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Finding Your Voice: Entering the World of Podcasts and Video Content

Matt Di Marco is the host of the Instant Speed Podcast, and the official caster for Flesh and Blood's highest level of tournaments, with 24 years of card gaming experience and nearly two decades in media.

Creating your own brand of content for something you’re passionate about is a truly rewarding endeavor. You’re sharing your unique perspective on a subject matter that thousands around the world can relate to. I can honestly say that nothing brings me the same kind of joy as I feel when I’m creating new videos or anchoring discussions about Flesh and Blood.

The journey to this state was a long and arduous one. But it's not one you necessarily should avoid.

It seems like a crowded space, as hundreds of voices are all whispering in your ear trying to get a click or a subscription. Everyone has an opinion and a podcast these days, so finding your own corner to set up shop and build a following can be intimidating. I want to offer you some advice to get your expectations aligned with the realities of a turbulent business. The goal here isn’t to push you in or out of the content creation game, but rather to make sure you know the trials along with the triumphs.

Humble Beginnings & Commitment

It is incredibly rare for anyone to shoot onto the scene like a bat out of hell. Even the most prolific and well-known content creators spent months (if not years) treading water before finally rising above the tide. I’m most certainly one of those whose humble beginnings included years of spinning my tires before getting any traction.

The major hill to climb wasn’t motivation or ideas, but rather wrestling with commitment. I needed to understand that it was a process, akin to an athlete wanting to make it to the big leagues. Anybody can create content and post it on YouTube, just as much as anyone can sign up for beer league softball and call themselves an athlete. You need to understand that commitment will be the most fragile element you’ll need to keep steady.

When I began, I was working full time in the concrete jungle of downtown Toronto. I was embedded in the corporate culture, trudging along a promising management career at a very big company. I was making money, had respect and opportunity, and the benefits were incredible.

I was also immensely unhappy.

I started streaming as an outlet to vent and soothe that distress, playing a variety of digital card games on Twitch. That eventually got the ball rolling to where I am today.

That first audition, however, only came after two full years of streaming 7 days a week; I streamed weekdays from 6:30 pm to 9:30 pm, and weekends during the day. I made no money, I got little to no recognition, but I did gain experience. I did improve.

Is it fame and validation you want? Or do you truly have a passion for media?

My first paid gig came after about 1500 to 2000 hours of Twitch streaming and YouTube videos. That, for many, is enough of a wake-up call to just ditch the idea of content creation altogether, but for myself it was a pleasant experience nonetheless. My commitment was constantly fueled for my passion for card games and my love of broadcasting. Finding a marriage of the two that had future career considerations was enough to keep me on track and chugging along.

When deciding if this is what you want to do, be sure you’re ready to put in the work. Is it fame and validation you want? Or do you truly have a passion for media? That’s a crossroads you’re going to have to navigate from the start, because humble beginnings are very lonely. You’ll only have yourself to keep the fires burning.

Be Prepared

You might be brimming with ideas, with an overflow of great content you want to unleash. Ideas are great for getting things started, but executing on those ideas is what makes or breaks your brand. Being prepared is the best way to set yourself up for success; be it a podcast, a deck guide, or even an unboxing video, having a plan keeps your content flowing smoothly. Sketching an outline of how you want your content to unravel gives you a map for the journey. You won’t get lost or stumble over the path you’ve already walked. You can have Wayne Brady's improvisational skills, but your content will seem bush league if you’re not prepared.

I script all my videos, to a degree. Not word for word, mind you, but the basic outline is there for myself and my guest to know the general direction the conversation is going. We aren’t immune to fun tangents or organic discussion developing, but we know the landmarks to recognize in order to situate ourselves within the context of the video. It helps the overall quality of the content you’re producing, and when it's lacking, it's drastically apparent. Being prepared is a matter of love and care for your product. Don’t be lazy and wing it. Do the work.

