Seven years ago, Andy & John started The Purple Rock Survivor Podcast after meeting each other in an online forum. It is – in their words, not mine – “The smartest, funniest, most humble, and best Survivor podcast on the internet.” As a massive Survivor nerd myself, I tend to agree, and I consider their spoiler-free complete season ranking to be the absolute truth.
In this episode, Andy and John share…
- How they met and started their Survivor podcast 7 years ago
- How they manage production with a group of 4-6 people per episode, none of whom live in the same place
- How online forums have played a big role in their podcast growth
- Why they don’t interview many Survivor players (by choice)
- How they keep their community engaged beyond the podcast (like their Survivor fantasy league)
- The importance of having a real point of view as a podcaster
- Why more women aren’t getting into podcasting
- How they keep things fun (because isn’t that the point?) 🙂
“We have a particular point of view, and we’re not afraid to share it. And I think that’s what’s necessary if you want to do something like this.”
-Andy, the talkative one from The Purple Rock Survivor Podcast
NOTE: This podcast was transcribed by a free AI tool called Otter.ai. Please forgive any typos or errors.
Melissa Guller 0:00
Welcome to Wit & Wire the podcast that takes you behind the scenes to learn how to start and grow a successful podcast that makes an impact. I'm your host, Melissa Guller. And in each episode of Wit & Wire, I invite fellow podcasters and industry experts to share their best tips, resources and strategies for podcasters of all experience levels.
Today we're spotlighting the panel format. In a panel style show, you have roughly three to five voices who regularly appear on the podcast like a morning talk show, a round table, or a relaxed living room hanging out with friends kind of vibe. This is part three of our five part spotlight series on podcast formats, and you can check out the rest through the link in the show notes or by heading to witandwire.com/12. To help us learn more about the panel format.
Today I have with me Andy and John from the Purple Rock Survivor Podcast which is in their words, not mine, the “smartest, funniest, most humble and best Survivor podcast on the internet.” As a massive Survivor nerd myself, I tend to agree. And I consider their spoiler free, complete season ranking to be the absolute truth. I’ll throw a link in the show notes. Andy and John are two fans of the CBS reality TV show Survivor who met online and through a series of escalating jokes and dares, wound up making a podcast about it. Against all odds, they’re somehow still doing it seven years later.
Melissa Guller 1:29
Andy, John, welcome to the podcast.
Thank you for having me.
So we're able to talk about one of my other favorite topics, which is me and things I do. So I'm really excited for the opportunity.
Melissa Guller 1:41
Perfect right in that sweet spot. So I want to just kind of start at the beginning. I know you guys met online, but what's the story?
So we met on a website. That's already sounds a lot more interesting. It is. So many media websites out It's called the AV club. It was an offshoot of the onion. They had a TV club where they would break down episodes of television shows. And they had a very healthy consumer commenter base of which we were participants. And they were covering Survivor and myself, John, several others, it's probably about 10 to 15 commenters who are regularly filling that comment board up and from there, it was just kind of like you got to know the same people. John and i started then following each other on Twitter because our like shared interests extended just passed Survivor as well to like, things like the NBA in that. And you know, we would dm about stuff like that. And then eventually, we decided to have a podcast.
Melissa Guller 2:47
I kind of reject the idea of having interests beyond Survivor but to each their own.
I mean, a lot of our audience rejects that same premise. But one of the things that happened with us is that through those DMS we were would keep, like going on and on about the show to the point that it became a running joke. Save it for the podcast. And at a certain point, save it for the podcast actually materialized in the form of a podcast.
Yeah, like it used to be the joke that we would tell like that we would know we were way too far gone in like our Survivor fandom in the passion for this when we would start a podcast. It's like, that's when we know that like, things have gone way too far. And that's where the joke would come from. And we would just keep joking like that until lo and behold, and it was like it was like this, like, almost like a daring thing. Like Ah, that'd be insane. Why would we do that? But if we did that, we should call it this. Oh, that's a great name. But of course we would never do it. Oh, and then just in case we ever wanted to just I don't know it's play out. I bought a microphone like it was just this escalating series of dares until one day. We were for the first time ever talking to each other right before we decided to record a podcast.
Melissa Guller 3:54
How? What was the moment where you finally like took the plunge and one of us Finally, like cross that line,
I think was Was it me that bought the microphone first? I think you actually might have already had one. And I said, Well, you know, I could buy one. And then I did. And then from that point, I think we started talking actual logistics until it sort of willed itself into existence.
Yeah, I do marketing for a living. So I already had access to a microphone. It wasn't mine. It was a company one, but I it was at my desk. I could use it when I needed to. And yeah, and then we were like, Okay, well, then this will be what the podcast is. And this will be the sort of things we'll do and it was all leading up to the start of a Survivor season. I believe that's the 27th season. I'm not so good with numbers, but it was a Survivor blood versus water. It was like seven years ago, and I'm like, Well, you know what, it'd be funny. We'll make one show. We'll just do a preview for that season. And I think we had like one other comment or on as a guest, if we didn't the first one. We did the second one. We're like, and we'll just like post it wherever. Like, I think I found a free podcast site and just throw it out there. And we're like, yeah, 1012 people in the comments will listen, they'll think it's funny that the thing we kept joking about became a thing. Like it was just going to be an in joke. And then we did it. And then we did it after week one, and then we did it after week two, and then yeah, we kept doing it. So for like seven years.
And I think part of the surprise was when we did that first one. I think that free podcasting site did have some metrics and we got several hundred listens, which was far far more than we expected.
Melissa Guller 5:38
Wow, do you know how people were finding you?
At first it had only been through like the AV club I we started like a Twitter account to promote it. We started a Tumblr account just because we were just looking for things to start not really the the appropriate venue or audience. We let that one die pretty quickly, but and then like John did a little bit of advertising like not paid Advertising but like he would go out to like where other Survivor fans were. But I don't even know if we did it on the first one I know like through the first season like he would post like Survivor Reddit, and that sort of thing. But I think a lot of it was just organic from like other commenters and AV club.
Melissa Guller 6:17
I feel like the world of like forums and comments, it's so powerful like Reddit and everywhere else like that, because that's where people love the thing that you love. And so I'm sure they were so excited to see a podcast, they could tune in feel like they were just chatting with you guys.
