What you can learn from Jimmie Whisman: Three priorities for finding podcast success

What you can learn from Jimmie Whisman: Three priorities for finding podcast success

With two hit podcasts and fans clamoring for live shows and merch, Jimmie Whisman is living the podcaster dream. 

The comedian and co-host of “Small Town Murder” and “Crime in Sports” knows what it takes to build a following and monetize that attention. He also knows the place that patience, vision and hard work play in that success. The path of Whisman and his partner, James Pietragallo, is paved with lessons for any podcaster or content creator. 

I spoke with Whisman about that experience, and he elaborated on the keys for podcast success. 

“We're very lucky to have the chemistry that James and I have, the actual trust that James and I have,” Whisman said, “and to have the friendship that James and I have along with the balance of what he possesses and what I possess. What's happened is so rare … and we recognize that, and that's why we do our best to give back to the audience and give back as much as we can because we're very, very grateful.”

Make passion a priority 

Each episode of true crime with a comedic twist takes unseen hours of preparation and both hosts are open with listeners about the life challenges that can interfere with producing a winning podcast. 

“That's what I think is the most beautiful part, is that these shows are as good as we can do,” Whisman said. “They're not perfect, but they’re as good as we can do, and they're as good as we can do because of passion.”

The duo is open about work demands, family struggles and mental health issues, but Whisman said passion keeps a podcast on track.

“If you like being involved with people and you have a passion for it, do it,” he said. “Otherwise don't, because it's going to be humbling. It's going to crush your spirit. Your family's going to be mad at you, and you're not going to be cut out for it. 

“And the other part is the passion has to be there for that specific topic and that show. … You may not be great at. You may not be the best, but you're going to be pretty impressive at it. No matter what you do, if you're passionate with it and you love it, genuinely love it, you're going to do great.” 

Acknowledge your fans

Whether through meet-and-greets at live shows or social media conversations, Whisman and  Pietragallo embrace their audience, creating an in-crowd around their brand. 

“I feel kind of connected to them as much as they do to me,” Whisman said, “because without them I'm not this. I just feel like I've done comedy for several years and nobody gave a shit, and with this show people give a shit that I'm doing it. And because of that I'm very, very grateful. … And if this audience wants to interact and has things to say to me, I'm going to do my best to pay attention to that, and I'm going to do my best to give them the time that they deserve.”

Take a measured approach to monetization 

By Whisman’s estimation, 60 percent of their revenue comes from ads with the rest coming from fan support on Patreon and PayPal, plus earnings from live shows and merchandise sales.

When it comes to working with advertisers, Whisman said they research the brand and will go directly to the company with any concerns before entering agreement and recording their ad read.

“They tell us to be ourselves,” he said, “and the only way to be ourselves in a genuine ad is by using the products and liking their products. … We want to believe in stuff and we want to believe in the product we’re selling and the product we’re endorsing.”

Recurring sayings and inside jokes are plentiful on Patreon (pledge $50 a month to get the “Silver-Haired White Man Special”) and on the shows’ merchandise page (for sale: “Shut Up and Give Me Murder!” shirts), making fans feel like insiders. 

“You have to have a merchandising idea,” he said. “You know, you can't just have a podcast and then just sell shirts that are just the podcast logo. There are only so many people who buy that, and then you're not getting those people to buy more than one shirt cause you only got one shirt.”

Photo credit: Sam Lichtenstein

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