Minter Dialogue with Rob Greenlee

Rob Greenlee is a veteran of the podcasting industry with a rich history in radio and online content. Rob shares his journey from radio to podcasting, highlighting his roles at Microsoft, PodcastOne, Spreaker, and Libsyn. The conversation delves into the evolution of podcasting, contrasting it with traditional radio, and discussing the impact of platforms like Spotify and Apple. We explore the global podcasting landscape, the role of AI in content creation, and the tension between maintaining podcasting’s authenticity and commercial pressures. Rob also touches on the importance of trust in media and the potential for branded podcasts to build deeper connections with audiences.

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Music credit: The jingle at the beginning of the show is courtesy of my friend, Pierre Journel, author of the Guitar Channel. And, the new sign-off music is “A Convinced Man,” a song I co-wrote and recorded with Stephanie Singer back in the late 1980s (please excuse the quality of the sound!).

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Minter Dial: Rob Greenlee, it is lovely to have you on my show. We’ve never really met, but boy, have I followed you over the years in the world of podcasting. In the beginning when it was oh so small, kind of all heard about each other, but in your own words, Rob, let’s talk about who are you?

Rob Greenlee: Well, I guess if you really want to sum it down, I mean, my life is more than just being, being a podcaster, but really, that’s certainly crazy that I’ve spent a lot of time doing and being involved in going back, actually, I started on the radio and then migrated myself to the online world through the radio show, and podcasting became a part of my life at the time, back in 2004. It wasn’t a very significant part of my life. Podcasting. It was more streaming and online radio and, and syndicated radio and satellite radio was what I was really primarily involved in back then. And so this whole online distribution is kind of, you know, it really dovetails to some of my work that I’ve done in the past as a marketing director and kind of a person that started to see early on that online content can be used as a little bit of a marketing tool. So, that’s kind of where I come from, from this, and not so much an advertising tool, but more of a direct to maybe customer or direct to community type of a medium, which I think we have really seen it kind of show all of its wings of sorts over the last ten to 15 years of what the, with, with the different ways that podcasting can be used and kind of its broadening definition on what a, what a podcast is, is always an entertaining topic as well. That’s so controversial and things like that. So, have worked for Microsoft with podcasting. I’ve worked for a company called Podcast one Down in Los Angeles for years, their chief technology officer and kind of podcast kind of expert or whatever to help them with their podcasting network that they were building with celebrities down in Los Angeles. And then I used to work for Spreaker, and I spent time, I spent many years with Libsyn as well, which was the very first podcast hosting platform. But really, I’ve come at this medium from kind of like a content marketing perspective, as well as a content creator, as well as kind of working the backend, but also really, really, really focused on building relationships with podcasters and helping them, whether it’s getting on a show like yours or if it’s doing my own shows or speaking at conferences and things like that. So, that’s really what my, who I am really at the end of the day. But, you know, I, I’ve owned a restaurant and I’ve worked in a variety of different, different businesses. I’ve owned, and I used to work in the grocery food industry. I used to work for the Florida Department of Citrus as a marketing person and built the world’s largest glass of orange juice at the Guinness Book World Records.

Minter Dial: Nice.

Rob Greenlee: And I also built the first Florida Citrus website back in 1990. I think it was 96 for the citrus industry out of Florida. So, it was really their first entry into the digital world of sorts. And it was rather shocking for them at the time. As you might imagine, a, a group of farmers weren’t exactly the early adopters of the Internet in the early days. So, anyway, that’s kind of a snapshot.

Minter Dial: That’s nice.

Rob Greenlee: Yeah.

Minter Dial: What’s for sure is that farmers across the world have, now, I know Canada and the states and France have become very digitalized. So, it’s, they’ve done a real journey. I couldn’t, I won’t say they’ve done catch up, but. So, you have great variety. And by the way, I think you’re the officially the second world record holder, a Guinness book world record holder. On my show, I had a lady who played the full piano concerto at the highest altitude in the world, being something like 5000 meters high. And anyway, so always good to have world record holders on. Feeling privileged. I want us to thinking about your existence in radio, syndicated and other life. What did that, how did that help you in the world of podcasting? And more importantly, maybe, what did you need to unwire? What did you need to change in order to be good at podcasting?

Rob Greenlee: Well, I should probably set the table on. I didn’t really go into radio because I had any kind of an experience with it. So, when I was going into it, I was going in pretty, pretty raw and unpracticed. It’s not like I had a degree in radio and television or something like that. So, I didn’t really go at it from a person that was an expert at it, a dj. I was really kind of a bumbling idiot at the first, at the first year or two of doing it, I wasn’t really very good. And I brought in a group of people into the show to kind of help, you know, make it more diverse and not put so much focus on me. It’s not like I did a solo show or anything like that. So, just kind of eased my way into it and just became, hopefully the perception is that I’m a little better than I was back then. I mean, you can go and listen to some of the archives of that old show is called web talk radio, and it’s off my it says web talk radio archive. And you can go back to 1999 and hear the very first episode that I did if you want to. And you can kind of see, you know, that was on the radio back then and it was live in the radio studio as well. So, I wound up taking that, that show home and built my own studio and started doing it like a regular podcaster. So, most, most podcasters don’t do their show in a radio station studio. So, that’s what I started to embrace. This was back in about 2000. I was starting to, I took it out of the radio station because I found doing it in the radio station was a frustrating process because I was trying to bring on guests and trying to time the guests calling in because it was all done off of a phone call back in those days. And, and it was, you know, sometimes the guests didn’t call in. So, it was one of those things that’s, you know, then you’re coming back from a commercial break and it’s like, okay, well, I, I just, you know, promoted the fact that this person’s going to be there after the break and they never called in. So, it was one, one of those kind of things where it was like I was trying to produce a show, really, that didn’t necessarily align perfectly with radio. So, that’s what kind of forced me to take it home and pre produce everything.

