Recap: PodSummit 2018

I was really glad to have had the opportunity to attend PodSummit 2018 on Saturday, May 5 at CKUA in downtown Edmonton. About 100 “podcasters and the podcast-curious” attended the event to learn about starting a podcast, making it sound amazing, growing an audience, and creating content that listeners will love. Organized by Ernest Barbaric, the sold out event featured six sessions punctuated by ice-breakers and other fun activities. Every single talk was interesting and informative, so well done to the organizers and speakers on knocking it out of the park!

PodSummit

Before I share some of my notes from the day, you might be wondering why I (as primarily a blogger) would attend an event about podcasting!

My podcasting story

I started a podcast in 2013 with Graham Hicks called Mack & Cheese. We published 59 episodes before calling it quits and moving on to other projects. But my history with podcasting goes back much further, to 2004 when I launched a podcast called Blogosphere Radio before we even called them podcasts (we just called it a show). That helped me to see an opportunity, and in 2006 I launched Podcast Spot, a hosting service for podcasters. We ended up shutting it down a couple of years later.

Reflecting in October 2008 on what I might have done differently, I wrote:

“There’s a ton of things I might have done differently, but two things in particular: I would have avoided using the word “podcast” in the name of our service; and, I would have focused on sharing audio and video for a specific niche.”

At the time, podcasts were very associated with the iPod, and they were fairly difficult to work with. You still had to plug your device into a computer to sync the audio files! It was far from certain that podcasting would take off. Today it seems almost silly to question the success of podcasting, given the popularity of podcasts like Serial and The Daily, the latter of which apparently averages about 1 million listeners a day (and I am one of them).

Here’s what we learned at PodSummit

PodSummit reflected the current state of podcasting with a much more diverse audience than the geeks and old white guys that were common a decade ago. There was a good mix of podcasting vets and newbies.

The day started with Rob Greenlee‘s State of the Podcasting Union. He noted there has been “steady growth” but thanks to media coverage there’s “a perception that things are exploding.” Rob cited The Infinite Dial Canada, a new study of consumer behavior and media consumption, and noted that 61% of Canadians 18+ are familiar with the term podcast. There are something like 525,000 podcasts in existence, about half of which are active, with maybe 2,000 new ones added each month. The number of listeners for all of those podcasts could get much bigger in the months ahead as both Google and Spotify are ramping up their activities in the space. Rob finished by suggesting that dynamic ad insertion will be a big thing for podcasting in the year ahead.

PodSummit

Next up was Roger Kingkade who shared tips on how to design a successful podcast. “People will listen,” he said, noting that both David Letterman and Howard Stern amassed large audiences even though their topics don’t at first seem that interesting. “You are what will connect with the audience.” Here are his tips for podcasting success:

  • Your topic should be about someone else’s problem or interest. Start from a place of servitude, and know you’re filling a gap in your listener’s life.
  • You can find an existing community and learn about their wants and needs, then answer their questions on your podcast.
  • Make a perspective statement, and run every episode through it, to ensure that you stay on track.
  • Think about your approach: will be you be the Jedi teacher, the explorer, or the guide?
  • Ask your audience for ratings and reviews – they’re much more likely to do it if you ask!
  • You need to be consistent. Roger recommends recording a bunch of episodes before you launch, and publish the first three right away, to help develop a rapport with your audience.

Topic, Audience, and Perspective form the golden triangle for your podcast, he said. Roger suggested planning your podcast (one tool you could use is Karen’s Podcast Canvas) to ensure you focus on answering the right questions.

PodSummit

The final session of the morning was from Andrea Beça, who shared her tips on growth & promotion strategies. She echoed the importance of fulfilling a need or solving a problem with your podcast. “Podcasts are not an ‘if you build it they will come’ kind of thing,” she told us. It takes work, and you will put “way too many” hours into creating your podcast! Building your community is key to building your podcast, and Andrea shared a number of useful suggestions like choosing the right social media channels for your audience, thinking about visuals to help promote your work, and keeping tabs on previous guests to support them (and have them support you back). Speaking of guests, Andrea said to choose them wisely, and noted that the first 40 listeners will do more for you than your next 400, so honor them! She also said it is ok to reference past episodes, something that too many people are surprisingly reluctant to do. “Don’t let your content die,” she said.

PodSummit

I skipped lunch, but I understand that Ernest himself gave a great talk on how to start a podcast.

After lunch we heard from Mike Russell, who gave a masterclass on editing and production. His tool of choice is Adobe Audition, so that’s what he used to illustrate his tips:

  • Don’t edit out every pause or breath, otherwise it’ll sound unnatural.
  • Start with good audio – you can’t fix a terrible recording!
  • Don’t worry about mistakes: just be you.
  • You can make a voice sound better using the parametric equalizer tool.
  • You can also compress a voice a little, which will even out the loud and quiet parts of your voice.
  • You can add a noise gate to help get rid of background noises.
  • Use ripple deletes to trip an edit without leaving a gap.
  • If you’re interviewing someone via Skype, adaptive noise reduction can be very useful.

