Interview: Podcast Cairo’s Kim Fox On Expanding The Podcast Potential in Egypt

This interview was first published on 4th September 2020 on Pods 4 Africans.

Kim Fox is the founder of Podfest Cairo, which first took place in Egypt last year on March. She is also a journalism professor at The American University in Cairo. She talked to me about the podcasting scene in Egypt, including some of the growth barriers the country is seeing. Plus we talk about how choosing to podcast in Arabic or English can impact your audience and much more.

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Q: When did you start getting into podcasting?

A: I was a podcast listener early on. One summer, I had a fellowship at NPR in Washington, DC at their headquarters. I can’t remember what year this was. And while I was there, I was really talking about podcasts. And I remember on my last day, I was telling one of the women who worked in corporate communications [about it]. And she was like, “What’s the future of podcasts?” And she kind of looked down her nose and [said], “Yeah, that’s just what you academics think! Here today, gone tomorrow.”

I was so offended by that because this is a real thing. If only I could go back and find that person and ask them , “Hey, what do you think now?” [laughs]

Q: You moved to Cairo, Egypt just over a decade ago to teach journalism at The American University in Cairo. When did you start teaching podcasting?

A: When I arrived in Cairo, because of my teaching arrangement my initial classes were in a room with no technology. It was in a room with a whiteboard. How can I teach a production course like this? I needed to get really innovative. And so I immediately started looking at resources that I could use. Students are producing content, where will it go? I was trying to put together a process for students to make their work available online. So all of their work is currently available on the Internet Archive, which is where we store our works back to 2009.

Q: I think there are only so many journalism and media programs at universities across the continent right now that are teaching podcasting…

A: Actually there are quite a few from my knowledge. For example, I moderate a Facebook group for audio educators…so it’s radio, it’s audio, it’s podcasting. It’s everything. We have surveyed the group to say, “Hey, who’s teaching podcasting?” A lot of hands went up. Invariably, more and more professors are teaching podcasting, either individually as a course or as a module within another course.

Q: Why do you think they’re including podcasting?

A: It’s necessary. If we’re media or journalism educators, we’re doing a disservice if we’re not doing that. How do you prepare your students? And keep in mind when you’re a print journalist, often you’re already recording your interview. So you have audio right there that you’re probably tossing out and doing nothing with it. And so if you go into an interview knowing that you will repurpose it for a feature or as a standalone audio, you have options there. So just teaching the students all of the intricacies. And remember that the barrier to entry is low.

Q: What is the podcasting space like in Egypt?

A: I know that people are interested in the in the genre. They definitely want to to understand it more. You do have pockets of people who listen to a lot of podcasts. These are obviously non-Egyptian podcasts… People who are very savvy and very aware of what’s out there in the ecosystem. I would say we certainly trail behind other places in the MENA region. So for example, in the UAE, I think they might have a more vibrant podcasting community. And I would say probably the same for Saudi Arabia, and perhaps Jordan [as well].

I feel like our struggle is — maybe this is the struggle of every podcaster — who’s your audience? Are you trying to get an English speaking audience or an Arabic speaking audience? So you have to be really concerted in terms of what kind of content you are pitching and who it’s going to get to. So if it’s an Arabic speaking audience, how are you going to make sure they know that you exist?

Q: Is this because of discoverability? Or is it because lack of knowledge around podcasting?

A: I want to say discoverability. There are a lot of forward thinking people here in Egypt and in Cairo. In May, I think someone reached out to me and she said, “I’ve heard these podcasts [that are created in Egypt] and they’re bad. And I’m like, Well, you know, that’s a very wide overarching statement. But it does become an issue of how do we tackle that so that the content is of higher quality.

Q: Let me understand this. If your podcast is in English, that’s a different audience…? Can I capture both English and Arabic audiences?

A: Yes, it’s definitely a different audience. I’m not one to tell [someone whether to record their podcast in English or Arabic]. I believe that there’s a benefit for either way. But you just need to know where’s your starting point? You can’t have both. Mixing them is confusion.

