Spokane Journal of Business

Spokane podcasters make some noise

Audio broadcasts might hold untapped marketing potential, observers say

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-—LeAnn Bjerken
Spokane’s Brian Christensen collaborates on his Still Talking podcast, which focuses on the the distillery industry, with two colleagues from out of state.

While podcasts have been around for over a decade, local enthusiasts say the medium is growing in popularity, with everyone from simple hobbyists to business owners looking to start their own broadcast.

Andrea Parrish is a digital marketing assistant manager for Spokane Teachers Credit Union, and the host of a local podcast named A Thousand Things to Talk About.

“I’m a big fan of podcasts as a way to stay active and engaged when doing more solitary tasks,” she says. “For a lot of people, it starts there and becomes a hobby, or a potential marketing tool for another business or industry.”

Podcasting is a form of audio broadcasting on the internet. Most podcasts are set up like a television or radio show, with episodes focused on various topics or featuring special guests. Listeners can subscribe to specific podcasts, download new episodes, and listen whenever they’d like. 

Those who generate revenue through podcasts do so by raising funds through online membership platforms like San Francisco-based Patreon, or through advertising and sponsorships. 

Parrish says Spokane’s current podcast scene is a mix of traditional audio podcasts, as well as some that include video aspects.

“Most people who are doing podcasts are unaware of others doing it locally, simply because most podcasts are mobile,” she says. “I’d guess there are probably about 100 or so local podcasts, but I’m only really familiar with about 24 of them.”

Parrish says her podcast is based on a list of questions she used to post to her Facebook page for friends to answer and discuss.

“Over the years, I’ve compiled a database of about 1,400 questions now, as well as pages of research on each one, and I still post new questions daily,” she says.

Parrish says she started the podcast in January of 2013 with help from her friend Jeremiah Puhek, owner of JP Telecomm, but ended up quitting after only four episodes.

“We both still had regular jobs, and once we realized how much production time and research for questions was needed, we realized it was too much,” she says, adding that most podcasts fail for similar reasons.

“People realize it’s more work than they’d expected. But usually, if you can make it past the first six episodes, you’ll be okay.”

Parrish says the podcast was revived in January 2016. “We currently produce five episodes a week, and just recently wrapped the 580th episode.”

Parrish says most episodes are only three or four minutes long, and pose a question followed by research that might help listeners to consider how to answer it.

“Not many podcasts are as small as ours, so we’re kind of a weird little podcast,” she says. 

After starting her own podcast, Parrish says she soon became interested in finding and learning from other local podcasters.

“My search led me to Spark Central, where two local ladies were putting together a class on podcasting,” she says. “Eventually, they invited us to take over the class, and now we’ve taught several, with more in the works.”

Parrish says classes are comprised of one three-hour session or a series of three two-hour sessions, that teach beginners the different styles and structures of podcasts, the equipment and audio editing software needed to get started, and how to use it.

“It’s a lot of information at one time, so we’re working on ways to restructure the class now,” she says. “The hardest part is usually teaching people how to use the audio software.”

Parrish says she advises beginning podcasters just to dive in and get started.

“Most people start with basic equipment, and you can always improve your quality as you go,” she says. “The type of podcast you’d like to create will help determine your recording style and equipment needs.”

Parrish says most podcasters start with a website, where they’re able to host their own audio files, or pay for a hosting service.

“If your podcast is only available on your website, people won’t find you, so you have to look at submitting to be included in the larger directories,” she says. “There are five major directories: Apple, Google, Radio Public, Spotify, and Stitcher.”

While some podcasts are just for fun, Parrish says others are more specific, seeking to support and educate an audience about an industry.

Local podcaster James Krejci says he’s had some success using the medium to meet new business contacts and generate interest in the manufacturing and aerospace industries.

Krejci is a commercial banker with Umpqua bank and the host of a podcast he created last April, titled Irons in the Fire.

“I’ve been with Umpqua for about seven years in various capacities, but my specialty is creating partnerships with growing, innovative manufacturing and aerospace companies.”

Krejci says he started the podcast after attending a sales workshop in Seattle, where the key speaker talked about podcasts as a way of increasing credibility and connecting with new industry contacts.

“It sounded feasible, so I took the idea back to Spokane and kind of just jumped right in,” he says.

Krejci says his podcast focuses on manufacturing and aerospace because they’re the two industries he works with most for commercial banking, and because he has a passion for talking about them.

“My dad was in fabrication, which is part of where my passion comes from,” he says. “I also liked the idea of creating another marketing tool to help generate interest and support for those businesses here.”

Irons in the Fire is a mobile interview podcast, meaning Krejci brings his recording equipment to various sites and interviews business owners, asking questions about their companies and experiences.

“The first few were kind of generic, but as I continued, I started preparing questions that were a bit more specific,” he says. “I try to pick themes, different experiences or perspectives they can share that may help others with similar challenges.”

Krejci started with a basic microphone and a laptop to record interviews, as well as a web page that gives background on the podcast and links interested listeners to episodes via iTunes and Google Play.

