I’ve been excited by podcasting for quite a few years now. I love the accessibility and the immediacy of it, how anyone can make a podcast and anyone can listen to it, as long as you have the basic technology of a smartphone. For an emerging writer, it seems to be a largely untapped medium to get my stories out there and there are many different types of podcast formats to choose from. Although trends change, popular formats include conversational podcasts where unlikely (or likely) duos shoot the breeze – think Hamish and Andy currently ranked #8 in Top 100 downloaded podcasts in Australia – and non-fiction story-telling with enough true crime fodder to put the best crime writers out of business – think Casefile currently ranked #11 in Top 100 downloaded podcasts in Australia.
But what I’m interested in are the ‘narrative’ podcasts. The podcasts that tell a story in a serial format, whether they be pure fiction or something more like memoir. Fiction podcasts like Homecoming (now a Prime original TV series), Fitzroy Diaries (author has a book deal with Pan MacMillan) and The Horror of Dolores Roach (first a play, then a podcast, now being transformed into an Amazon TV series) are a feast for the ears. And memoir podcasts like Mum Says My Memoir is a Lie (based on the author’s book The Anti-Cool Girl), No Feeling is Final and Silent Waves. These podcasts demand a much more sophisticated, dedicated audience as they employ all the tropes of good storytelling and outstanding production values. This is the sort of podcast I want to make. I have the idea, I just need to find a few spare hours outside of my Master’s course and caring for my 10 month old baby to get on with it 😉
I’m also interested in how podcasting has evolved since its inception. What do we expect now as listeners that perhaps didn’t matter at the turn of the century before the digital medium advanced? How did we make the leap from two people talking (basically a radio show) to a cinematic-style production (like you’re at the movies with your eyes closed)? Could it be there is money to be made from podcasting and Hollywood is freaking out? It seems nowadays all the good storytelling has moved from the big screen and writers are attracted to different mediums, whether it be TV production or podcasting.
Gimlet Media seized on this opportunity in 2014, when its founder Alex Bloomberg, took a gamble and created his own podcasting company. Alex, former producer of This American Life – a highly successful podcast show, understood the underutilised potential of the digital medium and knew that similar to radio, it could attract advertisers to pay for airtime. But Alex was an entrepreneur and a businessman, interested in storytelling yes but more focused on production and growth. How does a humble emerging writer benefit from making a podcast?
I google my little heart out trying to find success stories of emerging writers with no published works somehow making a name for themselves through podcasting. It seems not to be a phenomenon. The narrative style podcasts I’ve mentioned above all seem to be by journalists not admin managers like me. Maybe my search terms are the problem? Or maybe it just isn’t a good avenue. Maybe it’s a far too long-winded approached to traditional publishing. It makes me think of Graeme Simsion of The Rosie Project fame. He wrote the story as a screenplay as he really wanted to be a script writer but it was constantly rejected as he was told Australians don’t like romcoms. He ended up converting it to prose, won a literary award and then sold the movie rights to Hollywood. It’s all very depressing.
I come to the conclusion that if I want to create a podcast it should be because I love the medium, not because I’m hoping for a book deal later. And I do love the medium. I like the idea of reading out my words and interviewing others but having total control over the outcome. And I think I have a worthwhile story to tell.