Cidiot and the Appeal of Hyper-Local Podcasting

Mat Zucker, Photo by Brian Fuhr
Mat Zucker, Photo by Brian Fuhr

Mat Zucker's show about his move to a small town is more than a document of his adventures.

A few years ago, Mat Zucker was ready to make a big life change. After years of living and working in the agency world in New York City, he and his husband decided to move to the Hudson Valley. Its bucolic small towns are only a few hours from the city, but the transition can be huge for those accustomed to everything being open 24 hours and within a 10-block walk.

Zucker wanted to document and process the transition, and he wound up launching a podcast, Cidiot. The project started as a vehicle for him to share amusing stories about his sometimes-rocky transition from city mouse to country mouse, but in two seasons it has grown in scope to include coverage of local events and local news stories, partaking in a role that has traditionally been mostly filled by local newspapers. We spoke to Zucker about why he decided to start podcasting; how he used Anchor to create and distribute his podcast, and what his show means to the Hudson Valley community.

Spotify for Podcasters: How did you decide to launch the Cidiot podcast?

Mat Zucker: The move from the city to the country was pretty dramatic, and I wanted to share it and create a record of it. I originally thought about blogging but then decided the podcasting would be a better way to go. My early career was in radio advertising and I got into podcasting very early, and I thought the audio format would really work for the stories I wanted to tell.

How did you start working with a platform to produce and distribute the podcast?

I liked the fact that I could do everything on [podcast platform] Anchor. I could record and edit the content and then have one-touch distribution, and I could also monetize it as well. There is a tip jar option, and they also match you with sponsors and then you get paid on a CPM basis.

That being said, my intention isn’t really to make money at this point. I want to document my experience in real time and help other people who might be going through the same thing. It’s also been a great way to connect with local people and get immersed in the local culture.

Your podcast mixes personal stories with local affairs and guides for out-of-towners. How do you balance everything and decide what to cover?

I’m nearing the end of the second season and the structure has evolved since I’ve started for sure. I have a content calendar and plan out the topics in advance, but I give myself room to be spontaneous if something comes up. My focus is experimenting with user acquisition strategies [strategies to expand the audience]—I’ve done some paid social, some PR, sold some merch, and also did a local event called the Porch where I read a story from the podcast. In terms of content, I want it to be roughly 25% local coverage, 50% local guides or coverage of local people, and 25% personal stories.

I feel like one place we’ve really succeeded is becoming a resource for people who want to come up here and validating their interest in spending time in the Hudson Valley.

One of your podcasts was dedicated to reporting about the majority of the buildings in the village of Tivoli being up for sale for $11 million. How did you come across that story and how does covering something like that fill a role in the community?

I happened across the real-estate listing and then started doing more digging, especially on local Facebook groups, and got confirmation that it was all true. Because I want this to really be an engine of the community, I wanted to report on local events, and this seemed like a really important one.

I also want to spend a lot of time covering events in the community. There are fewer newspapers in the Hudson Valley now than there were before, and while there are blogs, that’s not how everyone likes to find out about things. There are so many local gatherings and festivals and celebrations that are places for people to see each other and develop a strong sense of community, and I want to cover those as much as I can.

—Cortney Harding