Podcasting: The Ultimate Pandemic Growth Tool, or How I Did it All Wrong

I have seen an uptick in new podcasts since COVID-19 forced us into our homes for an extended period. It isn’t just podcasting though – people have felt compelled to take advantage of the perceived extra free time to take up hobbies, complete housework, learn to play an instrument, perform spring cleaning, and other activities they have been putting on the back burner for years.

As some of you may know, I hosted a podcast for about two years about a very niche subject in information security. I knew very little about insider threat going into it, but I found that:

  1. The problem kept getting brought up in information security conversation, and;
  2. There weren’t any podcasts already dedicated to it.

That was good enough for me and when WannaCry started making industry professionals around the world begin running in circles and flapping their arms, that sounded like as good a time as any to record my first episode.

When I began my journey as a podcaster, I knew almost nothing about it. All I had to compare against were the awesome podcast hosts who have both entertained and enlightened me for years. I wanted to be famous like them. I even wanted to have the option to make money from my content at some point. Podcasting was going to open doors for me and allow for my career to skyrocket very quickly… or so I thought.

Reality was quite the opposite. I spent far more on podcasting than I ever made. Even within the insider threat community and after spending several hours each week on my show, most people have never heard of it.

Podcasting became another job for me. I spent so much time researching and trying to provide content that people would find meaningful that I was burnt out. While it is true that my career and family life got much busier after about two years and I decided to stop making episodes, I was probably looking for an excuse at that point. It couldn’t have been very entertaining listening to me complain about my personal frustrations with the direction that the industry was going, anyway.

It wasn’t until later that I recognized the greatest benefit of podcasting – focused self-education.

Even though my motive for increasing my knowledge of insider threat and staying as current as possible about the subject was to “build my brand”, I can’t deny how much I learned from between my preparations for that first episode to today (a year and a half after hanging up my microphone).

  • After doing plenty of research, I was able to develop a methodology for improving insider threat protections in an organization.
  • I was able to call out the big software manufacturers for sensationalizing malicious insiders (the overwhelming minority in insider threat incidents) and spreading an incorrect narrative.
  • With the help of several others, I created an Insider Threat Protection Framework that companies could use to implement insider threat security controls and reduce risk.
  • Perhaps most importantly, I met some awesome people within the cybersecurity industry.

What if there was a different motivation? What if I hadn’t cared about fame or fortune and I just spent time trying to learn about insider threat and sharing my findings with others? What if I didn’t care whether anyone listened or not?

I wouldn’t have to abide by anyone’s schedule, and I wouldn’t feel compelled to keep the show alive long after the interesting bits came and went.

If podcasting on a specific topic is approached from this mindset, it removes the hardest and most frustrating aspects. We don’t know how long this pandemic is going to last and so many podcasts (like mine) don’t come to a definitive conclusion before they “pod-fade”.

If you are going to start any of these new hobbies or activities, try doing it in a way that reduces work and stays fun. Design your projects so that they can be ended as soon as you are finished, and without any guilt or regret.

All for now.