The President & The Podcaster

by Douglas E. Welch

Part of New Media Interchange #011
The POTUS & The Podcaster

Along with a couple of other momentous political decisions this last week on the Affordable Healthcare Act and same-sex marriage, a new media milestone was crossed and I think it portends great things for all of us. For the first time ever, a United States President sat down with an unaffiliated, independent, podcaster, Mark Maron from the WTF Podcast and talked for an hour — in his converted garage, no less.

There is an old truism in Hollywood that it takes at least 10 years to be an overnight success, and the history of podcasting seems to be bearing this out. Just now 11 years since the term podcasting was first coined, we have President Obama chatting about far-reaching topics with someone ZDNET writer David Gewirtz calls, a “very second rate comedian.”

Of course, that very statement betrays some mainstream media bias and perhaps more than a little feeling of sour grapes, but hey, it happened and the mainstream media had to write about it…as much as it might pain them. That fact remains that Maron accomplished something that relatively few in the mainstream press have accomplished and that should be celebrated, not diminished. Even more, the President, through his staff, found it important to turn to a new outlet, outside the mainstream, to get their message out. This wasn’t about calling on the same old reporters in the White House press room as we have seen over the decades. This was sitting down with and individual podcaster who served directly as our proxy and, hopefully, asked the questions we most wanted to hear answered.

So, why would the President sit down with a relatively, unknown podcaster like Maron Maron says in this quote from an interview with the Artbeats blog of the New York Times,

“Over time, we all have to adjust to a changing media landscape. Some of it is noise and some of it is small, but there’s a lot of it out there. There’s a lot of surprising outlets by which people can communicate and people want to be part of. I’ve been doing this out of my garage for years, and I’ve had plenty of people come up here, at the end of the first year, saying, “So this is where you do it?” Many times, I’ve walked people into my garage and said, “This is the future of media.” And as years went by, fewer people were like, “I can’t believe this — where the hell am I?” They knew exactly where they were.”

In some ways, I think this is just another small step in building the importance of new media as all podcasters, bloggers and video makers have done over the last 11 years. Sure, this is newsworthy and important, but to me I think I knew deep down that something like this was going to occur eventually. I have adapted and paraphrased a bit of wisdom over the years and apply it in many cases, “Change never happens as quickly as we might wish or as slowly as we might fear.” While I knew a President, and other important and famous people, would reach out to podcasters, I had no way of knowing when it might happen. Like so many things in life, Boom, it was suddenly there. I only hope the trend continues.

For me, this is a breath of fresh air. For the last 11 years I have been podcasting and promoting podcasting to anyone who would listen. Podcasting provides freedom for the creator. They only answer, truly, to their audience, not some corporate editor or executive. Sure this leads to some less than stellar shows, but as we see here, it can also lead to amazing opportunities.

Podcasting also means freedom for the podcasting consumer. They can find alternative sources of news and entertainment and decide for themselves what to listen to and watch, rather than be at the mercy of network gatekeepers who reduce all mainstream media to the lowest common denominator in order to maximize profits. Podcasting, along with all the other forms of social media like online video, blogging and live streaming, helps to break the distribution stranglehold that mainstream media held for so long.

So how did Maron garner such a prestigious guest? He has connections in the entertainment business, but is a bit vague on how he made the Obama connection. In the artbeats interview mention earlier, Maron says, “

I never assumed I would talk to the president. Over time, conversations started happening, with my producer [Brendan McDonald], from the White House, about general ideas. There were people on his staff who like my show, and somebody within his staff thought it would be a fun thing for him to do. But we never thought it would happen.

Was it a great interview? Was it a momentous moment? Was it something special? For us in the new media world, I don’t think that is the main question. Rather, we should take this as an amazing opportunity and an indication of where new media might be heading in the coming years. We should see this a reason to keep doing what we do — keep creating, keep growing, keep entertaining and educating audience, because you can never be quite sure where it will lead. Who knows who might show up on your show in the future. Even more, who knows what impact your show might have an a listener or viewer. You can’t really know. Each member of the audience needs to decide that for themselves. All you can do is keep creating your shows, blogs, videos, whatever and let serendipity happen.

Send along a comment via email at or on Twitter to @NMIPodcast.

— This Article was written by — Douglas E. Welch

New Media Interchange

Episode #011: The POTUS & The Podcaster

This is New Media Interchange where we talk about the media world beyond mainstream television and radio, including podcasting, YouTube, live streaming, gaming and more.

NMI is Hosted by Douglas E. Welch, Pioneer Podcaster, Blogger and Writer in Los Angeles.

New Media Interchange is part of the Podcast Network

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