I think part of it is that you don't recognize how many lurkers there are on any given forum or comments section. Even if you just look at our website, you look at the amount of comments that we have. And you think, oh, that we have a fairly well developed community. But then you look at our traffic numbers for the podcasts and the website itself and it's far far greater like an exponentially larger, it's a shock.
Melissa Guller 6:57
Are you comfortable sharing any of those numbers with us?
Sure. Let's see website wise, I think we just crossed over 3 million views very fairly recently. podcast listens, we, I think this past season, we cracked like the 5000 per episode, mark at several points. I think this season that was a bit of a jump over recent seasons, we've generally been, I think, three to 4000. And I don't know if it was just the appeal of this particular season or because it was an all winter season for those who are not Survivor fans that are listening to this. Whether it was that or it was just continued organic growth, I don't know. But we definitely increased our audience this season.
One caveat that we should mention is that we don't have like exact metrics for our lessons. There's a bit of a formula that we put together to get an estimate. And you know, we could get into it if that's a level of interest you have but we don't pay like for churches. podcasting host. So we don't get good metrics. What but yeah, we do have to pay for bandwidth, then we can, you know, figure out things from there. Is that accurate done when I'm confident? I
Yeah, I mean, what we were essentially do is, I can tell, basically how many times a certain file has been downloaded through some quick math on my end from the storage, which we use Amazon for storage, if that matters.
Melissa Guller 8:27
I think that's super helpful. I think just having even the rough numbers is useful to hear. And you guys have been doing this for, you know, seven years, like you said, and I think that that obviously, adds up over time to now I also noticed you mentioned, you know, this was a pretty big Season Season 40 winners at war. We won't get too nerdy. We will talk a little bit of Survivor today. But I do think that other listeners might be interested in starting podcasts about maybe their TV show that they love, or maybe even a book series or something that's you know, regularly producing new content. So I'm curious to hear Do you have any Maybe advice around things that are working for you guys or definitely didn't work for you.
I think the biggest thing is you need to have a take. You know, it can't just be that you love the thing that you're doing because everybody loves some things. Maybe if it's like a really neat and obscure thing, then you might be the only voice out there. Turns out that's not true of Survivor, John and i just didn't even bother to look, we knew that there was a major Survivor podcast when we started and it was the one that I'd listened to a bit and that be from former Survivor player, Rob Cesternino, who's been able to make like an actual profession out of this. But we didn't know that there was like, I don't know, 1015 other ones when we started and I think at some point, it feels like there's 30 or so. So it's like a crowded market space from that point. But I think we're Why are we separate ourselves is that we have a particular point of view, and we're not afraid to share it. And I think that's kind of what necessary it's like if you want to do something like this, you guys I think like, what do you bring to it? What perspective can you share? In our case? I think it's loudness. For me anyway.
I think part of what happened early on for us, and I don't remember the exact moment that it was, but fairly early on. I think we recorded a podcast and we said something vaguely political in the podcast and had a discussion afterwards. Like, is that something we should edit out? You know? And then at a certain point over the discussion, we realized, no, we're trying to cultivate an audience that this is a hobby for us. We want to be able to talk back and forth with an audience. So if we lose some people, if we alienate some people, I don't know that it matters to us, particularly because it's a hobby. I mean, if it's a business, maybe the consideration is a little bit different. But for us, you know, we didn't want to feel like we had to censor ourselves. Like Andy said, having your own opinions that you feel passionate about is an important thing. And so We just went with it. And it has certainly paid off for us. We've gotten the audience that we wanted. Mm hmm.
Melissa Guller 11:07
And I know I'm just talking with the two of you today, but there are certainly many more people who are involved in your podcast, too. So can you talk a little bit more about the other voices that kind of come in and out of your show?
Yeah, so that actually expanded. First day again, it was just me and John, you know, goofing off. Yeah, finalizing the dare that we'd put in for for each other. And then, and most of our like, podcast was just it was a podcast, and we would advertise it in other people's spaces, including the AV club. After a while, we're like, Well, for one that's not cool to constantly be like, Hey, you know, look, I'm looking at us instead of this thing that's actually paying for this space. So we wanted to flesh out our website a bit more, to have it provide content more than just the RSS feed of our podcasts. So we become pretty friendly with two other commenters. From the Survivor AV club message board. And we it just made sense for us to ask them because we were already like we're email chatting. And this is how long ago and perhaps a revealing of how old we are that we were literally using like email chains to communicate some shameful shameful to think about now, or like, Hey, would you guys be interested in like expanding our web content? You know, we're going to keep doing the podcast. In fact, we'd been approached by like other websites of like, Hey, would you want to do your podcast here, but like, now we're gonna do our own thing. And so they found roles within the website and John and i also like now provided extra content roles within the website. And then it just made sense. And it would be fun to have them on the show is like, you know, if there was ever just a guest, like a third person, or if one of us could make it, and that expanded to more regular appearances. Sometimes we would do offseason content that would be you know, maybe one of us with them. I think there might have even been, that was probably always at least one of us. For a while, and then after a while, frankly, we were getting burnt out of discussing Survivor. The seasons hadn't been good in a while. And as an alternative of just quitting altogether, we're like, let's turn this podcast into like a full, like, multi rotating host thing. Yeah. So it wasn't just us. They know, there'll be shows when neither John and i were there. And it's how we expanded it all kind of expanded, just like these are other people that we really enjoy talking about this thing with.
Yeah, and it's similar to how Andy and I started just, we wanted to talk to people who had interesting opinions, strong opinions, passionate opinions, and it started with just Madden ama, but from there, you know, we had that website going and we got some of our commenters to write some content for us. We had a few of them come on as podcast guests. And then eventually, one or two of them, became essentially staff for us not that they're paid because we Aren't either, but they got to then come on the podcast more regularly. And we continue to pull people from especially if there is a given topic on a Survivor episode that one of our commenters might be more knowledgeable about than we are. We try to involve them in the podcast if we can.
Melissa Guller 14:19
I think that's a really cool part about having more people involved in this kind of like panel rotating format is that some of you probably have certain knowledge about maybe different seasons, different players. And like you said, I think the burnout can get real. So definitely a huge advantage to have more people to share the workload.
