Podcasting as a media is still very much in its infancy. It has been less than 15 years since the first real podcast was unleashed on the world, however, in that time the podcast industry has exploded. Last year 36% of Americans said they had listened to a podcast at least once. That’s close to 100 million people. In addition to that being a big number it represents a 10-year growth of close to 230%. According the Infinite Dial 2016 survey, on average people listen to 5 podcasts a week, that is a lot of podcast listening going on.
There is not a shortage of podcasts out there. No hard number exists on how many podcasts there are but iTunes, one of the biggest distributors of podcasts, has over 250,000 unique shows. This means trying to get noticed can be tough. People are noticing though- iTunes also lists having over 1 billion podcast subscriptions.
To find out more about creating content for this expanding medium I chatted with Allegra
Ringo, LA based comedy writer and host of the hugely successful podcast Can I Pet Your Dog? on the popular podcast network Maximum Fun. Having majored in Film and Electronic Arts and writing articles for various websites, Allegra is no stranger to digital media. She finally took the plunge into podcast in July 2015. She says of her impetus for getting into podcasting “It was totally Renee’s ([her] cohost’s) idea! She suggested we have a podcast because it would be a great way to do something fun and funny on a regular basis. I was recently laid off and thought “what the hell” so we did it”
She credits the success of her podcast to two distinct factors. First, she has a fairly unique style of podcast: “We did get lucky in that there, weirdly, weren’t any other comedy podcasts about dogs, so there was kind of a space in the market we filled. I do think that if you have a specific topic (e.g. dogs, true crime, knitting) it is really
helpful. If your podcast can be summed up in a logline easily, that goes a long way.” Secondly, being on an existing network provides more exposure than going it alone, although getting onto a network has challenges all of its own, “We called them. Specifically, Travis [former producer] called them. Since he was already on the network with his other podcasts, he approached Max Fun and said he had a podcast that he thought would be a good fit. I know a lot of people who have pitched to networks and gotten rejected. There’s a chance we still would have gotten on Max Fun [without the referral], but it’s very easy to get lost in the queue of submissions if you don’t have an “in””
The rapid success did come as a surprise to Allegra, “I just wasn’t expecting a lot because it feels like everyone and their mother has a podcast. So, I was very pleasantly surprised that we seemed to have hit on something a lot of people like. I’ve also been surprised at the community that has sprung up around it. I just couldn’t have anticipated it. It’s like a whole little town now!”. Of course, the success doesn’t come without it challenges: trying to coordinate host schedules for recording, the schedules of the guests and then the technical challenges that come just recording the podcast, the sound quality can after all make or break a podcast. Podcasting is a fairly efficient art, Allegra tells me that their podcast is a 3-woman operation and that each episode takes an average of an hour to record and an hour to edit.
We also talked about what she has learned during her time podcasting. Among the better choices they made were to break the show into segments, have a catchy theme and an eye-catching logo. The latter can go a long way towards drawing in viewers on subscription sites in our “judge a book by its cover” culture. Having weekly guests is also a big part of their podcast and I asked how they go about asking people to be on the show “Generally one of us will reach out via email (if we have the person’s email) or via Twitter. Sometimes we will reach out through a third party who we know knows a guest. But Twitter is a surprisingly effective way to get guests. With hugely famous people your tweets will often get lost in their feed, which is understandable. But people who see our tweets are really responsive to it”.
Having dabbled with the idea of podcasting myself I know how tough it can be to get started, so we talked about what advice Allegra would give herself if she were to go back to her early days as a podcaster: “I would tell myself not to be nervous at all. I was kind of nervous our first few episodes and looking back, there was virtually no reason to be, ha-ha. As Travis often pointed out, it’s not live, and you can cut anything you don’t end up liking (we cut one segment from our very first episode). Also, I would tell myself to keep in mind the question “what is my ultimate goal with this podcast?” I think different people have different goals and it’s helpful to keep yours in mind when you’re doing a weekly thing. Also “it’s ok to take a week off”!”
Since no man or media exists as an island we finished our conversation discussing some of Allegra’s inspirations for podcasting. Many of her inspirations show how important it is to explore other forms of the media you are involved in: “I really love Karen and Georgia from My Favorite Murder. I think they’re great examples of how podcasting is more about passion than anything. They’re not experts, they’re just enthusiasts on the subject and that makes it great. I also really admire people like Karina Longworth of You Must Remember This, and Phoebe Judge of Criminal. Those podcasts are very different from ours in that they’re very research-heavy, and I have a lot of admiration for people whose tasks are so much more complex than ours”.
My chat with Allegra provided great insight into the world of podcasting and she offered some valuable advice for anyone who is interested in starting their own podcast.
By: Fiona Harlan