#544 WP-Tonic Show With Special Guest Joe Casabona

Joe is a course developer and college professor and has a Master’s Degree in Software Engineering and a WordPress Front End Developer, plus he hosts multiple podcasts and also teaches PHP and Web Development on Lynda.com

He started freelancing in 2002 and has been a teacher at the college level for over 10 years. His passions in both areas have driven him to build Creator Courses, a school for those who want to create online businesses.

As a big proponent of learning by doing, He loves creating focused, task-driven courses to help students build something. When he isn’t teaching, he interviewed people for his podcast, How I Built It.


Intro: Welcome to the WP tonic podcast where each week Jonathan and his cohost interview, the leading experts in Word Press e-learning and online marketing. Jonathan, take it away.

Jonathan: Welcome back folks to the WP tonic show this is episode 544 we’ve got a returning guests a friend of the show, somebody that I follow myself, we got Joe Casabona with us. We’re going to be talking about all things, around podcasting. He’s just published a book. He’s a Word Press developer educator podcaster, a video maker the list just goes on and on with you. So, Joe, I’m sorry I’ve totally destroyed your surname, but I do that literally every guest that comes on the show. So don’t take it too personally, it’s a total (00:55inaudible) of mine, but would you quickly introduce yourself to listeners and viewers Joe.

Joe: Yea absolutely and first of all no problem there teaching in the classroom, I would have to say many surnames (01:10inaudible) without first having the ability to ask them. So no worries there so as you said, my name is Joe Casabona. I do maybe too much, but my primary focuses are

Jonathan: Only a little bit Joe.

Joe: Only a little bit yea my focuses are on podcasting I work a lot in the Word Press space teaching, how to build websites, both with and without code and create I online courses and videos. Actually this year I told myself, there’s a, I don’t know if you’ve heard of the yearly theme this was started by, or maybe popularized by, CGP grey and Mike Burley over at the cortex podcast. But my theme of this year was the year of consistency and I wanted to be consistent with putting out content. So I think every week, this year I’ve done a blog post, a podcast episode, and a YouTube video and the YouTube video is challenging but yes. So I guess to sum up everything I do, I create content

Jonathan: And its good content, I listen to your podcast I watch your videos you’re doing a great job. So, over to my co-host Steven, Steven, would you like to quickly introduce yourself to listeners and viewers.

Steve: Yea my name’s Steven I’m from zip fish.io. We make Word Press fast by not only optimizing the servers that your Word Press site runs on, but also the code that powers the site itself.

Jonathan: That’s great and before we got into my part of the interview, I just wanted to mention one of our great sponsors and it’s Kinster, Kinster hosting Kinster has been the major sponsor of the show for now over two years, they’ve been great to work with they’re great hosting provider that only specialize in Word Press hosting. If you’ve got a Woo commerce site for yourself or for a client, a learning management system, anything that needs extra power and resources go over to the Kinster, they offer really premiere Word Press hosting support technology, the whole stack. So go over to Kinster to tell them that you heard about them on the WP tonic show, have a look at their, packages and I suggest that you should buy one for yourself or for your clients.

So let’s go on to it. So we were discussing some of the main, because obviously Joe does so much in so many parts to Joe’s activities. So, we were discussing which bits we are going to discuss during the show. And we’ve decided we start off with podcasting. So you been, doing some videos around podcasting, I mentioned one of them that I’ve watched recently myself and you been delving into the mechanics and that, so you’ve got any, are there any tips or insights that you would like to start off with around podcasting that you would like to share with the listeners and viewers?

Joe: Yea definitely so I think the, the first thing, obviously people who are listening to this know what a podcast is, but the last set of statistics that we had, at least in America, just over half of Americans, know what a podcast is and listen. So, the first thing I would say is that to those who listen to podcasts, it seems like podcasting is a saturated space. Like there are so many, but, the statistic that I like to throw out there is there are 31 million YouTube channels, and there are less than 1 million active podcasts. So if you are thinking about starting a podcast, I would say now is you’re still getting in early now is a great time to do it because it’s easier than ever. And there are lots of resources to help you start a podcast.

