Before we record each episode, my participants and I usually share a varying number of fan (and other kind of) texts with each other. These texts include podcast episodes, essays, videos, comics etc. They act as discussion prompts and inspire conversations and ideas where we draw on our own experiences and backgrounds as we chat about the theme of the episode. Depending on the episode, we either reference these texts in our conversation or just base our chat on the themes we’ve picked up from these texts. Right since the first episode, though, I’ve been documenting these texts at the top of the episode transcripts on the blog. This is largely to encourage any interested listeners to discover these texts and creators and follow up on them.
However, I wasn’t sure how many people were reading the transcript rather than/along with listening to the audio. I also wanted to highlight and signpost these texts more clearly because they’re so full of excellent ideas and explorations. From Episode 6 onwards – sometime in April – I started individually sharing all the text resources we’d used for each episode with two/three-sentence summaries on the Marginally Fannish Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter pages. This meant a lot more work for me because as easy as it sounds, it’s still pretty time and brainspace consuming – especially with episodes which had a lot of texts (in fits of enthusiasm, I tend to over-prepare a lot). But I liked that I was able to share these texts and tag the accounts of the podcasts when relevant and possible to encourage people to visit these pages and discover new fan podcasts to listen to.
Now the thing is, none of my project social media pages have a huge following. I haven’t really spent any time strategising on maximising the audience or reach because I simply haven’t had the time and hadn’t incorporated that into my methodology at all. Even though my initial research methodology envisioned receiving audience feedback and critiques which I could then incorporate into my project/thinking, I’ve had to let go of that idea because it hasn’t been happening. There have been a few instances where people have shared an episode or tagged me to recommend the podcast to others, I think most people who listen to the podcast are people I know. Some of my friends do message me about a particular episode – what they liked and what it made them think of – and these have been brilliant. But I realised I couldn’t expect potential listeners to behave in ways I myself don’t. As I mentioned to my supervisors, even though some podcasts have managed to build active communities who either send in voicemails or messages on social media, I don’t really reach out to podcasts; any thoughts I have remain in my head/go in my project notes. For me, listening to podcasts is quite a solitary experience – except for those moments when I’m listening to it play aloud in the same room that Jack is in and he’ll contribute his own observations and perspectives. Getting back to the point I started to make at the beginning of this paragraph, while I was sharing these resources online, it was just as a way to reach as many people as possible – which, given the numbers, wasn’t that many. I could have shared these resources on my personal social media networks which are significantly larger (though, by now means, large). But I was wary of spamming people who hadn’t signed up for podcast updates.
Anyway, I continued sharing these resources to what I thought was the void in hopes that even if it reached one or two people, it would be a good way to recommend some really interesting texts. Facebook sharing is a bit scattered because there’s no way to link the texts together so they are all umbrellaed under the same episode (or if there is a way, I haven’t discovered it). On Twitter, I just add the texts to a thread which begins with sharing the announcement that the particular episode is up so there’s a more contextual connection. On Instagram, they have a really handy Highlights feature so I create individual episode highlights and add all the text resources there by first adding them to my stories. I’ve been tagging all the podcasts I have permission to include in my research. I haven’t been tagging podcasts/essay publication websites where I haven’t contacted the hosts so that I don’t draw potentially unwanted attention to them. Obviously, this is complicated by the fact that I am sharing a specific episode or essay – so maybe it’s a matter of just not wanting to draw attention to my small corner of the internet? I don’t know.
Some podcasts started sharing my Instagram stories on their stories whenever I tagged them. On Twitter and Facebook, some podcasts liked the posts. On Twitter, liking often brings posts on your timeline so even people who don’t follow the account might see the specific liked post on their timelines too. I was more than happy about the sharing because I hoped it’d remind their followers about episodes they may not have listened to – especially with the brief summaries which focused on specific portions of the episode. But then, a few weeks ago, these shares led to some new followers for my own profiles – something I hadn’t really anticipated – though I have no idea why I didn’t. As a result of which my podcast audience, though still very small, has reached people beyond my own personal network/my guests and their network. Which is an excellent unanticipated consequence as these things ago – especially considering I’d largely been preparing for trolling given that we’re talking about intersectionality and fandom online. I haven’t done proper calculations about how many times each episode has been listened to – which would involve collating both SoundCloud and Anchor data – but on Anchor (which distributes it to apps like Spotify and Apple), the podcast as a whole has been listened to more than 600 times. The number may not be huge in terms of podcasts but I’m happy it’s more than how many people some journal articles reach – especially considering that presumably, most people who are listening to the podcast aren’t professional academics (though some are). Which was the whole point of my project – reaching people beyond primarily academic audiences.