Physician-run podcasts: Behind the scenes

March 11, 2019

Why physicians are hosting podcasts and how you can start one. 

Several physicians are hosting podcasts, a relatively new type of media program that is growing in popularity.  Podcasts are radio shows, usually accessed by subscription or through media applications, which feature programs on a number of topics. Interviews, instructional segments, and in-depth documentaries are among the varied types of programs available on podcast channels. 

How and why they got started

Ni-Daako Darko, DO, a trauma surgeon in Altoona, Pa., runs the popular Docs Outside the Box podcast. He features interviews with physicians who have explored their talents in unexpected ways, such as writing for television. He was inspired to start the podcast because he felt that, asa doctor, he was not in complete control over his life and he had not explored other talents he knew he had. “I was in a box, so, I got a microphone, connected it to my laptop and created Docs Outside the Box,” Darko says. He explains that he went through a good deal of trial and error when he started. “There were great podcasts and some pretty bad podcasts out there. With that in mind, I figured there was room for me to make a bunch of mistakes,” he says. 

Carrie Reynolds, MD, a pediatric gastroenterologist in Denver, Colo., runs the Hippocratic Hustle, a well-known podcast. Originally, she started the Hippocratic Hustle podcast to share the stories of women physicians who were practicing their careers creatively. She noticed that these stories had an overarching theme. “My guests had found freedom, and were practicing their pursuits creatively,” Reynolds says. And this inspired her to use the podcast as mission to help women physicians achieve financial independence (FI). “The FI message is important, because it gives us freedom to choose our lifestyle and work environment,” she says. Reynolds learned how to build her podcast by listening to podcasts about podcasting, and she noted that one of them in particular, Audacity to Podcast, was the most helpful. She now participates in a mastermind group run by Elsie Escobar, one of the founders of ShePodcasts, a Facebook group for women podcasters. 

John Jurica, MD, a family physician in Chicago, runs Physician NonClinical Careers (PNC) podcast. Before he started PNC, he had been blogging for about 2 years and became convinced that a podcast creates more of a connection with listeners. “Most readers only scan a blog post. The average YouTube video is watched for 3 to 4 minutes. But 80 percent of podcast listeners consume most or all of the podcast episodes they open,” Jurica says. He listened to many podcasts about podcasting and then purchased an online course called Power Up Podcasting. Jurica then hired a designer to create a logo, purchased music, set up the equipment, learned how to edit his own episodes, and prepared three complete shows before launching the podcast.

Nicole Washington, DO, a psychiatrist in Tulsa, Okla., runs a new podcast called The C-Suite Confidant. The focus is on mental wellness for high-powered professionals, such as physicians, lawyers, and public officials. “Being recognizable in your community leads you to avoid treatment due to stigma,” Washington says. The goal of C-Suite Confidant is to provide a place for conversation about day-to-day issues that the busy professional deals with. Washington says that she did not have experience with this type of media, and initially hired a coach to help her with the logistics. 

Eric Tait, MD, an internist is Houston, runs a podcast called The Physician’s Road. He runs an investment firm that specializes in helping physicians create passive income streams. The Physician’s Road was initially started to help answer investment related questions for his clients, and then, as it grew in popularity, the focus expanded to include issues in the areas of wealth, professional practice, health, relationships, and personal development for physicians. He had already been a self-described podcast junkie prior to starting his own, and he listened to podcasts about podcasting for about six months to understand the basics. Then he joined a podcasting mastermind group and an online podcasting community to learn and share more information with other podcasters

Costs and income

The basic costs of starting a podcast include purchasing a microphone and a computer. A microphone can cost as little as $20, and most computers have the software capability necessary to record, edit, and upload a podcast. Darko explains that the technology in most mobile phones is equipped to record and videotape guests without much work at all.

Another cost is subscribing to a media-hosting package, which can support podcast files and enable editing, with a range of $5 to $30 per month. Subscribing to a website or blog to catalogue episodes and post corresponding content costs about $10 per month for a basic package, and can run in the range of $50 or higher per month for advanced features, such as personal accounts for subscribers. It is typically easy to add additional services, such as sound features and transcription services to a media or web-hosting package as needs change, but planning ahead can be helpful. “I went with a package that could easily handle our plans for future expansion. I tend to work from the standpoint of planfor the future you ultimately want, not for what you have today,” Tait says. 

Podcasters often do most of the technical work themselves but some hire out the artistic and musical work. Several of physician podcasters suggest using sites like Upwork or posting at nearby universities to hire freelancers for help with graphics or editing. Jurica edits his own programs, while Reynolds says that editors may charge $50 to $100 to edit an episode. Hiring someone to create a professionally produced musical introduction can cost $500, and the same introduction be used for each episode. 

The greatest expenses for this group have been courses and coaching, which sometimes cost several thousand dollars. Doctors who want to learn about podcasting from someone with experience, rather than taking a trial and error do-it-yourself approach may prefer paying for instruction. “I probably spent about $6000 in total start up cost over 5-6 months, but you can definitely spend less and get it accomplished,” Washington says. 

Reynolds points out that the process of building an audience does take time, especially in terms of marketing to audiences.

The income attained by running a podcast comes from sponsors. And getting sponsors takes hard work. If a few thousand listeners regularly tune in to a podcast, sponsors might not be aware of it. Marketing a podcast to sponsors can be time consuming, and requires developing sales skills, as well as figuring out how much a sponsor can be asked to pay. Sponsorship can run from several hundred dollars to tens of thousands, and the final number requires negotiation, as well as realistic expectations.

Reynolds also cautions doctors to be realistic about how much money they can earn from a podcast. “There are some remarkable stories out there of people getting quite rich with their podcast, but this is by far NOT the norm,” she says.  

Advice for physicians who are interested in podcasting 

There is ample opportunity and a welcoming community for new physician podcasters. All of the physicians interviewed, without hesitation, did not have any concerns about competition from physicians entering into the world of podcasting. “Less than 26 percent of adults have listened to a podcast over the past month. So there is definite growth potential,” Tait says. He believes that the connection with the audience through spoken word is different than information transmitted through writing. Tait advises physicians who are interested in podcasting to find their own voice, to make sure to say something meaningful and actionable, and to do it with quality. 

Washington believes that listeners are craving the expertise that doctors can provide through podcasts. She especially has words of encouragement for those who feel that the technical side is too intimidating. “Please take some time to do a little self-reflection and remember that you went through a lot of training to get to where you are. You are smart enough to learn how to do it,” she says. 

Jurica says that a podcast is an excellent way to connect with colleagues, patients and the general public, and he feels thatthere is still plentyof room for more physicians. “We need more podcasts by physicians aimed at nutrition, exercise, specific clinical diseases and conditions, and dozens of other interesting topics,” he explains. 

Darko feels that there is a long way to go before the podcast medium is saturated. And he always tells people not to be discouraged to create a podcast if someone else already has a podcast on the same topic. He explains that this means there is already an established audience and that the audience may want to hear diverse voices. In fact, he strongly encourages development of new podcasts. In March, Darko self published a book about podcasting called 3,2,1…Podcast! The Beginner’s Guide to Building Brand Authority Through Podcasting to guide others about the ins and outs of podcasting

Reynolds, who features topics that she is passionate about on her podcast, says that a doctor can create a podcast about any topic that they are interested in. “I even have a friend who has a podcast for PEZ dispenser collectors,” she says.

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