It is mid-December, here in real time as I write this blog post. I live and work in Minneapolis, MN, and I have for most of my nearly three decades of life. I have seen winters with the absolute worst snowstorms, I have been stuck in countless traffic jams originating from inadequate plowing and heavy precipitation. I have seen blizzards in mid-October and late-March. But I have never seen this much rainfall in December.
The Twin Cities is 10” below average snowfall this year, and instead of average temperatures around 11 degrees, we’re averaging temperatures just above freezing. It doesn’t feel like December, much less like Christmas is next week! While it’s depressing that my usually reliable state will not be delivering on a white Christmas, I’m liking the fact that I’m not stuck in traffic for 2 hours on each end of my work day.
The last month or so has been pretty busy in my life as my family prepares for my sister’s wedding at the beginning of January, and as such, I’ve been reflecting more on what I spend my time doing. I have been forced to cut out the fluff and do only those things that I have to do. I listen to a lot of podcasts, since my commute to and from work, on average, is about 25 – 40 minutes a leg. The three I have kept in my playlist in spite of my busyness share two very important things in common, which I believe are pretty central to the conversation Brian and special guest Glenn the Geek have on this week’s Profitcast!
The three podcasts I listen to on a weekly basis are RadioLab (which…isn’t released weekly), The Irish and Celtic Music Podcast, and Soccer Morning with Jason Davis (a daily morning show). I’m alerted by new episodes and within minutes I’m listening. They’re all different lengths, they’re all different genres, they’re all very unique. While RadioLab isn’t as “niched down” as we tend to emphasize podcasts need to be, it has a corner in storytelling that is nearly irreplaceable to me.
So what do these three podcasts have in common, you ask?
One. They entertain in order to inform, but in very different ways. They aren’t strictly entertainment podcasts, nor news podcasts. They have always been information via performance, but I didn’t really get what that meant to me until reflecting on this in the past week or so.
If you’ve never listened to RadioLab, their schtick is delivering complex stories about science and philosophy through an accessible method of storytelling and extremely imaginative audio production. Spending just 20-60 minutes with Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich, I can learn some of the most outstanding things about life.
Soccer Morning, on the other hand, utilizes a much more classic talk-show/radio approach, and the host, Jason, entertains through an assortment of invaluable interviews and live discussions with listeners. He’s knowledgeable and passionate and has a way of attracting other people who are passionate. Plus, it’s soccer. Passion is soccer’s middle name.
Lastly, but not leastly, is the Irish and Celtic Music Podcast, which is the podcast I’ve been listening to the longest and the one that never disappoints. Marc Gunn somehow manages to put a show together every week that perfectly satiates my musical needs and my curiosity of celtic culture.
Information through entertainment. It is no secret that our culture is inundated with information all day long, and at the end of the day we need to fool people into learning. If someone sits down thinking, “Now, I have to spend time learning about XYZ.” there is an immediate shift in perspective, and an association made between the listener and the host that gradually commits them both to an unspoken obligation. But when we are able to lull someone into learning by distracting them from a tedious activity (i.e. my 30 minute commute 2x a day), we’ve successfully locked in a committed listener (and as a result, quit calling them listeners).
The irony is that even though I listen to these podcasts on a regular basis, I have zero involvement in any community surrounding them. Maybe slightly with the Irish and Celtic Music Podcast, but nothing near the degree to which I’m involved in my own podcasts, for example.
Two. Consistency. With the slight exception of RadioLab’s approximate bi-monthly installments, these are the most doggone consistent podcasts. Soccer Morning airs live at the same time every day, Monday through Friday, and releases a special installment on Sundays. And I get an email basically every Monday afternoon that a new Irish and Celtic Music Podcast is available to me, with a personal note from Marc Gunn to all his supporters, detailing what I can expect coming up from the podcast and any changes he’s making or events he’s attending or shows he’s performing or trips he’s leading.
Someday, Marc, I will make it to one of your shows! I don’t think he reads these blog posts, of course, but he’s my Celtic hero.
Consistency is more important for Soccer Morning and The Irish and Celtic Music podcast than for RadioLab, simply due to the nature of NPR and that podcast’s success, but even between these two the consistency is different. Where Marc Gun utilizes Patreon pretty heavily with The Irish and Celtic Music Podcast, Soccer Morning is a network podcast that is part of a much larger business. The reasons for being consistent are very different.
I have a big takeaway from Brian and Glenn’s discussion as it relates to my observations about the podcasts I’m still listening to during this busy season. This takeaway comes at a perfect time because I’ve begun to get a little frustrated in my own podcasting experiences as it pertains to performance. I’ve always been really hard on myself for not being a great articulator. I don’t always feel confident in having to vocalize a thought, I’d much rather write it out. But this is something I can work on. Like with Brian and Addy’s idea for this Mastermind, I am capable of improving upon the way I present myself and perform behind the microphone.
We can’t ever conclude on why someone chooses to listen to our podcast. We hope it’s because we provide a product of quality, we hope it’s because we’re interesting and make information interesting. But we don’t ever really know why. Why does someone listen to Arrow Squad instead of the other dozen Arrow podcasts? Sometimes it’s simply an It factor. Or sometimes, like with Glenn, it’s a niche factor. But the why doesn’t matter in the end. When we’ve captured the attention of an audience, regardless of its size, it is our duty to always strive to get better at what we do. It is our duty to provide our listeners with quality content, with opportunities to get involved, with quality, passionate guests, with relevant information, with the ability to engage with us and for us to give back. Podcasting is reciprocal. There is just as much life force within our motivation to improve as there is in our community’s level of engagement.
Basically, we could all benefit from a Mastermind. A place that we’re not shy to ask hard or taboo questions. We’re not ashamed to struggle or to succeed, and are surrounded by others who can encourage us and mold our perspective. But, most importantly, a place where we go with the intention to fulfill the duty we have to our medium, to be performers consistently entering into the cycle of learning, practicing, and implementing.
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