Podcasting is one of the most effective mediums today to get noticed. And in this podcasting101 episode, Mark Asquith, the British Podcast Guy himself, and the Managing Director and Co-founder of Captivate which is the world's only growth-oriented podcast host, shares some tips on how you should be starting your own podcasts to get noticed.
Mark also shares his journey to becoming an entrepreneur and as a podcaster, how they have come up with the idea of the podcast hosting platform, and he gets himself, and they get Captivate, noticed.
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The Unnoticed Entrepreneur Podcast is sponsored by Prowly. The All in one tool for PR experts.Jim James:
Hello, and welcome to this episode of The Unnoticed Entrepreneur with me, Jim James. And today we are meeting Mark Asquith, who's in Manchester. And Mark is the founder and now Managing Director of an amazing podcast hosting and podcast growth platform called "Captivate." Mark, welcome to the show.Mark Asquith:
Thank you very much, Jim. Pleasure. Pleasure to be around.Jim James:
Well, it's a pleasure to meet you because you are really known as "Mr. Podcasting UK." You built Captivate from a platform with your business partner in the northwest of England too, hosting over 10,000 shows in a relatively short amount of time, and I'd love to have a chat with you and hear how you have managed to get that business to be so successful, leading ultimately to the acquisition by Global. So welcome to the show, Mark. Where do we start? Do you want to share with us how you built Captivate and what it does? Let's start there.Mark Asquith:
Yeah, absolutely. it's the old cliche of just scratching your own itch, really. I've been in podcasting for a decade now maybe just over a decade, I think. this is sort of Back in the old days when there was only a couple of hosting platforms out there, So, I was very fortunate to get into podcasting in the UK when not many people in the UK were in podcasting. I can probably count like a handful of people, maybe the Cornucopia Guys in Sheffield, maybe Ant McGinley, certainly Colin And there weren't many of us. And my nature is that when I enjoy something, I want to know a lot about it. And podcasting came around at a time when I was looking for an outlet — a creative outlet for myself. I used to own a design, digital, and brand agency. and I was looking for something else — a new creative outlet for myself — which is when podcasting came along. It was fortunate in podcasting. I could go to the conferences. I'd just missed out on the first podcast movement by like a week. I just couldn't make it. But I spoke at the second one, and I've done ever since, same at Pod Fest. I was out there in the US, at these conferences that everyone now wants to go to, I was probably the only British guy, certainly one of two— myself and Colin We were there before, frankly, before anyone else was, just because we were, just because we enjoyed it, you know? And it was interesting because no one really cared too much about podcasting. So I started a couple of podcasts, started a pop culture podcast, started a business podcast. But I was fortunate in two ways, three ways. Number one, when I get into something, I get into it. And then, number two, I was fortunate enough because I come from a marketing and branding background and design and digital background. There was a lot of skills there that I could take from the sector I was in, and apply to podcasting when no one else was applying it to podcasting. You know, like now everyone's talking about, "How do you market your podcast?" "How do you grow your podcast?" "How do you do this?" "How do you do that?" And there wasn't many people talking about it when I got into it. So I was able to say, "Well, look, if I was building a product, if I was marketing a business, here are the things that I do. Here's how it works for your podcast." And no one was doing it. So that's the second thing. And the third thing was I was when I was putting the tech together for my own podcast, so the digital tech, the online tech building a web presence, and so on. There was a huge gap in the market for WordPress. I had a lot of entrepreneur people wanting to do websites, and wanting to build like integrated hosting with their websites for their audio and to get their analytics in there. And no one was doing it. There was maybe one company, Blueberry, doing it at the tiniest little smidgen. So we just built a business called "Podcast Websites", fully managed WordPress service with integrated audio hosting — which then led to Captivate later. So yeah, to get right back to the question, I started Captivate because I was there. You know, I used to, before the lockdowns hit in 2020, we were out in the US. Five months of the year, six months of the year, at these podcasting conferences. And it's fortunate that just got to know everyone, so I was able to kind of ask people. I would just get this immense feedback without asking, or trying because people just, "Oh, isn't it annoying that you can't do this?" And then, at the same time, I've produced 1500 or so podcast episodes myself, and still do. So, you know, you take all the user feedback that you're getting from people on the ground, plus all my own experience of, "God, why can't a hosting company do this? Why can't a platform do that? Why can't such and such?" And you bring it all together. And, you know,. We create Captivate. And that's what happens which is fun.Jim James:
and having used Captivate and seen it. It's a really powerful platform that you've built there. Amazing. And to have 10,000 shows hosted, would you say then the secret was this going out and speaking then, Mark? And why America? Why not, for example, be talking maybe on continental Europe more? Just share with us the strategy there for customer acquisition?Mark Asquith:
