Recaps And Highlights Of the Hot Pod Summit And On Air Fest 2023 Day 1

The On Air Fest experience is one that can be described over and over in many different ways, and words can’t quite do it justice. It’s really too bad that words don’t do it justice because you can’t feel a description and that’s what’s missing from every description of the creator-focused celebration of audio – you can’t feel the energy unless you’re there. You can’t feel the creative juices oozing out of nearly every person in attendance down to the volunteers checking you in and waiting by the elevators. Let me try my best description to add to the pantheon of words that have been written about it: it’s like being in a room full of confident people who have a beautiful story to tell without a hint of desperation or loneliness while waiting their turn to do so. I consider it the apotheosis of the creative experience with everyone absolutely checked in to the fullest and absolutely no one mindlessly scrolling through their phone for something else to do.

This year, On Air Fest proper is a two-day event at its home at the Wythe Hotel in Brooklyn while they also run what is called the Hot Pod Summit the day before in the same location with a similar outlook that is laser focused on the branding and selling of podcasts and is invite only. As your roving reporter, it’s my duty to provide a proper acknowledgement of some of the highlights and the advanced learnings of the events of both days so far.

Hot Pod

Since produced audio content can really take on any different shape and size, it might lead one to wonder just what is the difference today between a podcast and an audiobook? Truly, the answer is whatever the publishers say it is and audiences will follow engaging audio content whatever you decide to call it if it’s marketed correctly. And any consumer worth their salt knows that Audible is leading the charge in the audiobook industry, but unlike podcast metrics which is growing by leaps and bounds, the audiobook industry has a lot of catching up to do as far as getting reliable data on their audience.

YouTube’s Big Announcement for Podcasters

YouTube announced live onstage that they will be distributing podcasts through YouTube Music and that yes you will be able to listen to them with your screen off which you can only currently do on YouTube if you pay extra for their premium service. Google
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was also on hand for this announcement and they added that creators can upload their podcast to YouTube directly from their RSS feed. Naturally this caused quite a bit of chatter from the audience, but unfortunately they didn’t provide any further clarification nor have they released an official press release. The most clarification we got was in the music fair rights category which they assured us that it work the same way it does now for video creators.

Hot Pod also had multiple breakout rooms running at the same time and I picked the state of the podcasting job market and showrunner rooms to attend. The mood in the room with all the layoffs across the industry was not great, but Catherine Saint Louis of Neon Hum Media gave us some invaluable words of wisdom to “perfect your craft and you’ll always be in demand.” Or, as Laura Mayer, newly appointed executive producer of programming at ABC Audio, puts it in her show Shameless Acquisition Target, and in a form on which you can buy on a t-shirt, “Try Hard Loser.”

Everyone in the showrunner room seemed to have about the least amount of ego possible for people who are or want to be the ones in charge and the talk in the room was, for the most part, about the awesome responsibility of being the one in charge of the team while simultaneously looking out for your own mental health. Independent and self-described “swiss army knife” of podcasting Gabriel Urbina, provided the most actionable and memorable advice in the room when he said “if someone else can do something for you, let them do it and focus on the thing that only you can do.”

On Air Fest Day 1 Recaps and Highlights

The producers of Slow Burn: Roe v Wade went deep into the story of Shirley Wheeler, a woman who got an illegal abortion to save her life in 1971 and galvanized a nation before the Supreme Court decision came down. They also had a mic drop moment with the announcement of their new season.

Slow Burn Season 8 is about Clarence Thomas! It’s called Becoming Justice Thomas and traces the background of the pivotal Supreme Court justice who, earlier in his career, was what we now call a progressive and traces the arc of his life to the frowning man who casually voted to overturn Roe v Wade today.

Audible and Higher Ground provided exclusive first-listen clips of the new Michelle Obama podcast The Light which is adapted from the tour for her book “The Light We Carry.” Listening to “our forever first lady” describe her husband coaching his daughters basketball team put smiles on the entire audience’s faces and it’s clear there were a lot of fingers hitting that subscribe button when they announced a guest list that included Tyler Perry, Conan O’Brien, Oprah Winfrey, and others. In response to a question from the audience, Dan Fierman, Head of Audio at Higher Ground, talked about the difference between their podcast and a regular live show: “unedited live shows push you away because of their lack of care.” From the official press release Michelle Obama said “Like so many people around the world, I felt isolated, disconnected, and discouraged during the pandemic. Writing The Light We Carry was a way for me to make sense of it and reflect on some of the biggest challenges we all face in life… and that’s what Michelle Obama: The Light Podcast is all about.” The series launches March 7.

Kaitlin & Natalie Priest of The Heart podcast from CBC Studios put on a live performance about being sisters with music, comedy and fourth-wall breaking that truly had to be seen to be experienced and I will be covering it and them extensively in a later interview, so stay tuned to hear more about these childhood rivals who became best friends and created together during the pandemic.

The host and subject of The Africas vs America podcast went deep about the events of Move 1985 about how the US Government dropped a bomb on its own citizens in Philadelphia in 1985. Mike Africa Jr., survivor of that attack, and one of the subjects, recounted how he is still processing the events of that day and how the media was partially responsible for allowing it to happen, slanting it so that people who read about what happened really thought they got what they deserved. “They destroyed our resources and called us savage.” Truly, this is one first person historical events show that should not be missed.

The last day is going to be wild! Tickets still available at OnAirFest.com.

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