Back in the day, podcasters needed to be the proverbial Jack of all trades. We needed to have a fairly comprehensive knowledge of audio file formats, XML, audio editing software, the inner-workings of distribution platforms, complex recording equipment set up… Oh, and the ability to make compelling content that would keep our listeners listening.
But that’s changed, and with that change comes a division between OG podcasters who know all that stuff and the newer podcasters who use tools and services we didn't have access to because they didn’t exist when we got started. These new tools allow them to have a podcast without truly becoming a podcaster, at least as we define the role.
I think that's unfair. And we should all stop.
Of RINOs, DINOs, and PINOs
This US election cycle has been a giant shitshow, but it has caused two terms - RINO and DINO - to become a part of our cultural lexicon. Both are pejorative terms that are summed up nicely (?) by their actual meanings: Republican In Name Only and Democrat In Name Only.
As a proud independent voter, I chuckle over that infighting, mostly looking askance at the hubris of the keepers of the faith and true adherents of “the party” calling out others for not going far enough or not clinging tightly enough to the official party lines.
I think that's rubbish.
This attitude and name-calling ignores the fact that change is constantly happening, and that whatever the current flavor of today is, it likely barely resembles that same named party a generation ago.
Podcasting has this problem as well, where “elites” or “OG” podcasters look at the flood of new apps that make podcasting more accessible than ever before and, instead of being excited by the flood of new interested people, turn up our noses or insist these noobs aren’t doing podcasting “The Right Way”.
Again, rubbish. I’ve built my entire podcasting consultancy around servicing the needs of clients who want to have a podcast but do not wish to learn how to make a podcast on their own. They are, in fact, podcasters in name only - PINOs.
PINOs Deserve Respect From other Podcasters
Choosing the PINO path is not a negative thing. Letting someone else (or something else) worry about the technical underpinnings of podcasting is, for my clients, super smart! Let me make a really bold statement that will upset “full-stack” podcasters but come as welcome news for those who’ve taken the PINO path:
In the next five years, podcasting will see more advancements than seen in the previous 16 years since podcasting began. And almost all of those amazing technological advancements will benefit PINOS, not full-stack podcasters.
Actually, this prediction is more obvious than bold. The trend for the last five years has been technologists making every single aspect of podcasting easier. Some (👋) have lamented that easier doesn’t mean better, but they (👋) perhaps have forgotten that easier is often followed by better.
That trend will continue, making it harder for us OG, full-stack podcasters to keep up with advancements the PINOs are taking full advantage of. All the new tools will be aimed at them, not us, enabling them to do new things in podcasting that we can’t even envision because our brains are clogged with arcane knowledge that was critical to know in 2004. But it hasn’t been 2004 in a very, very long time.
Facing the reality that new podcasters weren’t following “the rules” is one of the reasons why I stepped back from writing Podcasting for Dummies midway through the 2nd edition. I realized there were so many different directions a podcast might take, writing a “how to” book for the masses seemed pointless when new podcasters seemed more interested in blazing their own trail than learning how to use an FTP client.
4 Lessons Full-Stack Podcasters Can Learn From PINOs
Rather than disparaging these podcasters in name only, we should be learning from them to make the podcasts we create much, much better.
1. Better Storytelling
With our brains filled with technical and factual data - some still relevant but mostly useful only in bitchy Twitter rants - we often fail to see the forest for the trees. While full-stack podcasters go into tactical mode contemplating the right DAW, hosting platform, release schedules, feed management and more, the PINOs are focused on telling a great story. They aren’t thinking about waveforms and noise profiles. They’re thinking about the words they’ll use to tell their story over a series of episodes, and how sections of words can be re-arranged to tell that story better.
2. Better Soundscaping/Scoring
The aptitude to effectively and subtly use music and other sounds to enhance a podcast episode has nothing to do with one’s ability to troubleshoot an RSS feed.
Likewise, different skills are required to effectively use a DAW - digital audio workstation - to build an immersive aural experience than to edit out filler words from an interview. Yes, the tool is the same, but it’s wielded in vastly different ways. “I know what sounds good” is a perfectly acceptable perspective, if you can pull it off. And they’re pulling it off without being able to teach a Master’s class in audio engineering.
3. Better Resilience
Many PINOs aren’t stymied by changes to existing platforms that interrupt their process. They quickly get over their moment of crisis and move, adapt, or adjust to the new processes. They’re used to services closing, getting acquired and shut down, or pivoting with little warning. It’s us full-stack podcasters with all of our acquired knowledge and rigid processes that are thrown into a tailspin when we upgrade our OS only to discover that our plugins don’t work.
4. Better Creativity
It’s hard to be creative when our full-stack podcasting brains insist we follow familiar paths. Like a COBAL programmer pining for Y2K days, we’re convinced that our way is the only way to approach a problem or new project. But unburdened with the linear thinking that plagues those with near-encyclopedic knowledge, the brains of PINOs are free to think creatively.
They don’t have an immediate answer at the ready, which frees them on a creative path as they explore various ways to make amazing content. They experiment or try weird things that many of us would never consider. And sometimes, they strike gold.
Ceding The Future Of Podcasting To PINOs… And Becoming A Better Podcaster For It
I haven’t always been kind to PINOs. I’m not sure I’ve ever been mean, but I know I’ve often been dismissive. No more of that.
From now on, and once we can go back to seeing new people in real life, I’m going to start befriending PINOs and actively trying to learn from them. When the PHX Podcast Club meets again, I’ll no longer try to convince members - mostly hobbyists - to join the full-stack podcasting way.
Nope. I’m flipping the tables on them and will eagerly listen as they school me on how they make their podcasts. Because I think that these podcasters in name only are a lot closer to the future than I am. You too, perhaps.
Only one more article tomorrow from me, then I go on Evo’s Long Winter’s Nap until early January 2021. If you’re subscribed to the podcast, you’ll still get content: just not from me. A few working podcasters who listen to this show or read these articles have agreed to do their own pontificating while I’m away. If you’d like to do that as well, get in touch with me: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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I shall be back tomorrow with yet another Podcast Pontifications.