Greg originated the popular MythShow podcast. In this interview, he talks about the importance of the storytelling tradition, building a quality web presence around your podcast, and setting personal priorities with new media
Guin: Greg, thanks so much for joining us on Voices of the Past. I wanted to start out by asking you how you actually got into the world of mythology. Was that something you went to school for or was it something that you grew up with an interest in?
Lemon: I think it began as growing up with an interest in mythology. I remember in elementary school going around the library, I found this book on myths and mythology, and I picked it up and I really enjoyed it. So, I am a computer professional by training, but I really enjoy stories and storytelling and mythology specifically.
Guin: What’s your favorite myth?
Lemon: It is really hard to pick a favorite myth. I really lean closely to the classical Greek and Roman mythology and pantheon. But if I were to pick a favorite book, it would be Joseph Campbell’s “The Hero with a Thousand Faces,” where he goes in and talks about the mythical journey or the hero’s journey that is found common through many mythologies. So if I had to pick a favorite book, it would be that one.
Guin: You have to have a passion for this to actually turn it into a podcast. A podcast is a lot of work, and it’s a lot of commitment. How did that passion translate into you creating a podcast?
Lemon: Well I love podcasting and I love the technology around the podcasting. At the time when I was doing the podcast, I was really excited. I had a lot of interest in it, and I loved sharing stories and the storytelling and trying to convey that interest to other people. The one thing that I see that is missing today is the art of storytelling. And people are so interested in–or in education they are so interested in the reading, the writing and the arithmetic and tests that the have to take, that they forget the human side of the history. They forget the human side of this experience that we have, and I feel that myths, folklore, fairy tales and things of that nature really help to bring that back. I feel that’s kind of missing and I saw that that was missing from my kids’ education and felt that was something that needed to be brought back.
Guin: Well, you don’t actually consider yourself a “quote” heritage professional. Is that right?
Guin: Well then, what were your goals when you were actually creating the podcast? How did you want to add to the conversation?
Lemon: I wanted to be able to provide stories. And as I had mentioned before, I felt that the education material that was presented was missing a lot of that. My kids didn’t know who the Gods and Goddesses of the mythologies, they didn’t know the characters from the American folklore, they were missing that kind of stuff. And I felt that if I had the same feeling that perhaps there would be parents out there that felt the same. So I created these podcasts as an introduction to these stories, myth, folklore, fairy tales and what not. As an educational resource that people could turn to to maybe supplement what they were maybe learning in education.
Guin: You seem like such a natural podcaster. I mean it seems like something…you’ve got the voice and you’ve got the relational interview style. Were you in broadcast before this?
Lemon: Actually no. I was a Sunday-school teacher for many years, and I was a scout leader for the Boy Scouts of America. So i developed the art of storytelling around a campfire or sitting around in a Sunday-school classroom. The comfort with podcasting and with interviewing just comes with time. I’ve been doing this since 2006, I think…I’ve been doing this for many years, and so I’ve enjoyed it and I’ve become more comfortable communicating via person, via Internet, via video, via audio. And so that’s something that just comes over time with practice. I did have aspirations to go into broadcast at one time, but career paths being what they are, I feel that I enjoy podcasting and the intimacy that comes with this new media much more preferable.
Guin: Do you have any favorite podcasts that you’ve done?
Lemon: That I’ve done or that I’ve listened to?
Guin: Well, both. We’ll start with the ones that you have actually done yourself or your favorite episodes where there was some piece of information that you just connected to, or a guest that you just really enjoyed…
Lemon: I have had many wonderful opportunities to interview individuals on the Mythshow podcast. There’s the Celtic Myth podshow. A wonderful partnership between Gary and Ruth. In England, I was able to interview them and their podcast specifically focuses on Celtic mythology. But they tell it in more of a roundtable. As you would imagine a bard around a campfire, they use many voices, they use sound effects, and you really get the feel that you’re in a campfire. And you really get the feel of the storytelling.
Guin: Alright. Then let’s talk about the podcasts you enjoy listening to that are not your own. What do you listen to in your leisure time?
Lemon: The ones related to history that I really enjoy: there’s the History of Rome podcast, while not mythologically based, it does have that wonderful historical element that has gone and is continuing to go through the history of Rome. There’s also the 12 Byzantine Rulers podcast, which has since concluded since he’s covered all the Byzantine Rulers. But that was a wonderful history-based podcast that took the…because we know about Rome and we know about the Middle Ages, and this covered that stance in between. And so those are two wonderful solo-reading, one-person podcasts that I really enjoyed. I mentioned the Celtic Myth pod show. Wonderful stories are being shared there. But then I also enjoy the technical podcasts as well. There are many daily podcasts on news and technology, the weekly commentary technology shows and just a variety of fun shows out there.
