This morning, for me anyway, has been all about podcasting. Hang on. Let me rephrase that. The morning was all about trying to figure out the Las Vegas Convention Center, because HOLY SHIT, THIS PLACE IS HUGE AND CONFUSING!
By 10:40 I finally had my bearings enough to make it to a panel about how the most popular podcasters break through. It was moderated by Podcast Movement co-founder Dan Franks and featured some of the biggest names in the true crime podcasting world including Patrick Hinds of True Crime Obsessed, Rebecca Lavoie of Crime Writers On…, and Rabia Chaudry of Serial and Undisclosed.
This group covered every aspect of podcasting and how the people that do it the best…well, do it.
Hinds talked about getting his start in the podcasting world when his favorite Broadway podcast quit posting new episodes. He said that he thought the show and the content was so good that surely someone else would pick up the baton. After months of waiting for that to happen, Patrick Hinds realized he had to be that someone. It is a good lesson. Don’t assume the space you want to be in will be covered. Only you can deliver the content you want exactly the way you want it.
The expertise that Hinds really delivered was in how to grow an audience and create a dedicated listener community. He talked about the importance of learning to market on social media. Not only did that bring True Crime Obsessed a bigger audience, it brought an audience that was invested in the show’s hosts.
Hinds is a gay man and said that he regularly discusses LGBTQ issues on podcast and its social media pages. He invoked sports radio when he said that because he and his co-host have invested so much time in engaging with their listeners, he has never experienced that “stick to sports” pushback that you might expect.
Rebecca Lavoie said she learned about audience engagement from Howard Stern. She saw so much value in the way Stern would pull back the curtain on what went into creating his show each day. That transparency created her loyalty to Stern as a listener because she felt like he was giving her access to everything.
The other way Lavoie said podcasters should engage with their audience is in analytics. Podcasters can see their direct download data. Using that to see what works and what doesn’t can help shows super serve their core audience.
Rabia Chaudry first came to prominence as the attorney for Adnan Sayed, whose case was at the center of the mega-popular Serial podcast. She said that experience taught her the importance of being aware of what your success can create for others.
Chaudry told a story about being offered a book deal to tell Sayed’s story. Initially she turned it down, thinking it would be in bad taste. Later a friend convinced her to take the deal saying that the story had become so big that someone was going to write the book. Didn’t she want to make sure it was written by someone that knew the case inside and out?
The session wrapped with a discussion of premium content. All three agreed that in order to be a success with Patreon or a subscription service, you have to make sure that content is truly special. Lavoie said it was important to make sure it changes regularly. She said that there is a “tribalism to premium content subscribers.” If you treat them right, they are the ones that will spread the word about your product.
The second session I attended was all about Marvel’s podcast Wolverine: The Long Night. You are justified in wondering what sports radio can learn from a podcast that exists in the Marvel Comics universe, but the panel was their to discuss taking an already successful brand and using audio to enhance what its possibilities and limits are.
Amy Fitzgibbons of Stitcher moderated a panel that included Jenny Radelet Mast of Stitcher, Director Brendan Baker, and producer Daniel Fink, who is also Marvel’s VP of Business Development.
The panel began with the trailer from season one of Wolverine: The Long Night. Immediately it is clear how different this podcast is from any other. First of all, it is scripted. Secondly, it transports you to a world. The audio is expertly crafted. You don’t need pictures. You can see it in your head because Wolverine: The Long Night is presented like an HBO series that just happens to be audio only.
Fink says that Marvel is always willing to test storytelling across different mediums. He realizes audio can be a stretch for his company, but podcasts have come so far. S Town and Serial showed him that effective storytelling can be done without pictures.
Radelet Mast was on board the second she saw the word Marvel in her email. Stitcher had experience with fiction podcasts before Marvel came to them. They have an erotica podcast on the way. She doesn’t want to leave anything unexplored when it comes to fiction podcasts.
Brendan Baker has worked in the sound design world for years, particularly with NPR. He knew that adding music and other production could create a theatrical presentation of any type of storytelling. He was most intrigued by trying to create an audio-only fight scene.
What this panel hammered home was the importance of using good audio and using it the right way. Five years ago no one would have imagined that a Wolverine story could be consumed as audio only. The character’s most die hard fans would have at best been willing to give it a chance. To convince them to stay with the show, Marvel had to make sure the experience was nearly flawless in execution.