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Niches & Case Studies

The Unexpected Perks of Podcasting with Chris Christensen, Amateur Traveler

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In the Podcaster Showcase, we interview a podcaster who’s finding success with their show. We delve into how they started, how they’ve grown an audience and what they do to get a return on their efforts. The aim is to share experience and learn from anyone that’s making it work!

This week, we’re talking to Chris Christensen from Amateur Traveler.

Give us a written trailer for your show. Why should we listen?

The Amateur Traveler is an online travel show that focuses primarily on travel destinations and the best places to travel to. It covers everything from knowing what to put on your Chicago dog when you go to the Windy City to swimming with whales in Tonga.

Sometimes we are interviewing a local and sometimes a professional travel writer. Either way, it’s always someone who’s in love with a destination. They want to share why you should go there and what you should do, see and eat when you arrive.

Why did you decide to start the podcast?

I fell in love with podcasting shortly after it started, when I first started listening to podcasts in 2005. I decided I wanted to do my own show and thought about a number of different formats. On Memorial Day we had a number of friends over for a BBQ and as we swapped stories I realized that all the best stories were travel stories. The Amateur Traveler was started shortly after that.

What equipment do you use to record?

Nothing complicated – just a Blue Yeti Microphone and a MacBook Air.

What’s your recording environment/setup usually like?

I am usually recording in my home office and almost all of the episodes have been recorded over Skype using Call Recorder.

What is your usual editing process

Amateur Traveler is a heavily edited show. This week’s episode interview started at 50 minutes long and by the time I edited out the ums, ahs, you knows, kind of, false starts and long pauses, the interview will be about 42 minutes long. Then, because that’s not nearly enough effort, the Amateur Traveler comes out both as an MP3 version and an iTunes Enhanced version with pictures and links to what we are talking about.

What are the top 3 ways you’ve gained new audience members?

  1. Make good content that has long term value. More and more I have focused the show away from news and other timely content.
  2. Make sure the episodes are well labeled (Editor’s Note: this means optimising for travel related phrases and questions. Think about the common things that people search for in your topic). iTunes and equivalent searches are the number 1 way that people discover me
  3. I have a publicity plan for each episode: 2 facebook page posts, 2 pinterest pins, 1 google+ post, ~8 twitter posts copying relevant companies & tourism boards, an email to the tourism board for the destination, a player to the guest for their website if they have one, a reddit post, a stumble-upon post and recently a clammr.com post.

How do you get a return from your show, whether monetary or otherwise?

Mostly I get pretty cool offers to travel. I also do take sponsors for the podcast, from which I make thousands of dollars a year, but not tens of thousands.

What unexpected benefit have you gotten from your show?

I was invited to the Whitehouse. 2014 was a pretty weird year for me in terms of benefits from the show. I had travel offers, like one from ‘Visit Jordan’. They flew me to Jordan for 10 days and sent me around with a guide and driver. While I was there I got to be a photo journalist for the day with press credentials and photographed the Pope and royal family’s visit to the baptism site of Jesus.

I won two awards as a Travel Journalist, one from Travel+Leisure magazine as the “best independent travel journalist”. The Thailand Foreign Ministry asked permission to use two episodes of Amateur Traveler to test for English proficiency. So if you want to get a job in their version of the State Department you have to listen to episodes on “Narrow Boating in England and Wales” and on “Yorkshire in England”.

And then to cap off that crazy year, I was invited with some other travel bloggers to the Whitehouse for the first Whitehouse Travel Blogger Summit. They wanted help getting out the word about the benefits of study abroad programs. Out of that the director of the Peace Corps came on the show.

I have had other interesting years before and since, but that one is hard to beat.

What 1 piece of advice do you have for a new podcaster in your industry?

Be consistent. Be valuable. I had someone write me recently that they downloaded 50 episodes of Amateur Traveler to plan their trip to Europe. To put that in perspective. A typical episode is around 7,000 words, so 50 episodes is 350,000 words. That’s roughly 4.5 times the length of the original Harry Potter book.

Someone is only going to do that if there is something in it for them. If they find value. Don’t take guests that don’t add value. Don’t talk about subjects that don’t have value and value your audience’s time and attention.

About Chris

Chris is the owner of BloggerBridge.com which is a new startup connecting bloggers and industry contacts. He has worked for years in technology startups in Silicon Valley. He was formerly the Director of Engineering for TripAdvisor’s New Initiatives group and was the EVP Engineering at LiveWorld where his team built and ran online communities and events for companies including eBay, HBO, TV Guide, Expedia, Marriott, A&E, History Channel, the NBA, NBC, ABC, Disney, Microsoft, WebTV and American Express.

You can listen to Chris Christensen on the Amateur Traveler Podcast at www.amateurtraveler.com.

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