Could Podcasters Deal With The Pressure Of Being A Radio Host?

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(By Ed Ryan) I have to be honest, I chuckle every time a new story about podcast burnout comes out. There have been quite a few lately. I chuckle not to be mean, I chuckle because I wonder what could possibly cause someone to burn out doing what amounts to a hobby they supposedly love to do.

For the record I host two weekly podcasts, Beach Talk Radio with my wife every Saturday morning, and Podcasting for Radio Dummies every Friday morning for the radio industry. Both are live, using Spreaker, and our Saturday show, also heard on The Florida Podcast Network, is broadcast live on Facebook and YouTube

I’ve never experienced podcast burnout. Sorry. I just don’t see how it’s even possible.

Podcast Hall-of-Famer Dave Jackson said to me at the NAB Show in Las Vegas that he never, ever misses The School of Podcasting. He’s never mentioned the word burnout to me in all the conversations we’ve had. His latest episode is number 666.

Correct me here if I’m wrong. Most (not all) podcasts are weekly, for one hour. Most podcasters are hosting shows about topics they love to talk about, and that they assume other people might want to hear about. So what’s the problem here? It’s not really that hard, is it?

Burnout appears to be such a big deal that The Podcasters Roundtable dedicated an entire show to the topic. I couldn’t listen.

I know podcasters don’t really want to hear about radio (well, some secretly hope their podcast will lead to a paying radio gig). Radio hosts have to prepare for five, maybe six, three- or four-hour shows every week. And, talk hosts, when they have no music to lean on to fill time, have to entertain even more. Radio hosts don’t complain about burnout.

The latest burnout article comes from the folks at DiscoverPods. Brendan Hutchins was gearing up to launch a political discussion podcast. He mapped out 10 episodes, created artwork and a website, social media accounts, and had a thousand followers before even launching. Then he apparently hit a wall. “The pressure to prepare, listen to other political podcasts, and stay up to date; the pressure to be ‘on’ and interesting while recording; the pressure to find time to record and edit the podcast; and the pressure of a possible backlash over my views, whether they were too liberal, or not liberal enough, or most likely both.”

Brendan also hosts a podcast called Bitrate with Mark Steadman. They recently loaded up a series of interview podcasts about, you guessed it, podcast burnout. “In the Burnout series of BitRate, we talked to the creator of award-winning podcast Sleep With Me, Drew Ackerman, Dan Misener from the producing powerhouse from Pacific Content, Jenna Spinelle from The McCourtney Institute for Democracy, writer Yuvi Zalkow, and podcast consultant Mathew Passy.”

Rush Limbaugh has been hammering out three compelling hours of entertaining talk radio, without guests, every day for 35 years. Surely we can all put out one hour every week without complaining about burnout.

This industry is too young and exciting to be burning out.

Ed Ryan is the Editorial Director of The Podcast Business Journal and can be reached by e-mail at edryantheeditor@gmail.com

12 COMMENTS

  1. This is some gatekeeping, holier-than-though BS right here. Not all radio hosts do 3 to 4-hour long daily shows, and not everyone would agree that Rush Limbaugh’s blowhard rambling is “entertaining.”

    Many podcasters are doing their shows in addition to having full-time jobs and families – these two things alone can easily take up a large portion of your time. Whether or not the subject is something the host loves, if they are serious about their show then they put a lot of hard work into it. The old adage of, “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life,” is garbage. You can love doing something and still work your tail off doing it. Not being able to comprehend how someone could feel some burnout trying to manage a career, a family, a podcast, and everything else in their life is simply ignorant.

    For the record… my show is a 1-hour, weekly program. We’re syndicated on 20 radio stations across the US, and we’re available as s podcast. We’ve done 180+ episodes and have never missed releasing a show. This doesn’t mean we haven’t felt a bit beaten and burnt out occasionally. We love it, but it’s a lot of hard work.

    • It’s certainly not holier-than-though BS Tim. It’s simply my opinion, just like you have yours. And I know how much work it is, as I said I’m doing two. And my comment about Rush wasn’t a political statement. You cannot debate his success and the number of listeners he has, no matter how you feel about his politics.

      I would debate that hosting a podcast is hard work. Hard work to me is manual labor where people are busting their asses at jobs they probable NEED to do for their family and to survive. It’s hard to listen to people whine about burning out at a hobby.

      Congrats on never missing a show. And thanks for taking the time to comment.
      Ed

      • So my main job as a data analyst where I’ve worked as much as 80 hours a week (no overtime for IT professionals) isn’t hard work? Do you even know what year this is? People whose jobs involve manual labor are far less likely to experience burnout than those whose jobs require that they are tied to a desk all day. Many podcasters have 100% responsibility for their podcast *in addition to* working at jobs they NEED to do for their family.

  2. ED – I hear you – if you love doing something you love it, however, I feel like there’s a bit of apples and oranges happening here. As a former radio person, I would do prep for my show and go in each week and do the show. It was live so there was no editing involved and when the show was over, I left the building until next time. The station did all the work on ad sells, all I did was read the copy at the appropriate designated times or play the carts (yeah, we’re going way 🙂 back) . Also at that time there was no social media or web presence and today, radio stations have social media marketers and web designers on staff. If a personality chooses to interact with their listeners, they either allow them on their personal social, or create a ‘station id’ and interact w/listeners there. For me, booking guests, interviewing, editing, recording intros/outros, uploading, blog posts, newsletters, social media on three platforms and now providing for Patreon supporters takes me about four to six hours per 30-minute weekly episode. And sometimes, I have to ‘miss out’ on other things happening in life because I’ve made a commitment to the listeners to have these episodes available, without fail, every Tuesday. I don’t have a team of producers to research and book guests, marketers, engineers, admins to help me and I think there are a number of podcasters who are in the same situation. There are places one can cut – if one doesn’t really care about their guests ‘umms’, ‘uhhhs’ and sentence false starts (or how that might sound to the listener), one can just skip the editing piece altogether and slap that audio up. One can choose not to promote on any social media or just choose one (which some say is better). One can self-fund or be donation-based and not spend time courting advertisers, not do a blog or website, or listener newsletter with a new episode. One can cut back from weekly episodes to twice monthly. All this to say, I can see how sometimes the process can be overwhelming if one is a homegrown, self-funded, one-man band podcast without a staff or team to pitch in on all the parts and how that could become overwhelming for some folks. If someone is in that boat, they need to really consider their motivation for doing a podcast and take a look at what they’re spending their time on overall that is causing the overwhelm or burnout. And I’m happy to help people take a look at those areas and get clear on what they want or how to find more time in their day.

