Podcasts were my gateway into online Disney fandom. The influx of quality new shows over the past couple of years, however, has has made the space hard for even me to keep up with. Thankfully, Brian Perkins, along with James Francis, created the Disney Podcast Awards to help recognize excellence in Disney podcasting, and to provide potential podcast listeners with a place to find new shows.
I recently reached out to Brian to do an interview for the site about Disney podcasts, and he graciously accepted. (As always, my questions are bolded and Brian’s answers immediately follow. Minor edits were made for readability, but all efforts were made to keep the content of the questions and answer as is.)
How did you first get into listening to Disney podcasts?
I think I first got into Disney podcasts back in 2013 when I was at a job where I was commuting a lot, up to 16 hours a week, and I had been listening to audio books. My family had a Disney Vacation scheduled and I started to do some searching on the internet about what had been changed since the last time I was there. I began to notice the large internet community that was out there for Walt Disney World fans, but the blogs and message boards weren’t really working for me. So, I decided to try out podcasts for the first time. I hadn’t listened to any podcasts before at all, and I had a Windows phone at the time, so I had a limited availability to what was out there. The big ones were there though. I am pretty sure that WDW Radio was the first show I ever had the pleasure to listen to. With all of that travel time I had to make use of, I quickly started filling up my feed with others that I could find. I got onto some other shows pretty early into their existence, and it was great to watch them develop. Then I started to find some podcast catching apps and found more and more shows.
What are some of the shows that you got in on the “ground floor” with (so to speak)? Have you noticed any difference in the way new shows debut now as opposed to back in 2013?
A couple of the shows that were just coming out as I started listening were the WDW Happy Place podcast and the Resortloop.com podcast. I connected with those shows and still listen to them constantly. There were some other shows that I picked up from their first show and followed along as they developed, but there really have been so many of those lately that it wouldn’t be fair to name just a few. One thing I have noticed lately is that there seems to be more shows starting from people who see it as a business opportunity. I think you can just feel it when someone has an angle. They are pushing merchandise and a bunch of links or commercials. I am more of a fan of shows that are done by people who are just fans and want to connect with other fans. Don’t get me wrong, I know it can’t be cheap to get the podcasting equipment and there are internet fees and things involved, but if it feels like you are trying too hard to make money off of your show, you probably lost me. Shows by travel agents are fine, get your name out there, I am good with that. But, make them feel natural.
In 2014, you launched the Disney Podcast Awards. What motivated you to start something like that?
Towards the end of 2013 I had tried to do a few little awards on twitter, but I didn’t have a whole lot of followers to my account yet and they really didn’t go anywhere. Then in the spring of 2014 I heard about the podcast awards, the big ones that encompass all of the podcasts that are out there on all subjects. I got to thinking that there really needed to be something specifically for the Disney podcasts, because there were so many great shows out there that didn’t crack the list for travel podcasts in the big awards. I still didn’t really have a plan on how I was going to make it happen, but luckily I got some help when James, who goes by @travel2disneyme, contacted me on twitter and asked if I had thought about doing awards and if we wanted to work together to get them going. So, after a few emails back and forth about what the categories were going to be, we launched surveys to people we knew listened to podcasts and asked them to be our panel for selecting nominees. We tried to make several categories to get as much recognition for different shows as possible. They seemed to be received well, and we did it again this year and got some more responses. Its really just meant to be a fun thing for some shows to get bragging rights and for all other shows to get some more exposure. Even my list of shows, which I think is pretty comprehensive, gets some added to it when we go through the process.
What changes did you notice between the 2014 and 2015 awards?
I think I definitely noticed some changes in the awards from our first year to this year. In 2014, there was definitely some more representation from the longer running, more established, podcasts. This year’s awards had a larger number of unique nominees, and winners. I think the reasoning for this is kind of two fold. One reason is definitely that the quality of the newer shows just keeps getting better and with them gaining some more exposure and traction in the online Disney communities, they were getting more votes. The other reason for this type of increase I think has to do with the participants of the awards process. We had more members on our panel this year and they are the more of the social media participatory type people. These type of people, I feel, tend to favor the newer shows and have their favorites that fit what they look for in a podcast. I have noticed that there does seem to be a shifting landscape of sorts in the Disney podcasts. Fans are looking for specific types of shows that talk about what they are interested in. For instance, I listen to the informational shows to make sure I know what’s going on, and some of them present it better than others. But I look forward to my favorite shows that don’t just report what is going on, they give a perspective on what it means that lines up with what is important to me. What’s important to me though, may not be important to someone else. So, they are going to want to listen to some other type of show. The good news is, that other show is out there, they will just need to find it.
How do you see Disney podcasts continuing to evolve? Are there any areas or Disney-related topics that you think aren’t currently being covered by the existing shows?
I think the era of Disney podcasts that just report the news is coming to an end. I have noticed more and more shows that bring a focus to a particular area, or look at it through a specific lens. The Disney Hipsters were some of the forerunners in this movement with their views and then Radio Harambe launching with their focus on Disney’s Animal Kingdom pushed things along even more. There are plenty of areas out there to be targeted. There are shows out there already focusing on families, or bringing an adult view, and shows that bring their regionalized views to the forefront. I am predicting that those trends will continue, although there will still be a need for news shows. The shows that help people find someone who thinks like them feel like they are at the park, and/or help them plan their next trip are the shows that I see being successful in the future. Some of the bigger named shows are starting to step back a little bit, and this will allow more room for someone to come in with the next great idea, or one of the existing shows to take over the lead. I am looking forward to see what type of show could be next. Until then, I will keep my earbuds in and searching my Stitcher feed for anything new.
A huge thank you to Brian for sharing his insights on Disney podcasts. I always think it’s beneficial to get opinions about a particular area from someone who is an expert in that area (and Brian clearly fits that description.) If you want to hear more from Brian, you can find him on Twitter @WDWPodReview and on the Disney Podcast Awards site.
On a related note, I also wanted to do something to help recognize all the great Disney podcasts out there. So, contemporaneously with this interview, I am launching the Rope Drop [dot] Net Disney Podcast Directory. I’ve spent some time over the past couple of weeks putting together a list of Disney podcasts (including getting input from Rope Drop [dot] Net readers on what shows I’m missing) and have now added a Disney Podcasts link to the top bar of this website to allow easy access to it. Long term, I have some additional plans for how this directory might evolve, but this first iteration is designed to make sure people are aware of wide range of Disney-related shows available to them. I’d encourage everyone reading this to take a look at the directory, pick a show you’ve never listened to, and give it a shot. Who knows, it might end up being one of your new favorites.