December 22, 2018, Vol 1
All The Other Podcasts
“Never atop the charts, always ahead of the game”
I’m Jennie Josephson, and I produce podcasts for a living. I’m starting a newsletter so I can keep up to date on life in the Outer Rim territories of the podcast world. There are lots of podcasts out here – in June 2018, Apple announced they had more 550,000 podcasts in their store, and there are a lot more when you count shows that live exclusively in on Soundcloud, Audible or another podcast platform. I’m interested in 529,800 of those podcasts, especially the ones that are independently produced.
WHAT MAKES A PODCAST INDEPENDENT?
What does it mean to be an independent podcaster? Who is and who isn’t independent? The way I see it, if you feel independent you are independent. But let’s come up with a slightly more professional definition together. Because then it will be ours.
I’m going to gather best practices, worst practices, and lists of useful, free or cheap tools from the independent podcast community. And I’m going to try to work through a thought I’ve been brewing on and off for the past five years. I’m sure many of you have brewed the same thought in the middle of yet another late night edit. Here we go:
THERE ARE TOO MANY PODCASTS, PLEASE LISTEN TO MY PODCAST
A) Every loves a podcast that they’re sure everyone else knows and loves.
“You must have heard of The Really Rosie Podcast. Their goal is to interview everyone who has ever played Really Rosie in any production of the musical, and how it changed their life!” (Not a real podcast. Should be.)
Due to the challenges of discovering new and interesting independent podcasts in the endless ocean of high-status public radio podcasts, interesting podfades (guilty as charged) and abandoned corporate content marketing, it turns out…
B) There are only a few podcasts that everyone knows.
“No, I have *not* heard the third season of Serial.”
When I say “everyone”, I should point out that in the Edison Research 2018 Infinite Dial survey, only 17% of respondents had listened to a podcast in the last week. So there’s definitely an echo chamber in that 17%.
C) We have to find better ways to bridge the gap between A and B.
There are old media companies and stealthy new ventures working on podcast discovery. And there are plenty of newsletters devoted to podcasts. But somehow they all seem to end up discussing Armchair Expert. And technically yes, AE with Dax Shepard is an independent podcast and worthy of discussion. But I need another podcast with a delightful man talking to his famous friends about as much as I need someone to ask me if I listen to The Daily.
Seriously, don’t ask.
A QUICK BREAK FOR USEFUL INFO
If someone asks you what you charge to launch, produce or host a podcast, and you don’t know the answer, The Association of Independents in Radio (AIR) has a Rate Guide for Podcasts. It’s under revision, so go ahead and add 10%. This chart is really helpful. Even if it doesn’t have your exact use case, it’s a starting point for negotiation.
DO YOU SUFFER FROM PES?
Speaking of Armchair Expert and The Daily, now’s the time to mention that I live with a serious but manageable condition called “Podcast Envy Syndrome.” Some of you may be familiar with this syndrome. PES strikes without warning, but Radiotopia is usually involved.
“Radiotopia. If you’ve thought of it, they’ve already done it!”
I’m particularly annoyed by those banner ads on iTunes. Double Yahtzee if the banner ad is for the Best of 2018 list. Because seriously, who do I have to [REDACTED] to get a banner ad for a podcast? You may have heard of the Podcast Envy Podcast on Stitcher, which is such a great name it’s giving me serious PES. There’s also an actual, medical PES which involves knee-snapping, but I digress.
I don’t know how your PES symptoms manifest, but mine start with an involuntary eye roll. If the podcast art is really good, I get these little brain zaps at the top of my skull. And if the teaser and pilot are really good, my brain produces an immediate and full-formed list of reasons why those podcasters have advantages that I blah blah blah…
Fortunately, PES is easily cured. You just have to DO ANYTHING. Call a podcast friend and gripe it out. Get that email for the Apple Podcasts marketing department. Or better yet, reach out to any other podcast platform and pitch them instead. Serious cases of PES are only cured by launching that podcast you’ve been dreaming about for the last three years. Seriously, DO IT. The market is catching up. Except Radiotopia. They’re so far ahead it hurts.
AND NOW, ANOTHER QUICK BREAK FOR USEFUL INFO
Ever tried to launch a podcast for a client–or for yourself with a new email address– and gotten stuck in the endless loop of trying to log in to the Apple Podcasts Connect? The login info is correct, it just keeps sending you back to the damned login page! Solution: Open iTunes on the desktop. Sign out of your regular Apple account in the Account tab. Sign in with the new username and password, and, wait for it… Add a credit card. That’s it. Now your podcast portal login will work.
SO WHY DO THIS, ANYWAY?
