Who can be a podcaster?
And what makes a good host?
Can anyone be a podcaster?
Like the first entry about if podcasting was just turning on a mic, the answer to this is quite simply, yes. And no. Podcasting is still an untamed Wild West, with so many parts yet uncharted and rules that differ from place to place.
In strict definitional terms, yes anyone can be a podcaster, or have a podcast — multiple podcasts even. Podcasting is as ubiquitous now as blogging was in the mid-oughts. Remember everyone had LJ, blogspot, or wordpress? When I started working at PumaPodcast, I’d go to parties and let people know what I was doing. More than half the people at these parties either wanted to have a podcast or already had one. It’s even easier now. Got a smartphone and data? Talk. Upload. Done.
So why do we say, no not everyone? Let’s go back to the blog example. Sure, all you needed to do was to sign up and you had a blog. But you also have to put the work in. What are some things we consider when we think about podcast hosts?
Do you have to be a celebrity?
Most of the time, when we talk to people thinking about becoming podcasters, their main frame of reference is Joe Rogan. Sometimes it’s Tim Ferris, Gary Vaynerchuk, Marc Maron or other talk/interview/hot mic shows. People listen to these shows, they say to themselves, hey, I can talk, I can interview people. That’ll be my podcast, I’ll just interview people and it’ll be cool.
Well the success rate between the chart-topping Joe Rogan and every other person who said, “I’ll start a podcast and be the next Joe Rogan” is… I don’t have an exact number. But how many talk podcasts do you listen to that have the same popularity as Joe Rogan? It’s basically like saying, I’m going to write a novel and I’ll be the next Stephen King or J.K. Rowling. True it’s absolutely not impossible that this could happen for an author…but how many authors are spoken of in the same breath? Add to that the important fact that Rogan spent decades honing his media chops, doing stand-up, Fear Factor, so many UFCs under his belt, and not sure if people even remember, but he was also in sitcoms in the 90s.
Ferris was a bestselling author, Gary Vee’s presence is all over the internet, Maron is a successful comedian, there’s Michelle Obama…
So yes, it helps if you’re a celebrity. It’s pretty safe to say that if you’re a celebrity, you can probably launch a podcast and have it be a successful podcast. Great, right? Now all you need to do to be a successful podcaster is to be a celebrity.
Our answer to this though is a definitive NO. No, you don’t need to be a celebrity or a massive social media influencer to be a successful podcaster.
What you should be is a storyteller. One who has a sense of the audience. One who wants to speak to a clearly defined niche audience about a topic that they have expertise in. We don’t think about podcasts hosts who “can do a show about anything and everything.” We enjoy listening to people who NERD IT OUT. Who go deep into things that they are passionate about, and are able to discuss those things to people who also NERD IT OUT as listeners.
Like the young economists JC Punongbayan, Maien Vital, and Jeff Arapoc who host our “Usapang Econ” podcast. They’re not celebrities, but they’re undeniably the best people for the job!
Is it only for the youth?
When you look at all these people doing livestreams and podcasts, you might think that it’s really for what older people would call “the younger generation.” I think I’m somewhere in the middle here myself, between these generations, and from my vantage point I’m seeing that age isn’t a factor. In the same way that there are advantages to being a fresh new voice, there are advantages to being a salty veteran.
PumaPodcast hosts range from people a few years out of college, to Roby Alampay, who has decades of media experience, to Randy David, who has been a public intellectual longer than a lot of us have been alive. In fact, Randy David’s podcast is turning out to be one of our most popular podcasts, speaking to different generations. Each person is a different voice, a different perspective, a different range of experience.
What makes a good host?
I mentioned this a few paragraphs back, but it bears repeating: we believe that good hosts NERD IT OUT. Good hosts aren’t just good at talking, but know the ins-and-outs of what they are talking about. They’re curious and look to learn from their interviewees, guests, and other sources. The best hosts pack expertise AND love to jump in and do extensive research on the topics they discuss.
You don’t have to have the silkiest, most radio-friendly voice (goodness knows I always cringe when I first hear my voice on tape). Global podcast greats like Ira Glass and Malcolm Gladwell probably won’t cut it as voice actors. But you need to be able to know how to use the voice you have to communicate to your listeners. You’re talking to them, on a more personal, connected level than traditional broadcasting.
These are a couple of things. And having a team to support you can help. I asked journalist Pam Pastor about her experience working with us and how we helped her become a podcast host for the true crime pod “Super Evil.” She said:
“It takes a village to make a good podcast. And in PumaPodcast, I found my dream village. I’ve spent almost a year working with their team in what might be the most challenging project of my life and I’m so glad they’ve been with me every step of the way. They’ve held my hand through the entire process, taking care of the timelines, giving valuable input, providing transcripts, holding writers rooms, patiently coaching me as I flub my way through the recording process and editing and re-editing with their expert ears. The end result is a podcast that we can all be really proud of and I wouldn’t — couldn’t — have done it with anyone else.
During one of my first few meetings with PumaPodcast, I remember them saying that there’s so much more to podcasting than sitting in front of a mic and pressing record. I’ve learned how true that is in the past year that I’ve been working with them. There is so much work that goes into creating a good podcast before you even think about going into the studio for your recording sessions. Having a whole team working with you is an absolute gift.”
For the hosts we work with, we take care of the rest. We always say, we won’t promise that we can make someone a celebrity. But we can help them make an amazing podcast. And even for independent shows that aren’t part of a network, the same principle applies: Extra effort pays off.