They say charity and self-promotion begin at home. (Okay, the self-promotion thing hasn't caught on as a saying yet, but it'll catch on any day.) Regardless, don't shoot as high as the New York Times or Fox News when you're trying to get the attention of the media: aim for your local hometown media.
Don't knock your local newspapers, television, and even radio (yes, radio!) stations as good tools to promote your podcast. They love community stories, and a popular podcaster among them is something they would want to hear about.
Local newspapers are always looking for someone who makes a splash, someone to put on their features page. Most papers nowadays give email addresses for their different departments; even the individual writers usually give out their own email address.
When pitching yourself to any local media, be sure to promote yourself as someone they can talk to about podcasting as a whole. When they talk to you, they will of course mention your show(s), as this is why you're an expert, after all. You will get your coverage.
Do not, however, say, "I have this awesome podcast and you should interview me about it!" Be humble and present it as you doing them a favor: "I've noticed your local coverage hadn't addressed topic X, which is something I talk about weekly on my podcast, and I think I can help offer some perspective."
In contacting local media, be polite and mention that you haven't seen the paper cover local podcasters, and offer your site and podcast for their perusal. Don't be pushy: Reporters are busy people; it may take them a while to get back to you. Wait a few weeks before following up with them. Don't follow up more than a few times thoughthe more annoyed you make them, the less likely you are to get a story.
If you want to go through the snail mail, you can send a combo audio/data CD of your podcasts to the newspaper itself (this can work for TV and radio, too). The audio CD will allow them to play your podcast in a CD player, which will help you get past people who are paranoid about viruses. But make sure, if you go this route, to still include a letter stating who you are, what you do, and why you think it would make for an interesting story. Don't make it too long; just get your point across and let your podcast speak for itself.
Local news also enjoys covering area residents who are doing something new and exciting. Unless a nationwide tragedy has struck, there's little bad news that will stop the local news from doing their amusing features just after the sports.
Like the newspapers, the email addresses and phone numbers of the local TV stations should be easily found on their websites. Your pitch should be similar to the newspaper's: You hadn't seen podcasting coverage on their news and you wondered if they would like to learn more about it from you.
Even if your interview takes a long time and they shoot you doing your entire show, remember it's likely going to be cut down to a 2-to-3-minute spot (in which you may be seen speaking for 45 seconds). But those 23 minutes will be seen by thousands, even millions, depending on your area. That can only do good things in your quest for podcast fame.
Ah, radio. This one is tricky. Most podcasters proudly say that they got into podcastingeither listening or producingbecause they couldn't stand what the radio was putting over the airwaves. After these inflammatory (whether true or not) statements, it seems odd to go after the local radio stations to see if they would like to cover you.
There are options, however. First, check and see if your radio station has a podcast. Many are starting to podcast their morning shows with limited or no ads, giving people only the content. National Pubic Radio releases over 100 of its most popular shows via podcast (see Figure 16.1). If the station is open to the idea of podcasting already, it might be safe to contact them for coverage. You can, like for the newspaper, send them a CD of your highest quality (recording-wise) material and mention that you're available to discuss podcasting if they ever do a story on it.
Figure 16.1. NPR is not afraid of the mighty podcast.
You can submit your show to KYOU in San Francisco (www.kyouradio.com). This is a radio station that plays only podcasts. Once on KYOU, you should then contact your local radio stations and see if they might have an open timeslot to play your podcast. Robert Keeme, from the KeemeCast, now has his show podcast on his local radio station. Many smaller local radio stations will be open to free content.
If you get a local radio station to agree to air your podcast, make sure you do not sign over any rights to your show. You only want to give them a license to use your material, and you want to retain all copyright ownership and full distribution rights.
Is There No Such Thing as Bad Publicity?
So what if you give an hour of eloquent interview and they boil it down to a sound byte and a photograph, misquote you, and make you look like an adorable kid with a hobby instead of the serious podcaster you are. Is it worth it to argue?
It's all in how you see it. If you're merely disappointed with your coverage, your picture is small and below the fold on page 14, and they treat you like someone with a cute hobby, that's annoying, but there's not much you can do about it. Be grateful for the coverage and use the story as a launching pad for the next media opportunity. After all, you can still say you were featured in said publication. The new target doesn't need to know you only got 2 inches at the end of the Local section in the paper. The truth is you got the coverage, and now you're trying to get more.
There are times when you'll want to contact the media outlet, however, as actor and stay-at-home dad Dan Klass of the Bitterest Pill discovered when the New York Times incorrectly called him a "self-identified addict." He politely wrote them and mentioned that he was not and had never been an addict, and his show's title was a reference to the saying that something is a "bitter pill to swallow." He was worried about the impact the Times article would have on his career (not to mention what people would wonder about his fathering abilities), as he didn't want potential employers or clients to see him as something negative that he clearly wasn't. He finally received his retraction, but the reporter worded it to imply no fault on the Times' shoulders: "...he said that the description was intended as a humorous reference likening himself to fans of his podcast who call themselves addicts, and that he is not really an addict."
Dan has this to say about the incident:
So if you don't like the coverage you get, determine whether it's merely irritating or downright damaging to your person and your podcast.