The Podcast Expo recently ended and there has been a flurry of news and hype following the event. As a phenomenon it has exploded in almost no time, and now everyone is running around trying to figure out how to make money being involved with it. It's kind of hilarious because it reminds me of 1999!
It's kind of hard to find the substance that came out of that conference though. It's remarkable how everyone is so busy patting each other on the back for getting content out into the world around the traditional systems (or masturbating their egos over how great that is). Then there are people seeing dollar signs not connected to anything.
Two keynotes were noteworthy though. Jason Calacanis, who recently sold Weblogs to AOL, and made a lot of money doing so (not to mention generated seven-figure revenue from Google AdSense), basically told everyone they're being kind of stupid about blogging and podcasting. I respect that because anyone who can bank that much money and still say people have unrealistic expectations is firmly planted on the ground. He said there's potential, yes, but not to get greedy, and pull a build-and-flip.
Leo Laporte of This Week in Tech and TechTV fame also spoke, and he seemed to be more against the commercialization of the medium in general. Easy for him to say when he has "real" radio and TV gigs to feed his family. That's why some of his former TechTV co-workers weren't there, I suspect (Kevin Rose from Revision3 and Patrick Norton from Ziff-Davis' Digital Life TV). Those guys have day jobs where they're trying to figure out how to make a living on this stuff.
I thought podcasting was kind of silly until I started driving some heavy miles for coaching and my last contract job. Suddenly it all made perfect sense. Because the radio bug never really left me, naturally I had to give it a shot and do the CoasterBuzz Podcast. At least for now, it's not about money, fame or downloads, but I'm starting to understand that it has benefits that go far beyond any traditional metrics of success.
What does it do for me? Well, obviously it makes me happy, because I get to geek-out with other coaster geeks for a half-hour every week. I'm starting to remember a little what it was like when I did this stuff every day (nine years ago). The difference is now that I don't have to worry about Clear Channel buying my employer and firing everyone!
The unintended benefit of doing the podcast is that it helps build brand recognition for CoasterBuzz. That relationship works out for both our visitors (who are, in a way, customers) as well as the people we write about every day. Relationships are important in this industry because it's just too small. I'm not interested in challenging the credibility of 20-somethings with hobby sites, I'm interested in challenging the mainstream media, the print guys who I feel are becoming largely obsolete. I want their money and their audience. No idea how I'm going to get it, but that's certainly on my mind.
Of course, in a bigger picture sense, I'm actually more interested in doing something with more broad appeal. The coaster enthusiast market is relatively tiny, and the amusement industry audience is even smaller. I don't see a lot of opportunity for growth there, and I'm OK with that. We'll see what my next experiment leads to.