Podcast as a blank canvas with Lou Pellegrino

This podcast producer has a lot under his belt! Lou Pellegrino, Senior Producer of Podcast Development at Westwood One joins us on the show! His biggest advice is: if you have something to talk about, you can probably start a podcast! Lou also goes through his experience as a producer, showing his wife the way to start her own podcast. He also dives deep into monetization and how some shows do a great job doing sponsor reads. Lou is also open to listening to your pitches, so if you have a great show, email him! Lou has vast experience in the field, and he’s here to help you grow! Tune in to this episode!

Episode
Email
Facebook
Twitter

Get the latest episodes straight to your mobile or computer

Get The Latest In Your Inbox

Podcast as a blank canvas with Lou Pellegrino

About our Guest

Lou Pellegrino

Lou Pellegrino is an accomplished producer and content creator in the mediums of television, radio, and podcasting. 

He grew up in Queens, NY where he developed a love of sports and media. After many years of behind-the-scenes work in sports radio and television, he went on to become the Executive Producer of The Scott Ferrall Show on SiriusXM’s Howard 101. After SiriusXM, Lou went on to work for NBC Sports Radio, MLBAM, DirecTV, and he was given the great opportunity to be the fill-in producer of “The Dan Patrick Show” where he would book some of the biggest names in sports and regularly contribute on air. 

He is now working as the Senior Producer of Podcast Development at Westwood One and their growing podcast network.

Smooth Podcast_Lou Pellegrino: Audio automatically transcribed by Sonix

Smooth Podcast_Lou Pellegrino: this mp3 audio file was automatically transcribed by Sonix with the best speech-to-text algorithms. This transcript may contain errors.

Smooth Podcast Intro:
All the technical busywork required to produce a podcast can be a struggle, establishing trust with clients and increasing sales for your company with your own podcast is something you can do well. We interview the top podcasters in the industry to provide hacks and insights to help you start and scale your podcast. Welcome to the Smooth Podcast!

Martín Acuña:
Hello! Welcome back to the Smooth Podcast! Today, our guest is phenomenal. Lou Pellegrino grew up in Queens, New York, where he developed a love for sports and media. After many years behind-the-scenes work in sports radio and television. He went on to become the executive producer of the Scott Ferrall Show on SiriusXM’s Howard 101. After SiriusXM, he went on to work for NBC Sports Radio, MLBAM, DirecTV, and he has given the great opportunity to be fill-in producer for the Dan Patrick Show, where he books some of the biggest names in sports and regularly contribute on air. He is now working as the senior producer of podcast development at Westwood One and their growing podcast network. Lou, welcome to the show, welcome to the Smooth Podcast!

Lou Pellegrino:
Ah, Martin, thank you so much for having me. This is fantastic! I’m very happy to be here. And, yeah, a lot of, a lot of fun working on the podcast game. And you’re doing a great job as well.

Martín Acuña:
Thank you! Well, Lou, it’s amazing to have you. You have an amazing experience. You have a lot, a lot under your belt. The first thing I want to ask you is why should someone start a podcast?

Lou Pellegrino:
You know what? I have a lot of friends who ask me that question, I have a lot of professionals in the industry that ask me that question. And the answer I usually give is if you have a message and you have something that you want to say and something that’s interesting, go ahead and start a podcast. Chances are you’re not going to get rich from it. But if you have a brand that you want to expand, if you have a fear of public speaking, that’s also a way to get over it. Sit in front of a microphone and just talk about what you want to talk about. My wife is actually an on-air personality. She does a nationally syndicated radio show. She used to work at SiriusXM, as well for Cosmo magazine. And she asked me, should I start a podcast? Well, I didn’t know what she wanted to talk about. So I told her, I said, you know, what do you like? What do you dislike? I know the answers to these questions, but I went into, like, you know, boss mode or whatever. And she’s always talking with one of her longtime friends about makeup, beauty products, SPF, skin creams, skin treatments. And I said, well, there’s your podcast. I said, why don’t you do a podcast about all the stuff that you and Dominique, her friend, talk about? They do some pop culture stuff in text messaging and a group chat with some of their classmates from their high school and college days. And so she started doing a podcast called Beauty Pop, and they do product reviews and interviews and pop culture and they get a nice amount of listens, but they just enjoy doing it because they have something that they want to say. It keeps their friendship going because they do a podcast once a week. And you know what? My wife is a very good broadcaster and it just keeps her sharp for her day job. I think there are a lot of, it is a very long-winded answer, and I apologize, I think there are a lot of people out there that have something to say, whether it’s good, bad, or indifferent. But a podcast gives you that platform to keep trying things. And it’s not live radio, obviously. So if you go and you make a couple of mistakes, you can at least immediately go back and listen to what you like, what you dislike, record again, and then, hey, I have a 15-minute chunk that I really like, here, I have a 10-minute chunk I really like here and another 10-minute chunk, now you have 35 minutes, 40 minutes of content and you could pop that out as a podcast.

