The broadcasting industry is something many sports fans yearn to break into. It feels attainable in a way that becoming a point guard, general manager or head coach does not. Broadcasters in the sports arena provide topical commentary on teams, coaches, players and front office personnel. The good, the bad and, most popular, the ugly. Play-by-play and color commentators provide background content to games broadcast on television, radio or streamed online. Just as prominent are sports broadcasters that talk sports 24/7 on the radio, television and through online streams and podcasts. Fans can’t get enough sports talk about the teams they love; smart content with good production value is in demand across the nation. It’s a challenge to break into the sports broadcast industry without the right level of experience or proper connections. There is the traditional route; obtain an internship with a media company followed by overnight and weekend shifts to build up your experience. While that option works for many up-and-coming broadcasters, there is an alternate route that deserves consideration. Podcasting certainly isn’t new but it is an increasingly popular way for new broadcasters to make their voices heard, build their own brand and gather experience for a move to mainstream media.
The term “podcast” is a mash up of “pod” from Apple’s wildly popular iPod device and “cast” from the standard media term broadcast. Podcasts – episodic digital media – is available through downloads and online streams to the masses, most typically at no cost to the listener. These weekly and daily shows fall under dozens of categories with sports, technology, news, politics and comedy being the most popular. Many sports podcasts are audio only but some add a video component to give it more of a television show feel. Stream or download them via iTunes, through a blog’s website or from another podcast app found on the iPhone as well as Android and Windows phones. For listeners, the function is similar to a DVR, allowing people to time shift their consumption of content. While I listen to a Bill Simmon’s podcast – The B.S. Report – in the car on my drive to work, you can listen while running on the treadmill later that evening. Podcasts are not supplanting main stream media like ESPN, Fox Sports, NBC Sports or even a local news program’s sports segment. It’s a supplement, with rich content that can be taken on the go and enjoyed on demand.
Podcasting about sports won’t attract much of an audience. But what will is a podcast about a niche within sports. A weekly show on the Washington Redskins targets a specific group of fans and allows you to create interesting, detailed content for others to enjoy. A daily show discussing yesterday’s happenings in Seattle sports may interest sports fans that realize their team is lacking sufficient national coverage on major media networks. Even a podcast talking all things rugby can attract its niche audience if promoted properly and presented well. Before venturing into the category of broad sports commentary, podcast about what you know and love. It will build your confidence and find more listeners.
It’s time to create your podcast. You can spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars to get setup. First timer podcasters should start small much like new golfers should rent clubs or buy cheap ones at first. Because you might not enjoy it as much as you anticipated. Podcasters can leverage other companies for the infrastructure, spending more money but lowering the amount of time spent learning the technical details of the process. If you’re technically savvy – or want to become so – understanding the ‘how to’ takes time but can be fun and save some money. The wealth of information in the podcasting knowledge-sphere is overwhelming. A book like Expert Podcasting Practices for Dummies or even Apple’s Podcasting Resources Guide are great options to start with. The folks at How Stuff Works have a podcast to help guide you as well. Leverage the steps and tips in popular reference material to understand how to get going.
Podcasts generate revenue primarily through advertising. With enough downloads and streams, a podcaster can charge clients for ad reads interspersed throughout the episode. Pre-roll advertisements are the most prominent as they’re heard before the podcast starts. Depending on the popularity of a podcast, additional ads – typically no more than a few minutes in length – are read by the podcaster at various points of the show. But much like blogging, podcasting doesn’t initially bring in many, if any, dollars. While the largest of podcast networks may charge $25 per subscriber to advertisers, newbie podcasts that reel in advertising can often secure less than a dollar per subscriber. Often times, CPM (Cost per Impression) or CPA (Cost Per Action) is used to price podcast advertising. Charge per specific listen or each time a listener uses an offer code presented during the ad to purchase the product or service. The techniques to generate podcast revenue make it doable, but the primary focus for first time podcasters is not to make money, it’s to become a great broadcaster.
There are few people that make a living solely by podcasting. Companies like TWiT.tv are a rare exception to the rule. If you’re successful, you can make a nice supplementary income to your day job while fulfilling your calling as a broadcaster. If you desire more exposure to sports broadcasting, leverage the experience and success you have in the digital media industry to interview for a more mainstream broadcasting position. Use the audio and video you’ve created to build a portfolio of work that can be sent to prospective employers. And detail out broadcasting accomplishments in a clean, crisp resume. Podcasters and broadcasters don’t always run in the same circles, podcasters are to broadcasting as bloggers are to journalism. But that perception is changing as more-and-more major networks and sports media personalities take time to record a podcast in addition to their daily writing or broadcasting duties. If the content produced is high quality, interesting and timely, sports media companies will take you seriously when you seek your next job in sports.