Iâ€™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 havenâ€™t been able to put them into words until something happened today that made me see a pattern. And I didnâ€™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 theyâ€™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, Iâ€™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 weâ€™re all on Skype, Twitter or Stickam together. Most of the people in this group (and it was a â€œgroupâ€ 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 canâ€™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 Iâ€™d have to admit, if I were being honest, is that the language and culture of the â€œnew media conversationalistsâ€ 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 donâ€™t jump into the fray with quite the gusto I would if I were a true believer.
But hereâ€™s the thing: beneath my aloofness from the evangelical is also a sense that Iâ€™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 â€˜had a deep conversationâ€. Nor did they blog about how they â€œspent some great face time with my good friend Shelly.â€ 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 Iâ€™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 donâ€™t know. But given the good work Iâ€™ve done with the magazine, and my longevity in the industry, I think I have some value to offer. That opinion doesnâ€™t seem to be widely shared.
But now Iâ€™ve come to a regretful conclusion; one I hesitate to write about here. And one that was, Iâ€™ll admit, suggested to me by a poster on the Podcast Expo forum who believes that this geek â€œsausage festâ€ (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 theyâ€™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 youâ€™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 wonâ€™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?