Vibrant scene at Hot Docs Podcast Festival

It was great to see so many people sharing their passion and knowledge of podcasting this week in Toronto. The Hot Docs Podcast Festival, now in its third year, has attracted industry talent from across the country and the globe, as well as a loyal fan base of local listeners and aspiring indie podcasters.

On behalf of TPX, I (Jeff Ulster) was invited to participate in an industry roundtable event on Thursday afternoon, along with some formidable industry colleagues from BBC, This American Life, NPR, iHeart, CBC and more (see here for details): 

It was a highly experimental event - nine tables, with one industry insider stationed at each. Rotating groups of 3-5 attendees spent 11 minutes at each table, learning a bit about the background of the “expert”, and asking questions about the podcast industry before being shuffled off to the next table. Kind of like platonic group speed dating. The event was close to two hours, but it was such a whirlwind of intros and chats that it felt like it ended before it began. Fun but hectic!

Hopefully everyone got something from the event. For my part, I was struck by a few things:

  1. Everyone wanted to know how many downloads it takes to monetize a podcast. Of course, there’s no right answer, and there are many factors involved, but I told them that if you can get 50,000 Canadian downloads per month, then TPX would love to hear about it. Even if you’re not at that level, if you’re seeing good growth and you can see 50K in the horizon, there’s definitely a conversation to be had and a lot of promise ahead.

  2. People love podcast stats! At TPX, we pride ourselves on the knowledge we’re able share from The Canadian Podcast Listener study. So it was great to have answers on hand for people who wanted to know more about who was listening, what they’re listening to, how they find podcasts and so much more.

  3. Podcasting is beyond a basement hobby. Not so long ago, podcast events were dominated by folks who tinkered with making podcasts, usually in their basements (full disclosure - that’s where my home studio is), but had very little experience with audio storytelling. Times have changed! There was a huge range of folks at the event looking to learn more this year. Some were experienced producers and storytellers, some were educators and some were highly educated. There were marketing experts, NGO leaders and entrepreneurs, in addition to hobbyists and newbies. We all had something to learn from each other.

I was also able to attend a few of the sessions. The Art of The Interview featured three hosts of interview shows with a range of treatments. Each had their own approach to prepping and conducting the interviews that make up the material for their shows. The panel included Vish Khanna, Tobin Low and Kaitlin Prest.

 Dozens of participants spent close to two hours rotating from table to table in groups, asking industry experts their burning questions about podcasting.

Dozens of participants spent close to two hours rotating from table to table in groups, asking industry experts their burning questions about podcasting.

 Gimlet’s Nazanin Rafsanjani and WNYC’s Paula Szuchman shared their insights into how show ideas make their way from pitch to pilot to podcast.

Gimlet’s Nazanin Rafsanjani and WNYC’s Paula Szuchman shared their insights into how show ideas make their way from pitch to pilot to podcast.

The panel From Pitch to Podcast featured the heads of development from Gimlet and WNYC talking about the challenges and joys of creating new programs. They both have some exciting new shows launching in the coming months. The Funny Business panel featured Chris Bannon and Matt Gourley, some of the creative minds behind Earwolf and Stitcher, sharing some clips and talking about the benefits of podcasting for the genre.

We at TPX are thrilled to see such a high level of engagement, and continued growth of the event and the industry as a whole. We’re thrilled to be a part of it by sharing our knowledge, helping podcasters to generate revenue and demonstrating the value of Canadian podcast audiences to agencies and brands. Exciting times ahead for podcast makers and listeners!

Jeff Ulster