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 I Learned About Money, Personal Finance and Podcasts From Farnoosh Torabi

  
I’ll never forget the first thing personal finance journalist and podcaster Farnoosh Torabi said to me a few months before I launched our new weekly podcast, “How Do We Fix It?”.

“What is going to be your target audience?” she asked, looking me straight in the eye as we sat down for lunch at a restuarant in Midtown Manhattan.

Well, I have to admit that 7 shows in, I’m still working on that.  

Unlike many podcasts built around niche markets, such as health, wealth, relationships, or being a great entrepreneur, ours is general interest.  Our listeners don’t have exactly the same interests, or three or four favorite Twitter feeds and Facebook pages that they all go to.

The community we are building week-by-week wants solutions to many different problems that bug all of us – whether it’s the challenge of raising kids with good values and curious minds, the struggle of getting out from under a mountain of debt, or how to end boredom in the workplace. 

We’re not in the blame game.  Our show has a positive, independent point of view that shuns the old left vs. right mindset.  

I’ve been watching my friend Farnoosh rather closely to see what ideas we can learn from her about growing an audience.  

The first thing I learned is that she’s a brilliant marketer, who does a great job of using Twitter and the So Money website to promote herself, her guests and ideas.  Farnoosh is also the real deal who cares about her listeners.  In a medium as intimate as podcasting, being authentic is vitally important.

This week I was a guest on her daily show.  After years of interviews where I ask the questions, it was a bit of a shock to have the tables turned!  And Farnoosh was very clear about she wanted from me:  life lessons and good stories about my experience with money.

Her show’s example has helped Jim, Miranda and I (The “Fix It” team) with our podcast.  How Do We Fix It? isn’t just about good ideas and concise solutions.  We also need to tell personal stories.  And we want listeners to give us guidance and suggestions about where our show should go next. 

Unlike the old days, when broadcast and print journalists simply put out a well produced finished product, podcasts are more spontaneous and part of a conversation.

To build support, we’ve just added a pop-up page at our website, urging listeners and supporters to sign-up and suggest ideas for future shows.  Having subscribers who rate our shows in iTunes is vitally important to us.  

In the near future, How Do We Fix It? may launch a Kickstarter page to raise funds to get the message out about our big idea. Our show is about solutions.  We welcome lively minds with fresh ideas, who want to make our country better. That’s why we also picked Farnoosh to be our guest this week.

   

 
Five years after the worst of the recession ended, tens of millions of Americans are still struggling to make ends meet.  For many the assumptions of a comfortable life were swept away with the mortgage mess and near financial collapse in 2008.

 Because the subject can be painful, it’s easy to be in money denial.  Farnoosh makes the case for making financial management a part of your daily life. “A lot of us don’t even take that first step of acknowledging money is important and that it can be a means to achieving a lot of life’s goals,” she says. 

“If you have a story in your head that says ‘I’m not good enough, I’m not rich enough, I can’t work the job that will pay me enough money… Those are just barriers that you’ve created in your mind that are keeping you away from being able to reach financial freedom.”

Farnoosh is not suggesting that we obsess about money, and give it primacy over love, relationships and family.  “You don’t have to give up your morning latte to achieve your goals.”

 

Father’s Day Thoughts: Time to Celebrate and Say Thank-You to Our Kids 

  

When I was young I  had a hard time smiling for the camera.  Mug shots of me were awkward and uncomfortable.  

But that quickly changed when our daughter Kate was born 29 years ago.  It was as if a light bulb went on.  For some magical reason that I will never understand, now that I was a father it was much easier to smile at will. 

This was one of the countless gifts that my kids gave to me.

Fast forward to this year.  Now that Kate and her brother Harry have started their careers, I’ve had the chutzpah to re-launch mine.

After decades of a pretty rewarding job and a regular paycheck, I started an audio business, DaviesContent.  My kids are both working for themselves, and now I am to.

They’ve taught me about patience (something I don’t have much of), added to my rudimentary understanding of technology, and  helped me understand that if you’re going to have a chance of being successful at being your own boss, you have to be remarkably persistent.  That means seeing things through one project at a time, and one day at a time. 

Publicizing and launching our new weekly podcast show this month, How Do We Fix It? and finding an audience for it is a struggle.  The darned thing never goes away. I feel possessed!  But watching and learning from my kids has added to my confidence and determination that this will be a big success.