Guin: Why do you think these stories are important to share in this new media format?
Lemon: We need to be able to remember that sharing stories has been a past time for generations if not even before recorded history. In fact, some of the earliest recorded history are these ancient stories. If we could think of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, that was originally an epic poem that he recited. We need to remember that there’s the story element, the human aspect. We as people are not names, places and dates and events, but it is the stories between those names and places that really captures the human element. I feel that with mass entertainment, while I do enjoy a good Disney movie and I really do enjoy the efforts they have done to bring those fairytales–or the mythologies–into modern dialog, we’ve got to remember that that’s not the only thing out there. The Disnefication of the Little Mermaid or the different princesses or even “Beauty and the Beast” and “Aladdin,” those are wonderful stories that they’ve been able to interpret, but we need to be able to share the stories ourselves. How wonderful would it be if we were able to have a digital recorder in the pockets of the soldiers storming into Normandy on D-Day. How wonderful would it have been to have had audio recordings of the people in the Civil War or of times past. We have snippets of that, we have the official histories by governments, but if we could have that insight into the regular soldier’s life. If we could have that pioneer that was crossing the plains to the farmer. If we had those stories, how much more rich of an understanding would we have of our heritage or of heritages around the world?
Lemon: One of the favorite stories that I am reading to my children now are the Laura Ingalls Wilder stories. While not mythology-based, I really enjoy sharing with my daughters the story of a young girl who lived in a completely different time under completely different circumstances. And I hope that the values and lessons that Laura Engles learned on the prairie can be translated into things that my own daughters can use.
Guin: You said that you weren’t originally a broadcast person and you kind of got into it in 2006–that was practically the ancient days of social media. How did you actually learn how to do it and get into it?
Lemon: Well the very first podcast that I listened to was one called “Muggle Net,” which is a podcast based around the Harry Potter books. I’m a big fan of the books, I loved reading them and sharing those stories. It’s a whole new fantastical story there and I started listening to it. And I really got into the technology of podcasting. There’s just so much more to podcasting than just clicking the record button. There’s the website, there’s the technology, there’s the audio editing, there’s the production, there’s the marketing. All of those things fascinated me, and in 2006, I went to the Podcasting and New Media expo. And I went there without an idea. I went there trying to figure out, I wanted to be involved with it. This would be a great, what could I do? And during that expo, I was brainstorming and I came up with the idea, I love to share stories. And I went home that night of the first expo and registered the domain name and started recording. And from then on, the association with other podcasters, with those at the time in Orange County, Calif., and those that I’d met throughout the country, and honestly throughout the world. That I enjoyed the interaction with the people. Probably too much, because as time went on the podcast started to get more slowly produced. But I enjoyed the social interaction and the technology surrounding it.
Guin: What technology do you use to do your podcasts?
Lemon: Well, the first couple of podcasts that I have, you see the headset that I use in this video stream. I started with just my computer plugging in a headphone. And honestly those podcasts sound terrible. But I got out there and I was enjoying the technology. Eventually, I was able to upgrade my equipment. You can tell a distinct different when I got a new H4 microphone, and I still use that today for recording podcasts. And it’s not so much that my hardware improved, but being more comfortable around the microphone. Knowing what I wanted to share, being able to speak more eloquently so I would have fewer edit cuts and it would take less time to edit the podcast, and also making sure I knew what I wanted to say, even practicing it. Most of my podcasts were written out, word for word. And it sounds like I am reading them, and it’s because, well, I was. I didn’t try to hide the fact. And that saved a lot on the editing time. But then again, open conversations like this one was a lot of fun as well.
Guin: Yeah. Well, you know, it is all about the content. And actually creating content that people can use. So, whether that’s scripted or whether that’s free-form, as long as people are getting something out of it and they are coming back for more, it’s all OK.
Lemon: The basic premise that I had with my podcast shows was that it was written, it was educational, and so I felt that it should start from the basis of a written essay. Whereas interviews and other shows, depending on how well they know their audience, depends on the kind of content that they should deliver.
Guin: Well tell us about that because audience is critical to having any form of successful online presence. Tell us about your audience and what you do to try to cater to that audience and build your audience.
