I started listening to Srinivas Rao’s informative podcast months before I started blogging. There were many others, but his show is the one I still never miss.
He interviews a diverse range of bloggers, writers and online entrepreneurs, but cuts to the chase, with a style that brings the most informative bits to the surface, always. For anyone entering the blogging world, I highly recommend this podcast.
He also runs a blog called The Skool of Life, where he writes about the things you should have learned in school but never did. I’ve learned a ton from his podcast, thoroughly enjoy his blog, and I also relate to a guy who says he never fit in, obsesses, and has issues with authority.
A short time ago, I asked him a wide range of questions, from making money online to his passion for surfing. Srini’s interviewed some amazing people and is making things happen in his own world, so I knew he would have some great answers. I’m just grateful for the opportunity to share this interview with you. Take out that note pad and soak up some wisdom.
Q: When you first started blogging what did you set out to accomplish? Observing where you are at this moment in time, is it close to what you originally envisioned?
Srini: I started my personal blog, The Skool of Life so that I could find a job working in a social media role at a company. While it did eventually lead me there it resulted in far more than I ever planned. I never thought I’d be speaking at conferences or interviewing some of the most famous people online. So I’d say it’s far from what I envisioned when I first started. That’s why I always tell people, take the first step because the view keeps changing with each step forward.
Q: And what are your plans for the next year? What is your long-term vision for BlogcastFM?
Srini: I’ve set a goal of a million listeners which some people might think is crazy. The focus of this next year is getting additional sponsors, and continually improving the quality of our show with more high profile guests. David and I are also in talks about developing a second show. As far as the long term vision goes, I had to stop thinking about BlogcastFM as a podcast and start thinking of it as a media company. So I’ve looked at what the biggest media personalities of our day have done. That’s meant content in nearly every format, books, video, audio, and more. The long term vision is to build a world class media company that provides expert advice to small business owners and entrepreneurs.
Q: You have interviewed many business people who are simply killing it online, some well into six figures – notice I didn’t call them bloggers . Of all the advice you’ve heard, which bits of wisdom are etched in your memory? I mean, real-world, practical advice for turning an online venture into a profitable business?
Srini: One of my favorite gems was from Cameron Herold because it was so simple: Focus on the critical few instead of the important many. I loved that because I’ve never been a guy who believes the hours you work are a representation of how much you’re getting done. It’s so easy to get caught up in all the distractions around us. I’m as guilty of it as anybody. But then I ask myself if it will have any impact on my ultimate goal.
The owner of a luxury yacht company that I interviewed ages ago told me something I’ve never forgotten. “Sometimes you take two steps back to take twenty forward.” I’ve taken plenty of steps back and every single time it’s led to twenty forward. It’s one of those things I keep in mind every single time I hit a setback.
Q: I often write about the importance of displaying your Uniqueness to the world. How can uniqueness benefit a lone blogger looking to make it, especially with the fragmentation of culture and the increasing importance of finding a core audience?
Srini: It’s probably one of the most important things in the journey of a blogger. If you start out with the goal of becoming the next Tim Ferriss you’re doomed before you start, because you’re trying to become someone that already exists. You’re better off focusing on becoming the best YOU that you can be. I’m certainly not there and I don’t think many people are. Half the fun is in the journey.
Q: Could you describe what you think the social web will look like in five years? Have you interviewed anyone who’s completely blown your mind with their predictions?
Srini: I’ve had a somewhat odd view into the web because it’s been shaped by so many perspectives and I’ve crossed boundaries between so many communities. I think that web of the future will be more community and tribe centric. We gravitate towards people who are similar to us and what’s going to be interesting to me is how technology facilitates that. Right now we have access to people and information like we’ve never had before. Organizing this mess is where the future of the web will go.
I can’t say that anybody has really blown my mind with their predictions, but maybe it’s because I’m just overloaded with information.
Q: You do have a dream interview, right? Is there someone outside of blogging and social media you’re dying to interview and would jump at the opportunity?
