Lessons from John Lee Dumas: Building an Audience, Monetizing, and Innovating Products

Posted by Anant January 7, 2023

John Lee Dumas has built a media empire in a little over a year and he talks to us about how to build an audience, how to monetize an audience, and how to create new products that your audience will love.


→ Trends in entrepreneurship

→ Common traits among successful entrepreneurs

→ About setting and achieving goals

→ The Freedom Journal project

→ His thoughts on blogging and podcasting

→ Changes in trends in entrepreneurship, blogging, and podcasting over time

→ Serendipity and the power of setting intentions

→ The importance of systems and processes in running a successful business

→ The concept of building machines and automating processes

→ The benefits of delegation and outsourcing

→ The role of the CEO as a machine builder

→ The concept of compound interest in building a business

→ The importance of learning from and surrounding oneself with successful people

→ The role of consistency in building a brand and achieving success

→ The importance of having a clear vision for one’s business.

→ And a whole lot more


Entrepreneur on fire website

Podcast Paradise 



Bronson: Welcome to another episode of Growth Hacker TV. I’m Bronson Taylor and today I have Jon Lee Dumas with us. John, thanks for coming on the program.

John: Bronson I am psyched to be here. Thanks for having me.

Bronson: Absolutely. Now, Jon, you are probably the most prolific podcaster in the world as the man behind the mic and entrepreneur on fire, where you’ve not only grown a massive audience, but you did it in a very short amount of time. And basically what I want to do is I want to find out everything you know about growing a new media venture. So I’m good.

John: I’m excited. Let’s kick it off, my man.

Bronson: All right, let’s do it. So first, I’ll start with the basics. What is entrepreneur on fire? Tell our audience in case they don’t know.

John: So Bryce, an Entrepreneur on Fire, is a seven day a week business podcast that interviews today’s most inspiring and successful entrepreneurs. We share their entire journey. We talk about the failures, how they overcame those failures, the aha moments, how they turned those moments into success. And then we move on to what are they succeeding at right now? And of course, we end with the five question lightning rounds, which is a fan favorite.

Bronson: Yeah. And when did you actually launch Entrepreneur on Fire?

John: September 22nd, 2012. So we’re just about 13 to 14 months old.

Bronson: Okay. So we’re right around a year. And how many episodes have you published in that rough one year period?

John: 385 episodes.

Bronson: And for people that don’t know, that’s really hard to do. So how many unique downloads do you get each month of your podcast?

John: So every month currently we’re getting over 450,000 unique downloads of Entrepreneur on Fire in over 145 countries. And the beautiful thing to Branson is that those numbers just keep growing because our business model just works every single day. A new podcast goes live, and the first email that we send out is to that guest saying X, Y, Z. Your interview just went live. We’d be honored if you shared it with your audience. And nine times out of nine, they do so every single day. Entrepreneur Fire is being exposed to a brand new audience in a certain proportion of those people are becoming fans and are subscribing and are listening on a daily basis going for. So that snowball effect is always continuing down the hill growing.

Bronson: Yeah. It’s one of the things that helped growth hacker TV as well. You know, we get to tap into the audience and leverage other people’s audiences. Now, if you don’t mind me asking, how much are you making in terms of revenue from the podcast right now? Because we have an advertising revenue model, is that right?

John: We have a lot of revenue models.

Bronson: Oh, well, which ones can you tell me about? What can you disclose?

John: I can disclose everything. In fact, I can point your wonderful listeners to Entrepreneur on Fire dot com slash income and that will show you our last two months income report. We started in September doing this. It was our one year anniversary and we said, You know what, we’re going to follow that great Pat Flynn model of being 100% transparent. We’re going to show everybody what’s working for us, what’s not working for us, what we are successful in the entire month doing what we were unsuccessful, how we failed, how much money we made, how much money we lost. We really pull back the full curtain. So September was an amazing month. Our gross revenue, I think, was about $51,000. Well, our net of that was 45. October was out of control. We can get into the reasons why. Because of specifically because a podcast was paradise, which is a product that we just launched. But we can again dove more of the details on that later. But overall, for the month of October, which we just released two days ago, this income report, we actually broke six figures. We were 100,000, $285 for gross revenue, which broke down. We had a pretty expensive month, too, because we were doing advertising and other things, so our expenses were somewhere over $11,000. So we ended up netting 88,000 something dollars for the month of October. And again, we break that all down at EO fire dot com slash income do you want to get right to September’s is income one if you want to get to October’s is income two. So we we open it up, right? And we don’t we share it. Also, sponsorships are a huge revenue stream. We almost made $40,000 in sponsorships for October. Our larger podcast is Paradise was another 35,000. We have an elite membership mastermind, which brings in $13,500 every single month. I have a number of affiliate relationships with Bluehost, with Amazon, with you name it, and that brings in money. I have a book podcast launch that usually brings in somewhere between 500 to $700 every single month. And all of these things adding up bring us to that total dollar amount. And it really belies the importance of different streams of income and really making sure that you’re not just focus on. One way, whether you’re making money because you never know as an entrepreneur what’s going to happen from one month to the next.