It wasn't a strategy for customer acquisition. It really wasn't. It was because there was nothing content to Europe. There was nothing in Britain. Everything was the US. Literally, everything. If you look at the trends in podcasting overall, the market share of whether it's listenership, whether it's production, whether it is hosting companies, even our own market share at Captivate is still heavily biased to the US. And that's because of what it was like, you know, that's equalizing out much more now. But the legacy customers are very significantly skewed towards the US, plus if you get to go to a conference in Vegas, you're not going to argue, are you? So, it was fortunate.Jim James:
Yeah, I absolutely agree, a nice place to go and promote. You mentioned that podcasting still is predominantly America. Do you think then, from an entrepreneur's point of view, if you are building a business into Europe, for example, or to Asia, that having a podcast should be part of your strategy? Does it really make sense to have a podcast unless you're focused on America?Mark Asquith:
Oh yeah. I think, there's two separate questions there. I think the America part is, I don't think that matters anymore. I think it's, you know, there, there are enough people in enough territories that know enough about podcasting that it will work if you choose to make it work. Question of whether you should have a podcast in your mix though is very different. And I love podcasting. I've been doing it now for over 10 years. It's, It's my job, it's my career. It's what I enjoy doing. And I would, even if I didn't have Captivate, even if I didn't now work for Global, even if I didn't speak all over the world doing it and write on it and educated on it, I would still podcast. I would still talk about Star Wars or DC or whatever, you know. So Jim, I'm saying that for some context because there's no point starting a podcast unless you can put time into it. It's often, sadly, other entrepreneurs who are selling podcast courses because they think, "Well, wait a minute, I can make a quick book doing this because everyone wants to get into podcasting." And that's the problem is that sort of used to be true, like 6 years ago, 7 years ago, there wasn't that many podcasts around. There was still only 200, 300,000, which again, 50 million blogs and God knows how many YouTube channels. It was sparse so you could create any podcast and generally get a decent listenership. As a business owner, enough to build some kind of funnel, some kind of sales focus, if that was your goal, you could do that. Now, you can't. Because now there are millions of podcasts. get parodied in TV shows and movies, that's how obvious it's become to have a podcast these days. So, I think what you've got to consider is, it's like anything. You know, if I was to say a YouTube channel, if I could do it now, I could just do a YouTube channel on my phone, and I could publish to YouTube. Would it grow? It will probably not. Because I'd need time and tactics and strategies. So yeah, podcasting is as good as any other medium. It's got a little bit of an edge over certain mediums. So like YouTube, it's got a certain edge over YouTube in that it can be passively consumed and it can be consumed in more diverse range of places, so the car and walking and so on. But it will not work for you unless it's good. Like, I hate the whole, let's take a YouTube video and repurpose it to audio, like, I think that's crap. You know, what's the point? It's sillyJim James:
Yeah, the different formats actually, aren't they? Different design intent.Mark Asquith:
Yeah, that is exactly it. Yeah. The design is so different. And even vice versa, you know. We ran an experiment during lockdown, like, "What if I just published my podcast to YouTube?" And I'm like, "You know, get ready. There's some music incoming." But, I'm like, "Welcome to Podcast Accelerator. This is Mark Asquith, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Let's have a good time. We're going to talk to you about Twitter threads for podcasting growth." On a podcast that sounds great, on YouTube, the content is good content, but the comments were like, "Dude, what the?" "What are you doing with your music, man?" "Turn the music off." And it was great to experiment with it. I love doing it, even though you get people in the comments and you just have a bit of banter with them. And it was great because I was able to say, "Actually, I can see why that wouldn't work, because I need to do different things. The editing's different, the visuals are different and it's such an important thing." So yeah, in short, it's great for getting noticed, but it has to be done properly. It can't just be tacked on like a lot of people do. Yeah. I compare it to SEO back in 2007. When everyone, like all the local builders were coming into our agency and all the local plumbers were coming into our agency and "Oh, we need to do SEO." Like, "Well, do you? Really?" Like, you probably get what, 20% of the things inquires coming through from Google, coming through cold, 80 to 85% are from referrals. Like, why don't you build a referral scheme that's better? You know, The things get trending if you don't do them properly. it's very easy for someone to say, "Well, podcasting didn't work for me because podcasting is not just hitting record and publishing it, you know?"Jim James:
Yeah. So, as you rightly say, it's not for everyone, ironically, because you have a dog in the fight, as they say, if everyone had a podcast, Captivate would be getting better. But, Mark, you recently sold Captivate to Global, which obviously has the iHeartRadio network within, which is massive. From a getting noticed perspective, can you just tell us how that happened? Because it's a real success story. It's an accolade and obviously a credit to what you built with both passion and technical expertise. From the marketing and outreach investor relations, can you just talk us through how you manage that?Mark Asquith:
