Podcasting Movement:  Kind of Like Woodstock Without the Sex, Mud and Rock n Roll

Actress and comedian Aisha Tyler on podcasting:  “I do it because I love it”

I’m just back from Podcast Movement, the annual pep rally, support group and two-day college course for podcasters in Fort Worth.  Chances are you’ve never been to an industry show quite like this one.

1100 attendees paid $500 each, plus hotel and airfare, for an earnest and at times joyous lovefest.  Think Woodstock minus the sex, mud and rock & roll.  What a way to network: I came with nearly 200 business cards for my How Do We Fix It?  podcast, and left with only a handful. 

“Podcasters enjoy being together. They want to learn from the best in the industry,” says Jared Easley, co-founder of Podcast Movement. 

 Most were either wannabe podcasters, or newbies like me, looking to learn all they can about their chosen passion. They’re their own program directors, show hosts, engineers and sales team. Most of us here haven’t made a dime from our shows … yet.  

But hope springs eternal. It’s been a heck of a year for this chaotic, young online industry since the first, and much smaller, Podcast Movement conference that was held last summer.

Weeks ago, in late June, President Obama appeared in-person for an episode of WTF With Marc Maron, recorded in the comedian’s garage at his house in Los Angeles.

Since rolling out last fall, the hit show “Serial” has been downloaded an astonishing 94 million times. Its runaway success sparked a wave of mainstream media coverage about podcasting in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Saturday Night Live and many other places.  A playful video segment on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon last fall featured Ira Glass of “This American Life,” and a woman in her late-80’s, describing how easy it was to listen to a podcast.

Marketers and tech firms are taking note of podcasting’s recent growth. Some companies sponsored booths and took part in Q & A sessions. Many programmers, marketers, equipment vendors and automobile manufacturers have beefed up their investments. Audible (owned by Amazon) is jumping into podcasting, and Apple embedded a purple podcast into the iOS operating system on iPhones and iPads. 

 “I do it because I love it,” declared actress and comedian Aisha Tyler, well-known for hosting “Whose Line Is It Anyway” on ABC. In a speech that was frequently interrupted by laughter, cheers and applause, Tyler spoke of her own success and struggles in making “Girl on Guy,” the four-year old weekly podcast, where she interviews her favorite male celebrity friends. “It is the purest expression of what I do,” she said. 

Another keynoter was Lou Mongello, author, host and producer of the WDW Radio Show podcast. He urged podcasters “to be passionate, persistent and patient about what you are doing.” 
The audience can hear the passion in your voice, Mongello told me. “Worrying about your microphone, your plug-ins and your software is secondary to finding your voice and finding your audience.”
 There are said to be roughly 300,000 podcasts in production today in The United States. From self-help to sales shows, comedy to current affairs, they include an astonishing range of subjects, formats and production standards.  

“For someone who’s interested in learning, or having a laugh because life is challenging, I think podcasting is an amazing blessing,” says conference organizer Jared Easley. “There are so many good and talented people who are putting so much time and energy into content.”

But will they make money? That was the uneasy question hanging over this event. There are only a small number of podcasts that give their creators anything like a comfortable living. 
The only safe bet is that an industry shakeout is coming.  But while podcasting is still fairly young and cool, it’s great fun to be along for the ride.  Kind of reminds me of the early days of FM rock radio, before the slick program consultants crashed the party.

What Walmart & Amazon Could Teach Congress

biz cartoon
Mike Licht NotionsCapital.com

Quick question. What’s the biggest difference between our business and political leaders?

One group is intensely focused on getting things done, while the other keeps repeating the same old rhetoric. I’ll leave it up to you to decide who’s who!

I was struck by these starkly different mindsets when I came across two articles in the same paper.  One was about the political paralysis in DC over health care, while the other was on the steps Walmart is taking to fight back against Amazon.

First to business.  Both these companies are corporate big dogs,  dominant on their own turf.  Walmart is the leading brick-and-mortar retailer.  Amazon is king of the internet jungle.


A growing problem for Walmart is that not only are shoppers increasingly turning away from physical stores and spending more instead on e-commerce,  Amazon is also encroaching on traditional store turf, going local with new distribution centers across the country to speed-up delivery of online purchases.

Walmart is “frantically playing catchup” by learning the technology business.

Far from its sprawling company campus in Bentonville, Arkansas, the giant retailer has set-up @WalmartLabs in Silicon Valley.  It’s spending big money on new online headquarters to attract A-list programmers and engineers so that Walmart can successfully compete with Amazon by building a better website.

Contrast this bid for reinvention, improvement and a change in culture with the stale debate among our political leaders over Obamacare.

In what was obviously a futile attempt right from the start, House Republicans voted 40 times to repeal the law.  40 separate times!

At the White House the focus until very recently was much more on the politics of health care than on the nuts and bolts of delivering a first-class website for the new federal marketplace opened October 1st.  President Obama and his aides are paying dearly for that now.

In an illuminating op-ed for the New York Times, economics professor Tyler Cowen suggested that what both sides in the Obamacare debate should be talking about is the delivery of a better system that saves money and delivers coverage to many more people.

“One of the few things Democrats and Republicans agree on is that the law is imperfect at best,” writes Cowen.  Improvements are in reach if they could swallow some pride.  “Both sides have a lot to gain, and at some point, they should realize it.”

You don’t have to agree with Cowen’s argument for moving millions of low income families  from Medicaid to Obamacare to applaud the spirit of his ideas.  At least he is seriously examining how the government delivers services to the people at a cost that taxpayers can afford.

Whether you like them or loathe them, believe that they are can-do capitalists or heartless overpaid plutocrats, that spirit of problem solving is at least something that America’s captains of industry understand.  It’s a lesson more politicians should learn.