Srini: Oh yeah. I’d love to interview Richard Branson. He’s made a fortune by continually having fun and redefining what’s possible. The thing that’s interesting is how he’s done it across so many different types of businesses. Not many people can say that.
Q: Do you think provoking readers is essential? And how important is it for a successful, sustainable online presence?
Srini: If you look at the most prominent bloggers online, you’ll notice that they have only one thing in common. They all invoke an emotional response in their readers. It requires a bit of a thick skin, but you want people to love or hate you. In fact when people really hate you the ones that love you will sing your praises. I’ve been called everything from a thief in the night to a disservice to humanity. But what’s odd is on the same days I get comments like that, almost immediately after somebody sends me an email telling me how much they like my work.
Q: This question made me think of your Indian weddings post. Was that a good experience for you?
Srini: It’s funny you ask. I sat on that post for a month. I was really worried about how offended people would be by it. I thought maybe my mom would say something, but she didn’t. I did have a reader who left a really long comment and then proceeded to unsubscribe from my blog. But I don’t regret writing it. I think you’ve got to be willing to take risks with your content. The fear of pushing publish is a sign that you’ve written something that people are going to respond to. Otherwise, why would you care?
Q: And what is your take on the Cathryn Sloane controversy? For those who don’t know about it, you can get all the good stuff here. Do you think she truly believes what she wrote?
Srini: I think it took some serious guts for her to write that post. Given that she probably has no concept of a pre-social media world, I think she does believe that. I can’t honestly say I wouldn’t have written that piece myself if I was in her shoes. Whose to say any of us wouldn’t have? But I think the part that she really missed the boat on was that being a power user doesn’t mean you know how to connect social media to business value.
Q: I think one of your most fascinating interviews was with Julien Smith. Especially regarding his take on choosing the right people to hang with. He broke down the essential steps in seeking and hanging with the “right” people. It might seem too calculated for many. It kinda does to me, but we all do this to some extent, right?
Srini: There’s no doubt we do. I think we all need a relationship marketing strategy. He just stripped it down to the raw truth. My approach has been a bit different. Instead of seeking the “popular kid’s blessing” as Julien called it, I made it my mission to befriend the new kids in class. Become friends with enough new kids and you eventually are the popular kid. Or to put in words that sound a bit more sophisticated, “emerging talent is the most undervalued asset on the social web.”
Q: Simple question. Is finding a niche still important for online success?
Srini: I don’t think so. The whole idea of a “niche” is that you blog about one particular subject. I’m sure there are plenty of people who disagree. But you look at a guy like Chris Guillebeau. He has an overarching theme which allows him to move in lots of directions. In my mind you want to set yourself up with room for experimentation.
Q: I recently wrote a post on “fame” within the social web. Like I said in the post, I’m not sure what “famous” even means any more in an always-on pop culture. Two questions on this: 1.) Are there any truly “famous” bloggers, besides Arianna Huffington? and 2.) What does “bubble” fame get you, really?
Srini: I loved that post. The idea of online fame is a bit ridiculous. We live in a bubble where we’ve deemed certain people “celebs.” But the minute you get outside that bubble nobody knows who they are. I could be wrong, but I’ve never heard of a famous blogger getting mobbed at the airport by Paparazzi … even Chris Brogan.
Q: Surfing is a big part of your life. When did you discover this passion? I would like to know what else you do to stay grounded? And how long can you stay away from social media when you are NOT surfing? Be honest.
Srini: I was on a beach in Brazil. All my friends that were supposed to be there until New Year’s ran out of money and went home. I was getting sick of sitting on the beach drinking so I thought I’d rent a surfboard and paddle out. I’d attempted it a handful of times before and I could never stand up. But that day for some reason I managed to stand up. I managed to keep standing up and I was overcome by this sense of joy. I didn’t want to get out of the water.
