We started The Story Grid Editor Roundtable Podcast kinda by accident. It was originally a study group for the five of us to help each other learn the Story Grid methodology. Now, almost two years later, on average, the podcast gets downloaded 300 times a day (see chart below). This is far more than we ever imagined.
While these analytics are great, we wanted to see what our listenership felt about the podcast and how we could improve it. All of us constantly want to level up our craft and we want to help authors tell better stories.
Before we get to how we did that, let’s briefly discuss podcast analytics, why they’re important and their limitations.
The Importance of Podcast Analytics
Podcast analytics are a mishmash of various statistics that give you a hint at what’s going on but not the full picture. Services like podtrac claim to be the standard for podcast analytics and anyone who publishes on iTunes or Spotify knows that those analytics are limited as well. For podcasters, it’s important to understand how these analytics translate into happy listeners since the whole goal of a podcast is for people to listen to it and hopefully share it with their friends and family.
Podcast analytics can only be derived from download numbers. This makes it challenging to understand if your podcast has what I call Podcast Market Fit, which is based on the popular startup concept of Product-Market Fit.
Product Market Fit Applied to Podcasts
Product Market Fit is one of the three most important startup concepts to master. The other two are the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) and Product Narrative. The intersection of all three of these is what I call the Goldilocks Zone or the point in which your product will, given some hard work and luck, be successful. Let’s take a look at all three for our Podcast.
Product Goldilocks Zone.
Minimum Viable Product
A Minimum Viable Product (MVP) is the minimum features and functions of a product to determine if someone will use or buy it. It’s a common method among startups since new ideas evolve and the faster you can test an idea, the better.
The traditional MVP approach is to “scratch your own itch.” This means you create a product that solves a problem you have. For the five of us, that problem was studying the Story Grid method ahead of our certification training. We decided to form a study group. As we progressed in our study group, we realized that others were having a similar problem. On a lark, we recorded one of our sessions and shared it with Shawn and Tim. They loved it and told us to publish it. The Story Grid Editor Roundtable Podcast was born.
Over the last almost 5 seasons, we have produced 79 episodes (as of this writing). With each episode and season, we have learned more about Story Grid and how to be better writers. It was also nice to see the steady rise in listenership as we continued to innovate and push ourselves to level up our craft. Our MVP of a podcast of story nerds talking story seems to have hit the mark.
The second aspect of the Goldilocks Zone is how you explain your product to others. This product narrative is a vital part of explaining to a potential customer (or listener) what your offering is. The narrative you choose must be simple and straightforward with little doubt as to what is offered.
For The Story Grid Editor Roundtable Podcast, our narrative is derived directly from the main podcast and is as follows:
The Story Grid Editor Roundtable Podcast wants to help you become a better writer by following the Story Grid Method.
Pretty simple and straightforward.
Product Market Fit
The only gap in our Goldilocks Zone is whether or not the podcast has Product (Podcast) Market Fit with our listenership. That’s why we decided to do a survey to find out what our listenership feels about the podcast and how we can improve it.
Developing the Listenership Survey
We modeled our Podcast Market Fit Survey off an excellent article about How Superhuman Built an Engine to Find Product Market Fit. In the article, Rahul Vohra, CEO of Superhuman (it’s an email app if you’re curious), details the questions he asked his users about how they felt about Superhuman. The questions were based on research done by Sean Ellis on how startups can continue to grow. He found that if you ask your users the following question “how would you feel if you could no longer use the product?” and measure the percent who answered “very disappointed.” Those that answered “very disappointed” will give you a leading indicator of how to unlock Product-Market Fit.
After surveying nearly 100 startups, Ellis found that if 40% of your users answered “very disappointed” if your product went away, then you achieved Product Market Fit and could start to scale. We decided to apply this same methodology to our Podcast Market Fit survey plus some additional questions specific to authors and editors.
Survey Questions + Collection Methodology
We used SurveyMonkey to develop our survey. Our survey consisted of nine questions with four of them directly taken from the Product-Market Fit article above. The questions are listed below:
Q1. How would you feel if you could no longer listen to The Story Grid Editor Roundtable Podcast?
Q2. What type of people do you think would benefit from The Story Grid Editor Roundtable Podcast?
Q3. What is the main benefit you receive from The Story Grid Editor Roundtable Podcast?
Q4. How can we improve the Story Grid Editor Roundtable Podcast?
Q5. How do you identify yourself? (e.g. Author, Editor, etc.)
Q6. Do you consider yourself an amateur or a professional?
Q7. How long have you been doing what you answered in Q5 as Q6 (e.g. I'm an author who is a professional for xx years?)
Q8. What is your favorite episode of The Story Grid Editor Roundtable Podcast and why?
Q9. How likely is it that you would recommend The Story Grid Editor Roundtable Podcast to a friend or colleague?
