The rapport between two or more hosts makes a podcast shine, according to Oklahomans who produce audio shows. Levity is a good idea, too, even with serious topics, they say. And there’s one piece of advice all aspiring podcasters should take seriously:
“The secret to a winning podcast is consistency,” says Ryan Howell, host of Story Club Tulsa. “No matter what happens, just keep putting out a podcast on a regular basis.”
While major podcasting networks are on the coasts, Oklahoma harbors a variety of studios for local creators.
In Oklahoma City, the flourishing news media production company Mostly Harmless Media is helmed by Stephen Tyler. He says that while podcasts aren’t new, they are (relatively) newly popular due to their increase in accessibility.
“Anywhere you listen to the radio or to music, you can listen to podcasts,” says Tyler. “If you think about what happened with television, we transitioned from a scheduled world for shows. Now it’s all on-demand; I get to watch them whenever I want. Podcasts are radio transitioning into an on-demand model.”
The dozen or so podcasts currently hosted by Mostly Harmless Media include Mitchell Talks, which, in the spring, provided 80 consecutive days of COVID-19 updates; and Local Lights, which focuses on business owners and local events. Tyler and a few friends host We Apologize for the Inconvenience, which highlights new businesses opening in Oklahoma City.
“We transitioned to a live video show last year,” says Tyler, who has a background in audio and video production.
Andy Moore, who works in healthcare administration, is executive director of Let’s Fix This, a nonprofit that encourages Oklahomans to more actively engage in government. His podcast, Let’s Pod This, is also carried by Mostly Harmless Media.
“We started it three years ago as another way to reach people and help keep them informed about Oklahoma politics and what’s happening with government,” he says. “Our goal is to try to take what is often seen as opaque and try to make it easier to understand.”
Moore and his co-hosts record on Friday afternoons and often have current and former state legislators as guests. During the spring months, many episodes were devoted to the COVID-19 pandemic and how it was affecting state government.
“Podcasts are measured in downloads, and it’s not uncommon for us to have 500 downloads per episode,” says Moore, who has done more than 120 episodes. “We are quickly approaching 10,000 downloads since we started.”
Dustin DeVore is executive producer and head of content development for Tulsa’s SoundsTooth Network, which produces 16 podcasts.
“Anyone can create their own podcast if they want to,” he says. “But you have to do all the legwork for getting yourself out to the different platforms. Once you are under the umbrella of our podcast network, you have the legal protection of the network, and you have the ability to cross-promote. Promotion is the hardest thing.”
SoundsTooth is mostly a comedy network, says DeVore, who also teaches at Owasso High School. Podcasters cover such topics as professional wrestling, NASCAR, local news, movies and video games. Laughter N Lyrics is a new podcast hosted by several comedians and actors from the Tulsa area.
“They take a theme, such as household chores, and talk about what music to listen to while doing the chores,” says DeVore.
One year in, SoundsTooth is expanding into other fields. DeVore and a fellow teacher recently started a political podcast called Red State Blues, and some episodes have featured video and livestream.
“The angle is, we are yellow dog democrats living in a thoroughly red state, and the struggles of being in a red state,” says DeVore. “We cover local and national politics.” The podcast updates weekly and has a daily reach of about 1,000 listeners.
“Oklahoma is a state where podcasting has really exploded,” says Richard Taplin, chief executive officer and head producer of OKC’s Blacken Studios. “Oklahoma City is a booming city. It’s only natural that we have to talk about it. We love our community and love talking about it.”
A few years ago, Taplin says, he and a work-out buddy “found out we had a common interest with the podcasts we listened to. So we decided to record our own show.”
Every Sunday, they produce the Elijah Bailey Show, which primarily covers comic books, video games and anime.
“Other people started wanting to record their own shows, so we started recording for people who didn’t really know how to use the equipment,” says Taplin. “So I started finding myself in the producer’s seat.”
Podcasts hosted on the Blacken website include BrainBox by Oklahoma Humanities; Brunch Time, which is current events with a bit of humor; and Upbeat Urbanism, which features interviews with developers. One Mic, One Voice, discusses current events in the black community and is hosted by Michael Owens, the executive director of the Ralph Ellison Foundation.
The Story Club Tulsa podcasts are an outgrowth of a live storytelling show, says Howell.
“I try to find the most funny, entertaining or powerful stories I can find, and give people who live in Tulsa the opportunity to share,” he says. Howell been doing the podcasts for a year and has created about 40 episodes based on sellout shows held at the Duet Jazz Club.
Regardless of one’s experience level, podcasting pros around the state can help beginners excel.
“A lot of podcasts start with a laptop or a phone in the living room,” says Tyler, who enjoys helping newbies present themselves more professionally. “Our facility is broadcast-level microphones and audio, in a room where the noise level is controlled and isolated.”
Podcasters pay him a monthly fee for his technical support. He also offers voice and format coaching.
Taplin says Blacken Studios charges a recording and website-hosting fee of $75 per episode for podcasts 35-45 minutes in length. After podcasters demonstrate the ability to regularly create new shows, which is how they grow an audience, he talks to them about seeking advertising, with revenues divided between the studio and the podcaster.
Tyler believes the best advertising is organic, with podcasters mentioning their sponsors as part of the podcast.
But generally speaking, Oklahoma podcasters aren’t in it for the money. They mostly are having fun, often creating shows based on their own hobbies, interests and even conversations with friends.
“It’s a pretty diverse lineup,” says Taplin. “Podcasting has given everybody a platform to talk about what’s going on and how it affects them.”