bm282 Making Your Way as an Independent Podcaster

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Veteran podcaster and new media pioneer Richard Bluestein joins me on the podcast today as we discuss staying free and making your podcast into a career.

28 thoughts on “bm282 Making Your Way as an Independent Podcaster

  1. Brilliant and thought-provoking show – if not surprising (apart from the fact that Richard needs a job) because I’ve thought most of the stuff in this show as a fellow podcaster of nearly 4 years and it totally strikes a chord…

    I’d guess a lot of the long-term podcasters have struggled with a lot of these same issues. Podcasting has changed; the indies have become more rare except interestingly the ones that have the bug have kept on against the odds, friends podcasts I inspired to start have come and go, some are still going.

    But there are people who’ve made money out of people like me; created sites around my content and feed, sold VC and probably contributed to the US crisis. I have had nothing financially from podcasting, except met great people like yourself and Richard and made good friends…that’s great but when you struggle to pay the bills as I am, you wonder why?

    Personally I feel kind of sad and depressed about the whole thing; so much creativity but it got taken over by the big broadcasters and as Richard said we got pushed to the kerb. But then they see fit to use our content in their programmes and blogs and sites. Disgusting really…I hoped it might lead somewhere, maybe it will, but I doubt it now, esp. with the credit crunch. Which will kill all this free content ironically – or create hell of a load of people doing it cos they are unemployed – until they get cut off!

    And the digital, class and money divide, I’ve got a big probably contentious blog post about that – it’s widening and tbh I notice there is hardly any diversity in social media or podcasting. Unlike Youtube or Bebo or Myspace it’s niche…and the people who play in those spaces have rich daddies. I might just quote Richard’s comments about the Bay Area rich people with healthcare as part of that. There’s a real economic and social divide here, and in the places I work and socialise.

    1. Thanks Tim,

      I think London would be OK. After some preliminary checking, dogs are allowed to be brought from the US to the UK. As long as I can bring my dog, it’s fine.

      Richard

      1. I asked my friend and he’s happy to punt a CV around – you got a CV? Just finding an address from him now.

        I’d especially include all your Insane Films stuff as I would guess the viral online video specialists would love your experience.

  2. Lots of interesting stuff here, particularly on how the expressive or creative part being an independent podcaster can so easily conflict with the need to live. One can’t contradict the other, or the point is lost. Tricky.

    When Podshow started, they promised so much and it sounded undeniably good, but turned out to be unrealistic. One of these I distinctly remember, surely with the likes of Madge in mind, was that it was the company’s responsibility to find their podcasters advertising, and that the podcasters wouldn’t need to change a thing. They’d continue to get paid, etc, advertising or not. All the benefits of being independent, with the security and backing of a larger company.

    Great idea, but too good to be true, as it turns out. With hindsight, the whole thing was doomed from the outset on the basis of relying on such a traditional way of funding – sponsorship and advertisements. If podcasts have to raise money the same way as traditional outlets, then surely they would be forced to play by the same rules. That is not so much new media, as a new distribution channel with a much lower bar to entry. So, the same old crap, and probably worse.

    I personally know one podcaster making a decent living as an independent podcaster (Don McAllister, ScreenCastsOnline), although he sometimes supplements it with related R.L. work. For his podcast he creates educational videos for which people will pay a small subscription to get higher quality versions and extra editions. It’s more product than podcast, in that sense, and not really a model that could be used by most podcasters.

    The irony here is that what the world really needs (as it has always needed) is a free media, not just from government censorship, but these days corporate censorship too. Corporations, banks, governments – all should be held to account as they are now increasingly more tightly woven into the fabric of society. Just looking at the run up to recent financial events, it would be extremely rare to see people in the mainstream media predicting the event, because they would have been slammed for doing so. And yet, had people been free to speak, who knows how much better the situation would have turned out.

    I’d better stop there!

  3. Thanks for this show both of you!

    Yes. No one is replaceable. There are only unique artists expressing their own unique point of view. Replaceable is only applicable where content is the only important factor and it is never the only important factor. The medium is the message and always part of the message as Marshall McLuhan pointed out decades ago.

