The ME Show

See me, hear me, feel me, fund me! Are vlogging and podcasting the ultimate slacker careers?

Thanks to the addition of video and audio, blogging's not just about sharing a diary with your friends anymore. It's fast beginning to look like the hot new career field for the self-obsessed slacker.

"In five years," Brower says, "I don't want people to be saying, 'Oh yeah, remember that guy Christian, who was one of the first vloggers? Now he's working at Chili's.' You know? I want to be one of the stars of this thing."


Chris Hagedorn looks for both Apple and rainbow 
bumper stickers while recording his podcasts on the 
drive home. "It's definitely an outlet for people you 
know would never get on the air anywhere else."
Jeff Newton
Chris Hagedorn looks for both Apple and rainbow bumper stickers while recording his podcasts on the drive home. "It's definitely an outlet for people you know would never get on the air anywhere else."
Athena Simpson has had four years of broadcasting 
school but still prefers old-school text blogging. 
"Eventually, you're gonna feel like somebody's telling 
you what you should say. And that's the exact opposite of what blogging's supposed to be about."
Jeff Newton
Athena Simpson has had four years of broadcasting school but still prefers old-school text blogging. "Eventually, you're gonna feel like somebody's telling you what you should say. And that's the exact opposite of what blogging's supposed to be about."

If vlogging is the next big thing, podcasting is the hot blogging trend of the moment -- and the model for Internet stardom vloggers are closely following.

Powered by the same technology that's making vlogs so easy to send and receive ("Feed Your Head!"), podcasts are essentially audio blogs that can be "subscribed" to -- for free, like a news feed -- and automatically delivered to your desktop overnight. Plug in an iPod or other portable MP3 player that's synched to download new music files from your computer, and that portable player becomes a self-run radio station, one you can load with the wildest variety of home-brewed programs imaginable -- including many the FCC would never allow on the public airwaves.

Since the first official podcast, by former MTV VJ and current podcasting guru Adam Curry, appeared just last August, an amazing 3,000 regularly updated programs have become available on PodcastAlley.com, the leading directory for the exploding community.

As in vlogging, a handful of podcast stars have already begun emerging from the pack.

Dawn and Drew, an irrepressibly frank married couple living in an old farmhouse in Wisconsin, who exude an instant chemistry -- she's an unguarded artist/musician with the mouth of a longshoreman; he's a Christian computer geek who's incapable of swearing -- regularly rank number one on Podcast Alley, with average downloads indicating between 20,000 and 30,000 listeners a day.

Even with their mass audience (20,000 people heard when Dawn gave Drew a three-day warning of her impending period -- and Drew still missed his window of opportunity), Dawn and Drew's only windfall so far from the show appears to be free swag, ranging from homemade peanut-butter brownies to engraved iPod Photo players, donated by their adoring fans.

"The majority of the podcasters are newbies at broadcasting," says Michael Mennenga, a former broadcast engineer who now makes his living as a sci-fi writer in Phoenix. "They're basically doing this as a hobby, and if someone throws them $50 of free merchandise, they're all giddy and atwitter. 'Oh my God, I made money at this!'"

"And most of 'em don't really care," adds his friend Evo Terra, a practicing herbalist and Web site developer who listens to nine or ten hours of podcasts a week on his commutes to the Valley from his home in Cottonwood. "For the majority of the people doing this right now, it's a labor of love. You do it because it's fun, or because it's therapy, or because it's a thrill just to think people are listening to you."

Mennenga and Terra do their own weekly podcast, too -- a freewheeling talk fest on science fiction and fantasy books called The Dragon Page (dragonpage.com) that often features phone interviews with such notable authors and illustrators as Ray Bradbury and Boris Vallejo.

But the duo, who record their program every Sunday afternoon in the former rec room of Mennenga's northeast Phoenix home, approach the new art form with a more businesslike attitude. For the past three years, Mennenga and Terra have been recording their program and sending it out to radio stations across the country to syndicate. When their local carrier, Phoenix talk radio station KFYI, decided to drop The Dragon Page from its Sunday-night lineup last month, the two decided to pursue podcasting more seriously.

They're not alone. "The question right now, in the podcast discussion group, is who's gonna make money in podcasting," says Terra. "And when. No one's asking is anybody gonna make money. Somebody's going to."

Just how anyone will make money in podcasting is another matter.

"It's very difficult to build an advertising model for podcasting right now, because you have no idea how your impression is gonna work," says Mennenga, who's not ashamed to admit he's thought about how to make this thing profitable. "If people download your show, it may be tomorrow that they listen to it, it may be next week or next month. Advertisers don't like that."

"And people don't want commercials on podcasts anyway," Terra adds.

Selling banner ads on Web pages is out, too, since programs like Curry's iPodder, which automatically finds and downloads podcasts of the user's choice, bypass the need to open a browser or even be at your computer when the files are downloaded.

Still, ideas abound -- and arguments are heating up. A battle between podcasters and vloggers has even begun, as rapid developments in hand-held video players and even cell-phone TV put the prospect of an iPod for video just around the next bend. A young British vlogger named Ian Mills, who has publicly vowed to create a video blog every day in 2005, recently posted a simple clip of himself drawing a stick-figure cartoon to the music of The Buggles' MTV-heralding "Video Killed The Radio Star" that closed with the text, "You can't do that on a podcast."

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