Bronson: Yeah, absolutely. Now, let me ask you this. Would any of this stuff work if you didn’t have a core listenership for Entrepreneur on Fire? Did it have to start with that? Did you have to get that listenership up? And then you can do a podcasters paradise because you can sell it to them. Then you can do these other things because you can sell it to them. Does it start with that one main audience or is that the wrong way to think about it?

John: That is the right way to think about it. In fact, one thing that I do quite a bit as well as I travel International Media Expo by Blog World this coming January, I’m going out to the Philippines, Australia 16 here being Diego where I live. So really I love getting in front of audiences and sharing what I’ve learned along my journey. And my focus has turned Bronson from just podcasting specifically to what you just mentioned, which is building an audience, because I’ve seen it through an entrepreneur on fire, just how important it is to build an audience. And with once you had that audience, there are so many ways to monetize and so many streams of income that you can create and diversify your income from. It’s incredible. So that’s why I talk about that’s what I’m a firm believer in. Build your audience it a full is part of casting good for you because believe me that’s going to be a great income model. If it’s not, then there’s other great ways to build an audience. But the focus needs to be building that audience.

Bronson: Yeah, and you can’t really do it in the reverse. There’s a lot of people that have a good idea, Oh, let’s write a book, let’s write podcast, launch and teach people stuff, but they don’t have anybody to sell it to. They want to do a membership site, you know, paradise, the one you got going on. But they don’t have money to sell it to. But when you have an audience, a mediocre idea could be sold to them. You don’t have to, like, have the greatest thing ever because you’ve already got a group of people that find value in what you’re doing. And we try to do it the wrong way so many times. Don’t win.

John: So many times.

Bronson: Bronson Yeah, that’s great. So let’s talk about how you got that reader, that listenership up, because that really is the core of everything you’re doing now. You’re consistently listed as one of the top business podcasts in Apple iTunes. And I’m assuming that really helps generate buzz and get new listeners. Do you have any insight onto what got their attention, why they list you there? So the other people can learn from that and try to get to the top of their category? Maybe.

John: Absolutely. I share it all in podcasts. Paradise. Yeah, but. But no, I love to open up here as well. Actually, myself and Lewis House, we have partnered together fairly recently. We’ve created the Integrity Network, which is something we’re really excited about because we’re bringing together what we consider the top quality podcast in the Business Health and Education section. So we have Pat Flynn, Smart Passive Income, Derek Halpern, rich roles from finding Ultra Leo Beltre. They’re all part of our Integrity Network, a podcast. So because of that, we actually went up to San Francisco to sit down in Cupertino at the Apple iTunes podcasting headquarters to speak to them about this integrity network that we have created. And it was a really eye opening experience to see how much energy and focus that iTunes is putting into podcasting is incredibly exciting and is really exciting to see how excited they were about the Integrity Network that we’re creating because they’re looking for network providers like us to bring together to aggregate a bunch of podcasts. The reason why I kind of built this back story is because this is now what Dave told us specifically. When I was sitting down at a table across from them, they said, John, you know, we are really looking for audio podcasts and video podcasts of high quality that are sharing great content. And they look at these things, they have a whole team of people that check audio quality, that check duration, that check subscribers, and they’ll promote those people. So I’ve been featured on the iTunes homepage three times, sent incredible organic traffic to me, and they told me the reason for this was because they monitored my podcast. It was great audio quality. I brought on really good gas and talked about really good content, like they actually monitor this stuff. And so if you’re a podcaster, you really need to invest in the right equipment. You really need to, you know, strive to have really great audio quality with content because iTunes is watching. They they do care and they will promote you and various functions and you will see your ranking increase on iTunes, which will then increase your organic growth. Incredibly because so many people. Bryson search in iTunes based on that top 40, that top 100 business podcast section. If you want to find a great business podcast or a great podcast in health, you go to the top podcast in that section, just like we do for top shows and Hulu or top songs on the radio, any of those different things. So it’s really exciting to see that iTunes really cares and they’re really putting a lot of effort into it. This really gives us an opportunity to really elevate our game and let that take control.

