Carl Landau had spent 37 years in publishing and event organizing when he decided to launch Pickleball Media last year. (Photo by Wes Davis)

‘Somebody’ Again

The Next Chapter: Carl Landau, the former owner of Niche Media, launches a podcast from his garage

Back Article Feb 8, 2021 By Sena Christian

This story is part of our February 2021 issue. To subscribe, click here.

Carl Landau was all set to fly to San Antonio in March 2020 for the 14th annual Super Niche conference for publishers of business-to-business, business-to-consumer, regional, trade-association and other specialized magazines. But the pandemic altered his plans, and in more ways than one.

The in-person conference hosted by Niche Media shifted to virtual, and Landau stayed home — an unexpected ending to his 37 years of experience in publishing and event organizing. This conference was to be his last before Landau, who founded Sacramento-based Niche Media in 2000, retired from the part-time position he held for a year after selling his company to St. Louis-based Second Street in March 2019. He planned to do some traveling with his wife, take it easy, and leisurely move on to this next idea, hosting a weekly podcast. “But there was nothing to do,” he says. 

So Landau, 64, got right back to work. He launched a company called Pickleball Media, and in September recorded and released his first episode of “I Used to Be Somebody” out of the makeshift Tiki bar in the garage of his East Sacramento home. His podcast, which is getting about 5,000 downloads a month, is for the “(un)retired,” Landau says, describing the baby boomer generation of entrepreneurs, CEOs and other executives, and creatives who seek a post-retirement identity and fulfillment unattached to their careers.

“All of a sudden not to work would just be weird and just would not be good for me. There are tens of millions of people just like me. People today, for the most part, don’t want to have a typical retirement.”

“If I was really honest, I’d say a lot of my self-worth is in working,” says Landau, who knew from experience that a market existed for his podcast. “All of a sudden not to work would just be weird and just would not be good for me. There are tens of millions of people just like me. People today, for the most part, don’t want to have a typical retirement.”

Episodes have included conversations with a trial attorney who became a professional nature photographer, a former senior vice president at the Food Network who now teaches at New York University and a media executive turned business coach. One trend he has highlighted on the show is people who become entrepreneurs for the first time in their 60s.

Landau, an entrepreneur since age 26, started three media companies (in software development, craft brewing and niche publishing) and launched and sold five niche magazines (Computer Language, AI Expert, Brew Your Own, WineMaker and BrewPub) and three events (Software Development Show, National BrewPub Conference and Super Niche). “If you’ve been an entrepreneur particularly, a lot of your personal satisfaction is work related,” he says. Entrepreneurs, he says, often get their energy from work, just as he does. With the podcast, he gets to choose the aspects of the business he wants to do (interviewing guests is his favorite part, and he has discovered an affinity for writing with his online diary), because Pickleball Media is a vehicle to explore his interests, not to pad his savings account.

He’s also been driven to tackle challenges his staff would have handled in the past. One of his 20 strategies for having a successful (un)retirement, he says, is “keeping up with technology. Because if you don’t, you’re going to be totally lost.” Other strategies include “writing a business plan for your ‘second act’” and volunteering because “You’ve reached the no-excuse zone.”

Landau wants to inspire listeners to push beyond their comfort zone when a major career chapter has ended. “I really believe that’s what keeps your mind sharp and keeps you really going is doing new stuff, and sort of putting yourself in a situation where you have to figure out something new that you’re not particularly comfortable in,” he says. “That’s what really excites me, and it gives me energy, and I think there are a lot of people like that.”

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