Minter Dial: Well, at the same time, when you, when you think of radio, and every time I’ve been on radio, there’s a sort of a time pressure cooker steel to it. You know, you’ve got, you got 602 and then you got the break. 06:03 and then we’re doing whatever this and that. And so you’re always on that time schedule. And of course, it brings you very sensitive to being on tune and saying what you need to say.

Rob Greenlee: Yeah, you have to be very, very precise down to the second is what you have to do. And that’s what I wound up doing even when I brought it home, is I would pre produce all of the segments for each of the segments that were required between commercial breaks of sorts. And so actually, it was really complicated back when I was working with the Sirius XM kind of satellite network where they had six brakes an hour. So, you had to record each segment of your content down to the seconds in order to align with their, their station id breaks and their commercial breaks. So, it did. As a creator back then, it was very different than it is today with a podcast where you just kind of like, hit the record button and you just go as long as you want. It was quite different. So, there was a lot of post production, there was a lot of pre production you had to do to get segments that were aligned with the clock of sorts. And I found that very, over the course of the time, I found that very limiting to what I could do. I had to be very focused on the transition in and the transition out, and then have the topics be able to stop at a certain point with my guest, or if I had a guest or in a segment or whatever. So, it really limited my ability to really cover something at a in depth level, in a, in a continuous kind of experience. So, so, I mean, not that you, you know, you can’t produce a podcast like that, but it, I don’t think it fits with the medium quite as well to put a bunch of breaks into your content.

Minter Dial: Yeah. I mean, at the very least, if it’s a conversation, right? I mean, you had, you see that on the talk shows, they always have to, they do a chat, then they break. But there again, they’re also really focused on viewership, the numbers, and as opposed to a podcast, which, I mean, as far as I’m concerned, has never been about how many numbers am I hitting?

Rob Greenlee: Well, and it’s even a little bit more convoluted than that, because the facts are, is that those on the radio, they really have no idea how many people are listening to them. It’s all kind of like survey data, which is certainly not very reliable. And with podcasting or streaming, you have precise numbers, right? I mean, because the computer can track how many people are connected to that live stream or that on demand stream or downloaded. But on radio, they have. I mean, it’s all a guess and a little bit, that’s the tension that I felt. And this could take us on a completely different topic. But radio has been a little bit of like a medium of smoke and mirrors and perception versus reality, where when podcasting started in streaming, that was a glimpse of a deeper level of reality. I wouldn’t say that it was perfect. There’s certainly flaws in the tracking and the counting of podcasts or live streaming. It’s not a perfect thing, but at least it gives you a somewhat of a real number where on the radio side, you, you really don’t know. They tell you that you have rating points and the rating points translate into so many listeners, but I don’t know that that’s really always the case.

Minter Dial: Well, well, certainly the, maybe the feeling I had with is within the smoke and mirrors, is that that was sort of the emphasis, we’ve got to make it sell, you know, it got to be.

Rob Greenlee: Well, yeah, exactly. It was all about it’s got to be sexy creating content that they think the audience wants. And I think that’s the other tension between podcasting and radio. And also a lot of people over the last ten years in the podcasting medium have thought, like radio when they produce podcasts to some degree. And that’s really happened because the commercial radio industry has gotten heavily into podcasting because they kind of see it as the future. Right. But they brought a lot of their kind of methods to creating a podcast, and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t work so well. So, it’s just kind of creating kind of a hybrid model. So, in a lot of ways, what we see today is kind of increasingly becoming somewhat of a hybrid model between podcasting and commercial radio or public radio, where some of the practices are kind of merging together. And that’s a little bit of the tension in the podcast medium, is that there is this kind of continual pushback that happens in the medium because people that are purists in the medium want to keep the medium kind of pure to its origins. And how this started and how it built popularity was based on it being different than radio. And so we have this kind of, this tension in the market around formats and how advertising has been integrated into the medium and how it’s increasingly looking more and more like the same kind of ad loads in commercial radio that’s coming to podcasting. And in some ways, the audience is going way, way, way. You know, I don’t sign up for that bargain for here with podcasting. I bargained for something that’s different. And we are increasingly, and this is, like I said, this is a tension in the industry. We’re increasingly becoming more like commercial radio and public radio.

Minter Dial: Well, I think it’s that grind of the, of the commercial reality.

Rob Greenlee: Making money is what it is, is motivating. All this is the desire to make money. And the thinking of the, of the larger media companies is that the content that we create and the process of creating it has to be more catering to who we want to reach as an audience. Right. But that’s not necessarily the roots of podcasting. The roots of podcasting is the podcaster creating content that they want to create, not a contrived model. Right. Of saying, well, I’m trying to reach a, you know, a 1865 year old male, and I’m going to produce content that aligns in the research that says that a 18 to 25 year old male likes to play video games. So, I’m going to make a video game show. Right. So, that’s. But the hosts may not have really deep passion for it. It’s kind of like the way radio has worked, where they get talent. Talent goes into the studio and creates the content that they think their audience wants to listen to.

Minter Dial: You, Rob, it would seem to then indicate why there’s a little bit more authenticity in podcasting. Because it comes from the podcaster.

Rob Greenlee: Yeah, he had that. He or she podcaster creates content that attracts a kind of audience that is aligned with them. Right. Versus radio is trying to figure out who the audience that they want to reach and create content that they think is going to reach that audience. So, in some ways, it’s kind of an inverse. And also the priority of commercial radio and public radio is around sponsorships and advertising. And really, at the end of the day, the real customer of commercial radio is the advertiser. The audience is the product that’s sold to the advertiser. Podcasting, it’s. It’s different. The audience is, is really from the mind of the, of the podcaster is the benefit of doing it. It’s not, you know, they’re trying to build a community that aligns with them, not, not as a contrived kind of creation.

