I was somewhere near the geographic center of the state when I finally settled on the name for my podcast.
Actually, I was a couple of miles past the geographic center of the state, driving past a shooting range hidden deep in a gloomy holler. Cell service was non-existent. My satellite radio kept cutting out and nobody knew I was here.
Coming here had been spur of the moment.
I worried about breaking down, running into a ditch or getting taken up into the sky by aliens. I was in Braxton County, but I followed the road back toward Sutton.
On the way, I realized the name for my podcast was obvious. It was unavoidable. It was honest.
A week into exploring podcasts, I’d been struggling to get a bead on subject, title and length of the show.
I was halfway through “Everybody Has a Podcast (Except You),” by the McElroy brothers from Huntington, a podcasting empire, and still wondering what I wanted to do.
I had all sorts of ideas.
Not all of them were good or entirely serious.
I thought I could do dramatic readings of local restaurant reviews from Facebook while the soothing soundtrack from “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” played in the background.
That sounded like fun and the material would write itself — or at least, someone else would endlessly write the material.
More realistically, I considered a podcast based strictly around this column, but that was problematic. I wasn’t sure how much time I could fill each week just talking about whatever project I was working on or whether anyone would want to hear it.
Some months might be easy, but others would be tough.
I’m not sure how much people would like to listen to me complain about not eating, being bad at knitting or wondering how much longer I had to wait before I could spend a dollar.
Some things don’t translate well to just sound, like a yoga practice or mangling scales on a ukulele.
My friend Perry Bennett and I were talking about podcasts during one of our evening walks. We get together to walk a couple of times a week — unless the legislature is in session. Or if it’s too cold or too hot. Or if it’s raining or in the event that either of us has anything else to do.
We walk sometimes.
Perry does it for the exercise. I do it to clear my head and because it’s nice to have an interaction with another human being that isn’t through a text or social media.
Perry is a photographer, one of the best around, and he listens to podcasts, so we discussed some of the finer points of what might make a good podcast for me.
“I’m thinking like 30 minutes long,” I told him.
I thought that if I took all the things I worked on at the paper and then maybe wrote something else, I could probably come up with half an hour of material — possibly once a week, but maybe just twice a month.
Perry thought I should go longer, maybe an hour.
He believed that people needed time to connect to the conversation and that once it got started, half an hour was an abrupt end.
“Conversation,” I said. “Who’s going to talk to me? I thought maybe I could turn some of my interviews into a podcast and maybe throw in some other stuff.”
I saw my potential podcast as a variety show sort of thing, with slices of the different things I did stacked together and wrapped with a beginning and an end.
In my head, I had a working title, “The Biscuit,” which was also sort of an in-joke.
While some journalists strive for cash prizes and national recognition, a guy like me is really only hoping to get a menu item at a local restaurant named after him.
My dumb luck that my name is Bill, and nobody ever wants that at a restaurant.
Also, “The Biscuit” was taken.
And everyone I mentioned it to thought the name was dumb, really dumb — and maybe pandering to a certain popular restaurant in hopes of getting free biscuits.
“What about a name?” I asked Perry.
“How about Walking and Talking with Bill,” he said, instantly.
It was a little uncanny.
“Each week, you could invite somebody out to walk and then have a conversation about the events of the day, who they are, what you’re up to and you could do what you do,” he said.
Perry meant riff and make smart aleck comments. At least, that’s what I thought he meant.
“That seems like a lot of work,” I told him. “How am I going to edit all of that?”
“You wouldn’t have to,” he said.
This was true of a lot of podcasts. People record raw audio and then just upload it.
I told him I wasn’t against the idea, but I wasn’t sure — and who would listen?
Michael Wall at the “Too Opinionated” podcast told me that I might have been overthinking.
He and his son, Brett, got into podcasting as a way to talk about things they cared about — mostly nerd stuff. The podcast had expanded as they put themselves out there.
Now, they still talk a lot about comic book movies and science fiction, but they also interview actors from some of their favorites shows and films.
It’s really kind of cool.
Their audience is growing. Part of that is content. Talking to famous or semi-famous people attracts listeners. Part of it is consistency. Michael said they post new content regularly and frequently.
And part of it is community. A lot of podcasters encourage other podcasters to get started and encourage their listeners to try out other podcasts.
I needed an idea, though, and listeners needed a concept they could latch onto, something that they were also interested in.
Michael said that once I figured that out, he’d be happy to share some kind of word about me on their social media and try to send a few listeners my way.
If they liked it, maybe they’d tell their friends and then I could grow an audience.
“Just have a good time with it,” he said. “If you have fun, your listeners probably will, too.”
Having a podcast sounded cool, but I wondered if there was much money in this sort of thing. I wasn’t thinking of getting rich doing a podcast, but I’m sure the owners of my newspaper would love it if I did anything that attracted advertisers.
Obviously, some people can make a living with podcasts. There are always a few people who can make a living in any field.
The McElroys, I think, have done well enough to make podcasting their main occupations. Podcasting has led to live shows, publishing deals and stints writing for Marvel Comics, which I envy because I believe that working for Marvel probably gets you a discount on comic book T-shirts.
But making money seemed like a long shot.
Did I have my idea? It turns out, I did. Was it a good idea? Who knows? But I went ahead and started recording audio and then I contacted my friend, the songwriter Jeff Ellis and asked him if I could use one of his songs.
I was on the right road now.