I sometimes forget how empowering the act of podcasting can be. Intellectually, I understand it. But I tend to forget that, for many podcasters, empowerment is the entire reason why they podcast.
Having done this for the better part of 17 years, I understand there are myriad motivations and reasons for podcasting. Some people podcast because they want a pile of money—big or small. Hope springs eternal for those with this primary motivation. A lot of these would-be podcast millionaires give up when they realize that the road to riches is not only unpaved but also complicated and time-consuming. And not at all guaranteed.
Some work in the podcasting industry or work on one or more podcasts, drawing a paycheck or sending out invoices. They’re more likely to make some money than the first group, but it’s still filled with uncertainty.
Many podcasters podcast for the art of it, likely because creating things is at their very core. And audio is a beautiful medium to work within.
A whole bunch of people make podcasts for fun, pure and simple, with not much motivation beyond that. Podcasters like this tend to have few hang-ups or expectations other than continuing to have fun. Interestingly enough, this was my primary motivation when I started podcasting in 2004. And still, to a certain degree, describes how I feel about podcasting today.
I tend to see these primary motivations for podcasting surface when interacting with other podcasters, especially when I don’t know the podcaster all that well. Understanding what they want to get out of podcasting helps me better relate to them.
But occasionally, I encounter a new person who doesn’t fit into one of those need little boxes. Often for that person, podcasting is truly an act of empowerment.
Podcasters who podcast because it makes them empowered have a set of motivations that, from my position of privilege, are just out of my reach. Again, I can intellectually understand this motivation. But as a recovering(?) egotistical narcissist, I have to admit that I honestly have a tough time relating to the people who podcast because of the empowerment podcasting provides to them.
I think I can do better. In fact, I think we all can do better by acknowledging not just the empowering capabilities of podcasting, but that it’s exactly what some podcasters need.
We can do better at accepting that empowerment is a valid reason to podcast in and of itself, without foisting our own baggage or piling our own assumptions upon on those who podcast for that very reason.
Most importantly, I think we can do better at enabling those who podcast not only because it's fun, an art form, a job, or a path to riches; but because podcasting provides a voice, a sense of worth, and a way to become something beyond the limitations of their own circumstances.
We can start by reframing the questions we ask when we meet a new podcaster, especially one that’s on the quieter and more reserved side. Alongside the obligatory what’s your podcast about and why do you podcast, we could ask a new question:
How does podcasting make you feel?
If you asked me how podcasting makes me feel, I wouldn’t tell you it makes me feel empowered. Even though it absolutely does make me feel empowered, just like I’m betting it makes you feel empowered to a certain degree.
But for the podcaster whose primary motivation is empowerment, they might. Now, they may not come right out and say I feel empowered, but they are likely to use similar words that clearly fall outside the other primary motivations and circle around the concept of empowerment.
Let’s listen to them.
I think we should all work to ensure that podcasting remains a way (though not the only way) people can find and express a sense of empowerment in their lives. More to the point, I think they deserve our support along their unique podcasting journey as they discover exactly how those feelings of empowerment are best expressed by their podcasting efforts. And in doing so, let’s not try to force them to podcast the way that we podcast. Instead, we should listen, support, encourage, and even celebrate their successes however they choose to define them.
Let's make all of podcasting better by also being better podcasters to other podcasters.
A big thanks to York Campbell of Poetic Earthlings, who you might have heard over the summer with a guest episode of Podcast Pontifications, for buying me a virtual coffee along with the following note:
Thank you, Evo, for making podcasting more thoughtful.
You are quite welcome, York. I hope you found today's episode quite thoughtful as well. I appreciate your support.
And speaking of s support, let’s talk sponsorship! You’ve no doubt noticed that My Podcast Reviews is sponsoring Podcast Pontifications this month. (Thank you very much, Daniel!) Please note that the message you’re hearing on the episode and reading in the article is not an ad. I don’t have anything personally against running ads in podcasts, clearly. But I don’t think it’s the right approach for Podcast Pontifications.
Instead, I offer sponsorship opportunities for select products and services that are of relevance to working podcasters. And I’ll only accept sponsors—now booking for 2022!—that I genuinely feel will make podcasting better. (And there are also ways that working podcasters like you can showcase your podcast to the audience of Podcast Pontifications, so get in touch!)
With that, I shall be back on Monday with yet another Podcast Pontifications.