My New Relationship with Podcasting

Two years ago this month, I started working on my first podcast adventure: season one of Opening Doors. Since then, a lot has changed in regards to the work that I am putting out and the landscape is changing more and more each day. As I add a third podcast into my collection this week, I wanted to take a moment to zoom out and look at my podcasting life as a whole and ultimately work out what the point of it all is.

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When I decided that I wanted to start my first podcast Opening Doors, I didn’t necessarily decide that I wanted to do it because I loved the medium; while I’ve been a podcast fan since my Aunt introduced them to me back in 2010, at first, it wasn’t necessarily the idea of producing work for radio that enticed me. Instead, I was fixated on the idea of creating 10-episode-long seasons of television and because that didn’t seem very possible for me to do at that moment in time, podcasting became the next best thing. In a matter of months, I had managed to create a full 10-episode season of a documentary show with not very much fuss at all  (because podcasting is very one dimensional due to the fact that it relies solely on sound and not on picture, light etc., it makes it relatively easy to make in comparison to a web series.)

Eventually, I had fallen in love with the idea of it all and felt like I was my own showrunner which, for 17 year old me, was amazing; I was writing, curating, editing, producing, organising artwork and music… it was a completely unique experience that I had built all for myself. I finally felt like I was making something similar to the kind of stuff I want to put out in the World in the future and it was beyond exciting. As soon as I finished the first season of Opening Doors, I immediately got down to work on a second and had the exact same kind of fun all over again. Then, while I was putting season two out into the world, I finally started to hone what I’d learned and get to work on a 10-episode scripted web series like I’d always wanted to do. Thus, Pickle was born and ever since then, I’ve been living in a bit of a post-Pickle podcasting world.

At the same time as launching my second podcast Home or Away? last Autumn, I also released Pickle for the world to see and I soon realised that the feeling I got from creating Pickle was exactly what I had originally intended to feel when I set out to make Opening Doors. As a result, I’m very open about saying that podcasting has felt slightly sub-par ever since and it’s left me on the fence wondering why on Earth I continue to spend my time doing it. This thought became most prominent at Christmas of last year when I made a festive special of Opening Doors and then postponed the rest of season three by a minimum of six months, mainly because I struggled to summon up the motivation to make the rest of the series. When I was in school, podcasting was no trouble for me in the same way that blogging never was (and I consider the two as being hand-in-hand still to this day): when my time was being taken up by school anyway, spending my time making stuff that didn’t directly impact my future career trajectory was no issue at all. But now that my time is my own and moving forward is all I should be doing, it’s hard for me to justify it: the proof is in the pudding when it comes to things like blogging, which I stopped doing last October for this very reason.

So why have I kept podcasting if I feel like this? And even more to the point: why on Earth did I just set out to make a third podcast if this is the way I feel?

In essence, I think I’ve started come to realise that podcasting isn’t all that different from web series / television work at all and that ultimately, it’s a great way for me to flex my creative muscles in the background while I work on bigger, much more pressurised projects (the kind of things that you’ll see emerging later in the year.) In the case of Opening Doors, it’s a 10-episode full-length documentary series that I control and can play around with and while it does take an incredible amount of work (I calculated recently that it takes me a minimum of 100 hours per season to make), it’s worth it in the long run. In addition to this, I also love making a full-length documentary/magazine-style series on the side of my scripted comedy/drama work, so it serves as a great tonic, too.

When it comes to Home or Away?, the situation is slightly different because the show is pretty different, too. If Opening Doors is like my answer to a BBC2 magazine show, Home or Away? is my version of a… well, I don’t know really. I make it no secret on the podcast that I still have no idea what I’m doing with the show, something that I am refining currently by playing around with different options. While the original concept for the podcast was to compare what it’s like to go to University and not, it seems as though I’m out of ideas for that and it’s become much more of a weekly catch- up between Abbie and I, which is fun enough, but I struggle to allow myself to do that with it. I know that a lot of our friends and family really enjoy tuning in to that and I agree that it’s good fun for me too, but it just isn’t where I want this show to go as I think it can be so much more. For the forthcoming few weeks, HoA? isn’t about advancing my producing career so much, but just more about having a bit of fun. For now, anyway.

My latest podcast adventure, Our Noughties Diary, is working in a similarly experimental way as well. Not really a documentary-style show or even a show with much of an educational purpose, OND is the most podcast-y podcast I’ve made yet and I made it for that very reason. It’s an idea that my co-host Kyle had and asked me if I wanted to produce, so I said yes for the sake of the fun of it. All of the episodes in the series are ready and recorded, so time isn’t as much the issue here, but more is the concept of the show and whether or not it catches on. It might fail terribly (something I have experienced before with the likes of Nolan Letter), but it also might not; I think that’s the fun in it.

So what’s happening next in this realm?

As I write this, I’m currently getting ready to start work on the remaining nine episodes of Opening Doors season three, which I hope can be released at the very start of the summer. I’m really taking care this time to select some intelligent guests and pick interesting and unique questions. Perhaps most importantly, this is because I’m going to be working on it while I work on other, much larger projects, so I want to make it as fun for myself as I possibly can. OD will always be my flagship podcast and the one that started it all (plus it has the largest regular listener-base by a huge margin) so it’s an entity that I will always hold on to in one way or another. As it stands, I feel like I am yet to make my perfect season of the show in podcast format, so we’re staying like this for now; who knows what the future will bring?

As I said before, the future of Home or Away? is questionable. As it stands, I’m toying around with ideas to make the podcast more substantial than a simple catch-up chat between two friends, because as interesting as some might find it, I’m not overly inspired by making it. This could go in any way of up to five directions, so I’m going to leave my hints here as broad as possible. My main aim though is to try and return the show to its original University-orientated roots as I think it’s a solid idea that, if done correctly, would prove to be very helpful for lots of young people. If this falls through though, I don’t know what will happen with it next. I have a few ideas for taking it in a completely different direction too, keeping it much more focused on mine and Abbie’s friendship, but either way, some sort of regular dialogue between the two of us will remain in one form or another for time to come.

My latest podcast Our Noughties Diary obviously hasn’t even started its seven-episode first season, so there’s no word on what’s going to happen with that yet, so bear with me. It does cost actual money to produce a podcast, something that I didn’t realise until I started doing it, so considering whether or not I should continue with a show is one that I take quite seriously. And not only that, but my time is precious, too: one more podcast means one less ‘something else’, so I have to weigh it all up for what it’s worth. Personally, I think the idea that Kyle has had here is a really fun one and I loved pulling together the first season like how I loved pulling together the earlier episodes of Opening Doors. Only time will tell if it catches on with listeners, but I sincerely hope that it does.

Otherwise, there a few other moves I’m trying to make as well. This year, I have two big projects in the works to be released in early 2019 – one being another documentary-style show and another, a scripted drama – both of them aiming to blur the lines between my podcast and web series work. I won’t say much because I don’t want to ruin the surprises, but I’m immensely excited for both of them, not only because of the projects that they are, but because of the people that I’m going to get to work on them with as well.

I’m very clearly out of the honeymoon phase now when it comes to my podcasts and am starting to get those big-anniversary jitters. As I start to transition into making more work that I want to, and trying to do so on a more professional level, making time for these side-projects I’ve got going on becomes increasingly difficult. But no matter what decisions I make, thank you for always being there, tuning in to each new episode. Without any listeners, there really wouldn’t be any shows.

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