Q: With Africa Podfest, we struggle with what to do with North Africa. I guess my question is political in many ways, but do Egyptians see themselves as part of MENA or part of Africa when it comes to podcasting communities?

A: It’s hard to say. It does get a little bit blurred. So in terms of identity, where and who and what and how do Egyptians identify themselves? I would say Egyptians are more likely to be very chameleon…I’m going where I feel like I fit in best. Where’s the opportunity? Where’s the interest? So, I think they’re definitely going to just take advantage of all of it.

Q: Do you have a sense of what the other North African countries are doing with podcasting?

A: I don’t think I can speak to that. North Africa….I would be thinking Morocco…Algeria… Yeah, I know that those communities are there. I don’t know how vibrant they are, and I haven’t looked into them. I really can’t speak to that.

Q: Where did the idea for Podfest Cairo come from?

A: I’m out and about. I’m going to conferences, meeting people, and I listen to all these popular podcasts. I’m talking to other educators. So I know what’s going on. And I’m looking at these conferences and thinking we should be doing that [too]. And I said, who is going to do that? And I kind of waited to see who is going to do it.

Q: What were you seeing on the ground that made you think a festival would do well here?

A: People are constantly asking me about how to do it. And people are wanting me to consult on projects and people are asking me to come and talk to their employees about podcasting. It’s one thing for me to go and talk to people, but they need to know each other. They need to come together and see what the community looks like and how they can do this and get support from others. I figured out we need to establish the community.

Q: In our discussions with you as Africa Podfest, you highly recommend taking advantage of the universities in your city. Why?

A: Because when you know the resources that are available, you can take advantage of it. Having Podfest Cairo on campus didn’t cost us any money. And that means I got my department to be our host and our sponsor. I was able to apply for a special grant from my university to pay for our keynote speaker. Those were two barriers that were really useful [to overcome]. What else do you have to pay for if those things are taken care of? That was very convenient. But dealing with the university also has its pluses and minuses …

Q: Did the university immediately see the opportunity around the Podfest?

A: No, but I didn’t need them to see the immediate opportunities. I’ll tell you a real quick backstory: the day before Podfest, I got an email from the president of the university. One of my colleagues forwarded it to me. A local media startup had put out a list of podcasts that were business and entrepreneurial-oriented that someone had recommended. And our university president saw it. He forwarded it to my colleague like we should be doing more of this. And she was like, “Well, actually Podfest Cairo is tomorrow and we are hosting it!”… We’re already on it!

Q: And what was the Podfest Cairo experience like?

A: The turnout was really good. We had just shy of 100 people. And everyone’s energy was just so positive….Our moderator was on top of things. Most of the speakers were my former students. They work in different media fields around the city. And there was a lot of energy because people stuck around for the pitch competition to hear the pitches and to offer feedback to those who pitched their ideas.

The organizing team was amazing. Everyone did their part. Most of them are my former students. They just volunteered to help out and they have an interest in podcasting. Everyone did it for free because that’s their passion. Moving forward I would like to figure out a way to get some funds to pay people for their efforts.

Q: What are your goals and hopes for Podfest Cairo’s future?

A: I don’t know that it will expand or grow. But I think being able to do it [annually] and being consistent with that… I think that’s important even if we’re offering the same topics with different people. That’s because we’re still thinking about growing the audience, and new people are going to discover it and be able to participate. My aim is to do it again. But if it’s not 100 people or more then I won’t consider that a failure. The achievement is being able to do it more consistently.

I’m also very conscientious that I am a Black woman expat and an American. And I’m not trying to take away from what Egyptians are doing. But I do realize my privilege… even my privilege of working for my university. I was very fortunate that I was able to take resources from them for Podfest. But I’m also very conscientious that I’m not the voice of Egyptian podcasters. But I also feel like, I can’t just sit around and just not do it. I waited for years before I did Podfest Cairo. And I was waiting for someone else to do it and it didn’t happen.

No one has accused me of appropriation, but I’m very conscientious that I’m not the voice of Egyptian podcasters. I’m not an Egyptian, but I live in Egypt and I’m very much tethered to this place. But I am not the know-all-be-all about Egyptian podcasts.