Jonathan: Well, it was funny cause I was little so looking at the facts around YouTube and I just want to put this statement to you, see if you before I hand it over to Steven is now obviously, Google makes money for monetization. They will only allow you to monetize your site until you get 5,000 subscribers to your YouTube channel. They don’t publicly say this is this is coming from me, basically. I think the struggle is to get to that 5,000 Mark where you can monetize the videos. Cause that’s, when Google is actually probably going to share your videos a bit more. And if you’ve got consistency and all the other things, you probably need to start to get some traction, but it’s that slog to get to that 5,000 Mark, would you agree with what i just said Joe?

Joe: Yea it’s let me tell you, I had, less of a hard time building a following from my podcast than I did for YouTube, because YouTube is tough. You got to figure out what people actually want to watch. You got to figure out the YouTube algorithm and how they’re sharing things. And yea you got to get to that subscriber, Mark, if you want to throw, ads there. So it’s some combination, cause I’ve been watching my, when can I monetize dial go up. But it’s some combination of number of subscribers plus public watch hours. So it’s not just like, there…

Jonathan: It is a combination so you are absolutely correct.

Joe: So it’s like you get some number of subscribers, but you could buy those subscribers I guess, but they want to make sure people actually want to watch your content before they’re throwing ads on there, which I think is interesting because I suspect they’re more stringent about who can monetize than who can pay them to put their ads up there. Sorry, Google, don’t be mad at me. Please monetize my videos.

Jonathan: Please, please sir first of all can you monetize my videos sir please it is like Oliver twist so we live in an age of (07:18inaudible) aren’t we Joe.

Joe: Yea absolutely. I shared, something with my newsletter about, Google, changing their, algorithm a little bit to focus on blocks of content, right? So like snippets of content, that answers specific questions, so that they can just show them on the search page. And, as much as I dislike that, because they’re taking traffic away from the websites, I’m going to do it because you gotta it’s their game, it’s their playground, you know? So I thought that was interesting I’m like, I don’t like this, but I’m going to do it because I want to show up in Google.

Jonathan: Over to you Steven.

Steve: Yea you got to play their game no matter what, like it’s either play their game or you’re going to get, not ranked as high. And I think like what’s interesting is like that dichotomy between me as a user and me as a content creator, like as a user loves snippets as the content creator hates snippets. And it’s just interesting, like living in those two worlds, since you have like, different channels that you broadcast stuff out to your YouTube and your podcasts and your email newsletter and the various sites that you run how much do you tailor the content specifically to that channel versus having a theme that kind of everything unites around?

Joe: That’s a great question. And, for me, it’s, I basically try to cover the same topics, but I try to do it, in a way that is, tailored to the medium. So for a blog posts, for example, if I’m blogging about podcasting it’s going to be more advice driven, right? Four ways to monetize your podcast, right with YouTube, it’s going to be more visual stuff. So here’s how I manage my sponsors in Word Press or here’s this custom plugin I wrote, and then for the podcast specifically, this is where I probably spend the most time planning my content with the blog and with YouTube, I have an air table basically with ideas that I’ve come up with. And I generally prioritize them based on what I’m trying to promote at that time.

But with the podcast, because I try to do things so far in advance I come up with basically a theme for the next 25 episodes. And generally that’s like my season. So season nine right now is how to be consistent with writing content and ideas for content so if you look back at, the last bunch of episodes, there’s some twists around that writing content to build your mailing list or building a resource site I think I’m spoiling next week’s episode, building a resource site to make money, stuff like that. So and for the next season, I’m working on kind of how to stay productive while working from home. Which is, I didn’t think would be timely at this point, but it still is.

So, to answer your question around the content I make, I reach out mostly to interviewees or possible guests for my podcast, but I’ll also every month or so have a solo episode where I go deep on a topic that’s generally again related to something I’m trying to promote. So my podcast course, or my done for you service or my membership for site builders, whatever course I’m rolling out at that time.

Steve: How do you manage all these various different brands that you kind of have? Like you have the like create courses.com stuff, the, how I built it, your different channels, like, do you treat this as like you are the brand or do each of these brands have their own sort of kind of entity? I just find it interesting when you have so many things going on. Like how, how do you balance that? It’s always like a really tricky place to be in I find.

