Scott Johnson is a man of many talents. He’s been making cartoons on the web since 2001, and as a podcaster Scott has been a true pioneer in the field. Extra Life Radio was started before the term ‘podcast’ existed, but in 2005 he was right there on the leading edge. The Instance is one of the most popular World of Warcraft podcasts, not to mention his other successful shows, one of which being The Morning Stream with co-host Brian Ibbott. In 2008 Scott founded Frogpants Studios, which produces and supports dozens of podcasts.
Steve: I was an early adopter of podcasts, so I feel like I can speak with some authority on this. Your shows really stood out because of the production value and the radio show formatting. Did you realize that would make a big difference in getting listeners early on?
Scott: Honestly, I got started in this simply because I loved radio so much growing up, and the internet finally provided a way for me to make the kinds of shows and content I wanted, freely and openly. It just so happens that I was also a big fan of quality sound, and good production value, so for me, there was really no other way of approaching it. I had no idea at the time how much it would catch on with my listeners though.
Steve: Extra Life was the name of your comic strip as well as your first show, Extra Life Radio. You’re very passionate about both cartooning and podcasting, so was your original plan for cross promotion or just overall branding?
Scott: Not really a plan per se, though it has worked out that way in lots of areas for me. The two tend to compliment one another quite well, I’ve learned over time. But I had no idea going in. They are just the two things I love doing the most. It’s always been that way, even as a kid. All I wanted to do was draw and record things. The fact that they “scratch each other’s backs” is a really nice side effect I suppose. In some ways dumb luck, but in other ways, a natural melding of my two core interests.
Steve: Did you want to work in radio before this whole podcasting industry came on the scene?
Scott: Yes, and often did when I could. I guested regularly on a Saturday afternoon computer show on a local AM station here in Salt Lake City for years. Was a great chance to get behind a real mic, and work on the kinds of skills that still help me today with the whole podcasting thing. The main difference being, I get to call the shots and don’t have some huge radio corporation staring at me all the time. That part is very liberating. 🙂
Steve: The Instance has been your longest running show, right?
Scott: In terms of years, yes. It will be ten years next January. But in terms of episodes, The Morning Stream is currently the king at nearly 800 episodes. As apposed to the over 400 episodes of The Instance. What a difference 4 episodes a week makes, I guess. 🙂
Steve: I would guess that you have a lot of listeners that only tune into The Instance, but do you think there’s a large portion of your audience that listen to your other shows as well?
Scott: Yes, and larger than I had originally thought, or even imagined. Turns out there is a lot of crossover, both directions. There’s a big contingent of fans that will follow whatever I put out there, and I really love those guys. Loyal to the end. But it’s also not unusual for people do discover, say, The Instance, because I mentioned it on Film Sack. Or to find The Morning Stream because they saw a link on Facebook attached to a comic I did. The cross-pollination is a huge part of what makes Frogpants work.
Steve: Anyone that listens to your shows will discover that you are a dedicated family man. Did it ever worry you to have your wife and kids intertwined with your public persona and career?
Scott: Not really. The kids have grown up with this weird business of mine, and it’s been a really great thing in our lives as a family. I’ve always been very open about who I am, what I value in life, and who I have closest to me, and I think that’s only helped grown my bond with the listeners and followers. I think people can generally smell bull crap when they see it, and what I offer them is the genuine version of me, warts and all. (So many warts…). But the end result is a very loyal base of fans, and they have my loyalty in return. My family is the most important thing in my life, and in a very real way, the listeners are part of that family in small ways.
Steve: You’ve talked on occasion about your dad. Can you tell me about his influence on what you do?
Scott: My dad was amazing. Sadly, he died far too early in the summer of 2000. He’s the one that spend my childhood and teens convincing me that I could do anything I put my mind and heart to. That being a creative kid wasn’t something to try and change, or be ashamed of, but something to celebrate, build upon, and grow. That my life wasn’t about just trying to find a good job and make money, but to find joy in what I did and embrace the chance to do unique things in a crowded world. He was awesome, and I miss him terribly. I really wish he was here to see where I took his advice.
Steve: You started hosting a mini-con called Nerdtacular in 2007. Can you talk about how that started and what it’s turned into now?
Scott: It started as just a movie theater rented out on my dime, to show local fans some appreciation. We’d hook up for an afternoon, watch a nerdy summer blockbuster, and give away some swag. Really nothing more than that. But before I knew it, more and more out-of-towners started to come. People from other countries started showing up, and interest continued to swell. It went from that and evolved each year into something a little bigger, and a little more involved.
Today, we hold it at a summer mountain resort, invite lots of special guests and speakers, and spend three days hanging out, doing live shows, presenting cool panels, playing a lot of board games, and having a great time with the Frogpants community. We limit tickets and keep it relatively tight and intimate as compared to other cons out there on purpose. It’s a chance to give back, share cool ideas, and shore up the already awesome bonds we all have in and around this stuff. To be completely honest, it feels like an out-of-body experience for me. I can hardly believe how lucky I am to be involved at all.
Steve: One of these years I will make it out there for that!
Scott: We will have a chair all warm and ready for you. 🙂
Steve: Scott, thank you for talking to me. You have been a huge source of inspiration on so many levels, from cartooning, to gaming, and most importantly, as a human being! I’m proud to call you a friend and I wish you continued success!
Scott: Thanks, Steve! Now shuttup and let’s play WoW!!! 😉