The Waveform is a newsletter from Red Cup Agency about the next edge in podcasting. In each issue, I’ll stay on top of things for you. When we launch a new show or post an episode that stands out, I’ll drop that into the newsletter.
I’m Lee Schneider, founder and lead producer at Red Cup Agency. Did someone forward this to you, or are you reading it on the web? You can subscribe for free.
Andia Winslow is the star of our audio drama Mission of the Lunar Sparrow. At the OneVoice Awards a few weeks ago, she took home the hardware for Voiceover Artist of the Year 2021 and also Best Performance in the Gaming category. Not only is she the lead voice in Mission of the Lunar Sparrow, but she’s also host of a 10-episode podcast we’re producing for a global consultancy firm. (I signed an NDA on that one, so the name has to stay confidential.) Andia is super-talented. I hope you’ve enjoyed her work in Mission of the Lunar Sparrow.
We’ve been in production on The Glo Podcast since earlier in the year, and it’s remarkable that we’ve already posted more than 20 episodes. I’m working closely with the (large) Glo team on this podcast. We have another 20 episodes in the pipeline.
Our most recent episode features an interview with Jo Tastula, a mystical thinker, mother, and yoga teacher of the first order. As in every conversation on this podcast, we go deep into life, how people become better humans, and we tell fascinating stories you won’t hear anywhere else. Just last week, we recorded stories about good and bad anxiety, the chatter in your mind, and spirit world experiences. I’ve been the recording engineer on most of the episodes. It’s been illuminating and fun to listen in on the conversations as we record each episode.
Jo Tastula is not only an extraordinary thinker and teacher, she was also a pioneer — one of the first to teach yoga online with Glo. Listen to Jo’s story on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you like to listen to podcasts.
If you look at the list of Top 50 Podcasts for the past year, you see patterns that scream tradition. At the top, we have Joe Rogan, a shock jock in the tradition of Howard Stern. We have daily-deadline-news from The Daily and true crime from Crime Junkie. If you keep going further down the list, you’ll get to the NPR stalwarts This American Life, Wait, Wait … Don’t Tell Me, and Planet Money. Each one of those shows have their own kind of traditions. A little ways down the list is Stuff You Should Know from iHeartRadio, which also comes out in a television version. It would be right at home on the Discovery Network and reminds me of some of the shows I used to produce for Discovery, History, and A&E.
You have to get out of the top-ten category types to discover shows that are less like radio and define what podcasting is all about. Shows like Code Switch, Reply All, and Everything is Alive bring what’s best about airing diverse views, giving voice to marginalized people, unrolling long-form essays in audio form, and launching experimental audio dramas that render imaginary worlds. Move further down the list and you get to break things. My Favorite Murder is a popular genre-breaking comedy about … murder. It works as a podcast. Good luck pitching that idea to a television network.
Nick Quah has been writing about the podcast industry in a newsletter called Hot Pod since 2014. He can open up this thought better than I can.
I haven’t fully formed this thought yet, so allow me the indulgence of thinking out loud here: It’s been my impression that, based on the events of the last five years, the rise of podcasting didn’t end up necessarily challenging linear radio in any fundamental way but it did unlock greater untapped value by introducing more efficiency to audio consumption and creation. Say what you want about “peak podcasts,” but today, there’s a whole galaxy and generation of shows — from narrative stuff to extremely long chatcasts to shows hosted by people who would otherwise be denied access to airtime by traditional gatekeepers — that simply wasn’t well-served by the technical structure and dominant incentives of traditional radio. And so, instead of directly interrupting linear radio, podcasting ended up creating new markets, businesses, and systems around linear radio, at times funneling value back into it.
– Nick Quah
Nick announced in early September that he’s shutting down Hot Pod. I’ll miss his way of coming to insights in a ruminative way that seems casual, but not really. He’s started up a new newsletter for Vulture called 1.5x Speed, so I’ll be reading him there and hoping it’s as good.
Advertising is another way podcasting currently resembles radio. Hosts pitch whatever they’re paid to pitch. Commercials can interrupt your favorite shows multiple times, messing with your listening experience. This format is great for drive time radio. It’s super for morning shows. It’s not so great for podcasting, especially podcasts that intend to hold your attention. The whole point of a podcast, for me, is that it makes you want to listen all the way through. The best of them draw you in and don’t let you go until the last music fade out.
This is why subscriptions will soon be the dominant way to fund an indie podcast. Most independent producers already work hard to build their audiences and communities. They activate their social media feeds, hawk merch, celebrate art their fans make, appear at events, do Clubhouse, kiss babies (not really), and some have Patreon accounts to support their show.
In a new development, you can offer a subscription to your podcast on Apple, or you can use a service like the aforementioned Patreon or a service like Memberful to build support for your work. In my next post on The Waveform, I’ll write about how podcasts are building audiences and funding themselves through memberships.
At Red Cup, we’ve been crafting marketing plans for clients for a while, but I haven’t made a big deal about it. It’s just something that I offer when I produce your podcast. That’s changing because more people are coming to me asking for standalone podcast marketing services. For example, this month, we are doing the marketing plan for a new podcast called Defenders of the Earth launched by Global Witness. We’re making audio trailers and promos. More details on an upcoming issue of The Waveform.
Working with teams large and small, I take podcasts from the glimmer of an idea into production and distribution. We make trailers, ad spots and promos for your podcast, and we find new audiences for you work with cross promotion.
You can read freely at The Waveform. I’m not tracking opens, clicks, or forwards. I’m not analyzing your IP address location. It’s just you and me, writing and reading. This is a small part of the vast Web focused on people and dialog, not marketing data collection.