Q: You produce an award-winning podcast called Ehky Ya Masr (Tell Your Story Egypt) about life in Egypt. Tell me more about it.

A: So much of the Podfest Ciaro team are also part of the Ehky Ya Masr podcast. These are former students who really excelled in audio. And they wanted to find out what else they can do after graduating. I had so many students saying, “hey, how can I continue to do this?” And again, I was waiting for opportunities to get involved. A lot of the US opportunities are US-centric. So they’re not applicable for people who aren’t in the US.

So I just said let’s just do this podcast. Initially, I was trying to get a couple of grants where we’ll be able to pay them. Because my ultimate goal is to pay producers and reporters for the things that they do and the content they produce. But we haven’t been able to break into that.

Q:Why do you think these students keep coming back to it?

A: The power of storytelling. A lot of them have won awards as students for the audio that they created, and they could just see the difference that that approach had…The narrative storytelling process is very vigorous. There are so many moving parts. But to see them not shy away from the extra work that’s needed to put together and develop a really good piece…it’s a testament to their character. So it was nice to be able to move them over to the podcast and continue telling those stories.

Q: What do you think are the biggest barriers for entry into podcasting right now within Egypt?

A: I think we’ve talked about that already: identifying your audience and figuring out who you’re going to go after and how you’re going to do that. That language question is huge. I had a former student, and she’s now a fashion designer. She wants to do a podcast talking about the struggles of a fashion designer in Cairo and Egypt. She was like, “Well, what language should it be?” And I’m like, this is a tough question. Again, who’s your audience? So I think I think that’s going to be one of the biggest struggles.

I really also would like to see us have a podcast house that doesn’t have that doesn’t cost a lot. Something like a PRX Podcast Garage. It needs to be at a low cost. And in some cases, it needs different packages. Do I want to come in and take the audio with me? Or do I want to come in and you help me package it and put it out? And it just needs to be at a lesser cost so that people can get the exposure. That’s the kind of initiative that we need. And [not just one location], because Cairo is a huge city. So every community needs to have this.

This interview was edited for length and clarity.

You can reach out to Kim Fox with any questions and more of her podcasting wisdom on Twitter.

If you like what you’re reading, sign up to receive updates from my weekly newsletter on African podcasting trends.

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Check out my new free guide for African podcasters:“Podcast Tips That Won’t Leave You Broke Or Overwhelmed

An Interview With ‘AfroQueer’ Podcast’s Selly Thiam.

This interview was first published on 10th September 2020 on Pods 4 Africans.

Selly Thiam is the host & Executive Producer of the award-winning AfroQueer podcast, which tells the stories of Queer Africans from across the continent and diaspora. Her work in African podcasting and narrative storytelling has been pioneering. This can be seen through her founding of None on Record, a digital media organization documenting stories of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Africans, and AQ Studios, a podcast production company and a network of original shows from the African continent based in Nairobi, Kenya.

We talked the creation of AfroQueer, the reasons why we don’t see more narrative podcasts on the continent, her experience of the Google Podcasts creator program and why giving back is a key part of her mission.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length

Q: Where did the idea for the AfroQueer podcast come from? How did it start?

A: We actually don’t really remember how it started [laughs]… Someone on the team walked in [and said] “Why don’t we do a podcast?” And then we were like, “yeah.” […]And then we started producing it. That’s kind of what happened. It was just us deciding to start something. Let’s put it that way.

Q: And the podcast appears to be a continuation of work you were already doing…but just doing it in a different format?

A: Pretty much, because a lot of the stories we were going to tell are stories that we’d already known for years. Or involved people that we already had relationships with because of other work that we’ve done.

We’ve been producing content around LGBT issues for many years. None on Record started as an audio-based project where we were collecting oral histories from Queer Africans around the world. So that started in 2006. And that pretty much launched my career into public radio when I lived in the US. It was kind of our beginnings and then we expanded our programming into training other people on how to produce content. So a lot of the initial trainings for LGBT communities were audio-based trainings. And then we moved into video documentary …

…Documentaries are a lot more time consuming. They require a bigger budget. We wanted to produce something, and we wanted to be able to do it a little bit faster than what we would normally be able to do. And so that’s how it started really.