I hate investors. We have no investment whatsoever. We were fully bootstrapped. I started working for myself because I don't like people telling me what to do. So like, to have investors would suck ass. So I would never do that. And from that perspective, and the reason that I'm saying that is not to be flippant. It's to set the scene for how we got to the point that we could become part of Global. Captivate is built without asking anyone what they wanted. I know how to do good customer research because I've done it for other startups. I've done it through my agency. I know how to do that, and I can do it well. We've never done it for Captivate because people only know what the deficiencies are and what they wish would solve a problem that they're having, literally, this second. And the old entrepreneur cliche, "Ask people what they're struggling with and give them a solution." It sounds brilliant on paper, but it doesn't get you very far, really. So, what we did was we literally made useful things. And what I mean by that is we didn't ask people, "What would you use this thing?" So, for example, would you use a dynamic show notes builder that saved you 30 minutes in your show notes? I know people would, but if I were to ask people, "Would you pay for it?" They would say "No." Because it's not that much of a problem. But the thing is, we went into Captivate with the strategy as follows. The hosting part of it, the analytics part of it, the bit that every host should be the best-looking, it should be the easiest to use, but we shouldn't be applauded for that because that is the basic, like, if we can't do that, we shouldn't be in the game. So we made that the best it can be and it is one of the best in the world. It's the easiest to use, and we get commended on that. You can see that on Trustpilot but then we've got to do two other thing. We've got to have the best support in the industry, which we have. Again, you can look at Trustpilot for that. We've got everything support-focused. I still do support, and I've sold the damn thing, and I still do support. And then the second extra thing that we should do is build an ecosystem of product that sits around Captivate's hosting offer and that will help people with their daily podcasting lives. And that is all we should do, and we should probably give all of that away as part of the hosting cost because if people keep hosting people, we get bigger. They get bigger, everyone wins. So that's the way we did it. When it comes to networking, marketing, and getting noticed, I am naively simple when it comes to marketing. My approach to marketing, to networking is the same as my approach to this conversation, which is the same as my approach to a conversation in the bar with my friends, which is to just be unequivocally yourself. And so, through 10 years of speaking, giving everyone the time of day, and trying to help as many people as possible and connect as many people to other people that can help them as possible, I just built up a great network. And then when it came to the fact that Global, were looking to acquire a hosting platform, like they came to us. And I'll tell you the story about us.Jim James:
Yeah, that's a great accolade isn't it, yeah.Mark Asquith:
Yeah, and it is great. Honestly, I love Global. We weren't looking to sell it, and I'll tell you that story in a second. But Global came to us, and it was such a good fit because they're just nice people, and they love what they do. They love audio, they love creating, they love on air, and they love broadcasting. They love podcasting. They love it. So it was such a good fit. But the reason that they came to us and the reason that it fit was because our personalities such that it didn't matter if it didn't, we still had a good business. So we could be very choosy about if we wanted to get acquired and to become part of so indifferent. And what was good about that was that the product stood alone. You know, the product is incomparable to any other hosting company because, on paper it's hosting, but where else do you get integrated guest booking dynamic show notes? Where do you get, Amy? Where do you get all of the other stuff that we do?Jim James:
Yeah. But also, it's not just integrate. It's created a toolkit that simply didn't exist and still doesn't, and you know, and then you overlay that, there's me and Kieran, who have all this experience, and I'm pretty outspoken.Jim James:
And you're out there. Yeah,Mark Asquith:
and that was part of it. So, we weren't looking to get acquired. We tested the water to see. So we basically thought to ourselves, "Right, we've got two options with this. We're boots strapped up. We can either get acquired." There's a TEDx Talk that I did a couple of years ago, which is about choose happiness, choose control. If anyone has seen that, they'll know that I do not like anyone dictating what I do at all. So, to get acquired, was like the last thing on our mind. Because why would I want to get a job and other people be able to tell me what to do? It just didn't fit with the last 20 years of my life. So yeah. We had the other opportunity, which was, well, in that case, we can keep building Captivate. But like any good entrepreneur, like any good startup founder, you've got to test your assumption. So we stuck Captivate on MicroAcquire, which is a site to kind of sell smaller businesses. And we had no intent of selling it, the valuation wasn't even right on there. We literally just