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Podcast Expo Was Awesome But…

Posted in New Media and Tech, and Podcasting

I’m just back from my third Podcast & New Media Expo (name recently changed to leave out the Podcast part). I had an awesome time. Really I did. I hung out with some great friends, got some good interviews, and made contacts that I hope will lead to good content for the magazine. But as I reflect on the weekend, a few things are gnawing at me. I haven’t been able to put them into words until something happened today that made me see a pattern. And I didn’t like it.

The first thing you should know about the way I do Podcast Expo is that I wear two hats (actually, I wear one red one most of the time.) First and foremost (because they’re paying me) I cover the expo for my employer. I scurry up and down the aisles, noting the new products and taking the press kits (thanks for the dead trees people) and attending sessions where I think I might either learn something or meet a contact who can provide information, or contribute to the magazine. At night, I attend a few parties and keep the schmoozing up as best as my introverted personality can. But as I have during each of the past two shows, I’m also in town to promote my own podcasts and spend time with some truly wonderful friends whose shows I enjoy, and whose spare time I inhabit when we’re all on Skype, Twitter or Stickam together. Most of the people in this group (and it was a “group” this year) are hobby podcasters, whose monetization goals might stretch to breaking even on their podcasting gear, or breaking the 1000 listener mark.

The two hat thing works most of the time. I can do my job and spend off hours with my peeps. I had some truly amazing experiences with these people, many of them late at night, and several of them captured on mic. On the work front, I attended things to which I was invited, saw all the vendors and did the best I could at mingling (considering I can’t recognize people). So both hats were a success, though if I were being honest, I would have to admit that I gave a bit more time to my friends than I should have.

The other thing I’d have to admit, if I were being honest, is that the language and culture of the “new media conversationalists” leaves me a little cold. The evangelical zeal, and the adoption of certain language forms does not feel authentic to me. It feels like manufactured genuineness. And so I don’t jump into the fray with quite the gusto I would if I were a true believer.

But here’s the thing: beneath my aloofness from the evangelical is also a sense that I’m being overlooked; that even though I run a magazine for and about these people, my presence is not meaningful, nor my opinion sought out. During and after the expo, I read about all sorts of small gatherings of pioneers and “elites” to which I would have thought I would have been invited. No one came up to me and ‘had a deep conversation”. Nor did they blog about how they “spent some great face time with my good friend Shelly.” Even the conversations I had with those who inhabit the hyperbolic world of the podcasting elite were a bit on the short side. I tried to engage, but was usually dismissed or ignored. And those who shamelessly lobbied for inclusion in the magazine did not seek me, the editor out, but conversed with our publisher. And this happened even with people I know personally!

Now I’m willing to take my part in this: what conversation did I start? Did I ask good questions? Did I seek interesting people out? Actually, yes. Was I good at it? I don’t know. But given the good work I’ve done with the magazine, and my longevity in the industry, I think I have some value to offer. That opinion doesn’t seem to be widely shared.

But now I’ve come to a regretful conclusion; one I hesitate to write about here. And one that was, I’ll admit, suggested to me by a poster on the Podcast Expo forum who believes that this geek “sausage fest” (not her words) was not welcoming to women.

Could it be that the admission pass you need into the podcasting elite is a pair of testicles or perhaps a better pair of eyes?

Men in podcasting (could a calendar be in the works?) are generally pleasant, less macho than average Texans, funny, creative people. I like a lot of them, most of them, even. If I stay away from them when they’re ogling girls in French maid outfits, our relationship seems generally good, if shallow. But it feels to me as if there are only a few slots for women in the elite of this field, and that they have been reserved for members of my sex who walk the walk and talk the evangelical talk of the monetizers and the community evangelizers and the new media mavens. If you’re an eccentric like me, you damn well better be a man, or you might as well be content to drink beer at the Wizzard party til the cops come. Because you won’t be eating Steak 2.0 or tagged in the most sought-after Flickr galleries or blog recaps.

Is it any wonder I chose my friends over the big boys?

Also, no one on Twitter gives a flying crap that I interviewed Ariaana Huffington. What do I have to do, get an exclusive with Brittney?


  1. Shelly, I am incredibly impressed with your post here. I think you have several excellent points, and should I go to the PME next year (and you go), I would love to meet you in person.

    I would also like to invite you to speak at the Online International Podcasting Expo April 18-19, 2007. You cut through the crap and tell it like it is. I like that. I’m sure that between your business and your podcast, you would have something very interesting and engaging to share with the rest of us. If you go to, you’ll see our previous speakers over the past expos.

    What I’d really love for you to do is also host one of the online networking sessions during the Expo to talk about these issues and how (and if) anyone thinks they can be resolved. Let me know – I hope to hear from you soon.

    October 5, 2007
  2. Hi Shelly – thanks for your thoughts here. Rather than spamming your comments with a link to a virtual podcamp, I’ll give you my insight on the show.

    A couple things may be at work here. First, this year felt like the first year where the pioneers of podcasting weren’t the main event – the industry has grown beyond just a core group of people and I think that scares some folks. They’ve been in the spotlight for a while now, and the growth of the medium has grown beyond them – as everything does eventually. So you may be sensing that people are struggling to find their place as the community grows larger than any one group or person. So instead of concentrating on building relationships with important people like yourself by having those complex conversations, they tend to scurry around from person to person to find out where their “place” is now.

    Second, as more and more shows and content becomes available, it becomes harder and harder to shine in the crowd. The “big boys” as you mentioned are no longer getting the spotlight because of what they have done in the past, and it makes them very nervous.

    So my two cents is that it’s not about being male or female, but its about an industry that is having some growing pains and having some trouble adjusting to the changes going on. People are fickle, and some I think are losing their way by concentrating on the past – when in fact they should be concentrating on telling their story to folks like yourself who have the ability to help them get attention for their media.

    It was great seeing you there – and I hope to see you again in Las Vegas next year.

    Tim Bourquin, Founder
    The New Media Expo

    October 10, 2007
  3. admin

    Hi Tim,

    Thanks for your thoughts. Let me say first that I think you and Emile are doing a great job with the show, and that any issues with inclusiveness that I have experienced are not related to the way you produce NME. I think you’ve managed to strike a balance in terms of the events, presentations and participants. And it does not feel like an artificial balance. One of the reasons I mentioned the bifurcated nature of my own experience at the show is that it has been easy to cultivate a wide variety of experiences and relationships in the atmosphere you have created. That’s somewhat rare in my professional experience.

    I do think our industry and community is in a transitional phase. I’ve said so in Blogger & Podcaster. and I think recognizing the transition, I needed to stick my hand up and say “Wait a sec. Let’s not get into patterns that promote a small group of people as elites, or cement a kind of language or orthodoxy that will exclude people.” These problems have plagued other communities I’ve been a part of, and I’m happy to be in a position to highlight them during these early days. Keeping the discussion (I’m really tired of “conversation”) going is what it’s all about.

    October 10, 2007

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