A new project of mine has been bubbling away in secret for quite a while, but I’m excited to be able to divulge it at last:
If Radiotopia succeed in raising $400,000 in their current Kickstarter campaign, in January 2015 I’ll be joining their network to make a new fortnightly podcast. It’ll be all about phrases and etymology and commonplace things we say without realising how weird those things actually are.
I’m cock-a-hoop about this: anyone who has listened to Answer Me This! will have sussed that I have endless enthusiasm for this subject, so I’m looking forward to being able to spend a lot more time indulging my interest. Finally, my degree in Anglo-Saxon and Middle English will come in handy! Which, when you do a degree in Anglo-Saxon and Middle English, is not something you ever expect will happen.
I also have great admiration for what PRX and my friend Roman Mars of 99% Invisible are doing with Radiotopia: they are trying to change the way broadcasting is done. The stretch goal that my show is part of aims to correct the gender imbalance in podcasting, and you know from my Sound Women work and posts like this that I am very much in favour of that. In an ideal world, nobody would even have to make the point that they’re encouraging more shows made by women; but while podcasting, like almost all forms of media and entertainment, remains so dominated by straight white men, this is a positive start – and it’s only the beginning of their plans to diversify the field.
More broadly, Radiotopia is making it possible for independent audio creators to have complete control over what they make, whilst being able to afford to make it at all. Because while podcasting is cheap to start – recording equipment and hosting become less and less expensive as time goes on – the biggest cost is one’s time.
WHY? Making a podcast that is even halfway decent requires a hell of a lot of time and effort. If you’re listening to a podcast that you like, know that a huge amount of both went into making a podcast good enough for you to like.
For instance: each episode of Answer Me This! takes half a week to put together. When we were on a weekly schedule, that left me with slightly insufficient time to work on other things in order to earn enough to live – especially as I’m freelance, and a large chunk of a freelancer’s time gets pissed away on jockeying for paid jobs, leaving even less time in which to do actual work.
Even when my bank statements made me cry, Answer Me This! always felt worth doing, because the audience was and is growing, and continues to be so enthusiastic and encouraging. It took years for the show to make much money, and in the past couple of years the albums and Squarespace.com sponsorship have made a remarkable difference to AMT’s fortunes, but it’s still not enough to live off. Over the years I’ve had many ideas for new shows that will probably never be realised, because having been through it once before with AMT, I just couldn’t afford to spend the amount of time it takes to build up a new podcast from scratch again.
If Radiotopia reach their Kickstarter goal, after nearly eight years of being a podcaster, they can fund my new show and I will be able to become a FULL TIME PODCASTER.
I absolutely love podcasting as a medium, both as a maker and a consumer: it’s so direct and intimate. It only involves the podcaster and the listener, with no layers in between of institutions or compliance. I can listen to material I’m interested in without a commissioner and scheduler having decided that I’m going to listen to it; and as a maker, I’m not at the mercy of those people either. I didn’t need somebody else’s permission to start making Answer Me This!; Olly and I did it because we could, then the listeners themselves confirmed that this was an OK thing to do. So few things would make me happier than for podcasting to be my main pursuit.
If you can afford to chip in to the Kickstarter, even $1 makes a difference; you’d not only be enabling me to make this new podcast which I think you’ll enjoy, but also you’d be bringing in The Heart and Criminal (one of my favourite new podcasts), AND you’d be supporting Radiotopia’s current roster of brilliant shows: Love+Radio, Theory of Everything, Radio Diaries, Strangers, Fugitive Waves, The Truth and, of course, 99% Invisible.
Also, you’d be preventing Roman Mars exploding from stress.
PS: I’ll still carry on making Answer Me This!. I plan to keep doing that show until all the questions in the world have been answered.
PPS: Earlier this year, I interviewed Roman for our Radio 4 documentary about podcasting, in which he outlined the principles that compelled him to start Radiotopia – as well as saying a lot of very interesting stuff about 99% Invisible and podcasts in general. You can stream or download the interview here (alongside interviews with several other great podcasters I spoke to) or here or right here: