Kai Love, cohost of The Pisces Life, holds a weekly series with co-host I Am Just Letitia and will be featured at upcoming events like The Comics Rock Convention in Los Angeles, and was also a part of this year’s Essence Fest in New Orleans. Ten years ago, very few personalities recognized the power of podcasting, but that’s all changed.
While podcasting, which is often referred to as audioblogging, made its debut in the 1980s as video and audio files and then had a popularity surge in 2004 with short-form audio files that entered the mainstream with the Apple iPod, there are now 115,000 English-language podcasts currently available on the internet, which users can stream onto tablets, smartphones, and a myriad of other devices. And with 17 percent of Americans tuning into a weekly podcast, according to statistics site Statista, and podcast subscriptions reaching 1 billion in 2015, according to The Washington Post, podcasting has the potential to become a booming business.
“A lot of people say podcasting is going through a resurgence but it’s really that more people have discovered it as an easy alternative to television and mainstream radio,” Love said. “People can now just go to different websites and download content to their phone or their laptop, where before they had to have an iPod or an mp3 player. People are also sick of hearing mainstream topics such as the Kardashians. There is so much more out there and people want to participate in cultural and intelligent conversations that fit their personality. Podcasting – which can range from politics to therapy to comedy – easily enables them to do that.”
The Pisces Life, which has been running on its own since March of 2014, got its start after leaving its original home with Black Astronauts Podcast earlier last year. Though it’s been great to have creative control over their content, Love explained podcasting “isn’t cheap.” She said the duo pays well to ensure clear internet signals, and has invested in top-of-the-line equipment to make each show a success. While Love said the show currently accepts donations, they hope to reach new levels with a sponsor or paid subscriptions in the future.
“We give listeners a variety of things to think about and we talk about pop culture and topics like sexual and reproductive health, and relationships; we know it’s great content and we want to eventually be able to do this full time to continue to deliver honest dialogue across genders, cultures, age, social economics, and race,” Love said “We are also traveling and in order to keep doing this we will need to have some finances coming in to keep everything going.”
As far as Aaron B of The Black Astronauts is concerned, Love and I Am Just Letitia are doing “an amazing job” on their own, saying he expects them to reach sponsorship or subscription status at some point in the future. And with 7,000 downloads a month on his own show, The Black Astronauts founder, host and producer hopes to eventually do the same as well. The group, which also includes self proclaimed “alpha nerd” Fiq blerdman; educator, poet and dancer Cj; and musical artist CEEWHY, has continued on without the ladies to provide a comical, intellectual and realistic perspective on urban culture.
In a 2013 MadameNoire story, Aaron B said that podcasting was “initially techy and nerdy,” but because of its lack of censorship, is now being embraced by underground listeners. While he maintains his original position, he said “a lot has happened in the last two years,” with podcasting going far beyond “the average geek.”
“Podcasting never went anywhere – it just became more widespread. In the last two years I’ve seen a lot of new podcasts come onto the scene and blossom and flourish. Podcasting is going nowhere anytime soon – it’s only getting bigger. Right now people are tuning into us from across the country and internationally — we have listeners in Korea and London. There’s a lot happening in the U.S. right now and people want to hear about it. We’ve recently spent a lot of time covering the Black Lives Matter movement and at the end of the day podcasting has proved to be very powerful with today’s state of affairs.”
While it’s clear that Aaron B and his crew can pull in the listeners with their comedic and witty script, can they make any money? According to Aaron B “it’s possible, but far from easy.”
“Funding is an issue and the biggest barrier in podcasting,” he said. “We have the listenership, but it’s hard to convince businesses to invest financially. We have had sponsors and they did enjoy a high amount of traffic but even that only provides a little bit of income so we are trying to think of alternative ways to make money. Podcasting is very expensive, which is why people give up on it. If we were to get a long-term sponsor that would be a great situation for us and would really solidify and legitimize our podcast in many ways.”
One podcast that has managed to pull in both sponsorship and subscription fees is Movie Trailer Reviews, hosted by Kriss, which was first launched in 2008. The podcast, which includes shows like Comic Book Book Club, Hell No Cupid, The Playing Dead, and Reminiscing with Kriss, “covers all the entertainment bases,” explained Kriss, and garners over 60,000 downloads a month. The show’s success, Kriss says, comes from “consistency.”
“When I started in 2008 people were like what’s podcasting? And I used to joke all the time that no one listened to my show but me. It was just something fun to do but eventually I began to take it seriously when I saw my competition fall to the wayside. Contrary to what people think, podcasting is a lot of work and creating a quality show requires commitment,” he said. “Everyone wants to podcast now but if it’s just a hobby and you don’t have the time to stay up on technology, edit for hours, and promote your show then don’t do it. To be successful you gotta get serious.”
Kriss, who is also a software developer for a consulting firm, will be attending D23 (Disney) Expo in Anaheim, and will also cover this year’s New York Comi Con for his show. To get into these kinds of events as a podcaster requires shows to have a high volume of downloads, and because of Kriss’ high profile platform, he now has the basis to charge users $8/month or $22/quarter to listen to his podcasts. While Kriss saidhe hasn’t been able to quit the 9 to 5 just yet, he only sees a “bright future,” for his show, as well as podcasting in general.
“A lot of people say the podcasting market is saturated, but only 10 to 17 percent of the public are listening to podcasts – which leaves an enormous amount of room to grow,” he said. “You can find any podcasting topic you could possibly think of at this point and people don’t need the radio anymore. The radio has a finite number of talk shows and a finite number of stations. Podcasting is unlimited and if you can’t find a show that talks about what you want – get out there and create your own. And that’s the wave of the future.”