Amateur vs. Professional Podcasters

I wrote this message in response to students questions during my Podcasting and New Media for Writers course that is on-going at UCLA Extension. It seemed like it would also be a good item to share here. — Douglas


Oh, Oh…I knew this topic would rear its ugly head sooner or later…

As an early podcaster once said, “Amateur means you do it for love.” Another show I listen to describes a professional podcaster as someone who has made $1 from podcasting. The times they are a-changin’!

The need…nay…the requirement to declare your standing…to stick your amateur or professional flag into the ground is a hold over from the world of traditional media. The fact is there are all types of people engaged in new media with a thousand different reasons for doing it and this amateur vs. professional issue is always a sticky wicket.

As a podcaster myself, I really dislike when someone tells another podcaster what they “must” do. Yes, we would love to see and hear everyone have television quality production values, but maybe they aren’t doing it for that reason. Maybe the show is to feed their own personal fandom or hobby. The fact is, the freedom of podcasting is to do what you want. Sure, you can say they could build a bigger audience, get advertising, etc, etc., but it may be that these aren’t their major concerns or interests. Maybe they are just out there to have fun. If so, they should be able to do that without people constantly telling them they “must” do this, or “must” do that.

Riffing off the top of my head here…in the closed world of traditional media, professional meant that you were someone allowed to access the limited resource of mainstream radio or television, while amateur meant you had no access to these tools and had to content yourself with sharing tapes with friends and family.

Today, though, when everyone has access to a distribution channel like podcasting, etc. this definition breaks down. You can have an amateur with an audience bigger than some small cable networks and professionals with small niche audiences that advertisers love.

Amateur and professional have lost their traditional meanings and only time will tell how it sorts out. I say, “Open up the tent flap and let everyone in, no matter what they call themselves!”

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