To keep my podcast agency running smoothly. I've learned to adapt and adopt processes and procedures. That’s because I am not a process-oriented person. Ever since I came into the world, I’ve been driven by my own internal curiosities. Yes, I often fly by the seat of my pants and will try things -- crazy things -- to just see what happens.
I think that’s a great way to approach podcasting. But that’s much less great when you're trying to run an agency. Since that’s what I’ve done for 20 or so years, I’ve learned to tamp down my general scatteredness so I can get things done on time.
I’ve been working with lots of podcasters over many years. Not just with my current podcasting agency that services business-minded clients, but even back when I was helping “underpublished” authors release podcast-versions of their self-recorded audiobooks. During that time, I’ve noticed that a big chunk of people getting into podcasting aren't very curious.
Here’s what’s most curious: More people than ever before are deciding to launch their own podcasts. That takes a certain amount of curiosity to get started. What is it about podcasting that takes that curiosity away?
Fear Stops Podcasters From Being Curious
With newness comes a healthy amount of uncertainty, which often leads to fear. The layperson curious enough to investigate what it takes to make a podcast can be quickly overwhelmed by equipment choices, service providers, time constraints, and more.
Podcasting is rather complex. Not that any part of the process is particularly hard, we all understand as working podcasters. But the complexity we’ve mastered leads to uncertainty for those who have yet to master it. For some, that uncertainty turns to fear, and fear stops curiosity in its tracks.
No Time To Be A Podcaster, Let Alone A Curious One
Most people aren’t blessed with an abundance of time. In fact, if it were not for a lack of available time on my clients’ part, I wouldn’t have a podcasting business. Without disposable time, the prospect of spending hours experimenting on their setup, tinkering with their format, or wondering what’s changed recently is unfathomable. Should they spend time investigating new recording software or switching website hosting when they could be bringing in more business? Can they afford to carve out more time from work, family, and the overall enjoyment of life?
Without copious amounts of unallocated time to develop podcasting curiosity, they pay my firm to inject that curiosity into their podcast. Layered in with good processes and procedures, obviously.
Not All Podcasters Care About Podcasting
It may seem odd, but a lot of podcasters just don’t care enough to become curious. It’s as if someone is forcing them to podcast. Which, in some cases, might be true. You’ve probably heard at least one disaffected-sounding cohost of a podcast who cares a lot less than the other host. Truth be told, that was me a long time ago. I was talked into doing a show that I genuinely didn’t care about. The show was popular enough, but I wasn’t having any fun. Luckily I was self-aware enough of this to eventually turn the show over to someone else who did care.
But not everybody has that wherewithal. Some people cohost a show because it's part of their job. Some don't want to offend or disappoint the other host of the program. Which sucks for them and sucks for listeners, because their lack of caring bleeds through the mic.
Why Be Curious When You Have A Podcasting Tribe?
The hyper-connected, always-available hivemind is a powerful force that can short-circuit our curious nature. Some are much more likely to turn to a Facebook group of 17,000 podcasters or a Reddit sub with 57,000 podcasters with their question rather than doing their own research.
And I get the appeal, especially for those feeling the time crunch. Spend countless hours chasing down various rabbit trails or spend a few seconds crafting a question for the tribe? That’s an easy choice.
But how do you vet those answers? What if the people who reply also aren’t all that curious and are just repeating un-researched advice they were given when they asked the same question a few weeks ago? It might have been easy. But it’s sure not helpful.
Pitfalls For Podcasters With A Lack Of Curiosity
I know that I’m easily offended when I see stock photos of people talking into the top of a Blue Yeti microphone. Any curious person, upon taking delivery of this mic that seems to be in every stock photo used to talk about podcasting, would plug their headphones into the unit and immediately notice that recreating the same pose from those pictures gives a terrible sound. A truly curious person would try talking into various points of the R2D2-looking mic until they found the sweet spot. A truly curious person would notice the three-position switch on the unit and take notice of how the sound changes as they cycle through each of those positions.
But not if they’re scared of screwing something up.
Not if they don’t have the time to be curious.
Not if they don't really care how they sound.
And not if there were conflicting opinions on which switch position is the best from randos on Facebook.
Those things kill curiosity. Not just of proper mic placement. But all aspects of podcasting, from sound quality to hosting to formats to the future. We need a twist on an old saying:
A lack of curiosity killed the podcast.
How To Inject More Curiosity Into Your Podcast
In a medium awash with practically unlimited content, it’s puzzling that more podcasters don’t seek out various opinions. Instead, theor lack of curiosity tends to increase their bubble factor. It feels right to listen to the other shows that cover the same or similar material to your podcast. But if that’s all you listen to (and Podcast Pontifications, obviously) you may be missing out on advances in other areas. I see a shocking number of podcasts where 3-year-old best practices have yet to be implemented.
I feel a little weird giving advice about this, because curiosity is second nature to me. I don't know how to not be curious. I'm the person you don’t want to hike with, because I invariably want to see what’s on the other side of the next hill. I’m the person who can’t sit still on the perfect beach because the cove on either side might be even more perfect.
If that’s not you and you want to change that, let’s go back and figure out which of the four problems -- or what combination of problems -- is stopping you from being more curious.
If it’s uncertainty and fear that stops you in your tracks, I’ll help by reminding you that you probably won’t screw things up if you experiment a little. This isn’t live radio, so if something you try doesn’t work, no one but you will know. And even if you do decide to release something live that you’re unsure of, I promise you that the vast majority of your listeners will not be offended by you trying new things. So go for it. It's probably going to be fine.
If you’re lacking time, find someone with time. You can take yourself out of the time equation, but it’s going to take time to experiment with your podcast. You might be able to lean on someone close to who is curious. Or you might have an employee who you could turn to for some help. And if all else fails, you might need to bring in some outside talent and pay for their time.
If it’s a lack of caring, then you should stop. Period. It’s not worth it to you or the listeners to keep putting out something you're not feeling. Tell your co-host if necessary. Tell your boss. And if it’s all on you, record a quick “I quit” episode and shut the show down. That’s the responsible thing to do.
And if you find yourself relying on the tribe to do your research - stop. Do your own research. Come up with some options on your own that work in your unique situation and environment. And then turn to your hivemind for validation. That might keep the randos at bay.
Politicians and civic leaders around the globe are either thinking about or are in the process of lifting lockdown restrictions. Won't that be nice? And maybe terrifying? I'm curious what that means to you as a working podcaster looking forward to the end of the lockdown. Record me a minute or two of audio and send that to me via a Dropbox link, which you can send to firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you're curious what happens when you go to BuyMeACoffee.com/EvoTerra, I encourage you to scratch that curious itch. And you help support the making of this show. Win-win!
Finally pick up the phone and use it like a phone to call another podcaster and ask them if they listen to Podcast Pontifications. That’ll get them curious about what sorts of goodness they’re missing out on over here.
I shall be back tomorrow with yet another Podcast Pontifications.