Be Consistent

Some of the best advice I ever received regarding my content creation journey was about consistency. This ties into commitment as well, but consistency is what creates integrity and reliability. The reason you know when to tune in for Jeopardy is because it’s on at the same time every night. The viewers come to rely on that. If the quiz show decided it would just go on whenever it wanted, nobody would watch it as religiously as they do. You need to cultivate a sense of reliability that your followers can count on. That promotes growth and retention. 

Whether it's a live stream on Twitch, a podcast drop on Spotify, or publishing a YouTube video, having a schedule that you respect and adhere to will give your followers something to look forward to. If they know you stream at noon every day, they will tune in at noon to catch you. If you’re random in your times, or consistently late, you’re putting yourself ahead of your viewership. The time they put aside for you might go to seeking out alternatives.

The content creator realm has a lot of great friendships and communal uplifting, but it is absolutely a shark tank, especially on Twitch. Being a rock solid pillar of reliability is an easy way to retain viewers, grow your brand, and develop a positive reputation.

Be Realistic

Nobody owes you a damn thing. Keep that in mind, and dig back into your humble pie. Getting angry or frustrated at a slow start to your content creation career can infect the rest of your projects and releases. Keep in mind that you’re a product that you’re trying to sell. If you choose to blame the community for not embracing you, you’re planting the seeds of condescension towards the same group of people you’re trying to get to trust you. You need to be realistic in your expectations, and that in itself can be sobering.

Getting angry or frustrated at a slow start to your content creation career can infect the rest of your projects and releases.

The stark reality of it is that you’re probably not going to get rich, and notoriety is short lived. Take a step back and think about why you’re doing what you’re doing. If it’s just about clicks and vanity, then start an OnlyFans. Getting into the nitty gritty of CCG content creation requires a lot of patience and hard work. Being honest about the goals you have will make this expedition a lot less painful when you’re not trying to convince yourself that you’re in it for the right reasons.

Do It The Right Way- Reputation Matters

Not everyone values integrity over fame. The shortcut to notoriety is riddled with clickbait, controversy, and dishonesty. Sounds dramatic, but it’s true. If your goal is to slam out a video that’ll generate 10,000 views, you can attract a lot of eyes by picking fights and slinging mud. The flash-in-the-pan approach will get you on the map, but your reputation is what you’re sacrificing. Doing things the right way - that is through hard work, respect, and honesty - will take more time to gain momentum, but it is a much more sustainable trajectory than blasting off at light speed directly into the sun.

I can, with full certainty, tell you that reputation is one of the most important selling points you have.

I’ve been in the business professionally - as a caster for official tournaments for Flesh and Blood, Gwent, KARDS, and Mythgard - for years. My experience began nearly 20 years ago when I did college radio, and then sports radio in Montreal. I can, with full certainty, tell you that reputation is one of the most important selling points you have. It isn’t your views, your looks, or your skills. It’s reputation. I know of many prominent content creators who are actively overlooked by major gaming companies because they took the road of negativity and tearing down the community, versus constructive criticism and support. You may not always agree with things, but your approach is what resonates and what people will remember. There is a tactful approach to (almost) all situations, and not being lured by low-hanging fruit is an important discipline to stick to.

Start Now

Stop giving yourself excuses and start today. Your success won’t magically accelerate because your logo is prettier, or your lighting is brighter. Success is a progression you’ll make, and your first steps will always be shaky. Without taking those first steps, however, you’ll never know how solid your footing is, and where to make adjustments. 

If content creation is something you feel is a fulfilling endeavor for you, then start now. Draft your ideas, locate yourself on the landscape of the field you’re looking to plant your flag into. Like I said, it isn’t about throwing caution to the wind and saying “well my friends think I’m funny, so this will be easy”. It’s going to take work, and the journey begins with a first step.

Best of luck, friends.

Discussion (1)

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Kirk Bushell

1 year ago
Great article, Matt. I can think of content creators within the FAB space that have made the mistakes you advise to avoid, but for some it just seems to be their personality, and so it can take a long time to cultivate the right energy and approach to appeal to the community more generally.

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