August 13, 2009

Cali Lewis on what goes into a successful podcast

Cali Lewis of from JD Lasica on Vimeo.

The host of GeekBrief.TV also offers 7 secrets to podcasting success

JD LasicaIf you travel in technology circles, chances are you’ve heard of Cali Lewis, the extraordinarily gifted, personaable and successful Web show pioneer who hosts and co-produces GeekBrief.TV. She’s about to top 50,000 followers on Twitter at @calilewis.

Geek Brief, launched on Dec. 23, 2005, now boasts more than 600 episodes (I’ve watched most of them), done on location or at Cali and her husband Neal Campbell’s studio in Dallas. I don’t know how they keep up the pace, given the show’s high production values. Over the years in my talks on new media, I’ve often held up Cali and Geek Brief as a spot-on example of how to “break” into new media — and of how the next generation of Web video shows will look: fast-paced, interesting, fun, personality-driven, passionate and polished.

In this interview, conducted at WordCamp SF shortly before her talk, Cali discusses the genesis of Geek Brief (after 5 months, “we were done with our day jobs and began doing the show full time” — living the dream), podcasting’s place in the mediasphere (“What podcasting offers is that anybody can do it. They don’t have to be told by ABC or NBC or any radio station that they have the talent to do this. The audience is picking and choosing who is successful.”), and how she chooses which tech news to feature (new technologies that excite her and her viewers).

Social media’s role

We spent most of the interview discussing social media and how to engage an audience. The most important rule of audience participation is “you participating back,” she said. Putting questions to the users is a good technique, through Twitter, blog comments and directly on the show itself. She’s on a campaign to coax people to communicate via Twitter rather than email (“You can have a great conversation in 140 characters.”) She’s also particularly adept at using live video streaming during some of her episodes, calling it “a great way to interact.”

Her advice to those just starting out: “Think about what you want, and then just go for it!” I often echo her advice to not get tripped up by the technology. GeekBrief.TV offers some training materials on its Podcasting Tips page.

The lighting on this 9-minute video was subpar because it was bright outside and my LP-Micro fill light wasn’t up to the task.

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Shortly afterward, Cali gave a presentation on Building an Interactive Audience to a packed house, and I tweeted her advice & the tweets are all gone now, of course — but she gave a very similar presentation at WordCamp Dallas recently, capably captured by the MSPmentor blog:

7 secrets to podcasting success

Cali LewisRule 1: Understand your core brand value.

GeekBrief.TV’s brand value is “happiness,” Cali says. She wants her 3-minute technology product views to leave viewers feeling good.

Rule 2: Start compelling conversations.

Cali says you need to look around your daily life to create compelling conversations. Examples:

Rule 3: Be an asset.

Cali says your sites and communications need to “add value. If you want to build an online community, it can’t be about you. It has to be about your community.”

Rule 4: Make friends, not fans.

Cali advises: “Don’t speak at the community. Speak with the community. Ask questions and answer questions. Loyal audiences will tell other people about your sites.”

Rule 5: Show appreciation.

Thank readers over and over again.

Rule 6: Take breaks.

Cali admitted she breaks rule 6 all the time.

Rule 7: Always be upgrading.

Cali says “Never let yourself you get stale. Show your community you’re vying for their attention.”

All of it good advice.

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JD Lasica, founder of, is now co-founder of the cruise discovery engine Cruiseable. See his About page, contact JD or follow him on Twitter or Google Plus.

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6 thoughts on “Cali Lewis on what goes into a successful podcast

  1. As a friend of Cali and Neal's, I can say they practice what they preach and there are the SOLE reason I started the Moxie Mo Show and why I've made it to almost 100 episodes. Mevio Tech signed me, much thanks to Cali and Neal and they are THE REAL DEAL. Great interview, great article!
    -Moxie Mo aka Jeff McCord