Bronson: You know, John, one of the things you mentioned was that how you talk about all this stuff on podcast was paradise, but then you go ahead and open up and tell me about it as well. How? Important is it to be transparent, to give away the goods and so that people can come and see more of what you have? I think we messed that up sometimes, don’t we?

John: It’s the most important thing in the world is to be 100% transparent, to give all of your gold up front, because if you’re not, believe me, somebody else is. And you’re not going to be gaining the knowing, liking and trusting of your community by not giving it all the way. You really just want to establish yourself as an authority, as a credible figure. Moore So podcast is Paradise is a great example, so I give it all away in various forms. But with podcasts Paradise, we’re made up of three major components. We have an ever evolving library of video tutorials. We have a forum for podcasters to exchange tips, tools, tactics, honest reviews to find guests for their shows, etc. And we do monthly webinars with today’s our podcasters. So even though I give all of my knowledge away as often as possible and in as many forms as I can, people still buy. Podcast is Paradise the lifetime membership to this community because they can access the forum and engage with a whole community of podcasters. And now they can. They can tune in to the great webinars that we have on a monthly basis. And then plus they can stay cutting edge of the video tutorials that I place first within podcast is paradise. And you know, we have over 40 I’m sorry, over 200 members of podcasts Paradise and over $55,000 in total sales of podcasts Paradise because I have built that massive audience that does know they can trust me. And even though I’ve given so much, they want more in podcasts, Paradise provides that to them. So it’s a great example to the listeners that, listen, you can give it all away and provide an incredible product or service. And believe me, your eyes are still going to support you.

Bronson: Yeah, absolutely. And you go on a lot of other podcasts as well. Are you coming out here today? I see you online doing a lot of guest, speaking on other people’s shows. How important is that for you to get new traffic and new audiences to your site? Does that work out well for you?

John: Oops, absolutely. I mean, you really want to try to be everywhere. I mean, plus, you have a great audience and I know a lot of people are listening right now are like, who’s this John Lee Dumas guy with this crazy orange entrepreneur on fire speaker flag? I mean, I’ve never heard of him before and this might be their first experience with me. And then because of this, they might say, Oh, he’s kind of cool. I’ll check out his podcast. And because I do provide a really high quality podcast, thanks. In almost 100% parts of my guest that I bring on who just provide all of the content, which is amazing, they might become listeners and they might say, Well, hey, I want to start a podcast too. And even though I love Bronson, he hasn’t developed a community yet for podcasting. So let me jump on Jazz Train. And so it’s a great way to get out there to expose yourself and your brands to other audiences and other people that have stumbled across Uber in various forms in a year. They’re a go to guy, so it’s a great way to really just continue to expose yourself to a great audience.

Bronson: Yeah. And we’re going to talk more about some of those things, but I want to talk about how you got so many episodes under your belt. Like we said, in a year’s time, you have produced some content. So are you a one man show? Do you have virtual assistants and employees? Talk to me about the nuts and bolts of actually creating these episodes.

John: So when I launched Entrepreneur on Fire in September of 2012, it was myself and two full time virtual assistants, both based out of the Philippines. Both were working 40 hours a week, doing a lot of social media for me, doing a lot of design work, doing a lot of the mundane tasks like updating my show page and doing some different things that I just didn’t want to take time to do that I wanted to be focusing on just producing high quality podcasts as quickly as possible to really have that bank behind me. So when I did launch in September, I could really be staying to that daily schedule that I had proclaimed to the world, so to speak, but then in about the six month point into it, so we’re talking about the March, April timeframe. My girlfriend who was working for an account for an account, she was an account executive for an advertising agency. Saw what we were doing, came on full time as the community director and things have just been phenomenal since then. So she’s been added to the team and now that is what our team looks like is, you know, us with the virtual assistants and Kate and myself. So it’s still a very small team. We’re very lean. We give off a perception of being a lot bigger just with the amount of content and quality that we put out. But that’s the beauty of this day and age. Bryce You don’t have to be huge. You really can be a small, lean team that it just seems like they’re everywhere and anybody listening right now is capable of doing the exact same thing.

