INSIGHTS OF A POD GOD

As podcasting continues to rise in popularity, with an estimated 700,000 shows streaming today, everyone is looking for the next opportunity: merchandising; spin-offs in TV, film, and books; live events.

One person with his finger very much on the pulse of podcasting is Eric Nuzum, co-founder of Magnificent Noise podcasting production and creative consulting company in New York. He’s helped develop some of NPR’s top podcasts, including the TED Radio Hour, Invisibilia, and Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me.

December marks the release of his book Make Noise: A Creator’s Guide to Podcasting and Great Storytelling. We were fortunate to get an advance copy and chat with him about not just what makes a great podcast — but what it takes for a podcast to take off internationally.

CMI: Your book is really accessible, and makes podcasting seem possible for anyone with a great idea and commitment. Was that your intention?

Eric Nuzum: The book is a collection of the things people ask me all the time. Sometimes when I’m tired and cranky and folks ask me questions, I want to toss them a copy of a book and say, “Read this.” So this is it. Yes, I think there’s a very low barrier to entry in podcasting, but there is not a low barrier to success. People get confused because it seems so easy to start, then when it doesn’t take off they say, “What happened?” I say, “Here are the reasons. If you build it they will come, but only if done well with sense of intention and purpose.”

How popular is podcasting in other countries compared to the U.S.?

EN: Listening is very popular, but a lot of people look at the U.S. as kind of the leading edge of creating podcasts. The U.K. is two to five years behind, and other countries are a couple of years behind that. The only thing that takes that idea and disassembles it is that you haven’t yet seen a hit like Serial emerge from England. Some American podcasts break out worldwide, but you don’t see other countries having that same level of international appeal.

CMI: Is there much international interest in American podcasts?

EN: Very much. The international market is driving podcasting in general.

CMI: So is there potential to translate American podcasts for the non-English speaking markets?

EN: Of course it has potential. There’s a lot of interest in it. The main impediments to a more international presence for podcasting is that the catalog is so small. If you look at a country where 60 million people speak the language, it sounds like a lot, but in reality it isn’t that big. They need more content. If they can bring in podcasts from other lands, it makes it more appealing.

In your book MAKE NOISE, you describe a podcasting conference in Sydney, where a live event of an American podcast (The Allusionist) hosted by a British host (Helen Zaltzman) drew big Australian crowds. That’s quite an international crossover, isn’t it?

EN: Yes, in part because there’s no language barrier. But the biggest factor in the growth of podcasting isn’t the language — it’s access to the smartphones to make it portable in an app. If your phone has access to a podcasting app, the accessibility goes from nine clicks to two.

So what’s the biggest obstacle to making that happen? When will we see American podcasts being localized for foreign markets?

EN: When someone makes an investment and decides to build a business around it. It seems like such an obvious opportunity, but people are slow to make investments in it. Listeners, advertisers, the ecosystem takes some time to really come into its own in a way they can support each other. You need an audience hungry for things to listen to, and advertisers willing to support content because they know people will love it. If you can attract an audience, everything else works out.

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