I did an interview for Boston area radio station WZLX this morning; the subject, as usual, was podcasting. An interesting topic came up during the course of the interview. The host, who is a proponent of podcasting, mentioned that it was getting more exciting (I am paraphrasing) now that the professionals are getting involved. My answer, was not what she expected. In fact, I know it wasn’t because we had a great ten-minute discussion about the term “professional podcaster” after we completed the interview.
It is an interesting topic. What is the definition of a “professional podcaster”? I have a feeling it means different things to different people. Having been around from the start, I always thought that those of us doing it were becoming the “professionals.” Personally, I wasn’t waiting for anyone to show up and take over to show us how to do it. After all, we were the ones creating and shaping the medium.
Are you a professional if you earn your living podcasting? A few of us can answer yes to this question. Are you a professional if you create and deliver quality content that you give away with no financial incentive? I know countless people who can say yes to this. Are you a professional if others turn to you for guidance, advice and consulting – often paying for the privilege? Again, some of us can say yes to this. The person interviewing me, I found out, meant people skilled in interviewing and the production of audio shows. Fair enough. I know many people who work very hard on their interview and audio production skills. Are they professional podcasters or professional interviewers?
What about broadcasters entering the arena? Are they more professional than those that have been doing this for almost two years now? Does having a radio background make you a professional podcaster? Many would argue that these are the same pros that drove people to podcasting, the ability to hear independent voices – authentic voices. In fact, many of these pros are huge proponents of podcasting, because they can regain some autonomy through podcasting. Podcasting allows them to no longer be beholden to a corporate playlist or station IDs every five minutes. They can speak their mind, to be authentic.
To me, polished radio, ported to MP3 is not a podcast. While it may fit the technical definition, podcasting as a concept means something more – something greater. As an example, is a MP3 version of the “Zanny Morning Zoo” what you think of when you think of a podcast? Is that why we started this? Is that what people think a podcast is? Yes, it is semantics; it is distributed via podcast, but is it a “podcast”? I know, more questions than answers.
With all of this said, Adam Curry, who I think we can all agree was the driving force in the popularization of podcasting is a broadcast professional. He is also a podcast professional. While some of the skill sets may crossover, I for one, think the terms are not interchangeable.