Podcasting is big business for media heads and marketers alike. We spoke to Liam Geraghty about how he started his career in the area.
As a spate of severe layoffs in popular new-media giants such as BuzzFeed, Vice and HuffPost stir up anxiety about the future, the question of how journalism can be saved remains. At one point, salvation seemed to be in short-form video. Yet the pivot to this kind of media didn’t produce the revenue that industry professionals had hoped, hindered in no small part by changes to Facebook and YouTube algorithms.
So, what’s next? For many, it seems to be podcasting. It is projected that the average number of monthly podcast listeners in the US will balloon to 132m by 2022. With those figures, the furore around it is not surprising. Indeed, media behemoths such as The Economist and the The Wall Street Journal are throwing their weight behind podcasts by expanding their audio teams.
Liam Geraghty has just released the fourth season of his podcast, Meet Your Maker. The show centres around the artists, craftsmen, animators and more who create iconic pop culture moments. It’s a meaty and fascinating topic, but for Geraghty the show is a passion project.“The podcast is essentially just an excuse for me to talk to someone really cool and ask them all the questions I really want to know … When I was a kid I was really into the ‘making of’ shows … the making of movies, behind the scenes, that kind of stuff.”
This season kicks off with a visit to the conservation lab at the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin to investigate the work that goes into ensuring 1,000-year-old manuscripts aren’t weathered beyond recognition by time. Throughout the new series, Geraghty will also sit down with cartoonist Chris Ware, Oscar-nominated filmmaker Nora Twomey and video game author David O’Reilly.
If you had told Geraghty in college that he’d go on to pursue a career in audio, he may not have believed you. He began volunteering with Dublin City FM after completing his studies in journalism. “I didn’t really have any interest in radio or audio, it was just something to do. Dublin City FM are amazing – they bring you in and show you what to do, train you up.”
Geraghty could be called a veteran of the podcasting industry; he first dipped into the medium in 2007 with friend Craig O’Connor when they launched The Comic Cast, which was about comic books, illustration and animation. “It was like the dictionary definition of a stereotypical podcast from back then … me and my friend geeking out about comic books in our bedroom. There was no editing.”
‘Everyone is pinning podcast and radio against each other, when they’re not really the same thing at all’
– LIAM GERAGHTY
His foray into audio caught the attention of a researcher for RTÉ’s The Business, and they encouraged Geraghty to begin pitching reports on a freelance basis. Though The Comic Cast eventually ended – he and O’Connor “couldn’t bear to talk about comics any more” – Geraghty has fingers in many media outlet pies. He continues to work with RTÉ and produces podcasts for a number of other outlets.
He’s not worried about the avalanche of new people entering the field and rejects the notion that the space is becoming too crowded. “I don’t think it makes it any harder to find what you’re looking for … people recognise the best of them, they float to the top.
“I think in Ireland … we’re a little bit behind – it’s a new and exciting space for marketers. There’s quite a lot of people setting up podcasts companies, [offering to] make your podcast.
“A couple years ago after Serial, when mainstream media were getting excited by podcasting, I [thought] it was going to be such an excellent opportunity for independent audio producers.” Yet if anything, the opposite is true – people who may not have necessarily had an interest in audio before are picking up equipment and eking it out on their own.
As podcasting becomes more of a commercialised and competitive space, Geraghty hopes there will be a widespread uptick in the production value (“God, I sound like such an audio snob”). Yet he would also argue against podcasting killing the radio stars. “Everyone is pinning podcast and radio against each other, when they’re not really the same thing at all.”
Podcasting is, in Geraghty’s mind, “definitely the future”, though Ireland is probably around 10 years behind the curve. “If I were living in New York, I would be working for a podcast company.”
Though Ireland may be lagging somewhat, if the quality of our exports continues to be what it is now, we’ll make up for lost time.
The first episode of Meet Your Maker season 4 is available now.
Updated, 4:14pm 4th February 2019: This article was amended to clarify the media outlets that Geraghty works with.