“Dude, we should start a podcast.” This is how 99% of our society thinks in 2017 when formulating new ideas and a desire to share them with the world. While terrestrial radio continues its shift towards automated playlists, talented hosts and DJs are being reduced to essentially quick sound bites over the airwaves.
If you grew up in SoCal then you’re probably familiar with Adam Carolla. The long time standup comedian began his career with KROQ in the early '90s. As the story goes, Carolla was a boxing coach and morning talk show hosts Kevin & Bean asked him to train “Jimmy the Sports Guy” for a charity fight. Jimmy turned out to be future late night television host, Jimmy Kimmel. The two young comics quickly became friends and this streamlined their careers with successful television programs “Loveline” and “The Man Show.”
After hosting a daily talk show on KLSX 97.1 FM, Carolla pioneered the podcast wave in 2009, with the self-titled “The Adam Carolla Show.” The first episode went live on the web February 23rd of that year. In May of 2011, the show became the Guinness World Records holder for the most downloaded podcast after receiving 59,574,843 unique downloads in that two-year span.
Fast forward to present day and there are hundreds, if not thousands of podcasts at our disposal each day.
Carolla and his broadcasting partners at PodcastOne realized the stranglehold they had on this new medium, and offered a 6-hour master class recently at the Irvine Improv.
I attended the event with a crowd of 200 eager and aspiring hosts, producers, engineers and fans looking to gain insight to this fairly new audiophile world we live and consume.
The morning class began with Norm Pattiz, Founder and Executive Chairman of PodcastOne, opening the discussion with his thoughts on the industry and tips to be successful. The first takeaway was “Podcasting is still in its infancy stage. The golden era isn’t here yet as the market has grown 30x in size over the last four years,” according to Pattiz.
He told the room that Carolla’s show averages 800K listeners per episode, which includes 15 hours of original content each week.
A big key for people starting from the ground up is to keep your proverbial satellite dish clear. To translate that, make sure you don’t miss any connections along the way and focus on who is talented. You should be humble and look to introduce yourself all the time, making a name for your brand. When choosing a co-host for example, chemistry is important. They don’t need to be “The funniest, fast talker type” as Pattiz explained.
The Chairman laminated three elements he believes to creating a successful podcast:
1.Make sure the show delivers quality content that separates itself from other channels.
2.Provide access to a strong fan base and following with the power of social media.
3.Join a network that can promote the show in a circular environment, one that captures and creates new audiences.
Carolla joined in on the conversation with his witty sarcasm and quick takes from the industry within, noting “A digital medium can swallow you up if you’re not prepared.”
He later explained his methodology of consistency. “It’s a big factor in doing well. Committing to a show 2-3 times a week will help you grow personally as a host. Doing it once a month makes it a hobby, at best.”
Carolla compared this to someone working at a pharmacy once a month. “Sure, you’re behind the counter filling prescriptions but does that make you a professional?”
The next segment of the class featured sound-effects guru Bryan Bishop and morning talk show host Gina Grad. Both play important roles on Carolla’s team and offered their perspectives in the world of podcasting.
Bishop said, “The most important rule for this spectrum is to be compelling.” Grad would add, “Be genuine, give conversations time to breath, and don’t do this to get rich.”
When deciding on a co-host, Grad discussed her take on the matter. “Recognize who the driver is and don’t be afraid to let the show’s theme evolve.”
On the topic of growth, Grad expressed her belief that “Having guests from other shows are a great way to expand your audience and cross promote.”
The audience is what everyone is vying for, that slice of the pie as they say. When bringing on guests they don’t need to be a similar style to your show. Having diverse personalities and perspectives make for quality content and that is what keeps listeners tuning in.
Carolla touched on the idea of listening back to ones own show in its early stages. “Similar to an air-check for terrestrial radio, make sure the show sounds and reflects what the vision is.”
We then moved on to the highlight of the day, where attendees partook in the “Podcast Pitchfest.” Everyone was welcome to pitch for 30-seconds his or her current or future podcast to the panel. The winner would have their episode aired on the PodcastOne network.
Plenty of these pitches were off-the-wall and comedic, some heartfelt, and others, down right delusional. After 62 contestants, the winning show was based on a “Business Autopsy,” where the host discusses why big and small companies have failed in the market force and how to avoid these pitfalls in the future.
Side note: Carolla would chime in suggesting whimsical new titles for a few of these shows. One in particular featuring a smoking show won the crowd over, Serial Vapists.
Kit Gray, the Co-founder of PodcastOne would join the afternoon session, touching on monetization and marketing tactics and how to establish your brand.
Some bulletin points that stood out included these factoids:
-40% of all Americans have listened to a podcast.
-This field of communication attracts a young, educated audience with a demographic of 25-44 years old.
Another brilliant observation from Carolla during this panel surrounded his legacy. “I view my catalog of shows as a digital diary for my children. They can hear what Dad had to say 20 years from now,” he confessed.
When it came to structuring a business model, Gray listed three paths to glory. First is a subscription service where you charge a monthly fee for exclusive content to your listeners. Next are advertisements from sponsors paying for airtime and promotion. Lastly going beyond the show, with audience retention and outreach using word of mouth and social media platforms to gain notoriety.
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Amanda Deutchman, Director of Marketing and Communications at PodcastOne spoke to the crowd as well. She provided a thorough analysis of the podcasting market with hard data.
“Over 11 hours on average are listened weekly by podcast fans,” and “Social media is key to engage and give value to subscribers,” she informed. One thing she suggested for hosts were to use questions on-air that listeners submit ahead of time. This gives them a sense of connectivity and participation within the programs format.
Last but certainly not least, Carolla’s engineer and producer, Mike Dawson gave a demonstration on recording equipment and tips to get supreme sound quality. He emphasized the importance of a good microphone, suggesting the Rode brand for all your recording needs.
A long and entertaining day then came to an end. With a plethora of knowledge, I walked away believing this digital age presently is a work in progress. There are challenges to being a respected and talked about podcast.
The task at hand is to find your lane and make an impression with people through storytelling. Rather than reading a magazine or flipping the radio dial, original content and fresh personalities will drive the way we educate, entertain, and consume for years to come.