Hear, Hear! Podcast’s Phenomenal Rise in the Rogue Valley
Like a giant Mavericks wave rising out of the ocean, podcast popularity is cresting. With over 750,000 shows and programs offered and advertising revenue expected to hit the billion dollar mark by 2021, this budding medium is fast becoming one of the hottest on-demand, content-bingeing platforms available.
In 2003, the first syndicated MP3s, or “audio blog posts,” were created by radio host, Chris Lydon, and software developer, Dave Winer. Offered through Apple iTunes and downloadable to first-generation iPods, they soon earned the moniker “podcasts.” Lydon’s Open Source series focused on the presidential run as America braced for a looming war with Iraq. It was raw, real and unlike anything radio listeners had experienced before.
Today, over half of Americans have either listened to a podcast or subscribed to several, making it officially a mainstream medium according to Edison Research. Advancing technologies like smarter Smart speakers, Bluetooth gadgets and in-car internet are making it easier for listeners to “catch a pod.”
The Infinite Dial 2019, a report covering consumer usage of media and technology, revealed massive year-after-year growth in “spoken-word audio.” Is the field saturated? Not if passion overrides competition.
Southern Oregon podcaster, Danielle Craig, is using the medium to generate, if not revenue, a community of like-minded people. The Emmy-award winning journalist started her Happiness in Progress podcast after facing numerous personal challenges in 2017 at the same time she felt a need for a change in her career in media, including nearly eight years on Newswatch 12.
“Having 15 years in news, I sat in many living rooms with people who had experienced worst-case scenarios of life,” says Craig. “So basically between feeling like I could offer support and love to people and share other people’s stories, like I’d been doing on the news, I just kind of stumbled across podcasts and jumped in.”
Although making money from a podcast isn’t quick or easy, unless you’re an advertiser, revenue can build over time from sponsors, listener donations, subscriptions and ticket sales to live podcast events.
In July, Craig took her podcast to the road for her first live event where over a hundred women gathered at RoxyAnn Winery to listen as she interviewed Shantelle Dayton and Lu Crenshaw of Camp 17 on the topic of being enough.
“The night was beautiful because, not only did these women listen to a really powerful message, they held their hands on each other’s back and spoke comfortably about their truths,” says Craig. “To do an episode in front of a live audience gives it a real, authentic connection.”
Anthony and Lauren Panter are hoping their passion for anime will stimulate interest in others. The young couple debates, examines and considers the Japanese animation on their new podcast, Otaku!!! Talk.
“I would describe podcasts as the next phase in talk radio, a more personalized listening experience for the consumer,” says Anthony. “If we gain a wide enough fan base I definitely would like to have our listeners pick out shows for us, or suggest shows for us to watch. It’s essentially just a lot of fun right now.”
Startup costs can be incredibly low. Beginners can use their PC or laptop with a microphone together with free online software and hosting services. Today’s podcast apps can even transform your smartphone into a mobile recording and editing studio.
Before starting a podcast of their weekly tabletop role-playing games (RPG), the Rogue Valley Roleplayers had been gathering weekly for several years to suspend 3-D reality while they twisted and churned the story of imaginary realms.
“RPGs, by their very nature, are an improv collaborative experience,” says producer, Ben Lewis. “The internet has made it possible to meet world-wide gamers and to share stories and ideas. The stereotype of a bunch of un-athletic guys with glasses sitting in a basement is gone.”
Lewis started with a single microphone everyone basically yelled into, keeping editing simple but the sound quality less than appealing.
“Eventually, as the podcast grew, and I got more confident in my abilities, we needed to upgrade to multiple microphones making editing a lot more intensive,” he says. “I went from being able to produce an episode in two or three days to about two weeks.”
In spite of the challenges, Lewis appreciates the learning curve and feels his labor of love is worth it, and is excited knowing they have listeners around the world. Millions of listeners have several subscriptions and new listeners are researching podcasts on specific topics.
“There’s definitely not a lack of people to listen,” says Craig. “I think that it’s really important for anyone who wants to podcast, and they think they have something important to say, that they say it and not worry about what all the others are doing.”
One of its strongest factors, she believes, is the freedom to start one.
“There used to be a time when anyone wanting to talk about self-help and get it out in public through radio, newspaper or TV would have to get through the gatekeepers, the people that said yes or no,” she recalls. “Now there’s none of that. All you really need is the phone in your hand and if you have a message you already have your platform, just stand up and speak.”