Q: Why did you choose to focus the podcast on the LGBT community in Africa?

A: It was in line with what we actually do as an organization. And that just made sense. It would be strange for us not to do that first because of the work that we do.

I think it’s important to tell these stories because they’re often untold and they’re often ignored. The mission of None on Record itself is to bring more Queer African narratives into the mainstream as much as possible. That has a two fold impact. It means that Queer Africans can see themselves reflected back in society and in a community… But it’s also so that people can also see and listen and hear stories that come from Queer African experiences and have a better understanding of those experiences. Because I think sometimes the media, and the media particularly on the continent, does demonize LGBT people. And so it’s a counter to that.

Q: Can you speak to me about the early days of trying to put the podcast together and selling the idea to people?

A: Because we already fundraise for None on Record activities in general…that’s what we’re known for and that’s what our funders know us for. So instead of funding a film documentary, we’re going to use this money to fund season one of AfroQueer. So we didn’t spend too much time actually really pitching it to anyone. Which I think is good because it’s kind of a testament to how much they trusted that we can pull this off.

I think that was kind of an unusual circumstance. It was a blessing for us because we really got to focus on making the first season. I’ve produced podcasts before. My background is in radio production on National Public Radio (US)… But we were now a team where people were enthusiastic but maybe didn’t have a lot of radio experience. We had to spend the first season really figuring out how we wanted to tell the stories and what was our voice and what made an AfroQueer story. So it was really great to have that first season be just about the creation of the podcast.

Q: That’s pretty uncommon?

I talk to a lot of aspiring podcasters, particularly here on the continent. The first thing people always ask is “how do you monetize a podcast?” And I’m like, you can’t monetize something that you haven’t made yet. I always say that it’s really important that you actually have a good show. You have to find a way to make the show that you want to make. And then you figure it out from there.

Q: Does it work if you consider monetizing before production?

A: I think it could work where people put the business model first before production. I think it’s possible to do that. It’s just that in terms of the kind of the content that we create, we need space to make sure that we are making something that is authentic to our voice. Or if we’re co-producing a podcast for another team, it is authentic to their voice.

Q: Can you tell me the difference between AQ Studios and None on Record?

A: So AQ Studios …I can’t say that it’s the for-profit arm of None on Record, but it is the for-profit sister of None on Record (laughs). AQ Studios is being created to be our overall general production house. It will be where a lot of our podcast content will be produced. And maybe in the future other kinds of work.

And None On Record exists as what it always has been, which is an organization that does the work around narrative storytelling of LGBT Africans. So we still work in communities. We still do lots of trainings. I think when Covid-19 has subsided, hopefully in the next year, we’ll be back to providing community space and screenings and shows and things like that. But you know one step at a time. We have a vision, but it’s also good to stay present to do the work.

And because the year has been so unbelievably unwieldy and tricky, it’s also been nice to be able to focus on AfroQueer and producing content. It was nice to be in development instead of being in the process of implementing something.

Q: What is an AfroQueer story? What are the characteristics of an AfroQueer story.?

A: It takes its cues alot from a journey…from exploration. And to really take the listener through a hero’s journey—the fundamental thing we all learned about narrative storytelling when we’re in school. It’s all about transformation and in this case it’s usually transformation of someone within the story. But it’s also looking at the transformation for the listener as well. So there has to be something [that when the listener is] done with the episode, it makes them feel like they’ve learned something. Or they’ve been able to experience someone’s life in a way that they never would have before.

It’s usually very research intensive as well. So even when we do a narrative story between two or three characters that are retelling a story, there’s a lot of research that goes into that. Because we, as producers, need to have a very good understanding of [the story]. Like which kind of environmental factors created the circumstance? What would be the historical timeline? And I think that goes to a lot of the journalism chops on this team as well. We’re very committed to getting it right as much as we can.

Q: Can you point to an episode that best displays these characteristics you’ve mentioned?

A: Oh gosh.

Q: I know that’s tough.

