Michael B. Duff

Lubbock's answer to a question no one asked

Meet Scott Johnson, the Orson Welles of Podcasting

Scott Johnson (Podcaster)So, how do I describe Scott Johnson to people who aren’t already listening to his podcasts?

Is he the Nick Denton of podcasting? The Henry Ford of podcasting? I think history will remember him as the Orson Welles of podcasting. Right now Scott is in his Mercury Theatre phase – testing the waters, inventing new techniques, trying a hundred little experiments as he refines his style and learns what audiences want.

Even now Scott produces more podcasts in a week than most people have time to listen to. With strong support from advertisers, FrogPants Studios has been Scott’s full-time job since 2009. The FrogPants network produces podcasts on a wide range of geek-friendly topics — from The Instance, a show about the World of Warcraft to Coverville, a music podcast dedicated to weird and wonderful covers of popular songs, FrogPants Studios produces shows on a dozen niche topics, all done in a format that sounds like your favorite morning show.

I started out as an Instance fan and have recently branched out, following Scott’s projects as he started The Creep, a podcast about Starcraft II, and The Morning Stream, a true morning show format where Scott and his co-host Brian Ibbott riff about politics, news and pop culture.

Of all these projects, The Morning Stream is Scott’s baby now.

“I feel like everything that I have done over the years has led up to The Morning Stream,” Scott said. “I am SOOO happy with [that] show so far, and it’s only a couple of months old. It just feels like the culmination of a lot of hard work, trial and error, and experience with this stuff for the last 5 or 6 years. It is something that I wish I would have done sooner, and the listeners seem to agree.”

Scott casts such a wide net, producing so many podcasts on so many topics, it’s hard to describe them all. If you’re looking for something fun and free to load on your iPod, Google “frog pants” and check out Scott’s master list of podcasts.

I subscribed to the FrogPants Ultra Feed and found a couple hidden gems – a couple great podcasts that don’t get as much attention as Scott’s big three. I particularly enjoyed the FourCast, basically a group of geeks predicting the future – not just riffing about what the next iPad will look like, but a discussion about what the human race will look like, once technology gives us the power to redefine what “human” means.

Heavy stuff, but still handled with humor and wit, perfect for fans of Alastair Reynolds and Iain M. Banks.

I’ve noticed a pattern in these podcasts. Scott acts as moderator and provocateur, throwing out questions when things get slow, but slipping quietly into the background when his guests are on a roll. I think it’s that producer mentality, that lack of ego that has allowed Scott to succeed when so many others have faded.

I saw it first on The Instance, when Scott brought in Randy Jordan to provide some much-needed crunch and attention to detail. Scott became the jester to Randy’s straight man, keeping the tone light while Randy dug into the nuts and bolts of the game. Their chemistry took the show to a whole new level, turning it into one of the indispensable geek podcasts, even for people who are tired of the game.

Randy recently left the podcast, citing a conflict of interest with his mysterious new dream job. It could have been the end of the show, but Scott brought in a couple of fast-talking guild mates and turned the whole thing around.

Scott is rocking the house with his new co-hosts Turpster and Dills and the tone of the show has completely changed. Nothing could replace the chemistry of Scott and Randy, so they didn’t try.

The Instance is a completely new show now, and I was struck by how quickly Scott himself was able to switch gears. He doesn’t have to be the funniest guy in the room anymore, so he’s content to step back and let the others take center stage.

It’s this quality more than anything else that makes me take Scott seriously. It’s the same quality that put Nick Denton on top of a worldwide blog empire – the same quality that all great producers and directors have. These guys provide the creative juice and push things forward, but ultimately it’s not “about” them. It’s about finding the best talent for the job and getting out of their way.

Scott was modest when I asked him about it. I don’t think he spends a lot of time thinking about his role in all this. When I asked him to share his advice for new podcasters, he made it sound easy.

Scott said, “Simple: Start making shows, don’t worry about selling shirts the first day, be consistent, and do it because you love it. All of that will add up to greater things later.”

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Written by Michael B. Duff

March 16, 2011 at 20:02

Posted in Podcasts

2 Responses

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  1. I think I spend more time with Scott’s voice coming in my ears than anyone else during the week. Kinda creepy actually 🙂 The key is his style. Too many podcasts think they must strictly stick to the topic, not wander and edit tons of stuff in and out. In listening to the live recordings of TMS, I’m impressed with how Scott (and Brian) can pull off something live (nigh daily) that sounds more polished than many other podcasters can do with a week of post.

    Dan Newcombe

    March 17, 2011 at 12:08

  2. This is a great article about Scott. I got started on his podcasts with Filmsack and loved the chemistry immediately. When I heard he was going to do the Morning Stream, I wasn’t sure what the format would be. However, it has turned out to be one of my favorite podcasts.

    You’re right. His modesty comes through clearly on everything he does. That along with his natural humor makes the shows great fun to listen to. It also translates into great respect for his guests.

    Phil Sanders

    March 17, 2011 at 12:15


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