History podcasting requires a large and generous helping of love if it's going to work. If you don't love history, or podcasting or your own history podcast, you're unlikely to last all that long. That of course is stating the obvious. We've already seen what I wish I could've known before I committed myself to this crazy world, but what about the things I love about it? What about the things I would presume other history podcasters also love about it? Love is subjective...I think, so of course, feel free to add your own suggestions and disagree with me if your favourite aspects of history podcasting don't come up here.
I am fully aware that not everyone reading this is crazy enough to be a history podcaster, so hopefully from a post like this one, you'll again enjoy the opportunity to see into the mind of a history podcaster. It's highly likely that everyone, from Dan Carlin to Sebastian Major to Soren Krarup, has experienced love for one or all of these things at some point. That being said, this is not by any means a definitive list, but when I think of history podcasting and why it appeals to me so much, these are the factors that truly strike a chord. You guys have been responding really well to these posts, so be sure to let me know what you thought of this one, and if there's any aspect of history podcasting you'd like me to cover. I'm all ears, but for now, let's be all eyes, as we read this, (wow, smooth) - here is 5 Things History Podcasters LOVE
5) When you have a supremely productive day
That feeling of ‘nailed it!’
As we’ve established before, history podcasting takes time. As far as hobbies go, it is probably one of the most time-consuming ones out there. From the moment the idea is formed in the podcaster’s mind, to the moment that episode jumps into your downloads, that time in between is spent lovingly crafting another installment, an episode or an audio surprise for our listeners to enjoy. Sometimes, there are times when you just can’t get your creative juices to flow, when the words won’t come out, or when you keep making the same freakin’ mistake in the recording. These are best dealt with by leaving your work for a moment, eating something sweet and coming back later with a fresh head, maybe even the next day. That, at least, is how I deal with the dreaded "podder’s block". For those of us fortunate to blitz through an episode, be it in the writing, recording or editing stages, and feel as though we nailed it. That is something truly special.
Sometimes, something as simple as having a supremely productive day will make you feel this way. Nailing it is an art form, and your version of nailing it may seem quite unlike nailing it when the listeners get their eager ears upon your wares. I have talked with Jamie Redfern before about how strange history podcasting can be sometimes, where you think you’ve made something amazing and await the response, but it brings few listeners to the yard, whereas sometimes you’ll reluctantly send something out, and people will go nuts. You can’t always predict how people will react, but in terms of the production line, there are few things more satisfying in history podcasting than seeing a target for the day, smashing it, and actually enjoying yourself in the process.
I always walk with a spring in my step whenever I hit my targets. I am one of those obsessive planners, and I take great pride in hitting above my anticipated production level for the day. At the moment, I am at the point where I can often get a whole script finished in a single day. Scripts for me are what I read from when recording, hence the name, and they can be anything from 9 to 14 pages long in Microsoft Word. Normally, I’ve found ten pages is the best, any longer than that and you’re likely going over the 35 minute mark of an episode, which I try to hover around. At the high times of the Five Weeks to Run Wild preparation in May, I was managing to record and edit four episodes a day. I didn’t have a choice if I wanted to meet the crazy deadlines I had imposed on myself. When the time came to release that bad boy though, WOW was it worth it!
4) When someone gives you great feedback or a lovely review
The warm and fuzzy feeling
There is really nothing else more gratifying than knowing just how much our listeners appreciate our work. Well, there is one thing more gratifying – when they tell you directly. Be it through email, Twitter, Facebook or whatever other medium, the fact that we as creators are so connected to our listener bases means that we are in a better position than ever before to hear from them what they loved about our stuff. I am still, to this day, getting feedback and high praise for the July Crisis Anniversary Project I did…back in summer 2014! That was when I still used my cheap microphone, and didn’t even know what a complex beast Louis XIV was! Those were simpler times for sure, but something I always appreciated were the reviews, often on iTunes - see below - but also wherever I could find them, in generous articles, or among my fellow podcasters on the Facebook forum.
