Information meets inspiration: Locals make Tampa a hotbed for podcasting

Amid the rush of civic support for regional tech startups, a group of Tampa Bay entrepreneurs and enthusiasts is quietly building an incubator for local podcasters. 

“California has film and New York has TV. We’re trying to make Tampa Bay the place for podcasting, to be a leader in this growing medium,” says Chris Krimitsos, a local business booster who founded the Florida Podcasters Association along with a handful of other content creators. 

Since forming in July, 2014, the community of podcasters has helped launch an eclectic mix of programs, from women in rodeo to Florida real estate investment. Weekly audiences for the locally created podcasts range from a few thousand to over 100,000 listeners from all over the world. The group meets monthly in the Westshore area of Tampa, often at McAlister's Deli on Boy Scout Boulevard, to collaborate and share ideas.  

Typically available free as a form of “on-demand radio,” podcasting is riding a wave of popularity, propelled by the widespread use of smartphones and other mobile technology. That set the stage for two milestones that turned up the buzz around podcasting.  

In 2014, the creators of public radio’s This American Life launched Serial, a true murder mystery that broke iTunes records, recording 80 million downloads by April, 2015, according to USA Today. Then last summer, President Barack Obama visited comedian Marc Maron in his garage for an unorthodox interview that drew more than 1.6 million listeners within a week after the launch of that episode of WTF with Marc Maron.

From mainstream audiences to niche marketing

While these podcasts raised mainstream awareness in podcasting, it’s the medium’s low barrier of entry and potential for niche marketing and community building that Krimitsos sees as the big opportunity for small business people, artistic content creators and those who simply want to share information with a larger audience. He says that the recording quality of iPhones is so good that podcasters can get started by investing as little as $100 in a microphone. For those who don’t want to sweat the technical details, the Florida Podcasters group helps connect content creators with editing and technology professionals. 

”If you’re really passionate about a subject that you want to share with a larger audience, podcasting is one of the best ways to do it,” says Krimitsos, who also founded Tampa Bay Business Owners along with his wife, Katie. Besides passion, he notes other factors for podcast success include consistent, episodic delivery and content that’s interesting and engaging to a specific audience. 

For example, Tampa resident and Stage 4 cancer survivor Lee Silverstein recently hit 10,000 downloads after launching The Colon Cancer Podcast in May to share “inspiring stories of people winning their battle against colon cancer.”  Now, the interview-based show is officially supported by the Colon Cancer Alliance and attracts listeners from 46 states and 28 countries.

While topics of other Tampa-based podcasts run the gamut, most tend to be education-focused. Feedback and interaction with their audience seems to be what keeps hosts pumped up, as listeners reach out with reviews, website comments and direct emails. 

Wonder what it’s like to be a podcaster? Meet a few of our local hosts:

Rocking women in business 

You can hear the energy streaming through the voice of Katie Krimitsos as she signs on each week to share “authentic stories from business women and their experience building and running a company.” Her infectious enthusiasm for women entrepreneurship is likely the main force that’s driven Biz Women Rock! to reach 180,000 downloads with listeners in 112 countries in just two years.

Although she launched without a plan beyond the show, Katie Krimitsos says the Biz Women Rock! brand has evolved into a full-time business model that provides education, inspiration, coaching and other resources to help women with their online businesses. The operation is still decidedly low-tech, however, as she props a foam mattress pad on the wall of her office while interviewing guests and often records show introductions while sitting inside her Prius parked in her driveway. 

Recent episodes include: “Writing and Entrepreneurship,” “How to be Ambitious and Peaceful at the Same Time,” and “Relationship Marketing with Facebook Group.” One topic that tends to come up in most episodes is “how to be a business owner, a mom, a friend, a partner … because every woman feels that stretch or stress. Most guests have something to say about how they’re able to play all these different roles.” As a new mother herself, she shares this challenge with her listeners. 

Mixing business education with humo

One might think a podcast that’s all about commercial real estate investment could cause a snooze alert. But with fans comparing hosts Eric Odum and Steven Silverman to Abbott and Costello, the Invest Florida Show manages to impart serious business information with enough humor to attract nearly 40,000 subscribers since launching in late 2014. Recent guests include experts on income taxes, flood insurance and real estate financial modeling. 

As veteran commercial real estate brokers, the business partners say client and public education is their main objective. While large national brokerages have the resources to publish white papers and host conferences, podcasting offers a more affordable alternative for their small local firm. At the same time, listeners may find the information more convenient and easier to digest when it’s in the form of audio interviews they can listen to any time. With many listeners from outside Florida, Odum says the show can also serve as an economic engine driving investment here. 

“We have a lot of fun, we’re learning all the time and it makes us better at our job,” says Silverman. “The only downside is it’s an unbelievable amount of work,” from lining up busy professionals as guests to responding to listener feedback and questions. 

Curing Medicare confusion

A longtime insurance professional, Diane Daniels started Medicare Nation to demystify the government program for senior citizens, their families and other professionals. Based on iTunes reviews, she’s accomplished her goal. “Medicare is confusing,” writes one listener and physician. “This is a timely podcast that provides important information, gets to the heart of the issue, and makes Medicare easy to understand. Great resource for patients, family and friends!”   

Daniels admits that when she first launched in August she was afraid only her family would be listening. “When I knew it was going to launch I was petrified it would be just the five of us listening,” she says. “Then I was thrilled beyond belief that there were 11 downloads that first day.” Now after six months, Medicare Nation has 11,000 downloads, crossing what Daniels says is considered an industry threshold for attracting sponsorships.

Podfest 2016 and Podcasting 101

Both novice and experienced podcasters from across the country and Florida will converge in Tampa for the second annual Podfest 2016 Thursday through Saturday. Hosted by the Florida Podcasters Association, the event will present sessions on how to launch podcasts, build loyal audiences and leverage podcasting technology. For registration and more information, see Podfest 2016.

How to tune in to podcasts

You can search for podcasts by title, subject or host name in the Podcast app on your iPhone or iPad, on the Stitcher app on Android smartphones or on iTunes on your computer. 

Liz Taylor is a Tampa-based freelance business writer and podcast junkie. Comments? Contact 83 Degrees.

Read more articles by Elizabeth Taylor.

Elizabeth Taylor is a freelance business writer who lives on the Hillsborough River in Seminole Heights, Tampa’s friendly and funky neighborhood. She grew up in Madeira Beach and earned her BA in English from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. With over a decade specializing in writing about sustainability, Liz enjoys telling stories about Tampa Bay businesses and people who are creating positive change.