Whither amateur podcasting?
May 26, 2009 5:16 PM   Subscribe

I'm a brand new amateur podcaster. However, it seems like I may be a little late to the game. Most podcasting forums/communities seem dead or full of spam, and many of the early podcasters seem to have given up on podcasting entirely. Is this indicative of anything about the current state of amateur podcasting, and where do said podcasters go to hang out and share advice these days?
posted by iamisaid to Computers & Internet (5 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Many of us amateurs jumped ship when no viable monetization method was forthcoming for small-timers. Podcasting appears, to me anyhow, to be yet another tool in the box for businesses. Standing alone, there are only so many models that have succeeded. When the phenomenon first popped up, several endeavors launched to supply us with material. "Podsafe" music was one of these. Trouble was, most of that music is very amateurish and certainly unorganized. It took way too much time to sift through and find anything usable. I imagine many other things fell by the wayside for similar reasons.
posted by skypieces at 5:44 PM on May 26, 2009

I was a podcaster and live broadcaster of an internet radio show for two years. The prime reason I got out of it was simply that producing a show every week was one of the most draining things possible on my creativity and energy.

I never found a good place to hang out, honestly. I do know and have spent time with the guys who are with the DragonCon podcasting track, and their forums tend to be quite nice.
posted by strixus at 6:03 PM on May 26, 2009

The problem with amateur podcasting is just as you explained it in your question. It's also very analogous to amatetuer blogging.
I was part of a community radio show in Sydney that produced a podcast of the show. It was moderatley successful with around 2000 subscribers.

The core problem for amateur podcasting and blogging for that matter is you get all excited about starting somehing like this up and your head is full of ideas and enthusiasm. You keep your podcast/blog current with new material but then after a while it gets harder and harder to keep the effor up and most of all, keep the ideas fresh. Then one day most people just give up because you're tired of going to so much effort for very little reward.

If I was going to start up a new podcast, I would target it to a very small niche. There are so many thousands of podcasts around now on just about any topic, you have to go for a smaller audience to get a bigger one.

For example, if you wanted to do a podcast on computers or technology, go and do a search in iTunes on technology podcasts and try to choose between them. Not only will hyou have to compete with many professionally produced podcasts, there are all the other ones created in someone's bedroom that do one or two shows that make it almost impossible for anyne to find yours no matter how, "different and original" you might think your show is.

If you targeted the subject of your show to say, Quilting, you'll find the iTunes podcast search only brings up 6 shows. When targeting your audience, you will also be able to determine how long your show might be based on how/here and when these people will be listening to you. Using the Quilting example again, your audience are more likely to have the time to listen to a 20 min show but then does anyone just sit down in the lounge room and listen to a podcast or would they be listening while on a walk or run or something?

Another thing I would do would be to support it with a good web site. This will further increase the chances of people finding your site when they do a search on the topic of your show and more importantly, give you a way to interact with listeners. The interaction or simply just the knowledge that you actually do have an audience apart from your Mum is a major factor in keeping you going.

Lastly, I would not produce and publish the first show until you have the material for at least 8-10 shows and try to stay at least 4-5 shows infront. This will give you a large content buffer and ensure that if you get stuck trying to think up something to fill your show, you have over a months worth content to work with.
posted by Man_in_staysis at 7:13 PM on May 26, 2009 [2 favorites]

As someone who listens to a lot of podcasts, it seems like there really isn't a central meeting place on the internet for podcasters. Podcast Alley used to be a big promotional site, but I haven't heard much about them since iTunes started promoting podcasting.

Podcasting seems to be much more of an ad hoc thing: One podcaster might send his 30-second promo to another one, and if she finds it interesting, she'll play his promo on her podcast. It also seems like many of the podcasters I listen to develop friendships with each other--they offer each other advice, listen to and promote each other's stuff, even meet up in person at places like Dragon Con.

