The Sleep With Me podcast is one of the most unique shows available on iTunes. A favorite of the health charts and the top health pick in the 2017 Podcast Book, Sleep With Me is a one man show with a simple purpose: putting you to sleep.
Drew Ackerman (aka Dearest Scooter) is the man behind the mic and the mastermind behind its creation. In this podcaster profile, we explore what goes into the making of his show, and get his tips for present and future podcasters.
Sleep With Me Podcast, The Podcast That Puts You To Sleep
How does it make you feel that your podcast is making a difference in people’s quality of sleep?
I’m really touched when I hear from people that the show helps. It helps me keep the show going. I know how it feels to not be able to sleep, to be tossing and turning miserably, and to have the frustration, loneliness, and pain that comes along with it.
It really is an honor to be able to provide something that’s ostensibly free for most people that can possibly help them live a fuller life.
What’s the typical work flow of a ‘Sleep With Me’ podcast? Do you concept each episode well in advance?
Episodes of the Sleep With Me podcast are usually planned out six to eight weeks ahead of time. In that time frame, I’ll usually have the initial edit done by the editors two to three weeks out. When that edit is done, I’ll listen and do the final post production. This is where I make tiny corrections, mix in music, and release early stuff to patrons.
There’s three different shows I do. Sunday nights I do a TV recap show, Tuesday nights I do a made up story, and Thursday nights are written.
For the TV recap show, the actual work to prep for recording is watching a show about three or four times. By the time I sit down to record, I’ve got 12 to 20 pages of notes and I’ll have the episode running on mute and base it on all that stuff.
How much easier is it to focus on creating a podcast that’s not meant to be interesting or intriguing?
I guess I don’t know if it’s easier or more difficult. I try to focus very hard on being present in the moment, like I’m there with the listener. I spend a lot of energy trying to stay in the moment. When I’m recording, it doesn’t sound like the finished product. I think in my mind it does, but there’s a lot of pauses, a lot of me taking breaths and trying to refocus.
Good podcasts of any kind take a lot of work. I think in my case, I’m asking myself questions like, “What are you curious and interested in that you can sustain the work it takes to make it?” For me that’s putting people to sleep. I have a tendency to ramble on and go on tangents, so it’s like a combination of my natural interests and maybe my ability to be boring.
Sleep With Me is a podcast that’s meant to lose listener interest. Does it create a hurdle with advertisers?
I think there’s way more value in the show in the halo effect and the listener engagement I have. If someone doesn’t listen to the show, it’s a lot of work [to explain]because then they have to say, “What is this show? It puts people to sleep?” It’s really hard to communicate and that’s not the advertiser or the industry people’s fault. But the opposite is true for someone that listens to the show. If someone has someone in their life that really gets a lot out of the show, they tell everybody.
My show is a little bit different. I can only run advertisements at the beginning and I’ve tried to really get a good understanding of what is an effective call to action. By the end of this podcast, I feel like I’ll have transferrable skills in podcast advertising because I’ll understand everything that’s going to get listeners to act on the calls to action. I just try to put the extra work in.
Before you started “Sleep With Me”, did you have any audio recording experience?
I did not and learned by trial and error by actually releasing episodes. I had the idea for this podcast for years, but I was just like, “Oh, I don’t have any audio experience. It’s kind of embarrassing and I don’t want to do that.” My self critic was in charge. Then some clear part of me was telling me, “Why don’t you start that sleep podcast?” So I just went for it. This was before Serial and stuff, but podcasts in 2013 were doing pretty well. I just started recording and releasing.
Over the first six to eight months, I really had almost no listeners . Once the feedback began trickling in, I used it to start finding ways to improve the show. I mainly just learned from YouTube, podcasts about podcasting, and anything about podcasting that I could find on Google.
Where do you record “Sleep With me”?
In my closet. I call it the climb-in closet. I have moving blankets on the walls and there’s a wall of clothes, so it’s very womb-like to help me get in the zone of the podcast. There’s also a carpet on the floor that I put down. It’s a very small and dead room, which I like.
Do you have a certain mic you prefer for this show?
In the beginning I just started out with borrowed equipment. I used a shotgun mic and a digital recorder for the first 150 episodes, then I bought an ATR 2100 when my friend needed his stuff back. I just ran that into a $30 preamp I bought on Amazon, then into a digital recorder. I liked it because it all fit in the closet better.
Today I use a Shure microphone.
There seems to be a podcast for almost anything. It’s growing and doesn’t seem to be slowing down. How do you feel about the state of podcasts and the direction the industry is going?
I feel pretty good. I think it’s still a hard industry to be in. I don’t know if there’s any other media opportunity like this, maybe other than publishing, even publishing, where you get to own what you’re making and you can distribute it. I’m in a network but I still own my podcast. There are people making shows for companies and stuff. I just don’t know if there’s any other opportunities like podcasting where you’re the owner.
I still have a day job and I’m trying to transition over the next few months to working on the podcast but I want to make sure that the structure is in place so that when I transition, that the podcast is sustainable. That’s what I promised my listeners when I started monetizing it.
If you could offer one piece of advice to new podcasters, what would it be?
I would say to set quit points. It’s the one thing that’s made all the difference with my podcast. With podcasting, it’s all about consistency, incremental improvement, and developing trust with your audience. In that, I think you should have permission to quit if something’s not working.
Have points where you can decide if you want to keep making the show or not. Know what expectations are being met and ones that aren’t. Then ask if you should keep making the show till the next quit point you made.
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