Feedback from enthusiastic fans, who want nothing more than to personally thank you for speaking to them about something you did that they enjoyed – is there anything better than that? Well, some would fairly point out that it is when people give you their hard earned money, that the awesomeness of the experience reaches a new high. Currently, our podcast is en route to make it to $1,000 a month through Patreon. All of this money comes from the listeners; an incredible fact the more I think about it. The idea that people would be willing to part with their hard earned $ for my material benefit is just so incredible. I honestly can’t put into words how much it means. Like getting that email telling you you’ve got a donation from a very contented listener, there are few things in this world more humbling. I can tell you honestly, we absolutely love it.
Getting that comment or email, or that donation or pledge – these are like the stamps of approval from the people we most want to please: our listeners. You all mean so much to us, because your interest and engagement keeps us going and makes all of this worth our while. I have to give a special shout out to Twitter and the History Podcasts Facebook group, both of which have a proven track record in letting fans of history podcasting interact with us, the podcaster, in a way that brings real value and personality to the whole process. History podcasting is often a lonely game, but thanks to your feedback, we feel surrounded by friends, rather than merely listeners. We always love to hear from you, so if you enjoyed something you listened to today, why not let the podder know?
3) When someone you know finds and listens without being asked, and gets back to you.
When people you actually know like what you do!
What is often true of history podcasters is that they can remain pretty much incognito in their regular lives. Unless you’re like me and refrain from shutting up about your podcast even beyond reasonable levels of manners, it is possible to assume that most people throughout a history podcaster’s life do not know of his/her history podcast. If they are aware of your work, it is normally the case that they treat it as something of a phase, or some weird quirk which they don’t really understand, or a second job which you voluntarily put yourself through. See why we don’t tell that many people? There is a section of people in your life though that will, in fact, be willing to sample your wares. You do, of course, have to deal with these people...delicately. Often, they don’t quite understand what you do either, but are willing to have an open mind since they happen to be your friend or acquaintance.
When these types of people listen, one of two things tend to happen. First, they can’t quite accept the novelty of hearing your voice for more parts of the day than is entirely necessary, and they politely bow out. Second, you may be lucky enough to know of a person in your close circle of friends that you managed to get into history podcasts. Congratulations to you, you are a quality history friend, and your efforts should be honoured for evangelising about the benefits of this terrific medium.
So there is a segment of people in your life that will listen and maybe even enjoy your stuff when asked. But what about that still rarer segment of people within that initial segment – the people that maybe know of you somewhat well, but were never caught in a corner with you and forced to subscribe? Those people deserve special mention. They are the listener we know, but whom we never actually asked to listen. They’re the person that jumps on board without you laying down your product and pitching your unique formula; maybe you never even mentioned it to them. Yet, somehow, these people in your life are drawn to what you do. They took it upon themselves to check you out, and now you have another listener. One you can actually talk to without needing an internet connection in order to do so.
I still remember a conversation I had with one of my college friends about a year ago. I was fortunate to do a master’s degree in history. One would think that there’d be a ton of willing history nerds within such a group, but you would in fact be largely wrong. There was still a measure of awkwardness when I tried to point my peers towards the podcast, and don’t even get me started on my professors! That was why it was all the more incredible when one of my peers recounted the following to me. For the record his name was Adam.
Adam: oh by the way Zack, I was listening to your 1916 Rising series the other day…
Adam: Yeah, I had a load of travelling to do, so I was able to listen through like half of it.
Me: Wow, you didn’t get weirded out by hearing my voice or bored after listening for so long?
Adam: No, I disagreed with some of it, but it was great to hear. At one point I was like, ‘Oh, I’ve been with Zack for like five hours now’. It was pretty cool.
Me: *oh stop it you*
There’s something about having a person you know, and know reasonably well, tell you after seeking you out by themselves that they appreciate your strange, all-consuming hobby. In fact in terms of feedback, there are few things that compare to such a feeling. It’s like the ultimate sign that what you are doing is worth doing, that it has merit and brings value to people. Because of my podcast, Adam was able to listen to an exploration of Irish history as he travelled. He didn’t necessarily agree with my viewpoints – a quick visit to the reviews of this podcast on the Irish iTunes store will tell you he’s not alone – but he was still able to enjoy and appreciate my significant body of work. As someone who gained his masters in Irish history, I also appreciated Adam's viewpoint because he was qualified to comment on them. Imagine that, not necessarily agreeing with someone, but still being able to appreciate their hard work – what is this witchcraft?!
2) When everything actually works out as you expected and planned.
I love it when a plan comes together...
