Alright, so this was a very interesting podcast episode. I think I should go back relisten to this one because the guest had so much to say.
Leslie Samuel’s Journey into Blogging
Leslie Samuel, the podcast guest, is a blogger and podcaster himself. He is probably primarily known for his blog Interactive Biology, which he sold after growing it to astronomical numbers.
Samuel originally thought that he wanted to become a professor so he went to school studying biology, specifically neurobiology.
While he was getting his master’s degree, he realized that he didn’t really like research, which is typically a big component of becoming a professor of Biology. So, he stopped at the Master’s level, not to pursue a PhD degree and taught high school science instead.
At some point, he came across information about getting free stuff online. That led him to start a blog about getting stuff for free online. I think he did so primarily to get people to sign up for these offers so that he would be rewarded by receiving free stuff. Something like that. Of course, he learned about blogging and the idea occurred to him to do what he originally thought he wanted to do, which was to teach neurobiology and biology, but through blogging.
He started a new blog about just that. After that first month, he had about 400 visitors, which he was excited about. As he should have been! Then, the next month, the blog had 800 visitors and continued to grow to the point where he was getting a couple 100,000 visitors a month or something like that. He eventually ended up selling the blog to a friend with a similar interest, but in chemistry.
Lessons from the Interactive Biologist
Fill a Void/Meet a Need
First, Samuel blogged about something that he was interested in, which meant he had interest and the knowledge to work on this project. He found a different lane to do what he wanted to do though. He found that at the time, a lot of information available on the sciences was pretty complicated. He decided to make it more digestible by breaking it down into small chunks and explained it in a way that a kid could understand. I’m sure his experience as a high school teacher helped with that.
He found that a lot of people were interested in his topics, not just high school students. Even college students found what he was talking about helpful.
Follow Your Interests and Capitalize on Your Unique Experiences
I also think Leslie’s background illustrates the importance of having diverse experiences and pursuing your interests, especially early in life. Those experiences give us knowledge and skills that are likely to become useful later on. If we have a dearth of those experiences, we won’t have much to draw on later. The author Meg Jay talks about this in her book The Defining Decade: Why the Twenties Matter and How to Make the Most of Them Now. So, it’s important to pursue your interests and gain experiences and skills. Later in life, you’ll see how they contributed to your career and personal journey, for better or for worse.
Leslie’s interest in free stuff led him to blogging, which fit with his interest in teaching and experience as a teacher, which coalesced with his interest in neuroscience. All of these aspects combined to make a successful and fulfilling business venture.
Samuel simplified topics other people were talking about and he did so by focusing on making videos, but also posted transcripts on his blog along with links to the videos.
It doesn’t seem like he utilized both evergreen and timely content, just evergreen content.
To monetize his blog, he first started off with Google Ads. Unfortunately, though he found that he was making less and less money as he was growing his audience. So, he used a different ad company, which started paying him more. Keep that in mind.
He also sold a study guide, which was created by repurposing content he already had on his blog for free. He packaged that into an eBook and started selling it. I think there’s a lesson in there, which is basically to see what you already have and how you can leverage that as a product. This saves time instead of trying to reinvent the wheel.
A Message to the Professionals and Specialists
Leslie advises that people with advanced degrees or others who have been working in a field for a while to leverage that advantage. You have a very specialized knowledge and know it better than anyone else. Take that knowledge and explain to the general public in an understandable way.
The podcast host chimed in and said he did the same thing early in his blogging career as well. His target audience was very small, but underserved so they clung to his blog like flies to cow dung. Again, this speaks to the power of niching down on a topic. If you want to expand your topic later, you still have that option.
Ultimately, if you’re having a difficult time identifying your niche, look at your specialty knowledge. Then, later you have the opportunity to branch out from there.
This was a good conversation to listen to and well worth the time.