Podomatic Feature Series
Few topics ignite the imagination more than the unsolved and the unexplained.
From the 1940s to today, there are thousands of missing persons cases in the U.S. that still remain unsolved.
Since 2016, the Unfound Podcast has been investigating those cases and providing all of the information and evidence available, to get new leads on the mysteries.
A True Crime show like no other, Unfound interviews the friends and family of the disappeared; walking you through each real case, step by step, revealing the events that led up to the disappearance and the characters involved.
Scroll through the episode list. See a name you recognize?
You may have the missing detail that breaks the case wide open!
Here’s Unfound host Ed, with a few words about his pod and advice on how to
Start Your Show
When, how and why did you start podcasting?
When? First episode came out Sept. 2016 – disappearance of Suzanne Lyall.
How? I had been actually doing podcasting for several years in a totally different genre but had always followed true crime tv. Then in April 2016 I started my first true crime podcast with a co-host. After about 4 months, we decided to go separate ways. Then, I started Unfound on my own a few months later.
Why? My motivation to start Unfound was I wanted to do a program that I would listen to. I wanted to do one in which I wasn’t just collecting info from Wikipedia and Websleuths and The Charley Project, etc. and reading the data off. I wanted to go to the people who have experienced these disappearances personally. I wanted to interview families and friends so these disappearances would feel a lot more personal to the listeners. Along the way, I think the way we do things at Unfound also reveals more relevant information than can be found anywhere else out there on the Internet.
How did you pick a subject/topic?
Well, technically, we don’t “pick” disappearances to feature. Instead, the guests choose to come on the program. We don’t cover a missing persons case unless someone can be interviewed. Yes, we send out emails and messages to family members when we can find them. But, they are the ones who choose to be on the program. But often times, they approach us first.
Describe some of the struggles you had when first building your audience and how you were able to keep them once they found you.
Struggles???? Hahahaha. Many. And the answer here will link in with the next question. But the first reviews of Unfound were HORRIBLE. 1 star. 1 star. 1 star. 2 stars. 1 star. On iTunes. I’m serious. Those kinds of reactions can cause a host to really do some soul searching. What I decided, and I think I’ve been proven right since then, is that those reviews were due to Unfound being different and NOT because I didn’t know what I was doing. How so?
At the time in 2016, the true-crime public was used to the Serial podcast format which many other following podcasts copied. The hosts speaking in “NPR soft monotones” while obviously using scripts. Music being mixed in to add drama throughout the entire episode. All the episodes being less than an hour long. Cliffhangers before the ads so people will hang around for the next 15 minutes or next week’s episode.
Then, Unfound comes along. I speak in my normal every day voice with my every day personality. Scripting is only about 10% of an entire episode—the rest is free form conversation between myself and the guest. Music only being at the beginning and end of the episode. Episodes sometimes going 3 hours long. NO cliffhangers and NO ads—that’s still true 3 and a half years later.
What I’m saying is I did everything the opposite of what other hosts were doing at the time in 2016. And experienced true crime listeners who listened to Serial, etc. found Unfound revolting. Now, in 2020? Myself and my assistants now notice other podcasts copying Unfound. LONGER episodes. NO cliffhangers. More news and information, and less drama.
How do we at Unfound keep an audience, some of whom rejected the program 3 years ago? By working harder than everyone else. Besides the episodes every Friday, I host a live show on YouTube on Wednesday nights. I host a private Think Tank on YouTube every Sunday evenings. I write 3000 words blogs on Patreon for every single disappearance we feature. I keep in contact with most of the guests who have been on the program—over 170 of them now.
I have two assistants who monitor the Facebook Discussion Group (almost 7000 members) 24/7 to make sure the conversations there are PG-rated and on topic. Trolls are immediately banned. I have an assistant who does nothing but coordinates with future guests—she has been with me the longest. I have an assistant who is the moderator for the shows on YouTube—she also calls additional people if more coverage of a disappearance is needed. This assistant is also kind of an overseer of everything Unfound does to make sure we are headed in the right direction.
I have an assistant who does nothing but YouTube and the new website—for example, Unfound is the only true crime podcast that converts its audio show into a video show within 24 hours of the episode airing on Podomatic. I have an assistant who works on nothing but special projects like sending out information requests if I feel something needs more investigation after a guest has been on the program.
It takes ALL that in my opinion to show the audience that we take their listenership seriously, and that we want them to know we are working hard to continue to earn their trust.
Advice for people that haven’t pressed record yet?
#1. You MUST make a good program. What is a good program? One that is indicative of your values, ethics, and morals. A program that is a representation of who you are as a person. This will be important for your mental health. Don’t craft a program because it’s trendy or the latest fad. Design one based on what YOU think YOU should be doing. That will get you through the rough times because podcasting can be a grind.
#2. Your good program must be . . . good. If you think you can just slide up to the microphone with no prep and wow people, you’re wrong. My best advice would be study how comedians put their routines together. They are meticulous. They agonize over every word. You should be doing that too.
As far as equipment, I use a 15 year old microphone connected to a 2 yr old MacBook—I was using a Mac Mini before that. I use Garageband to record my side of the program and to edit the interviews. Some other hosts are more sophisticated. Some are less. It all depends on how technologically advanced you are.
#3. You must be honest with yourself if you stink. But YOU have to be self-aware enough to know that you stink. Because trust me, you won’t believe anyone else that tells you that because your pride will get in the way.
#4. Bizarrely enough, and almost in counter to #3, DO NOT read your reviews on iTunes or anywhere else. They don’t matter. Trust me, you’re going to reject the ones that say you’re terrible and you’re going to completely believe the ones that give you 5 stars. Both kinds of reviews are probably wrong. This goes back to #3 in that YOU have to know if you’re good or not—do not rely on reviews to tell you that. If you are good, the audience will find you. If you are not, they won’t. Reviews don’t matter.
#5. Find good people to help. Now, this is the most direct way you can tell if your podcast is good. How? By how much other people want to be involved with it. If no one ever comes to you and asks to help out in some way, THAT should tell you something. For example, every assistant I have came to me—I didn’t have to seek them out. They heard Unfound and desired to be a part of it because they believe in the cause that the podcast represents. I didn’t have to convince them of that—they convinced themselves of that.
Unfound is what it is because of all the help I receive and the work my assistants do.
And once you have people helping you, trust them. Give them important things to do. Do not helicopter parent them. Always mention them to your audience.
#6. Don’t start seeking ads and Patreon members as soon as your first episode comes out. Why? It makes it look like you feel entitled to be given money just because you recorded some words into an mp3 file. And that’s pathetic. EARN your audience. Get to the point where THEY ask you to start a Patreon account so THEY can contribute—another way you’ll know your program is good. Me? I didn’t start a Patreon account until Unfound was 14 months old and it was because listeners requested it. And I STILL don’t have any ads in my podcast.
#7. Find ways to branch out past podcasting in whatever genre you select. Just like actors are known as triple threats—sing, dance, act. You do the same. Find groups to speak to. Write blogs. Host a live show on YouTube or Facebook. Don’t just do . . . the podcast.