Some numbers

I was at a picnic recently and was talking to an attorney about my podcast. He asked me how long I’ve had it, and when I told him more than seven years (since late 2009), he called me a “pioneer” because now podcasts are a lot more common and easier to create than they were when I started.

I’m glad that a non-radio person appreciated my efforts, because it seems that when I put my project on my resume, some people don’t seem to care or understand just how difficult it is to produce one and attract listeners.

Luckily, radio people understand what I’m doing and what an achievement it is to get attention even on just a niche level. So this post isn’t really in reaction to the wonderful radio-related people I’ve met over the years. This is more a reaction to the apathy I’ve encountered in other areas.

Actually, what prompted this post was a failed attempt to get a gig with a major company that’s trying to expand in the digital realm. I’m not going to get into the details, but I’m pretty sure the people in charge didn’t understand that when I say I’ve gotten thousands of hits over the years, it means something because I’m doing this alone. I don’t have a company behind me, or a team of marketers, or even a co-creator. Some people who work in larger companies where a podcast or blog or whatever are part of a larger mix don’t understand the struggle of solo work. I’ve even met radio management who shared their podcast numbers, and some of their stats didn’t exceed mine. But this is nothing against them, and it’s not a criticism of media professionals, because I’m pretty sure they understand. This is for the other people–I’m posting this information and my feelings publicly so they know that when I say I’m doing this, it means something and it’s worth something. I don’t like the feeling of being dismissed, and I don’t think anyone does.

A while ago, I wrote a two-part article for The Publicity Hound giving advice for creating a podcast. And as radio people know, I only covered the basics: 1 – equipment and 2 – producing and publishing. Creating a podcast involves a lot of steps, trial-and-error, and acceptance from listeners and even search engines. There was no IT department for me to go to–I had to figure a lot of stuff out on my own, and in the early days there wasn’t a lot of information out there, either (now there is because podcasts are more popular and more people are creating them). Unfortunately, some people in larger companies don’t seem to value the fact that industrious people like me have figured things out, especially on a technical level. They judge us on superficial qualities, such as age (because they assume only a certain generation understands digital since they’re able to press buttons and likes) or a lack of predictable parameters because we have various pursuits that can’t be summed up in a clever elevator speech. (For instance, one of my projects is my blog, which got thousands of hits from more than 100 countries before I spent more time on this podcast. I also ended up getting paid work based on what people read–so thanks to those people, too).

Today’s very popular podcasts are created by people who are already well-known in other media, or they have salacious content, or they have powerful people supporting them and promoting them, or they’ve nailed an important niche. My podcast has done pretty well (by my standards) despite such lack. Here are some examples of my stats which I checked recently. If I were to spend more time combing through the numbers, I would probably have a more precise list. So far:

Bill Leff, who’s on the air at WGN, has gotten around 7,500 hits. Terri Hemmert, who’s on the air at WXRT, has received more than 6,000. Craig Roberts has surpassed 13,000 hits. (He was so happy with the interview, he sent it to several TV executives he does voice-overs for. Maybe they shared it, and so on and so on? Or maybe people landed on it when they were searching for someone else with the same name?) Another guy in LA has gotten almost 7,000 hits, probably because he hadn’t been interviewed before and was busy in the movie business.

The late Kevin Metheny has racked up about 9,000 hits (though the stats came in above 10,000 back then; maybe my host changed their procedure?). What helped in that case was the extra media attention I got from columnist Robert Feder: when Metheny died and when I first interviewed him, which eventually led to exposure on Howard Stern’s show. (As a side note: I met Feder early on in my radio pursuits, and he was super-nice. I’m sure he noticed that I was trying to hold it together as I struggled to not reveal challenges I was facing. In retrospect, I should have let him know because I encountered his support and encouragement since then, so I should have been honest…oh well :/ )

Some podcasts get a few hundred hits, and some a few thousand; from the most recent podcasts, Scott Miller has gotten more than 2,600 so far and Ryan Arnold, who’s on the air at WXRT, has eclipsed 3,700. They are rare because they promoted the interviews on social media. Amazingly, many people don’t–even the people who are very active on social media post nothing. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because I’m not as prominent as CNN or the former Big Three? So thanks to Ryan and Scott (he also did a great job tagging people, etc.)!

So the picture I’m painting is this: in spite of me being alone, with not much social media support from my “subjects,” I’ve managed to get numbers in the thousands, not once but several times (various other interviews have exceeded 1,000 or 2,000). Yet people who think they know digital overlook this–why? The media landscape is crowded–whether it’s broadcasting or digital. But I’ve created a niche that people have paid attention to, and even respect. That should be worth something (it’s worth it to me, but I’m saying this for the benefit of the oblivious doubters).

In conclusion (sounds academic but feels right to use that at this moment), I would like to give a huge thanks to the outlet that has consistently mentioned my interviews and supported me from the very beginning: Chicagoland Radio and Media. Unfortunately, he’s taking a brief, indefinite, or lifelong break. I gave it some thought, ran the idea past some people, and finally decided to create a news section on this site: Radiogirl Media News.

Check it out and let me know if you have any news to share. And thanks to everyone for your support! Too bad some people don’t “get it.”