Yeah, and it's a bit of a mixed bag. Like the concern we had when you know, we turned it over is like, how much of people's expectation for a podcast is to hear a particular voice a particular presentation. I know like there are podcasts I listened to there's like I want to hear the host opinion. And if suddenly it became like a thing where I don't know which hosts it is every week. I was concerned with that. would be, but the alternative was no show. And I do think there's also a strength like, you know, like Emma and I have a lot of similar opinions about things and weird ways, even though I'm like 100 years older than her, but it's still different. She has a different perspective. So it's, I think, I think, especially like our core audience, I think they like hearing other perspective. Also, most of them like her better period.
Yeah, we tend to be trolling our own audience and letting them troll us. So it's a loving trolling relationship. But I think you know, the perspective like something that just a random fact that Emma provided, were watching Survivor, and she talks about how, you know, it's unfair, that these women's shorts don't have pockets. This is not a thing that I as a male would have ever noticed. So it was nice to have that voice that has the experience to say like, Hey, this is something you guys are not paying attention to and noticing it was relevant to an episode, but we would not have caught that.
Yeah. Like, not only are we men we're like, middle aged white guy. So we're used to wearing shorts with far more pocket space than we require. So it's just like that's a perspective right there.
Melissa Guller 16:08
Yeah, the podcast perspective, I think is fine, not just for listeners, but I'm sure for you guys to, to in the moment react to me like, Oh, this pocket thing I've never thought about before.
Yeah, I think it's a nice way of saying that John, and I probably got sick of talking to each other. Right. So
I mean, and also it is just nice sometimes to get some perspectives that we otherwise might not have gotten. And we've tried to extend that beyond just we joked at one point that a mo was just there to be the token chick, which obviously is not true. She calls herself that. But what we actually tried to do is involve voices we had a an episode of Survivor that covered trans issues. We tried to get some someone from the LGBTQ community to talk about those issues and write things for our site. It just when things come up, that we You might like a different perspective on it's nice that we have that community that we can pull from.
Melissa Guller 17:05
Hmm, I think that's really great. Are there any other maybe pros or fun parts about having so many people involved, or maybe some cons that we haven't talked about yet?
I can give you a con. One thing is when you try to do a large scale project, and we've done several over the years, you know, it'll be like the 40 greatest or the 30 grade, whatever it might be. It's an ongoing, multi part project. It can be very frustrating to have a large pool of people that you're essentially delegating work to and having to check in on and babysit and come back to over and over. It is nice to get the perspective but at the same time for your hobby. You don't want to necessarily be investing as much managerial energy as you might with your profession.
Yeah, becomes this weird thing because it's like yeah, are you Including people. And that's nice, or are you including people to provide you free labor? And it's the same thing. Like, as John was saying, I don't want to be a project manager with a thing. I'm just kind of doing for fun. And then how demanding Can I be of people giving their time for free? Because Yeah, should we keep repeating this and we can discuss the bar, but God, this is not my revenue generating vehicle. For us. It's a, that was a conscious choice that we've made. So it's like, yeah, it's funny, but in terms of pros, like, this is why we do it, we do it, because it's a fun way to express our fandom with similarly minded people, you know, prior to the podcast, and maybe even before that prior to like, finding each other through the comment board. Survivor was a show that we watched that for a lot of us we didn't know anybody else in our real lives who did you know, like, my wife watches with me. But that's it. I don't go around telling people in my real life. That I watched Survivor not because it's a source of shame, but it's because like, it's not like it's not as popular as it used to be. It's it's not something you can totally find some some nuts I think, to get into some of your earlier questions why, you know, maybe starting up a podcast about your fandom could be a fun thing is that you can find other fans and you can kind of unite in that fandom. I
Melissa Guller 19:23
think that's a great point. And podcasting, I think is really fun. And like you said, you guys are going to just you know, getting together talking about the latest episode, especially if you don't have other people around you physically. Now, with podcasting, you could talk to anybody, anywhere. And I think that, you know, often we do focus on numbers and metrics, and I am going to ask a little bit about monetization. But like, this is supposed to be fun. It's supposed to be you know, something you enjoy.
Well, I mean, it can go both ways. Like we are not opposed to the idea of people being paid for their labor, of, you know, talent making money on that. Yeah, especially not John. He's an incredible guy. capitalist in these in many respects, but we just found and honestly, it was a question when we grew up, you know, how much more do we want to grow the audience like what do we want to pursue? And I think we both just came to the realization that like, we just want this to be fun. And you know, again, other people, even other Survivor podcasters have found ways to monetize. And I don't object to that at all. But I think we found for ourselves, it's like, yeah, once you have to turn, you know, your your side hobby into a side gig. It's a gig and gigs are jobs, and we got jobs. We do this for when we're not on jobs. And you know, that's just a perspective we have for this.
Yeah. And there's there's also been other if it were a profession and a revenue generating thing that I cared about making money from. There's definitely some avenues that I would pursue that I'm not pursuing because it's additional labor that I don't feel passionate enough about, like I could definitely we could go on YouTube. We could get Growing audience there we do, we could do a lot of different things that we're not necessarily doing. Mostly because we're kind of happy with where we're at. And I don't know that we want to change what we have, just to grow, we want, we want to grow the way that we want to grow.
But to be clear, we actually do post the web, the podcast on YouTube, you can subscribe there youtube.com over I podcasts, but we don't make like YouTube exclusive content it most of it isn't even video driven. So frankly, It surprises me that people want to sit there hit play on an audio only experience or YouTube for an hour. But hey, that's where some audience we're, basically we're there because somebody asked us to be real. Okay, that's not that much more work. Sure. We should also point out that part of this is like, because John and I come from a position of privilege, like we're both, you know, white collar professionals. We don't have to like find like side hustles to try and like pay our rent and that sort of thing. So There's the idea that like, we're not interested in making that money, some of it is because we're in a place where we can.
Melissa Guller 22:06
Yeah, I think like an overall good takeaway from this is that, of course, we all need to earn our own living, but not everything we do has to be. That means to the end. And hobbies, I think, are very healthy for adults, like we should have some things that don't bring money, but bring joy or bring some other kind of thing. And so just the self awareness, I think, is the key thing.
