It’s the Year of __________
The time of year when we see an endless number of 2014 recaps and 2015 predictions. After reading a number of these posts, there is a very intriguing broadcast medium that might be making its presence known in an even bigger way: Podcasting. Will 2015 be the year of the podcast?
Podcasting is not the new kid on the block. Although some “Serial“-listeners might think it’s new-ish, podcasting has been around since the 80’s. Many podcast shows boast show episodes in the thousands. Sharing said shows in these social media days can turn any podcast into an ‘overnight’ sensation.
With new tech not only available but affordable, starting and promoting a podcast seems easier than ever. I’ve converted my own Google+ Hangouts On Air shows into podcasts. My skills aren’t legendary, but if I can do it, well, just about anyone can.
As I started reading about the popularity growth of podcasting, I thought I’d ask two people who are well versed in the medium: Shannon J Hernandez (met through Google+) and Troy Kirby (met through Twitter). Both have been involved in podcasting for some time and know the landscape well. I asked Shannon and Troy a series of questions in reference to the now and future of podcasts.
How long have you been involved in podcasting?
Shannon: I have been producing podcasts since 2013, but have been in the radio broadcasting industry since 2000. Prior to producing podcasts, I started listening to them in 2011 critically. I knew that podcasting was another form of broadcasting, but without the limitations of the FCC or corporate creative control.
Troy: I worked in local terrestrial radio (South Puget Sound market) in the early 2000s at a few stations, and always enjoyed the audio medium. I kind of lost touch with it until about Dec. 2011, when I started looking into podcasting just as a hobby – as something to perhaps do when the football season at EWU was finishing up and my time became more abundant. In January 2012, I started The Nothingcast with a friend, where we interviewed various folks – at one point, we even interviewed the Octomom. True story. She was coming to Tacoma and I was the first to request a media interview. So, we booked it and she refused to do any others (so we beat out local the press, etc).
What about the medium drew you to it?
Shannon: I have always seen podcasting as a means to add more value to a brand. In my early days, I thought that one could create their own “radio” station, but I soon learned that it was more than just copying someone’s music and putting it to a program in an MP3 format. The medium was far more creative and intelligent. I also learned that the people who were creating podcasts were passionate about delivering useful and helpful content! Back then, I saw that the medium had potential to turn any brand into their own media entity. However, it lacked distribution for most people. That’s not the case anymore.
Troy: I just liked the idea of being able to develop the conversation. That’s what made me want to start the Tao of Sports. I relocated to California, and in October 2012, was showing off some of my new podcast equipment to Matt Harper, and he said “Why don’t we test it out?” – that became episode 1. What’s funny is that I released it, threw it on LinkedIn, and had a few folks who I’d never met react so enthusiastically to it – that I kept doing them. Initially, I just asked colleagues who were friends to come on, and then it really took off. By Spring Training in Arizona 2013, I was doing 5-6 per day (6 days total) and just having a blast. I enjoy talking to people. For me, its not a chore, its not hard, you just have to have a genuine curiosity about someone else’s life.
How much has social media helped your (or others’) podcasts?
Shannon: Social will always be a part of podcasting efforts. Unless you’ve got the “in” with someone at a radio station, social media distribution and social networking within your desired niche will always be the key to driving listeners to you and your brand. With the podcasts that I produce(d), I was able to reach out to the right people within the market’s niche and find influencers who could help spread the word about our program. A brand’s willingness to keep the conversation going online to offline is the key to the discovery of your podcast.
Troy: Social media helps to a certain degree, but good content is always king. If the podcast weren’t guest-response driven, meaning that they actually provided generic answers, I don’t believe people would continue to listen. Its grown organically because of the honesty and participation of those who come on as guests. They deserve the credit. I just get to talk with them and ask questions that I find interesting.
What has been the biggest challenge to podcasting?
Shannon: As I mentioned before, it’s the distribution factor. Content is location-based in the respect that people consume content depending on their physical location. People consume visual information either on the couch, in a chair or waiting in line at the grocery story. Podcasting has had a major disconnect when it comes to how it is/was consumed. Prior to recent automotive deals with Apple and Android Auto, car dashboards will give a listener the opportunity to listen to anything they want–including podcasts–through phone/car integration. We are currently in a renaissance in the podcasting industry. With popular programs like “Serial” leading the charge and more people talking about consuming this type of entertainment, the hurdle will be to get more people to understand that there are more options that when one is just on the radio.
