By Jenn Watt
Those not near a radio at the precise time may have missed Dr. Norm Bottum explain COVID-19 masks to host Barry Wilhelm or Terry Moore discuss shoreline bugs and lake health or Kate Butler and Paul Vorvis talk about how the Spanish flu affected the 1919 Stanley Cup playoffs on Canoe FM.
Though radio enthusiasts may mark their day based on which program is playing on the county’s community radio station for others who aren’t as tuned in important and entertaining programming may be missed.
Changing listener habits is part of the reason Canoe FM embarked on a podcast project hiring a podcast producer last August to cultivate the capabilities of volunteers and bolster the lineup of programming. A countywide survey found that people wanted to listen to spoken word programming but weren’t able to tune-in at the right time.
“We started looking at a lot of different things at Canoe that we could do to keep them relevant and to attract a younger demographic of listeners and at the same time not lose the older demographic who are loyal listeners” said Paul Vorvis chair of the programming committee board member and host of Time Warp. “One of the measures we thought about a couple years ago was we have some really good shows like Terry Moore’s Planet Haliburton and Barry Wilhelm’s Medical Matters … We decided that we would pursue [podcasts] as an option and we would take our regular shows that are currently being broadcast on the radio station like Medical Matters and Planet Haliburton we’d make them available on the website but also through the podcast providers.”
Podcasts are like radio shows but they are available online anytime and can be automatically downloaded to your smartphone or computer to be played when it’s convenient.
“With radio shows if you’re not tuned in at the right time you might miss the latest episode of your favourite show. With podcasting once you hear something you like you can click subscribe then anytime there’s a new episode it’ll automatically download and you’ll get a notification on your phone or computer that your show is ready to play anytime you want” said Rob Muir podcast producer for Canoe FM. “This is another great tool for exposure someone may Google a question about caring for houseplants find Master Gardener’s episode about houseplants then decide that they like the rest of Pauline’s show and subscribe.”
Currently Canoe FM has eight podcasts: Planet Haliburton Medical Matters Thereby Hangs the Tale Tales from the Big Canoe Time Warp Master Gardener Mom’s the Word and Adventures in Business. The last two in the list are original podcasts while the others are broadcast in some form already at Canoe and are reworked into a podcast format.
Muir said part of the task of reworking a radio program to a podcast is removing the music.
“The big difference between podcasts and broadcasts is how they deal with copyright. On the radio people are used to playing whatever they want: if they feel like playing a Beatles song they do if they want to follow it up with Jimi Hendrix or Frank Sinatra they can then the station pays a fee to a licensing agency (SOCAN) that makes sure everyone gets paid and everything stays legal” he said.
“With podcasts however there is no set fee and no single agency to make sure you’re covered legally. It’s up to each podcast host to license each song they want to use in their show and that sometimes means getting in touch with half a dozen companies (publishers record companies etc) all of whom can charge as much as they want for you to play their songs.”
Some programs are easier than others to convert to podcasts. Those that are music based likely can’t be provided in podcast form while others that include spoken word can be altered with relative ease.
For example Planet Haliburton and Medical Matters were ready for podcast and they had already been provided for listeners on the Canoe FM website for download.
“Since making them available as podcasts we’ve seen listenership grow all around the world” Muir said. “Between hashtags social media shares and podcast marketplaces like Apple Spotify etc. all our shows have to do is upload with a tag (eg Medical Matters with #COVID updates) and then people from all over the world are exposed to Canoe’s shows.”
Paul Vorvis is one of the station’s volunteers who has been trained on how to continue producing podcasts after Muir’s contract is up in August. He said learning how to edit his Time Warp program has been rewarding.
“When you get to the podcast and you’re editing … you hear things [like] ‘um’s and ‘ah’s. Those types of things. … To go through and clean it up and hear the final product it’s really gratifying” he said.
Although the programming produced by Canoe FM is Haliburton centric much of it is of interest to a wider audience. Vorvis said the Medical Matters program is their most downloaded podcast so far.
On his program the content is a balance of county history and Canadian history.
“With the Time Warp … Kate Butler director of the Haliburton Highlands Museum … talks about Haliburton County-centric stories going back to the 1860s and earlier about how we got where we are and she does her segment on that and I’ll do something on the bigger Canadian context. We usually try to pick out some cool interesting stories. The goal is at the end people go ‘oh I didn’t know that!’ It takes research and a little bit of work but it’s fun to do” he said.
An avid podcast listener himself Vorvis said some of his favourites outside of Canoe FM are Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History Rock N Roll Archaeology Front Burner BBC History Extra and one on Star Trek episodes.
One of the charms of podcasts is that they can be tailored to specific listeners. In fact Muir said that’s when they do the best.
“I think the strength of podcasts is their ability to appeal to a niche audience. It’s not about making the biggest and most exciting production in the world it’s about sharing the unique perspective/experience you possess and connecting with your audience all over the world” he said. “Thereby Hangs the Tale is a perfect example: Robin Clegg has a unique voice (both in writing and speaking) and his show gives him the opportunity to write short stories exactly how he wants them to be read them in his own voice and distribute them to the entire world! I think if more people concentrate on what makes them unique rather than how they can have a mass appeal they stand a better chance of finding their audience.”
Muir’s favourite podcasts outside of Canoe FM include Serial; Missing and Murdered; Unresolved; The Last Podcast on the Left; The Debaters; My Brother My Brother and Me; and Radiolab.
Podcasts are free to download and/or subscribe to. You can find Canoe FM’s podcasts on their website at canoefm.com/podcasts or by searching for them on various podcast apps including Apple Podcasts Spotify iTunes iHeartRadio Google Podcasts and Stitcher. Funding for Canoe FM’s podcast producer position came from the Community Radio Fund of Canada.