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Laid-off Baysider now makes his living by podcasting

When Bayside resident Andrew Zarian, newly married and having just bought a new house, lost his information technology job in April 2009, he figured he had three options.

“I could go into 9-to-5, I could open another business or I could just do something crazy,” Zarian said.

Zarian started a podcast, a radio show downloadable from the Internet or on iTunes, just for fun the week after he was downsized.

Now nearly a year and a half later, that podcast has turned into a network, GFQ, consisting of seven video and audio podcasts. The podcasts net an audience of 3.5 million a month in video viewers and 26,000 audio downloads. Zarian’s network also was able to hold a party last week with BMX bikers at the top of the Ravel Hotel in Long Island City. About 300 people attended.

“I never imagined we could have this kind of party,” Zarian said.

Zarian said his interest in podcasting goes back to his dual passions for computers and radio.

“Growing up I’d rather listen to the radio than watch TV,” Zarian said.

Zarian began what would become the GFQ network with a single show, which he did with his friend, stand-up comic Kunal Arora. Arora then temporarily gave up podcasting, after which Zarian began “The Andrew Zarian Show” with two others. Arora eventually came back.

“I took him out to dinner and bought him a drink and I wooed him,” Zarian said.

The networks name stands for “Guys From Queens,” although Zarian said by now the podcasters include as many women as men, most of whom are from the Queens area. The shows include two on technology and others on news, television and more female-oriented topics such as dating and book reviews. The shows are broadcast live, often from a studio in Zarian’s house, then are later available to download as video or audio podcasts.

Zarian said the general shows on his network originally had local content, although he temporarily reduced it when he realized many of his listeners were from out of state. He realized later, however, that the out-of-state listeners enjoyed the local angle. Zarian said listeners have asked him about driving on the Long Island Expressway and expressed surprise when they learned he lived in a suburban area. They also like it when the Queens dialect comes out in the podcasters’ speech.

“They’re interested in it because it’s not the norm for them,” Zarian said.

The podcast has also become a source of income for Zarian. He said he has three sponsors for his shows and is in talks with two more sponsors, but has turned away many advertisers so as not to overload the podcast and only accepts advertisements for products he uses.

Zarian said he has lived in Bayside his entire life and loves living in Queens. He said he knows everyone in the neighborhood, and within 20 minutes he can go to the beach, the mall or Manhattan.

“I could never see myself moving out of here,” Zarian said.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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