Troy: I’m definitely looking at the Patent Troll situation – that is a concerning issue – hopefully the EFF wins and I was hopeful that Adam Carolla’s legal battle would have ended the issue, but it didn’t.
Rewards of podcasting?
Shannon: Depending on the focus of your podcast, it can provide incredible value in terms of a new stream of income for your business. If money isn’t your main focus, it’s the value of building a fan base that is loyal and true to you and your brand. Of course, if there is success with a podcast, then you will definitely need to figure out how you will want to capitalize on the traction that your podcast is gaining. This could be through sponsorships or products that fit your brand’s niche/style.
Troy: Whenever I get a tweet that someone enjoyed a conversation on an episode, I feel happy because I realize that it impacted their life in some way.
I’ve seen podcasting show up on a number of 2014 recaps/2015 prediction posts. Enough for me to think that 2015 may be the “Year of the Podcast”. What have you been hearing about podcasting for 2015?
Shannon: I believe that 2014 was the year of the podcast and this is still true (for the most part). Shows like “Serial” have really put the exclamation point on 2014 being the year of the podcast. I don’t think that 2015 is necessarily the “Year of the Podcast” for the number of podcasts that are in the marketplace inasmuch that the technology industry responding to the need far ahead of the “need” to have podcasts show up in places we would have never expected–in particular the newer model cars.
Now that content producers have launched successful podcasts, everyone is saying, “Hey, I can do that too. I know I can do it better!” This may be the truth, but the reality is that it will take hard work and passion to create something that comes out in your own podcast.
Troy: That’s because “Serial” just averaged 5 million downloads per episode – that’s why everyone’s saying that. Podcasting is just a different delivery system for audio. Its radio without a radio. There’s really no difference except more people can do it. It also has less production expense than video, but has ability to reach people at times when they are completely invested (you can watch TV and not be invested, but listening is much different).
Sports personalities (specifically those in radio, tv) tend to have some of the more popular podcasts around. Rather than music, I’ve been known to listen to some while working out. What is it about sports that you believe attracts listeners and/or subscribers?
Shannon: Sports talk is always engaging. It’s something that people can rally around and not take too seriously. It’s not politics. Everyone loves competition, analysis of players/teams and speculation of outcomes. With sports, you know there will be an outcome from one season to the next, so it’s the anticipation of knowing what will happen week-to-week, day-to-day. The “WHAT IF” becomes a reality when it comes to a deciding game. Plus, everyone has an opinion based on statistics and can participate in the conversation socially. This is what draws people to listen to these personalities.
The thing that some of these personalities have going for them is that they are already on the radio and are driving traffic to a website where there is a podcast listed on the site. It’s the benefit of having syndication or 100,000 watts behind you pushing the message to check out the additional podcast content. If they aren’t on the radio and are producing their own quality podcast, they have likely networked with those who are in traditional media and have leveraged the exposure.
Troy: I think that is a “reach” aspect of terrestrial radio with sports personalities – I believe people are often listening to their show daily, then download episodes they miss to continue in on the conversation. That’s the difference with podcasting compared to even radio standard, there are few pop music podcasts because you have to do BMI music licensing – Apple will pull your podcast if it violates DCMA with even a few seconds of copyrighted music.
Do you know of any sports teams with their own podcast?
Shannon: I haven’t heard of a sports team with an “official” podcast. As progressive as the sports world is, podcasting might be an area in which they feel there isn’t enough distribution for the content–even though the growth will start to look like a J-curve with these new technological integrations.
Troy: No, I tend to think that teams rely on their flagship stations to do it. I know that EWU finally is doing a podcast for their athletic department, but through their play by play announcer Larry Weir.
Do you believe this is a missed opportunity by sports teams? Why or why not?
Shannon: For as large as the reach is for these teams are, I don’t think they feel it’s a missed opportunity. Platforms like Twitter give teams the ability to communicate with fans in real-time and I think teams feel this is OK. But I know from a fan perspective I would want to hear interviews and speculations from the players themselves–if possible. Whether you’re the hardcore football fan or you’re a teenager who is passionate about a particular team, I would love to hear something other than a post-game interview.
I think teams can find someone internally to host a weekly or 3-day a week podcast with coach or player interviews. These programs don’t have to be more than 20-25 minutes, but it can provide an opportunity for those in the traditional media to talk about a coach/player interview. A lot of this stuff is cyclical when you think about it. One form of the medium can feed right into the other. And what do traditional media outlets like? Sound/Video clips! Team podcasts would be a gold mine!