When I got out of the water I felt a sudden sense of calm and peacefulness that I hadn’t in years. I used to have really bad stomach problems and in that moment they seemed to dissipate. When I graduated from business school I couldn’t find a job, so in order to keep from losing my mind, I surfed 6 hours a day for 8 months straight. It’s the perfect sport for the unemployed. It’s time consuming and doesn’t cost money. The rest is history.
Part of why I write is I find it therapeutic. One kind of fuels the other. When I’ve been out of the water for a few days my writing sucks. Truth be told I can’t stay away from social media that long. I thrive on social interaction. I hate spending time alone. That’s why I’ve always lived with roommates. Even if I was making plenty of money, if I was single, I’d have a roommate.
Q: It’s been a while since we’ve heard form our friend, Ameena Falchetto. What do you think of her social media blackout?
Srini: I’m envious. I really would love to unplug and hang out at a world class surf destination for that many days. Given that I’m constantly on the lookout for people to interview and stories, that would be really tough for me.
Q: There are some amazing podcasts out there, and because of this, I hardly ever listen to news radio any more. The shows I love are from comedians, such as Marc Maron’s WTF, The Nerdist, etc. What podcasts are on your “must listen” list?
Srini: Well I guess it had to come out eventually. I don’t listen to podcasts. I think they’re too long and I have the attention span of a 5-year-old. Some might say it’s like being a writer who doesn’t read books (which I think is far worse than my defect). I know that sounds ridiculous considering I produce one. But the ones I have popped in on from time to time:
The Lifestyle Business Podcast
The Smart Passive Income Podcast
Q: Are there specific media entities you admire or seek to emulate? I’m thinking the big boys: Network, cable, radio, etc., and how this might fit in with your future plans.
Srini: When I started business school my dream was to become the head of NBC some day. So I’ve definitely looked at what some of the big media outlets do.
Q: I sometimes write about something I call “Killer Swag” (your unique combination of know-how and life experience.) Who in your mind is the very best at leveraging their experience and their personality for amazing success?
Srini: I’d have to say the most unique voice I’ve read is Ashley Ambirge. Every time I talk to a guest about people with unique voices, her name comes up. She’s got a way of mixing words that might make an English teacher cringe but the rest of us salivate. You should also pay very close attention to Mars Dorian. I think the fact that English isn’t his first language actually gives him a unique edge that we can learn a lot from.
Q: The new BlogcastFM: You and David Crandall have done an amazing job with the BlogcastFM rebranding. I would love to hear more about alternative channels, such as LOOK Magazine and how they fit into this whole plan. And how did you go about the rebranding process?
Srini: Everything really started with our listeners. First I tracked down people who I knew were big fans of our show and asked them individually what their thoughts were. Then, I asked 10 listeners if they would be willing to join us in a special group to provide some very extensive feedback.
In order to avoid all the noise on Facebook, I moved them all over to Google+ and we spent a month asking them all sorts of questions. One of the things I realized was that I was completely unfamiliar with the user experience of BlogcastFM because I wasn’t listening to the show. So we got this incredibly eye opening view into what people thought, what they wanted and how to really step up our game.
I was on a four day drive to Omaha with my sister. In order to pass the time we got the Steve Jobs biography on the iPod. I kept hearing about his obsession with detail and design. The more I heard it the more I started hating what BlogcastFM looked like. I felt like we had this amazing content but if somebody landed on the site for the first time that wouldn’t be their first impression. Sometime in the midst of it all I called David and I said, “I really hate this web site, can you do something about it.”
Then we unleashed our nuclear weapon on the site, David Crandall. He’s got two really valuable skills:
1.) Making sense of my non linear insanity.
2.) Translating it into something beautiful.
It’s really an amazing partnership and he’s played an integral role in altering our brand perception. In terms of our other channels, I think they’re really a part of our long term vision of evolving beyond just BlogcastFM.
I would like to thank Srini for taking the time to answer all these questions. If you haven’t already listened, check out his show, it’s one of the best out there. If this has provided some value to you, you may also want to check out my interview with Gini Dietrich. It’s an oldie, but a goodie! Let us know what you think in the comments below.