At the risk of sounding alarmist, COVID-19 is likely something we’ll all have to deal with. And while discussing the virus’ impact on podcasting might seem trivial, it’s good risk mitigation to be prepared.
I really struggled with bringing up this topic. I’m not a conspiracy theorist, and I’m not a fearmonger. I’m also not a doctor. But the Coronavirus, specifically COVID-19, shares a world with us and will cause repercussions everywhere. Since this is show intends to bring up topics of import in the podcasting space — often topics that you don’t hear on other podcasts about podcasting — it’s worthy of our time.
So today I’m going to think through how COVID-19 could impact podcasting and the lives of podcasters. I will not be talking about how to prevent it or how to cure it. At the time of this recording, there is no cure. There’s not even a treatment that directly works on the virus. And there’s no vaccine, so we’re all at risk of a virus that has, at current estimates, a 2% mortality rate. If that number seems low to you, consider this: If 300 of your listeners contract the virus, six of them will die.
That’s a big impact on you personally as a podcaster, and is the reason I want to have the conversation today.
As I record this, I’m days away from attending Podfest Expo 2020 in Orlando. I’ll soon get into a metal tube filled with 150 strangers from random places around the globe and share some recycled air with them for four hours. Granted, most modern planes have hospital-grade HEPA filters, but that does little to help me when those in my immediate vicinity sneeze or cough up particles that land on my armrest or tray table that isn’t in its upright and locked position so that it gets on my hands and then since I’m the kind of person who can’t keep his own hands off his own face… AH! (Deep breaths, Evo…)
When I get to the venue, I’m going to see people I haven’t seen in a long time, and they’re all going to expect handshakes and hugs. And I’m a hugger! I’ll be sharing meals, drinks, having close-proximity conversations, speaking into hand-held microphones with proper mic technique, and a dozen other risky-but-perfectly-normal behaviors that are rather conducive to the spread of this disease.
So there’s impact number one: Will people like you and me opt out of attending podcasting events? Will we cancel already-booked travel plans? How will attendance of local events be impacted? Every month, the PHXPodcast.club holds a social event at the Clarendon Hotel in midtown Phoenix, swapping stories, ideas, thoughts, and new things we’re trying. Regular attendees look forward to the in-real-life connections made each month. But will that stop? Will people be less likely to attend those events, in turn reducing the benefits of those personal connections? Will we have to switch to virtual meetings?
How will interview-based podcasts change? Some enjoy doing that in-person, where the host sits face-to-face with the guest. Some prefer to capture the ambient sounds of the venue as part of the show’s flavor. Will those shows have to switch to remote recording tools like Squadcast? That’s a great tool for getting high-quality audio of remote interviews. But how will that impact shows that have relied on the personal touch to set them apart?
Then there’s the economics. We’ve already seen the stock markets slump in response to the disruption of the global supply chain tied directly to the virus. Don’t take financial advice from me, but what if a global slowdown becomes pockets of shutdown? And as I discussed several episodes ago, the recession is that will eventually come is made worse because of this. What happens to your show’s primary income stream if budgetary constraints cause advertisers to pull back? Or supporters? Or people who normally buy your products/services but are out of a job?
I worry a little bit about the global supply chain as well. I’ve got all of my equipment and you probably do as well. It’s more disruption in the global services chain that we podcasters rely on to distribute our episodes everywhere that concerns me. Your podcast hosting company (and mine) relies on various nodes around the world — a CDN — to get your files to listeners fast. What happens if those entities fail because the workers that keep them running are placed under mandatory quarantine by their government? No, the internet won’t shut down. It’s designed to survive bigger calamities. But it might slow down or cause a localized impact that could spread and have unforeseen consequences across the chain.
Practically, there’s no way to fully protect ourselves from COVID-19. No person is an island. Especially podcasters. Podcasting requires lots of people. Podcasters, the podcasters’ supporting team, the listeners on the other end, and all the people in the middle — designers, hosting companies, microphone makers, software providers… It’s all possibly impacted.
If you’ve not been thinking about how COVID-19 will impact your podcast, you probably should start. Yes, on top of the worrying you’re already doing about how the virus might personally impact you, your family, and people that you care about, I need you to also think about the impact COVID-19 may have on your podcasting efforts. It’s hard to prepare when we’re in the early stages and really don’t know how big the possible impact might be. But thinking through the things mentioned today can only help you as you continue your podcasting efforts through this health crisis.
Pro tip: Reach out to your fellow podcasters and find out what they’re thinking or worried about. Tell them you heard this episode of Podcast Pontifications and are bringing up the conversation so everyone in your podcasting circle is as prepared as they can be.
Since you got this far (and going against what I just said), how about mashing that 👏 button a few dozen times to let me know you dig the written-word version of my thoughts on these podcasting topics? I’d sure appreciate it!
This article started life as a podcast episode. The 269th episode of my four-times-a-week short-form podcast called, oddly enough, Podcast Pontifications. It’s a podcast for working podcasters that’s focused on trends in our growing industry and ideas on ways to make podcasting not just easier, but better. Yes, you should listen. Here’s an easy way: 👇
Evo Terra (hey, that’s me!) has been podcasting since 2004, is the author of Podcasting For Dummies and Expert Podcasting Practices for Dummies, and is the CEO and founder of Simpler Media Productions, a strategic podcast consultancy working with businesses, brands, and professional service providers all around the world.