Mike was a great presenter, and I loved the approach he used, handing off to his pre-recorded self to demo things.

PodSummit

Next up was Andreas Schwabe who spoke about the art of podcasting. He’s a former teacher at NAIT and was the Director of Digital Media for the Oilers. He had some fantastic tips and suggestions:

  • Sound like you mean it!
  • Planning ahead is key. Reinforce the three phases: what you’re going to tell them, tell them, then recap it.
  • Writing for the ear is a different thing than normal writing. You can find this out by recording yourself and then transcribing the audio.
  • Keep it short using declarative sentences.
  • Avoid cliches like Monday soup. (Because the Friday leftovers go into the Monday soup!)
  • Play with turns of phrase. “You can lead a chicken to ice but you can’t make it skate.”
  • Sound provides a lot of information, including location, speed, material, mass, and density.
  • You can convey a lot with your voice through pacing, tension, etc.
  • Talk to an audience of one, not many.
  • Refer to events rather than dates or times, and rough figures rather than exact numbers (unless you need to be specific for a reason).
  • Identify your crutches like “so” or “ok” or “um” and work to reduce them.
  • Listen to lots of podcasts to find out what you hate about them so you can avoid that in your own podcast!
  • Remember that no one sets out to make a bad podcast.

Such a fantastic talk.

PodSummit

The final session of the day was a monetization campfire chat featuring Andrea Beça, Erika Ensign, and Karen Unland. It was a great chat on the three legs of the podcast monetization stool: sponsorship/ads, listener support, and feeding your business. They noted the chances are good that while you might earn enough to cover your costs, earning enough to cover your time is a whole other thing. The fact is, many podcasts are labors of love.

Wrap-up

As mentioned there were some great activities throughout the day, like Podcast Bingo. It was a fun way to move around the room meeting other people and learning a thing or two about them or their podcast. I also liked the Pitch It Forward activity that Karen from the Alberta Podcast Network hosted, which got people to pitch other people’s podcasts!

It’s really encouraging to see such a strong podcast community here in Edmonton. If you’re pod-curious, I encourage you to check out the Edmonton Podcasting Meetup. And if you’re looking for some great local podcasts to listen to, be sure to read the Alberta Podcast Network’s regular roundups.

PodSummit

Congratulations to Ernest, his wife, their adorable daughter, and all of the other volunteers on hosting such a useful and successful event!

You can see the rest of my photos here.

Podcasting Growth by Subscribers

Post ImageBlogging is a pretty open, flexible medium and each blog varies greatly from the next, but if there’s one thing that holds true (usually) it’s that some of the best insights are found in the comments. I was reminded of this today when reading Frank Barnako’s post about the latest podcasting stats from FeedBurner:

Rick Klau, vice president, business development, said that at the beginning of the year Feedburner had 1 million subscriptions to podcasts it helped deliver. That number has now grown to 5 million subscribers for 71,000 podcasts. For you math fans, that means the average podcast has … ta da!!! … 70 subscribers.

That stat is interesting all by itself, but when Rick Klau himself dropped by and left a comment, it became really interesting. Here’s what Rick had to say:

I hadn’t realized it (I never do the average thing – must be my life-long aversion to math), but now that you point it out: this average number has doubled in just the last six months.

Indeed it’s right in the headline for the previous article that Rick linked to, in April of this year FeedBurner said the average podcast had 35 subscribers.

I think this is an important statistic to keep track of. Usually when trying to measure the growth of podcasting, you might look to the number of podcasts or the number of episodes created in a given period of time. But just as important is the number of people listening to or watching those podcasts and episodes.

That said, the rate of new podcasts appears to be increasing as well. In the April article, FeedBurner was adding an average of 2278 new podcasts each month (based on the numbers provided). That number has since risen to 4000. Not bad at all!

Read: Frank Barnako

How can a company use podcasting?

Post ImageI came across this post from Karl Long today, titled “Uncommon Uses: Podcasting” in which he suggests some interesting ways that podcasting might be used. The basic idea is that we tend to use new technologies in similar ways as the old ones (using a podcast like a radio or TV show) because it seems natural, but that there are far more creative ways to take advantage of the new tech.