And that's exactly it. For me at a certain point, it's like, well, you know, I would rather view this as a hobby, because then if the hobby stops being fun, it's a lot easier to quit. If it's a job, I have to take into consideration a lot more than I do with giving up a hobby.
Yeah. And then the other thing to consider is that we have expanded this out to we have what we call six staff and we unfortunately came up with a term staff as a joke, but also because it was like a useful identifier more than say, like moderator or something was, especially when like, we weren't all podcasts When it was just the two of us, and then other people doing work. So not only would we need to like generate enough revenue for the gig, we would have to find a way to equitably share it amongst those people. Because Yeah, there would be no scenario where we'd start pulling in money, just John and i and be like, hey, Matt, Brad, and Mark, you guys have fun, keep doing work for us. So, just with all that in consideration, we were like, it's, we're okay.
Melissa Guller 23:28
We're okay. And to kind of just wrap up this money, part of the conversation, I know on your site, you do have like support with Amazon and some swag. Does that at all help maybe cover the cost of some of your production or it sounds like it's not a huge revenue generator, but still, it's there. So I'm curious to ask about it,
as well. I'll let I'll let Andy talk about the swag thing first, because that's his baby. And then I'll take over for the Amazon and related costs and revenues. Yeah, it's a bit related.
The swag came about again, like a lot of things. People were asking for it. Our audience were young. They said they wanted to for one summer, they wanted to find a way to support the podcast. And they were international listeners. So the Amazon link wasn't a good for them. When amazon link doesn't help me, I'm an international listener. So I was like, okay, but like, I'm not going to print up a bunch of T shirts and store them and stuff. And they said, they wanted to wear them for like, Survivor like live events they were attending, they wanted to kind of represent so found the red bubble site and put it up there. And because I was really only thinking of very specific audience members who said they wanted it and people I kind of consider, you know, internet friends. I set the percentage of money we get at the like, lowest point like, lower than what the recommended was. So no, it has an offset cost at all. In fact, you know, after first I had set up coming to me and I think we got Yeah, I don't want to say how much but less than Healthy allowance for a teenager. And then recently, I was like, You know what? All we're selling here is the artwork of the website, which is all done by staff member, Mark. He's created like our graphic design or logo because that's what he does professionally. He's done it for us for free, or something like you take the account. So whatever money now is coming in is going into his paypal account. And hopefully it's bought him a coffee or two.
Yeah, I can say that the Amazon link. I actually, I started that only because I'd had some experience doing websites in the past. So initially, we did get a decent amount with that, but with Amazon referral stuff over time, once the algorithm texts that you're getting the same customers, you start getting declining revenue from it. So yeah, initially, it definitely offset costs. I don't know and I'd love to Give you an exact dollar figure, I'll ballpark it at say we were getting, I don't know, 10 to 20 bucks a month, it wasn't a lot. And then it started to trail off. And now it's pretty minimal. I'm definitely paying more to Amazon than I am getting back from Amazon. Yeah. Aren't we all?
Very true in so many ways. One thing we should note is and John would be able to speak to this better than I did. And this may be this will be interesting to listeners. A lot of the structural decisions we've made for like half an hour show delivering that sort of thing were made with budgetary reasons in mind, so John, because he's good at this stuff has done a lot of things to keep what we pay fairly low.
Yeah, I don't know if you want to go into the specifics of how much it costs to run a website slash podcast. If that's appealing to you at all.
Melissa Guller 26:58
Maybe you can just give Like, what are some of the biggest expenses? You don't even have to give numbers? But I'd love to you guys run so much more than a podcast too. So I think a little bit of a peek could be really helpful.
Okay. Yeah, the probably the biggest expense is just the hosting of the audio files for the podcast. Because we host with Amazon. And they do charge you based on how often those are accessed. So that's how I generally get my metrics of how many downloads we get. But we, as we've gotten more popular, this has become a more expensive hobby. To the point that you know, it in the beginning, it was I want to say in the teens per month.
Oh, no. Did we lose John, I don't want to talk about money.
Melissa Guller 28:01
It’ll be like bleeping out the number.
Big Amazon was here. No, we do not discourage people from podcasting. No.
So I think the ongoing expense of hosting the audio I in the range of 40 to 60. And then website itself is is pretty cheap just because again, as Andy mentioned, I am an ardent capitalist and find the best deals and negotiate for such things. Amazon is less prone to negotiate with you. So you may want to if you're, if you're looking for a place to haggle, I would suggest moving away from Amazon for hosting your audio files. No.
But yeah, we did it this way. Because Yeah, we're not paying for metrics or you know, like site hosting. We actually I can't even remember the site we first set up and because again, we were like, this is goofy thing who would even listen to it. And then probably after three episodes, we'd exceeded the allowable bandwidth for free options like oh, okay, yeah. And that's it. And I'm sure you've talked about this before, it's something we've talked about when people have asked like, we're thinking of starting up a podcast is, it will cost. And that's something if you have any level of success added anyway, it will cost and that's something you have to kind of prepare for. And it's probably better when you start out. And this has learned from experience of doing it the other way of finding a scalable solution in case you do get an audience and you know, we can't simply you know, automatically plan that you're going to have thousands of people listening right off the bat. But you don't want to get into just pick the quickest, easiest solution first, only to realize that if this thing does succeed, at any level, it will become much more expensive than you were planning to spend. Because it wasn't easy moving from place to place as we did at the very beginning.
Yeah, there were a lot of bugs along the way as we transitioned. I think you know, if this is something you're not Sure how high you're going to scale up, just start with YouTube, just because it's a very low level of commitment. And again, YouTube is, is has the resources to easily scale up to accept any size audience you get. And then you can always branch out from there.
Melissa Guller 30:17
Definitely. And I'll include some links in the show notes too, in case people want to test out some free or very cheap hosting solutions. Now, I realized earlier I wanted to ask you about how you record like when Survivors and season of course it's coming out every week. So what's the what's the system? How do you guys get together? Do you do it like immediately? What's the deal?
Okay, so we have a slack that we use for all of us that we call staff, even though we are not paid. And there are six of us in there. We'll discuss show topics. The timing of the recording rarely changes very much. It's generally the day after the show, and it's in the evenings because Andy and I both have children. I need to record after mine are asleep. And so we generally do fairly late eastern time that we record. And it's kind of beneficial to us only because going a day after the show allows you to see some of the things being talked about within Twitter, the community on our own website, the things that people are most interested in. And so we can respond A day later with that information.
