Beyond the Microphone

By Arleigh Rodgers '21, June 4, 2021
Ithaca College alumni carve out defining space in podcast industry.

Each year, podcasting becomes more ubiquitous in America, with close to a third of Americans listening to an episode a month, according to recent research. Behind some of the 2,000,000 available podcasts listened to by 80 million people each week, are Ithaca College alumni, who built from their experiences at Ithaca College to carve their niche in the podcasting world.

Steven Goldstein ’79, is the founder and CEO of Amplifi Media, a strategic advisory firm that guides companies with their podcast and voice initiatives. Before he founded Amplifi in 2015, Goldstein was a founding partner of Saga Communications, a publicly traded radio company in markets all over the country — including Ithaca. It was there, he said, that he started to notice a shift: radio was shrinking, and streaming platforms were growing.

“I started seeing the change in how people were consuming content, certainly on the TV side,” he said. “Watching Netflix and ‘House of Cards’ on demand is very different than watching ‘Grey's Anatomy’ at eight o'clock on Thursday night.”

“The ability to try things at the college radio station and the exposure to key people in the business was absolutely the essential platform for what I believe is my success.”

Steven Goldstein ’79, founder and CEO of Amplifi Media

Goldstein said his experiences and connections from his time at IC, particularly the college’s award-winning radio station WICB, was an excellent foundation. When he began working at WVOX, a commercial radio station in his hometown of New Rochelle, New York, several of the staff members were IC alumni.

“The ability to try things at the college radio station and the exposure to key people in the business was absolutely the essential platform for what I believe is my success and for many people who graduated around the same time,” he said.

For other alumni, the path to podcast success has been less straightforward. In 2016, Jeff Umbro ’10 founded The Podglomerate, which produces everything from the food podcast “Green Eggs and Dan” to “Storybound” which features authors and writers reading their stories in immersive sound environments.

At IC, Umbro was a writing major who wanted to pursue book publishing before he broke into podcasting. His first stint in audio was “Writers Who Don’t Write,” a podcast he created with Kyle Craner ’10 that featured interviews with authors about their careers.

“I was doing it because it was a lot of fun,” Umbro said. “It was an excuse to talk to these authors who I love. But I really started to see the utility and the business appeal of it.”

Umbro took a networking approach to creating The Podglomerate — a space for smaller creators that developed quickly. The Podglomerate executes audience growth campaigns, works with clients like the Lit Hub, Andreessen Horowitz, Expedia, and CVS, and sells ads on behalf of more than 35 shows it represents.

“Pinpoint where you see a need in the market and spend your time there. It's entirely about creating a community that you want to be a part of. Be a sponge and absorb whatever you can.”

Jeff Umbro ’10, founder of The Podglomerate

For students looking to break into the audio industry, adaptability is key, Umbro said— as it grows, the podcast industry has new tools, publishers, and audience trends to explore every day.

“My advice would be to pinpoint where you see a need in the market and spend your time there,” he said. “It's entirely about creating a community that you want to be a part of.  Be a sponge and absorb whatever you can.”

Jordan Aaron ’18 works at The Podglomerate as a production coordinator. Aaron said his IC education —  a writing for TV, film and emerging media major and he took several liberal arts courses in politics and history — helped prepare him for a job in podcasting.

“I’m grateful to be able to help creators produce entertaining and informative content, especially this past year,” he said. “My favorite part is just helping people get their content out there.”

Of course, it’s no surprise that there are also alumni who work in front of the microphones as hosts. One of those is actress Taylor Misiak ’14, co-host of the podcast “Table Flipping” with Alyssa Litman. The comedy-centric podcast — which is part of The Podglomerate — covers reality television shows like “The Bachelor” and “Love Island.”

Misiak said that when she and Litman first met, they bonded over their love for unscripted reality television and, when they created the podcast, named it after the time a member of “The Real Housewives of New Jersey” cast flipped a table during an argument.

“Alyssa and I started producing without the help of a network initially. It's been exciting and empowering to be able to do that stuff on our own.”

Taylor Misiak ’14, co-host of the podcast “Table Flipping”

They also bonded over learning the technical aspects of production.

“Alyssa and I started producing without the help of a network initially," Misiak said. "It's been exciting and empowering to be able to do that stuff on our own.”

On their podcast, Misiak and Litman recap the shows they’re currently watching, and then interview a guest to dive deeper into a specific topic related to reality TV.

The ability to commiserate with other fans of the shows they discuss is a highlight for Misiak.

“[Alyssa] came to me and said that we should do this podcast because we thought it would be really fun to interview fellow writers and actors about their favorite characters and scenes in reality TV and how they have influenced their work in the scripted realm,” she said.