Along with most Americans, my family watched the Super Bowl last weekend. Every time the game coverage paused for commercials my older daughters, who are seven and nine, became totally exasperated. "What is this?!"
It was an old school moment for me. I realized that my kids live in a world of a la carte media. There is no sitting through commercials, or flipping through channels to see what's on. They stream Adventure Time on Netflix when they want to watch a show, whenever that may be.
The way I've consumed media has become more a la carte as well, especially over the last five years. I don't flip through Martha Stewart Living searching for the Good Things column like I used to. Instead, I read blogs that are essentially all Good Things all the time.
Where I once sat in my car in the driveway listening to the end of a particularly captivating interview on the radio, not wanting to miss a word, I now listen to captivating interviews with interesting people all the time, and at my own pace, on my phone.
Is audio better?
My kids and I spend several hours in the car each week driving to and from Hebrew School, Russian Math School, and piano lessons. We spend that time listening to audio books. Right now we're listening to the Anne of Green Gables series and my girls are captivated.
I made the mistake the other day of suggesting that we see the movie version of the Anne story.
"No! That would ruin it for us!" they shouted.
And why is that?
"Because we imagine Anne a certain way and we don't want to see what she looks like!"
Listening to someone's story is very different from watching it, or even from reading it. Audio is more nuanced than the written word. You hear the tone and texture of a voice, the confidence of certain statements coupled with the insecurity of the giggles that follow others.
Yet audio still leaves so much to the imagination.Terry Gross, the host of NPR's Fresh Air, says in her book All I Did Was Ask, that the most frequently asked question she gets is what does she look like. People ask this question because Terry lives in our imagination. And it's wonderful to imagine someone.
One more thing about audio - there's something very freeing about listening without having to look. Your hands and eyes are free for other tasks and time flies by.
Why are podcasts especialy effective at getting your message across?
I've never met Jesse Thorn, the host of Bullseye, one of my favorite podcasts, but I feel connected to him as though I've known him for years. After listening to Jesse talk into my headphones for thousands of hours (I'm a mega-fan and I've listened to every single show.) I know how Jesse thinks, what he believes in, what's important to him.
Speaking into somebody's ears is an intimate thing. Audio sticks with us.
Advertisements on podcasts stick with us, too. I can tell you right now which companies sponsor Bullseye, and Gweek, and 99% Invisible, but I couldn't name a single advertiser with a banner ad on the sewing blogs I read. Why? They don't talk to me.
How do podcasts make money?
Making a good podcast, like making a good anything, costs some money. There's equipment to buy, hosting to pay for, and editing software to learn. Most importantly, creating a good podcast takes time. From what I can tell it's very difficult to make money from a podcast, even enough to make it pay for itself (see Sister Diane's thoughts on ending CraftyPod).
The While She Naps podcast
Two years ago I was working on a series of posts here on my blog about the business side of sewing stuffed animals. I wanted to talk with veteran pattern designer, Carol Cruise. She was eager to talk with me, but she wasn't all that technically savvy. I didn't want that to get in the way of hearing her story so I offered to call her and record the conversation. That was my first podcast.
I did more audio interviews sporadically over the next year whenever it seemed like a spoken conversation would be more effective than a written post at conveying a particular person's story.
Coming into 2014 I began to see my business as a having two arms: a softie pattern arm and a media arm. By envisioning things this way I gave myself permission to make the podcast a real part of what I do. I invested time in learning to edit audio, I bought a microphone (which will debut on next Monday's show), and most of all, I thought carefully about what the show could be.
If you're interested in getting started podcasting, here are a few tips I've learned along the way.
1. Learn GarageBand. If you have a Mac, this audio editing software came with your computer. I took this class on Lynda.com, which was excellent and well worth the $25. GarageBand is a drag-and-drop editor and it's super powerful. I don't edit heavily, and I don't plan to because it consumes time I can't afford. I'm okay with that.
2. Buy a good microphone. Until now I've been using the built in mic in my computer, but I'd had enough of sounding like I'm inside a tin can. I just got a Yeti mic from Blue. It's excellent and costs $89.99.
3. Call Recorder. I'm not sure this is the best program for recording a Skype call, but it sure is easy and it's only $30. I'm still working on improving the audio quality of my guests tracks. I'll get there.
5. Develop an idea. Like my blog, my podcast is focused on sewing softies, blogging, and running a handmade business. The shows are created in one of two formats. Some episodes are one-on-one interviews with people who are doing exceptional work in one of those areas. Check out episode #7 with Bjork Ostrom about the Pinch of Yum monthly income reports, for example. In other episodes I'm joined by two guests and the three of us share things we love right now, including books, apps, tools, and more. Listen to episode #11 with Betz White and Claudine Hellmuth to see how those work. If you'd like to learn to interview better, Diane has great tips to share.
I am no expert podcaster. Like most things I do, it's DIY but it works. With every episode the show is improving: better sound quality, music, editing, a clearer focus.
I love what Terry Gross says about the interviews she conducts on Fresh Air. "I hope you'll accept them in the spirit in which they're offered, as entertaining and thought-provoking conversations with people I believe are worthy of your time." I'm no Terry Gross, but I couldn't agree more.