Yeah, like a structural hurdle you have to overcome is that we're in two different time zones. So that becomes a problem with like, one, two, and that's what makes like y'all immediately post show impossible. John is asleep before I have watched Survivor on most nights because I don't even get to watch it as it's like airing. I wait until my kids are asleep and then watch it on my DVR. So like I mean, among our audience, I'm one of the last people to see it. But I do think that's an advantage because for one, there are instant reaction points. out there, they will deliver that for the audience who looks for it. Our website has a very healthy instant, like reaction commenting, where like pretty much every episode goes up there were like around 1000 comments. So people going in there that kind of gives you an idea of the robustness of the community. But because we are just a fan podcast, we actually don't have any level of expertise on this show at all other than we watch it a lot. And we think about it. We don't interview Survivors as a conscious choice we made we have in the past, we might, again, everyone's Well, if it's somebody we really interested in talking to. But there are plenty of other podcasts that actually have people who were there. But what we can't the experience that we do have and the thing we can relate to is what it's like to be a fan of the show. And so for there, it's helpful to have fan feedback and fan conversation to drive our conversation and I think some people might think maybe even me, especially the baby sometimes I go to deep into the fan reaction. But I think it's because that's the area that interests me kind of getting earlier have a perspective. Well, my perspective is I know what fans are like. And I know what fans of this show is like. So I can speak to that much more than I can speak to what it's like behind the scenes of a television show that I've never been on.
Melissa Guller 33:20
I think that's a really good example from before, when you mentioned having a take, like being the podcast that interviews the actual Survivors versus being like the podcast of fans, and it's like, what are people talking about? What was the controversial thing that happened? I think that's a maybe a helpful way to tangibly explain what we were talking about earlier.
And I think one of the things that, you know, it, it was probably not possible in all forms of fandom, but because it is a reality show. It Be quite easy. If we wanted to access some of these people to talk to them about their experiences. It's just that generally that is not Our greatest interests, I know there are a lot of podcasts that desperately want to have you interview as many Survivors as they can. It's not really our thing. And, you know, if you're covering a, if you have a fandom podcast about books or card games or board games or anything like that, it might be possible to reach out and talk to some creators, they'd like to talk about their craft. Similarly, reality stars are very willing to talk to you because they like to talk about themselves. And at a certain point, that's not as interesting to us.
And the biggest reason why I started shooting is I like to talk about myself and I found when we've had interviews with people, like it ain't about me, you know, it's really about the interview subject. And I'm uncomfortable with that. I want it to be about me and my ideas. And you know, maybe if I have to, because I need to take a drink of water, John's idea is to, but if I'm interviewing somebody who's actually on Survivor, my role is to ask if you questions and then you know, shut up and let them talk about it. And you can get that elsewhere. Yeah, you get you know, you come to this podcast for us to sound like idiots not to interview other idiots.
Melissa Guller 35:11
Well said, We hinted earlier the fact that you guys have more than just the podcast going on, but you guys do all kinds of fun stuff on your site. I personally am a huge fan of the rankings. I think that may have actually been how I first found you. But you've got fantasies you've got, I saw like a game show recently. just seems like you guys are having a lot of fun. So do you want to just talk a little bit more about some of the other Purple Rock world things you have going on?
Yeah, I'll start with that. So one of the things that we did was when we were setting up the website, I was trying to think of what we could do that would make the site itself a place that people would go because in addition to the podcast, we wanted to have a community and the easiest way that we could do that was from our own experience, we'd been commenters at the AV club. Why don't we just start a comment section here. But to do that, you need to start building an audience. And one of the first things that we did is we set up a fantasy game, made it as accessible as possible. And then just started putting that out there just to try to get people interested in the fantasy game, because at that time, there wasn't really anybody else that was running such a thing. And so we brought that in got some commenters from that. We began doing the season rankings, which just to pull back the curtain on that a bit. That is by far, like exponential levels higher than any other page that we have on our site. It gets viewed thousands of times a day from all around the world, which is fascinating to us. And it's referenced in Wikipedia is and things like that it which always amuses us. And it's just another example of we have a take this is what we decided are the best and worst Survivor seasons, and it just spurs discussion. It gets people to jump in and be like, You're ridiculous. How could you say that this season sucks, or this season is great, you're so wrong. We just recently got like a 17 paragraph email telling us how wrong we are about our rankings, which we thoroughly enjoy.
But the best part is also not even that, like, you know, I love this season. How could you say you didn't like it? Or vice versa? The best and most frequent is always How dare you say this season is the 25th best season when it is so clearly the 30th best season? And it's like, I mean, you've thought about this more than us, but it's kind of get ideas for the audience. So your audience is like if you're looking for ways to garner attention for what you're doing. Yeah, I list this is no no genius proclamation that I'm giving this isn't Yeah, I'm not really working hard on the marketing thing. But yeah, if you can find like content like that. It's going to help drive a lot of use and attention to what you're doing a big you know, listy type thing that like people would want to know about your subject. Now those those really work. Yeah, the game show thing. We just actually did that on Saturday. And it suffered out of what we did to end the most recent season we decided to do because everybody in the world right now is a zoom communicating whether it's our kids at school, or other people are like, Hey, why don't we turn our finale into like a live participation thing, and we've, we've done like live video podcast before and usually had like, 567 people watch it live, because I knew the video would be the same at the end, but we promise interactivity with this one. And because a lot of people are stuck at home anyway. We had about like between 40 to 45 people attending live at the height of it. And since that was like just a really fun time. way to engage with the audience instead of just, you know, textual based communication. But we had them, you know, come on and ask their question like it was like a radio Collin show. John was looking for other activities. So we decided to put her on our own zoom Family Feud.
Melissa Guller 39:16
I think these are so fun, and any of these ideas, whether it's, you know, thinking about how to create community, or thinking about a list, and specifically, I think you said, a list that people want to read about or something that they're actually searching for, whether you're creating like some kind of game, fantasy league, or participation, or this game show. I just think it's so fun that as podcasters we can kind of do whatever. And that's the beauty of the game like seven years later, you guys aren't doing the same thing you were doing right at the start.