What’s been going on

I’ve been giving this a lot of thought, because sometimes I’ll see someone in the radio world or a non-radio person who’s listened to my podcast, Radiogirl podcastand they’ll ask me if I’m still doing it. I am, but I’m not posting as often. I was actually going to write nothing about it, but the very kind and friendly Duffy Atkins encouraged me (when I was at WGN-TV interviewing her) to share my feelings with the public, and I’m taking her advice. So here are some reasons why my activity has slowed down:

1 – I’ve already interviewed a lot of people, so I don’t have as much of a burning desire to interview everyone under the sun. There are certain people I’d love to interview, and I’ve asked some of them, but sometimes they ignore me, get busy, or blow me off once they’ve agreed. I don’t know why they do that, but it’s quite rude and discouraging. Which brings me to my next point…

2 – I’ve been discouraged. This isn’t from a lack of hits, page views, website visits, or exposure, because I’ve gotten lots of hits over the years. In fact, I’m going to share some stats in another post because I include this podcast on my resume, and in the non-radio world, they seem to not care or perhaps don’t believe me. But radio professionals seem to understand. They have been very supportive of me and believe me when I tell them about the thousands of hits I’ve gotten. Maybe it’s because they know how hard it is to get attention for podcasts as opposed to broadcast radio, which already has thousands of listeners, while the non-radio world only seems to care about brand recognition or some other variables that an expert put together to shut us homegrown content creators out. Luckily, I have felt very supported by the radio community, so I’d like to thank everyone who’s given me positive feedback and even work based on what I’ve done here.

Right now, I’m not really discouraged but perhaps not as motivated as I once was. For instance, I recently interviewed someone, and I have to finish putting it together to post online, but I don’t feel the same burning deadlines I used to give myself before (it will be posted, but I’m more motivated at this moment to express myself via the written word). I think I know what the issue is, and I’m going to be totally honest, even though I’m afraid to be forthcoming, because a lot of people try to put on a brave face and pretend everything is okay, even while surrounded by burning buildings: the radio business is not as robust as it used to be, and I’ve been experiencing the decline first-hand.

Actually, I never worked in the biz when it was good; I started when it was already in trouble, and I had my share of difficult experiences due to people fighting for the crumbs that were left. But I think what made me more motivated to do the podcast was my proximity to the business, and the excitement and pursuit of my share of the dream. Whatever I was feeling, whether good or bad, could be channeled into the podcast, so I had a drive and an internal flame that wasn’t quenched until I ended up barely working in the biz. So I became very discouraged about my radio career, and what made it feel worse was when some people didn’t respond to interview requests or vanished after they confirmed. I just felt very discouraged, and even was thinking of giving up.

Then I had to spend my energy on finding new work outside radio, which was time-consuming and disappointing for its own reasons. Now I’m doing fine work-wise, but it took a while to attain such stability (that can be a separate post as well). But there were other much more serious situations that affected me as well…

3 – Illness and death. This has been a running theme throughout my podcasting pursuits, and some people already know what I’ve been dealing with over the years. I’d like to thank all the people in the radio biz who listened to me and supported me as I shared my struggles, while I concurrently tried to achieve my radio dreams. I’d also like to apologize to some people I interviewed, who would wonder why I didn’t post their interviews right away. It’s basically because I had so much to deal with in my personal life, sometimes it was hard to find the head space to concentrate on producing the pod in a timely manner. I was also dealing with radio drama because the business is competitive, unfair, and has dwindling resources, and I was trying to attain positive outcomes in the midst of those trials.

I remember when I started at WBBM (the best, most professional station), and I had to schedule training times. I wasn’t always available, and I wouldn’t say why. My boss eventually found out the reasons, and I’ll share that here now: my sister had late-stage ovarian cancer (she encouraged me to take the WBBM job), and while she was becoming more ill, I ended up being responsible for my elderly dad, who already had late-stage lung cancer in addition to other health issues. Then she died, and I was totally responsible for him. And this all happened after my mom had died a few years before. So while I was trying to build a podcast and tread the radio waters, the entire time I was dealing with a lot of illness, hospital visits, doctor visits, medical facility visits, errands, companionship, suffering, grief…a lot of stuff that I could write reams about at another time in another place.

When my dad passed away in late 2016, I realized that I was quite sad for years and lived life in a heavy way. When my mom died, my radio dream was still going. When my sister died, my radio dream was dying. When my dad died, my radio dream seemed to die too.

I don’t know why I link the podcast to the radio biz, but they were running congruently and seemed to complement each other. I had a passion for both, which pushed me along. I could go into the studio at work and play around with editing, etc. (another apology to those people whose interviews I “experimented” on seemingly unsuccessfully), talk to geeks about audio issues, and get recommendations for how to approach potential participants. Basically, it was very exciting, even though it wasn’t easy.

I’ll be honest again (actually, I’m already being honest, so I shouldn’t have to say that): I really miss those days. I ended up having the best time at WGN (which I wrote about at my blog), and I really felt like I was sailing along on a calm sea below a sunny sky (after years of choppy waters below dark skies). Stupid people probably thought my enthusiasm was weird or circumspect, but I was truly excited. That led me to the wonderful WBBM, which is a total class act (which I also wrote about at my blog), which probably helped me get some non-radio work because it’s such a stellar place that is listened to by all kinds of people in Chicago and beyond.

Okay, so here I am, still in the first quarter of 2017, when I don’t have to spend time in ICU, discuss funeral plans, or arrange meds. I’m not going to quit this podcast, and writing all this out has been cathartic enough to ignite the spark that propelled me before. I still have more to say, but let me end with this: thanks to all the people who’ve listened to this podcast over the years, thanks to those who’ve sent me emails and given me feedback on Facebook and Twitter, and to reiterate, thanks for the support I’ve gotten. It’s really been encouraging, and hopefully I’ll be able to find something that I can be as passionate and driven about, because I don’t want to exist in a mediocre rut.