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Podcasting Luminaries: Dan Carlin

Podcasting since 2005, Dan Carlin has built a steady, strong and powerful body of work, as well as an engaged following. Make sure you check out and subscribe to Hardcore History and Common Sense with Dan Carlin...if you don't, you are seriously missing out.


Fun, Fame or Profit? Why are you doing the show?

Well, this is my work. I was a radio personality before technology eliminated the requirement that I be employed by someone who owned a broadcast transmitter in order to be heard by a wide audience.

I don't need a radio station to reach listeners anymore. This is like a dream come true for me. Work from home...no consultants...no creative constraints...complete control over all elements of the operation.

And the technology matured just as the radio business was becoming truly unbearable. It seemed like the most natural transition in the world to move from the brick-and-mortar version of broadcasting to the Internet one.

I think I do the podcast(s) for all the reasons you suggested (and more). Add to your list the opportunity to create and be creative. A podcast is an enormous blank canvas. There is so much room for invention and creative latitude. It's one of the best things about podcasts that they are NOT part of the homogenized Old Media culture that operates along a narrow spectrum of creativity, and panders to the lowest common denominator.

In podcasting, virtually anything goes...niche audiences can be targeted...and there are no focus groups to water down your ideas. All sorts of artistic gambles and experiments become possible.

One of the things I love about podcasting (it probably falls under the "fame" motivation!) is the permanence of the work you do. In radio if you did a good show (or a bad one) it was gone into the ether right after you were done. These podcasts, however, are akin to creating something carved in "digital stone".

This work we do will outlive us (in some dark, dusty corner of cyberspace).

I have often said that podcast episodes are a lot more like record albums or music CDs than radio or television broadcasts. It isn't about how many listeners your podcast/show has right NOW, it's about how many people will actually hear or see any given piece of work you produce before the Earth is swallowed up by the Sun (or our civilization goes dark...whichever comes first). I have often thought, "I wonder how many people will eventually be exposed to this episode?".

It's marvelously satisfying to think that people as yet unborn may hear our work (long after we are gone). Why not though? The books of authors from another age are still read and the music of long dead musicians continues to be played (and heard, and PAID FOR!).

The Roman orator Cicero said that "writing is the only true form of immortality". I think you could add podcasting as well. Remembering this fact helps us to keep focused on quality when we are putting the shows together. After all...crappy episodes are forever too.

What tools on libsyn have you found most helpful in building your brand/podcast?

Anything that helps us to know more about the audience is extremely valuable. Libsyn has been continually upgrading their capability in this regard since we first began our relationship with them.

We have been podcasting since June 2005 and we have been on libsyn since Summer 2006. Until we began using libsyn we really had no clear idea of how many people were even listening. Now we can break down trends in listenership, track progress using graphs, see how popular we are (or are not) in all the nations around the world.

This information does two things. It gives us concrete information that we can use to show other entities (such as advertisers) how many people are listening. It also becomes the tool we use to measure the effectiveness of anything else we do to increase listeners. Did that recent series of promotions we did increase the audience size? We go to libsyn to find out.

How has or has podcasting helped create opportunities for you?

There's no downside to having lots of people exposed to your work (as long as you are pleased with it).

I think of how hard it was for anyone to try to get any sort of exposure for their art/work/talent/ideas 20 years ago and it was nigh impossible. Back then a person couldn't even show an audience what they had to offer unless they got some sort of "big break" that usually required all sorts of luck (and perhaps a ton of artistic compromises). But when you upload a podcast episode you never know who might hear it.

As a certain semi-mythical figure that I work with once said: "It's not always how MANY people are listening, but who those people listening ARE."

A podcast is like an advertisement for the creativity, skills and talent of the people doing it. Imagine that a young Eddie Murphy, George Carlin or Lenny Bruce came around today. They would all be huge podcasting talents because their work would stand on its own and people would share it virally.

They could do what they did without interference from those worried about ratings or language or advertiser sentiment. Once people heard/saw their work and once the audience reaction was clear other opportunities would follow.

Podcasting is the best career move I've ever made. More people have been exposed to what I do than ever were in either my television or my radio days. And that exposure has been international in scope.

Do you know how much money someone would have paid for exposure like this two decades ago?

Do you know how much the bandwidth would be costing us right now if operations like libsyn didn't exist?


Wanna check out Dan talking about "podcasting" as an artform? Watch this video. In addition to Dan's incredible amount of new content, he's got a catalog of history podcasts. Here is a direct link to one of Dan's history episodes, #33 "Old School Toughness."

Dan Carlin also has a pretty engaged audience, check out the awesome online forum!


Wanna podcast? Join the libsyn team, here's your first step.