After almost three years of hosting a podcast one of the most frustrating things I have encountered is the fact that a large majority of people are not even aware that podcasts exist. I’ve encountered my fair share of puzzled looks and questions when I mention I have a podcast. “Is that on the internet?” many of the people will ask when I tell them about the show. I can’t believe that almost ten years after the format was invented that most people are oblivious to the podcast world. This is even after the success of many high profile podcasts. It just goes to show you how little of pop culture the average person is aware of. I mean, I’m not volunteering at the local senior center and telling the folks about my show while we catch a breather after doing the fox trot. I’m telling young and what I assume to be connected people who seem to be into being entertained. People are so involved in their own internet lives that they are seemingly oblivious to the things that are not directly connected to them. Sure a person could be tweeting 350 tweets a day, but that doesn’t mean they will listen to your podcast or even give it a second thought. It is one of the biggest obstacles when promoting a show.
Trying to get the attention of your target audience is increasingly difficult with the thousands of podcasts out there, not to mention the other million things people spend their time with like music, movies, TV, gossip and porn. This is especially difficult if you are a general topic comedy podcast like we are. We don’t really fit into any individual topic so it’s hard to convince strangers that we are worth listening to. The other obstacle that I have seen when telling people about the show is that people are not really sure how they can listen. Even with the majority of people constantly staring at their smartphones, they don’t seem to know that there is a world of entertainment at their fingertips. I have had to give people detailed instructions on how to setup a podcatcher with our RSS feed, subscribe to itunes or even download the stitcher app. There is not enough hours in the day to show everyone I meet how to find our RSS feed and then explain to them what an RSS feed is after that.
After a while I learned it is not even worth it to tell most people about the show. As my co-host Mark mentions on our show this week, there are lots of people who don’t even know who Adam Carolla is and he is arguably the most successful of us all. In fact that same person Mark was talking to didn’t even know who Jimmy Kimmel is and he is on a network show, not to mention the fact that he hosted the Emmys last year. Our best bet is to tell as many people about the our podcasts but don’t expect too much. Maybe every once in a while someone will actually figure out how to listen or actually become a regular listener. Instead we need to focus on people who actually listen to podcasts. We are probably still a few years away from the word Podcast and the most popular shows being something that is in the national lexicon and who knows if it will ever be something that young people are attracted to. The attention span of the average high school student or person in their early twenties is considerably shorter than us in the the generation or two before. I’ve seen statistics that said that most podcast listeners are in their late twenties to early thirties so we should probably market our shows accordingly. Unfortunately, if this demographic trend does keep up we may have to visit the senior center to promote the show afterall.
The internet is now littered with videos of various idiots doing their own rendition of the newest internet sensation, The Harlem Shake, which features a bunch of people dancing to what is one of the worst songs ever recorded. No one in their right mind would listen to that song in any other context other than watching morons who think they are doing something clever repeat the same joke over and over. I might give a little credit to whoever was the first one to put one of these videos out, but at this point that person should only get credit for wasting countless hours of our collective lives seeing or hearing the videos which every group, including some of our beloved sports teams, putting out their very own version. What is it about people that makes them so uncreative that they need to take some lame idea and then repeat it until every sane person wants to strangle the next person who even mentions the words Harlem or Shake? Sharing the videos like every other internet meme and laughing hysterically as they watch all of their equally dumb friends comment and like the posts. The worst part of this whole pop culture debacle is the fact that the song hit the top of the Billboard charts, but not because lots of people bought the song, instead because it received millions of YouTube plays. For the first time ever Billboard decided that it was time to count internet plays in calculating what the number one song in the country is. For the second time in the last year an annoying internet sensation has made it to the top of the charts. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out in the next few years because we are sure to see a whole lot more of these type of hits now that YouTube views count towards how Billboard charts songs. Who knows, in the next couple years we will be wishing there were songs like the Harlem Shake around while we are stuck listening to a squirrel sing a cover of Dancing Queen by ABBA and happened to get 20o million plays on YouTube. The future of top 40 could be very bleak in the years to come.