    “In a culture like ours, long accustomed to splitting and dividing all things as a means of control, it is sometimes a bit of a shock to be reminded that, in operational and practical fact, the medium is the message. This is merely to say that the personal and social consequences of any medium – that is, of any extension of ourselves – result from the new scale that is introduced into our affairs by each extension of ourselves, or by any new technology.” (McLuhan 7) Thus begins the classic work of Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media, in which he introduced the world to his enigmatic paradox, “The medium is the message.”

    Can you imagine some of the more brilliant and important messages of our age without the artists themselves an integral part of them?

  4. Chomsky’s “manufacture of consent” is the model for starting the paradigmatic shift in journalism.

    I see no problem in asking for money, LinkTV Mosaic reached their target last month.

    Although the news that Max and Stacy have landed a gig with the BBC is welcome, as it means that their message will reach a larger audience, the BBC are: pedantic and detached from the public they are paid to serve who are also effectively censored by unfair liable laws in the UK, that according to the UN, violate human rights.

    People should subscribe to independent media because that is where their best interests lie.

    Norman Finkelstein will be in Maastricht on Thursday 13 November.

  5. Um… Richard Bluestein’s argument about censorship is COMPLETELY retarded.

    Advertising is a contract. You cannot bite the hand that feeds you. If someone is giving you money to spew your bs online, seriously, don’t they have the right, according to what kind of contract you agree upon, to withdraw sponsorship when your “content” goes against what they believe, or smears them or their beliefs in any way?

    Seriously, I love the character of Madge Weinstein because it is comic, and comedy is fundamentally destructive. So when I laugh at her, I am essentially devaluing and destroying what she says, and reinforcing my own values, which are diametrically opposed to hers. However, when those same things come out of Bluestein’s mouth, even in a semi-serious discussion, it is so repulsive I cannot continue to listen – not that I ever listen to this show, but since Richard was on I thought I’d give it a try. Eh.

    1. Well, aren’t you an eager corporate drone. Its really incredible how little you understand the point of Yeast Radio and its comedy for someone who apparently “loves” the character (even though you seem to listen only to laugh patronizingly at those wacky liberals… which seems like an really tragic way of spending your free time). I don’t even know what to make of your interpretation of Richard’s comedy as “fundamentally destructive” which is an completely simplistic and reductive view of his work, do you seriously break out into laughter when Richard in character reads out news stories or talks compassionately through the character of Madge about his feelings on the death penalty for example? In your comments to Madge’s website you constantly refer to your oh so superior “values” (in an attempt to distance to Madge/Richard’s supposedly “repulsive” opinions), just curious, what ARE they?

      If you’re a gay Republican who’s voting for McCain/Palin this election, I don’t know how you can have to balls to call ANYONE retarded.

      1. The fact that you are presumptuous enough to make that “corporate drone” and the “republican” statement about me means… ugh. Never mind.

        I don’t know what gave you the idea that I break out in laughter when Madge does the news or shares her views.

        You can make anything you want to make out of Yeast Radio. I don’t deal in subjectivity. If you want to understand what I mean when I call Richard’s whole Madge comedy shtick destructive, all you have to do is read Aristotle’s Poetics, particularly the section on comedy.

    2. Luis — why not just say — “I dont agree with Richard.” In the end, that is what you meant as I understand it.

      Academic research as well as investigative journalism, not to mention insiders working for corporate media have for many decades given us examples of how sponsors claim in contracts they wont influence the work of a journalist or media outlet, but then later try (and succeed) in getting a story pulled or edited or a program taken off the air, etc. It is beyond opinion at this point, do some searching, there is extensive documentation on this issue.