Joe: Yeah and it’s something I’ve really struggled with. I made a decision last year that all of my contents would go on casabona.org and I would link to these various places. Right So I am the brand. but now I’m rethinking that I actually hired, somebody to help me with a little bit of PR. and so I had to fill out her assessment and I had to really, I’m like, I’m paying her to do this. I want to make sure I do it right. What to do I want to be known for? How do I want to funnel things like that? How do I redo the messaging? And so

Jonathan: (12:02inaudible) idea

Joe: So I’ve settled on, I still believe I’m the brand for most of these, but now I think I have very clear audiences, right? So for podcasts, liftoff is my signature course and done for you service, obviously, as people who want to start podcasts, create courses, I was like a little bit of a house divided because I sell all of my courses, all a cart, and then I have the membership. But I decided I’m really gonna push the membership, which is for site builders or people who want to build websites without knowing a lot of code. So that’s where all of my messaging went. Again, I still funnel all of the content through casabona.org, through like various automations and things like that. But I hope that answered your question because I really do struggle with that. I feel like I…

Jonathan: I see them as your digital children and you’re the daddy they’re the little children so they have a lot your DNA in them, but they are also alive in their own right?

Joe: Yea absolutely and you know what I came to that real.

Jonathan: That was a very iffy way of putting it was t.

Joe: They are like my digital children, as someone with actual children, I can say that.

Jonathan: Got a little now do you?

Joe: Yeah he’s three months I guess he’s almost four months old now. Yeah. Thank you very much. It’s a lot of fun. Oh. But I came to this realization because I had my podcast course, and then I had, the done for you podcasting service on two different sites on podcasts liftoff, and then shipyourpodcast.com, which I thought was a great brand. And then I thought why are these two different sites? They’re basically the same content and it just depends on what the person wants. So, sometimes I’ll like shoot first and then aim. But I’ve been trying to be a lot more deliberate about reeling all of that, into that. When I introduce myself people, aren’t like, wow, you do a lot. They’re like, Oh, I understand what you do.

Jonathan: We do too though. So that’s the, so are you still actively teaching as well. I know in the Corona, you’re probably not doing it face to face, but are you still active in the education plus doing all this, is that correct Joe?

Joe: I have not taught in higher ED in a couple of semesters. I want to do that again probably after the Corona stuff is over. Instead I’ve focused on developing courses for LinkedIn learning. So that’s where my, I guess, I don’t want to say professional teaching cause I teach professionally on my own platform, but my non-Joe Casabona platform teaching is going over to LinkedIn.

Jonathan: So have you being collaborate at all (15:04inaudible) or have you met him because he’s a personal friend of mine.

Joe: Oh yeah. Morten is the one who got me in, I messaged him this was like a slow play. I messaged him like in like 2016 or 2017, I was like, how do I teach at LinkedIn learning? And he was like you really got to think about what you want to teach. And I’m like, okay. So I let it sit a little bit and then he made an introduction to his content manager at Word Camp us 2018. and I’ve been working with them ever since, and it’s been, it’s improved my personal process, but it’s also, that’s also a nice, that’s a nice way to kind of fence in some of my teaching, right?

Because I love teaching programming, but I want creator courses to focus less on programming I can throw all of my programming courses over to LinkedIn learning. So like learning PHP is a course I just developed for them. And then I’ll kind of like an auxiliary course called PHP for Word Press, where it’s like just enough to program on Word Press, and custom post types and advanced custom fields and all sorts of really fun stuff over there. So it’s nice. It’s that, that is a very clear audience that I have over there. So I guess ideally what I would do is my students, when they’re like ready to start learning programming, I would send them to LinkedIn learning.

Jonathan: Wow that’s great, fantastic yeah. I think you’re doing a great job there and (16:35inaudible) is a personal friend of mine and he’s just a great guy. He’s one of the top people I know in the Word Press. Well, he’s trying to (16:46inaudible) himself a bit from Word Press a bit for understandable reasons. But he’s just a fantastic guy. So, we’re going to go for a break folks. When we come back, we’re going to be talking about Joe’s book yes he’s written a book (17:02inaudible) this guy and we will be talking about some other things, we’ll be back in a few moments folks,

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Jonathan: We are coming back, got Joe on the show friend of the show does amazing content a day. Does it all? So there we go. I thought I produced, well what I liked about you is because you’re just a machine and thought I produce a fair bit of content during the week, but you out do me so, Robert I’ll give you full marks. And I’ve also forgotten to plug one of our sponsors. Before we go any further, I want to mention Groundhog, Groundhog is a native CRM system, like active campaign, drip there are a number of them, but they’re mostly science-based. This is a native plugin.

