When Jacobs Media hired Seth Resler more than two years ago, he told us there was one condition he wanted us to meet: send him to the Podcast Movement conference in Fort Worth, Texas later that summer. I had not heard of this event, but it was obviously something that Seth felt was important, so we gave him the green light.
Fast-forward to 2017, and it's not difficult to realize that Seth's instincts were excellent. As a long-time podcaster himself, Seth was an early believer in the space. He was the force behind us partnering with Podcast Movement this year to produce a full day of panels, sessions, and keynotes – “Broadcasters Meet Podcasters.” And in today's post, he gives us an important perspective on how these two worlds are coming together. – FJ
Last week, I hosted the “Podcast Makeover” panel at the Podcast Movement conference in Anaheim. Four professional broadcasters and podcasters airchecked two up-and-coming podcasts live on stage. It's a fascinating concept, and something that resonated with attendees at this emergent conference.
I was particularly proud of the fact we were able to line up talented, professional panelists from a wide range of broadcasting backgrounds. In fact, which one you thought was the biggest star might depend on your own professional background.
Many of the commercial broadcasters in the audience were excited to see southern California shock jock legend Tom Leykis. Tom attended a dinner that Jacobs Media hosted the night before the “Broadcasters Meet Podcasters” track and every personality in the room eagerly huddled around him to hear stories about his life and times in radio.
If you came from the world of public radio, you would probably have been most interested in seeing Samara Freemark, the Senior Producer of APM Reports' award-winning In The Dark podcast.
And if you had a news background, then Richard Davies, a staple at ABC Radio News for nearly 30 years, might have been the name that excited you.
But for the podcasters attending the conference, the biggest rock star on stage was a name that may be unfamiliar to many in radio: Mignon Fogarty. The kind and unassuming Mignon is better known as Grammar Girl, the name of her hugely successful podcast about proper punctuation and acceptable wordplay.
Mignon has parlayed her podcast's success into an entire network, a New York Times bestseller, and even an appearance on Oprah Winfrey's television show. She's considered podcast royalty. Check Podcast Movement's #PM17 hashtag, and you'll see a number of passionate fans taking delighted selfies with her. Yet despite her status as a star audio personality, I'm willing to bet that she's not on the radar of most radio broadcasters.
— Write Now Podcast (@WriteNowPodcast) August 25, 2017
And it's not just Mignon.
While we as broadcasters often lament the lack of new and upcoming talent, there's a world full of podcasting stars that we're largely oblivious to. At past Podcast Movement conferences, the keynote speakers have been podcasters that have established themselves in other arenas before crossing into podcasting: Director Kevin Smith, actress Aisha Tyler, comedian Marc Maron, and many others.
In contrast, this year, most of the keynote speakers were known first and foremost as podcasters:
Dan Carlin (who has some radio and TV experience) hosts the Hardcore History podcast, which features episodes that take deep dives into specific events and can be up to six hours long.
Aaron Manhke is the creator of the independent history podcast Lore, which receives over 5 million downloads each month.
Rabia Chaudry originally took Adnan Syed's case to the producers of the Serial podcast, and is now part of the team behind the Undisclosed podcast, along with Colin Miller and Susan Simpson.
(The final keynote speaker, Shannon Cason, actually has connections to radio: he hosts the storytelling podcast Homemade Stories in partnership with WBEZ Chicago and is a regular on NPR's Snap Judgment.)
All these speakers are rock stars in their own right, and together they helped draw nearly 2,000 podcasters to the fourth Podcast Movement conference.
A Whole New World
As radio programmers, we are often siloed. When I was an alternative rock Program Director, Country radio might has well have been another country; Public Radio and Christian Radio were other planets. And with podcasting, we've added a new, mysterious orb to our audio solar system.
At this year's Podcast Movement, a number of radio companies sent scouts to start exploring this new world. We hosted the Broadcasters Meet Podcasters track for radio pros at this year's conference, and every one of our sessions was packed – mostly with radio folks. iHeartRadio, Cumulus, Entercom, Hubbard, Cox Media Group, and Beasley were all represented at the event.
While it is encouraging to see these two worlds coming together, the podcasting natives are understandably apprehensive. They fear radio broadcasters will bigfoot their way into the space by writing large checks, and stamping out the indie DIY ethos of the medium. This would be a mistake on the part of broadcasters. While the skillsets required for podcasting and broadcasting clearly overlap, there are also significant differences. Broadcasters should not presume that because they are skillful at creating and monetizing radio, they will naturally excel at podcasting.
Instead, broadcasters should do their homework as many of the radio people who attended the conference were doing. Don't just invest money; invest the time to learn the landscape and build meaningful relationships. Become familiar with names like Rob Walch, Todd Cochrane, Rob Greenlee, Gary Leland, Leo Laporte, Ray Ortega, Daniel J. Lewis, and more. Participate in online communities like the Podcast Movement Facebook group and the Podcasters Google+ group. Aim to hire, not just acquire. Above all, tread respectfully.
Podcasting is an exciting world; let's explore it, but not rush to colonize it.
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