Podcasting in New Orleans Takes Shape

Podcasting is the new talk radio. These on-demand audio shows cover a variety of topics across the board, ranging from news to pop culture to original programming. Major news publications are turning to podcasts to flesh out news and discuss what is happening in the world. NPR, TED Talks and This American Life have found wide success in building shows that bring audiences up to speed on current events, daily tips to improve their lives and even learning about a murder case as events unfold each week.

In New Orleans, a podcasting community has emerged over the past few years, but interest in starting shows and growing listener bases has taken off in the last year according to Beyond Bourbon Street podcast’s founder Mark Bologna. Bologna’s Beyond Bourbon Street podcast covers New Orleans’s rich history as well as experiences locals and travelers can only find in the city.

“I want to provide information visitors and New Orleans enthusiasts cannot get in guidebooks,” Bologna said. “I try to take them along on an exploration through the lens of locals like me.”

In addition to visitors and locals, Bologna also considers his podcast a way people who have moved or were displaced by Hurricane Katrina to stay connected to the city.

Bologna felt his information would best be conveyed through podcasting because of their intimate quality, and the many sounds New Orleans produces.

“You get to be in someone’s ears which just lends itself to being close and making a connection,” Bologna said. “I also believe New Orleans has an auditory quality to it. The whirring of the streetcar, the calliope from the steamboat Natchez, the foghorns from river traffic, and the cacophony of sounds during Mardi Gras. Podcasting helps me explore those sounds and share the underlying stories with a wide audience.”

Bologna said with a history as deep and varied as New Orleans, he never has an issue finding topics to write about. Instead, finding the narrative and making that history accessible through storytelling is the real challenge.

Beyond Bourbon Street helps visitors and enthusiasts find the best of New Orleans, but when people need advice around the country on how to live their best lives, media production company Dreamster is there to help.

Brandon Bulliard originally formed Dreamster in 2015 in order to help others follow their dreams after initially setting his aside to settle for a safer job.

“I knew from an early age I wanted to be in broadcast,” Bulliard said. “Everything was lining up until doubt set in after graduating, and all the ‘what if’ questions started running through my head.”

After working for a financial institution in what he calls an “Office Space job,” Bulliard felt the job was not fulfilling and needed to make a change. He wanted to focus on building a career that he was passionate about and less about what his profession looked like on paper.

In 2015, Bulliard launched his first podcast aptly named Podcast Game Show. The show follows contestants answering questions across a variety of topics in order to get as many points as possible. The contestant that gets the most points moves onto the next round in a bracket-style tournament. When the final two contestants face off, they participate to win the grand prize, the latest prize being a free year of audio books from Amazon. PGS was created from a lack of audio game shows, and Bulliard wanted to create the show he wanted to be listening to.

“There was nothing out there like it,” Bulliard said. “I’ve been on game shows and I love the fast pace and excitement.”

When it launched, Podcast Game Show was featured in iTunes’s New and Noteworthy podcast section and took off from there. So far, Podcast Game Show has completed two seasons with a third season launching in the next few months.

By creating a successful first podcast, Bulliard learned the skills and challenges involved with building a first show from scratch. Launching a show involves plenty of work, and each show is not guaranteed to build an audience immediately.

“I learned to set realistic goals on the content side of things,” Bulliard said. “Aiming to have a certain amount of listeners by a specific date is unrealistic. Focus on making a good product and the audience will grow.”

Last year, Dreamster participated in The Idea Village’s DIGITALMEDIAx entrepreneurial startup accelerator program. The Idea Village is a non-profit organization formed in 2002 in order to help cultivate the startup community in New Orleans. According to a WalletHub study, New Orleans is now in the top 10% of best cities to build a business, and the growth of The Idea Village is largely responsible for that.

DIGITALMEDIAx helps for-profit businesses in New Orleans build and expand their reach rapidly over the three-month program.

“Most big accelerators take equity in companies and want a cut, but The Idea Village genuinely only wants to help local businesses grow,” Bulliard said.

Following DIGITALMEDIAx, Bulliard launched his new flagship Dreamster podcast. The podcast widely differed from Podcast Game Show in the sense that it was meant to help others achieve their goals. After working for the financial firm, Bulliard realized he should not have waited to chase his dream, and using that experience he wanted to help others get away from settling like he did.

“I always wanted to have a more meaningful podcast that helped people live lives that were maybe a little unconventional, and I wanted to show them through others that it was possible,” Bulliard said.

Dreamster podcast features inspirational speakers sharing their triumphs and tribulations throughout their lives and careers in an interview format.

Bulliard plans on launching multiple new shows in the coming months and plans to expand to other mediums as well, one including a show with a video element. Bulliard said his plan for Dreamster was to start in podcasting and use that as a launchpad to reach other types of media as well.

Last year Bologna and Bulliard formed meetup events to help grow and connect podcasters from around the city, using their experiences and advice to help kickstart others.

“Some are creating podcasts as a hobby, others are doing it as part of building a business,” Bologna said. “No matter the reason, the connection and opportunity to learn from others is very helpful.”

Beyond Bourbon Street and Dreamster are just a couple of the many different podcasting companies thriving in the city. According to Bologna, with new podcasts starting every few months, and many others on the horizon forming ideas, the New Orleans podcasting community is just starting to take off.

The years ahead are going to be filled with a variety of new shows to listen to with new stories to be told and much advice to be had. The biggest challenge listeners will face will be finding the time to actually listen to them all.