Before mentioning anything else about his old job, Eric Silver brings up the commute. “It is important for the setting here,” he says. To understand why he left behind a career in education after getting a master’s degree from NYU, you have to start there. Stuck in traffic on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. 5 a.m. Likely freezing temperatures. And a podcast on the radio.
This was 2014. The StartUp podcast had just come out, launching what would become a $230 million podcast studio, Gimlet, and inspiring an ABC sitcom. Serial followed soon after, sparking an ongoing podcast boom. “The thing that kept me sane,” Silver says, “was listening to podcasts. It connected me to the rest of the world.”
“The thing that kept me sane,” Silver says, “was listening to podcasts.”
A year out of school, Silver transitioned into the audio industry, finding work as an editor and producer. He started his own podcast in May 2017: Join The Party (JTP), a Dungeons and Dragons play-through show. By the end of the year, Silver’s former classmate Amanda McLoughlin established Multitude, a podcast collective, and JTP became one of the company’s founding shows. The following summer, Silver entered the sports podcast space, but lots of work went into the project before it launched.
The first step was meeting host-to-be Mike Schubert, another basketball fan who had his own show with Multitude, and finding that he too was looking to create a show “for people who don’t already listen to all the sports shows.” The two wanted to create a podcast that would be compelling for those who didn’t identify as sports fans.
“It’s about taking something we love and looking at it from a different angle to show people how much we love it,” Silver says. HORSE, as they decided to name their podcast, would be a basketball show about everything that’s not basketball. A concept does not make a show, however.
“You’ve got to do a ton of pre-production work,” Silver says. “That’s my biggest thing.” For HORSE, and every Multitude show created since, the process begins with a whiteboarding day spent answering 25 to 30 questions about the show so everyone knows exactly how it will work. That step takes hours, if not days, but is crucial in defining the target audience and establishing a show’s unique structure. Silver and Schubert recorded their first episode multiple times before feeling like they had it down.
Silver also encourages every show to think about their promotion and monetization before launching. “Make a Patreon as soon as possible,” he says. “It’s OK if nobody is in it. They will be eventually. You need consistency and people should know there is going to be extra content that people should pay for if they want to.”
While download statistics are still murky in an industry split across multiple apps and services, Silver likes to see his shows get 10,000 downloads per episode (within 30 days of the episode’s release) before thinking about advertising.
“It is so hard to grow a podcast,” Silver adds. “There is no panacea for it, other than incredible amounts of marketing.” One little thing he recommends is making sure that any new listener quickly understands what your show is about, no matter which episode they start with. Silver also suggests making sure you know your goals before getting started.
Silver and Schubert, for example, get excited each time they hear about someone falling in love with basketball for the first time through their show after being turned off by daunting coverage elsewhere. They also want to continue developing a presence within the basketball community, with the aim of earning press credentials to games. And, of course, Silver hopes the show allows him to continue creating podcasts full-time.
Three months after HORSE’s 2018 launch, Silver started full-time at Multitude, where he now serves as head of creative. Silver says the industry has gotten a lot more competitive lately, especially since Spotify bought Gimlet (the aforementioned startup) early in 2019. Big media players now are throwing much more marketing weight into the space, but smaller groups like Multitude remain undeterred. A new show, if it has a fresh concept, a solid structure, and a potential fan base, can still succeed. In May, the company launched its newest show, Meddling Adults. Silver now works out of an office in Brooklyn, recording in a studio that Multitude built. His bleak 5 a.m. commutes remain small in his rear view mirror.