:54):
Yeah, I totally hear what you’re saying. So I think the action items we have here is I think the only thing we need more clarity on in my opinion is the, how do we decide whether a conversation should be on the podcast or not? And I think we’ve aligned on certain categories of content, but it’s still unclear to me what the quality bar is. And I don’t have super strong preferences. I think this might be one of the rare cases where my quality bar is lower than yours, but I think that figuring out what that bar is I think is really important to get alignment from the team.
Ben Grynol (01:05:40):
Sam Corcos (01:05:40):
Well, let’s go back to the big question of like, should we release this recording as a podcast episode or not?