Hardcore Excellence

Lance Creativity, Excellence Comments

In our modern, high-speed, short attention span, 140-character world, the conventional wisdom for building a successful content platform — be it a blog, podcast, etc — is generally the same:

  • Keep the content short and easily scanned/read/listened to in relatively bite-size servings (30-60 minutes per episode for podcasts, 500-750 words per post for blogs)
  • Keep the content fresh with a regular, frequent, and predictable new content release schedule (whether daily, 2-3x/week, weekly, etc)

That’s the formula. Of course, here are a lot of other things that go into building a successful platform enterprise, but these two principles are generally viewed as fundamentals. To break them is to try to beat the house at blackjack by consistently hitting on 17. Simply put, the odds are not in your favor.

Then there’s Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History podcast. A look at the current iTunes podcast chart reveals something unique about this podcast compared to all the others surrounding it at the top of the charts:


All of the other podcasts in the Top Ten largely follow those two fundamental rules: episodes of an hour or less, and a fairly frequent and predictable new episode release schedule.

Hardcore History, on the other hand, defies both conventions. The most recent six-part series on Word War I — “Blueprint for Armageddon” — clocked in at an average of 230 minutes per episode, or nearly FOUR HOURS each. Additionally, the release schedule for Carlin’s oral tomes is the opposite of frequent and predictable:


What was a roughly six-week release schedule around Episodes 43-44 soon grew to two months … to three months … to four months … to five months with the most recent episodes. One other podcast anomaly to note: only the 14 most recent episodes of Hardcore History are listed on iTunes. Why? Because all of the older episodes now reside behind a pay wall on Carlin’s site. In the free to the listener world of podcasting, the vast majority of Carlin’s content is available on a pay-only basis.

Extremely long episodes … inconsistent release schedule … extremely long time to wait for new content … most of which is not free — yet Hardcore History sits atop the podcasting charts and is among the most tenured podcasts on them. How?


Sure, it’s risky to aim for Excellence. You will likely fall short of it, and then where will you be? Having broken some of the Rules of the Average, you will now be highly visible, outside the norm, beyond the safety of the herd, and with no end product excellence to show for your effort. It’s far easier and safer to play by the rules, appeal to the meaty middle of mediocre tastes, and win by being cheaper, easier, and more efficient.

On the other hand …

… if you aim for Excellent and fall short, you will have something no one else in the safe zone has: a head-start on actually achieving Excellence. If you will bear the risk of sticking out, and push through The Dip, your Excellent is achievable, and ultimately quite marketable. If you’ll take the time to look, you’ll find History is full of evidence proving this to be true.

Sounds like a great podcast topic…