It’s been about two months since PodCon 2017, and I still miss it constantly. PodCon 2017 was a beautiful event filled with kind, excited people all working together to celebrate the industry and inspire others to create. Most attendees I’ve spoken to consider PodCon one of the best conventions they’d ever been to, and I consider it a highlight of 2017.
Still, PodCon 2017 was a convention in its first year, meaning there’s still room to grow. Over the past two months, I’ve been thinking about what I would love to see for PodCon 2018–changes that I think would make this already fantastic event even better.
PodCon 2018 has not formally been announced yet, but to assume otherwise would be a thought too tragic for me to handle. Rest assured that as soon as it is announced, you can find post about it in the Podcast News section.
More representation for audio drama
This will likely come as no surprise; Podcast Problems was founded primarily because of the lack of genuine criticism and reporting on audio dramas. I’ve talked frequently about how audio dramas are under-represented given what a huge fanbase they have, so I was disappointed–but not necessarily surprised–by how few audio drama creators were featured guests or panelists at PodCon. Jeffrey Cranor and Joseph Fink of Night Vale Presents were founders of PodCon, which meant there was audio drama presence; however, the only other audio drama creators represented as featured guests were Paul Bae of The Black Tapes and The Big Loop and the team of The Bright Sessions. Another nitpick here: the entire Night Vale Presents team was listed individually (Joseph Fink, Jeffrey Cranor, Cecil Baldwin, Dylan Marron, Jasika Nicole, Meg Bashwiner, etc.) whereas The Bright Sessions‘s team was listed simply as “The Bright Sessions Cast.”
The intention here is clear and understandable: on a first-time convention, the focus should be bringing in attendees, and almost all press regarding the podcast industry suggests nonfiction has the largest pull on podcast fans. In practice, though, I saw the opposite: most attendees I spoke with were there for at least one audio drama, whether it be The Bright Sessions, The Adventure Zone, or a show like ars PARADOXICA which was represented only by the creators showing up as attendees. Had PodCon been an industry-intensive convention meant for creators with a background in radio or networks, the focus on nonfiction would feel at home. For something as open, fan-based, and delightfully silly as PodCon, a focus on more audio drama seems a wise choice for bringing in a wider audience.
More focus on creator events lead by emergent creators
One of the most beautiful and inspiring things about PodCon 2017 was how many people went as fans and left as aspiring creators. There were several times I spoke with other attendees at the start of PodCon who said things like, “I’m just a fan; I don’t make a podcast,” but then, by the final day of the convention, they were telling me how motivated they were to start one. There’s a joke that everyone has a podcast–and a panel named as such at the convention–and while this is true, I think it’s one of the best things about the medium. The reason so many fans made plans to become creators over the course of the convention was the focus on creator events. Whether fans attended these panels because they were curious or seeking to fill time between fan events, they were a hit. The focus on how genuinely low-cost and doable making a podcast is hammered in the idea that these fans could take a more active role. The live shows may have hooked fans, but what made them so excited for a future PodCon was the creator events.
The creator events, such as “From Fan to Creator” or “Your Next Five Years: Monetization, Community Building, and Social Media,” are specifically the types of events I want to see more of at PodCon 2018. What made them stand out is that they were lead by emergent creators making new podcasts now. These creators spoke on what the culture of making podcasts is like now, and how to adapt to that culture. Over the last few years, the podcast industry has boomed. Current creators have different hurdles–and assets–than more established creators who started podcasts five or more years ago. Having established creators is important given their level of expertise, naturally, but including emergent creators means you’re going to have experts on the current climate of a rapidly changing industry.
A filled and energetic vendor hall
The biggest complaint I’ve heard about PodCon was the vendor hall, and it’s a complaint I understand wholeheartedly: the vendor hall was large but mostly vacant, a sort of awkward space set in the middle of the convention. The vendor hall was a clear dip in energy from the vibrant energy of the hallways that surrounded it. I’m grateful that I was able to purchase the Spirits enamel pins I’d been eyeing for months, and I’m grateful I had a chair and a table to immediately secure them to my badge’s lanyard. Still, the hall did feel like an uncomfortable holding place filled with potential but too little product. Mostly, I spent my time in the vendor hall talking up booths by the What’s the Frequency/Greater Boston, Marsfall, and The White Vault/Liberty Podcast teams, wishing there were more podcasts representing their shows, but understanding that booths are expensive. Lowering the cost of a booth admittedly might not be feasible for PodCon 2018, so I do hope we see more podcasts teaming together to table: I’d love to see a Procyon Booth or a Fatecrafters booth, for instance.
Even if PodCon 2018 doesn’t have more independent podcast presence in the vendor hall, it seems like a venue most podcast sponsors could get behind. In fact, there was a HelloFresh booth that was a sort of joke at the convention, but more a joke on the culture as a whole. Podcast listeners are so used to hearing ads for HelloFresh that its presence in the vendor hall was endearing and extremely natural. If other typical podcast sponsors had booths–especially if they listed which podcasts they sponsor–the hall would feel more appropriate for the convention and more robust. Giving attendees the ability to purchase services right tat he convention and use codes for the podcasts they wanted to support would be a seemingly great way to bring new customers in. The distance one has when just hearing a sponsor on a podcast would be erased if the sponsor was right there, saying, “Don’t you want to support the podcasts you came here to see?” Of course, this could just be motivated by my desperate desire for a designated nap area sponsored by Casper.