Minter Dial: So love it. Well, so lead us into the state of podcasting today. I mean, it seems to be growing, but I also detect a whole bunch of fatigue, both post pandemic and podcast production and the whole rigmarole. Why am I doing it if I’m not really earning money? So, in your words, where are we in podcasting? What does it look like for the next couple of years?

Rob Greenlee: I think you have two things going on. You have podcasting in North America, and you have podcasting everywhere else, including China, right? Well, yeah, and I think that’s where the lines are right now is that podcasting in the United States to some degree up in Canada and North America, is a mature market. We’ve kind of grown to a point where a lot of the methods and practices are kind of mature, and we’re not really, from my view anyway, were not progressing in a fast growth type of approach right now. Were in steady growth, which it’s kind of always been. But it doesn’t feel like the industry itself is progressing economically along the path as well as a lot of people in the industry anticipated it would or expected it would. And so I think there’s a perception in the United States that were kind of like flatlined. Weve kind of like there’s not a lot of innovation going on in the medium right now. But outside of the United States, in other parts of the world, like in Asia and in Europe or whatever, the energy level and the kind of aggressive kind of approach to the medium is still in that passionate growth phase where people are new to it. It’s not so much new from a listening perspective. It’s just more new with the media companies and the public radio type companies. It’s still kind of a new thing of sorts, and it’s still growing. So, we don’t have the maturation of the advertising market outside of the US yet that we have here. So, I say that’s the big difference between it. There’s companies over in Europe and in Asia or whatever that are just getting their feet on the ground and starting to expand their reach into the market. And that’s where the growth is right now, is outside of the United States.

Minter Dial: All right, so maybe clear up another thing for me. We talked a little bit about how the numbers are more precise than radio, yet I would say in the old days, radio, television, cable, the media bandwidths, market shares, it all seems to be reasonably understood. Whereas in podcasting, is it on Apple, is it on Spotify, is it on where and how do you find it and how do you measure it? How many podcasts are there in Spanish on politics? Good luck finding that answer.

Rob Greenlee: Yeah, I mean, those are really, really good points because there is a downside to the format of podcasting, and one of them is continuity of data and how the industry that is built on RSS, which is an open distribution syndication standard of sorts, is, is very distributed, right. It’s not a, it’s not coming from a, a proprietary, you know, like a YouTube or a Facebook or a, or a, you know, a big, or through.

Minter Dial: An FM, or through an FM, right.

Rob Greenlee: Or through I heart radio or through, you know, which is kind of what we’ve seen. The history is here. You know, the, the big cable channels, you know, ABC, NBC, CB’s, all that stuff, which is a very small number of, you know, channels or distributors or creators of content. Podcasting is a distributed format. It’s built on an open standard of RSS, which is basically a syndication strategy that basically makes the content distribution of podcasting open to anyone that wants to build an app or wants to get involved in the industry. So, that’s the trade off, is that there’s not like one central place that everything funnels through that you can get data from. And that’s a little bit of the advantage to some degree, that a Spotify or an Apple podcasts or Google has had, when they’ve been involved in podcasting, that they have had an aggregation of most of the podcasts and they’ve been able to get data out of that because they’ve aggregated it and they have a proprietary platform. But if you look at it from a distribution standpoint, like a broad based distribution standpoint, RSS is everywhere. It’s not coming out of one place all the time. And these big platforms like Spotify and Apple, they don’t share data back to the content creator at the level of data that they capture off of their platform. So, there’s not a lot of trust and sharing in this medium as well around data and capture that was created in the radio industry where there were like Nielsen ratings and whatever, that evaluated everybody into a big bucket. So, there isn’t really anything in podcasting that can actually look at the whole industry, really, and make accurate data projections. It’s always a subset of the broader market. So, people will use that subset to conjecture to the larger market, but they can’t really totally say that this is what’s going on with each podcast. And a lot of the data is private information, and it’s been that way with the big media companies, too. But you do see places like a YouTube or whatever showing on the screen how many plays or how many views a piece of content has. But that’s not necessarily a common thing in the podcasting space.

Minter Dial: Something that I had the fortune to explore was the chinese podcast market. Don’t know to what extent you’re familiar with it, but what I understand is that it’s essentially a micropayment model where someone wants to listen to something, they put down one year, one, and they get to listen to it, and then that one gets to me after commissions, blah, blah, blah, because they listen to my show and they assess there was a value enough to listen, pay for it right away.

Rob Greenlee: Preston I dont believe that it’s whats going on in China is really built on RSS or that open syndication model. I think it’s primarily built on proprietary platforms that are built inside of China to distribute the same kind of content. It’s the same kind of thing. But I don’t believe that China is widely supportive of an open distribution type of a format, because I think as.

Minter Dial: We all know, they’re not open.

Rob Greenlee: They’re a pretty closed information society. So, if it was built on RSS, that would mean that they would probably have a little bit of a hard time controlling the content that’s distributed.

Minter Dial: That makes sense. And yet, as I understand it, whatever system they’re using is highly, highly popular. And there are literally millions of podcasts in Chinese that we don’t usually count as part of the ecosystem of podcasting over in the west.

Rob Greenlee: Yeah, that’s true, that’s true. But there have been, and there are today a series of companies that are in the podcasting industry in North America that are chinese owned or, or chinese affiliated. So, there is companies that are here. I mean, one of them is Podbean, which has had for many years a direct connection to owners that have connections to China. And a lot of their developers for the platform are based in China. And there’s been a couple other companies that have come out of investment from the chinese side to be involved in podcasting companies here in the US. There has been a little bit of a contraction from that over the last couple of years. So, I think it’s lesser now than it was like maybe five or six years ago.

Minter Dial: Well, it brings up another point, which has been the ecosystem around podcasting. So, you have these sites that list podcasts. You can sometimes rate them or not.

Rob Greenlee: And then like a directory kind of.