The last question is a canned question that measures a Net Promoter Score, which is another way to tell if fans would tell their friends and family about your product or in our case, podcast.
Our collection methodology was to share with other Story Grid Certified editors, post on our Twitter account (@StoryGridRT), and share the link in the weekly Story Grid Email that goes out every Friday.
Listenership Survey Results and Analysis
We collected a total of 86 responses over the course of three weeks and found that the answer to the question “How would you feel if you could no longer listen to The Story Grid Editor Roundtable podcast?” was that 65.1% of respondents would be “very disappointed”, followed by 31.4% that would be “somewhat disappointed. ” Only 3.5% would “not be disappointed.”
From this result, it’s clear that the podcast has found its product-market fit based on the 40% criterion. This seems to correlate with the increase in podcast downloads that we have seen over the last year and some of the feedback we have received. We’ll dig into the other three questions in a minute, but first, let’s take a look at who listens to the podcast.
The demographics of the majority of respondents self identifies as an Author (61.2%), followed by an Author then Editor (20%). This means that over 80% of our listenership identifies first as an author with the other 20% a combination of editor and author.
Listenership Identification (Question 5)
This is important for us to know since our main narrative is to “help you become a better writer following the Story Grid method.” This result tells us we’re getting to the right people.
Amateur vs Professional (Question 6)
Amateurs make up 52.9% of our listenership, which surprised us. We included the question about being an amateur vs professional to figure out where in the creative journey our listenership is. This is important because our content tends to be deep dives into the minutiae of story structure to gain a better understanding of when a story works or doesn’t. We seem to have achieved that.
We also know that the Story Grid Methodology has a steep learning curve given its depth and breadth of materials. One of the goals of the podcast was to provide an on-ramp to the methodology while not alienating those that are already up to speed. We’ll see later on when we split the data by this answer (among others) what amateurs and professionals are looking for.
Listenership Experience (Question 7)
Another dimension of the listenership experience is how long they have been on their current path. About 54% of the listenership has less than five years of experience, with 74% having less than ten years of experience. We segmented the data along the amateur vs professional to see if any experience trends popped out.
Amateurs do show more 1 to 3 years experience but the overall distribution of experience is even, with the notable exception of professionals with less than one year of experience.
This result and the above Amateur vs Professional result tells us that we have a wide distribution of experiences within the listenership. We’ll take another look at this once we parse out the questions related to improvements, etc.
We’re going to skip Question 8 for now since it’s part of the long-form analysis later on.
Recommend Story Grid Roundtable to a Friend (Question 9)
This last question is known in the customer service trade as your Net Promoter Score (NPS). Generally, most companies want to see this metric positive (e.g. above 0) and as high as possible. How much higher is highly dependent on the type of company you have and the industry you are in. If you take a look at the benchmarks, you can see that companies like Starbucks have a score of 77 while McDonald’s has a -8.
There is no real benchmark to compare a podcast to but we’re happy that people like us as much as Starbucks, and we beat out Trader Joe’s (62). Winning!
Open-Ended Question Analysis
We’re extremely happy that our listenership scores the podcast so high and will tell their friends and colleagues about us. Our whole goal in doing the Editor Roundtable was to practice our scholarship in story structure and help others be better writers. We want that for ourselves and that’s why we dug a little deeper to glean how we can make the show even better.
Types of People Who Might Benefit (Question 2)
This seems like an odd question to ask but we kept it in since it’s part of the original question set and we wanted to confirm some of our assumptions. The challenge with open-ended text-based questions is that respondents get creative on how they answer.
What was also interesting was the wide variety of answers ranging from the somewhat negative:
Autodidactic story nerds obsessed with self-efficacy who love learning from like-minds
To the more positive.
All types. Anyone who writes. Film fans. Editors looking to understand stories better. Lit students.”
That’s a big range, which we see in the above data as well.
Above is a word cloud of the responses to question 2. You’ll notice that “Writers” and “Editors” are the biggest ones, which indicate those were the words most written in the answers. No surprise there. One that did surprise us was “ScreenWriters,” which isn’t surprising since we do analyze movies.
You’ll also notice that “novel” and “fiction” appear but “non-fiction” does not. This is no surprise given the focus that the Story Grid method has on writing novels. If we were to look at opportunities to expand the audience, then the most likely group would be to screenwriters.
Takeaways: No surprise that the podcast benefits writers and editors of fiction that are both professionals and amateurs.
Benefits and Improvements (Questions 3 and 4)
For these next two questions, we’re going to split up the respondents, via question 1, into the “what we should keep doing” and “what we can do better.” In order to do this, we’ll look at the “very disappointed” and “somewhat disappointed” respondents. The “very disappointed” benefits are what we should continue to do and improve while the “somewhat disappointed” improvements will move those folks into the “very disappointed” camp. For now, we’re not going to look at the “Not Disappointed” crowd since it’s a small fraction of the respondents. sample size.
