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Podcasts Try To Cut Through The Noise

Stella Chavez/KERA
Yvette Strand plans to launch The Chameleon Breeder podcast in October.

Over the weekend, about a thousand people from across the country gathered in Fort Worth for a conference called Podcast Movement. It was dedicated to all things podcasting – from the superstars who get millions of listeners every week to some pretty narrow niches.

Roman Mars is a star in this crowd. 99% Invisible – his 5-year-old architecture and design podcast - has been downloaded more than 30 million times.

And even he recognized the one true giant of the podcasting world during his talk to an overflowing ballroom on Saturday.

"When Serial invented podcasting last year … I was a little jealous," he said to laughs.

Sarah Koenig, who created Serial, gave the keynote speech at the Omni Hotel yesterday. Few here can even dream of her 80 million downloads. Some would be happy with 80.

“The podcast is going to be launched in October and it’s called The Chameleon Breeder podcast, and it’s a super niche," said Yvette Strand, in town from Orange County, Calif.. Breeding chameleons is a family business.

In fact, a lot of people were here to learn how to pull in customers through podcasting.

“Well, certainly our podcasts that we produce are marketing tools for our website,” said Tyrone Jackson, also in from Southern California. He’s got a pair of podcasts – one about trading stocks and another called Six Figure Voice, which is aimed at voiceover actors.

“Not everybody likes to read these days and a lot of people consume information via audio. So for us, it made sense as a marketing tool, but we can get out a lot of information to anybody interested in a specific subject very, very quickly," he said.

All this focus on the business of podcasting attracted plenty of vendors. More than two dozen booths lined the hallways hawking everything from microphones to marketing help. There was even someone pitching something called the Podcasters Paradise cruise setting sail this November.

Yet for all the people who wanted to learn how to make money from talking, there were also some who just wanted to learn how to be heard.

Michelle Matthews Calloway is from Lafayette, La. The name of her podcast is The Swirl World podcast.

"Our target audience is black women and the diverse men who love them," she says.

She’s been producing the show for a little over a year. That’s 83 episodes.

“I love the medium," she says. "I love to be able to talk to people all over the world and for them to hear my voice.”

Calloway’s story was common at the conference – plenty of the podcasters were also bloggers. And for them, the best connection to their audience is through an earbud.

KERA’s Stella Chavez contributed to that report. Sarah Koenig speaks tonight at 7:30 at the Winspear Opera House as part of the thinkspeak series, co-produced by KERA and the AT&T Performing Arts Center.

Stephen Becker is senior producer of the Think show , which airs on more than 25 stations across Texas and beyond. Prior to joining the Think team in 2013, as part of the Art&Seek team, Stephen produced radio and digital stories and hosted "The Big Screen" — a weekly radio segment about North Texas film — with Chris Vognar. His 2011 story about the history of eight-track tapes was featured nationally on NPR's All Things Considered. His works has been recognized with numerous state and national awards.