Minter Dial: Thing, like a directory. And then you have these services that are finding guest spaces on podcasts. Yeah. What would you say are the big other players? I mean, other than of course, the hosting services and the basics of podcasting. Are there any other areas that have cropped up that Im missing?

Rob Greenlee: Well, I think that there’s pretty much a full spectrum of types of businesses that are involved in the podcast medium, from AI companies, AI startup companies, to companies that are heavily involved in ad sales into podcasts and then networks of podcasts that aggregate. Like the one I used to work for. Podcast one had about 200 podcasts that were affiliated in their, their network and they, they provided services to larger podcasters typically, but there’s a bunch of other networks that are out there, or also they also called just podcast media companies of sorts that are trying to offer full spectrum services to content creators.

Minter Dial: I’m a member of the Evergreen network, so I know about that.

Rob Greenlee: I’m familiar with those guys. Yeah. And so that’s a good example of a type of company that’s heavily involved in the podcasting space. But I think that the advertising sales side and the advertising representation side is a growing area that’s been making significant progress as of late. But I would say that the larger media companies, I mean, a lot of the big companies, like I used to work for Microsoft, and I ran the Zoom podcasting platform for seven years at Microsoft, and then that got rolled into the Xbox. And so a lot of the big media companies, like Spotify and Google and even Facebook, I’ve worked with those guys, too, have been embracing the podcasting medium over the years. Now Facebook isn’t involved in it now. They chose to get out of it, and so has Google. So, Google came into this medium with lots of ambitious goals and proclamations and, and ultimately have pulled the plug on it. So, it’s, it’s, you know, there’s been a lot of ambition on the part of these big, big tech companies to get involved in podcasting, but ultimately they, they gave it a go and it wasn’t for them.

Minter Dial: They, Google hanged out and hung up.

Rob Greenlee: Right. Again, it’s the same thing that Microsoft did.

Minter Dial: So, yeah, and so if you look at the lay of the land, Apple seems to have a dominant position, mostly because of the device. But is Spotify going to be the number one? How do you see it rumbling going forward?

Rob Greenlee: Yeah. So, if you just look at kind of like the device distribution between iOS and Android on a global scale, you can kind of see what’s going on there. There’s far more Android devices sold around the world than Apple devices, just as a percentage of market. And it’s really not even that close. I mean, it’s pretty much dominated by Android. The only real thing that you have to realize about that is that the per capita consumption of podcasts on Android is like six times less than the consumption of podcasts on Apple devices. So, on a per individual user basis, the usage of podcast as a medium for content is six times higher than the per capita user of an Android device. And there’s a lot of reasons for that. It’s not a mystery. Data plans outside of the United States are not as easy to afford or to get or to maintain. They typically require constant attention, and they can be expensive outside of the United States for getting data plans for your mobile device because that’s where most of the consumption is happening on podcasting. And here in the US, we all take for granted. And a lot of people use iOS or iPhones here in the United States, and those usually come with bundled data plans that are monthly, and a lot of them are unlimited now. So, people don’t feel constricted based on a certain allocation of data less here in the US than they do outside of the US. So, the consumption of podcasts outside of the US is still dramatically less. And it will remain that way as long as the wireless operators maintain the business models that they have outside of the US.

Minter Dial: So I directed my question more to Spotify because I feel like they are the bigger. I think they’ve even had times where they’re ahead of apple iOS.

Rob Greenlee: Well, there’s two data points on that. Spotify may be ahead of Apple. This is based on survey data of sorts, so it’s speculative. Yeah, they may have more podcast users, so those that have listened to a podcast in some given period of time. But the difference is that there’s just more users using Android than there are iPhones. But like I was saying earlier, it’s really a. A market that Spotify is taken advantage of because Google decided to get out of supporting podcasts with the whole Google podcast platform. So, it really left the door open. And it continues to be the case that Spotify has benefited from really being the largest profile podcast provider on Android devices.

Minter Dial: Help me out with another thing, which is because I really, I don’t keep up enough of the weeds of this stuff, but if I’m a musician and my song gets streamed on Spotify, I feel like they’ve come to some kind of agreement that the musician ought to receive a couple of centimes for a thousand plays, something like that. Really? Load them, load them up, is it not? Yeah, exactly.

Rob Greenlee: Yeah.

Minter Dial: Oh, so exciting. Same for YouTube and stuff. But what is. Is it not feasible that Spotify would do the same, could have a paid listen process with podcasts?

Rob Greenlee: Well, they actually do have a premium plan that you can actually subscribe to a podcast and pay a monthly fee to listen to just for the podcast. Yeah. Some of the content on the platform is a premium model already, so that that’s going on. Apple has that as well, so. But most of those platforms, they basically, the content creator has to create the content and upload them to the platform directly, not via RSS, so they can handle that, that secure transaction of sorts.

Minter Dial: And presumably they want to keep it exclusive.

Rob Greenlee: Yeah, I mean, I think that’s the idea behind it. But you can, you know, take the same show and make it a premium on Apple and make it a premium on Spotify, too. So, it gives you access to all of the potential users or you can work with, like an audible or somebody like that to create the same kind of thing. And there are other companies that you can publish to, like, a Patreon or, and a whole bunch of others that enable you to create a, you know, a premium paid for monthly subscription access podcast of sorts. Right.

Minter Dial: So I want to get to video in a moment, but just before, in a question in my mind, I frequently spoke with my wife about. It is, in radio or podcasting, how important is the voice?

Rob Greenlee: When you say the voice, are you talking about the type of voice, or are you talking about the.

Minter Dial: The talent, the quality of the voice? The quality, as in the vocal cords, as opposed to the tone at which I speak? You know, I’m a snarky person or something like that. No, the tone of voice, I don’t.

