JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — About two years ago, Jack Eddy decided to roll the dice and start a podcast.
Eddy, a Juneau resident, was a fan of the medium and had a lifelong interest in tabletop gaming that he thought would lend itself well to a podcast review series.
“I started writing reviews, and the podcast was meant to be a way to document reviews,” Eddy said.”Then I had a friend on for an interview, and that led to another interview, and then I booked another one. Now, I have weekly interviews with people all over.”
And instead of one podcast, Eddy’s ideas — interviews, reviews and a hangout chat session with friends — splintered off into three distinct projects under The Cardboard Herald moniker, and an expansion into videos.
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“I kind of isolated the three separate ideas into three different podcasts,” Eddy said. “I found a way to create more content than the world would want, but if anyone does want it, it’s out there.”
He’s far from the only content-creating Juneauite.
While it can be tough to get a read on exactly how many podcasts care coming out of Juneau, there are a number on Stitcher, iTunes, SoundCloud and social media with the capital city explicitly included in their title or description.
National figures indicate the number of podcasts is climbing daily and there are now more than 630,000 podcasts. Juneau does not seem to be exempt from the trend.
Glenn Ojard, a Juneau artist and host of “The Streets of Juneau” podcast, said as technology continues to make it easier to make and consume podcasts, he anticipates their popularity will continue to rise, especially among creatives trying to reach a wider audience.
“It’s free attention,” Ojard said. “So often in media if you want to get any attention you have to pay for it. Even if it’s something as small as a business card. With social media, media has become democratized. I heard a guy, Gary Vaynerchuk, go off on how voice was going to be the next great frontier because voice is passively consumed. Voice lends itself really well to doing something whether it’s working out or in my case, making art.”
Many of Juneau’s topics have an obvious surface-level topic that could draw in a specific audience.
“Juneau Bike Doctor Podcast” started by Ken Hill, owner of Juneau Bike Doctor, has a cycling slant. “The Cardboard Herald” tackles tabletop games. “Alaska Music Radio” hosted by Lance Mitchell makes music its raison d’être.
But generally they aren’t the sort of hyper-specific, jargon-laden discussions that can be found on hobby-specific forums. Instead, the podcasters said the goal is to capture a human connection in a way that listeners might appreciate.
“My goal is to develop something that finds the tie between cycling and the other people in the community,” Hill said.
Mitchell, Eddy and others said they like to create similar connections, too.
“I love to share,” Mitchell said. “We’re putting new artists, young artists out there. I love that aspect of it. We like to tell stories.”
Even something as niche and tabletop gaming can be a jumping off point to find out more about the people who make and love games.
“The squishy, touchy-feely stuff is what I’m interested in,” Eddy said.
Some podcasts like “The Streets of Juneau” and “End of the Road” eschew a specific focus to dive right into human stories.
“End of the Road” is a Juneau-based podcast hosted by two friends who only wish to be identified as Kingpin and EFA.
While their show follows a script and typically touches on the three things Kingpin says are not discussed in polite company — politics, religion and professional wrestling — the most important framework for the podcast is the co-hosts’ interpersonal dynamic.
“When the podcast first got started, it was just me,” Kingpin said. “I was looking to do something where I talked about all these different topics of interest like heavy metal and wrestling and video games. I wanted to have it be fun. I was on the liberal left side. I wanted to bring in the other side that was like ‘No, f — -k that, here’s why I think the opposite opinion is correct.”
They said listeners respond to the free-wheeling conversational that stems from that connection.
What it takes to podcast
Podcasting can be an incredibly cheap endeavor, most people likely already own the bare essentials, or it can be an expensive enterprise.
Hill uses his phone to upload and record conversations, while others have invested hundred, if not thousands, into recording equipment, cameras and editing software.
Ojard said his setup, which includes a soundboard, microphone, computer, cellphones and tripod probably cost him $200 or less to create.
The “End of the Road” podcasters said at least $800 has gone in to their rig.
“I’ve always had this interest in equipment, if it’s new and shiny I’ve got to have it,” Kingpin said.
Equipment to capture the audio or video is only a piece of the puzzle.
Next comes the editing process, which can vary in its thoroughness and be done with a number of products.
Eddy had experience with GarageBand, so that’s what he uses, Ojard uses the free but more simplistic Audacity program, and the “End of the Road” guys use Adobe’s Audition.
Video editing tends to be more time consuming than editing audio, podcasters said.
After editing, podcasts can then be shared through many different platforms.
Stitcher, iTunes, Spotify, Google Play and SoundCloud are all popular options.
Rather than working to get a podcast on each individual service, podcasters use applications to distribute their podcasts.
“Anchor is this wonderful app, where once you load your podcast to that, it will work to get it on other platforms,” Ojard said.
Figuring out how to make a competent looking and sounding product has a learning curve but also rewarding, Eddy said.
“Every new thing I learn is a dopamine rush like I unlocked a new level,” Eddy said.
Knowing your audience and guests
“The other thing is where does your audience live,” Ojard said.
Juneau’s podcasters said the No.1 platform for podcasts isn’t Stitcher, iTunes or any other dedicated audio medium.
They said social media — especially Facebook — tends to be where their audiences listen or watch podcasts.
About 8,200 people like the End of the Road Facebook page.
Ojard said he’s tried to tailor some of his output to be most appealing on Facebook.
He shoots videos vertically because that’s how they’ll probably be viewed when people are scrolling through their social media feeds.
While Juneau is geographically isolated, podcasters said they haven’t found it difficult to book guests or for folks to be especially reticent when approached about talking into a mic.
“It really depends,” Ojard said. I’ve had the opportunity of interviewing a lot of people between ‘The Streets of Juneau’ and the radio. There are some people who are very comfortable in video and not at all comfortable in audio. The one thing that connects all those people is that they’re really physically attractive. I think people just have natural ways in which they’re comfortable expressing themselves.”
The “End of the Road” guys said their willingness to share strong opinions on contentious topics means there’s usually not a shortage of people willing to talk to them.
In Eddy’s case, technology and travel go a long way toward securing guests for “The Cardboard Herald.” Recording Skype calls is especially useful.
However, time can still be an obstacle.
“When you’re interviewing people in France, Germany or elsewhere, it becomes challenging,” Eddy said.
Advice for beginners
Those thinking of starting a podcast should consider what they’re hoping to communicate before pressing the record button.
“Think about — before the pristine audio quality, the perfect editing — think what is the core idea that someone might be interested in listening to,” Eddy said.
However, a willingness to adapt is important too as evidenced by the shifting format of “The Cardboard Herald,” and “The End of the Road.”
Other podcasters stressed the importance of resilience.
Ojard said managing expectations and outlook to appreciate even the smallest audiences is important.
“You have to understand the value of one audience member,” Ojard said. “We get so lost in either hitting 100 views or 1,000 views or a million or what have you that we forget each of those views is a person and the relationship that can be built there.”
The “End of the Road” hosts preached resistance to discouraging developments and being willing to start from scratch if necessary.
“Don’t give up,” Kingpin said. “Even if you have to retool and start again with a new name and a new logo and kind of a new idea, don’t give up. There’s always somebody out there who’s willing to listen to you.”
Information from: Juneau (Alaska) Empire, http://www.juneauempire.com