As a (former?) professional podcaster–you know, one who gets paid for their work regularly?–I’m often not at all asked, “Jer? How does one achieve that level of success in a medium most people expect to receive for free?”
That is a great question. The simple answer is, “Get Jeff Ritzmann to do all the work while you phone it in.”
But say you don’t have access to Jeff Ritzmann. What then? Well, for assholes like you, there’s….
10 Steps To Achieving Paranormal Podcasting Greatness!
1.) Have Something To Say. It sounds self-explanatory but you’d be surprised how many people skip over this vital first step and dive right into purchasing a microphone and building a website to showcase the importance of the words flooding out of their mouth holes. How can you showcase what you don’t have? Unless you’ve got an alien in the basement or Casper on line two, you don’t have importance, that is for sure. But do you have a compelling point of view? Is there a need for the words coming out of your mouth other than low self esteem or narcissism?
Look, there are loads and loads of LOADS podcasting paranormal nonsense even as I type. You’ve heard them; some of you reading this are them. Do we really need more of the same? If you want to be famous in your head, get a youtube channel. Or do what I do: point your webcam out the window and record feral chickens meandering the yard for friends on Facebook. But don’t start a weekly paranormal podcast because in the end you’ll only be hurting yourself.
How, you ask? — In short order you will find that paranormal research/ufology’s dirty little secret (besides David Jacobs) is that practically anyone will agree to be a guest on your show. All those folks you look up to? Not hard to book. And we’ve heard them all a thousand times–so what will you, the host, bring out of them that is new and serves the betterment of all who listen? If the answer is nothing then just know that you will build an audience whether or not you suck because there’s an audience for everything and there are those who will listen to any show their favorite speaker graces. This will give you the false sense of security that your words are important, that you’re doing a great job, and eventually, as with all deceits, you will be exposed to the truth somewhere down the line and crumble inside as the shell of a human being you are. Hopefully.
You’ll hit bottom. Therapeutic for you, sure, but what about the rest of us listening? What do we get out of your personal epiphany? When you proliferate nonsense simply because a nonsense whore will do your show, the bottom feeders who comprise your listenership will spread it far and wide, which is good for business, bad for anyone who actually gives a shit.
So your first task is to find out who you are that asks the questions. Why are you asking them? Why are you asking them publicly?
2.) Obtain Decent Equipment. Notice I didn’t say buy decent equipment….
- editing - I have an iMac, which comes with Garage Band, a perfect program for editing podcasts. If you have a PC you can download Audacity for free. Make sure to output as an MP3. They sound crappier than the M4a but your audience doesn’t care. They just want to be able to download it easily and the MP3 is still king of accessibility, unfortunately.
- microphone - Jeff and I both use Snowball mics, which are modestly priced and do the job well. Can you go fancier? Sure. Do you need to? Nope. In fact sometimes fancy can hinder audio quality as we found when we did Paratopia Live on Blogtalk Radio. With Blogtalk, less is more. Phones sound just fine; Snowballs, okay; but our third host, Lee Townsend, had a professional studio mic and it sounded like ass. Thanks, Blogtalk.
- Skype - You can talk to other Skype users for free and you can call/receive calls from landlines and cell phones for a nominal charge. In fact, their monthly plan is cheap, too.
- Skype Recorder - You’d think Skype would have a recording function built in but as of yet, no. However, the Skype recorder is inexpensive and let’s you upgrade for free forever after purchase, which is essential because Skype keeps upgrading and sometimes you’ll find your recorder no longer works!
- get heard - When I did the Culture of Contact podcast it was on a blog through Godaddy.com. I did the leg work to get it into iTunes, Podcast Alley, and various other outlets. When Jeff and I did Paratopia, we shopped around, tried different places, and ended up the happiest at Cyber Ears. Cyber Ears is the most customer-friendly place on the net–and trust me when I say the doors are closing fast on that type of online service. It’s also great because you don’t need to buy or make a fancy website if you don’t want. Cyber Ears will host your show, feed it to iTunes and other outlets, and give you a show description page. If you feel the need for something fancier, get yourself a free WordPress blog and gussy it up, Margaret. Remember: all of this is out-of-pocket expense so don’t even bother blowing your wad on the frills you think matter because they don’t. They will not attract advertisers. They will not build an audience worth having. You will. Again, we find ourselves at Step 1.
3.) Introduce Yourself. You’ve figured out why you’re here. You’ve obtained the vital equipment to do a proper interview show. Now all you need are guests…. Or do you? It’s not a bad idea to do the first show solo. Not only will you be introducing yourself to the world of five listening to you (family, best friend, that cat lady you met at that thing, Robbie Williams) but you will also be acclimating yourself to sitting in front of your computer talking to yourself. The only thing more embarrassing than hearing your own voice is speaking it like it matters in relation to no one.
4.) Learn How To Solicit Guests Properly. No one wants to do the show of a maniac or an idiot, so when you’re emailing potential guests, lay off the “personal charm” and lay on the spell check. Also, don’t go overboard in the butt-kissing either. You don’t want to look like a desperate fanboy and you don’t want to look like an illiterate attention-whoring vampire wannabe who will do anything to not feel the meaninglessness of his own existence or be in his daughter’s life. You want to look human. ACT!
5.) Book Stanton Friedman. I’m sure every field has their version of Stanton Friedman. He’s the lovable grandfather who has done so many TV and radio appearances that he speaks catch phrases the way Sinatra sang standards. Because you’ve seen him everywhere you imagine he’ll never do your show.
Wrong! He’ll do any show! That’s why you’ve seen him everywhere!