Rob Greenlee: Think it’s valued as much as commercial radio or public radio valued it. I think the concept of everyone having a voice in podcasting has been the predominantly assumption, though I do see it as a. As a kind of form of quality content. Right. So, it’s a. It’s. It can be thought of as a gauge, right? I mean, certain people have easier to listen to voices than others. Right? So, there is a factor there that’s involved with it. But I do. I do think that there’s not a lot of data that shows that a, only a certain type of voice does well in podcasting. I’m not sure that that’s true. And I think also the audio quality is a, is a significant factor here, too, is, you know, what’s the quality of the recording? Right. What’s the recording environment? What’s the type of microphone that somebody’s using?

Minter Dial: What’s the level of output?

Rob Greenlee: Yeah. Right. And, yeah, I mean, volume level is very important in podcasting because a lot of people are listening to your content in potentially noisy environments. Right. On the bus or on the train or the airplane or something like that. And having good volume levels, good, clear content, you know, it can’t be painful to listen to. So, people will not listen if. If you don’t get to the point relatively quickly with your content. And it’s very helpful to tease what you want to talk about at the beginning of your show, because then it helps tell the audience, you know, listen up. This is what we’re going to talk about, so you can decide if you want to stay with us. So, that’s. That’s a key thing, too, in podcasting, right?

Minter Dial: Well, so in radio, often you’ll have heard, I’m sure, oh, I’ve got a face for radio. Right. And I know, Rob, that you are very keen on promoting the video side of things, or at least that’s what I’m expecting to hear from you. So, talk us through where we are. Why should podcasters be moving, switching or complementing with video?

Rob Greenlee: Well, this is, for me, this is kind of a long story, because when I started in podcasting, this medium was really viewed as kind of like a bucket full of options. RSS technically is capable of distributing video as well as audio, as well as, you know, word files and PDF’s and images and all sorts of stuff. So, it’s a, it’s a big bucket. This kind of syndication via RSS is capable of doing a lot, and Apple for many years supported PDF files as part of their podcast area. So, you could put up a video file, or you can put up an audio file, but then you could also post a PDF too. So, if, and that could have know deeper information and things like that. So, as I look at this, this medium and the spectrum of it, that’s how I, that’s the lens that I see this through. And. But what we saw back in like 2007 eight nine was a growth in video podcasting, which there were entire startup companies that were started, that were venture funded, that were their whole. What they did was they created video podcasts and that would be a video version distributed just like what we see today with predominantly audio. So, whole companies were started and eventually they were purchased by like the Discovery Channel network or whatever. And so there was a lot of consolidation. Then YouTube started in like 2007, and when YouTube started in offering free video hosting, a lot of video podcasters shifted their content over to YouTube. So, if you go back a long way on this. And then I started working at Microsoft at about 2008 or so, and that was during the heyday of video podcasting. And so I built a Zoom video podcast platform on Windows Media center, which was a video experience built on Windows for televisions. And so all that content that was available in the video podcast area in the Zoom platform, I transferred over to television experiences so you could kind of see how the early days of medium, audio and video were intertwined with each other. And audio has always been like maybe 60% of the market. But there was a time when video was like 40% of the market, the video podcasts side. So, as we kind of fast forward, YouTube got a lot of that content. And so what we saw is the industry shifting more towards thinking themselves as a audio only medium. And that’s kind of been where we have been for like the last ten plus years as thinking of ourselves as primarily an audio medium. And that played right in really to the desires and the expectations of the commercial radio and public radio industries, too, coming into this medium, really pushing on the audio side. And so we saw this emphasis, but then we saw, you know, over subsequent years, YouTube realized that, you know, maybe we can get a, get a piece of this podcast industry. And they started making some inroads and getting more involved in working with podcasters. And the last couple years, they’ve decided to, you know, call what’s, what is really essentially a playlist in their platform can be identified as a podcast playlist. Right. So, that took existing publishing of an episode into YouTube and converted it into this perception that it’s a podcast, but it’s not based on RSS, it’s not based on any of the, the early forming principles of what a podcast was. But nonetheless, the audience started to see and has continued to see content published on YouTube as looking like a podcast, sounding like a podcast, just like we are right now. If this was available on YouTube, I mean, it would be very easy assumption for the audience to say, well, that sounds like a podcast. Right?

Minter Dial: Well, and by the way, this will be on YouTube.

Rob Greenlee: Yeah, exactly. But it’s, but in a lot of cases, the, the shows that are made like this on YouTube are actually technically not a podcast. But that, that really doesn’t drive the impression that the audience has to, this being a podcast. So, increasingly, we’re seeing the audience view things that are created on YouTube as podcasts. So, this was just YouTube coming in saying, well, we’re seeing this in the data, so let’s embrace it. So. And that’s what they’ve done.

Minter Dial: So I have some, some of my podcasts that are up on YouTube were done post factum, in other words, without having a video recorded. But what I did is I would mount the audio on a static screen. And to my surprise, I have some of those that have been listened to over 10,000 times.

Rob Greenlee: Yeah. So, I got a lot of stuff that I’ve been publishing up to YouTube for, for years and years that been up like 1516 years. And they’ve got hundreds of thousands of plays just based on the duration that they’re up there. But they were never produced as a podcast. So, it was just a video program. Right? Yeah.

Minter Dial: So you, you had on your show Aldwyn Altooni, and you asked her what she had learned or about her approach that she’d taken to speaking to an audience. So, I thought I’d throw that one back at you, Rob.

Rob Greenlee: What, about what she said?

Minter Dial: No, no, no. About what you’ve learned in your approach. To speaking to an audience.

Rob Greenlee: Oh, okay. Yeah. I think I’ve evolved over the years to, to really kind of be more organic and spontaneous to, to how I, I create content. I’m not so much, my early days of creating content for the radio and, and subsequent, for my podcasts were extremely scripted, so I would plan out everything. I would have more than enough content that I could last it with the show beyond a guest that didn’t show up in the program.