      1. I don’t like to just state my opinion, but give reasons for why I think what I do.

        I don’t think it is OK for people to breach contracts. When anyone, whether a corporation OR an individual journalist does so, it is up to our courts and our government to protect interested parties from damages caused by such a breach. Obviously, due to the irrational and totalitarian/socialistic/fascistic tendencies of our culture, we have reached a point where we are not protected from breaches of contract. If a law doesn’t specifically say something’s illegal, people seem to think they can get away with it, even if they’re violating the fundamental principles embedded in the constitution. Furthermore, free speech is constantly being attacked –successfully!– but people don’t seem to care. I’m not an ignorant podcast audience member. I probably understand the issues better than you, and I’m not even a journalist.

        All that is really besides the point. The real point is that it seems you think you will change our culture by advocating the ideas and values you currently espouse. You are blithely unaware, or perhaps you only seem so, that your ideas and values will only lead the culture further down the same path. And you have the gall to complain about the state we’re in?

        In reality, it’s a pity, but I think it’s somewhat comical.

      2. “I probably understand the issues better than you, and I’m not even a journalist.”

        This I seriously doubt. But of course you know everything about Mark, Richard, and everyone reading this thread (depending on where ‘you’ is directed).

        As regarding contracts, you should know about the social contract, but I don’t pretend to know Ancient texts (nor throw them around in blog comments like confetti) on it I know your beloved Aristotle, Socrates and others had some interesting things to say about contracts, society and whether they bind.

      3. Tim from Radio Clash, “you” is directed at bicyclemark. I was responding to his comment. Also, your social contract comment is such a non-sequitur, I’m not even gonna “go there.” As Madge would say, “my vagina hurts and smells.”

  6. I just wish Coca-Cola to be my sponsor. So refreshing. So cool.

    Ps. Nice to hear the both of you in one show, an important one, imho, a breath of fresh air.

  7. It wasn’t too much of an ask to predict that the initial hyperbole of the podfather, podshow, VC etc would not live up to expectations as the mainstream quickly saw the potential of podcasts. Most of the podcasts I listened to in the early days have now left my favorites list but I’m happy to report I’ve stuck with BicyclesMark and RadioClash since close to the beginning thanks to the professionalism (in the true sense of podcasting being a profession) and skill of Tim and Mark. Madge dropped off my radar a while ago when she went through a slightly nihilistic period but I will definitely try again Richard as I really respect what you have done. I think everything is organic and evolves, the question is just how can alternative p and vcasting find that niche. Maybe now there will be more possibilities with the economic decline that will surely finish off quite a few old fashioned newspapers. The Guardian has certainly had to reinvent itself using podcasting and video extensively and now has a very decent site.

  8. Interesting cast, especially considering the comments about the class and Groningen, my uni! An extremely interesting lecture I might add, and a reaffirmation of the financial problems a truely independent journalist surely will encounter.
    About the slightly snarky comments on my co-students comments: Mark, if you’re interested check my post on the uni’s blog. as one can only comment when logged in, feel free to mail me your response or simply reply here. Main issue; how is it that if one acknowledges his – at least as far as content is concerned, ninja – replaceability, that one may still remain unique or rather of any value added/use as a journalist?
    feelin’ nice an’ anxious for some comments..

    1. Yo Sgt. P… hi. Oh now… you call it snarky.. I was just pointing out that asking someone how to be unique is a question that kind of cancels itself out. That doesnt make it bad. I thought you and that classmate were totally cool and I commented so to Chris.
      I don’t fully get the question, if I call myself replacable, how to I remain unique as a journalist? I think Richard answers this, if thats your question, quite well… you may be influenced by many, and you may be replaced by someone at some point, but that person can’t really do things the way you do them. Especially in the world of personal publishing on the internet.. the personal touch is valued and obvious. So in many ways Ive developed my thoughts on this since my talk.
      Tried to login on your blog, no luck. See you next month perhaps?

      1. I think Madge got that right, and Mark’s response is perfectly good – if you ask ‘why do you do this if it isn’t popular?’ or ‘why do it then?’ then I think you’ve missed the point.

        Looking at what is popular is a very teenage and student mindset; it comes from school and ‘high school’ type groupings; but it’s not a value judgement you can apply to most things, or should do…the best things are not done because they are popular, they are different, and then become popular. It seems people confuse that (it’s like the ‘overnight genius’ thing in music, when such genius took 5-10 years of hard hard work, it’s a silly question/assumption).

