According to Edison Research, more than one in five Americans listen to a podcast every month and we’ve seen the continued growth and obsession with podcasts first hand at Patreon. This is also something Aaron Mahnke understands all too well. His wildly popular podcast, Lore, has grown from a one-man show to nothing short of an enterprise employing production staff, tour management, and additional creative talent. Lore has almost 2,000 Patreon supporters and 190 million listens resulting in 24,500 5-star reviews on Apple.
So why has Lore become so popular? In part, because it resonates with our primal human need for storytelling. Akin to sitting around the campfire, listening to Lore, which features true stories from history, is an immersive narrative experience. Lore has been in existence for four years and in that time, it has brought dark and sometimes creepy stories to grateful ears. The biweekly episodes feature tragic, unusual, and sometimes tragic tales.
Aaron’s success has allowed Lore to expand into multiple sister podcasts, a book series, and even a television production on Amazon. These additional channels bring fans back to where it all started, the original podcast and his Patreon page.
Raised on “The X Files” and visits to “Ripley’s Believe it or Not” Aaron is passionate about delivering tales of human interest from history. He understands that this is a sub-genre that still manages to attract a large audience. “There are a lot of people who love the niche that I am in,” he says.
Although Aaron’s hyper-focus on this part of history is striking a chord with millions of fans his motivation remains individualized. “I grew up in grade school reading books of unusual stories, you know, historical tales that are weird but true. For me it's personal,” he says.
Turning this interest in the darker elements of human history from a hobby into a thriving enterprise took time, talent, and patience, as well as the utilization of a partnership with Patreon. “That full-time income came from crowdfunding through Patreon four years ago. It's grown a lot since then, I've grown a lot since then, but using it as a tool, and having the courage to ask and say, “Hey guys I’ve got this thing I make, and if you want to contribute I’ll give you some exclusive or valuable rewards for it.” It just made sense. And it also served as a place for the community to gather,” Aaron says.
That importance of community, built on Patreon, is part of the philosophy of story sharing that takes place on the Lore podcast. It’s a community activity even if people are listening alone. It’s still a collaborative experience. After hearing the story listeners are likely to retell it themselves again to their friends, family, and community. Stories are contagious after all.
Aaron was able to share this unique category of spoken literature with the world and make it profitable through growing his Patreon audience. Those supportive patrons receive full ad-free episodes of the bi-weekly podcast, discounts in the Lore shop, and a range of other exclusive members-only benefits like additional shows, and insider news and updates.
The commission of a TV show adaptation of the podcast and the fact that it is award-winning, scooping up iTunes "Best of 2015" and "Best of 2016" awards and winner of "Best History Podcast 2016" by the Academy of Podcasters, cements its immense success.
Despite these wins, Aaron is quick to point out that his journey hasn’t always been linear, and there are things he wishes he had done differently in retrospect. “I recently had the opportunity to go back through all the audio files to do some editing. I realized how incredibly horrible the audio was. If i had a time machine I would say don't record in front of your glass monitor on a hard desk!” He says.
Innovations will continue at Lore, Aaron won’t be resting on his laurels, as there are still more exciting new updates for Lore patrons to look forward to in the future. One of which recently rolled out and includes episodes that give listeners a chance to see behind the scenes secrets to learn all about the process of making a podcast.
For Aaron the success of his enterprise will always center on the relationship he has developed with fans. After live shows he always makes a point of spending time meeting and greeting those listeners that have made Lore what it is. “I love to tell stories but interacting with the people who support me and who listen to the stories is powerful.”
Lore didn’t begin with accolades and awards, it started small and built a loyal following. Are you ready to take the first step in developing your own empire?