The curse of Stanton Friedman is also his gift: he will talk without pause and before you know it, show’s over. So while it is anti-intuitive to start at the top, really it’s for the best because 1.) If you’re nervous, it won’t show. You won’t be getting a word in edgewise. You can fake it like a champ. Just let Stan do all the work. 2.) He’s hugely popular, so that will put your podcast on the map. 3.) Because you won’t get a word in and because he’s hugely popular, you have a real opportunity to turn this lazy, nervous interview into friggen gold. All you have to do is write down two relevant questions you’ve never heard anyone ask him before. That’s it! Just two!
You’re only going to get in two questions, if you’re lucky and if you’re scheduled for an hour, after the requisite, “So Stan, tell us about your book.” Make them brilliant and it won’t even matter that he doesn’t answer them, preferring to swerve you back to whatever MJ12 topic he was just defending against nasty noisy negativists. Listeners will remember that you were the person who asked those amazing questions they’d never heard before.
6.) Beware The Ones Who Want On The Show Part 1. The people who solicit to be guests on your show are usually awful. Not always–sometimes there’s a gem in the pot of fool’s gold. But more times than not, if someone you’ve never heard of is not just writing you about their accomplishments, but telling you what versatile speakers they are, it means the opposite of that.
7.) Beware The Ones Who Want On The Show Part 2. At some point in your podcasting life you will read a version of these words from a listener in an email, PM, or blatantly on a message board: “I want/need to talk to you. Can I get your Skype or phone number?”
DON’T. FUCKING. DO IT.
It’s a trap. Even if it’s prefaced with compliments or a list of all the things you have in common, this never bodes well for you. There’s a reason famous people are aloof, have handlers, and all that. While podcasting isn’t in the same room as fame, you’re still creating a bond with people who want to be in the same room as you. A bond that needs boundaries. I’m not saying you’re inviting psychos who mean to physically harm you, no. But what you will end up with AT LEAST is a long one-way conversation wherein a narcissist who thinks s/he knows you prattles on about his/her theories. You’ll be looking for an out the whole time. It’s awkward. AT MOST you’ll end up in a blog rant against you if you’re anything other than yessing these assholes who really don’t care what you have to say.
I cannot stress that enough. They don’t want to talk with you, they want to talk at you, like you haven’t given enough already.
8.) Internet Warring. Don’t Do It. People attack when they are threatened. Sometimes that threat is no more than jealousy. If they perceive you to have more of something than they do, they hit you to take it. Basic preadolescent behavior. Welcome to adulthood. Of course it hurts to get hit–and if your audience is full of decent people they’ll tell you over and over to ignore it because it doesn’t matter, they don’t pay attention to hit men, and so on. The problem is, they’re not the ones getting hit. Not only that, but even if they say they don’t care what is being written/said about you, they’ll often ask you, “But is it true…?”
When a question is being raised about you and you don’t respond, of course folks will want to know if it’s true, or assume it is by your silence–even if they’re the ones telling you to remain silent. We still want to know if the cat’s alive inside that box, right?
What to do, what to do.
Well, as it turns out, even if they’re disingenuous in their disinterest, they are correct: it’s not worth responding to. This is because bloggers and other podcasters don’t lie for any other reason than they want attention. They want to pull focus. And you can’t pull focus back by responding, you can only give them power. You think you’re clearing your name but you’re not. If it’s a lie, there was never anything to clear in the first place. Ya get my point?
There’s a difference between raising valid concerns that you can gleefully answer and just plain lying to get your attention so they can leech off your perceived “fame” for as long as you struggle to clear your name. Clearing your name isn’t the game–the game is making you struggle. It’s their game, not yours, so don’t own it. Don’t try to rewrite the rules–that is also included in their game.
In the case of disgruntled listeners, the game is to regain your attention. If it’s one thing I’ve learned about disgruntled listeners, it’s that they don’t go away. They keep listening for anything they can attack you with later. They’ll do it in comments on blogs, message board, in reviews for whatever it is you’ve created. Oh, man, they’ll write any dishonest thing to get you to notice them.
I think when one listens to an interactive show long enough it becomes routine. If one gets kicked out of the club, one is getting kicked out of routine, out of pattern–and one can’t have that so one maintains the pattern in this new destructive way. Whatever the case, just ignore one to the best of two’s ability… er… your ability. I was terrible at that, for the most part. You don’t have to be. Learn from me, damn it!
Finally, don’t let the nonsense keep you down. Statistically speaking, the loud ones are the negative minority. The silent majority are thoughtful people you’ll never hear from, hence the silence. It takes a lot for one of them to come out of hiding and drop you a line or interact on a message board and they’ll let you know it. They are your audience, not the vermin who want to steal your show. You’re not here to bully, be bullied, or babysit the ego of a stranger. You’re here to ask the fundamental questions we are born into and their tangential counterparts.
Keep in mind, most listeners are just that: listeners. They don’t want any part of the dysfunctional circus. It’s difficult not exposing the creeps coming after you when you’ve got a pulpit but your flock don’t care unless you failed step one and cultivated an audience of hardcore shitheads. (For more on that, please see Paracast, The.)
9.) Be Grateful For The Ones Who Care. Congratulations! You now have a successful podcast and you don’t suck! But don’t let it go to your head. You weren’t destined for greatness; thoughtful people clicked with your voice and brought you here. Where is here? Nowhere. You’re still in front of your computer talking to inanimate objects, stupid. Get real! And be grateful. Your listeners could be doing something else right now. Like writing me hate mail.
10.) Know When To Get Out. One day you will know it’s over. That is the day your guest is speaking and you’re checking email or writing a tweet. There’s no law that says you have to do this forever. If it’s over, it’s over. Go out on top. Yes, even if you’re making money. You deserve to take a bow, not slither away into irrelevancy. And the questions deserve deeper attention than a fifth interview with David Icke can provide.
They are reflections of us, after all.