“I’d say about $100 dollars could get you started,” he says. “There’s the initial cost of equipment, then a web page for hosting your audio and additional costs depending on where the audio is housed.”

Krejci says he recently completed the fifth episode of Irons in the Fire, and he’s looking forward to continuing it.

“It’s not my primary career, but it does supplement what I do really well,” he says. “For me, it’s not about the potential dollars; it’s about learning, making connections, and creating a buzz around these industries.”

Parrish says she knows only a handful of local podcasters who appear to be making a profit from the business.

“Spokane’s podcast scene is a similar situation to many small or midsized towns, where almost no one is able to make a living doing it,” she says.

“Pants Pending Studios has about 11 podcasts under its banner that cover a wide variety of topics,” she says. “They seem to be making a real run at getting money from podcast business.”

She adds that another local podcast The Ouija Broads, which covers Northwest legends and ghost stories, is also working toward a profit.

According to Parrish, many podcasters raise funds by using Patreon, a San Francisco-based membership platform that helps creators to run subscription content services, build relationships, and provide exclusive experiences to their subscribers, or “patrons.”

“It’s similar to crowdfunding, only you’re paid by month or per creation,” she says. “You decide on what benefits your subscribers get. For our podcast we offer access to question research, blooper reels, or a thank-you box of goodies.”

Parrish says sponsorship and advertising are two additional ways to make a profit for your podcast. 

“Podcasters who have a sponsor, a large number of patrons, or who coach classes to teach others often seem to be more successful,” she says.

Brian Christensen is publisher and editor of Spokane-based Artisan Spirit magazine, and one of three co-hosts of its related podcast, Still Talking.

He says what started as a hobby and way to stay connected with his friends in the distilling industry could soon become a self-sustaining venture with the help of a sponsor.

“We’re looking for a sponsor now to cover our initial costs and make us self-sustaining going forward,” he says. “From there, we could move toward developing the podcast as its own revenue stream, if for example we focused on adding more sponsors, advertisers, or subscribers.”

“I’m a big fan of podcasts,” says Christensen. “The beauty of it is the way you can ingest the information while still being able to do other things, which is probably why it’s becoming so popular.”

“Part of the reason I think our podcast works really well is because in the distillery industry, there are these long blocks of time where you’re working or traveling, but this medium enables you to still listen and learn,” he adds.

Christensen says he started Artisan Spirit Magazine in 2012, with help from his wife, Amanda, and childhood friend, Ashley Moore.

He says the idea for a podcast began last year, when he and his friends Jason Zino and Colton Weinstein were chatting online about their work.

“I met Jason and Colton through the distillery convention circuit, and we ended up staying in touch, chatting online about different aspects of the industry,” he says. “We figured if we were going to be chatting about this stuff anyway, might as well record it.”

Christensen is based in Spokane. Zino works with Beam Centauri Technologies LP, in Tennessee, and Weinstein works with Corsair Distillery, in Kentucky.

The three log in to a group video chat so they can see one another while talking, and each records their audio separately, before sending it to Weinstein to be edited.

Christensen describes the atmosphere as goofy but semiprofessional, as the three co-hosts delve into different themes and guest interviews.

“You sort of just develop a feel for how to spin information into conversations,” he says.

Christensen says Still Talking records one episode each week and currently generates 250 individual downloads per episode.

“We’re still small for a podcast, but it’s grown more quickly than we expected,” he says.

Christensen says his magazine complements the podcast well, as the three co-hosts can use photos from it for their website and refer to articles or data in their chats without worrying about obtaining copyrights.

“Podcasters have to be careful of copyrights when adding music or content, so it helps that we have the magazine, as well as a local performer in Nashville who does music for us.”

Christensen says the podcast already has resulted in more subscriptions to Artisan Spirit Magazine, but for now the co-hosts are simply letting it grow slowly.

“We didn’t have any big goals initially, and we’d like to remain independent enough to still share, catch up, and have fun with it,” he says.

Christensen says initial costs for all three co-hosts to purchase equipment and editing software totaled around $4,000.

“It probably costs us around $50 a month to maintain the website and keep everything going,” he says. “If we’re able to find a sponsor, we’ll probably look into upgrading our equipment.”

Looking ahead, Parrish says interest in podcasts continues to grow as equipment becomes cheaper and audio processing software gets better.

“It’s just now becoming recognized as a legitimate form of media, which tends to get more big names involved,” she says. “Interest will keep growing as it becomes easier and more prevalent, but that means it’ll also become harder to stand out.”

Krejci says he too sees a lot of potential for the podcast scene to grow, particularly here in Spokane.

“Spokane is cool because most people are willing and excited about trying new ideas, not necessarily as a way of promoting themselves, but the whole community,” he says. “If everyone works toward that, I think that’s where we’ll all get the most benefit.”

LeAnn Bjerken
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Reporter LeAnn Bjerken covers health care at the Journal of Business. A Minnesota native and cat lover, she enjoys beachside vacations and writing poetry. LeAnn has worked for the Journal since 2015.

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