  3. Thanks for the note Dawn. I appreciate the spirited debate. I think you’ll find most radio hosts, unless you’re a Ryan Seacrest or Elvis Duran or Bobby Bones, etc. have a team of social media experts, co-hosts, producers, etc. Most are doing their own show and voice-tracking several others. And, I’m guessing if they had the time, they would love to go back and edit some of their content, which is the advantage podcasters have, if they choose to do so. As a former on-air host myself as well, I prefer to do both shows live and let the content live or die as it is.
    Keep up the great work and let us know how we can help you out.
    Ed

    • Thanks Ed. And thanks for addressing this issue in your daily. Having been married to a large mid-west market afternoon drive time radio guy I know the drill. And he was getting paid pretty well to be at the station make it all happen every day – it was his job and he had eight or nine hours a day to do it. As Carrie pointed out so well in her response, a large percentage of podcasters are making this work in addition to their J-O-B. This is a great conversation for everyone in the podcasting space, particularly those involved with podcast conference planning. Continuing to offer some beginner level content/sessions/articles for the new folks entering the space is important so they don’t become discouraged about moving forward and also to inform and prepare them for what they might experience along the way. Good stuff.

  4. Burn out, schmurn out.
    You are spot-on.
    Show prep for a daily show does not compare to an occasional (weekly) performance.
    We often produce multiple podcast segments each day from our Radio program.
    It’s all in the editing–and the content.
    Podcasting may well be the future of entertainment (yes, even Rush) delivery, but what we’re seeing now is the separation of the men from the boys. It’s not as easy as it looks (or sounds).

    • “Show prep for a daily show does not compare to an occasional (weekly) performance.”

      It seems like you don’t understand the hours the average podcaster puts into their shows. It goes way beyond the time spent in front of a mic.

    • Brent, you said “We”, which implies that you have a team whose (paying) job is to produce a radio show and extract podcasts from the show. Most podcasters have paying jobs as well as researching, scheduling, creating, editing, and promoting a podcast for which they are 100% responsible. They do it for the love of it, they do it for their audience – not because they’re getting paid to do it.

  5. How large is the staff at a radio station compared to your average podcast? Do the radio hosts handle editing? Production? Promotion? All without help?

    Does a radio host work a full-time job and then go into the station to do their shows?

    Not to mention how incredibly dismissive and insulting that you act like a podcaster only spends an hour a week on their shows.

    Your experience as in podcasting doesn’t correlate to most podcasts. The way you describe yours is closer to radio than the average podcast. You hop on the mic and talk for an hour and call it quits. A lot of podcasters spend hours creating their shows. Then they spend hours editing the episode. Then they spend hours promoting it.

    Maybe you should spend time with some podcasters before dismissing them.

  6. Daniel: Thanks for the feedback. I hear ya.
    Radio hosts do a lot of production and promotion (without getting paid) in a different way than podcasters of course. They are cutting commercials, going on sales calls, voicetracking, remotes, etc. And, like I wrote, other than the big radio stars – which there are few – radio hosts are on their own, working long hours, and getting paid very little. Not to mention they are constantly worried losing that job they love because of cuts always being made in radio. They used to have much larger staffs, back in the olden days. But it’s all bare bones now.
    – I do spend a lot of time with podcasters, on the phone with them for this job, conducting interviews, at conferences, etc. Most of them never whine about burnout.
    – And you are incorrect about my show. I do get it. I spend a lot of time lining up guests, preparing my scripts, promoting on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, etc. I’m in that boat as well. But nobody will ever hear me say, “I’m burned out from my podcast.” You know why? Because nobody cares and if I’m burning out from the podcast, it’s no longer a fun hobby, it’s a chore.
    – Like every other podcaster, I have a family, a few dogs, a pet turtle, a very full-time job, etc. etc.

    Thanks again for the feedback.
    By the way, what’s the name of your show? Would love to listen.

  7. This is classic. Burnout? You’re kidding, right? The very topic explains why I never listen to podcasts. Why? It is not because I wouldn’t find one interesting. But I’ve been brought up in a world where the guy who started a podcast was fired so many times from a “real” radio station that it was the last gasp for him to make money “doing what he loves” — minus a producer who could get him to say in 30 seconds what could take six rambling minutes. Or, perhaps an intern to come up with show topics and guests. Yes, podcasters could be someone with a full-time job and six kids to feed and a broken down car and blah-blah. But seriously … it’s a hobby that could make some money. As the host of the now-concluded Hispanic Radio Podcast for one year, I found interesting topics for a 10-15 minute audio program every time I cracked the mic. And we’re talking about Hispanic radio — not a lot to talk about, right? Wrong. If you can’t come up with something fresh on a weekly show you’ve mapped out an editorial calendar for, you shouldn’t do one.

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