Back in December of 2013, I was “thoughtfully severed” from a job that wasn’t right for me at Yahoo. In January 2014, I started a job as the producer of The Daily Tech News Show. Host Tom Merritt is a legend in the independent technology podcast community, but good luck getting him to admit it. Like, I bet he wouldn’t even remember to tell you that 2019 will mark the start of the fifth year of DTNS, and that it’s been listener-supported for all five years!
Fortunately, Jason Hiner and Lindsey Gilpin wrote a great book called Follow The Geeks which has a whole chapter about Tom and more great chapters other independent creators. If you’re an independent looking for strategies, the book is really worth your time.
Tom introduced me to an entire universe of independent podcasters–folks who make all or some of a living from their creative endeavors. And without the benefit of a marketing department, they’ve gotten really good at working all the angles to keep doing what they love.
And here’s the best thing about the larger orbits of the independent podcast community: You could email me right now and tell me the exact same story for another independent community of podcasters that I’ve never heard of before. In fact, please do!
Future newsletters will highlight different independent podcast communities who are successfully doing their own thing without banner ads, marketing departments or celebrity friends.
YOUR FINAL QUICK BREAK FOR USEFUL INFO
There is no more joyful/useful site in my podcast producing universe than The Free Music Archive. I’ve discovered amazing music for my various podcasts, and I’m always afraid they’re going to run out of funding. Apparently they were too, but good news: They’re going to have a new home thanks to KitSplit, which has been on a real advertising kick lately.
LOVE THOSE LISTS
The internet is build of lists. And tubes. But mostly lists. Here’s my list of favorite 2018 podcast finds, some of which are independent.
Best completely random podcast find:
I think about that 525k number a lot. Why launch yet another podcast if it’s just going to sink in the pod sea? This first podcast answers that question. I found it because I had a five hour drive home from a client meeting, and I really needed to get smart about urban planning for another project. Since I couldn’t do the usual typing-based research, I searched “urban planning” in the Apple Podcasts store and found:
Tia Williams and Janet Scouten host a podcast about urban planning and how it impacts large and small cities and towns. Episodes include “How Hip-Hop Makes A Community” “How To Make A Main Street Market” and “How Immigrants Make A City”. The podcast is part of The Anchor Institute, a citizen-led, collaborative effort to study and promote community development in Columbia, South Carolina.
Quality: A little Skype-y, but the information is specific and good enough to forge ahead anyway. Most recent episode is from June, but there are enough episodes to keep you busy. A great example of how despite all those podcasts there’s still room for more.
Best Episode I Should Have Heard Long Ago, But Discovery Is A Problem, People:
Moon Graffiti: An episode of The Truth from all the way back in 2011. The Truth is a podcast from YOU GUESSED IT, Radiotopia. It’s a what-if story about the first moon landing that uses historical artifacts to create a compelling fictional story.
Quality: The sound quality, sound effects and mix are incredibly, annoyingly good. The voice acting is way less over-wrought than some other fiction podcasts I’ve tried.
Best podcast I found out about because someone borrowed my gear:
Life on the Outside by Lucy Copp I got a random email through AIR from a podcast producer who needed to do a field interview but didn’t have all the gear. I don’t lend my gear out a lot, but I’m a suck for passion projects, and hers is a particularly necessary one.
Quality: Strong independent audio quality.
Best newsletter about podcasting: Nick Quah’s Hot Pod. It’s like, reported and everything.
GOALS, NOT CHARTS
When I take on new clients, especially folks who haven’t produced a podcast before, we rarely talk about the podcast charts. Apple and Podtrac and all the other quantifiable ways to measure a podcast are important to advertisers, they’re important for finding new listeners, and they’re important for uh, pride. But in a way they’re also completely irrelevant. You see, whether your podcast shoots up the charts at launch, actually stays up the charts with a steady rate of new subscribers, or takes a quick peek at #200 in your category and then dips down into the deep, the work you do for the podcast remains exactly the same.
Instead, I like to talk about goals. Why are you launching podcast? Is it to create a community around a shared love? Sell merchandise? Get rich on ad money? (Spoiler Alert: Not immediately likely.) Do you just want to have an outlet for the thoughts swirling around in your brain? Do you listen to the podcasts out there and think, no one here sounds like me? This last one, by the way, is the absolute best reason to start a podcast.
If you pick a couple goals and think about them every time you have to make a podcast-related decision, those decisions become a lot easier. You also stop measuring yourself against all the podcasts at the top of the charts. Definitely don’t do that, at least not until you also have a 30-40 person staff, and a marketing department. You don’t need all the people, you just need your people.
OK, enough talk, see you in 2019!
INEVITABLE PLUG SECTION
At Infinite Gain Productions, we help our clients launch podcasts and improve the quality of podcasts they’re already producing. Our clients are non-profits, journalists on a mission, and individuals with a dream.
We also have some new projects launching in January including a very personal podcast about one aging father, one reluctant daughter, and a whole lot of bagels.
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