Do you have a microphone and something to say? Do you have a friend you could argue with over beer for 90 minutes? Does your mom want to be on a podcast? John Bonnes and Aaron Gleeman, the on-air team of Gleeman & The Geek, have pondered those questions and more through their weekly podcast that’s all about baseball.
The popularity of podcasts is booming, and media organizations are using podcasts to reach audiences and to build brand followings. We talked with MMPA member John Bonnes to learn why he co-created a baseball podcast.
MMPA: You’ve done more than 400 episodes of your weekly Gleeman & The Geek podcast? It must be working.
John Bonnes: As much as podcasts can work, I guess it is working. We’ve done way more than we ever thought we would do. The engagement people have with us – the intimacy – it started more quickly and is more intense than I thought it would be. People really feel like they know you when they listen to your podcast.
MMPA: What is your goal with this podcast? It sounds like just a conversation about sports and life? You’re not trying to sell anything.
Bonnes: This podcast is a separate entity from what I do with TwinsDaily.com (note: TwinsDaily.com provides “independent coverage of the Minnesota Twins” and is co-owned by John Bonnes). Aaron (“Gleeman”) is not part of Twins Daily. Our original goal for the podcast was not even monetary. We just wanted to see if we could make it interesting, a full-time baseball analytics show. There isn’t a lot of deep baseball discussion in this market. Football, yes; but not baseball. Honestly, we thought if we got 100 people to download, we’d be happy. Now we’re up to 10,000 downloads.
And we have fun doing this once a week. We started getting some advertisers – so there is a monetary element as well – or we would have burned out by now eight years into the show.
We do try to cross promote. TwinsDaily.com is one of the key places people come to download the podcast. They are separate legal entities, but they have a strong partnership.
MMPA: 90 minutes, that’s much longer than any podcast I listen to. How did you determine that 90 minutes is a good length for this podcast?
Bonnes: When we first started doing this, I was under the opinion that we would need to record about 45 minutes. That’s what I thought we should gear it toward. A commute-type length. But we started talking and we kept talking. There is no question that people have been happy with the length. You don’t have to listen to the whole podcast. And we’ve decided to keep it at this length. During baseball season, our show is on KFAN radio, and it’s only 45 minutes long on air, then we record another 45 off air. I think a lot of people listen to podcasts at work. And the longer the podcast is, the fewer you need to download and manage.
MMPA: And you spend the first few minutes just talking about life, not baseball. How have your listeners responded to that?
Bonnes: We go back and forth on the personal talk stuff. During baseball season, we don’t really do that. We definitely did this a lot more in the first 100 episodes. I think it was mostly a good thing. In some ways, it deepens the connection. And if you’re not a hardcore baseball person, it’s good. At first, I was trying to rush right into the baseball discussion, but the personal time is good.
MMPA: There are so many podcasts today. What’s your mission with this one? Two guys who enjoy each other and love to talk baseball?
Yes, that’s a part of it. Anyone who gets into podcasts finds that the hosts usually have something to say. They have an overall theme. They want to be heard on a certain topic. For us, it’s diving deep into aspects of baseball that are not traditionally covered. Most media feels people don’t have the attention span to talk in-depth about the free agent market, or specific roster moves, or trade details, or other topics. All of that could too often be considered boring. But we are proving that it’s not.
And we’re making money now, so it’s worth our time. If you can make money while drinking beer and talking baseball, why not?
MMPA: Are you a fan of other podcasts?
Bonnes: I listen to about a half dozen semi-regularly. Yes, I like podcasts, for listening to detailed stuff that I don’t have time to listen to on my own. I listen to “Wrong About Everything,” local politics podcast. I listen to some business podcasts. I’ll also just do a search for things I’m curious about or interested in at a certain time. Acme Comedy Club. 538. Neil deGrasse Tyson. The Dollop – comedy/history, it’s hilarious.
MMPA: Why do you record the podcast in a bar?
Bonnes: Originally, we thought we could get sponsorships this way. And it was a little Theatre of the Mind for listeners. I do get feedback that people listening enjoy the bar locale, as if they’re sitting with us in the bar talking about baseball.
We only do the bar location in the off-baseball season. During the season, we do four different live podcasts at local tap rooms, and we have drawn about 100 to 150 people. But mostly during the season we’re recording for KFAN radio.
The value of our show to bar owners is more about people visiting in the future, not during the show. Listeners might notice that we recorded from Utepils or Headflyer Brewing in Minneapolis, and they might decide to visit. Recording in a bar does increase the difficulty, with audio issues.
MMPA: Podcasts were not nearly as well known when you began 8 years ago. What kicked this off?
Bonnes: The whole thing started when Aaron and I got into a bit of an argument, and we thought “That would be a good podcast.” And I wanted to do it in the public, not in my basement. Our original shows were recorded on an iPhone, using a splitter with two mics. We’ve moved up a bit from there.
MMPA: How do you know if you’re doing it right?
Bonnes: We do look at our overall numbers, but it’s hard to glean a lot from these numbers. We don’t get much data, really just download numbers. We don’t even know if they listened. We can see where people are from. And we listen to social media.
MMPA: You have a “real job” too, besides this podcast and TwinsDaily.com.
Bonnes: Yes, the podcast is about a 4-hour commitment every weekend. Maybe a little bit of work during the week on scheduling. I guess you could call it a hobby or a labor of love. It takes time, yes, and mental energy.
I started blogging about the Twins back in 2002. And if someone would have said, Hey you’ll be doing this in 2018, I would have been really happy.
One of the ongoing jokes about the podcast is that Aaron Gleeman’s mom is too big of a fan. I joked that we need to have his mom on the show. So he said, jokingly, “Yes, on the 500th episode.” Ha ha. Now, we’re not too far from that.