Dan Pashman’s success story involves a little heartbreak, a lot of show cancellations, a few layoffs and a unique idea involving a deep love of delicious food. It also took perseverance, as five years ago he was hosting a podcast from home and today his podcast is on WNYC radio, he is starring in a show on The Cooking Channel, and promoting his first book called Eat More Better. Not bad for a guy who started his show in his basement, right?
“I worked as a producer on a couple of shows that were interesting but kept getting canceled. I was interested in doing some on air work myself,” Pashman says. “I figured if I started a podcast the only person who could cancel me was myself.”
His food podcast, The Sporkful, isn’t about cooking or healthy eating or restaurant reviews.
It’s about eating, which is perfect because Pashman is upfront about one very important thing; he isn’t a foodie, he’s an Eater. As such, he is dedicated to promoting the values of better eating. Not healthier eating, better eating. He wants everyone to become an Eater with a capital E.
Eater: a seeker of the Platonic ideal known as perfect deliciousness. – Eat More Better, page 2.
These days Pashman’s full-time job involves running the Sporkful podcast and appearing regularly on WNYC, hosting You’re Eating it Wrong on The Cooking Channel, and promoting his brand new book Eat More Better (available on Amazon and wherever books are sold).
With all of these different outlets, Pashman is in high demand. But not too long ago he was being told that he was surplus to requirements. He was laid off from multiple jobs as a radio producer.
“The good thing about getting laid off so often is that I didn’t have to quit my job to make the podcast full-time,” Pashman jokes.
But with a plethora of podcasts available, and numerous food-related ones at that, Pashman needed an idea that would help him stand out.
“I had always been passionate about food and eating as a hobby, so I had this idea to talk about the most simple foods in the most detailed way possible,” Pashman says, “My first episode I spent 20 minutes talking about ice cubes. The whole show I just broke down every element of ice cubes.”
Eventually Pashman was able to use some of his radio and media connections to swing some partnerships with NPR and Slate. As the podcast grew in popularity, opportunities came along which eventually made making the world a more delicious place his full-time gig.
“It all sounds glossy and rosy recounting it five years later,” Pashman says, “It was a long haul though. There were definitely some stretches where it didn’t seem like I was making progress.”
If you’ve managed to stay alive for more than a few days, which I gather you have, then you are an eater – Eat More Better, page 2
Podcasting has such a low level of entry as far as cost and technical ability that almost anyone can do it, Pashman says. It saturates the market and makes it difficult to get noticed unless you were already famous before starting the podcast.
“There were times I thought I could only support myself doing a podcast if I was famous already,” Pashman says, “It seems that there are like ten people having success podcasting, sometimes I thought I wasn’t going to be one of those ten.”
Now Pashman is able to support his family with the combination of his book deal, his show with the Cooking Channel, and his work with WNYC.
Getting the podcast on WNYC brings his career full circle in a way: the former radio producer interested in doing on-air work achieved that goal after his radio career seemingly ended.
It also represents a little lost autonomy. Podcasting is something you do on your own with no oversight, but working for public radio means he has a few more rules to follow. However, it also means that he has the promotional power of a large radio station behind his show.
“I have given up some measure of freedom, but it’s been well worth it,” Pashman says.
You might know George Orwell as the author who failed to predict anything that would happen in 1984. But I know him as the author who failed to argue persuasively for the superiority of loose tea over bagged tea. – Eat More Better, page 65
Pashman didn’t start his podcast casually though, he has always been operating it as professionally as possible.
“Anyone can have a podcast or a blog, you need to present what you are doing as really high quality,” Pashman says, “Just because you can make a podcast doesn’t mean you should.”
Pashman wanted to stand out from the crowd, and having a unique idea was a huge element but the professional quality and a never-give-up attitude helped too.
“I wanted people to know that I wasn’t just some guy screwing around in his basement,” Pashman jokes, “I was a guy in a basement taking it seriously.”
Pashman’s main advice for those looking to follow his footsteps and try to make podcasting a full-time job involves hard work and, um…rocket ships.
“Every one of those creation myths that gets told after something is successful leaves out the hard part,” Pashman says, “It’s not a rocket ship to the moon, your rocket ship is going to crash repeatedly. You just have to get back in it. It helps if giving up is not an option.”