The San Francisco Podcasting Meetup group closed on Friday, April 9th, 2010, because none of the 311 members was willing to take on the job of meetup organizer. The most recent organizer had put out calls asking for volunteers to replace him as long ago as August 2009, but no one stepped forward.
I did think about taking it on (it would be a logical thing for the Podcast Asylum to sponsor), but, as I told the person who tried to volunteer me for the job, I’m already running another meetup and it was more than I could take on.
I’m sure the other group members also have commitments that prevent them from volunteering, but I suspect there were other, more important factors in the demise of this meetup.
For one thing, the group hasn’t actually met for at least six months. I think the last time I attended a meeting was in 2008. There were not many people there, and we were in a cafe that was difficult to reach by public transport, not a good place to park even for those of us with magic blue placards, and had no projection facilities for speakers. The location before that was the back room of a restaurant, slightly more private and definitely more convivial (as well as closer to BART), but also not the best place to give a presentation.
So the closing of the meetup group doesn’t change much in the lives of Bay Area podcasters. We weren’t meeting in person, and we weren’t using the discussion group or mailing list features, either.
Does this mean podcasters have run out of things to say to each other? There was a time—before I ever joined the group, alas—when the San Francisco Podcasting Meetup met every month and had 30 or 40 people in attendance. Of course, that was back in the days when podcasting was fairly new, and most of today’s veteran podcasters were still figuring out how to do things.
It was also the era when many people seemed to think that podcasting would be a way to get rich quick, so they jumped on the bandwagon and showed up to learn about “monetization.” (It is definitely possible to make money from podcasting, but you need either a large audience or a wealthy and devoted niche, and you don’t get either of those overnight.)
It’s now 2010, and the earliest members of the meetup, if they are still podcasting, have solved their technical problems. They’ve chosen their microphones, their mixers, their audio editing software, their method of recording Skype calls. They’ve read—and sometimes written—books about podcasting. They’ve made their decisions about whether to have advertising or sponsorships or ask for donations or go with a premium podcast model, about where to host their files and how to generate their RSS feeds.
In other words, there just isn’t that much left to talk about for experienced podcasters. If you read the Podcasting News blog, you’ll see that not only don’t they post as frequently as they used to, most of what they write about isn’t podcasting. It’s WordPress, or blogging, or the iPad.
Innovations in portable media players in the past few years have focused on video and books, not audio—and particularly not on creating a device that makes it easier to find and subscribe to podcasts.
So what is a podcasting meetup to meet up to discuss?
There are still people who are just coming to podcasting, who don’t know about things like ID3 tags (and how iTunes changes them) or the Levelator. One option would be to re-focus the meetup around newbies and turn it into an informal podcasting course, with the more experienced members taking it in turn to present how-to sessions. That’s still an essentially finite project, but if you’re meeting once a month and going over, say, everything that’s in Podcasting for Dummies and Expert Podcasting Practices for Dummies, you’ll get through a couple of years and you might build up some momentum.
Or you could survey those experienced podcasters and find out what issues still bother them—or what they’re running up against that wasn’t a problem when they started. There are still things to talk about, like how to know when to stop producing your show versus retooling it and how to handle increases or decreases in popularity over time, or the storage requirements you face after five years of podcasting and the question of what to do with your archives.
Now that the novelty has worn off and the hype has gone away, your members would be the truly dedicated and the newly starting. So what would you do with a podcasting meetup?