(By Matty Staudt) Thirteen years ago I was at the top of my radio game. After starting off in small markets in West Virginia, I had talked my way into becoming an Executive Producer for G. Gordon Liddy in Washington, DC, then The Sports Guys morning show at WNEW in New York City, and finally a successful run with Alice Radio in San Francisco where we took an FM Talk show on a music station and made it the number one show 12+ in the market. To the casual observer I was flying high, but I was getting frustrated. I had been in radio since I was 16 and didn’t know how to do anything else. I saw changes happening around me and the content I long had enjoyed providing, and was successful with, was being spurned by PDs who were only focused on the latest People Meter trend. So I did something drastic. I quit and reinvented myself.
I left to go to a start-up that nobody had heard of in an industry that was looked down upon by everyone in radio: Stitcher. Founder Noah Shanok took me on to help find content and build stations on the platform as its first Director of Content, and he and the other smart guys there taught me about tech, business development, metrics, algorithms, and a bevy of things I didn’t learn in radio or in college. I was told by MANY people in radio I was making a huge mistake and that they knew there was no future in podcasting.
After a few years at Stitcher I found myself wanting to do more creative things and left to start working as host on the syndicated show Your Straight Male Friend, a show that my partner Marcus Osborn and I thought would be the first show to go from podcast to broadcast. We did that and ended up with small radio syndication and a weekly show on SiriusXM. I also started teaching at the Academy of Art, University in San Francisco, where I started the first podcast production program.
This was all rewarding but it was not really paying the bills, and I wondered if I had made a huge mistake leaving radio to pursue podcasting. This was during what I like to call the purgatory phase of podcasting, where we saw little growth for about six years. So, I went back to school and got a Master’s in Digital Marketing and once again reinvented myself. I started working on, and teaching, branded content. With the help of the first company to do branded podcasts, Steve Pratt and Pacific Content, I started a small branded podcast company called Matty Media. This was again a field that most thought was on the fringes with no future.
Finally, three years ago, radio got serious about podcasting and I was fortunate enough to land at iHeartRadio as the industry’s first VP of Podcast Programming. As part of my job, I worked on helping our talent to get into podcasting and create shows outside of what they do on-air. One thing I tell everyone is that doing a podcast while you are on-air, and have access to that audience, is important because you never know what’s going to happen in the industry and having a podcast before you lose your job is a lot better than trying to start one after. You can build an audience that will go with you wherever you land. Trying to build a show once you are off the air is hard, and keeping that radio audience isn’t as easy as you would think. If your audience is only in the habit of listening to the radio, then you will have a hard time getting them into the habit of listening to you on a podcast.
I share this story because, as we once again see a lot of layoffs in radio, I think it’s important that everyone think about what life could be like after radio. What do you really want to do and how can you reinvent yourself to face the future? The future is full of opportunities for great audio producers and talent who take the time to hone their craft. We really are in the second Golden Age of Audio.
You’ll hear more from Matty in March at the Radio Ink Hispanic Radio Conference, March 25-26 in Miami. Matty will be part of our podcasting panel called What’s the Revenue Potential & Can It Help Grow Radio Audiences? Register NOW while you can still get the early bird special.
This past year Matty Staudt reinvented himself again, starting his own company Jam Street Media in LA, where he helps brands create podcasts, as well as consulting for companies entering the space. You can reach him at [email protected]