In this series, we’re putting the spotlight on our clients. Why did they decide to explore an original podcast for their brand? What surprises did they encounter? What lessons did they learn along the way? Find out from the people at the helm.
Matt grew up surrounded by books.
“My parents had a lot of books in the house and they took us to the library a lot. My first true love was books,” he said.
Matt was born in Colorado but spent much of his childhood in Texas.
He developed a propensity for collecting, starting with baseball cards.
“I loved baseball cards because you could have a baseball card out looking at the guy’s statistics while you’re watching the game on TV,” he said.
“Baseball cards for me was like a gateway drug of then collecting some other sports memorabilia, then collecting some other things. I love vintage pencils. I collect watches. I love paper notebooks.”
After studying English and Creative writing in college, Matt moved to New York City, where he found another love — audio. It started as a way to follow the Yankees, since Matt did not have a TV in his Brooklyn apartment. But soon, he was listening to everything from music stations, to WNYC, to NPR shows like This American Life and Prairie Home Companion.
“It was always on. Often while reading, I would have the radio on in the background. And you know, this was in the early days before podcasting existed,” he said.
“I think this goes to my love of collecting books and collecting a lot of other things. It’s collecting information and I definitely want to have as much input as possible. I do get to the point sometimes where I need a break from that and I need silence, but at my truest self, I want to listen and read at the same time.”
Matt worked in the marketing department at several academic publishing houses. He spent his days reading books on topics ranging from social work to literary studies to birds, and highlighting the ones he thought deserved more attention.
“My favorite thing that I ever did was to use that information to recommend reprinting a book, republishing a book, doing a new edition, or bringing in a whole new book. It’s sort of like discovering a diamond in the rough” he said.
“Only problem with it, honestly, is that there’s no money at all to be made.”
So Matt moved back to his childhood state of Texas and found a job as a textbook editor. One day, he got a call from an old friend, Patrick Ricci: he was now working at a financial investment firm and would Matt want to join him?
Making an original podcast
It was 2017 and Charles Schwab already had a podcast that, in Matt’s words, had “little to no strategy to it.”
Matt and Patrick decided they wanted to replace it with something better.
In his free time, Matt co-produced and co-hosted his own podcast — a conversational show about all things David Foster Wallace — but he knew he would need help for the type of podcast they wanted at Charles Schwab.
They reached out to Pacific Content.
“One thing we learned was the idea of creative bravery. We couldn’t just take the easy way out and do the most low risk option,” said Matt.
So, the idea for Choiceology was born. It’s a show that tells true stories of how people make key decisions in life, and brings in academic insight to explain the science behind those decisions.
But it wasn’t easy for Matt to convince others at Charles Schwab to greenlight the show idea.
“It was really tough. There were a lot of controls around the way that we often communicate with the public as a company and we had not done something new like this in a long time,” said Matt.
“We wouldn’t have been able to do it if there wasn’t agreement across the board from leadership and marketing that this was the right thing to do.”
Millions of downloads later, Choiceology is in its 11th season.
Matt credits much of the show’s success to Charles Schwab’s willingness to use its existing reach to put the show in front of as many potential listeners as possible, especially in that first season.
“We wanted to reach them in a full court press,” he said.
“Everything from digital marketing and email — we were able to get signage digitally in all of those branches with the podcast logo and schwab.com/podcast — having that plus tens of thousands of employees, making them aware that this was the launch day.”
But the team was still nervous on the big day.
“Patrick and I were tracking the launch metrics on our phones, and saying, okay, it’s out there, is anyone gonna listen to it? It just shot up the charts of all of the podcast charts that we were looking at — social sciences and science categories — and we were just ecstatic to see the response.”
In Matt’s eyes, real success came in the form of the show’s staying power. He knew that, like the radio shows he had listened to for decades, the best podcasts have a loyal following.
“Paying attention to something that we put out is really extraordinary because if you’re like me, all of our attention is very fractured. Having that sustained attention, it’s probably the most valuable thing,” he said.
“That, to me, is a very simple metric of success: are we growing? Are we reaching more people? Are we building upon some kind of momentum?”
It’s been five years since launch day and Choiceology’s audience is still growing.
Matt has this advice for aspiring podcasters: commit to taking a risk.
“You have to really commit to it to be a show. A show has a theme song. It has producers. It’s obvious in the pre-production, the amount of pre-work that goes into each episode, the amount of post-production, the amount of editing and care that goes into the sound design and the marketing of it,” he said.
“If you take a risk and really commit to it, you can build an audience.”
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