Tuesday, January 22, 2008

101 Uses for Baby Wipes - Dennis Gray Podcaster & Friend

Daddy has 101 uses for baby wipes
Simple Web postings grew into podcasts that reach 80,000 listeners and some sponsors
By Patrick S. Pemberton

Gray started posting questions on the Web about being a dad after bringing his then-infant son, Evan, home from the hospital.

Dennis Gray puts on radio-type shows that can be downloaded or streamed on computers or MP3 players. Here he is at home with his dog, Ben.

* External Link Link to Dennis Gray's blog

There was a time when Dennis Gray wasn’t sure he wanted to have kids. But when a difficult delivery kept his wife in the hospital longer than expected, the Atascadero man found he had to step up.

“I had never held a baby, changed a diaper, fed a baby,” Gray said. “I had no clue how to make formula — none of this stuff.”

He’d read “What To Expect When You’re Expecting” and other baby preparation books. But that wasn’t enough. So soon after bringing son Evan home from the hospital, he started posting questions online. That eventually led him to create a blog and then a podcast, dispensing tips, interviews with experts and discussions with other fathers from around the country.

Initially, he said, the idea was simply to share information with friends and family via the Internet.

“I found it very difficult to sit down and write to everybody what was going on,” he said. “And mass e-mail, in my opinion, was tacky. So I thought, ‘Hey, I’ll just set up a Web site. I’ll throw some audio up there, and if somebody wants to know what’s going on right now this second, they can play it.’

“But once I had 12,000 people listening, it was like, ‘Wow! Obviously I’m hitting a chord with something.’ ”

Recorded in what used to be the family’s sunroom, Gray’s podcast, called “101 Uses for Baby Wipes” (http://101uses forbabywipes.blogspot.com/), now has about 80,000 listeners and a handful of sponsors.

If you’re still not sure what a podcast is, don’t feel too left behind. The term “podcast” wasn’t even coined until 2004. And the podcast still is not as popular as other media, such as television and radio.

But its popularity is gaining rapidly, largely because it’s so easy to create a podcast. Anyone with a computer, a microphone and the Internet can create a podcast, a radio-type show that can be downloaded or streamed on computers or MP3 players.

Recognizing the importance of podcasts, commercial radio outlets have taken notice, offering their broadcast shows online as podcasts. For example, local shows on KCBX, such as “Take Two” and “Ears On Art,” can be listened to anytime on a computer. And national shows, such as National Public Radio’s “Fresh Air” and “Wait Wait, … Don’t Tell Me!,” have become popular podcasts.

Even presidential candidates have recognized the power of the podcast. Democrat John Edwards was the first to launch a podcast, and others quickly followed.

A local trailblazer

San Luis Obispo County has a fair share of bloggers—those who create their own Web pages — but few podcasters. That makes Gray somewhat of a local trailblazer in the medium.

Gray’s podcast started out small but grew quickly after it was featured on two podcast shows by Adam Curry, the former MTV VJ who is a pioneer in podcasting.

“My subscription went from like 12 to 12,000 in a span of three weeks, and my server crashed,” Gray said. “So I e-mailed Adam Curry and said, ‘You’ve got to help me, man.’ ”

Eventually Curry signed Gray to join his podcast network, PodShow, which features political, musical, sports and family podcasts.

Gray’s family-oriented show includes several segments, with sound effects and music interspersed with the material. Some shows feature the Daddy Panel, where other podcasting fathers get together to discuss issues, such as fussy eaters, balancing work and family, and avoiding arguments.

Gray also conducts interviews with people such as Phil Lerman, author of the book “Dadditude,” and Karl Hindle, a British resident who has been fighting to gain custody of his child who was removed from England by her American mother.

Not long after he appeared on Gray’s show, Hindle said, a listener in Texas put him in touch with a civil rights organization that is now funding his legal battle.

“I’d been interviewed on radio and TV before,” Hindle wrote in an e-mail, “and the podcast response was better. At the time it was broadcast, there was a flood of traffic to my Web site for Emily, including several people who have become deeply involved in helping with the situation, which is still being unraveled today.”

‘Professional geek’

Though he conducts interviews and discusses news events, Gray doesn’t consider himself a reporter.

“Journalism? Nah,” he said. “Gathering up information and sharing it with people? Yeah, I’ll go with that.”

As his podcast became more popular, Gray found he was dedicating more time to it.

“I was working my regular 50-hour-a-week, high-stress job and then coming home and doing another 10 to 12 hours a week putting a weekly podcast together,” he said.

Gray is a self-described “professional geek” — and, he added, “it would violate several nondisclosure agreements if I told you who I worked for and what I did.” Vaguely, he said he does “information security stuff.”

While the podcast has sponsors, the payoff is not enough to make a living.

“There are very few people who make serious money podcasting,” he said. “I try to explain it this way: It doesn’t pay the mortgage, but it makes the lease payment just fine. It keeps the car in the driveway.”

To avoid threatening the family values he talks about, Gray did back off a bit, doing fewer shows. (He posts about two a month now.)

‘101 uses’

As for the title of his show, Gray said once he had a baby, he realized quickly how handy baby wipes can be.

“When my son was born, I had no clue about diaper-changing,” he said. “I had no clue about baby wipes. And I discovered that these things can be used for just about anything.

“I would come to work and say, ‘You know you can use baby wipes to clean the ceiling fan?’ And co-workers said, ‘You should write a book and call it that.’ ”

He has been approached to write a “101 Uses for Baby Wipes” book, he said, but right now there’s too little time.

Still, the success of the podcast demonstrates that eventually there will be an audience for it.

“People like to have a little bit of reinforcement, knowing that, ‘Hey, I’m not alone; fussy eating is nothing new. Parents have dealt with that for centuries,’ ” he said.

“Hearing how someone else deals with it can give you perspective.”