fingering the air, made it up, and the valuation that was on there was way off. We started talking about with Kieran and the team, and we very rapidly went through the process, saying, "We do not want to get acquired because everyone's a tyre kicker." Everyone is looking to strip Captivate for the tools and strip it down to its bare parts. They don't necessarily want strong-willed founders in place like us. They just want to strip it for its MRR, and that's when we decided we didn't want to sell. So we put the head down last year, and we just said, "Whoa, we'll just keep growing it." And then Global came along, and because we weren't looking to sell, we were much more open to the conversation, because there was nothing to lose. It's not like we, oh my word, need this acquisition, so we have to do everything that they want. It was just — well, they seem like decent people. You know, we were in there at a very high level as Global, Kieran and I are in a very high level. So it's not, the people at the highest level are good people. What's their vision? And their vision is carry on doing what you're doing and keep building Captivate. But actually, you get the opportunity to work on the wider podcasting industry as well, which we wouldn't be able to do if we were just siloed, in to Captivate. It was fascinating that it just came from being a genuinely around. You know, just being a genuinely active person in the industry. And I think that's one thing, just to finish up on that, is that certainly in podcasting right now, but I think in a lot of business industry. People get into it because they think they can make money, and they can. Especially in an industry like podcasting or any creator-led industry, it's obvious if you get into it because you want to make money, and people see that. And although we see so many companies they started because they thought they could get acquired in podcasting that haven't because it's obvious that they're in it for that. And the industry and people looking to buy businesses is in an industry like podcasting. They're looking to buy people as well. They're not just looking to buy product. They're looking to buy people, and it stands out a mile. So that's very important. It's to be genuine. Yeah. IJim James:
think, that maybe leads us to the final question, Mark, about what would be your, number one tip to my fellow unnoticed entrepreneurs. You've started something — many businesses. You've built this through genuine hard work and commitment to the product and to the industry as well. So, is there a number-one takeaway that you could share with us on getting noticed? Do you think that's worked for you?Mark Asquith:
Yeah, I believe it's the fundamental, which is to be wholly in the industry that you're in, to give to that industry, and to go and be present at all of the things. And the marketing strategy, marketing tactics, product strategy, product development, brand design, launch tactics — all of that follows without loving and being wholly in what you do. Everything else will be superficial. And it will be about the numbers, whereas if you genuinely love what you do and you give to it, the numbers will naturally come because you will unequivocally be absolutely everywhere and be so well known that it's impossible for the numbers not to come. And people try and do it the other way. They try and launch something, and then get well known, and you have to give to the thing first, and that is not always easy, but it works beyond all else. And all you've got to do is look at any business that you can think of that has done what you aspire to do, whether that's grown, whether it's been acquired. Look at the founders, then there will be that one common trait that they started doing the thing before they decided they wanted to make money doing the thing. That's important.Jim James:
Mark, wonderfully said about the integrity and the passion. And having watched you and binge listened to all of your podcasts which you've done selfishly to give back. I absolutely can feel that coming. So, Mark, if people want to find out more about you, Mark Asquith, how can they do that?Mark Asquith:
Oh, just Twitter. Actually, that's the easiest place @Mr.Asquith on Twitter, and then there's everything else on there. We can have a chat, and I'm big on Twitter and engagement, so yeah. Just @Mr.Asquith on the Twitter.Jim James:
Great. And in spite of Elon Musk, you're going to stay on Twitter? Got to ask you that question.Mark Asquith:
I've got a Tesla outside. So yeah. Although I do think I will say that what I think Twitter is a bit nuts. What's going on at Twitter, I don't agree with everything there at all. I don't agree with it. But yeah, I'm going to be there. Mainly because I did start, like, setting up Master Done and all the other stuff, and I was like, "Man, this is a hassle." So I'm going to be on Twitter for a while, I think.Jim James:
Okay, so that's @Mr.Asquith. And of course, I'll put Mark's details in the show notes. Mark, thank you so much for joining me and sharing with me not just on this podcast but through all the other work you've done about Captivate. Thank you so much for joining me on The UnNoticed Entrepreneur Today.Mark Asquith:
it's a pleasure, Jim. Thank you for having me.Jim James:
And look for everyone of us, The UnNoticed Entrepreneur. You've heard that podcasting is good as long as you're committed to it. And also that, really, ultimately, to get noticed, you have to be passionate and committed to what you're doing and who you're serving. So, a wonderful message from Mark and of course, if you've enjoyed this, do please share this with a fellow entrepreneur. And if you've really liked the show, please rate it, because that really helps. And until we meet again, keep on communicating.