I’m not a regular viewer of the numerous reality shows on cable TV that highlight the lives of the swamp people, Honey Boo Boo or some guy catching cat fish with his bare hands, but I do occasionally flip through the channels and the other day I landed on an interesting program. When I turned it on I saw a couple ZZ Top looking characters walking through the woods hunting for beaver. Evidently one of the guys was the patriarch of the Robertson family who have a multimillion dollar turkey call business in Louisiana. The show is your typical cable reality show which is less reality and more a scripted show with average to bad actors. It’s always clear that the situations and dialog have been punched up by a team of writers who are probably standing behind the camera. I found the show particularly interesting because I worked in a local turkey call place for over six years so I could sort of relate, although the place I worked at had considerably less facial hair and southern twang. If you are unfamiliar with what a duck or a deer call is I don’t blame you. When I first started working there I had no idea what any of the stuff even was. I have never hunted nor do I have any interest in hunting which made it interesting when people at the place tried to have hunting conversations with me. Basically a hunting call is used in the woods to attract the duck, deer or whatever it is you are trying to shoot and kill. Sometimes the calls are made to sound like a sexy lady deer or turkey while others replicate the sound of a dying rabbit or something, which attracts coyotes and stuff. I would sit around all day building and blowing on the calls for quality assurance even though I had no idea how to use the silly things or how a sexy doe even sounded like in the first place. Hunters have a lot of tools in their bag which sometimes includes urine. Apparently when the sexy deer call isn’t attracting the deer you will have to take extreme measures. It turns out they sell little bottles of sexy female deer urine which evidently attracts big bucks over to you. They can’t resist the stuff. The hunter then puts some of the urine all over their gear like perfume and then wait in hiding for all the boy deers to come running. One time as a gag a guy I worked with thought it would be hilarious to spread this deer urine all over the place at work. The smell was as vile as you would expect aged deer urine to be.
If you are not a fan of murdering and eating animals such as squirrels, beavers and ducks then this show probably isn’t for you. If you are a blood thirsty carnivore like me then you will enjoy the show and all of the delicious meals they hunt, kill and eat. Each male cast member has a glorious beard and a southern belle of a wife which makes you wonder if growing a insanely long beard is the way to go in life. All in all I give the one and a half episodes I’ve watched three stars and that means it is almost worth watching.
The show Duck Dynasty reminds me of my days at the Turkey call factory so I will probably watch when it returns for the third season on Monday February, 27th on A&E. Maybe one day if nothing else works out I can move down there and get me a job at their headquarters.
I can name a hundred different reasons why the internet is great and only about 86 of those reasons would involve porn or naked ladies, but there comes a time when the constant barrage of information can overload my brain and I become completely burned out. Back in say 1973 you could go days without overhearing or coming across somebody’s opinion. With the exception of the occasional “My Two Cents” commentary on the local news or editorial in the local paper the only shitty opinions you had to put up with on a regular basis were from your closest friends and family. Those people were easily avoided back then. All you would have to do is leave the house and you were essentially cut off from the world. There were no cell phones or emails or any other way to get a hold of you except maybe carrier pigeon or the Pony Express. Unfortunately those days are long over and now, admittedly for the most part voluntarily, we are constantly connected to the world. Every couple minutes I find myself going on Twitter, Facebook or reading some horrible comment on a YouTube video or below a news article. Every time I do this I get increasingly more frustrated with the human race. Why is it so important that everyone get their opinion on almost every subject in the public domain? Do we really think that people are staring at their phones waiting for your tweet about how you feel LL Cool J is doing as host of the Grammys? Sure I enjoy an occasional witty tweet from my favorite celebrities but now we have millions of Twitter comedians commenting on every news topic that scrolls across the ticker. I’m not sure what these people did before Twitter, I guess they just yelled out their window in hope that their neighbor would hear their hilarious take on who shot JR or if they thought SNL was funny that week. It all started with internet forums in the mid-nineties. People would go to specific websites and comment and argue about a particular subject. At the time it was mostly geeky things like software, gaming or music but you had to go out of your way to see these conversations. Around the same time there was the emergence of the AOL chat room where you could not only meet chicks in your town from the comfort of your parent’s den but you could annoy complete strangers with your bullshit. This was the birth of the internet troll. I remember many occasions of getting scolded by Bob2435 or Cherry18 because I would just repeat lyrics from Metallica’s and justice for All album or say nonsensical things in hope they would react. They would get angry and yell about how I was interrupting their very serious conversation with a stranger in the Buffalo Teens chat room. In the years since this stuff has multiplied to the point where there is no safe place on the internet to go. Try scrolling your Twitter timeline for thirty seconds and you will be annoyed by someone’s dumb opinion. I can’t figure out why everyone else can’t have the same opinions on subjective matters as me. The best is when some big event or trending topic is happening like the recent blackout during the Super Bowl. Everyone raced to their phones to be part of the action and out wit and out snark each other. Unfortunately there were thousands of people repeating the same stupid jokes thinking they were the most clever person on Twitter. As a general rule if you think of something someone else probably thought it way before you. At this point almost everything has been done, every opinion has been said and every joke has been written. There are no more surprises and your opinions are no more unique or interesting than the million of other people just like you. So calm down with the witty Tweets and memes and stop with all the re-tweets because you are ruining the internet. I have to go now and watch some porn, the last bastion of the internet where people are far too busy doing other things to comment or at least read the comments.
