Mark Asquith, AKA “That British Podcast Guy,” is not-so-quietly building a podcast business empire.
He is the mastermind behind Rebel Base Media, the umbrella company that creates technology and solutions for podcasters — including Podcast Websites, The Podcast Success Academy, and Captivate, “the world’s only growth-oriented podcast hosting platform.”
He also hosts the Podcast Accelerator, a short-form podcast education show that comes out a few times a week.
While the Podcast Website’s brand kicked things off, Mark says he knew it was just a starting point to get to know the industry better and identify the gaps.
“Rebel Base Media was always the vision,” he says. “It was always the vision to have a hosting, analytics, and marketing platform; to always have an education academy,” Mark says on an episode of Between 2 Mics.
Here, based on our wide-ranging chat, we round up some of his most interesting insights on the podcasting industry and what it takes to build great podcast products that users love.
Creating podcasting tools for growth
Mark sees the success of his businesses as directly tied to the success of the podcasters who use his products and services.
“Ultimately, if they succeed, we succeed. If we succeed, they succeed. So it’s this symbiotic relationship,” he says.
“We want to create an ecosystem around growth,” he says of the mission of Rebel Base Media. Ultimately, he aspires to offer an end-to-end solution that supports a podcaster at every stage of the process — from workflow and planning right through to marketing.
He’s driven, in part, because he’s frustrated by outsiders swooping in to capitalize on the popularity of podcasting. “I’m hugely frustrated by the amount of people coming into podcasting and making money from podcasters for things that they don’t need,” he notes. “It’s a nightmare.”
Part of the solution is to create tools that make life easier and solve problems for podcasters. For example, when discussing Rebel Base Media’s hosting platform Captivate, Mark explains how he bakes growth into it by applying a mental filter.
“Every decision that we make, we ask one of two things,” he says. “Does this actually fit into this growth-oriented mantra? And number two, if it’s a feature that doesn’t fit into that … how can we make it growth-oriented?”
The ‘just in time’ mindset
For years, Mark has been telling himself a version of Richard Branson’s quote, “If somebody offers you an amazing opportunity but you are not sure you can do it, say yes – then learn how to do it later!”
For a guy who had his last “actual job” around age 24, that mantra has served Mark well. He says that applying a “just in time” learning mindset has helped every time he’s been “thrown into the deep end.” Those experiences have encouraged him to adopt a healthy attitude towards risk-taking, too.
“Nothing can possibly go too wrong if you’re just a decent person,” he says. “I think that’s the mindset that I’ve always had. I just didn’t realize that it was a skill for a long time.”
Mark says that his success hasn’t been about mastering every task or topic thrown his way. Instead, he’s built his business by gaining a solid (well, solid enough) understanding of a lot of different topics.
“You need to know enough to be able to talk well enough about something,” he says. “You don’t need to be the expert in everything. There’s a place in the world for generalists. There’s a place in the world for people who can connect the dots. You’ve got to understand a little bit about each dot. And if you don’t, you will not be able to connect them.”
Play to matter, not to win
When asked about how to get ahead in the crowded, fast-paced podcasting market, Mark was quick to answer that there’s a “really big distinction” between coming in first place and creating a brand that people care about and connect with. The key is to focus on your users, not on competing against other companies: “You can’t possibly win a race that doesn’t exist.”
Rather, “as long as you matter to enough people, you will win in the long-term,” he says. “The second you start thinking of things as winning, you can never get off the treadmill. You can never stop running, but you can do certain things that will always matter.”
He illustrates with his approach to Captivate.
Mark says that the goal was to simply “matter to enough people in podcasting that they all just decide to use us.”
“Other podcast hosts will come, and other podcast hosts will go,” he adds. “While everyone else is sprinting, you need to be making sure that your laces are tied.”
Mark acknowledges that every once in a while, he can’t help but compare himself to competitors releasing new, flashy features. But knee-jerk reactions shouldn’t be the basis for decision-making.
“If you’re always reacting, then you’ll never push forward. You’ll never be the leader. You will never ever do anything but follow,” says Mark.
Word to the wise: “Whereas if you can just sit back, be quiet, shut up, listen, and build something that is actually innovative and revolutionary, the day that you launch that thing is going to be an absolute tidal wave because suddenly you are doing things that no one has even thought of.”
Vision is king
According to Mark, the “biggest secret that no one tells you is that no one actually cares about what you do.” People are too busy to notice the tiny changes in your product.
“No cares about your stuff… until they do,” he says. “And the only reason that they do care is because you matter so much to them.”
Mark explains that there are two main ways to matter to your audience: “You either become so valuable to them that they can’t possibly live without you, or they get to know you enough that you become a friend. They either need you or they want you. That’s it.”
Mark’s way of mattering to podcasters is by following “a user-oriented vision,” he says.
“What do I want people to get out of this? What experience do I want people to have?” he asks. “And if you can, keep that vision intact.”
Mark measures every new feature rollout against that user-oriented vision.
“Will these people care about it? Because if they’re not going to care about it, it’s out,” he says. “Even if we love it, it is out.” He credits that mindset with helping him prioritize business decisions. For example, if he catches wind that his customers have a “dodgy” or “stagnant experience,” he’ll make sure it never happens again.
“If there’s any piece of friction, it will be gone. It will be absolutely eliminated,” he says. “And it really is about that vision.”
Zachariah Moreno is a technologist, podcaster, author, and co-founder of SquadCast. He and his team are on a mission to connect creatives.