Yeah, a big thing that drives us is like, what's gonna be fun for us this time, like most seasons, we'll come up with a new gimmick for that season for us something that we'll do like as a segment for the podcast. And I think this is also what drove us to like Yeah, open up the hosting to other things. And also probably, to not worry about if we're going to grow our audience and how it's just like, our guiding principle started to become what's going to be fun. Is this gonna be fun, it'll be fun for us to, you know, post a picture of the same contestant every week until people complain and then even more so after they complain. It's just like, we look to try to entertain ourselves we feel like we've cultivated a community of similarly minded hopefully not so similarly minded that it just becomes an echo chamber too much but you know, people who get the vibe people who are kind of in on the joke, and then that's why on like a Thursday night, you know, there's a lot of times when it's like, maybe like leading up to it. I don't really feel like heading down to my room and setting up the podcast and getting everything ready. But then once we go, it's just fun to like, goof off with my friends.
Sorry, was I supposed to jump in?
Usually you do. He usually notice my cadence of like Going up, and then building and then I stopped talking and I figured that now I'll let somebody else do it.
Melissa Guller 41:05
I thought even I knew the cadence by now I was like waiting for it.
I you know what, and that's one of the things that we talk about too, is that we have so many reps together, that we've gotten to the point that we know, if there is a slight pause, that's when you just dive right in. Because dead air is your enemy. And we joke about this all the time, because when you're bringing in someone new to the podcast, they are new, they haven't done anything before. One of the things that we always try to tell them is, don't shut up. And if one of us shuts up, you start talking.
And I just violated my own rule there that we can fix the crosstalk and post, but we would rather not have to fix every post every pause, which sometimes we do and yeah, that probably breaks down to what I was talking about earlier. I am an incredibly unskilled interviewer and should not be trusted with that responsibility.
Melissa Guller 41:54
Well, I do want to talk a little bit about maybe some other behind the scenes element of your project. Guests like don't have that air. Great advice. But maybe what are some things that you wish you knew about podcasting? Like, way sooner?
Oh, one one thing would be maybe talk to your co host prior to filming or to recording your first podcast. That was, I would never go back and listen to our first pod. Oh God, I tried. I tried. It's very bad.
That's actually a piece of advice right there. You're not gonna be great right away. Who knows? You might not be great ever. I should not presume that to be the case after seven years, but, you know, like anything else, you'll get some reps you'll feel more comfortable. You know, you probably won't like the sound of your voice. So I hear that's not really a problem I have. Um, but yeah, that'd be one thing is maybe try to establish a if you're having a co host, I couldn't even I couldn't imagine not having a co host. That's like a radio talent that I can't imagine that You're just filling the air all by yourself. But no, it probably could be done. But if you have a co host try to maybe establish some level of verbal comfort with them beforehand. Unless you're like Melissa here, and you're just really used to talking to people. Now maybe it's not actually that difficult. But John and i are terribly anti social. So we're like, oh, my god talking to someone.
Yeah, it's just not a muscle that we have. We've never flex that muscle. One other thing that I would suggest, too, is a very useful thing for me early on, was editing my own podcasts, because when I'd go to Edit, I would notice certain things that were very annoying to edit around, or certain verbal tics that I was having, or things that I was doing with my voice that I was like, Wow, that sounds terrible. And over time listening to that, and then you sort of train yourself in the moment while you're talking on a podcast, to talk in ways that you don't hate when you listen back while you're editing.
Melissa Guller 43:57
I can always tell when I'm interviewing podcasters who have been doing it While because they are more likely to maybe start over a sentence completely than they are to just kind of keep stumbling. That's one tiny example based on you know, how they record and the editor they work with. But it's true. And I think that's really good advice that if you edit even just the first episode or two, or just listen to the raw recording, you're gonna cringe, like, you're definitely gonna cry, and you're gonna hate it. But you're also going to learn a lot about how to like, mess up more gracefully.
I would test if you're going to do something like an interview with somebody. Yes. Yeah. So it's not your podcast partner is not your friend. You've you've gotten somebody that you know, you're really excited to have and and again up, Melissa, I'm not talking about us in this instance here, but like, like a real professional, somebody respected in their field. You should test out the technology that you'll be using in order to do that, because the first time that John and i did an interview, we were interviewing a winner of Survivor, Cagayan. We had communicated with him throughout the season. So there was at least a level of comfort, but it was all textual based communication. So then it's time to go on. And we had never worked out how to record a podcast with somebody who isn't us, or at least somebody that we couldn't 100% walk through the steps and trust them to do some of the technological hurdles. Because like the way we do it, we, again, because we're not using like a third party site, or wherever we each record our own vocals ourselves, and then email it to whoever is going to be editing that and then piece them together through Audacity. So that wasn't going to be an option when interviewing this guy. So we're like, and this was like, I don't know was that five years ago or so? So there were fewer options, or at least that which we were knew about, like we talk to each other over Skype. Because again, we're old and this is what we use. Then. When we brought in our youngest staff member to do a podcast. He's like, I don't even have Skype or like, Oh, right. Yeah, that's an old thing. That's probably not what the people are using at all anymore. Um, so we were calling him on Skype and I had to pay for a third party recording process because that wasn't even like part of the package with Skype at the time. But I had a free version, and I didn't read the fine line that you only get like 1015 minutes for free and then they charge you. So like 10 whatever the time limit was into the interview, maybe like a few minutes before I was getting the warning, like you've reaching your limit, you have to pay for this. And like I'm just panicking like icon, and this guy talks even more than I do and so fastly so there wasn't even like an opportunity to like, Um, excuse me, we just need a minute here. So I'm like texting John, like, we're about to run out. What do we do? And it's buzzing over the recording to the point where he's like, what's that noise like? So luckily, he just keeps monologuing I ran up the stairs and grabbed my wallet so that I have like my credit card and I'm like frantically typing it in and we ended up losing like I think about five minutes of him talking. Luckily, it was like a two and a half hour interview so nobody really noticed. difference. But yes, that is a huge piece of advice. If you are interviewing somebody, make sure you know how the tools that you're using will be working.