Karl focused mainly on individual scenarios, like learning a language or taking an audio tour, so I thought it would be interesting to come up with some company-focused ideas:

  • The most obvious use is public relations…audio-visual press releases!
  • Replacing a conference call with a podcast (IBM has already done this, for example)
  • And a related item…use a weekly podcast to cut down the number of emails that are sent, by summarizing the important things in audio form
  • Keeping your customers up-to-date on new product releases
  • Setup a podcast (or ability to track podcasts) so that potential job candidates could post audio-visual resumes
  • Keeping project members up-to-date on recent developments
  • Company training materials could be turned into podcasts, with the idea that all employees subscribe and information is added and updated over time
  • Certain meetings could be podcasted, like an AGM or shareholder’s meeting
  • In larger companies, new employees could be required to add an “introduction” to the internal “new hires” podcast – great way for people to find out about “the new guy/gal”
  • In a company like Google, employees could post a “pitch” for an idea they came up with or project they have in mind to an internal podcast

You’re limited only by your creativity! Any scenario in which information might be distributed over time is probably a good candidate for podcasting. Can you think of any other ways?

CBC Radio Podcasts

Post ImageCBC has launched their updated podcasting initiative, with a broader array of content, an updated website, and regional podcasts. Tod Maffin explains:

It’s taken many months of planning, training, software development, and consultation — but I’m finally pleased to announce that CBC Radio is now making an unprecedented number of programs available for free download or subscription, including “best of” editions from THE CURRENT, DISPATCHES, DEFINITELY NOT THE OPERA, IDEAS, OUTFRONT, AS IT HAPPENS plus comprehensive highlight packages of regionally-based radio programs.

This is really great news for Canada and for CBC – I’m really happy that our national broadcaster is now one of the world’s leaders with regards to podcasting. You can check out all of the shows at the new website, http://www.cbc.ca/podcasting/. If you’re in Alberta, you can subscribe to the new “Alberta This Week” show here.

Read: Tod Maffin

How many podcasters are there?

Post ImageI read some of the comments and other blog posts that referenced the Forrester report I linked to yesterday, and it seems that most people think the numbers are far too low. John Furrier has an excellent roundup of estimates, and Todd Cochrane said he thinks the unique listener number of 700,000 is actually “about 10 times that many.”

After I thought about things a little more, I realized that the problem is not whether they are too high or too low, but rather that we have no idea how many people are creating podcasts. Seems to me you need to have creators actually producing something before you can have listeners! I know there’s more to it than that, but a good idea of the number of people who are creating podcasts might help in trying to establish a credible number for how many listeners there are.

So far I haven’t really been able to find any such data. Our own estimates here at Paramagnus peg the number of creators at somewhere around 30,000 worldwide, but that is an extremely “back of the envelope” guess, and I would not be surprised to find it is wrong. Does anyone have reliable data on this sort of thing? Also, we haven’t yet bought the Forrester report – does it contain information on podcast creation, or just the listener side of things?

Sex Podcasting

Post ImageOkay, admit it. The only reason you read my blog at all is for the sex-related podcast news right? Well it seems that’s why some people read my blog anyway. I discovered today that my blog made it into AVN Online’s February 2006 resource guide called Sex and the Podcast:

Here are some of the sites that either offer podcasts of adult content, maintain directories of adult-oriented podcasts, offer podcast search engines, or syndicate podcasts. New ones are being created daily.

And just in case they take it down, here’s an image from the page:

So if you’ve come to my blog looking for sex podcast related content, here it is:

It never ceases to amaze me what can be accomplished with a Google search and an aptly titled blog post or two.

Read: AVN Online

AmigoFish

Post ImageI first learned of Dave Slusher’s AmigoFish project while talking to him on the way back from the Portable Media Expo (Dickson, Dave and I were on the same flight to Denver). AmigoFish was in private testing for a while, and on Tuesday Dave took the wraps off:

It’s time that I announced the project I’ve been working on in my evenings and weekends. It is a collaborative filter for new media – podcasts and videoblogs mostly. Behold, the mighty AmigoFish! You can create an account, rate the things you care about and get predictions for other things you might like. I’ve been using it that way pretty much every day for the last month, and have found all kinds of new things to listen to. Try it out and let me know what you think. I’m not going to burden everyone with the “beta” or not nomenclature. It is a work in progress, much like everything like this.

I kinda like the idea of not using “beta” to describe the service. I took a quick look at the site today but haven’t really tested it out yet. I have heard many great things though, so if you’re looking for a slightly different way to find a podcast you might enjoy listening to, give AmigoFish a try.

Dave, I realize it’s a work in progress, but you need a logo or something!

Read: AmigoFish

Yahoo! Podcasts

Post ImageI’ve been so busy lately that I missed the launch of Yahoo’s new podcast directory. I had read about it last week, but only got a chance to finally look today. What can I say? It is very much a directory and nothing else – but at least it’s a very good directory.