A: I think “Dakan” [S2, E4] is a good example. “Minneapolis to Mogadishu” [S2, E5] is probably a really good example of that. There’s one that we had do a lot of science research on, which was a really new area for us. It was all about sex testing in professional sports involved in the case of [South African Olympic gold-medalist] Caster Semenya [S2, E1], and a couple of Kenyan athletes here who had high testosterone levels and they were barred from their competitions. These women had spent their lives training. This was their livelihood [and they were being excluded].

Another one is “Gibson” [S2, E3] which is the story of a Ugandan LGBT asylum seeker and refugee who tried throw [the first Gay] Pride event in Kakuma refugee camp.

So all of those stories require research. Even for “Gibson” we had to go and look at what the UN’s position was at that time. How many people are in the Kakuma refugee camp? Where are they from? Why are they there? So that we can understand what Gibson was trying to articulate from his personal experience. So when we come to ultimately explain to the audience what this place is, we know because we’ve done all the work around that story to paint a stronger picture for people.

Q: There is not much narrative storytelling within podcasting in Africa right now? Why?

A: Honestly, I think it’s expensive. Our show is expensive.

It’s not like This American Life expensive. But if you are an independent company on the continent in a new market and you’re trying to get people to invest in your ideas…doing a research heavy show that requires a lot of travel, and a lot of time per episode and we have a team…We have an organization that backs our show so we have salaried people who work on this.

That’s a very different kind of reality than when people are trying to get into podcasts without resources, right? And so when that happens, from a producer’s perspective, this is what I have to make the best possible show with. That means that the structure of the show is going to reflect that.

So [it could end up being] a conversational show… which I think actually is a really great podcast structure. The way that we do our show is because we are journalists and documentarians and this is how we wanted to tell these stories. But if you create and produce a really good show where you have conversations that still requires research, [you can also produce a great show].

I think when people have more support to produce their shows, we’re going to see people be able to invest a lot of time. Narrative shows are time consuming to make…

Q: How long does an episode of AfroQueer take to make, for example?

A: I think we got it down to a month and a half. And this is for a 25-minute episode.

Q: …This is good for people to know because I don’t think they understand ….

A: It’s interesting because even when the team started, some thought we needed to make the episodes an hour. I’d say, “You don’t understand. That would take an eternity to make!”

I think the issue is that when you listen to something like This American Life, you’re listening to the finished product. I’m using them as an example because they’re a widely listened to narrative podcast [and they have done pioneering work in narrative audio storytelling]. But sometimes they’re working on those stories for half a year or a year. It’s because they have the budget and the time to invest in it.

I think for [the AfroQueer team] now at this point, we have a proof of concept, right? Now we are able to buy time, which is a really interesting concept where people are [offering] resources for us to make a pilot for our next show. And we can take our time to make it. But in the beginning for independent producers, you are hustling to produce something and get people excited about it. And get listeners to invest their energy and their enthusiasm into it. So there’s all that and often without any salary.

Q: And I think also what you’re speaking to is that, whatever your format, podcasting is work. There are a number of podcast that eventually stop after a few episodes or seasons. Why is that?

A: People are sometimes surprised by the amount of work that goes into producing a good show. I think also when you are doing something without pay, sometimes your life supersedes the podcast a lot of times. I know that’s been the case for a couple of podcast producers I’ve talk to.

Q: Which is fair. Life happens.

A: There’s a lot of variables that make it hard for the longevity of a show and I don’t think that’s just a problem here on the continent, actually. I think there’s a lot of independent podcasts in the states that have one season and then life happens.

But when you start a podcast, I think it’s also really important to think about what it is that you want to do. If you’re starting a podcast because you really want to get your voice out there and you want to get your story out there, and it’s not necessarily about money…I find that people who approach it that way tend to have a lot of longevity because again it’s a passion project.

But if you are trying to have that podcast pay for itself eventually, I think it’s really good to be honest about that from the beginning. Because I think it helps you to dig deep and really make some very strategic decisions about how you’re going to do your work.

Q: Will you be coming out with more original podcasts?

A: AQ studios will be. Right now None on Record is focusing on a lot more of the philanthropic work that we do, which is training activists and doing digital media trainings with people from all over the world. AQ Studios will be coming out with new stuff soon.