And I’m far from alone. Many other baby boomers are also launching grown-up startups.  They have the audacity to put themselves out there, re-discovering the passion that they had when they were young: doing something new, and perhaps making a difference.

Like me, many other fathers have watched their gutsy,determined adult children as they knock on doors and learn new tricks in a rapidly changing and uncertain job market.

We really can learn from them.

For me , Father’s Day is not just a celebration of Dads, it’s also a chance to reflect on what our children have brought to us.

Mocking Donald Trump: Fun For Some, But It’s Bad For America

  

Sure, it’s easy to make fun of Donald Trump.  The front-page of the New York Daily News portrayed him as a clown.

The mocking mainstream media had a field day after Trump announced that he was running for President. The speech was “like it was plagiarized from an old drunk man mumbling to himself in a bar,” wrote Chicago Tribune columnist, Red Huppke.

Others called Trump egotistical, bombastic, a bloviating buffoon. 

The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart sounded positively gleeful about the Trump event saying “it was over a half-hour of the most beautifully ridiculous jibber-jabber ever to pour forth from the mouth of a billionaire.”

How hilarious.  It’s easy to sit back and have a good laugh at those we despise.

But there’s a dark side to the thrill of political hating.  It contributes to a nasty climate of cynicism, distrust and even despair.

“We citizens need to look inward a little,” says Arthur C. Brooks, President of the American Enterprise Institute. 

“Whether or not we want to admit it, political hate is a demand-driven phenomenon.  We are the ones creating a big market for it.”

This week Donald Trump is the most searched Presidential candidate on Google.

Do your own calculation.  For every newspaper article, radio or TV story about a new idea or a constructive way to think about a political problem, there must be a hundred examples of ridicule, sensation or mockery.

What the heck are we doing to our public square?

I agree with Arthur Brooks.  You can fight back.  Whatever your own view of the world, “avoid indulging in snarky, contemptuous dismissals of Americans on the other side.”

I’ve Got a Blog. So, Why Am I Launching a Brand New Kick-Ass Podcast?

  

 Co-host Jim Meigs and I on the How Do We Fix It? Facebook page.


We’re in the final stages of building a brand new weekly podcast, and I’m pretty excited about it.  If all goes well, How Do We Fix It? will be up on iTunes by June 10th.

That would be exactly two months to the day since I left ABC News Radio.

Why bother? Why throw our podcast pebble into the frenzied media firmament?

Unlike many news and public affairs shows, where the tired old left vs. right arguments are hurled across the table, our half-hour podcast is a spontaneous conversation about new solutions and fresh thinking.

Rather than shouting at each other, we take some of the best ideas out there, no matter where they come from. 

Jim Meigs and I are both good friends, who’ve spent decades in the news media.  Jim has been editor-in-chief of four magazines, most recently Popular Mechanics.  I covered politics, business, and finance for ABC News Radio.

We don’t agree on everything (far from it!).  But Jim and I are both practical guys who think there’s a big hole in the market for a show that tackles tech, teaching, taxes and many other controversial matters in a positive way. It’s time for a show that sheds more light than heat.
  
We’re building a website for our podcast at http://www.howdowefixit.me


In the first episodes of How Do We Fix It? we’ve had a lot of fun learning from some of the best in the business.  

Phil Plait, who writes the highly popular Bad Astronomy blog at Slate gives us some great insights into how to fix the space program.  Elizabeth Green, author of the excellent book, Building A Better Teacher, has solid common-sense advice for parents who worry about the quality of teaching in public schools.  And motivation expert Ron Friedman has fascinating thoughts on how to create a happier workforce. Those are just three of our shows.

Jim and I are thinking outside the box and going beyond labels.  How Do We Fix It? talks about practical ways to put theories into practice.

We’ve also had a ton of help from our producer Miranda Shafer, audio mixologists Jim Briggs, Denise Barbarita of MONOLisa Studio, and Joe Plourde, as well as composer Lou Stravinsky. Thanks all!

These shows came about after years of lively chats that Jim and I had together over dinner, coffee or simply out hiking together.  We want to make the world a better place, and are tired of politicians, pundits and others shouting the same phrases and making the same mistakes over and over again.

We hope you’ll listen and suggest new episodes and smart people who we can have as guests. Pull up a chair and join the conversation. Like and add your suggestions to our Fix It Show Facebook page, and please follow @fixitshow on Twitter.

Instead of kicking up a lot of dust, we like to bring people together as we talk about the stuff government, businesses, communities and all of us can do to improve our lives. 

That’s something new, people!