As a kid I would spend hours in my room playing what I called “radio Station”. I would spin tunes and talk up the tracks like a DJ would on the radio. From that point on it was my dream to be on the radio. A few years later when I was flipping through the channels I came across a radio show that happened to be on TV. On the screen was this wild haired guy interviewing celebrities and occasionally having woman take off their clothes in the studio. I found out it was the E! channel version of the countries most popular and maybe most controversial, radio host, Howard Stern. I was instantly hooked. A few months after that I overheard a kid in my 8th grade art class mention he was listening to Howard before he came into school that day. My ears instantly perked up and as soon as I got home I looked in the TV Topics, which had the radio schedules in the back, and found out that Howard Stern’s show was being broadcast on a local AM station. From that point on I stopped listening to the local guys that were on the radio, who now seemed like amateurs after hearing Howard and his crew at work on a daily basis. Since that time I probably have listened almost every day, which is a lot of hours spent listening to one show. I was heavily influenced comedically, by Howard and my dream was to get on the radio and do an honest and funny show like he was doing. As it turns out time was not on my side and the landscape of radio had changed. Radio stations no longer wanted an irreverent host who had opinions or maybe crossed the line with their content or comedy. I found out after going to college for radio that there would be very little room for me in the industry unless I wanted to host a conservative or sports talk show. I don’t consider myself conservative or liberal so that left sports, but I could not see myself talking about sports on a daily basis. As the years went by I tried my hand at stand up comedy with some success as far as audience response goes, but my heart was not truly in it as a performer. I didn’t like the format that stand up comedy presented. I had to for the most part have a set act ready and the audience expected a certain amount of jokes in a given set. I, being influenced by Howard Stern and later Adam Carolla, was more interested in an honest improvised delivery that short stand up sets would not allow. At the tail end of 2007 I had the idea of starting an internet radio show with my friend Mark. We had been doing stand up together off and on since 2001 and after what was ten years of friendship at the time we were sure our chemistry would give as an advantage as far as hosting a show went. Unfortunately, I wasn’t so sure how to pull this off and at the time it would be far more difficult and costly to have shows available online. The furthest I got was producing a promo for a show that would not see the light for about another three years. In July of 2010 we started our Hotshot Whiz Kids Podcast and have been putting out shows nonstop ever since.
In 2009 after Adam Carolla was fired from his terrestrial radio job, where he was a replacement for Howard Stern after he left for Sirius, he decided to start a Podcast. He had the means and now that he was unemployed, the time to start his own network. Podcasts were very new at the time and few big name celebrities had their own daily show. Within a few years his show would be one of the most downloaded shows in the world. Along with the likes of Marc Maron, Kevin Smith, Joe Rogan and others the medium exploded. There are now thousands of Podcasts available on itunes and almost every comedian has their own or is a regular on one podcast or another. Meanwhile on terrestrial radio the shows are as boring and bland as ever. Vanilla hosts talking about the daily gossip and giving a traffic and weather report seemingly every other minute rule the airwaves. People mostly listen out of habit and not because what they are hearing is even remotely entertaining. Playing a recording of Letterman’s Top Ten list from the night before is about as far as their “comedy bits” go. If you scan your dial it may seem like it is hopeless but there is an underground network of talented people putting out content that rivals or is ten times better than anything heard on the radio. Hosts like us are not under the scrutiny of the FCC or meddling program directors. Instead Podcasters have the freedom to say whatever they want and are not slaves to a clock or advertisers. Instead shows can pick and choose their sponsors who better fit their content and are directed to the show’s specific audience. As technology finally begins to catch up it is easier than ever for people to listen to podcasts. Millions of people can stream any podcast they want right from their smart phones, which changes the medium completely. In years past someone had to be strapped to their computer to hear internet broadcasts but now it is easier than ever to have new episodes of shows automatically downloaded right to their phones. In the next few years even entry level cars will come equipped with Wi-Fi which will enable shows and other internet content to be streamed right to our car radios. This development could spell the end of radio as we know it. Even with some of the biggest names in comedy offering shows, podcasts are still a niche medium with a very small audience compared to radio and television, but as the technology grows and younger people start to pick up on the medium we could see an even bigger explosion of Podcasts and a change in the public perception of the medium.
Right now it is still very difficult for new podcasts to get noticed. With hundreds of thousands of shows available and the ease in which the shows can be produced there are admittedly a lot of bad shows out there. As with any medium that is so easily accessible to the masses you will have your fair share of people who are a bit overconfident in their broadcast abilities. The market will sort itself out and I believe the most talented of us can and will be able to make a living as a Podcaster. Within five years you will start to see the biggest radio personalities leave the traditional airways for the unlimited freedom that the internet provides. Our children will be living in a far different technological world where television, radio and the internet will all merge into one medium that will be available wherever we go. The audiences will begin to fragment not unlike we are starting to see with cable television and each program or show will have it’s own audience. They will not have the huge audiences that broadcasters enjoyed in the 20th century, like Howard Stern who had an estimated 20 million listeners at the peak of his career, but instead we will all have our own smaller, but loyal audience which will allow for the best shows to prosper and we will see it become possible for Podcasting to become a career for the very best of us.