Minter Dial: What?

Rob Greenlee: So, yeah, I’ve just learned to, over the years of being a stage presenter as well as a panelist and a moderator, to really be able to stay focused and to really speak off the cuff and be able to, to talk about my thoughts more than trying to script myself. And I think that’s a key skill. That is something that takes time to develop. It doesn’t come overnight. I mean, I struggled for a long time to try and do things without a script because I felt not as confident in my thoughts about things. And so I felt like I had to always have it pre planned. And I think what I found over the years is that I think the content that I make is actually a lot better when it’s not. But that doesn’t eliminate the need for preparation. I think preparation is still important. Doing research and becoming an expert on something is key to being able to make that successful. It’s just a matter of, you know, really working your way through that process and coming out on the other end confident that you’re going to get on camera or you’re going to get on microphone and you’re going to be able to talk about something that you learned, maybe recently. And that’s, and it comes from a passion. It doesn’t necessarily come from rote memorization. So, and I think that’s the, that’s the key thing about this.

Minter Dial: Yeah. So, it’s about understanding what you know and, and feeling something for what you know. And I would add, perhaps that you also need to know what you don’t know.

Rob Greenlee: Yeah. I think you have to be humble about things, too. Right.

Minter Dial: Strong limit on that because it’s very easy as we get older, acquire more expertise is to start thinking, well, thats like this and this. I can combine those two.

Rob Greenlee: Yeah. And you can be wrong. There’s no question. I think that there is a risk of giving your opinions beyond your knowledge. Right. And I think that there is an expectation that when youre, lets say, doing a show like this is that you have to come with the answers. Right. So, oftentimes you kind of come up with them off the top of your head, based on your own experience and your own thought process. And that isn’t always correct in the bigger picture of things, it’s the risk you take.

Minter Dial: So this is being live, and my light is going bonkers on me. That’s why I was getting it just now. Yeah, but that’s good. Anyway, that’s, the show must go on well, because this is recorded live, but it’s posted later. That’s a funny sort of thing. So, I wanted to ask you two more things. One is the role of AI in podcasting. Where do you see it happening now, and where do you see the potential, the greater potential for AI in podcasting?

Rob Greenlee: Wow. Where it is now is just a supporting player. It’s not a primary player in the podcast medium. So, that means helping creators create summaries of episodes, transcripts, making social media posts, making clips, making derivative content is really, and then also planning episodes. It’s possible to do that, creating show notes. It’s really a supportive role, but increasingly it’s becoming kind of an editing capability as well. So, you can add content to a video or you can remove it via AI. So, it’s becoming a multifaceted tool. And I do think that where it’s going is that we may create this kind of, this split market around content that’s created by AI and published by AI and content that’s created by humans and published by humans with maybe some AI assistance. So, I think that’s probably where we’re going. There has been some speculation. I’ve heard from others that have said that we will likely see kind of like premium content live more inside of the human created side, and more of the free content will exist on the AI generated side. And. And I don’t know how that’s going to really play out. Right. Humans are the ones that want to get paid. Now, granted, creators that are creating AI driven AI content are probably going to want to get paid, too, but I just don’t know how that’s, that model is going to work. I mean, is that content going to have to be labeled as AI generated content? Increasingly, the signs are that it will be, which means that the audience is going to know that this is AI content, and the audience is going to know that this other piece of content is produced by a human right. So, the audience is going to have to pick which side of the fence that they want to consume content on and which one has the most value for them. And so that’s kind of where we’re going with this. I hope that AI doesn’t entirely replace humans on the podcasting side or the content creation side. But I do think long term, looking out 1020 years, there’s a good chance that it could. Where does that leave us humans creating content? Are we just too flawed to be able to compete with AI? Because AI could be considered to be kind of perfect, has all knowledge, has all access to information, has all access to all of the presentation abilities and presentation skills, the graphics, the imagery, all that stuff that is required to produce. You know, it could be a movie, it could be a tv show, it could be. It could be an audiobook, it could be, you know, it could be anything that a human has created could be generated to perfection by an AI. So, that could be our future indeed.

Minter Dial: Well, it’s certainly a zone I’ve been playing around with as a writer and looking at content creation and what role should AI have in it? And then also the disclaimers, how much of a disclaimer do you want to go down?

Rob Greenlee: Can you trust that content coming out of an AI, too, right? What are its biases? We don’t really know the answer entirely to that, but I think we have a little bit of clue that maybe there can be some bias in AI.

Minter Dial: Well, the other point I want to get to is about brands, but this, for me, speaks to another type of topic, which is the notion of free speech. And whereas major media are beholden to regulations of a certain standard, and of course, podcast hosts are sort of getting scrutinized for what they allow and don’t allow. What do you think? Is podcasting going to be a venue where we can have more free speech?

Rob Greenlee: Well, it’s always been that. I think the question is, will that remain the case? Increasingly, we’re seeing content moderation come to proprietary platforms very rapidly, like Spotify and, and YouTube and these platforms that have their content guidelines. And if you break the content guidelines, then you get demonetized or you get taken down or whatever. And that is a form of content moderation that’s also coming to podcasting, really through advertising right now. There are what’s called brand safety, brand suitability platforms now that are evaluating and rating content in the podcasting space right now. And a lot of the advertising brands are using that rating, which is almost like a nutritional label of sorts. If, if you want to apply a kind of like a concept to what they’re doing, and if the brand doesn’t like the, the content of the, of the nutritional label, they will choose not to advertise so if you talk about, you know, certain political topics or you talk about certain other kind of social justice issues type topics, they can decide, well, it doesn’t align with our brand and we’re not going to advertise with you. So, that’s increasingly happening. Utilizing AI technology too. So. Right.

Minter Dial: To scan for it.

Rob Greenlee: Yep. And also it’s being used to find music on, on copyright too. And I think increasingly this technology is going to be used to find copyright infringement as well. Right.

