John Meadows, Podcaster

John Meadows is a podcaster from Toronto. I met him through our mutual friend Keith Burtis. He has a live podcast show called On The Log. I had the honor of being interviewed for Episode 51.  You can find John on twitter at @johnmeadows.  

You can also find John this weekend at Podcamp Toronto.  Here’s the link

Why podcasting? What originally peaked your interest?

I got into podcasting originally as a listener, due to my interest in the Linux operating system; I heard about a podcast called Lugradio (now sadly off the air), listened to it, and got hooked, and as time went on, began to listen to more and more podcasts. It was a whole new world for me, and even though I have worked in IT since 1994, and in Web since 1996, it was an area that I had not explored. I wish I had looked into it earlier!!

In terms of creating podcasts, I am the former webmaster for our church’s web site, and I thought that trying a podcast would be interesting, so “Smoky Times” was born in October 2006, and ran for about 18 months. My current podcast, called On The Log, just had its one year anniversary in January.

Who are some of the people you have interviewed?

I’ve been fortunate to interview a lot of interesting people! I’ve interviewed the editor of the Oxford Canadian English Dictionary,an urban planner, musicians, artists, etc. But I would say everyone can be an interesting interview!All you need to do is find out what they are passionate about, and let them go! Apart from that, I have learned that even though I am an introvert, I can approach people I don’t know, and engage them in conversation.

Where do you see podcasting fitting into social media?

So much of Social media can tend towards the “bite size chunks” of content. I am hoping that podcasting can be where people can go for more in-depth, thoughtful content. As well, podcasting helps us escape “the tyranny of text” and hear the human voice — the most direct form of communication!

You and I are of a certain age (50-ish). For our brothers and sisters (baby boomers) with a small business who are just getting into social media, where do you recommend they start?

The most important step in Social Media is listening. Read blogs, listen to podcasts, and develop your own sense of what works and what doesn’t. If you just jump in blindly and start blaring your message, you risk just being ignored, or depending on what you do, just being labeled a spammer, or similar.

Also, take advantage of podcamps and other Social Media conferences! There is a lot of knowledge out there, and in a sharing-oriented community, you will find many people who are only to happy to share what they have learned. You will also meet a lot of really nice people along the way!

What kind of things can I use podcasting for in my business? I set up memberships for consumers with a green company – and am always looking for serious people who want to earn a great income.

I have to start off this answer by saying what NOT to do. Don’t do “infomercials.” If you can provide content of value, and podcast “your passion” as my friend Keith Burtis likes to say, you can succeed. Does your product involve a community of users, or a specialized niche? If you can help support this community, it can’t help but support your brand, and bring you into closer contact with your customers.

You won’t make money from podcasting itself (unless you are one of a very select few), but it can be an integral part of your social media presence.

I can also see a real fit for podcasting inside the enterprise, helping corporate communication come alive, leveraging training sessions etc, especially for companies with a geographically dispersed workforce. handing out iPods may be cheaper than having to pay for multiple training sessions!

What kind of equipment does a podcaster need?And what do you do with that equipment?

You can get started with surprising little: a computer or portable audio recorder to capture audio and software to edit the audio (such as Audacity, which is free). The key thing is to get a decent microphone so that your sound quality is OK; If your show sounds terrible, it doesn’t matter how good your content is; you won’t keep your listeners. The good news is that you don’t have to spend a lot of money to get a decent sound. There are plenty of acceptable mic’s for under $100, or you could get a portable digital recorder such as the Zoom H2 for a couple of hundred dollars.

Tell us a little about yourself please.

I am a resident of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. I have a wife who is a professional musician, and two lovely daughters who like music, arts, and computers, as well as reading (and writing!). I have a Bachelors degree in history, but am working as a web/programming geek for a large multinational company. I have a long commute to work on public transit, which means I have plenty of time for listening to podcasts! (And it’s much less stressful than driving to work in Toronto!!)

I know you belong in a family of readers. How do you teach your children to keep reading, yet stay a part of the internet world?

I think what was important is what we did to lay the foundation — reading aloud to our two daughters almost from the day they were borne, and setting the example of reading ourselves. Our daughters would see me and my wife reading constantly, and of course would want to imitate us. As a result, they grew up reading, and while they both love their computers reading is still a fun activity for both of them.

What kind of ideas are you playing with? (Where do you see your podcasting taking you?)

I am trying to work more of my original music into my show, and I am collaborating with a couple of folks helping them create their podcasts. Helping another show get started is a special thrill, and I hope to be able to do more of that as time goes on. Apart from that, I am just trying to stay open to new ideas, and avoid slipping into ruts, which is always a danger.

In these rough economic times, I feel there is a special kind of opportunity for innovation, and I hope podcasting can be part of that innovation!

What will social media look like in one year from now?

Oh boy; trying to predict the future is dangerous! I will say that while technology and jargon may change, the underlying concept of Social Media, namely that actually communicating with people is a Good Thing, will continue to strengthen. Those who approach social media with honesty and transparency will tend to succeed. Those who approach it in a mercenary manner, merely as a channel for old-fashioned advertising will fail.

I do hope that there will be an acceptance of a slower pace of communication, and that the extended conversation will be valued. It is so easy to feel that you are on a treadmill: Answer that tweet now! Live-blog! leave a comment the same day or no one will read it!! These is the downside of Social Media; we are trying (even unconsciously) to keep up with the computers.

Thanks to Chris Brogan and for the picture of John