If it's advice you're looking for, I'm told that Podcasting for Dummies is actually a pretty good resource. As for promotion/community, I'd suggest listening to other podcasts in the genre you're trying to break into, sending in feedback, and seeing if they're willing to play your promos (and vice versa).
posted by JDHarper at 6:06 AM on May 27, 2009

I have been podcasting for four years and done over 300 episodes across four different podcast shows, at an average of one hour per show. Strixus is right when he says it can be creatively and physically exhausting. Man_in_staysis is right when he says to backlog material, but that isn't always possible (one of my shows is a "news" type show, requiring production every week. Releasing out of date info isn't possible with that type of show).

Man In Staysis also has 2 other very good points: 1) have a good website. I can't stress this enough. Don't just do a Wordpress blog or something, you need a good site that makes you appear professional. and 2) Niche is good. A couple of my shows that didn't take off were comic book discussion and movie discussion. Too broad, and broad means there's a lot of established podcasts out there trying to get the same ears you are trying to get. But the more niche I made it, say a podcast specifically about Friday the 13th films or a podcast specifically about Star Wars collecting, worked out very well and have thousands of listeners each show.

But while this is all good advice to you from people who have been there, your questions haven't been addressed too much.

Skypieces is pretty much right... Amateur Podcasting has taken a huge hit. I started doing this in 05, and back then every podcast was pretty much amateur or independent. Some had corporate backing but it was too new, too geeky. But in 07 I predicted (and this is in print somewhere...) that the entertainment machine was going to see this as an opportunity, and it happened.

If you look at iTunes top 100 podcasts now, the vast majority of them are recycled content or bonus content to corporate items. NPR shows, repackaged as downloadable podcasts. Or TV shows that have official podcasts with access no lone person can get.

And really it's two-fold there... The independents are of spotty sound quality, some are great, others are crap. The independents are of spotty talent...with many not editing themselves and having long uhs and ums and pauses in the show. And the independents are often irregularly released meaning no listener can count on having something to listen to, and podcast listeners like regularity. So with the professional items, it puts even more pressure on the independent podcaster to up their game or get lost in the shuffle.

And with the amount of work that goes into every podcast episode counting recording, editing, writing, researching, etc. many indies have given up because there is no reward. Like was said above, monetization has proven virtually impossible, and the audiences go to the corporate shows, so if you don't have an audience and you're not getting paid, what's left is self-gratification. And it's a LOT of work for that. But the indies aren't gone...just tired out.

Also I should point out that video podcasting has taken over. Again I point to iTunes top podcasts, and so many of them are video podcasts (again recycled content like The Soup or NBC Nightly News just recut and encoded, but still). And if audio podcasts take a lot of time, video takes 4 times that. No job-holding indie can compete in quality and content with a staff of professional video designers.

So to be brutally honest, the landscape is bleak, especially for someone just starting out. I've managed to hold onto and even grow my audience from when I started, back when there wasn't all this competition, but that's more challenging with each passing day, and to start with a brand new show with no built in audience, I wouldn't want to imagine that.

As for where podcasters hang out... Podcasters usually start off by listening to podcasts. Let me give you some advice about Podcast listeners (by and large)...they're not "joiners". Podcasts are like TiVo to the 10th power...what you want when you want it. You listen on your terms, not according to some set schedule. You listen to only as much of a show as interests you, and you move on. It's astounding how many thousands of downloads my shows get but I can only get about 100 of them to join a forum or 500 to e-mail for contest entries. They just aren't joiners, they're very "me"centric.

And since podcast listeners become podcast producers, that "me" attitude carries over.

The best thing you can do is network one on one.

THAT said...join Twitter! Seriously. I finally entered that social media cesspool this year, and a bunch of my followers aren't show listeners, they're fellow podcasters. And not about even similar topics. But when I have questions about sound editing, etc. I can turn to my Twitter followers and they are more than willing to help, and I do the same for them.

If you're interested in names of some indie Twitter podcasters, MeFi mail me and I'll give you a list.

Good luck!
posted by arniec at 8:31 AM on May 27, 2009

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