The Big Issue : Edition 511
22 THEBIGISSUE6–19MAY2016 CAT NOISES, WEIGHT LOSS AND ITUNES RATINGS: PODCASTING IS A VERY DIFFERENT WAY OF MAKING RADIO. POD COMPLEX and meowed plaintively into the voicemail repeatedly while some kind of action movie played in the background and a villain laughed maniacally, so I’m not saying our feedback always makes sense). Doing a daily podcast teaches you a fair bit about the difference between radio and podcasting. Podcast listeners are more engaged, more responsive, more invested and less fickle than radio audiences. There’s a sense of a podcast being a shared project. People send us advice, postcards, giant novelty greeting cards, sometimes even food. Listeners take ownership, possibly because of that act of having to subscribe. Unlike listening to somebody droning on about the traffic on the ring road because there’s nothing else on, you have to want to listen to a podcast. Podcasts empower listeners more than radio does, allowing them to build their own listening schedules and import the content into their own lives in much more nuanced ways. They don’t have to listen at a set time of day. They can extend their relationship with the podcast, too, online and in real time, communicating with other listeners and presenters. It’s interesting how often listener feedback makes reference to daily routine. “I listen at work”, they say. “You walk me to uni!” And my personal favourite: the person who emailed to thank us for helping him lose weight while he listened to back-to-back episodes as part of his new walking regime. Maybe that’s the best thing about podcasting. It provides a format for content to be downloaded into your brain while you go about being you. The presenters provide the content, but you co-write the listening experience. Like with the mix-tape of yesteryear, listening to podcasts is quite an art. Sometimes if Farrell knows I’m having a bad day he’ll just text one word. “Podcast!” It always makes me feel better. FOR MONTHS BEFORE we started the Stupidly Small Podcast, my good friend slash radio co-host slash excellent idiot Stew Farrell would periodically send me text messages that just said, “Podcast!” I’d be brushing my teeth before bed and my phone would ding. “Podcast!” it would say, lighting up my face in the semi-darkness. I’d be at work, sitting right next to him. Phone would ding. “Podcast!” Boring meeting. “Podcast!” Away on holidays. “Podcast!” “Podcast!” became a metaphor for renewal, the creative light at the end of our tunnel. If one of us was having a bad day, we’d send the podcast text. Almost always, it cheered me up. The idea of doing a podcast together started way back. We had both worked in radio for years, but podcasts are different. You’re less constrained. There is no pre-existing format. There are no commercials. No playlists. There’s no chance you might accidentally hear a Nickelback song or be subjected to a “great new track” by someone playing the nose flute in a cardboard box. You can listen when you like. You can save up a bunch and listen to eight at a time or you can time a walk to match your podcast length. The podcast can fit in wherever you want it to. The Stupidly Small Podcast started a week after we finished the radio job we were working on when we met. Ittookusaweektosetupastudioinaspareroomatmy place. We wanted to keep it informal. We didn’t write anything down. We didn’t plan. We thought we’d see how it went. From the beginning, the only two rules we agreed on for the Stupidly Small Podcast were: it goes for under half an hour, and we stop if we’re not having fun. We’ve done it every weekday since (with a handful of days off when one of us has a hangover or a baby or something). People seemed to like it. We got to Number One in the iTunes charts pretty much straight away. Our listeners emailed us amusing and encouraging things. Someone called up in the first week and read a poem into the voicemail we had carefully set up on our website for listener contributions. (Mind you, just last month someone rang up » Lorin Clarke (@lorinimus) is a Melbourne-based writer and podcaster. Find out more about the Stupidly Small Podcast at stupidlybig.com, or subscribe through your favourite podcast app.