The Podcast Academy: Podcasting’s Usurper or Savior?

Photo by Santiago Lacarta on Unsplash

There’s a new professional podcast group in town, and the reaction has been rather… mixed. But that doesn’t mean indie podcasters should fear it. Those who want to preserve podcasting as it was in 2006? Well… they’ll have a rougher time accepting the change.

The Podcast Academy is here. It’s a professional podcasting group that aims to recognize the best in podcasting with an annual award ceremony called The Golden Mics. Announced at Podcast Movement Evolutions 2020 in Los Angeles last week, the reactions were split. One side was excited to see a solid and amazing professional awards ceremony that could bring the big dogs out to a red carpet event that could elevate podcasting. The other side was worried about the representation of indie podcasters. Would they be left in the cold?

It’s to that second group I want to speak today. If you are worried about the indie voice and wonder why I’m not, it’s likely because you and I have a different definition of what “indie podcasting” means.

I hear a lot of people conflate indie podcasting with amateur or hobbyist podcasting. I’m impressed every time somebody grabs the mic and decides to jump headfirst into this thing we call podcasting. I think that’s a wonderful thing that I hope continues on for eternity.

But while all amateurs or hobbyists are likely independents, not all indie podcasters are amateurs or hobbyists.

Plenty of indie podcasters produce amazing content that sounds great, is well-researched, and is well-produced. No, you don’t have to be a part of a gigantic corporation to make an amazing podcast. But yes, people from some really big corporations like Sony Music are on the governing board of The Podcast Academy, so I get that it’s a little scary. But people from PRX and Wondery are also on the governing board, two organizations that have amazing podcast content creation at their core. And yes, even independents will have a seat at the governing board as well.

So how can indie voices compete with those big names? By making content that will appeal to the peers inside The Podcast Academy, that’s how. The concept of peer groups is one of the things that makes me think The Podcast Academy will succeed and is why I’ll be forking over the $100 annual dues to become a member. Let’s take a look at those peer groups:

  • Art
  • Creative Executive
  • Director
  • Editor
  • Host
  • Journalists/Reporters
  • Launch Peer Groups
  • Marketing/PR
  • Performers
  • Producer
  • Professional Representatives
  • Sound
  • Writers

Many amateur or hobbyist podcasters will look at that list of 13 roles and be puzzled. Director, host, and producers as separate roles? Aren’t performers hosts? And why are all those not-podcasting roles on the list?

But independent podcasters who make great content won’t be puzzled at all. Because they know the value of all of those roles — even if they have to assume many/most of those roles on their own. That’s the kind of indie podcaster I’m talking about: Those who recognize there’s more to making a podcast than just grabbing a mic and saying whatever’s on your mind.

Not that there’s anything wrong with the record-and-release style of podcasting. Nor does this new organization seek to eliminate that type of podcasting. All they want is to elevate the people who are making amazing podcasting content.

How could I not be excited by this? Elevating better content brings more people into podcasting’s fold. I’m convinced that when people’s first encounter with podcasting provides an IHNI — “I Had No Idea podcasts could this amazing” — moment, they tend to seek out more amazing content.

So no, I do not believe The Podcast Academy will leave amateurs or hobbyists on the ground. At least not any more than they already are on the ground. Will it elevate them to the next level of status? Only if they can make a great show that appeals to the peer groups listed above. Is that guaranteed? Nope. Not at all. It’s hard work to make a show at those levels, something the people on the governing board know requires many different people, roles, and a lot of work to hit repeatedly.

Here are a couple of metaphors for you: You might be a great cook, with the ability to dazzle your friends at your dinner parties. But that’s not the same as running an amazing restaurant. Especially one worthy of a Michelin star or two. Maybe you’re really funny at a party with a repertoire of crowd-slaying jokes. Does that mean you’d be successful as a standup comedian? Are you worthy of your own giant Netflix special?

There’s a lot of room between being successful at home and being a commercially viable success. But the good news is that commercially viable success doesn’t negate the efforts of those who have yet to achieve that status.

In case you didn’t catch it, I am excited about The Podcast Academy and will sign up to become a member. I see the fee as money well spent to support an organization of people who’ll not only put on a very cool event but also provide training, education, and other talked-about initiatives to elevate podcasting.

Is there a chance this will fail? Absolutely. Many have. And many more continue to exist, some with their own long-running awards show. I hope those other organizations that recognize podcasting differently continue. There’s plenty of room for all of them.

So no, I’m not worried about the truly independent voices who are making amazing content. Nor am I worried about the hobbyist or amateur podcaster. This doesn’t stop anyone from doing what anyone wants to do with their own podcast. However, this could provide a roadmap to making better content that stands a better chance of being recognized by this particular group.

And if that’s not what you want; fine. Keep on keepin’ on.

But a lot of people do. I do. I want to hear the kinds of shows that this organization should elevate and recognize. That’s the kind of content I’m looking for.

Since you got this far, 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 263rd 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.



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Evo Terra

Evo Terra

Podcast philosopher. Professional contrarian. On a mission to make podcasting better. Hip he/him. คุณ | | http://Simpler.Media