From Radio To Podcasting: Interview With Dan Pashman Of The Sporkful
September 20, 2016
1) You are a radio guy who crossed into podcasting. Tell us how you started in radio.
I started in the late 90's at my college radio station, Tufts University's WMFO in Medford, Massachusetts. My first internship was at WBOS in Boston, working with Robin Young, who's now at WBUR.
2) How did you get into podcasting?
I was working as a producer and helped launch a couple of radio shows that I worked insanely hard on, and that I thought had huge potential, but that got cancelled for a variety of reasons. I was tired of that happening. About 6 or 7 years ago, friends were starting podcasts and encouraged me to do the same. I figured if I started my podcast and worked that hard again, at least nobody would be able to cancel it but me. I started piloting the show in the fall of 2009 and launched in January 2010.
3) Explain the concept behind The Sporkful.
When we launched it was about obsessing over the tiniest details of food and eating, like the ideal surface area to volume ratio of ice cubes or the perfect bite of a sandwich. Over the years it's evolved. Now, we still talk about those things, but it's more about obsessing over food to learn more about people.
4) The podcast has opened up doors to a number of other media outlets for you. Tell us about some of the related projects you're working on.
I host a Cooking Channel web series called You're Eating It Wrong, and we're working on another web series that we'll be launching in coming months. That has led to various TV appearances. I also wrote a book called Eat More Better, and I contribute regularly to NPR, Slate, and others.
5) How has podcasting changed in the time that you've been involved with it?
There's much more of everything. More shows, more resources being poured into it, higher quality, more production values, more talent, more competition. It's gone from this little audio industry appendage to the thing that everyone is focused on. Overall it's great, and very exciting to see all the great work people are putting out. But there is a down side. Some portion of the people getting into it are going in with the attitude of, 'I know how to talk. People like to hear me talk. I should have a podcast!' They think because it's easy to make a podcast, it's easy to make a good podcast. But like anything else, hosting a podcast is a skill, a craft you have to learn and hone. I know I'm still getting the hang of it.
6) What advice would you give to fellow radio broadcasters who are looking to get into podcasting?
Some parts of it are exactly the same, some are very different. The basic rules of what makes for compelling audio content are pretty universal. If you know how to make great audio, you're ahead of the pack. There's no clock, which is liberating and wonderful except when some people mistake it for license to waste listeners' time. There's so much more competition in podcasting than in radio. The number of frequencies limits the number of shows that can be on the radio at once, but the number of podcasts is essentially limitless. You have to grab the audience's attention quickly and get to the point.
7. How do you think radio broadcasting companies should be thinking about podcasting as part of their overall strategy?
Focus on quality over quantity. Don't just post your radio shows as podcasts. Don't say you're getting into podcasting and then ask people to crank out podcasts as a side project while they're still producing their radio shows. You're better off making one new podcast episode every other week that's really amazing, that hooks people, than churning out hours of mediocrity. Also, the beauty of podcasting is there are almost no rules. Embrace that.