Q: You were part of the first cohort of the Google Podcasts creators program with PRX. What did you learn from that experience?

A: The cohort itself was just really amazing. And so that was always the best part.

I think for us it wasn’t so much that we wanted to learn how to make a podcast. I think we were very clear that we were expanding our network. We were going to bring this show into this very American podcast space. And also one of the more established and celebrated podcast spaces. And then we were going to network like crazy (laughs). And then we were going to leverage that to get more listenership for our show, and more collaborations for our show. And then we were going to leverage that to also help the next set of shows we were going to make. We were really clear.

Q: It’s smart. It’s strategic.

A: We already knew that it was going to be very difficult to change our voice. We knew what our voice was. We were going listen to all the feedback, especially a lot of business feedback. That was really important to us like. It wasn’t so much about the production feedback for us as much as it was about the business of podcasting, the new innovations in podcasting… Those things we needed to know, because we had aspirations for our show. And we always believed that the show would grow as we had more space to make the show.

I urge everyone who ever does these kinds of programs that they have that kind of approach. Because I don’t know if you can ever learn how to make a podcast necessarily in six months, which is how long those fellowships last. But you can learn who is an incredible sound designer and network with them, and extend that relationship beyond that six months. And so it’s always about your expectations and what you want to get out of stuff.

Q: You’re highly invested in giving back and teaching and training whether it’s with the podcasting or the LGBT communities that you work with. Why is that important to you?

A: As the founder of this organization, it’s really great to to work with like-minded people who believe in this as well.

But the main reason why is because what we’re seeing in the US is a great racial reckoning. It’s kind of painful not to be there while it’s happening, but it’s also a relief not to be there while that’s happening. Because I remember how exhausting it is to be in the US as person of color and a Black woman.

There was not always a lot of support for what I was trying to do, you know? And the visions that I had. I’m a Senegalese woman. I’m also African American. I grew up in different countries. I have a very specific experience of the world.

But working at National Public Radio and PBS and all these other places that I worked in the early parts of my career, it was very clear to me that these kinds of stories were tokenized, but they weren’t really always appreciated and given the space that they needed. And what we’re seeing now is people taking a lot of these like public media spaces to task. Whereas for someone like me who decided to leave the US and establish companies and organizations on the continent, the way that I could flourish when I didn’t have to deal with white supremacy was extraordinary. I mean it was hard, but I didn’t have that extra layer of asking permission to tell my story all the time.

So [I choose to give back] and support people to do this work from that experience. If they have the tools and skills then people can tell their stories. And they can do it within their own communities and their own societies.

And so that’s where our philosophy for our training and mentorship [comes from] and why it is such a huge part of all the work. Even the for-profit part of our media company. And I don’t think that’s ever going to change.

FIN

Follow Selly Thiam and AfroQueer on Twitter.
Catch all the episodes of AfroQueer podcast here

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Check out my new free guide for African podcasters:Podcast Tips That Won’t Leave You Broke Or Overwhelmed

Send Me Your Podcast Questions!

Hello podcast family,

I hope the posts I have been sharing about African podcasting over the last few months have been helpful. But I want to be even more helpful!

I am going to spend the next few weeks putting together some new content for new podcasters. But I wanted to know: what questions do you have about your podcast or future podcast?

You can drop the questions in the comments or email me at podcastfromscratch@gmail.com.

You’ll find your question answered over the next few weeks. So ask away.

Best

Paula,the Podcast Shuri  

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If you like what you’re reading, sign up to receive updates from my weekly newsletter on African podcasting trends.

Check out my new free guide for African podcasters:“Podcast Tips That Won’t Leave You Broke Or Overwhelmed

Questions To Ask When No One Is Listening To Your Podcast.

Picture this: you’ve launched your podcast and consistently put out at least 25 new episodes episodes.

But it seems like no matter what you do, the listenership is not growing.

So  what should you do now? 