Benefits to Very Disappointed
The main benefit that our listenership gets from the podcast is a better understanding of the Story Grid method, the various genres, and how to perform an analysis based on the method.
Some of the more notable quotes which show this trend include:
Being able to see the Story Grid concepts in practice. Also, the editors are super entertaining personalities.
Insight into how different kinds of stories are constructed. An idea of just how many moving pieces need to align for a gripping and effective story.
Seeing the Story Grid in action. Hearing others pull stories apart and realizing I’m not alone in being unsure, that stories are complex and simple at the same time.
From this analysis, it’s clear that we should continue to explain the Story Grid method by performing analyses like we have been doing since practice is the best way folks learn the method.
Takeaways: Continue to explain the Story Grid method by practicing the method.
Improvements for Somewhat Disappointed
Next, we looked at the Improvements that the “Somewhat Disappointed” would like to see. Now, this does not mean that the “Very Disappointed” results don’t provide insights into improvement, but for this first pass we’re just going to cut the data this way since this should be the biggest source of improvement. We’ll attempt to validate that later on when we look at both together.
The trends were hard deciphering since the results were mixed with praise as well like:
Uncertain pretty awesome as is
I’m not sure! I love it.
While we love the kudos, a bit more digging revealed some trends worth noting, which are:
- More bite-sized editions
- Less scripted conversations. More discussion/debate
- Consistent characterization of a movie’s genre.
- Compare other methods to The Story Grid.
- Tell listeners where they can stream the movie (in the show notes)
- Analysis of a book or short story.
Let’s see how this compares to the “Very Disappointed” to see if we might have missed something.
Improvements for Very Disappointed
As you can see from below, the word cloud is different yet when we look into the data in more detail, we get some similar themes along with some additional insights such as:
- More book or short story analysis
- More writing tips or bite-size episodes
- Books adapted to film
- Interviews with other writers, editors, screenwriters, etc.
- Analysis of serialized television
- How to fix movies/books that don’t work
- Children’s or middle-grade fiction as topics
Both lists have overlap, which is what you’d expect. The exception is the requests for guests and analysis of television.
Takeaways: Create tips and insights with more bite-sized editions. Consider doing short stories or novels. Show how to fix broken stories using the Story Grid method.
Favorite Episode and Why (Question 8)
This was a fun one to look at because all of us on the Editor Roundtable have our favorite episodes for various reasons. For this analysis, we chose to just count the movie titles and also look at the reasons, which gave us some additional insights into how to level up our craft. The list below is in rank order and we also included labeled answers as “Impossible to Pick” if the response was along those lines (the number is the frequency):
- Impossible to Pick (12)
- Bite-Size (6)
- The Girl on the Train (4)
- Sense & Sensibility (4)
- Primal Fear (3)
- A Man Called Ove (3)
- Thor: Ragnarok (2)
- Arrival (2)
- Internal Genres (2)
- Coco (2)
- Hunger Games (2)
- Story Grid 101 (2)
- Alien (2)
- Jupiter Ascending (2)
- Billy Elliot (2)
- Thelma and Louise (2)
It’s nice to see that many people could not pick a favorite, which is further validation that we’ve achieved podcast market fit.
When asked why they liked an episode, respondents mentioned discussion and disagreement among the hosts, where the hosts could explain why a story didn’t work for them. How to fix a story was another theme. In addition, the bite-size episodes were popular because they were shorter and were done by either one or two people.
A Brief Look at Not Disappointed
We would be remiss if we did not take a brief look at those few souls (3 respondents) that would not be disappointed if the podcast went away. It should be no surprise that the NPS for that group is -33, which validates our original premise that it’s better to focus on improvements with the Somewhat Disappointed (NPS of 56) and Very Disappointed (NPS of 91).
In terms of themes, these respondents have similar suggestions such as:
- Who: Writers and Editors with SG Knowledge
- Benefits: Learning by studying other works
- Improvements: Analysis of books or short stories
Constructive feedback is essential to improvement. We’re grateful that so many listeners took the time to help us level up our craft. Thanks for that.
In terms of conclusions, the data clearly shows that we have hit Podcast Market Fit with the Story Grid Editor Roundtable Podcast. In order to improve the podcast, we’re going to take into consideration the following themes:
- More bite-size episodes
- Look at the stories that don’t work and suggest how to fix them. Something we are already doing.
- Look into the analysis of novels and short stories.
- Improve the discussion and debate.
- Consider comparing and contrasting different analysis methods.
If you have any comments or suggestions, feel free to tweet us or leave a comment below. If you have a question about anything story, leave us a voicemail over at The Story Grid Editor Roundtable Podcast page. We hope that you will try and find Podcast Market Fit for your own podcast.