Will this catch on? The birth of the Podcast.
It was the autumn of 2005 and we were sat on the comfy sofas in the LBC newsroom having our tea and biscuits which was part of the morning ritual of the production team of The Sandi Toksvig Show, a daily two hour talk show on LBC.
“I have started to listen to something on the computer called a ‘Podcast’,” said Sandi, “And I wonder if we should try to make a ‘Podcast’?” The general consensus was that it would be a waste of time and would probably flop, I mean who on earth wants to download an audio file of a radio show?
I suggested that we re-purposed some of the content broadcast on the show and add a few bits from Sandi and put it out there. I said I would talk to engineering and see if we can do it. We could and so we stuck a thirty minute “Podcast” out, putting a link on our website to download and someone in engineering submitted to the new podcast section of iTunes, where it was approved within an hour or so.
Our best hope was that maybe 300 people might over the course of a few weeks download the “Podcast” Well we did get 300 downloads … in the first hour and then it grew and grew until several thousand people had downloaded the show. It was thus that the subscription-based model of the LBC Radio Podcast service was born.
So, we made Podcasts of all the shows, minus the commercials and other bits and pieces of radio furniture, like travel and news. It was an instant hit and made quite a substantial amount of money. It would seem that a lot of commercial radio listeners would rather listen to their favourite host without commercial interruption.
The growth of the Podcast industry was much slower, in the US Podcasting became popular, years before the UK finally grasped its potential and the BBC in traditional form, tried to squeeze everybody out of the industry by flooding the market with their own, high quality content but now tucked behind an appalling app called “BBC Sounds.”
Unfortunately, rather like Spotify has found out with its own attempt to capture content and hide it behind their own brand, podcasting is, well, still an untamed animal, and that’s what makes it so popular.
Pretty much anyone can make content, all you need is an iPhone or Android Phone and an idea. Of course, rather like it takes an infinite number of monkeys to write Shakespeare, it also takes an infinite amount of podcasts before you stumble across a really well-made show. Just plonking your broadcast output out on Apple Podcasts and calling it a Podcast, for me just isn’t what it is all about anymore.
What it is about? It is niche shows about niche subjects, broad shows about broad subjects and everything else in between. A wise man once said, or it might have been Fun Boy Three featuring Bananarama “It aint what you do, it’s the way that you do it.”
We edit and help produce podcasts for about 16 clients. The podcasts range from the psychological thinking behind playing golf, to the former children’s TV presenter Emma Forbes discussing what gives her celeb guests life and soul.
It is if we have never left radio, looking after not the live output of a radio station but the often Zoom recorded content of our clients. Editing, packaging and publishing their shows. But there are many similarities to the disciplines of radio, except I don’t think I have ever listened to a radio show where a former mobster explains what happens when you put a bullet through a guy’s head or the guest on an alternative health podcast who injected his penis with stem cells.
There is all the intimacy of radio, but it is enhanced somehow. It also helps the podcasting genre as a content provider that it is able to produce adult material without the constraints of the broadcasting authorities sticking a D notice on your show and landing the radio station with a massive fine.
But and there is always a but, there are now more than a million podcasts floating around out there. A million voices all shouting to be heard and the ones that can market themselves successfully, and that have great content, and regular episodes week in, week out, year in, year out, will be the victors of this relatively new phenomenon.
That does not mean the big boys like the BBC and NPR will have all the best hosts and content. Sure, the BBC has access to linear TV watched by millions, to plug their content, but marketing has become a more level playing field,.. make a viral video on your iPhone of your cat putting its paw in your mouth – get eight million hits – add that to a link to your podcast “Pussy Galore,” and you will find yourself with thousands of subscribers.
But and there is always another but as well as the first but, the most asked question I get as a Podcast Editor for more than 15 years is “Can I make money from my podcast?”
The answer is a qualified yes, but not a great deal of money. You have to be a Joe Rogan, he is an American Podcast host who made around thirty million dollars in 2019 from podcasting and annoyingly Joe got there first. Get the content right and regularly produce episodes, market yourself through social media and there is probably enough income to pay for the podcast and have enough change over to buy a small cod and chips once a month.
There is another way at looking at Podcasting, that is, see it as a soft marketing tool. Own the show, own the products you sell during the show. Or just use your podcast as a profile maker to get you noticed and get yourself more work that is actually properly paid. Or let’s go right back to very beginning of Podcasting – just do it because you love making great content that people really enjoy listening to.
Steve Campen of Creative Radio writes for The Audio Creator find out more about their podcast services at www.creativeradio.com