We’ve touched before on how much I love to develop super intricate plans, and we’ve also seen how, on occasion, it’s the projects you don’t normally expect that draw the most attention and approval. Now imagine both of these two colliding: where both the vision you had for your podcast within a few months and the scene of people flocking to listen to the latest piece which you've worked so hard on meet in together. That right there is bliss.
Imagine them responding with such positivity and in such a volume. It’s like one of those perfect moments in a creator’s life when the stars seem to align. It’s realistically only happened to me once – with the aforementioned July Crisis Project, but that it happens only so rarely makes it all the more special.
By our nature we history podcasters have to be planning our next move at all times. Some of us are crazy enough to make it up as we go along. I’m not sure Jamie Jeffers, for example, expected he’d still be doing his British History Podcast when he began it over 6 years ago. Or that after all this time, he still wouldn’t have reached the year 1000AD. To take another example, how silly does Kevin Stroud sound now when he claimed he wanted to get his History of English podcast finished in 100 episodes? How stupid do I feel now when I thought I could cover Poland history in the 18th century, in 30 episodes? 12 Episodes in and I'm still only on 1716... The point is, some plans don't always work out as we had hoped. Again, this doesn’t always matter, because you guys are there to say ‘sure, we’ll have that additional episode’ or ‘no worries, take your time, we’re enjoying the story’ whatever seems to happen.
It isn’t always possible then, to glide smoothly through our prearranged plans, to produce what we need in the given time, and to cover everything we expected to cover under our self-imposed limits. The creative process has no exact formula, and for every day that I manage to belt out a ten page script in one sitting, there’s another time when those darned words just will not blend together as I imagined. You have to take the rough with the smooth, and accept that your listeners will still enjoy the end result, even if it isn’t the shining masterpiece you envisioned in the beginning. Where shiny masterpieces aren’t created, you’ll at least have some hungry fans willing to forgive your mistakes, as you both learn together. Sometimes it is important to remind your listeners that you are only human, and not a flawless voice at the end of their earbuds. However, on those rare occasions where your plan, your vision, your schedule and the reaction to all meet perfectly together, you my friend are doing very well for yourself indeed.
1) Bringing history to anyone that wants it
It's a free knowledge free for all!
This is probably the most obvious thing we love about the medium of history podcasting, but it's no less important a point because of it! The act of bringing a history podcast to people isn’t something we love because we crave feedback or vindication for our crazy hobby choices. Instead it’s because we know we are making a difference. Producing a show on something obscure, presenting a new way of looking at old evidence, bringing our listeners closer to the events and people of our past – these are the things that get us truly excited. Granted, a part of this excitement stems from seeing how our listeners react, but another significant aspect of it comes from just knowing ourselves that we are bringing those listeners of ours something incredible.
The joy of history podcasting is found in its accessibility; the fact that anyone at any time can find us if they attempt to look. All they need is an internet connection and an imagination, because odds are, in this day and age, someone somewhere has done a history podcast on it. As history podcasters, we love that we are accessible; we love that we produce something that you enjoy, and we love that you don’t have to pay for it. Such things bring us joy, because we know that we are contributing to spreading the knowledge out there, so that as many people as possible hear of the events, the characters and struggles which struck a chord with us, to the extent that we simply needed to share them with others.
That act of sharing, of making a history podcast for the whole word to enjoy – that’s a feeling we love above all, and it’s something you can’t get anywhere else. History podcasting is our outlet, it’s our baby and it’s something we are so privileged and honoured to do. It’s why working like a dog for a silly length of time on something we give away for free makes perfect sense to us. Ask any history podcaster why they love what they do, they’ll say that, at the end of the day, nothing is more rewarding than having this platform to bring our stories, to bring our podcasts, to people like you; listeners, enthusiasts and friends.
In the life-cycle of a history podcast, it all begins with a desire – to teach, to create and to share. It ends with a self-high five, sometimes a high five with your co-host if you’re that kind of podder, and a sense of assurance that you did your bit to make history thrive.
Thanks for reading history friends! My name is Zack and if you enjoyed what you read here, make sure to check out our home here, or our podcast here. Spread the word about these posts if you're enjoying me, and remember we bring you guys a new episode every Wednesday! Thankssss, and I'll be seeing you all soon.