Lemon: In full disclosure, the Mythshow and the Mythminute podcast that I produce have been on hiatus for over a year now. And so I have lost a little bit of the contact with the individuals that listen to the show. I still see that people are downloading it and still enjoying the content, but I have not been actively podcasting that due to economic situations, due to commitments with my family. Because when it comes to recording a podcast or reading a story to my kids, the kids win every time. And I think that is how it should be. And so, I wish I could have more time, but there’s only 24 hours in a day.
But to know your audience is so critical. Even if you don’t know individual names, you need to define the person you want to talk to or your desire to communicate. Are you looking for teenagers, are you looking for adults, are you looking for professionals in a certain genera, are you doing it for your family and your future posterity. Recording your own stories so that they can be enjoyed in years to come. Knowing your audience now will make the decisions so much easier in the future. You’ll be able to not agonize over every single decision, but you’ll be able to say, “Well, what would my ideal audience member want?” And go with that.
Guin: Well, do you have any tips for people who are just trying to get into podcasting?
Lemon: Well first of all, have fun. This is an exciting technology, and it is a lot of fun to participate in it. Like we said previously, know your intended audience. Be very specific about planning your podcast, even going as far as writing up a profile of who you would want to be. Name, age, gender, profession. Know this person and know why you are talking to this person. And why the information is important to them. Also, set realistic goals with your content creation. A lot of knew podcasters, when they start out, they go, “well, I’m going to produce an hours worth of content every week. Well, that goes two or three weeks, and then it goes two weeks in between and then it goes a month, and the content gets shorter and shorter, and I speak of this from personal experience.
You’ve got to set realistic goals. If you can only commit a couple of hours a month, understand that that’s what you can do, and don’t set the expectation for your audience that you’re going to provide a weekly show when in fact you can only provide a monthly show. Also, this is a new technology, this is a lot of fun, but record a few podcasts, experiment with the content. The format, the length. Try to get into a grove before releasing your shows. A rule of thumb I have often heard is record five full shows before releasing any, that way you have been able to record, produce and enjoy the process of five shows and you can see what works. And also, one last thing, is to build a community. Being a solo podcaster is kind of hard because you don’t have a group of individuals around you if have an historical society, if you have a group of like-minded individuals who want to create a podcast, share the responsibility. Share the fun, and then that way you can keep each other motivated. And you can share the work load.
Guin: You mentioned before that a podcast is only part of the undertaking. Tell us a little bit about that. What do you do to help support your podcast?
Lemon: There are many different forms that a podcast can take. You can have the simple RSS feed, which is really simple syndication. It’s the technology used to deliver the actual audio. You can be as simple as that, or you can have a website with shownotes so that people can add comments and you can start that discussion. You can even go as far as establishing a web forum, where people can converse and start to share a lot of information. Whatever you decide, you need to know your community. If the people that are listening to your podcast are very passive and only want to get the content and go, then it may be difficult to form a community. However, if you have an organization and the people begin really active, become really active with comments, a blog with comments, with active discussion and even a forum would be a great way to build that community. As you start out, there’s going to be very few people. But as long as you put out good quality content on a regular basis, whether week, month or whatnot, you’ll begin to build that audience. But you also need to send out emails. You need to be able to rank well in search engines. Contacting people in traditional off-line methods. Those ways you can bring them online and build your audience. And there are many books by professionals on the subject matter, and if I had the “holy grail” of podcast production and getting my message out there, I’d have a lot more time to produce podcasts.
Guin: Are there other forms of social media that you use to either support you podcast or to just maintain your presence in the social space?
Lemon: I use Facebook. I have a personal account on Facebook. I also have a fan page for the podcast as many other do. The Celtic Myth Podshow is an excellent example of people who have used Facebook to an excellent degree on being able to promote their podcast. I use Twitter. I have multiple accounts. I have a personal account, I have a podcast account. And so other people can follow me there. I have a lot of interaction with social media that way, but also just going out there and having fun. There are meet up groups that you could meet up with, and there’s Tweet ups, Social Media Club. There’s podcamps; there’s a lot of groups out there ready, willing and wanting to share this information to help you start your own podcast. This community is wonderful and you don’t have to go at it alone. There are so many people out there willing and wanting to help. And there are excellent resources available at your local bookstore to learn how to podcast.
Guin: Greg, thanks so much for joining us.
Lemon: Glad to help.