Martín Acuña:
Yeah, that’s awesome. So how does the idea evolve over time, when, whenever you’re talking to a client about starting a new podcast?

Lou Pellegrino:
Well, it’s, there’s a couple of variables that need to be in place. When you work at a podcast network and develop content, you need someone who has name recognition, a social media following, and some form of influence where people are just going to say, oh, my God, Lou Pellegrino starting a podcast, I love his social media stuff on Twitter and Instagram, I want to go listen to that.

Martín Acuña:
Yeah.

Lou Pellegrino:
And I think that’s where you need that, it’s almost like a turn-key operation. One of the podcasts that I started working on when I first got into podcasting was with a very popular basketball insider. He’s now with ESPN. He wears glasses and he breaks a lot of news. I believe they’re called Woj Bombs. And I started working with Woj, Adrian Wojnarowski, on his podcast, The Vertical Podcast with Woj when he was with Yahoo! And then he went to ESPN and he did his own thing. And he has a very built-in audience because everyone wants to know what NBA news he’s breaking. So his episodes right out of the gate were around seventy-five to eighty thousand. Wrestling Podcast do the same thing. Wrestling podcasts are very popular right now. We were the Westwood One podcast network, now where the Cumulus podcast network and we have all of Conrad Thompson’s podcasts and those podcasts do very well because the wrestling audience is a very rabid fan base. They’re very loyal and they love that, behind the curtain Wizard of Oz type of content where, oh my God, I didn’t know this was happening backstage at Wrestle Mania all those years ago or how this fight came together or what Dusty Rhodes was like as a real person in real life, which if you listen to Jim Ross’s podcast and he does a whole tribute to Dusty Rhodes and you learn all these great things about Dusty Rhodes’ beginnings and how we got to the WWE and a whole bunch of other stuff that really shines a spotlight and opens up a door that some people may not have been privy to that information. But like I said, I think key one is a big following, for a popular podcast. Now, if you don’t have a brand and if you don’t have that big of a social media following, starting a podcast, just doing something unique, doing something fun, doing something that people can’t get anywhere else, whether they listen to terrestrial radio or satellite radio, podcasting isn’t radio. And I like to tell people it’s a blank canvas. You paint your own picture and if you don’t like the way the picture comes out, you put that canvas aside and you pick another blank canvas and you just keep going until you find something that hits.

Martín Acuña:
I love how you state it as a blank canvas, I totally agree with you, and want to know in your experience with clients, in this idea of a podcast being a blank canvas, what has been the number one way that podcasting has helped your clients’ businesses?

Lou Pellegrino:
That’s very interesting. I think it really comes down to just the delivering of their message, and the delivery of the podcast as far as building a brand. I don’t think people that I’ve dealt with use their podcast to sell their own products or anything like that. I have worked with a couple of branded content podcasts where some of these things are just internal just for the companies. So if you take a company that has a lot of employees, like, we’ll use FedEx for an example, I have never worked with them, I don’t know if they have a podcast or a podcast network or an internal private podcast. But with private podcasting, what it really does is gives you the day-to-day, weekly or biweekly, the day-to-day operations, hearing from your bosses, hearing from what’s going on in the company, hearing about projects, hearing about programs, things that tie the community together of the company that they work for. So I think that really helps as far as boosting, a private podcast helps in boosting company morale and gives you another form of messaging rather than your cold email that has no emotion. When you get to hear the CEO or the CCO of your company on a podcast, and he’s talking about, well, we have some really great things coming down the road from FedEx. It’s, you know, sweat absorbing uniforms that you’re going to love if you’re out in the hot. And that’s the really fun thing about it. But as far as, yeah, I haven’t really, I would be lying if I said, oh, yeah, I’ve seen somebody build their own business by using a podcast. Pretty much people will use the podcast to get their word out, to get monetization, to get some sort of sponsorship, and to make some money for themselves, if and if they’re a privately-funded podcast or something they do on their own, yet they managed to get sales. All that money comes to them or they have some sort of partner that does the sales and marketing for them.