Melissa Guller 47:09
I think I can wrap up some of the great advice that we've shared on the show. And then maybe you guys can jump in if we missed anything. So talk to your co host before recording, you can't negotiate with Amazon, test your tech. Don't trust Andy with numbers, John saves the day all the time, and then maybe some legitimate advice, like, you know, think about how you might scale later. And always have a take and think about your community. Like we had some value there too. But any other advice or topics that you wanted to share that maybe we haven't gotten to
that so I got a question for you, if you don't mind. Yeah, of course, cuz I'm guessing that you know, you actually think about podcasting and such more than you know who he did. Why do you think this industry is so dominated by people like us, which is to say like, white dudes, do you think like, there's like a laser barrier for entry? Or do you think it's just that like, we've been told our Whole lies that our opinions matter. And we've come to believe it like Do you have any thoughts on that at all?
Melissa Guller 48:04
That's a really good question. I spent a little bit of time thinking about it. I definitely don't want to like speak for all women. No, I'm the beacon and voice of all of us. But I do think that part of it is just that maybe for some reason men knew about it sooner. I think music engineering, not necessarily a women dominated field, a lot of this like techie stuff, especially, like you said, like five, even 10 years ago, the technology was way different. I don't I don't think as many women were around podcasting, when it was getting started. And then even now, I often wonder if women are intimidated by one of two things intimidated by the tech, or worried that their voice isn't worth putting out there like the, the Who am I to talk about this? There are 1000 other podcasts already doing this? Why should I add my voice to the mix? But those are just a couple of guesses. You know,
I think that's probably accurate is that you know, it's it is Especially if you look at an already crowded marketplace to convince yourself like, no, my voice belongs in this market. And I would say that you're not going to know if that's true until you try. And so I totally understand having those feelings, but dive in. If you're debating the podcast thing, the accessibility has never been higher. It is a lot easier to do this now than it ever was when we started seven years ago. There's tools that we didn't even know about, like we're recording currently on a tool that we did not know about. And there are other podcasters hopefully, that would be willing to help you out. We certainly are. I don't know if our experience would be relevant to you, but always feel free to reach out to us. We're on Twitter, you can email us we've got a website, all those different things. And then hopefully, you know, just if you have a community already built around, whatever it is your passion. They can probably contribute as well. We happen To find someone to do our art for our podcasts just based on someone that was in the community that we were a part of.
So you notice that they're like, terrible Microsoft Paint logo that John was working. He's like, Hey, I noticed you're doing a little bit of graphic design there. I'm actually a trained professional and that would you like some help? We're like, Oh, we can't pay and then went from there. But yeah, I mean, that kind of ties into what I was saying earlier about, like, if you wanted to start, say, a fan podcast, it's like you have a perspective. Well, one incredibly underserved perspective and so many of these venues is not us, not white men, right? White sysadmin. Like, though again, we're out there all the time. And you know, there's you can just sift through piles and piles of us sharing Ario, so valuable and precious thoughts, but like other audiences, I'm sure would love to it. I actually see it a lot even places like Twitter. Every once in a while when I deign to go into Reddit move like Dr. there any podcast hosted by women and ever wants to all point out well Purple Rock podcast as Emma was like, she's on like, what every three weeks maybe in last season, we decided because it was a big anniversary season John and i would try to just kind of get back to the vibe of just he and I, I'm not sure that that's if there is a Survivor season again, we've continued that by like, that's a voice and now there's plenty of other community groups. So like, if that's what's interesting to you, I do wonder also if another barrier for entry is like, nobody's coming after us on social media. Or like, we read nothing by putting out like our thoughts in like veins like yeah, every once in a while somebody like leave angry comments, and we get to laugh about it because nobody's threatening to kill us because we said their favorite Survivor wasn't as entertaining enough. So I wonder about that as well.
Melissa Guller 51:52
And that's a good point. Like it may feel huge to like put yourself out there and do this big podcast thing, but really like Who is gonna come after you, like you said, and what is really the worst thing that could happen maybe is the worst thing that happens that only your mom tunes in and then you decide, okay, maybe not. It's at the end of the day like not going to be a huge huge downfall just to give it a go. And I actually thought that was a great point that just having, you know, the female perspective or being of a minority minority and not being white, like already, that's probably a different take than what most people are out there podcasting about. So I think most people have voices and opinions that are more worth sharing than they might believe.
Yeah, and I think that's like a big fan of podcasts. Right? It's like, yep, I mean, I listened to a lot, some professionally made podcasts as well, right? Especially because they can give me a level of access, or maybe they're, you know, produced by somebody whose opinions I'm really interested in. But another part of like, the fun, especially if we're talking amateur, whether that amateur ends up drawing revenue or not, is like, I you get to kind of hear another perspective, and it feels more intimate, right like people live It's almost like you're listening to like, you're in on a friend, chat with friends. And yeah, obviously it's a little one sided. But maybe not always. Yeah, there's, as we said, we've invited, you know, listeners on to answer questions. I know, other podcasts will do like Patreon only when they have more like, guest, you know, participation. But like that's I think what people like about podcasts is that you get to hear like different voices that feel like people you might want to hang out with.
And I think one of the things that we realized after doing this for a while and having a website is the LGBTQ fan base for Survivor was far larger than we ever expected. That's a significant portion of our audience, not advertised to, in any way not marketed to it's just organically what our audience became. And it's been fascinating for me to have that as like a large portion of our audience. It's It's a perspective that I don't have. So, again, like Andy was saying, just the virtue of you being you probably gives you a perspective that others don't have.
Melissa Guller 54:11
Mm hmm. I think one of the reasons why I love Survivor now that we'll start to wrap it up, and I want to briefly talk about Survivor is because they throw people who would never otherwise meet into a situation and you get to see how they react to each other. And they have so many different types of people represented across most seasons of Survivor. And I think that's part of the like, psychological fun of it all.
Yeah, and it also leads to a lot of like, interesting discussions that you could have. And I know some people want to divorce the discussion of their TV show from these things. But that's ridiculous. It is this TV show comprised of people. How could we stop talking about things that affect people? Right, and I mean, that's true of sports and of other things. So yeah, and yeah, I mean, sometimes the show likes to congratulate itself a bit too much about being this cultural melting pot and Jeff proclaiming Listening hour, but those issues are there and they're on screen. And if you have a community where people are talking and sharing, especially if it's an input output community like ours, as opposed to merely output, which some podcasts might be, especially if they don't have like attendance, social media presences or whatever, then you should have those discussions because why like go watch a scripted television show that might have a more narrow or focus this isn't that this is, you know, people, you know, interacting with people.
