I recently returned from the first Portable Media Expo in Ontario, California—a nicely attended and organized conference that focused largely on the technical and financial issues of podcasting. Podcasters were well represented in the conference sessions and on the show floor—some well known, in the case of Leo Laporte, Patrick Norton, Chris Pirillo, and Dawn and Drew, and others trying to fight their way out of obscurity. Those representing companies hoping to make a buck from podcasting—Audible, Yahoo, and Paypal—could also be found.
The tenor of the conference could be pretty well summed up in the back-to-back keynote addresses that opened the show on Friday. The first speaker,
Weblogs’ CEO, Jason Calacanis, quickly dashed the hopes of any podcasters in the audience hoping to make a quick buck from their efforts. The gist of his talk was that if there’s money to be made from producing, hosting, or referencing podcasts, companies like Apple, Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft are already a dozen steps ahead of you. Clever though you may be, these outfits have 100 big brains working on the problem compared to the single helping of gray matter sloshing around in your skull.
I can’t help but think his “podcasting for profit is a road to ruin” message may have put a damper on the several conference sessions devoted to monetizing podcasts, but it’s a message attendees needed to hear. He did conclude, however, on a somewhat hopeful note: Talent carries the day. If you produce interesting content, delivered well, you have a better chance of rising to a position where someone could throw some money at you.
Leo Laporte began where Calacanis left off, offering a more positive spin on podcasting. He too acknowledged that the chances of making a lot of money from podcasting were slim. So why do it? Because you can and because you care. You’ve got something to say and you want to share that something with the world.
He then went on to outline those elements he believes should be part of a successful podcast. At the risk of cribbing from his presentation, I’d like to list those elements here because they nicely crystalize what any artful work could contain:
Truth rather than dishonesty Goodness rather than evil Beauty Unity (community) Aliveness Uniqueness Perfection Simplicity Richness Effortlessness Playfulness Meaningfulness Passion
Although I believe there’s some wiggle room in each viewpoint—that enterprising souls can make money from podcasting without the assistance of Big Business and that those who view podcasting strictly as a business opportunity can provide content that people desire without having any particular passion for that content—they nicely framed issues that today’s podcasters must grapple with.