Getting a Side Project Idea (my Story)


CastSpot has now soft launched and although I am struggling to get traffic onto the site, I wanted to share how I got the idea, as well as some self reflection regarding what I think I missed in hindsight.

The Idea

CastSpot is a platform designed to help Podcasters connect with the goal of speaking on each others shows. This has many benefits, the primary one being that getting exposure for a podcast is hard, but can be made easier when speaking on another podcast. I’ll get more into all the other details further into the article.

Choosing a Target Audience

I love podcasts – after discovering them, I started listening to different shows and episodes every day, while I was studying or (nowadays) on my way to work. Around Summer 2019, I noticed a trend – companies on my LinkedIn were all beginning to start their own podcasts. It was then that I realized Podcasts were going to be a big medium in the future and I wasn’t the only one starting to get a taste for them. I was also looking for a new side project since I finished University and thought that the podcasting space would be a great way to start – it had a lot of wind behind it, given all the attention that podcasts were starting to get.

Research

Of course I had no idea what the actual problems were that a podcaster faced day-to-day, so I decided the best way to find out was to become a podcaster myself! I quickly got set up and created “The Junior Developer Podcast”, a show focused on teaching new developers like myself what it is like to start fresh in a new programming career. I ended up deleting the Podcast (might recover it at some point), but it helped me immensely in coming up with my final idea!

My first podcast episodes were just monologues, unscripted and slightly edited. It was the editing that took quite a while, so my initial thought was to create an AI based audio service. The problem with this is that the editing did not really compensate for the overall lack of structure in the episodes, so while tedious, a lot of it could have been avoided if I had given more time to preparing each recording (which I struggled to do due to time constraints). After I uploaded my first episode, I headed down to a podcaster meetup. Here, I talked to one of the most successful German podcasters, who was signing deals with Spotify. I asked him on some tips for growing a new Podcast and he dropped a lot of gems, one that stuck the most with me was this: “if you find a podcaster who is in a similar space as you are, don’t see them as an enemy – collaborate with them, get them on your show! It’s a great way for both of you to grow your audience”. This seemed really smart, but even though I had already pitched an idea to some of the podcasters there and met 0 excitement (idea for a Wordpress plugin that lets users sell advertisement space that I ended up dropping after the meetup), it didn’t strike me that this was what I should be focusing on.

After the Meetup, I also hung around Reddit, where I started looking for new ideas and ways to improve my podcast. I had created around 3 episodes at the time, all had required heavy editing and because they were monologues instead of conversations, they were honestly a bit dull to listen to even though they were pretty short. To look for a new idea, I searched for phrases like “how do you” in the podcasting subreddit. I stumbled upon a post that caught my eye:

How do you get good guests on your show?”

That was a great question and the gears started turning. I started to realize that having good guests on my show could be the solution to my own podcasting dilemma. Was it really that hard? I switched to the web developer subreddit and posted that I was looking for a junior developer that was willing to speak on my show – I immediately got bombarded with requests, most people had never heard of my podcast and didn’t even care. “Okay”, I thought, “this is really a non-issue”. But then I noticed that while I had people who wanted to speak on my show, figuring out who these people were and how suited they would be to speak as a guest could turn out be very time consuming. Most didn’t have referential audio or video material online that I could use, so I’d either need to follow my gut entirely or do a vetting interview for each potential candidate – this would take ages! I thought to myself how much easier it would be if all the applicants simply had their own podcasts…bingo.

Reflection

Over the past weeks, I have struggled to obtain even a single user and although I was able to organize some PR, I feel that ultimately the idea is not going to pick up in the way I hoped. I think that my reasons for picking up the idea were solid and backed by a pretty good amount of research and personal experience. However, I think that there is also a huge issue with the idea that I am forced to face now: getting a community based platform off the ground is extremely hard. Even though everything is free and very simple to use, people are not going to sign up for something that they see no value in. In turn, if nobody is using a platform like CastSpot, there really is no value! This is why I believe that to start this type of project, you need to have one (and ideally all) of these competitive advantages:

  • An existing audience in that field
  • Marketing budget for ads or paying influencers/early adopters
  • An existing product that you can attach this service to (for example in this case, a podcast hosting service which already has several users)
  • A lot of time that you can spend spamming forums and other podcasters to get more exposure via PR

Overall, I personally wouldn’t start another project that depends on user interaction exclusively.

I hope you enjoyed this short overview and hope this has given you some insights into how you can come up with a side project idea of your own. Did you think that my approach was reasonable? Do you have your own side project that is successful and would like to share your strategies for getting ideas? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

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