There’s no such thing as a stupid question in podcasting

If we want to secure the podcast talent pipeline, we need to get better at education

One of the best things about working in podcasting is that I spend a lot of my time talking to fascinating, talented people, but this week was particularly special, as it was the first meeting of the PodPod Editorial Steering Committee – a collection of industry leaders that we’ve gathered together to discuss key issues and trends within the podcasting space.

I’d like to thank everyone that joined for the meeting, which saw lively discussions on a number of interesting topics. One of the more enlightening subjects that came up, however, was the comparative opacity of many aspects of the podcast industry. The fact of the matter is that, as hard as it may be to believe for those of us that spend our days living and breathing it, there are a great many elements of podcasting that the wider business world just don’t know about.

While podcasting is a mature sector with an established history, it does exist in something of a bubble. It’s driven by passionate, dedicated people, and that’s what makes it a fantastic space to work in, but the trade-off is that it can sometimes lead to the assumption of shared knowledge – that all of our colleagues and prospective partners are just as familiar with the minutiae of it as we are. 

A case in point: one study released this week by Acast showed that almost 60% of marketers lack a detailed understanding of programmatic ad-buying, with more than half unable to correctly define it. That’s particularly troubling, as if most marketers don’t understand a fairly straightforward element of podcast adtech, how can anyone else be expected to?

There’s similar levels of confusion around most aspects of podcasting, covering everything from how an RSS feed works, to what kinds of analytics data can be gathered from podcasts, to even what defines a podcast in the first place. Speak to any podcast professional that has to work with businesses or executives outside the podcast space, and you’ll generally find that a significant portion of their time is spent simply educating them on fundamental concepts. 

Obviously, this situation is far from ideal, and a lack of understanding about podcasts isn’t helping to contribute to the growth of the medium, from either a revenue or audience standpoint. However, far from rolling our eyes and tutting at people who don’t know their arse from their RSS, we should be encouraging them to ask questions, however silly or basic they may seem. 

One of our editorial missions at PodPod is to aid in this mythbusting effort, and as time goes on, you’ll see more content on the site (and the podcast itself) designed to give a foundational grounding in fundamental podcasting concepts. Questions like ‘What’s the difference between cardioid and unidirectional mics’ might sound like a waste of time for audio engineers who have been EQing tracks since the days of the Spice Girls, but for a complete novice who’s never so much as seen an XLR cable, there’s no reason they should be expected to know these things before they start looking into podcasting. 

A rising tide lifts all boats, and the growth of podcasting as an industry depends on a steady stream of new people and organisations coming into it – whether they’re creators, producers or advertisers – but in order to ensure the stability of that pipeline, we need to make podcasting a welcoming space for absolute beginners. Part of that is being patient when faced with a complete lack of knowledge, and not being dismissive of people for not sharing our level of expertise. 

When people feel safe asking basic questions, they’ll be more comfortable moving onto more advanced subjects, and gradually increasing their engagement with the medium – which is good for everyone. It’s easy to forget that, for all our talk of podcasting having a low barrier to entry, the learning curve can be steep when you get past a certain point. We may be experts, but not everyone is, and although everyone starts from the same place, the first step on the path to enlightenment starts with a stupid question.