Disclaimer: Let me be very clear that this is in no way an attack on any particular podcast or website. This is more my take on the rise and eventual decline of podcasts dedicated to the genre movies that we all love.
Like many of you I was really into the horror podcast scene of several years ago. This is even before I thought for a second about doing my own show. We all had our own favorites, but regardless of what shows you listened to the experience was the same. Personally, I looked forward each week to downloading the shows and listening to fellow fans talking about the new releases and discussing their memories of growing up the warm glow of the television while watching the late-night horror show or a favorite VHS tape. For a guy like me it was a Godsend because I lived in an area where there wasn't a community of fans for me to connect with.
But then something changed. At first, I thought it was just me getting old and jaded. Then I started having one conversation after another with fellow fans on the net and at conventions. It seems that I wasn't alone in suddenly losing interest in the podcasting scene both as a contributor thru the Gutmunchers podcast and as a listener. What happened? I have some ideas that I'm going to share in this article.
Before you start recording ask yourself some questions. (aka. What the hell am I doing here?)
Before you ever record a second of a show you need to ask yourself what your goals are. What kind of show do you want to do? What sort of content do you want to provide? Can you pull it off?
These might seem like obvious things to sort out before you do a show. But I’ve listened to podcasts that are put together by people who are in love with the concept of a show but haven’t put any thought into it. When I started the Gutmunchers podcast I knew that I had a specific set of goals. Heck I even had a mission statement (like the on the front page of the website). I wanted to review a couple movies in each show. These would be movies that either myself or my co-host liked. I didn’t care if it was a new release or not. My goal was to turn other fans onto the movies that I liked.
The other big goal of mine was to interview interesting people who worked in and around the movies we all loved. Some of them had done other shows and some of them hadn’t. One of our first interviews was with Carol Speed who a lot of fans and promoters thought was dead (I’m not kidding guys). This was the kind of person that I wanted to talk to and share with others.
Now I’m not trying to say that this was the only way to do a show. There are a lot of different approaches to podcasting. When the shows first started it was all new and people put a lot of thought into what they wanted. Especially since in the early days the editing tools and hosting weren’t necessarily free people it caused put effort into it. Then things got cheap and even free sometimes so that everyone piled on without thinking about it. This of course leads to my next point.
Too many podcasts (aka. The good ones got buried quickly)
I think that the combination of free tools for editing and free hosting options lead to everyone and their brother starting up a podcast. This is further complicated by the ease in which you were able to get it added to iTunes and therefore delivered to anyone that had an iPod. When this first happened, I thought it was amazing to be able to reach so many individuals with so little effort. And it really was. But that also caused a fatal reaction for the podcasting scene.
With all the free services that were available you could literally decide to do a show and have something “live” in just a couple of hours. And this was with some basic editing. So what happened is that suddenly everyone had a podcast and the market was saturated. Not only that but since it so easy most of the shows were put together terribly. The editing was lousy, there was dead air, and no one put any effort into the content. I could go on, but I’ll talk more about this later. Bottom line was that the one show that put the work in and sounded somewhat professional got tossed in with the fifty others that were garbage.
I know you are asking yourself what is the harm in friends recording stuff and being goofy? If it was just a hobby like when my friends and I used to make “shows” with my old cassette recorder then no harm no foul. But that isn’t what happened. Those involved acted much like the independent filmmakers that run around the woods over a weekend with a camera and call it a movie. They started to promote their “shows”, fought for listeners, started tearing each other down, and went to companies to try and get screeners. Now personally as a fan I got so burned out with the feuds (to be fair I was part of one) and the hosts constantly bitching about one another that I stopped listening. I don’t think that I was the only one either. As a former podcaster, it was also embarrassing to tell anyone that I had a show because I didn’t want to get lumped in with this crowd. Hell, I always lead off with the website and never mentioned the show until I was established with them.
You just aren't that interesting! (aka. Fart jokes just aren't that funny after the 20th time)
This one is simple. I've sampled so many different podcasts that I lost count a long time ago. One of the observations that I made along the way is that far too many podcasters want the show to be about them. In some kind of attention-grabbing desperation move they want their personality to be the central focus of the show. Sorry guys but even Howard Stern got boring after a couple of years of listening to his radio show uncensored and I personally think he is a genius. What chance do you have in holding an audience? The answer is not much.
In my humble opinion, a horror podcast or really any movie podcast should be about the flicks and not about some goof talking about how much his farts smell or calling his co-host names for two freaking hours. Guys you need to understand that the movies are your content and are why your audience is "tuning" in for each episode. When we were doing the Gutmunchers podcast I tried hard to focus on what was important, the DVDs that we were covering and the interesting people that we were interviewing.
Too many people half doing half assed work. (aka. Watch some damn movies!)
This one just kills me. I was listening to a show that I won’t name here. They were doing a best of show where they discussed all the horror flicks from a particular year. Only they hadn’t seen or couldn’t remember half of them! This is just lazy and shows a total lack of respect for your audience. I might have sucked as a podcaster, but I always watched the movies and did the work for the show. If you don’t have the time to do your research, then chose a different direction for that particular show. Maybe the professionals can just wing it but you can’t. If you could then someone would be paying you to do this instead of you recording it in your bedroom.
This leads me to another point about doing the work. Would it kill you to have a script? I’ve listened to shows that had no focus and wandered all over the place. The hosts didn’t know what they were trying to do or in what order they wanted to do it. You need to know what the plan is before you ever record a damn thing. There is nothing so annoying as dead air. Podcasting isn’t a visual medium, so you need to keep things rolling along. Nothing will bring a show to a screaming halt faster than not having a script.
Wrap up (aka. Yes, I probably pissed off some people)
These are my thoughts on what happened to the podcasting scene. When I first started writing this I approached it as a how to for podcasting. You know so I could pass on my experiences and encourage other budding podcasters. But the more I got into it the more I realized that I didn’t want to encourage anyone to become a podcaster. Trust me the work you put in will never be worth it. The online horror community is vicious. You are either going to do a lousy show and add to the crap already out there, or you will be good at it and then incur the wrath of those that are jealous of your success. Instead of spending hours editing and tracking down interviews I’d recommend just chilling out and watching some movies.
Agree with me? Disagree with me? I don’t hide behind a screen name, and I put my contact information right out there. Either way you should feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with feedback. This isn’t meant to be a shot at any podcaster or show in particular and shouldn’t be taken as such.
© Copyright 2021 John Shatzer