Yeah. And I think that's part of what fueled the early discussions for us is that there was a lot to talk about with Survivor, there's strategy, but then there's also, you know, the social aspect and how different groups of people or just individuals are interacting with each other and it leads to a lot of discussion. You know, there's, there's certain other things that you might not have as much to say about you might love a certain cultural product, but not really have all That much to discuss about it. Like there's some shows that I watch. And I never think about again, but at least with something like Survivor, there's a lot of different avenues to discuss whatever it might be. Just what ideal strategy could have taken place there and what pieces will be moving around later? Or what cultural issue was brought up this week?
Melissa Guller 56:22
Yeah. And I hope that listeners think about, like, what's that thing that you love to talk about? And there's just so much that you would want to chat about with friends whether or not you actually have friends who love the thing that you love? Like, there's probably a seed of an idea there. And if you've been thinking about podcasting about it, hopefully people are feeling encouraged and like, it's something that, you know, they could have a little fun with. So, as we do wrap up, where can people find you guys online and tune in?
I will say it because Andy always screws this up when I let him. It's purplerockpodcast.com. You don't have to put www in front of it will still send you there. It's still on the worldwide web. I don't know why you keep bothering me about this. Yeah, we also don't email a podcast to each other because it's also not 1995 anymore. We use slack for that. But you can reach us on Twitter. The show is at @purplerockpod. He is @purplerockandy. I am @purplerockjohn, although I rarely tweet.
Melissa Guller 57:20
And yeah, you can subscribe in the various pod catcher places. Now, like I said, on YouTube, we are not on Spotify. And I believe that's an extension of the fact that we are not hosting with a regular podcast source. And the one time I looked at it, they kind of wanted to link there and then I just gave up. Maybe, what do you think mostly? I look into that again, or is it Mr. They kind of correct here that they want you to have a bit more something more formal.
Melissa Guller 57:46
I feel like there must be an easy way to do it. So maybe we'll see if I can make it a personal mission to get your advice. And now it's Joe Rogan's playground and we're all just living in it.
Yeah, they want us they can pay us and then we'll d platformed. From all this vo community stuff that we've talked about as being part of the forum and just completely sell out to big Spotify.
I mean, they bought gimlet, what does gimlet offer that we don't?
Melissa Guller 58:08
Such a great point. Honestly, I don't see any difference.
Melissa Guller 58:12
Well, I do encourage people to go check out your website, and we'll include it in the show notes. There's just so much to be through. And before we go, here's the closing question. Who is your favorite Survivor of all time, though?
It might be Tony blancos, and we that was the person we were referencing interviewing before. And we might not to spoil anything might soon be interviewing him again.
Oh, for me, it's Boston. Rob. And I like that, you know, identifying him if you're within the Survivor fan community, we'll just mark you as like a filthy casual, the same thing like people who just watch it, you know, normally, I like that about me. I like that I've chosen one of the most obvious and popular and famous Survivors. Well, time is my favorite because I don't need to be unique about these things. I just need to be right now.
Melissa Guller 59:01
Well, mine is Parvati, although Sarah really climbed up my radar and season 40 she was so good in that season.
And just I mean, she was obviously really good in the season that she won. That's often a prerequisite not always but yeah, she just the way she was able to control the game. From the, to the degree that she was able to was Yeah, very impressive.
And yeah, Parvati is amazing. Yeah, both of those amazing picks.
Melissa Guller 59:25
Yeah, great pics all around. Good job team. Well, thank you both for joining. And John. It's been such a pleasure chatting with you guys and learning more about your podcast and I hope the listeners enjoyed learning more and that they'll check out your podcast.
Well, thank you very much. Thanks for having us.
Melissa Guller 59:39
Thank you so much for joining us this week! To learn more about The Purple Rock Survivor Podcast, or to check out the other episodes in this podcast format series, check out the complete show notes at witandwire.com/12.
Before we go, if you’re enjoying the podcast or this series, I hope you’ll pass it along to a friend! I’d love to help as many new and growing podcasters as possible, so if you think someone would benefit from a little more podcasting knowledge, I hope you’ll pass along the link to witandwire.com/podcast or share your favorite episode as a screenshot via Instagram stories. If you tag me @witandwire, I’ll repost and thank you profusely.
Up next, we’re tackling one of the most popular formats of all time: the interview format. Stay tuned or keep listening to learn more about why this format works, who it’s for, and how to find amazing guests for your show.
Thank you again for joining me, Melissa Guller, in this episode of Wit & Wire. I’ll see you next time, podcasters!
Podcast spotlight: The Purple Rock Survivor Podcast
Hosts Andy and John are two fans of the CBS reality TV show Survivor who met online and, through a series of escalating jokes and dares, wound up making a podcast about it. Against all odds, they’re somehow still doing it seven years later.
- Website: purplerockpodcast.com
- Category: TV & Film
- Format: Panel
- Twitter: @PurpleRockPod
- Andy on Twitter: @PurpleRockAndy
- John on Twitter: @PurpleRockJohn
- YouTube: youtube.com/purplerockpodcast
- Purple Rock’s Survivor season rankings (with spoiler-free summaries)
- Affordable podcast hosting solutions (including my partner promos so you can save money when you start)
The Complete Podcast Format Series
Did you know that this episode is included in a 5-part series? I did a deep dive into the five primary podcast formats, and I created one episode in each format. (It’s very meta.)
- Solo Podcasting with host Melissa Guller
- Co-Hosting with Em Hammel-Shaver and Melissa Guller (Book Smart)
- How two friends built a Survivor panel podcast with a unique point of view (Andy & John, Purple Rock Survivor Podcast) — this episode!
- Interviewing tips for both hosts and guests with Angie Trueblood (Go Pitch Yourself)
- Storytelling and a behind-the-scenes look into narrative production with Hannah Barg and Noa Fleischacker (Tight-Lipped Podcast)
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