IN ON THE GROUND FLOOR: Jo Anna Van Thuyne — aka Jo Pincushion of The Pincushion podcast — helped organize Podfest.
“People are confused by the amount of work I do for absolutely no money, but I know that if I work hard enough, I can have a profitable show that I produce — and own,” says Jo Anna Van Thuyne, aka Jo Pincushion. She spends about 10 hours a week recording and producing her podcast, The Pincushion.
“That’s the great thing about independent media: You can start from nothing and all of a sudden have something great. It’s the cyber American Dream.”
Van Thuyne — who describes The Pincushion as “an unapologetic stab at male-dominated subject matter like gaming, politics and porn” but also deals with music and general pop-culture geekiness — will link up with those who share her dream at this weekend’s Philadelphia Podcast Festival, Aug. 1 to 3.
She’s one of the organizers, as is Nathan Kuruna, who says they strove to put together a diverse lineup and were surprised at just how many Philly podcasters there were. “It was really fantastic when word started to get out that this was a thing that was happening, and other podcasts started coming out of the woodwork saying, ‘Hey, how can we get in on this?’” he says.
All told, they’ve enlisted 12 locally based shows to participate in what they hope will be an annual event. “You’re going to find comedy but also storytelling, sex advice, theater, news — maybe some sword-fighting? Fingers crossed,” says Karuna. That last bit’s a reference to the Game of Thrones costume contest being hosted by the makers of the Stark Raven Mad podcast.
In addition to a workshop and panel led by Van Thuyne at Philly-CAM on Friday afternoon, there will be two live podcast tapings at PhilaMOCA on each of Podfest’s three evenings. Each one pairs up like-minded shows, in the spirit of cross-pollination. The makers of story-collecting podcasters StoryShuffle will join forces with the comics from the well-named Comedy, Food, Sports; the jokers from Pod-cheese will geek out with the dudes from Talking Nerdy; and so on.
As you might imagine, while these podcasters have a lot in common, there’s relatively little opportunity for interaction. Podfest is a chance for people who usually record their shows in their kitchens and garages to meet their peers and listeners.
“We hope the [festival] will open the floodgates and lead to collaboration,” says Van Thuyne. “I think all podcasters understand one another. We know podcasts take a lot of work. We’re also passionate about what we’re talking about.”
Beyond that, she says, kindred-spirit podcasters do sometimes find each other. She and podcaster Timaree Schmit, of Sex with Timaree, have made guest appearances on each others’ shows.
“Being a part of independent media feels awesome,” says Schmit, an adjunct professor at Widener with a Ph.D. in human sexuality education. “We may have to work a lot harder to reach a percentage of the audience of a Clear Channel show, but we have full autonomy and no limits.”
No limits means total creative control: no deadlines, no time constraints, no poorly timed commercial breaks, no agenda but her own. “I have no pressure to shape the message to please advertisers, corporate ownership or editors’ preferences,” she says. “And because it’s the Internet, not radio, we can cuss. Having once written for newspapers, it’s wildly liberating.”
The trick is finding your audience. Schmit, who was already making a name for herself as a syndicated sex-advice columnist before she got into podcasting, received a nice little bump in the beginning from iTunes’s Top 5 New and Noteworthy section. Later, Daily Dot listed the show alongside superstar sex columnist Dan Savage, so that helped.
“Anyone searching for ‘sex’ on iTunes will find us,” says Schmit. “Other than that, it’s a matter of grinding away at my website, Twitter, Facebook and workshops, and collaborating and cross-promoting with my guests. I share their work with my listeners, they share the interview and introduce me to their audience.”
Her recent chat with semi-famous New York City “topless-rights activist” Moira Johnston led to a “lovely little uptick” in downloads, Schmit says. “That kind of mini-viraldom happens every few months. Ultimately, it’s about people who agree with sex positivism who spread the word to their friends that this show might be of interest.”
So far Sex With Timaree numbers 122 episodes and counting. “I was the first interview that the inventor of the Semenette did. It’s a sex toy that can be used during insemination. It’s kind of blown up among the lesbian moms-to-be crowd, and it was a real honor to get in on the ground floor with that.”
Thu.-Sat., Aug. 1-3, 7:30 and 9:30 p.m., $12 per show, $18 per evening, $50 per all-festival pass, PhilaMOCA, 531 N. 12th St., 267-519-9651, phillypodfest.com.
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