Little did I know the fate that awaited me when I sat down and recorded my first podcast on a hot autumn day in Waco, Texas. On Oct. 9, I celebrated 10 years in podcasting.
In the early 90s I ran the largest bulletin board system in the territory of Guam. What was I doing in Guam? Well before and during my podcasting days I was active duty in the U.S. Navy. I retired in 2007 to do podcasting full time.
So from about 1990 to 2002 I ran a BBS and when that space died, I started blogging . . . I admit I was not that great of a blogger. But the two things had something in common: the BBS and the blog allowed me to communicate with like-minded people.
In June 2004 I was involved in a swimming pool accident that nearly left me paralyzed. The doc said I was a “3 percenter” — 97 percent of the people that suffered my injury are left paralyzed the rest of their lives. That experience left me wanting to make a difference in people’s lives and I started seeking a way to fulfill that.
During the months of recovery I made myself useful to the Navy by doing administrative jobs that landed me in Waco overseeing the taxpayers’ dollars that were being spent on the modification of airplanes. With Texas being 100 degrees in the shade, and me being constrained to a clamshell body brace, air conditioning was my best friend.
So on Oct. 8 I discovered podcasting pioneers Dave Winer and Adam Curry on “Scripting News.” I was like a fish that had not seen a meal in a year — hooked. My first show, on Oct. 9, lasted 43 minutes and reached 500-1,000 listeners; about five times as many as had ever read my blog in a single day. I knew I was on to something big.
In the early days the biggest challenge was securing enough hosting accounts to keep the show online. Bandwidth was expensive, and for the first year I had no less than 18 hosting accounts to support eight episodes a month. I would put an episode up, blow out the monthly bandwidth allowance on that host within 36 hours, and then change the media source until I blew out the next hosting account allotment.
The show quickly grew to more than 65,000 listeners. Those where the glory days of podcasting, yet I marvel that we all did not go broke. But things were evolving. In January 2005 I wrote the first book on podcasting “Podcasting the Do it Yourself Guide.” We sold over 47,000 copies of that book, a record for a tech book. We received several awards, including one from Amazon and another from the New York Times. And that kept me out of the poor house.
In July 2005 GoDaddy approached me and offered to sponsor my show, which was exciting as my wife had instituted a two-year deadline to make the show profitable. After a few months I was asked by GoDaddy rep Kris Redlinger the now-famous question that changed everything: “Do you know other podcasts we could advertise in?” It was as if I had been struck by lightning, a business instantly formulated in my head.
On my next show I did a shout-out asking for a Web developer/ programmer, business developer, graphics guy and a lawyer. From that call-out on my show we built RawVoice. The rest is history. RawVoice was built with fans of my show: Four of the five principles RawVoice started with are still primary owners in the company.
Honestly, the past 10 years have been a whirlwind and I admit that being one of the first 50 or so podcasters was pretty cool. Hundreds of thousands have come and gone since then and today we still see new shows launching nearly every day — people with a voice and a passion to discuss every possible topic under the sun.
The principles of podcasting have not changed since Day 1, and I chuckle when someone has a new scheme about how to get into the new and noteworthy section of iTunes. When I walked both ways uphill in the snow to do my podcast, there was no podcast section in iTunes let alone “new and noteworthy.” We had to win the audience over by content. Content and passion will remain the formula that wins the hearts, minds and loyalty of podcast audiences.
While I do consider myself what us Navy guys call a plankowner — a crew member who is part of a inaugural crew when the ship is commissioned — in the podcasting space, I am overjoyed every day when I learn something new or consider a new podcasting technique. But one thing for sure is I am not the same podcaster that started on that hot steamy day in Waco, Texas, in a dingy hotel room.
The podcasting journey has been my therapy. My audience experienced the death of my father on the day of my 200th episode. The response I received to the 5-minute announcement I made to my audience explaining why there would be no show that night still amazes me, and also made me realize what podcasting was really about. I got more than 5,000 emails from my family of listeners with words of condolence, and my family of listeners sent dozens of bouquets of flowers to my father’s funeral.
Notice I say my “Family of Listeners”. On my show, every listener is part of my “ohana.” From Google, “The word ʻohana means family in the Hawaiian language, but in a wider sense to include not only one’s closer relatives, but also one’s cousins, in laws, friends, race, and other neighbours,” and in my case my audience.
Once you start thinking about your audience as an extended part of your family your relationship with them will change and you will become a more engaged podcaster.
So as I start my second 10 years in podcasting, I hope that you will consider the legacy you are creating, the lives you’re molding and make your voice one that will not be forgotten.
As I approach my one-thousandth show, I hope you will tune into my podcast and let me share in much deeper detail what I have attempted to share with you today in written word. It sure is a hell of a lot easier to just podcast it.
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