Whether the topic is food, sport, faith or being a business self-starter, a series of podcasters throughout the region are embracing the burgeoning format. BRENDAN CRABB finds out more.
Despite being a seasoned podcaster, Andy Dowling says he still has to convince potential guests of the format’s merits.
“I think podcasts are still a pretty new medium and new format in Australia,” the Shoalhaven resident said.
“It's been around for a few years now, but I think people are still warming to it and still trying to understand the concept and the value in it.
“I think here with podcasts in comparison to the US, I think a lot more celebrities jumped on board with podcasts earlier in the piece, and that pushed the awareness.
“Until more notable people get behind it, I think it will still be a little bit of an underground thing (in Australia).”
Podcasts are episodes of a program available via the internet.
They are usually original audio or video recordings, but can also be recorded broadcasts of a television or radio program, a lecture, performance or other event.
Dowling has been hosting The Andy Social Podcast for nearly three years, with more than 120 episodes released thus far.
The weekly show has featured Dowling speaking with musicians, pilots, professors, TV hosts, radio personalities, documentary film-makers, community leaders, authors, actors and more.
He also hosts the Self Starter podcast, which focuses on Shoalhaven businesses and entrepreneurs. He is expanding the show to incorporate the Illawarra.
While Dowling’s content often spans guests discussing a wide range of topics, others cater to more specific interests.
Other such content creators throughout the region are also recognising the greater benefits and considerable potential of the format amid a changing media landscape.
The Wollongong Football Show, hosted and directed by Andrew Byron, was launched late last year.
The Shell Cove resident is a former Wollongong Wolves chairman and football fanatic, who has been connected with a corporate A-League bid involving the Wolves. He said a catalyst behind the show’s introduction was the region’s push for an A-League club.
Byron is also CEO of an advanced start-up company, Podular Media, which oversees a number of podcasts nationally. These include the Melbourne-based Daily Football Show and AFL podcasts.
“It's what drives people to want to listen to the podcast, what keeps them engaged and how they keep coming back," he said of the growth of podcasting as a platform.
“Social media activity drives a lot of it, if you're very active with social.
“But I think there could be a better way of accessing, creating greater accessibility, especially for people who aren't tech-savvy.”
In a first for the University of Wollongong, the SMART Infrastructure Facility has released a podcast series, SMART Stories for Smart People.
It was first issued in December as a seven-part series. Another episode was released in March, with additional episodes scheduled for the future.
Each episode tells the stories behind some of the research at the SMART Infrastructure Facility.
The podcasts are produced and hosted by award-winning audio journalist, William Verity.
“The most challenging aspect of almost every podcast is to find an audience," he told the Mercury.
“Although many more people are listening to podcasts, there are also many more being made - because the technology is cheap and relatively simple to operate.”
Verity said podcasting is exciting because it is still in that rapid-growth phase, both in content and audience.
“The big issue in Australia is that it is almost impossible to make money from podcasts. You need 10,000 downloads before you can sell advertising, and 50,000 before you can call it a part-time job.
“So you either have to do it through the ABC, or an organisation like the University of Wollongong, that sees virtue in communicating its message to a wide audience.
“Either way, it tends to be a labour of love, but a very satisfying one.”
UOW is also about to launch an eight-episode podcast series Can you tell me why – surprising answers to difficult questions.
It will aim to tackle subjects that include why you struggle to keep up an exercise routine, find out if robots are going to take our jobs and if science is going to help us live forever, or at least longer.
It will be hosted by Verity and Hannah Laxton-Koonce, a recent graduate of the university’s School of Journalism.
Meanwhile, the driving force behind glossy coffee-table cookbooks has branched out to podcasts to further the Illawarra’s foodie movement.
Earlier this year, Quicksand Food publisher Stefan Posthuma-Grbic teamed with chefs Andy Burns from Babyface and Simon Evans from Caveau restaurants to begin bringing industry news and culinary discussions to the public via The Gong Show.
“It's a food-focused podcast and it talks about not only food in general, but issues surrounding food and hospitality in regional places, including the Illawarra,” Posthuma-Grbic said.
“A lot of people who are invovled in local hospitality in the Illawarra get in touch with us, saying it's speaking their language. It's something they can relate to and they're interested in what we have to say.”
Posthuma-Grbic said he enjoyed the long-form nature of podcasts, which allows more in-depth discussions and enables listeners to better relate to guests and hosts.
“As a listener, the thing I love about it is I have that passive consumption of media.
“I can be at the gym, doing some gardening or cooking, and I can have my headphones on and can be absorbing information and opinions while I’m taking part in other activities.”
Illawarra-based church and welfare organisation Lighthouse also release a weekly podcast, Lighthouse Weekly Messages.
Lighthouse general manager Josh Hammann said the program consisted of their weekly messages. He said this growing technology was a “great way to help people capture the message”, and also enabled it to be heard by people outside of the region.
“We recognise that not everyone can make it to a regular Sunday gathering at Lighthouse so we use this technology as a tool to help this,” Mr Hammann said.
“Our podcasts are helpful for people that want to live life with a purpose, have a faith in God or wish to explore faith a bit further.”