Martín Acuña:
Okay, so you’ve worked, or I imagine you’ve worked with CEOs, with people from media, the media department, the communications department, customer relationships, dealing with all of them, what has been the biggest mistake you’ve made or the biggest lesson you’ve learned by dealing with them inside podcasting?

Lou Pellegrino:
I think it’s not so much mistakes, it’s just podcast is still very young, it’s still in the, although there’s so many podcasts now, some people may even say podcasting is oversaturated because there’s so many. And if you look at Apple, if you look at Apple, there are a lot of dormant podcasts that are still posted, but they haven’t put episodes out since 2018, 2019. So, but getting back to the question, I don’t think it’s so much a mistake, I think depending on where you work, some places that have been in the podcast game longer than others, they’re going through the same growing pains that each place has. I think there are some people that do confuse podcasting for radio and try to treat it the same way where I’ve ran into a couple of people who are in the podcast game saying, you know, I wish my hosts would reset more. I wish my host would tell me who I’m speaking to. And I’ve always had to correct them and say, but there’s no need for that because it’s.

Martín Acuña:
It’s not radio.

Lou Pellegrino:
Right. It’s kind of ala carte listening. So if I go to the, and I’ll use Michael Rosenbaum’s podcast, which is what we have at the Cumulus Podcast Network, it’s called Inside of You. Michael Rosenbaum is best known for playing Lex Luthor on Smallville, really good guy, really good actor. And he does a podcast where it’s almost like a therapy session. He has celebrities come into his home, sit in his studio, or via zoom because of the pandemic, but he doesn’t have to really say who his guest is every ten minutes because you look on his list. Oh, he has Tom Welling. Oh, he has Stephen Amelle. OK, I know that he’s sitting there with Stephen Amelle because that’s the episode I chose to listen to. So when you have the old school radio guys or gals who decide, oh, we’re going to try podcasting, that’s the mistake. Sometimes they equate it too much to radio and it’s not.

Martín Acuña:
Yeah, absolutely. It’s not live. It’s not Clubhouse or it’s not, you streamed a radio station, there’s no need to be like saying to the listeners, hey, I’m back with X, Y and Z, and we are discussing this, this and this. Tell me a little bit about your experience with monetization in a client’s podcast or inside.

Lou Pellegrino:
Sure!

Martín Acuña:
The podcast networks you’ve worked for.

Lou Pellegrino:
Right. Well, thankfully, what I could talk to you about is the execution of sponsor reads because thankfully I don’t work in sales. So I like the sales and marketing teams handle the sponsorship and dealing with the clients. I’ve been on a couple of calls. They’re vetting calls where you meet the clients and they give you the rundown of how they would like their sponsorship delivered, which is totally fine, because I think, like we talked about earlier, blank canvas. There are fun ways to make your sponsor read sound like content. Many years ago, I worked for Howard Stern. I worked for Howard 101 on a sports show called The Scott Ferall Show, as you mentioned during my introduction. And Ferrall, as Howard is as well, is fantastic at the sponsor reads because they make them content. They’re not just sponsor reads. So you could get a read, Howard was great for this, years and many, many years ago he used to do reach for Snapple before people really started drinking the drink Snapple and he would talk about Snapple, but then he would go rip on, you know, make fun of one of his castmates on the show, and then he would go back to talking about Snapple. And then a Snapple read turned into 20 minutes of fun content that everybody’s going to remember, oh, he started ripping on his producer while he was doing the Snapple read. By the way, Snapple has really good iced tea, I’m going to go try some. with podcasting, I like the execution of the spots because they’re 60, they’re 15 minutes, 15 seconds, 60 seconds, 30 seconds, however long you want to make it. But it’s nice where you can actually incorporate your guests with the reads if they are not sponsored by something that’s against them or not against them, but just a competitor.

Martín Acuña:
Yeah.

Lou Pellegrino:
So years ago I was talking about the basketball podcast, the Woj pod that I was working on, and he had Steph Curry as a guest. So I was not there while the recording was happening because it was during the NBA playoffs and Woj had his travel recording kit and he had it in his room. So he’s doing the interview with Steph Curry, and he texted me during it and says, Steph wants to do a sponsor read. Is that okay? And I was.

Martín Acuña:
Interesting!

Lou Pellegrino:
Sure!

Martín Acuña:
Weird choice.