Minter Dial: Well, last question then, Rob, is about the role or the potential for podcasting for brand marketers. I still feel like brands tend to go the advertising way. Got to sell, sell, sell. And whenever they do podcasting, it feels more like a radio show where it’s pushing out messages and sell, sell, sell. What do you see? Is there a good role for any good examples of good brands doing podcast?

Rob Greenlee: Yeah, I think this goes back to really the early days of why I got involved in even creating content online is this concept of kind of direct relationships with either consumers or a community around a topic or a brand. There are examples, there’s plenty of them out there, of successful company podcasts of sorts. Like a, like a Trader Joe’s podcast is a good example. It’s a storytelling podcast that tells the story of their trader Joe’s at the grocery store here in the US and their suppliers. So, it will go out and do an investigation of their suppliers of coffee, lets say. And theyll go out to the fields and theyll talk to the farmers that are growing the coffee and understand how they actually grow the coffee bean and what the environment is like and who the people are that are behind that product. And so youre seeing a lot of branded podcasts kind of like move towards in depth storytelling that is basically building kind of like a trust relationship between the brand and their customers by providing them more information about the product or the service that is being provided via that brand. And so it’s really helping that brand share educational information as well as kind of like brand relationship building information too. So, you have this, this synergy that happens between the company, the brand and its customers that maybe brings them a little closer together in a direct relationship. And that’s the most powerful kind of branded podcasts are able to facilitate that. It’s not always easy to do in every kind of a company or brand relationship, but I do think if you’re open to creating real content, not so much advertising content or promotional content. Right. I don’t think that works. I think most people like to listen to podcasts to listen to people. And so you have to make it about people, not about the brand. The brand is kind of like, you know, a supporting character to this. It’s not the primary. And that’s an example of helping that customer be a better customer of your, of your brand as well. How do they become more skilled in whatever their passion is as it relates to the services of the brand is it’s this value exchange that you’re trying to add value to your customer or your user base by providing them information that can help them be successful. And thus that customer base or that community gets a feeling of trust that goes back to the brand because of that. And I think if you can foster that, then it all works.

Minter Dial: Trey, so you said trust. A good moment to flip into one of your other products, the trust factor. Tell us a little bit about that and then we’re going to sign off with where people can go catch you up and hear your other shows and whatever you’re up to.

Rob Greenlee: Yes, I started a show, this is probably about a year ago or so called trust factor. And it’s basically a show talking about the challenges that we have in our world right now around this concept of trust and how trust is something that we all, I think, strive towards trying to achieve in our lives for obvious benefit. Right. We want to know who we’re working with, who we’re listening to is actually kind of telling us the truth and what is the reality that we can trust, right? What is the direction of the world and is it something that we can trust? So, you get all sorts of layers on top of that, and I do think it’s probably that. And plus, truth and trust are very much intertwined to each other. So, that’s one of the key struggles that we have in our society and our culture on a global scale is do we trust what we’re being told? Do we trust people in our lives? Do we trust because we’re accessing information now that our society has really not ever had full access to before, which is this full spectrum of speculation and this full spectrum of, of people telling us what they’re saying is true and what they’re saying is valid in the hopes that it will create trust? I think that’s the ambition. What we have to decide is whether or not we agree with that. And what’s that methodology that we all have to think in our minds about how we do that in the world of maybe where we really can’t trust anything that we hear. We’re going to have to decide in our own mind, what’s true and what’s false. William.

Minter Dial: And in the year that you’ve been doing the show, Rob, to what extent has the concept of trusting yourself preceded the ability to trust others?

Rob Greenlee: Well, I think you have to, probably, and I had, my last guest that I had on the episode really shared this concept with them, is that you really can’t trust anyone else. The only thing that you can trust is yourself and your. Your own perception of your own reality and what makes sense to you. I think all of us need to take responsibility for seeing the world, taking in all this information, and then making up our own minds about what we believe or what we don’t believe. And I think, you know, if you even look at, like, religion is a good example of it, it’s based on belief. Right? So. But oftentimes there’s conflicting information, and all we have is our belief because the information is contradictory, so, or not proven right, or not proven so. But. But yet we’re expected to make a decision. Right. And sometimes the only way that we can make a decision is. Is through this concept of belief. Belief is kind of, like a little bit of a vector towards this concept of trust. Right. So, yeah.

Minter Dial: Just before thinking, well, you have the notion of trusting yourself. So, you have independent thinking that allows me to trust that I believe in what I believe. And then there’s notions of truth and this trust concept. But I also was wondering about this notion of. And I’ve heard some. Maybe it’s in films more than in real life, but people who say, well, I don’t even trust myself. And so to the extent that they may not know themselves, know thyself or trust themself, doesn’t that then make it complicated to try? Because if you don’t even know how to trust yourself, you don’t even want to know yourself. How do you have a relationship? How do you garner trust? Take trust?

Rob Greenlee: Yeah. I mean, I think it’s a terrific question, because what it does is it challenges you to really understand yourself. And I think that a lot of people have a hard time doing that. They don’t maybe trust their own instincts about things, or maybe they’ve been deceived and what they believe is not really true. I think, you know, that is the challenge of the day, is that if we have a certain amount of beliefs that have come from others telling us things, then maybe those beliefs that we have are not grounded in our own beliefs, in our own trust in ourselves. They may be transplanted onto someone else and their thoughts and that’s not really true to who we are. So, I think that is the challenge of the day, is being able to critically look at your beliefs and look at the beliefs of others and make that critical judgment based on what the available information is and pull it from a variety of different sources to verify or to, you know, bunk it or whatever, you know, you know, to not believe it because people will tell you stuff that they think is right, but it may not pass the test. Right. And each one of us needs to come up with whatever that test is. And I think that’s. That’s what we have to decide.

