29 May 2013

BEA 2013: Boy Meets World Meets Ears – Podcasting For Rider Strong And Others

Live at BookExpo America, the major trade show of the book publishing industry. Because of the WiFi situation I wasn't able to add links to all of these great shows; I will work on that later when the connection is better. 

It wasn’t surprising that more than half of the audience assembled for “Building Community Through Podcasting” was contemplating starting a podcast of their own. Moderator Ann Kingman described the session as being a step above “How To Start A Podcast” and invited panelists to share their “origin stories”:

·         Kingman and her cohost on Books on the Nightstand are sales reps at Random House who got hooked on podcasting through knitting podcasts (no, but for real) and wanted to start one that wasn’t associated with a major media company like the Times. Podcasting fell in line with the book talks they were doing as part of the sales process.
·         Josh Christie of Bookrageous said his show started in 2010 among friends online who were already having conversations about books and reading they decided to start taping. There were a lot of interview podcasts (NPR, etc.) and a lot of serious academic podcasts, but he felt none that were aimed at consumers and popular fiction and nonfiction.
·         Julia Pistell reached out to two former classmates of Bennington’s MFA program, none of whom work in publishing now, to found Literary Disco – “for people who read GAME OF THRONES and then MIDDLEMARCH and then poetry.” (One of those classmates is Rider Strong of “Boy Meets World” fame, and there is a name I haven’t thought of in at least 15 years.)
·         Jeff Rutherford used to work in publishing at an agency before founding the Reading and Writing Podcast. He is the sole host, unlike the other podcasts on the panel, and conducts author interviews on his lunch break via Skype.

Christie described his listeners as “insidery” because many of the guests on his show are involved in publishing professionally. Pistell noted a high proportion of high school and college students who felt their love of reading was isolating to them, and write into the show grateful for its sense of community. She also hosts the occasional author guest and sees the podcast’s value as a marketing tool (for, for example, Sara Levine, author of TREASURE ISLAND!!!). Rutherford says his day job in digital PR is abetted by what he sees as a hobby, but he also enjoys talking with authors at length and meeting others in the podcasting community through it. 

The panelists use comments, emails, affiliate sales (through their website) and Goodreads community membership to measure their impact. Christie and his Bookrageous cohosts have a BEA party every year (it’s tonight, in fact). Kingman actually hosted a weekend retreat at an inn in Vermont with overwhelming results. Christie stressed that while podcast audiences can be numerically very small, the self-selection of the audiences and the consistency of delivering that content can indicate a high level of engagement to curious would-be sponsors or marketing departments.

The session whetted my appetite for podcasting and for listening to the 3 shows of 4 above that I’m not already familiar with. (Besides Bookrageous, my favorite book podcasts are Slate’s Audio Book Club, Other People with Brad Listi, and the New Yorker fiction podcast, which also got a shout-out at this panel. I’d also encourage people to check out the book-related episodes of Marc Maron’s WTF, Julie Klausner’s How Was Your Week? and Elvis Mitchell’s The Treatment.) I have long wanted to start a podcast but haven’t quite found that perfect co-host or -hosts who believe in that dream with me. (I could chatter on by myself, but then I’d have to also get guests. Hmmmm.) For other people like me who might be standing on that precipice, Pistell recommended starting with older books rather than new releases that no one has had time to read so far; the “long tail” of classics or books you (should have) read in school can get more members of your audience to participate because they don’t have homework to do. And Rutherford recommends recording 3 episodes of your show but not scheduling a release till the 4th show, so you can get in the groove first. 

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