If I tell you a secret, will you keep it just between the two of us?
OK. Here it comes. My new podcast isn’t very good yet. If you’ve already heard some of the episodes, you might be relieved to hear me say that. You might be thinking, “Well, duh. Everybody else knows this, but I’m surprised you admit it.”
I’m not just being self-denigrating when I say this. I mean it with all sincerity. But there’s something I have to add — which I think is the more important part of the story.
Roughly 98 percent of the podcasts out there — out of about 750,000 active podcasts right now — are dreadfully bad. And when I admit that my podcast isn’t very good, I’m saying that with the knowledge that my “not very good” podcast might already be in the top 25 percent in terms of quality — only because most podcasts are so incredibly awful.
This leaves me baffled at what most people are producing — and it also leaves me encouraged about my future prospects. Let me tell you what prompts this thought.
I’ve been incredibly conservative in approaching how to make a podcast and I’ve taken an extremely incremental approach. I’ve spent the last few years researching how to make a podcast, buying the right equipment and trying to get comfortable with recording and editing myself.
This just seems like the approach that any serious person would take.
But I was researching a hosting platform Thursday night and I sampled about 20 podcasts that this company hosts, and it seems as though almost all of them took just the opposite approach.
These shows most often sound like some semi-drunken idiots who’ve never used microphones before just got together and started ad libbing. Everything I heard was absolutely dreadful. I was embarrassed for these people — and I was mortified that they were putting themselves in front of the world in this way.
I know this sounds horribly arrogant of me to be judging others when I admit that my show isn’t very good. My show is very flawed, but I think mine sounds as though it’s from someone who’s trying to learn the right way to do a broadcast show.
I’m trying to learn the right ways to emulate a professional format. I’m trying to figure out how to write well for audio. (That’s very different from the writing here.) I’m trying to learn how to perform for the microphone. And I still have technical issues to work out with my recording and editing.
But I’m trying to emulate a professional style, even if I know it’s not good enough. My quality at this point probably isn’t much different from that of a broadcasting student who’s working on air for the first time at his college radio station. It’s awkward and unpolished — but I’m learning.
Most of these other shows which I sample sound more like random people chatting in their living room. They don’t seem to understand the formats that they need to be emulating. They don’t seem to understand what makes certain professional shows entertaining. And when I sample shows across several seasons of these podcasts, they don’t seem to get any better.
I don’t see why anybody would bother to publish most of what I heard — and I can’t imagine that they’re working to become more professional. If that’s your approach, what exactly is the point?
I’m sure we all have different goals, but my goal is to eventually get good enough — with an eventual concept that has wide appeal — that building a professional audience would at least be an option for me. I‘m a beginner, but I get the impression that most of the people I’ve been sampling lately think they’re making entertaining shows — and I can’t imagine why anybody would listen to most of them.
I don’t yet have a concept that will appeal to a bigger audience — and I keep reminding you that was intentional since I want to figure out what I’m doing before I try to build a real audience — but this sampling of other shows makes me think that most people who make these small shows have no long-range professional hopes or plans.
That confuses me.
It hurts my pride that I know my show isn’t good enough yet. It’s very difficult for me to allow myself to publish something that I know isn’t professional, but I’ve pushed myself to do this because I know it’s the only way I can get better.
I realize that the concept and content of my current show won’t attract a broad audience, and I’m OK with that. This is practice for me. But it’s practice with a purpose.
You see, I don’t want to be a dilettante. I don’t want to make podcasts or movies or any other form of media on a lark. I want to become good at what I’m doing — and the only way to do good work is to do enough mediocre work to get better.
I don’t know why most people make podcasts. We all have our goals. But my only goal is to become a professional at this. For me, that means letting my ego grapple with not being very good — and working hard to figure out how to make something that can earn money for me.
So please forgive me for being mediocre through my first seven episodes — and probably through my entire season of this show. I’m working to get better, because I really want to be the best one day, even though I realize that’s a long way off.
But please don’t tell anyone that I admitted any of this.