Minter Dial: And going down that rabbit hole, as I am with you, Rob, the. The extent to which the. The thing you are trusting is extrinsic coming from someone else. Someone tells you this fact and this belief, then you. You start believing it, and then the. This belief becomes existential.

Rob Greenlee: Yeah.

Minter Dial: And yet you have absolutely no control over it because it’s not yours, it’s. It’s someone else’s. But you’ve put emphasis on this thing, and this is who I am through this belief that I was passed on to. And you never did the self check, you never did the self knowledge. And that, for me, that gap there, that starts to become a significant problem. And relationships.

Rob Greenlee: Yeah. I mean, I think it really challenges individuals to get clear on their own values. I mean, I’ve gone through a lot of changes myself on this point over the last couple of years, too. I think it all started coming out of the pandemic and kind of challenging my own perceptions of reality. And really, and I think it’s also vectored with kind of the generation that I’m in as well. And then also my age and my experience in life and things like that. All those are factors in seeing the world through a certain kind of view. And I think the older you get, the more kind of hardened that you get to things. But nonetheless, being able to open up and see the world, maybe. Maybe look at the world more objectively, but also more critically at the same time, and be open to different ways of looking at things, because your perceptions may be inverse of what the real truth is. And that’s challenging. And it also causes problems in families and in relationships to make changes like that, too.

Minter Dial: Well, as my mentor told me, change is for sure.

Rob Greenlee: Yeah. Right. That’s the only thing you can really count on. Right.

Minter Dial: But growth is challenging.

Rob Greenlee: Yeah.

Minter Dial: That’s the thing we can look for. Rob, lovely, great, circuitous, fun, interesting chat. Tell us now, where can people go and find you? Track you down, listen to what you produce. What are the best ways we engage with you in your content?

Rob Greenlee: Yeah, I do basically three shows right now. I’ve been doing them for, for a while now. One is the new media show. You can see that over my shoulder if you’re watching the video of this. It’s at it’s, it’s a live show on all the social platforms, you know, YouTube and LinkedIn and Facebook and all those as well. It’s a, it’s basically a topic show every Wednesday at three p 03:00 p.m. typically eastern. But here for the next month or so, it’s going to be at 08:00 p.m. eastern on Wednesdays. And it’s a live show talking about the podcast industry. Right. And the growth and development of the industry and the direction that it’s going and all of the kind of hot issues in the medium that content creators and the media companies are all wrestling with at the time. That’s that show. And then I do another show called podcast Tips, and that’s off of my, off of my YouTube channel, which is just robgreenlee on YouTube. And that’s, that’s available. That show used to be a live streaming show off of the Streamyard, live streaming channels. But I’ve taken that back into my own channels here as of last week. And I do another show called Spoken Life. And that’s, that’s primarily just an audio podcast. But I, I have put out a video episode or two on that on YouTube as well. So, so those are the main ones that I’m doing right now. So, who knows what I’m going to do in the next couple months. But that’s, that’s keeping me busy right now. The podcast tips show is basically a show talking about tips on how to podcast.

Minter Dial: And then you got, of course, the.

Rob Greenlee: Trust factor and the Trust Factor program, right, which is primarily, that’s actually an audio podcast and a YouTube program. So.

Minter Dial: Yeah, well, so when you say YouTube, that would be a video.

Rob Greenlee: Video. It’s definitely a video. It’s more of a video first show is the trust factor. So, that’s, that’s what I create on that, where the spoken life is kind of an audio first and then the podcast tips is kind of a video first, but they’re also audio and video podcasts as well. So, you can get the content on Apple Podcasts as well.

Minter Dial: It reminds me of this thought, be digital first and then be cloud first. Now be AI first.

Rob Greenlee: Yeah. Oh, go ahead. Yep.

Minter Dial: I was just going to say, I was going to thank you, but go ahead, finish up.

Rob Greenlee: Yeah, I was just going to say, I do think as a content creator, that you do lean one way or the other. So, as I’ve talked about in the show today, I’ve talked about creating video in the podcasting space and then audio and that kind of contrast. I do like the combination of the two, but I think as a content creator, you do lean towards audio or video oftentimes as your primary. So, I think you do need to probably think about where your primary content is being produced and how you’re distributing it, and then add the other part of it as an additional layer to it to build kind of connection with audiences that like audio or like, like video. So, anyway, that’s kind of to kind of wrap up that concept.

Minter Dial: Well, it’s certainly, I think I started audio, and maybe, like you said before, I feel like that’s the space, but I’ve added on video. Hey, listen, Rob, merci. Thank you very much for coming on. Be in touch, stay well, and I look forward to meeting in real.

Rob Greenlee: All right, terrific. I appreciate you having me on the show. Minter. It’s great to speak with you here. Thanks.

Minter Dial

Minter Dial is an international professional speaker, author & consultant on Leadership, Branding and Transformation. After a successful international career at L’Oréal, Minter Dial returned to his entrepreneurial roots and has spent the last twelve years helping senior management teams and Boards to adapt to the new exigencies of the digitally enhanced marketplace. He has worked with world-class organisations to help activate their brand strategies, and figure out how best to integrate new technologies, digital tools, devices and platforms. Above all, Minter works to catalyse a change in mindset and dial up transformation. Minter received his BA in Trilingual Literature from Yale University (1987) and gained his MBA at INSEAD, Fontainebleau (1993). He’s author of four award-winning books, including Heartificial Empathy, Putting Heart into Business and Artificial Intelligence (2nd edition) (2023); You Lead, How Being Yourself Makes You A Better Leader (Kogan Page 2021); co-author of Futureproof, How To Get Your Business Ready For The Next Disruption (Pearson 2017); and author of The Last Ring Home (Myndset Press 2016), a book and documentary film, both of which have won awards and critical acclaim.

👉🏼 It’s easy to inquire about booking Minter Dial here.

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