Lou Pellegrino:
That’s fine. And I relayed the message to my superiors and they were like, absolutely, let him do it! because he was a fan of the podcast. And he said to Woj, I listen to you do the reads. I think you do a great job. Can I do a ZipRecruiter read? And he was like, yeah, sure! So Steph Curry joined in on the ZipRecruiter read and it was great. And the clients were very happy and or the sponsors were very happy and the clients that we worked with and it just turned out to be one of those really fun podcast moments. But monetization is a very big part of podcasts, I feel, as a podcast listener and especially a producer, that is it always the best content? No. Does it jump right in the middle of the conversation every once in a while? Yeah. but I feel like not only to my company and to the other companies out there and the other podcasts out there, whether they’re on our platform or they’re a competitor, I feel like I owe it to them to listen to the ads because that’s how we all make our money, whether it’s the podcaster, whether it’s the podcast network, whether, you know, and so I feel like I owe it to them. And the funny thing is, every once in a while, whether it’s a podcast of ours at Cumulus Podcast Network or if it’s a competitor, if my wife says, hey, we’re going to try this, here’s a podcast code for it, the podcast, I listened to a podcast the other day and you get 20 percent off your first order or you get this or you get. And I feel like, you know, you have to do that. I understand there are people that want ad-less podcasts, and I believe there are ways you can get them if you pay a little bit of a fee or what have you. But, you know, look, we sit here now. We watch things on Hulu for an extra dollar-fifty a month or an extra two ninety-nine a month, you can watch all those shows on Hulu ad-free. Yeah, OK. When I’m visually watching something, I want to be able to say I don’t want to be interrupted. I want the screen to go dark and then like the fade-out, then I want it to go right back to the show. Fine, I’ll deal with that. But with podcasting, it’s just so much different because it’s the lifeblood, it’s the lifeblood of the medium. And just being in that business, like I said, and Steve Austin, the wrestler, does a great job of talking about this during his podcast because he’ll let everybody know. Listen, we have to take a quick break but listen to the ads, please, because this is the reason why this podcast is free because our sponsors make it possible. So if they are doing you the favor of making this podcast free, you should do them a favor, listen to 30 seconds of me. It’s my voice. It’s me talking about SeatGeek or it’s me talking about Blue Apron or whatever sponsor they have.

Martín Acuña:
And I love this idea of somehow getting the guest involved with the ad. It’s a very smart advice for our listeners, that are probably either starting their own podcast or they have their podcast running and they want to grow it. These type of spots and ads inside every episode is a very smart way to start monetizing the episodes and the show. Lou, last question before we start to close up. What is something that you would have loved to know when you started working in podcasting? That first hack, that’s something you, that piece of advice you would love to have when you started in this world?

Lou Pellegrino:
Man, that is a very good question.

Martín Acuña:
Whatever comes to mind.

Lou Pellegrino:
Well, I’ll tell you the piece of advice, because, it’s funny, I went into, there’s the blank canvas again. I went into podcasting with a blank canvas and pick things up along the way as I’ve gone. And I’ve learned a lot and I’ve witnessed a lot and I’ve seen mistakes made and I’ve seen really good decisions made that we didn’t think were going to be good decisions at the time. And then you sit there and you say, wow, that turned out to work out in our favor. I had a boss who I worked with at SiriusXM and then worked with at the first podcast company I worked for, it was called Digital Media, a bunch of great people and now it’s Cadence13. Cadence13 is one of the premier podcast networks around. They do some really great stuff. I had a great time working there and learned a lot. One of my bosses said, very Yoda-like, you have to unlearn what you have learned about radio because podcasting is so different. And I always say that. And every once in a while I’ve run into people and they’ll say, well, you don’t have to unlearn everything. And I’m like, I like to, I like to start clean slate, and it’s not, and I’ve said it over and over again on this podcast and I’ve said it over and over again in my career. Podcasting is not radio. I know I sound like I’m beating a dead horse, but it’s not. And there are times when you’re in meetings with people and they’re like, well, why can’t we do this? And it’s like, well, that’s because that’s an old radio trick, that doesn’t work. I do like the fact that podcasting is now being incorporated into terrestrial radio promos, because if you listen to iHeart and iHeart station, if you listen to any Cumulus station, Westwood One stations, you’re starting to hear a lot more podcast ads. And I think that’s only going to drive more people not away from radio, but drive more people to listen to regular radio when they’re in the car. But then they could also connect their iPhones to their, if they’re so lucky, they could connect their iPhones to their dashboard or to their auto-play or car-play or whatever they call it, in my car it’s called car-play. Where you pop, you pop the wire into your phone, you pop the wire into your dashboard, and then everything that’s on your iPhone is right there. And you’re, at the touch of a button, and I’ve listened to every podcast that I subscribed to in the car, whether it’s a long drive to visit my parents or if it’s just a ride into the city, I’m about an hour and 10 minutes outside of Manhattan. I live in New Jersey and it’s great to catch up on all my podcasts. That’s the one real thing during the pandemic that I missed about commuting, because I would take mass transit and I would sit on a train for an hour and 20 minutes. I would pop my earbuds in and I would go to town and listen to all the podcasts that I could listen to. And now because of that, not on my podcast listening is dwindled, but it’s just, it’s not the same.

