I recently learnt that RuPaul (if you don’t who that is #shame) did live radio for many years and is now doing podcasts with his bestie Michelle Visage. Watch RuPaul’s Drag Race to have your life changed.
While I am in no way comparing myself to Queen RuPaul, this realisation has caused me to ponder how seamless the transition is between radio and podcasts. Podcasting as an audio platform is not a new idea; in fact before they would have been referred to as ‘radio documentaries’. When I say before, I mean back in 2010/2011 when I was studying Radio Production at UCT. My last assignment was to create a radio documentary- if only I had known how my closely linked to my current job that would’ve been. I remember being so frustrated with the assignment, at the time, because I didn’t understand how this was remotely relevant to radio. Oh the follies of the young.
When friends, family and acquaintances ask what it is that I do, I get looks of puzzlement when I say ‘podcasts’. It’s not the only thing I do, but it’s by far my favourite. The only way to explain it, is to holla back to radio. Everyone knows about radio and so explaining that it’s a prerecorded radio show is the simplest explanation I have come up with.
“So do you play music?” Well, no, because that involves licenses and permission and money…
“What frequency are you on?” None, we’re online.
“When can I listen to you?” Whenever you’d like, our shows are on our website.
So while I say that podcasting is not a new idea, there seems to be this gap in the collective consciousness between radio documentaries and podcasts. In South Africa, that gap is a massive canyon whereas in countries like The USA or England (they get the internet in their cars, guys!) podcasting is a well established form of audio entertainment. Some people even make money doing it.
However the basic elements between podcasts and live radio are the same. You’ll find a lot of Podcast hosts have experience in radio, well the really good ones anyway. They have the vocal skill and personality to enwrap your ears and bring out that ever sought after ‘theatre of the mind’. When you’re listening to your favourite podcasters you feel like you’re listening to your friends. Well that’s the aim anyway.
The Soapbox Show started as a live 2 hour radio show on Monday nights. Through that Robyn-Hood and I were able to establish a signature sound, vibe and a conversational tone that, hopefully, made our listeners feel like they’re listening to friends. When we transformed The Soapbox Show into a podcast, the foundation was already there. Robyn-Hood and I both have previous experience in live radio before we did The Soapbox Show together. Our collective experience in radio means we’re able to produce a well rounded weekly show, but we’re learning new things all the time as well. Each week, we’re bettering what it is we put out there so we can increase our listenership, but really so we can make more friends.
While podcasts might not be a well known entertainment format in South Africa right now, we’re helping to usher it in and that’s what’s truly exciting. The exhilaration behind being live on air is incomparable, but the on demand nature of podcasts is pretty enthralling too.