Unpacking the World of Podcasting: An Interview with Larry Swanson (Part 1)

Podcasting has become an integral part of our digital lives, offering a unique blend of convenience and depth in content consumption. I interview professional podcaster Larry Swanson and unpack the world of podcasting. In two parts.

Unpacking the World of Podcasting: An Interview with Larry Swanson (Part 1)
The many facets and colours of podcasting illustrated with the banded demoiselle.

Recently, I had the pleasure of speaking with Larry Swanson, a seasoned podcaster and digital strategist, to delve into the intricate world of podcasting.

Our conversation was rich with insights, covering everything from production and distribution to audience engagement and measuring success. This blog post serves as a foundational layer for our discussion, setting the stage for a deeper analysis in Part 2.

The Interview Overview

I’ve always been fascinated by how people differ in their preferred ways of consuming information. Personally, I’ve always been more of a reader, often finding myself struggling with audio formats.

Yet, the rise of podcasting intrigued me, and it was during my daily commute that I began exploring this medium.

To kill time, I would listen to podcasts, finding them a more curated and purposeful alternative to the randomness of radio.

Then I met Larry and he wanted me to talk on his Podcast Content and AI. He also agreed I could tap into his expertise in podcasting and provided me with wealth of knowledge.

Content + AI: demystifying and democratizing AI for content pros
Content + AI aims to demystify artificial intelligence and democratize its use across the span of content practice.

The Nature of Podcasting, Audio vs. Broadcast

I shared with Larry my initial struggles with audio formats and how I eventually came to appreciate podcasts during my commutes.

Larry expressed his preference for the podcasting format over traditional radio broadcasting. He highlighted several key differences:

  • Local vs. Global Reach: Traditional radio targets local audiences, whereas podcasts can reach listeners worldwide.
  • Engagement and Format: Podcasts allow for deeper engagement and can be more personal and conversational compared to the structured nature of radio broadcasts.

Larry articulated why the podcast medium suits him so well. He enjoys the conversational nature of podcasting and finds it aligns perfectly with his strengths and preferences.

Larry mentioned, "I settled on the podcast format because it plays to my conversational nature. I also, I just, I can write well, but I just hate it. It’s like the hardest thing in the world, where just having a conversation is simple enough, you know?". This resonates deeply with me because Larry's interviews are always engaging and insightful, a testament to his natural fit with the medium.

We also discussed how the rise of headphone use has created more opportunities for podcast consumption beyond the classic car commute scenario. Podcasts are now a part of our daily lives, whether we are commuting, exercising, or just relaxing at home.

The Role of Audio in Learning and Exploration

One fascinating aspect of podcasting is how it serves as a tool for learning and staying up-to-date with the ever-changing world around us.

Unlike traditional classroom learning, podcasts offer a flexible and dynamic way to dive deep into specific topics. From content strategy and AI to digital marketing and personal development, podcasts allow listeners to explore a wide array of subjects at their own pace.

I’ve noticed that while I am more inclined towards reading and writing—whether it’s taking notes or drafting articles—there is a significant portion of people who prefer to listen and learn.

Podcasts cater to this audience, providing an accessible and often more engaging way to absorb information. They are perfect for those who want to stay informed about the latest trends and deep dive into complex topics, all while multitasking or on the go.

Larry's Personal Journey into Podcasting

Larry's journey into becoming a dedicated podcaster is as insightful as it is inspiring. He started his podcast primarily as a way to learn and connect with others in his field.

Larry explained, "I’m a genuinely curious person, and I got in deep. I’ve always sort of trusted my gut and followed my instincts... I wanted to back up, look at the whole spectrum". This curiosity led him to talk to hundreds of people in the content strategy field, seeking diverse perspectives and insights.

He also mentioned the practical benefits of podcasting, such as how it helps him connect with both well-known experts and undiscovered talents. This approach not only enriches his understanding but also broadens his network. Larry said, "It’s an explicit way to learn, but also just a way to connect with a whole bunch of people".

Content Strategy Insights: Interviews by Larry Swanson
Half-hour content strategy interviews with luminaries from the worlds of enterprise content, UX design, brand, product, support docs, etc.

Brief Summary of Other Topics

While the nature of audio was a central theme in our conversation, Larry and I also touched on several other important aspects of podcasting:

  • Challenges in Podcast Distribution: Larry shared his experiences with various tools and platforms essential for podcast distribution, such as Libsyn for hosting and Rev.com for transcriptions. He also emphasized the importance of syndication to ensure a global reach.
  • Fragmentation of Social Media: We discussed the challenges of engaging with audiences across different social media platforms like Twitter (X), LinkedIn, Mastodon, and Threads. Each platform has its unique audience, requiring tailored engagement strategies.
  • Production Insights: Larry elaborated on his streamlined approach to podcast production, focusing on minimal editing to maintain the authenticity of the conversation. He ensures that each episode has a strong start and finish, engaging listeners right from the beginning.
  • Measuring and Optimising Success: Understanding podcast success can be challenging due to the nature of digital distribution. Larry tracks downloads via hosting platforms, uses social media for audience interaction, and values qualitative feedback from listeners.
  • Questions to Larry and Future Directions: Throughout our conversation, I had numerous questions for Larry, both as a consumer of podcasts and a fellow podcaster. We discussed Larry's personal journey, content strategy, and plans for monetization through platforms like Patreon.

Stay tuned

This foundational layer sets the stage for a deeper dive into the world of podcasting with Larry Swanson.

In Part 2, we will explore more intricate details of podcast production, advanced distribution strategies, and further insights from Larry's extensive experience in the field.

Stay tuned for the continuation of our insightful conversation and a deeper understanding of the ever-evolving podcasting landscape.