Martín Acuña:
Yeah, absolutely.

Lou Pellegrino:
I’m not going to sit with earbuds in my ear, sitting in my car, sitting on my couch while my wife is watching a TV show or we’re watching a TV show, so, you know. But yeah, I really can’t say that there was like any bad experiences or any bad information that I was given. We may have, we may have had to take some Ls as far as certain podcasts we thought would be an astronomically popular podcast. And it turned out it wasn’t like I’ve worked, and I’ll keep names out of it, but I’ve worked with some people with very large social media reaches, in the millions like three point five million, and they couldn’t get thirty-five hundred people to listen to the podcast. So, I mean, those would be the mistakes that I wish I could learn from if I knew what the magic formula was to say, here you go. You know, Expelliarmus and then there, you know what I mean. And then there you go, there’s a popular podcast, right?

Martín Acuña:
Yeah. Well, Lou, thank you so much for coming over. If our listeners want to get a hold of you, where is the best like website or social media profile to get in contact with you?

Lou Pellegrino:
Sure. You could reach out to me on Twitter. I’m @Lou L O U underscore Pellegrino P E L L E G R I N O. And I am not related to the San Pellegrino water fortune, my wife, which wishes I was and so do I. And if I had a nickel for every time someone asked me. Same thing, same handle on Instagram @Lu_Pellegrino on Instagram, and if you need to reach me, you could always contact me at my work email. It’s L Pellegrino L P E L L E G R I N O @WestwoodOne, all one word,.com Westwood W E S T W O O D.com. And I usually answer emails pretty quickly. So if you have any questions or any comments about podcasts or, I listen to pitches all day, so if people who are listening to this have a really good podcast with like a high number of downloads and you’re not with anybody, just send some pitches my way. I’m more than happy to listen to anything you have. And if there’s a match, then we take it a step further.

Martín Acuña:
Awesome. Lou, thank you so much! It’s been an amazing conversation. You’ve given us a lot, a lot of pieces of advice that I know that I, myself, and our listeners will love. So thank you so much. And let’s keep in touch!

Lou Pellegrino:
Absolutely. Any time you need me, just let me know. I would be happy to do this again. And also, I would be happy to introduce you to some of the people that I work with as well, because I know that they may have different outlooks on the podcast world than I do. And it’s always good to hear a bunch of different voices, not just myself.

Martín Acuña:
That would be awesome. Thank you so much.

Lou Pellegrino:
Thank you!

Smooth Podcast Outro:
Thanks for tuning in to the Smooth Podcast. Be sure to visit us at SmoothPodcasting.com and follow us on social media for resources, show notes, and all you want to know about podcasting.

Sonix is the world’s most advanced automated transcription, translation, and subtitling platform. Fast, accurate, and affordable.

Automatically convert your mp3 files to text (txt file), Microsoft Word (docx file), and SubRip Subtitle (srt file) in minutes.

Sonix has many features that you’d love including upload many different filetypes, automated subtitles, transcribe multiple languages, enterprise-grade admin tools, and easily transcribe your Zoom meetings. Try Sonix for free today.

Key Take-Aways 

  • Podcasting is like a blank canvas. 
  • If there’s something you are passionate about, you can start a podcast. 
  • Ads are what keep most shows from charging a fee to their listeners.
  • Guest engagement in the ad is a good way to introduce them in the episodes.
  • “You have to unlearn what you have learned about radio because podcasting is so different.” – said one of Lou’s bosses.
  • Podcasting is not radio. 

Resources

Want to be featured in our podcast? Send us a message at martin@smoothpodcasting.com