Bronson: Yeah, but a part of what goes into having that persona of being big is how much you actually produce and how much discipline you had to actually create that content. How important is discipline? To you.

John: Incredibly important. I was a military officer for eight years, four years active. Four is in the reserves. So I learned at a pretty early age what discipline meant. That was my blue ocean strategy was doing a seven day we podcast because I knew it was tough and I knew that was the reason why nobody was doing it. So I launched. I put my blinders on. I followed my gut that was telling me this is something that needs to be out there and it’s not for everybody. You know, some people don’t like the seven day a week format. Some people love the seven day week format. Some people just listen a couple of times a week, whatever it is, it’s working. And so I’m really glad I’m sticking with it. You know, people say, you know, why do you keep doing seven days a week now? Isn’t that just kind of insane? And I say, but think of all the incredible entrepreneurs that I’m connecting with, and this is all about the connecting game. I’m building amazing relationships with amazing entrepreneurs, and I don’t see that stopping and I don’t see myself ever wanting to start that. But to really drill it down real quick, bros. And the way that I do archery on fire is every single Monday I do eight interviews back to back to back to back for eight straight hours. It’s a very long day and I’m emotionally drained by the end. But believe me, it’s so worthwhile because when I wake up Tuesday morning, the rest of the week is my oyster. So, you know, all of my mentors who are brilliant and give me some great advice. But one of those pieces of advice saying, John, if you do a seven day we podcast, that’s all you’ll be doing, you know, in your heart and your gut that you can do it. Don’t let other people tell you you can’t, because believe me, it is possible. It is absolutely possible.

Bronson: Absolutely. That’s great advice and it’s great to hear how it actually gets produced and how it doesn’t dominate every day of your life. But you’ve created a system. You’ve been smart about it. Let’s talk about podcasters paradise a little bit more. You told us about how much you’re making with us is the reason you start doing it, because you had all this knowledge you had built up about podcasting and you knew you could monetize it as a as another business almost. Was that the thinking going into this?

John: That’s the beauty about building a massive audience. Brian As soon as that people freak out, I get emails all the time. John Like I want to do X, Y and Z, but how do I know what products and services to create? Well, going back to what we were talking about earlier, build your audience first. Focus on building your audience. Why? Because they will tell you what products and services to create. So every single day for months I was getting emails. John How do I create a podcast? John How I meet other podcasters? John How do I get more reviews? John How do I find more gas? John How do I get to be guest on other people shows? And I decided that I could create podcasters paradise, which is a phenomenal way for podcasters at every level. Beginners, intermediate experts to learn everything I know about podcasting, to engage in a community of other podcasters, and to learn from today’s top podcasters. It was exactly what my audience was telling me they needed and that they wanted, so I just created it.

Bronson: Yeah, that’s great. And you also have an innovative pricing model. Tell us about the daily increase in the pricing. I thought that was cool.

John: Yeah, well, that’s the thing about podcast is paradise. I mean, literally Bronson, every single day it becomes more valuable because we add more videos every single day. The community, the forum becomes more valuable because more people are joining and engaging every single day. So the people that are joining later should be paying more than the people that were the early adopters. So the founders paid whatever it was because it’s been always increasing whatever they paid on that day. But every single day the price goes up a certain amount and it will continue to do so because it’s always becoming more valuable. And so we’re always going to be increasing the price of it to reflect the current value of it as we see it. And that’s our pricing structure. It’s worked out great. It’s a lifetime membership, one fee. So whenever you lock in, that’s your price for life. And so people that locked in a month ago now, they see the price is up to $475. They feel great because when they when they bought it, you know, they’re not getting that same community, but they were part of building that community and they were there before some of these great video tutorials were in and they weren’t even accessible at that point. So we increase the value as the value reflects.

Bronson: Yeah, that’s great. Now I’ve also heard you speak about using podcasting as a marketing tool, and maybe not because you’re trying to build a new media business, but another kind of business using podcasting. Talk to us about that for just a second. How could a business utilize podcasting as a marketing channel?