Troy: I think that too many teams feel that is a flagship radio station right that they don’t want to violate for sponsorship/broadcasting dollars.
What about athletes? Active athletes – should they maybe think about doing a podcast? It seems like it would be a controlled way to connect with fans. And, prepare them for the next phase in life post-athletic career.
Shannon: This is a tough question. I’m not sure if focusing on a podcast during the season would be good for them. I’m sure there is more to focus on than to come up with content–even if they have a producer who is doing a lot of the scheduling and creating the topics of for content.
If they did do a podcast, I would formulate a team of people on the podcast where there is a co-host to help them out. You see guys out there like Donovan McNabb doing a sports talk show for NBC and he is able to refine his chops for TV every Sunday. I suppose you could see podcasting as the same thing, but only if the player is a year or two out from retirement.
Comedy podcasts are a huge hit. They rival some of the largest podcast numbers. Some of them do about 900K downloads per weekly episode and are not edited that much. It allows the fan to be closer to the comedian. The only issue is whether that would be entertaining to the fan to listen to an athlete. Remember, everyone thinks Charles Barkley is great, funny, etc. Thats because you hear about 10 minutes of him per NBA episode, talking with other folks. Imagine if its him, trying to push the content, for 30-45 minutes (some comedy podcasts last 3-4 hours – seriously).
Any other thoughts on sports podcasts? Creative podcasts that you like (doesn’t have to be just sports)?
Troy: Here’s my podcasting take: I try to have as good of sound quality as possible. I try to make sure that the imaging (voice announcer) is good, and that the music bed is great. I don’t want to blow anyone out of their earbuds or speakers. And I try to keep the episode around 30-45 minutes. If its a legend who can carry a valuable conversation for an hour or an hour and a half, then fine, but few of the folks have been able to do that.
The goal should be a consideration for the listener – I look at the episodes at professional development that they can listen to, during a commute on their way to work or home, and that they can leave and feel that they got something out of it. I also want a guest that I have on to feel valued, that I didn’t just have them on to take advantage of them, and to create conversational opportunities that may generate future discussions within the industry later on. If I accomplish that, then I’m pretty good.
Where do you see podcasting (doesn’t have to be just sports) going in 2015 and beyond?
Shannon: In 2015, I see an incredible amount of significant growth in terms of podcasting. The more that podcasting gets mainstream coverage, more people will want to explore the podcasting applications for iPhone and Android (Stitcher, Downcast, BeyondPod and Podcast for iPhone). The quality of the content will become better and you will see people niching down to become the real authorities in their industry. Once those new model cars hit the road, I feel like there will be a buzz around any type of topic. These cars will turn podcasting into the new Netflix for audio.
You will also see more people wanting to become their own media entity. Some will see it as an addition to their business while others want to build something around an idea where they can express their passion.
Troy: I think you’ll probably see a lot more copy-cat podcasts emerge. Especially when people believe there’s money in podcasting or podcast advertising. The thing is, podcasting has a specific niche audience, it is much smaller per podcast than most radio shows, but I can actually tell you who listens, where they listen and for what duration. And they are typically more loyal as audience members to that brand.
Final Question: Favorite podcast?
Shannon: The School of Greatness by Lewis Howes
Troy: Currently listening to…
- The Bert Cast – Comedian Bert Kreischer’s Podcast
- Criminal – Examining a different true life crime story each episode
- Serial – Just finished season one, I love where this type of genre is going
- WTF with Marc Maron – Interviews with celebrities, musicians, etc.
- Freaknomics – Because I like to think like a freak on statistics, etc.
- Media Masters Podcast – Run by Peter Stringer of the Boston Celtics
- Sports Geek Podcast – Run by Sean Callanan of Sports Geek
BONUS question courtesy of Troy: Equipment you use or recommend
- For Skype & Hangout-On-Air Calls Only: Blue Yet Microphone (also can be used for analog recording)
- Recording remotely or building home studio: Yamaha MG06X 6-Input Compact Stereo Mixer
- Editing: Adobe Audition from the Creative Cloud
- Headphones: Sony MDRZX110 ZX Series Stereo Headphones
- Serious Podcasters: Shure SRH440 headphones
Troy: I love the H4n recorder. I even have a H6 now as a backup.
I always save into wav files and run them through levelator to ensure that my levels are sound. I use Audacity to edit the interview, and then put everything together in Amadeus for upload to Libsyn. I go with Libsyn because they are the best delivery system for podcasting and don’t charge for storage beyond the current month limits.