The directory has a section where Yahoo! editors pick the podcasts they like and display them. There is also a “what other people like” section that can be viewed by “Most Popular” or “Highly Rated”. Finally, you can browse around on your own if you’d like by category and tag. Once you find a podcast to look at, you can either listen to it or subscribe and download (using a third party application or Yahoo’s Music Engine). You can rate the podcast, add comments and reviews, and also tags.

Yahoo’s Podcasts directory is put together very nicely, I think. The layout and organization make intuitive sense, and the search functionality seems to work quite well also. They currently have an information section called “Publish a Podcast” which contains information on how to get started. Makes me wonder if they might one day add some sort of publication tool.

I’m not sure how many podcast directories we need, but I’d have to say that Yahoo’s is a welcome addition to the bunch.

Read: Yahoo! Podcasts

Why I AM Smoking the Podcasting Dope

Recently, Darren Barefoot posted that he isn’t smoking the podcasting dope – he’s skeptical of, well, everything to do with podcasting. Like anything worth talking about, there are those that agree and those that do not (and in Canada, the vast majority sit on the fence). Here’s why I AM smoking the podcasting dope, and like Darren’s post, its a rhetorical discussion:

You need a radio voice.

Why does your podcast have to be professional radio quality? I think many people will enjoy creating podcasts simply so that their friends and family can listen – that doesn’t require advanced audio or a professional radio sounding voice. Um and uh away!

Think back to the early days of the web. Did all websites look great? Nope. There was crap then and there’s crap now. The difference is that the amount of crap has been reduced. I don’t come across a flashing neon web page as often as I used to. I don’t think podcasting will be any different.

And for those individuals or companies that want to produce something more professional, there’s nothing holding them back from acquiring the necessary items.

Podcasting takes too much time.

  • Sure you can skim through 250 blogs a day, and at first glance it may seem impossible to do the same with podcasting. However, while a typical blog may have a new post or two every day, podcasting is much less frequent (unless you’re Adam Curry). I think it’s unreasonable to assume that the volume of podcast episodes will equate to the volume of blog posts.
  • We’ve got tools like Google for the web. We’ve got PubSub, Feedster, Technorati and others for blogs. When the tools exist to help you find podcasts, the task of listening will seem much less daunting. It’s not a barrier, it’s a challenge, and it will be overcome.
  • Who said you have to listen to a podcast on a mobile device? There’s no reason you can’t listen on your computer. Instead of streaming radio at work, many people may start to play podcasts in the background.

There’s no money in podcasting.

As more and more people purchase portable audio devices, the number of hours that people aren’t listening to advertisements grows. Eventually, advertising will find it’s way into podcasting. And as the number of podcasters grows, so too will grow the market for tools and services that help the creators and the listeners. Finally, just as businesses are starting to see the value of blogging, they’ll see the value of podcasting too. There’s a lot of money in podcasting, the trick is to extract it!

Podcasting is hard.

  • Again, think back to the early days of the web. Could everyone make a web page? Definitely not. However, now we have the tools that make it easy for anyone to create a website. When similar tools appear for podcasting, there is no reason that someone can’t podcast very easily.
  • Yes, podcasting does have that extra requirement – hardware. Yet microphones are cheap, and many people already have them. Furthermore, they aren’t hard to use. And if services like Skype already have millions of users with microphones, I don’t see this as a barrier to podcasting.

Podcasting uses a lot of bandwidth/needs a fast connection.

This argument annoys me. How many millions of people download audio and video files from file sharing sites and services? Tons. More than will ever download a podcast probably. And the technology for dealing with such large amounts of data transfer is constantly improving – look at BitTorrent.

Podcasting has a limited audience.

The audience for radio is in decline. The audience for live TV is in decline (just look at the dropping numbers of awards show viewers and the interest in TiVo). Listeners and viewers are changing their habits from conforming to the schedule of the content provider to fitting the content into their own schedule. Podcasting doesn’t require a new audience – the existing audience can use podcasts as just another source of media. In many places, I think podcasting will replace radio.

Podcasting isn’t revolutionary.

Sometimes the best technologies are not revolutionary, but improve on what existed before. Streaming audio simply isn’t a great way to distribute audio on the web – podcasting is an evolution that makes the experience better.

While a writer may show a certain style on their blog, it’s still just text. Podcasting has the ability to reintroduce the human quality to discussions, as your voice is a lot more personal than your writing style. Another benefit of podcasting is that the listener uses their imagination! No text or video to distract from the content, the listener can create the scene in his or her mind.

Podcasting is empowering. It gives the creator a voice and the listener a choice – it doesn’t get much better than that.

I’m sure you can come up with more reasons for both sides of the argument, but that’s why I’m smoking the podcasting dope. What about you?