By Mark Avo
During Salt Lake Comic Con 2014 there was one panel that was a can’t-miss for any beginning or aspiring podcaster – and that was “The Power of Podcasting in Geek Culture.” The panel was full of the best talent in local podcasting that could be summoned from some of the best podcasts featured in the state. Most of the panelists were from the world of geek podcasting, but all of them were from highly rated and beloved shows.
The panelists were: Tysen Webb (“Go For It Show”), Jimmy Martin (“Geekshow Podcast”), Danielle Uber Alles (“Hello Sweetie Podcast”), Jay Whittaker (“Geekshow Podcast”), Trent Hunsaker (“Netheads”) and Robert Easton (“Hold 322”). The moderator of the podcast was Kerry Jackson, who let everyone introduce themselves and then told the crowd he had some podcasts and that they might know him from a little radio show he does.
The moderator was full of modesty to the last moment. Jackson, infamous co-host of “Radio from Hell” and “Geekshow Podcast,” spoke from a place of authority. He knew he was going to have some great things to add to the conversation but pitched the first question to the panel. It was an important one – one every podcaster has to answer before getting involved in the part-time job of a podcasting: “Why did you start?”
Tysen Webb went first, which was fitting, as he was at the end of the line. He admitted he wanted to have a voice after being in radio for so long, but that his program’s intent was to “give back.” He wanted to share his knowledge about entrepreneurship with the world and his podcast was the perfect place for that.
Danielle Uber Alles had a similar answer, in that she couldn’t find a geek podcast with the female perspective that she wanted. She started her podcast to give herself and her part of geek culture their own voice.
Robert Easton, who was wearing a Superman ball cap, wondered what he was doing on the panel, because “Hold 322” wasn’t his podcast. Everyone laughed and he answered, “I started podcasting because someone had to defend Superman.” According to Easton, J.M. Bell of “Hold 322” always picks on the DC Comics “Boy Scout.” It was his love for the character and all things comic books that turned Mr. Easton into a weekly podcast host.
Trent Hunsaker started because the podcaster that he liked the most, filmmaker Kevin Smith, told him to. Smith frequently appears on several of the podcasts on SModcast Internet Radio. Hunsaker explained that Smith regularly encourages his listeners to record their conversations they have with friends because someone out there might find them interesting.
Hunsaker pulled much of his inspiration from Smith and even ended up podcasting his show, “Netheads,” with Will Wilkins on Smith’s SModCo podcast network. Smith’s podcasting network is one of the most successful networks out there, and that is probably what made Jackson joke with Hunsaker about getting the “Geekshow” on the SModCo network. The crowd seemed enthusiastic with the idea, even if it was in jest, so maybe that could be a thing in the future. All we know for certain is that Hunsaker told Jackson, “We’ll talk later.”
Jackson said he started the “Geekshow Podcast” because he was meeting with his friends anyway and making it into a show ensured that he and his friends would regularly get together to hang out and have a good time. He impressed upon the audience, though, that having a loving and understanding spouse is important because podcasting can be like a second job.
Jackson asked the audience if they had podcasts (or if they wanted one) and the majority of the hands in the audience went up. At that point, the crowd started to actively participate in the panel content. The panel turned into a “how to podcast” Q&A session with a concentrated effort by panelists to heckle each other as they each answered questions from the crowd. The rest of the “Hold 322” crew was in the audience, as well as podcasters from “Femme Fatalacast,” “The Undead Soup” and TheClosetGeek.net. The questions being thrown to panelists from those already doing podcasts, and those aspiring to have one, were terrific.
Attendees learned what a good average show length should be, and that’s about an hour. They also learned about production times. Those were all over the place depending on how the show was produced and on how long the show was. Everyone in the audience wanted to know which software tool to use for podcasting was best, but there wasn’t much consensus from the panel. Of course, there were some favorites like Adobe Audition, Studio 11, and Soundforge, but the panelists even liked free tools like Audacity and Skype. The point they all stressed was that, with the experience of getting a podcast made and releasing it for the world, the quality will come later. Having the discipline to record the content and release it on a regular schedule is the key to success because it’s hard to learn without doing when it comes to podcasting.
Alles told the crowd, “Even if your podcast sounds terrible, you’ll get better at it. Don’t over-produce it or worry about the content. Just get it posted to your aggregator and then do the next show.”
That got a reaction from the crowd, as everyone demanded to know who the best aggregator was and how to get more listeners. Jackson and Webb both answered in unison that knowing the answer to increased subscribers is the million-dollar answer.
Jimmy Martin piped in, though, that sometimes, as a show, you have to take drastic measures. He started to bring up a story but then Jackson and Jay Whittaker both laughed, the “Geekshow” faithful in the audience laughed and then Jackson had to come clean about his “creepy” promotional process at the San Diego Comic-Con. It turns out, as Jackson told the crowd, that convention attendees at San Diego all tend to leave their convention bags open just a bit. Unlike Whittaker, who can take a handful of flyers, pass them out and make 100 new friends, Jackson said he gets social anxiety and freezes up. So, instead of fumbling the ball, Jackson would sneak up behind people like a ninja from “Assassins Creed” and slip flyers into open bags.
During the story, Whittaker was snuggling up with his panelist buddy, Hunsaker. The heckling was strong with Whittaker, but Hunsaker just snuggled him even more. The crowd was bouncing between the fun of Jackson’s story and whatever was going on between Whittaker and Hunsaker. Once Jackson had finished, though, Hunsaker went in for it and kissed Whittaker right on his forehead. The crowd burst into laughter. When things quieted down a bit someone yelled from the crowd, “How was the kiss?” Whittaker told the room that “Trent was very gentle.”
It was fitting that most of the panelists were from the “Geekshow Podcast” because the panel took place in the Jeff Vice Memorial Podcast Theater. Jeff Vice was a longtime reporter and movie critic as well as one of the nicest guys on the planet. He was also a fixture in the geek community and Salt Lake Comic Con acknowledged that by naming the room after him.
Being in that room with more than half of the “Geekshow” hosts and plenty of “Geekshow” friends and fans drove home Martin’s opinion on podcasting and geek culture. He summed up the entire panel when he told everyone that podcasting means he gets to sit down and hang out with his friends. They have great conversations where they laugh and geek out and reconnect with each other.
It turns out that the “power of podcasting in geek culture” is the people, themselves. Publicly displaying art or conversation doesn’t change the culture – it only turns those moments into a show for an audience. From the basements and the lunch cafeterias of the past to the digital airwaves of today, podcasts capture the energy and enthusiasm between friends and they share it with everyone.