John: So podcasting is an incredible way to increase your demographic no matter what industry you’re in. There are over 45 million people that go to iTunes every single month and they’re searching for something. Why not have a podcast on your topic if it’s once a week, if it’s two times a month, whatever the consistency is that you guys can do that. So you should have a podcast. More because you are now going to reach an entirely new demographic that you’ve never reached before through podcasting. And the beautiful thing about podcasting, it’s an incredibly captive audience. It’s a very engaged audience. It is a very intimate connection because you’re actually in their ears. You’re like, they’re listening to you while they’re going for a jog or coming through their car speakers. It’s very intimate. They grow to know, like and trust you very, very quickly. And that is so valuable for any business out there. So why would you not have it? You can do great podcast. You can do a great video podcast like this. Then you can detach the audio. You can publish this to YouTube. You can publish this video podcast on iTunes. You can publish a separate RSS feed audio only to iTunes. Then you can do a transcript of this podcast and do it as a blog post. It’s called Multi Casting, and it’s an incredible opportunity to repurpose one piece of content. So I know we’re busy out there, and the last thing you want to do is take on one more thing. But ask yourself, you know, are those 463 Twitter followers you really have really providing your business value or, as you know, growing an audience that is listening to you and really engaging with you of more value. So something to think about. I’m a huge proponent of it for obvious reasons. It’s grown my business into a business that just grossed over six figures in one month. So I think it works and I’m happy to share more.

Bronson: Yeah, now that’s that’s a great insight because all audiences are not created equal. You know, those Twitter followers are not the same as the people you have an intimate connection with. And that’s one of the things that surprised me about doing growth. Hacker TV is I get emails from people that say, Hey, I listen to this every single day when I go for my run or I listen to this on my morning commute and they feel like they know me and we have a conversation, but I’m just meeting them. But they’ve been hanging out with me for six months and so there is this really deep connection and they’re buying from a friend. When I say, Hey, this is what it costs, I love for you to buy it. They’re like, Yeah, let’s do it. I mean, you’ve been providing value. And so you’re absolutely right. I love your philosophy. Build an audience first. They’ll tell you what to sell them, build what they want, and then sell it to them. Always create value is kind of the heart of everything. Have a ton of discipline as you do it. There’s been so many nuggets in this interview and it’s just been great all around. But I have one final question for you. It’s kind of a high level question. You can take it any direction you want. What’s the best advice you have for any startup that’s trying to grow?

John: The best advice I have for any start this trying to grow is literally to decide which niche you want to dominate. And I just mean dominate if that’s podcasting, if that is knitting, if that is Pinterest, whatever that niches that you want. And I’m not just talking social media, I’m talking it could be any niche that you’re in, whatever that may be. Find that one niche and just dominate it and and don’t just make that mistake that every startup makes and say, Oh, I don’t want to niche down because I wanted to serve everybody well. If you have that mentality, you are going to serve nobody because you’re going to be lost in the crowd. You’re going to be in the Red Ocean and nobody’s going to hear you. You’re going to blend in with everybody else. But if you super niche down in the niche down even one more time till it hurts, literally, you will be able to dominate that niche because you might be the only person in that niche. Or at least you can put as much focus as you as you can and you want to to truly dominate that niche, become known for it, start to build your core audience there, and then you can start to back out. But so many people do it the opposite way. They start wide and they slowly narrow. When you should be starting so narrow, don’t become known for something. Make your name, make a name for yourself and just one tiny niche and then start to back out from that. So that would be my one parting piece of guidance is literally niche down, niche down again, the niche again till it hurts and dominate that niche.

Bronson: Yeah, that is such good advice and it’s so awesome having you on because you’ve almost outlined the Growth Hacker TV playbook as well. You do a few things differently, we do a few things differently, but overall, I mean, we’re playing the same game here and it’s working. I see it working for you, it’s working for us. And when I see that I’m starting to pattern match, okay, it wasn’t an accident that it worked with growth out of TV is not an accident that it worked with Entrepreneur on Fire. There is something about the broad brush strokes of what you’ve outlined today that is truly a business that matters, that work, that provides revenue and profit. And so I would just say that people listen to this, ignore it if you want to, but it’d be very foolish to, you know, cast aside what you’ve heard in this interview, because there’s some gold here if you’ll really dig into it. So, Jon, again, thanks for coming on Growth.

John: A.V. My pleasure. Bronson Thank you for the opportunity. You have an amazing audience, and it was an honor to speak.

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