Dan Franks is the co-founder of Podcast Movement, an annual conference — or the ultimate gathering spot — for anyone interested in or involved with podcasting and the podcast industry. The event is now in its fifth year and takes place next week in Philadelphia. Back in 2014, a few hundred people attended the show. Next week there will be thousands — along with nearly 100 vendors that have something to do with podcasting. We spoke to Dan about the growth of his event, the popularity of podcasting, and what attendees can expect next week.
Radio Ink: Your event has really become mainstream. Did you ever think it would become this popular when you first launched?
Dan Franks: When we first launched, it was literally a group of online friends and fellow podcasters who wanted a place to call our own. We all attended various “new media” conferences that lumped podcasters in with bloggers and video creators, and we were tired of being lumped together. So to say that we are surprised with where it’s grown is an understatement! That said, I would not call it an accident. When we saw the excitement and fervor that surrounded that first year, we definitely went into “let’s see what we can grow this to” mode.
Radio Ink: How many attendees did you have the first year and how many are you expecting this year? Same question for vendors if you want to share that?
Dan Franks: We had about 550 in attendance in 2014, and this year, our fifth, we already have over 2,200 registered with a few more days to go. I believe we were at around 20 exhibitors and sponsors that first year. This year we’ve got nearly 80 companies running either booths or some other on-the-ground activations, with another 20 or so partners on various other aspects of the event. It’s a huge testament to both the excitement of the podcast community as a whole, to quadruple in size, but also to the support of all the companies that support podcasters in their efforts to create amazing content.
Radio Ink: How have you seen podcasting evolve since your first show?
Dan Franks: The biggest shift is all the big networks and brands that are now involved, and then of course the consumer awareness that it leads to. Seeing the word “podcast” on billboards fairly regularly is wild, as is seeing podcast advertisements in Times Square. I certainly can understand the fear that some independent podcasters feel when seeing more money come into the space, but ultimately I feel like the increased exposure and awareness of the medium will be a net positive for all of us.
Radio Ink: Are more people making money at it in your opinion?
Dan Franks: I definitely think a great percentage of podcasters are making money now than were five years ago. That definitely is not to say the majority of podcasters are making money, because they are not. But I think with the increased excitement about the medium, more advertiser dollars have come in, and the wealth is indeed being spread more than it was. I am also really bullish on the crowdfunded model. Companies like Patreon are making it easier and easier for shows that are not big enough to get big advertisers, but have super passionate listeners, to start turning their hobby into something more.
Radio Ink: What are a few of the favorites or highlights of your event every year?
Dan Franks: One of my big points of pride are the production elements of the sessions, especially the main stage. We’ve always invested more than most to build unique and interesting stage sets each year for all of our stages. We are so appreciative of all the speakers for their contributions to the event, and of all the attendees for their investment and faith in us, that we feel the responsibility to give everyone the best platform possible. Over a year’s worth of planning goes into each event, so just seeing it all come together and, hopefully, be successful is my personal favorite part.
Radio Ink: What can attendees expect to see that will be new this year?
Dan Franks: Ever since year three, I’d say, we’ve focused on small tweaks and additions (or subtractions) from year to year, as opposed to any major overhauls. So a lot of the changes will be subtle. The biggest fundamental addition we’ve made this year is we’ve added a new content track, it’s called the “Society, Culture and Advocacy Track.” During this year’s planning season, we came to the realization that while we had lots of sessions discussing things like marketing, monetization, creation, and technical topics, we severely lacked a place for many of the bigger-picture conversations that are equally important to all of the others. This new track encourages speakers and attendees alike to address some of the most difficult, but also most important, topics head-on. From discussions around inclusiveness, to harassment, to bringing voices to underrepresented communities, there are things that podcasts truly are doing for the greater good, and we’re excited to have a dedicated place for those conversations this year.
We’ve also definitely put more focus on the networking and “outside the session” aspect this year than we have in years past. We are told every year how much people enjoy spending time with the other attendees, having meetings, and that kind of thing, as much as the sessions themselves. So this year we’ve put together a number of unique spaces and concepts that will hopefully help nurture those kinds of experiences.
Radio Ink will be covering Podcast Movement next week, beginning Tuesday, live from Philadelphia.