And if you’re looking for a more cost-effective way to do your marketing atomization on your Word Press website, have a look at groundhog. They offer much better value than the leading science competition. So go over to Groundhog, have a look, what they got to offer, tell them that you heard about them on the WP tonic show and buy one of their packages that really helps the show. So Joe book, so that’s another thing I cannot imagine writing a book I, because I suffer from, I don’t like to use that word, have a little bit of dyslexia and secondly, I’ve been told it’s painful. It’s more painful than putting in teeth I’ve being told. So why did you decide to write a book and it’s around coding? Why did you think, you’re already doing Linder and that what did you think people would gain writing this book and, and producing it?

Joe: Yea that’s, a great question. So first I will put writing a book in the same category as I do running a half marathon, which I’ve run a couple of though I don’t look like I can do that. Run is generous jog is more like it. So, doing a half marathon or planning a word camp, it is a lot of pain during the process followed by just like this huge, endorphin hit when you finish. So I would categorize the book as the same way. So I’ve always had aspirations to write a book. I wrote my first one in 2011, it was called, building Word Press things from scratch that was published by Envato. And the reason I did that is because I learned I should say that if you want to get published by a true book publisher. You need to have already published a book, which is kind of like saying an entry level position requires three to five years’ experience

So I did that book and then shortly after I had an idea for a book called responsive design for Word Press. And it was a book all about that. I reached out to Peach pit who, that publisher and their books personally taught me a lot about Word Press and web development I should say like I’m a web developer because of their books. So I reached out and I said are you interested in this? They said, yes, that book came out in 2013 and then last year, which feels like a hundred years ago, in March of 2019, I reached out to my publisher and I said Hey responsive themes with Word Press is or like responsive design with Word Press is like six years old maybe we should do like a second edition.

And my, my editor got back to me very candidly and said, people in the Word Press space don’t buy books. And I said, understood. And then she said, but we need a ninth edition of our HTML and CSS book. Are you interested in that? The current author does not want to write the ninth edition and I thought more basic than Word Press, as far as audience appeal goes, right, it’s less niched than Word Press is, it’s the ninth edition. So it does well, and this has a good opportunity to be taught in the classroom. So I agreed so I guess to answer your question, that was a very long way to not answer your question.

Jonathan: You probably are aware of some of my questions though Steven is.

Joe: The reason I wrote the book is because it is an exercise in authority building, right? Because now my name is on the printed page, which, gives me authority that you might not get from just producing your own online courses. It has the ability to be taught in the classroom. I actually taught HTML and CSS in the classroom. So I got to write the book that I would have wanted to use while teaching. And then it’s an extra revenue stream to be Frank, right? Like they pay you an advance and then as long as the book does well, you start to get royalty checks. And, as somebody who is self-employed.

Jonathan: Ooh,

Joe: Yea I mean they’re very smart book publishers where they have a big formula, but this book has a lot of appeal that I think actually might give me the opportunity to have, royalties coming in as somebody who’s, self-employed having a diverse set of income streams is super important. And I’ll just say one more thing. When the responsive design for Word Press book came out, that endorphin hit was like recurring because I would go to word camps and I would meet people who were like, I read your book and it’s so great. And I’m like, Oh, this is really nice. And I fail horribly when people rein comments on me or compliment on me. But, it’s a really good feeling to know that something that I’ve put so much time and effort into has had a positive impact on somebody.

Jonathan: So you had a very extensive proofreading. What’s the proofreading process, because I’ve been told, especially a technical book, especially writing code? And I’ve been told by other people that have published books in that particular area that’s painful in its own right.

Joe: Yeah. So here’s how the process works. High-level overview I write the outline and then I write the chapter and that goes to my main copy editor and he rips it to shreds and then sends it to a technical editor, a technical copy editor, and the particular technical editor I worked with seems to have read the entirety of MDN, the Mozilla developer network documentation, cause he knew when I stated something incorrectly from those docs. So he would do that. Then it would go back to my copy editor. He would once it over and send it back to me, that was the most frustrating part because, but also I should say frustrating but important, right? We restructured chapters and the book is better because of that.

