While many folks attend comic book cons for the “con experience” of meeting celebrities, buying art, and viewing all the cosplay, there’s still a significant amount of attendees that take advantage of the various workshops and panels that offer access to decades of industry knowledge and insight from the professionals who make themselves available.
One such occurrence at the Long Beach Comic Expo early Sunday was The Podcast Gathering panel moderated by Phil Vecchio (The Mandarian Orange Show Podcast, Radio Brendoman, The Pillagecast) with his wife Janelle Vecchio (The Mandarian Orange Show Podcast), Andrew Linde [Nerd’s Eye View, The Benview Network (podcast collective)], Brendan Creecy (Radio Brendoman), and Cheryl A. Jones (Movies Made Me) as panelists. Set up solely as a question-and-answer panel, Phil invited the audience to ask as many questions as they wanted to the panelists, providing sage-like advice on starting a brand new podcast for beginners but also tips for advancing one’s podcast for the seasoned veterans.
The first question asked was how one went about growing their podcast. Per Creecy, the key to growing any podcast is to be consistent. One should decide on a release schedule and stick to it. If a show has not been updated in a few months, it may cause listeners stop paying attention. He also posited that he found success by engaging listeners with a segment he called “Listener Mail” and suggested that listeners love hearing themselves being talked about. It builds relationships and results in listeners becoming invested in the podcast. Jones pointed out that growth is always slow and one should recognize this while Creecy seconded this by saying a podcast is grown one person at a time. Linde said that one should not be afraid to use social media but cautioned not to go overboard with it. Janelle said that she used her family to spread the word of her podcasts while Phil urged podcasters to keep in mind that what you present will affect how you can promote it.
The next question was in regards to how one goes about getting started in creating a podcast. In anticipation for this, Jones had handouts on hand to distribute to give attendees a cheatsheet to take away with. Creecy advised to never let gear and equipment stop someone from starting a podcast: “Why waste money on fancy gear while you try to figure things out?” He strongly suggested taking advantage of as many free services as possible, such as using WordPress as a webhost and Archive.org as the venue to post the podcasts for streaming, downloading, and archival purposes. Janelle seconded the notion of not needing to invest in gear initially, and that she and her husband had been using a five-dollar Rockband mic found in a Gamestops used bin. Linde said that beyond the gear, one needs to look to their podcast name and its importance to be Google-able. Creecy added to this that many listeners will forget a URL and will instead Google search a podcast, so one wants a podcast name that will be a top result when searched.
One audience member stated that he once had a successful podcast but had to take a several-year hiatus and was seeking advice on how to get back into the game. Creecy sympathized saying that such a scenario has happened to him, that he had slowed down and stopped his podcast for a while; however, he said that if someone had an audience once, if they started again, some of their audience would come back.
On the subject of recording dialogue with folks who were geographically in a different area, Creecy suggested multiple methods to do so. Firstly, he said that there was equipment out there that made it possible but also suggested using Google Hangouts, streaming it to YouTube, and then use a service called ListenToYoutube.com to convert the YouTube video’s audio output into a mp3 and even suggested using such a configuration as backups for a podcast. He also suggested that if the person who is geographically remote is somewhat tech-savvy, that they could record themselves at the same time, send their audio over and that could be edited into the podcast in post production. Linde said that he uses Skype and an external board which is able to record each dialogue as its own track. Jones underscored the necessities of backing up when recording and related a recent incident in which she had six persons in a room for a two and a half-hour podcast and in a freak accident, her board did not record anything.
The next question was about when someone should publish their podcast episodes, to which the panelist agreed that it was one of the “age-old” questions for the format. Creecy pointed out that the format is indeed an “on demand” format that can be listened to whenever. Linde suggested one should ask themselves, “When do you listen to a podcast?” and offered that most listeners consume podcasts while on a commute and thus are not so much reliant on when someone records.
In regards to hosting, Creecy cautioned that some podcast hosting services can run into bandwidth issues, but he keeps his hosting cheap by using his own website and Archive.org. Linde stated that podcasts networks offer the ability to make it easier to find other shows, and that he uses Squarespace for his own hosting. Jones used Libsyn but also suggested that Blubrry was also big. In regards to using YouTube to host, Creecy said it was another venue to find a podcast while Linde pointed out the lack of the ability for listeners to download.
Length of a podcast was the other big “age-old” question brought to the panel. Creecy said length depends on what one was doing. He was initially doing a four-hour podcast but had hit a wall in terms of growth. He instead turned these into multiple episodes and started to use a timer to assist. Linde mused that 45 minutes to an hour were recommended as ideal lengths, while Jones stated the lengths of her podcasts were contingent on guests and have run the gamut between 45 minutes to over two hours.
In some miscellaneous advice, Janelle states that as a parent, she is somewhat limited to what podcasts she could listen to due to the presence of profanity. Jones recalled that iTunes once had the ability for podcasters to mark individual episodes as “explicit” but that functionality has since changed, so that the show series proper has to be labeled as such instead. Phil added to this by restating the importance of knowing your audience.
Other tidbits that were tossed out that if one’s podcasts are spaced out, the gaps between could be filled in with social media posts or preview episodes to keep listeners excited. At this point, Phil ended the panel by allowing audience members who had their own shows to come up and take a few seconds to tell the rest of the audience about their own podcasts, which was a really interactive and positive aspect of the panel to conclude with.
Panel photograph courtesy of Michele Brittany.
Nicholas Diak is a pop culture scholar of industrial and synthwave music, Italian genre films, and Lovecraft studies. He contributes essays to various anthologies, journals, and pop culture websites. He is the editor of the forthcoming anthology, Ad Victoriam! Essays on Neo-peplum Cinema and Television. He can be found at nickdiak.com.