Lars has pointed out that he isn't critical of this because of cynicism, but rather him simply being realistic. He encourages people to try the podcasting game out if they are interested; he just wants them to also be reasonable.
The idea for many podcasts is birthed in living rooms, where a few friends come upon an idea that they should "totally start a podcast" because they perceive themselves (perhaps rightfully so) as an amusing group.
Lars believes that this is generally a bad idea for the following reasons, either stated or implied:
- The podcast medium of entertainment is at a point of severe saturation. Many people have had a set of favorite shows they have listened to for years, and are often unlikely to venture out into new ones. Not only that, but when they do, they are already bombarded with a ton of other choices.
- Interpersonal comedy between friends does not necessarily translate into something that is objectively amusing for a mass audience. The former often pulls from, if not relies entirely on, references and in-jokes. Comedy podcasts must be able to make someone laugh, even if they have never met the hosts.
- Podcasting is a grind that requires daily effort and motivation, as well as natural talent, marketing savvy, and many other skills. It's not something that you "just do". Also, many people have the drive, but not the tools to succeed with it. (The latter is perhaps a temporary problem that can be solved.)
- Most successful podcasts either have a defined topic, or are defined by the series of interviews that they conduct. "My friends and I are funny" is not a topic. Shows with this style that succeed are usually either extremely lucky, or were started by previously notable people.
- At the end of the day, connections play a huge role in show success. Brute forcing an otherwise good show is often an exercise in futility.
Overall, this leads to many podcast projects crashing and burning within a few episodes, if they get off the ground at all. Maybe the friends and family of the podcasters give some courtesy listens and shares, but ultimately it just doesn't go anywhere.
Rebuttal and further considerations Edit
Whether this is actually a problem or not depends on the individual(s) in question. While it is presumed that virtually all podcasts at least on some level have a distant dream of monetization and/or fame, some are purely passion projects that exist for their own sake.
This can lead to a philosophical discussion about what constitutes a "successful" podcast, resembling other contemplations on art as a whole.
Ultimately, a more developed and nuanced bit of advice arises:
- If one podcasts simply to podcast, everything is permitted and one should do as they please. However, while situations like this do exist, most people who pretend they belong to this category really belong to the next category.
- If one podcasts with an admitted aspiration to become a big show and/or make money, a realistic acceptance of the metaphorical landmines must be considered.
Avoidance of the problem Edit
Suppose a guy named Bob has a friend named Alice, notices that the two of them are quite amusing as a duo, and decides he wants to start a podcast. In order to avoid succumbing to this dime-a-dozen, saturated format, he should attempt the following:
- Set a defined topic for the podcast. "We'll just be hilarious" is usually not enough to carry a show.
- Listen to feedback from strangers. They have no reason to lie.
- Buy microphones that cost at least $100, and actually edit the episodes.
- At the end of the day, listeners have an app on their phone that grants them free, instantaneous access to thousands of shows at any given time. Do something different that makes the show stand out.
Lars has also acknowledged some potential irony in the fact that earlier episodes of The First Podcast could, in a sense, be seen as this style of show. After all, he recruited some of his friends to start a comedy podcast with no particular topic at first.
He notes that the quick shift in format to an interview-based talk show was the key to avoiding perpetual mediocrity.