Jonathan: I was a front end developer a few years ago. I haven’t actively developed for the past four, five years only dabble on my own website properties. I’ve got whole crew that does proper development. But when I was learning it through books and then, but there’s nothing worse than you’re trying to learn from a book and it’s got (25:53inaudible) faults. There’s nothing worse. Is there?

Joe: Yea absolutely. So that process and, like I structured things a certain way that were probably better for say video but, but then we wanted to make it more comprehensive and more explanation. And this was for like the beginner. Like we basically, assumed that the reader didn’t know what a computer was.

Jonathan: I once emailed I won’t mention the actual author of a particular popular Word Press, development book and I said, this is full of (26:34inaudible) well he emailed me back Joe and said it’s part of the learning process.

Joe: Okay nah nope and that was another great thing about my copy editor was he would actually do the code, his job must’ve been extremely hard cause he had to like deal with my grasp of the English language. And then also like write all the code and he would be like, this is not working for me. And then I’d have to like troubleshoot some of it. But again, that whole process. And then after I did it, he would reread it, rewrite some sections send it to the second editor, blblblah. So I think like four or five other people looked at it, by the time it was ready to go to Print and again, it was a long process, but a really important one because I am hoping that I don’t, I have an errata page, on the website. Just corrections it says this, it should say that I’m hoping I don’t have to do any I’m hoping I don’t have to fill that out at all so.

Steven: With all this book writing stuff going on and like you started with kind of Word Press and now you’ve moved a little bit more into just some code stuff, but also, like some other ancillary sort of things around that and around just building podcasts, businesses and stuff. What, what was your trajectory through all of this? Like where did you start and kind of how’d you get to where you are now and what’s your vision and where you going from there?

Joe: Oh wow but yea that’s a great question. So I knew I always was interested in computers from a pretty young age. I was interested in my dad’s laptop and then we eventually got a family computer and I would tinker and like my first successful side hustle was making mix CDs for people cause we had like DSL, so I was able to download music quickly and then burn them off. I also had like one of the first CD burners of people in my age. So, I always liked that and my church reached out to me when I was like 14 or 15. My dad was on the parish council, I think at that time. But they reached out to me, they’re like, Joe, you’re good with computers. Can you make us a website? And I was like I don’t know how to make websites. And they said, we’ll pay you $200 And I was, Oh yea I’m sure I can learn that. Yea exactly So, I got an educational version of Microsoft front page and I made my…

Jonathan: Those were the good old days were they Joe.

Joe: I know and I loved it. I was like this I get to like flex, like my, my more logical side of my brain. And, but I also get to flex like the creative side of my brain a little bit. And I really loved the process. And so I’m like, I’m going to make a business out of this. And I reached out to everybody, I knew who had a business and I was like, do you need, and this was around like 2000, 2001 I should say. Do you need a website? And people are like, Oh yea I do. So I’m like $200. And somebody was like, you don’t charge enough. And I was like $500.

I had some really good people in my life to make sure that I was charging what I was worth and stuff like that. So, I loved it I went to college for computer science. I learned I was very, very bad at math. And so I picked a major that allowed me to still study computer science. I have my master’s in software engineering, but I never took calculus. Yeah. Which is like engineering friends were like, how did you do that? And I’m like I abused the system. I look for shortcuts throughout my…

Jonathan: Funny enough we’ve got very similar background because when I did, I did my degree as a mature student and then I did my masters, in interactive design. But my degree was in multimedia in computer science and I managed to because I couldn’t do calculus I just couldn’t endure that.

Joe: Yeah. It was tough because I like, I dropped the class, but my teacher was such a great teacher. Dr. Anthony Brozoala. He was amazing. You’re listening, Dr. Brozoala when I dropped the class, I handed him the paperwork and I said, it’s not you it’s me. Like I actually said those words but since then I remained self-employed throughout all of grad school and like the first year after grad school. And then I realized I needed insurance, like health insurance. And I got a job at my Alma mater, in the IT departments and so through there I worked as a web developer and I taught, and then I got a job at a Word Press agency. And after my daughter was born, I realized.

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