We have a stu­dio with fancy mi­cro­phones and an au­dio en­gi­neer, but there are plenty of peo­ple who record on a €50 Zoom recorder

Irish Independent - Weekend Review - - FRONT PAGE -

On the plus side, the fi­nan­cial out­lay isn’t con­sid­er­able: the equip­ment is rel­a­tively cheap; ad­ver­tis­ing is largely through word-of-mouth and record­ing can be done in a bed­room if needs be. “As a medium, I also love how ac­ces­si­ble it is for peo­ple to cre­ate,” says Shawna Scott of the Our Sex­ual His­tory pod­cast.

“At Head­Stuff [the pod­cast­ing plat­form she is part of] we have a stu­dio with fancy mi­cro­phones and an au­dio en­gi­neer, but there are plenty of peo­ple who record on a €50 Zoom recorder.”

Shawna is also the owner of Sex Siopa — a health and de­sign-fo­cused on­line store sell­ing sex toys. She didn’t de­sign the pod­cast as a pro­mo­tional tool, but it cer­tainly helps raise brand aware­ness. “Even if I don’t get a huge bump in sales when I re­lease an episode,” she says, “I still find it su­per ben­e­fi­cial and per­son­ally ful­fill­ing.”

Fel­low pod­caster Rex Ryan agrees. “If you’re do­ing stuff that costs time and en­ergy — and you won’t make money — you have to con­stantly ask ‘why?’” he says.

The first episode of his Let’s Have Rex pod­cast, which was fi­nanced through crowd-fund­ing, went live last month. His con­tent is com­pelling and the early feed­back is promis­ing, but the ac­tor and writer has made peace with the fact that few pod­casts be­come fi­nan­cially lu­cra­tive.

Rex says his main in­flu­ences are fel­low in­ter­view-driven pod­cast­ers Joe Ro­gan and Tim Fer­riss — “per­haps if I could get Fer­riss’s craft and or­gan­i­sa­tion, mixed with a bit of Ro­gan’s madness, I could be on to some­thing semi-de­cent”.

Yet it’s hard not to com­pare his style to his late fa­ther, Gerry Ryan. Just like his dad, he has the abil­ity to talk about some­thing as in­con­se­quen­tial as tooth­paste and still make you feel like you are be­ing let in on a best-kept se­cret.

Rex is well aware that he is en­ter­ing a sat­u­rated mar­ket. “I re­ally thought, ‘Why the hell should peo­ple bother lis­ten­ing, bar my mum and my mates?’,” he laughs. The an­swer that he even­tu­ally ar­rived at was hon­esty — sear­ing hon­esty. It’s a wise move. Whereas tra­di­tional ra­dio broad­cast­ers give lit­tle glimpses of their per­sonal lives, the best pod­cast­ers know that lis­ten­ers are more likely to res­onate with full soul X-rays.

“You have to be hon­est, too. You have to give of your­self,” says co­me­dian Jar­lath Re­gan.

“I’m per­son­ally not a fan of in­ter­views where one per­son asks ques­tions and the other per­son is forced to an­swer,” he con­tin­ues. “I al­ways tell a bit of my story to en­cour­age the other per­son to talk and to share with them and the lis­ten­ers how I’m ar­riv­ing at the point of ask­ing this ques­tion, and where this ques­tion comes from.”

This brings us neatly to the other key dif­fer­ence be­tween tra­di­tional talk ra­dio and pod­cast­ing. By and large, pod­cast­ers have no in­ter­est in ‘gotcha’ jour­nal­ism.

Sam Har­ris of the Wak­ing Up pod­cast re­cently ex­plained that he gives in­ter­vie­wees the op­por­tu­nity to say ‘off the record’ af­ter they say some­thing they would pre­fer to take back, and Jar­lath says he is happy to give his guests the fi­nal edit.

All of th­ese fac­tors help to build au­then­tic­ity, in­tegrity and, fun­da­men­tally, trust. It’s a deeper level of en­gage­ment and, in its purest form, it’s cathar­tic — for both the host and the lis­ten­ers.

Jar­lath says he was in a “pretty dark place” when he first started pod­cast­ing.

“I prob­a­bly didn’t know what was go­ing to hap­pen to us liv­ing abroad. I was strug­gling, you know? I took a shot at this thing and it worked out and, over the course of th­ese in­ter­views, I’ve prob­a­bly soft­ened a bit. I think I’ve grown in con­fi­dence, too.”

It was much the same for fel­low co­me­dian Marc Maron. He says pod­cast­ing saved him from be­ing “broke, de­feated and ca­reer­less”. Nowa­days he talks about the medium with al­most re­li­gious en­thu­si­asm.

The pod­cast­ing land­scape has changed sig­nif­i­cantly in re­cent years. Rev­enue mod­els have be­come more cre­ative; in­de­pen­dent pro­duc­ers are com­pet­ing with es­tab­lished me­dia or­gan­i­sa­tions and, as with any boom, some an­a­lysts are won­der­ing if the bub­ble is about to burst.

Yet those who be­moan the cor­po­rati­sa­tion of the in­dus­try tend to for­get that no amount of money or re­sources can com­pen­sate for the key in­gre­di­ent: pas­sion. Jar­lath puts it best: “You need to love it from day one when you’re get­ting paid noth­ing. Oth­er­wise, you’re dead in the wa­ter.”

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