The people who tell you that we live in the post-literary age are wrong. Because something fundamental has changed in recent years and it will lead to an explosion of ever more writing: The rise of the web-based platform.
The personal blog or website makes anyone and everyone a potential author. And in the uncertain economic times ahead millions of people worldwide will seek to do exactly that – to write and publish and perhaps to make a living from writing on the platform.
A great many will achieve that goal. Far more people than at any time in the past will be able to generate income from writing. Whether it’s e-books, information products, or training content, the market for written content will grow. It won’t be pristine, it may not always be artistically pleasing, but it will be there.
If you plan to write in this environment there are certain realities that you will face. Perhaps chief amongst those realities is the need to take promotional matters into your own hands. Because unless you are an extraordinary talent, you won’t have the option of leaving the marketing to someone else as you concentrate on the writing.
Every writer will have to learn to manage a personal platform. This means we will each need to learn, not just to write well, but also to target an audience and build what Seth Godin calls a tribe, a group of like-minded individuals with similar interests and goals. In other words, we will each have to create our own audiences.
Luckily, that’s what the platform is for. The web is very suited to niche targeting. And there are options.
One of those options is podcasting.
How podcasting helps
Why podcasting? Well, in my experience, podcasting creates two kinds of benefit for the writer – one practical, one artistic. Let’s explore these briefly.
First of all, the practical, i.e., the marketing benefits. Podcasting is the great, under- appreciated marketing tool. It’s just a few years old – the term was only coined in late 2004 – and I think it’s this newness that explains why it’s both underestimated and misunderstood.
But this is also where the marketing opportunity comes in: Not one in a hundred writers online has a podcast, so creating one now means that you are instantly differentiated. It allows you to stand out.
It’s also proactive. When you develop the platform in general and podcasting in particular, you take charge over your own destiny. You don’t just write and hope for the best. Instead, you actively seek outlets, connections, audiences, readers, institutions or individuals who will read and possibly pay for your content.
And through the podcast you leverage different media, different channels, and different consumption options for the user.
These are the types of active, maybe even aggressive, marketing that will open up options for you. Within a year or two and with a decent podcast, you could have your own audience – perhaps a sizable audience – and a new set of writing options or a newly-wrought business model.
Because, with a brand and an audience you can test the waters for how you work with your audience: You may seek to charge for your content or use it to promote yourself as a free-lancer. (To be clear, you’re more likely to get paid for training content than literary content.) Alternatively, you may plan to use the platform to seek out a book deal. Others that I know of have used the platform to establish a name/reputation and sought income from speaking or other services. Others do it entirely as a means to promote their books or their skills. The business model possibilities are endless.
The artistic dimension
No tool that I know of differentiates you or allows you to seek out followers and exploit the various channels as effectively as podcasting.
Your podcast differentiates your brand and your persona, and it says what you stand for. It injects your (actual) voice into the mix, allowing you to add color and nuance to your brand, to your writing. I hope I’ve shown that it’s a way to stand out.
Which takes us to the second benefit that I see from audio podcasting: Its potential for artistic expression. Let me offer you an example that I recorded for writing.ie. The passage is called Baldy Conscience and it’s about 3 mins long. It took three hours to write, record, edit and upload – including the music that I composed and recorded myself.
Now I’m not saying that this little story is any good. Better writers than I could do far more interesting things with a bit of experimentation. But I think it shows that the sound medium lends itself to endless creative treatment.
In a podcast, there are no gatekeepers, no committees, no editors, and not many precedents. You’re free to explore and be as creative as you like – a point I hope you will appreciate if you listen to my show.
My experience with podcasting
So, not only are you making your writer’s voice concrete in a podcast, but you’re also bringing with it the mood, atmosphere, the nuance that you choose. In my experience – and I’ve recorded several hundred podcasts – it is this quality of audio that makes it the most personal of all the media. It’s more personal than writing itself and more personal even than video.
Which is why users bond with the people they listen to. I know this because in 2005 I helped launch a podcast from my base in Shanghai, China. We targeted an American audience of people who wanted to learn the Chinese language and we used podcasting to do it. Within three years, and with a minimal marketing budget, we gathered half a million subscribers for ChinesePod.com and developed a thriving business with some intensely loyal and enthusiastic customers.
I moved on a couple of years ago but ChinesePod is still the world’s most popular online resource for learning Mandarin. Now I concentrate on my own site with a recently launched podcast called RemarkableWriting Techniques. Feel free to drop by and give us a comment or a like.
Since I didn’t have the space to go into how podcasting is done, I refer you to the excellent Cliff Ravenscraft, aka, The Podcast Answer Man, who runs superb online courses to teach you how to podcast.