        It’s a mindset shift; it’s not insulting to say that it really isn’t the sort of question to ask with podcasting – if you ask it then it probably isn’t for you. Asking ‘how can I make money from this?’ might be more profitable, if maybe just as unanswerable.

      2. I don’t think it was about popularity or impopularity, tim. It was about the fact that there’s already so much out there, and the question how to add to that multitude of vlogging, blogging and podcasting voices in a meaningful, original way..

        Not to say that the “stay true to yourself”, “do what you love/must do” advices don’t hold true – although you gotta admit, it sounds somewhat cliché – but I think any starting “internet-reporter” (for lack of a better description) feels slightly dwarfed by their competition/colleagues..

      3. Yes but as Madge explained – it’s a non-question – ‘how to add to that multitude of vlogging, blogging and podcasting voices in a meaningful, original way’ – well the point of social media is to bring the personal into play.

        To search for originality when actually to be original is to be yourself, your bias (or not), your interests, your views, your research, your questions…seems pointless.

        And yes it’s a popularity game, a lot of people don’t start because unlike X-Factor singers or video bloggers they think ‘what have I got to add?’ ‘can I be original?’ ‘who wants to watch me?’ without realising that it’s not about being a star or instantly thoroughly original; it’s about the conversation with other people – and then it will quickly go someplace original because each conversation is different.

        It’s like asking for the end destination before even starting the journey…that kind of mindset is very prevalent (I have friends who won’t even START something unless they are brilliant at it – and funnily enough they never do because you are never great – or that original – at something til you start – it’s all part of learning. But the idea of worrying about that at the start – pre-branding yourself, running before you walk – well it’s not going to be productive at all, because you won’t even begin to learn or make mistakes).

      4. Point taken. Currently taking the first steps in internetland myself, so I could identify with her opinion as well. But I must say the cocky, cheeky me is slowly taking over. Relating to the title of this cast, any opinions on the usability of GoogleAds? I’d hate to go back to being a pay-roll slave of some restaurant, looking into the possibilities of capitalism online..

  9. Yeah cool, was indeed wondering if Richards statement about this reflected your opinion as well.. D’you get to see the post at all and were you just not able to log in or was it a no-go from the start? Didn’t mean to come off as personally offended or anything, was just overstating some of the things slightly trying to make it a bit juicier :)
    next month, how’s that? you giving another lecture in chris’ program? i’m not in his class (lazy as i am, came late for registration – although mine’s pretty cool too) but will definitely try to catch that one then. by the way: fuckin (yes, i too have a knack for profanity every now and then) awesome that richard already got a job offer! laughed my ass off at his madge weinstein plea for obama.. excellent.

  10. completely off-topic, but maybe i shouldn’t be using this middle-school nick (sgt pear) anymore.. oops, wouldn’t want to be mistaken for that dude…

  11. Excellent episode Mark and Richard,

    Each of you mentioned how the dominant media continually either ignore or deride “podcasts” and “podcasters.” For a moment while listening to you, it occurred to me that perhaps they are scared. Perhaps they see the jig is up – they can continue to peddle their B.S.; the huddled masses will continue to consume it – so long as there’s beer in the fridge and the narrative arc titillates.

    But in a real sense, I think they’ve come to realize that they no longer have TOTAL DOMINATION, which they’d seemed to had enjoyed since Lindbergh crossed the Atlantic.

    It is through the efforts of guys like you and hundreds of other “plain joes & janes” that a meaningful alternative storyline is percolating.

    Sure, the Greed Merchants will continue to attempt to co-opt, ignore, or deride personal media publishing. The game is long, I don’t have the wits to predict the outcome. But I do think it’s getting interesting.

    Thankfully, as Richard alluded to, at least there will alternative records available to future students trying to figure WTF was up with this age.

    And then I thought, maybe not. Maybe the rain I feel is all of the podcasters pissing into the wind.

    Keep up the great work, Mark and Richard!

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