Radio Anarchy And You
June 19, 2015
"Should I do a podcast?"
"I've been thinking about trying a streaming show, but I'm not sure."
I hear those a lot. I heard them last week at that convention in New York, and I get that in emails and phone calls and casual conversation. I hear that from radio talent, comedians, and people who are not even remotely "in the business." It's true that podcasting has been around for a long time now, and streaming, too, but the interest in doing shows has never been greater. I suppose I could call myself a consultant and charge a lot of money for the answers, but I'm a) a giver, always offering advice and counsel for free, and b) stupid, because people WILL pay for answers. But I can't bring myself to charge for sage advice like I'm about to give you, because it just seems way too obvious to me. So, should you try doing a podcast, or streaming a live show?
Sure. Why not? Go ahead.
That's it? "Why not?" You're glad you didn't pay for this, aren't you? But it's the right answer. Look, we're talking about something you can do with practically no expenses if you want to do it on the cheap. If you want to get more elaborate, you can, whether you spend a couple hundred on a Zoom recorder and some decent mics or outfit a full radio studio in your spare room. But a USB mic and free software is a start.
I'll give you a more specific answer: If you have an idea for a show and it's something that either isn't being done by a million other people or it's something you can do better than the other guys, do it. If it's a show about something about which you're passionate, do it. If you have something to say and your head will explode if you don't get to say it to a lot of people at once, do it. There is absolutely no reason NOT to do that.
There IS, however, a reason not to do that if you don't have anything new and original to say, and/or you don't have any particular passion to say it. There are, by my rough estimate, a billion podcasts in the market at the moment. Most of them seem to last a few months or weeks, adopt the highly successful "bunch of people sitting in a room talking" format, and exist just to make people's iTunes podcast searches more difficult. If that's what your show will be -- and be realistic when you assess your plans, please -- then maybe you should be doing something else.
But if you want -- NEED -- to express yourself in the form we'll call "radio show" for convenience's sake, AND you have something to say, do it. Don't expect to make radio money, or any money at all; you might, you might not, but it's more of a time investment for future impact than it is a career option for the present.
And I left out a key part. That part is: There are no rules. There are no rights and wrongs. There are no universal truths in podcasting and streaming other than that, um, there are no universal truths. I'll give you an example: I've heard time and again that experience has proven definitively and without question that podcasts should optimally be somewhere around a half hour long, give or take 10 or 15 minutes. Yet some of the shows on my network (see Full Disclosure below) run much longer and have very large audiences. It's gospel that you can't slap a radio-style show out there as a podcast or stream and be successful, because, it's assumed, listeners to podcasts are looking for something less radio-y and either more produced or more raw; yet, Adam Carolla and Tom Leykis are able to be successful doing uncensored versions of what they did on the radio, and with all the celebration of public radio's success in podcasting, let's face it, their podcasts are, stylistically, pretty indistinguishable from their broadcast shows (or are we ignoring that "Serial" got kickstarted by "This American Life"?). Storytelling is in and interviews are out, and then it's the other way around, and then it's all good. The rules are immutable, until they aren't.
Which is the best reason for broadcast radio talent -- or anyone -- to try their hands at digital media. No rules means no boundaries. You can try anything. You can talk about anything. You can slickly produce your show with music beds (watch those licensing fees!) and deft edits and scripts, or you can wing it. You can stick it out there for free or use one of the options available to charge for subscriptions, if you have the kind of following that'll pay to hear you. You can do short-form features or go on and on and on and on and on. And anyone who tells you that one style works better than the other is really guessing, because we just don't know that much detail. We're just getting started.
So, again, the answer to "should I" is "why not?" Stop debating it in your mind and get on with it already. It may not lead to the next stage of your career, but it might. Either way, there's nothing stopping you.
And whether you're on broadcast radio or podcasting or streaming, the place to find topics is All Access News-Talk-Sports' Talk Topics, with hundreds of items and ideas and bad jokes, available now by clicking here. And there's the Talk Topics Twitter feed at @talktopics with every story individually linked to the appropriate item.
You can follow my personal Twitter account at @pmsimon, and my Instagram account (same handle, @pmsimon) as well? And you can find me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/pmsimon, and there's pmsimon.com, back in intermittent action.
And as for Full Disclosure: I also serve as Director of Programming for Nerdist Industries, which includes the Nerdist Podcast Network, one of your major podcast entities. We had Chris Pratt on the flagship show this week; he's in some movie you might have seen. Something about dinosaurs. Right, THAT guy.
Oh, one more thing you need to do all that new media stuff: Time. And if you, like several people I spoke to last week and over the last few years, for that matter, are wondering why I haven't taken my own advice and fired up a podcast, that's the answer: not enough time in the day. If that's your problem, too, you'll have to find an answer elsewhere. And then let me know what you find out, because I'd like to know, too, but I don't have time to ask it myself.