It’s key to note that podcast discoverability, which is the ability for a random person to find your podcast, is hard. It’s not easy for a person to just stumble upon your podcast. So here are questions you should ask yourself if you’re not seeing listener growth:

Zero Listeners Is information. Use It As A Data Point

Zero to few listeners is the starting point. You should know that you can always improve from here. Commit to finding out why no one is listening, making the necessary changes, and having the patience to put a strategy into place. So be encouraged that this can change, if you are willing to make the changes.

Audit Your Numbers (All Your Numbers)

It’s time to look at your numbers. Print out your podcast stats from your hosting platform  and spend time analyzing them. What information can you gain from them? What  were the top episodes? Why were they the top episodes?  What surprised you? What didn’t surprise you? Do you have return listeners?  Can you gauge who is listening? Why are they listening? The answers to some of these questions should help you decide what direction you should take next!

After that,  go grab the stats to do with your podcast’s social media. What  do those numbers also tell you about your podcast?

Need a professional podcast audit?  If you want something more in-depth, I do provide VIP audit sessions for podcasters to help discover areas of improvement and then build the appropriate strategy for them. Reach out to me.

Who Is Your Podcast For and Is It Serving Them?

Being clear about your ideal listener will help drive your editorial content. Knowing your ideal listener will also help you figure out a strategy on how to  exactly reach them to grow your listenership. If you don’t know who your ideal listener is, it is time to get to work to figure that out and get necessary feedback from them. Check out this post and this post to get started.

Are You Promoting Your Podcast?

You might be surprised how many people are not doing enough to promote their podcasts. You need to put yourself out there!

Is Your Content Actually Good?

This is a hard question to answer, but I have to ask: Is your content actually good? Is it content that people–outside your core group of friends and family–would want to listen to? Does it educate, entertain, inspire, or build connections? Content will always be king, so you might also want to consider what would make your content stronger to  attract  and keep  more listeners.

Asking yourselves these questions are a great starting point to improve your podcast and grow listeners.  Again, you should consider that the advice I have shared only applies to you if you are consistently putting out content.

If consistency is an issue, get that part of your podcast schedule sorted first! It’s hard to diagnose issues without consistent output.  My latest free guide, “Podcast Tips That Won’t Leave You Broke Or Overwhelmed“, is a great starting point.

Also, it’s also hard to diagnose issues if you’ve only put out less than 25 episodes as you need to give your podcast time to build momentum.

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Check out my new free guide for African podcasters: “Podcast Tips That Won’t Leave You Broke Or Overwhelmed

How To Discover and Understand Your Ideal Listener

Last week, I wrote about your podcast’s ideal listener and why it’s important to understand them.

This week, let’s talk about how to discover and create that ideal listener avatar. An avatar is representation of the characteristics that make up your ideal listener.

Understanding your ideal listener will and should drive everything to do with your podcast. Majority of your decision-making should consider how to serve your ideal listener audience.

Some data points that could make up your ideal listener avatar:

  • Age range
  • Gender
  • Where do they live?
  • Occupation
  • Single/Married
  • Socio-economic status
  • Education
  • What are their biggest pain points (as it pertains to your subject)?

And more.

Now, you already have a slight idea of who your ideal listener avatar is. The goal now is to confirm if this idea is infact true.

Remember: it is not your only listener avatar, just your ideal one.

So here are tactics to help find or confirm your ideal listener avatar

  • Look at your stats and data
  • Host surveys
  • Ask for direct feedback from your listeners.
  • Communicate with this ideal listener on social media
  • Meet them where they are

Doing this work is not easy. I’ve found a number of podcasters don’t like putting themselves out there beyond their podcast. I’m like you.

But this is necessary work if the growth of your podcast is important to you.

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Check out my new free guide for African podcasters: “Podcast Tips That Won’t Leave You Broke Or Overwhelmed

Who Is The Ideal Listener For Your Podcast (And Why This Matters)?

To jumpstart your podcast, it is important to discover and understand your audience.

Your ideal listener is an avatar that represents the perfect listener of your podcast. This is a person who wants and needs the exact podcast that you are producing.

It is not your only listener avatar, just your ideal one.

Understanding your ideal listener is important for:

Audience Growth and Development

Your podcast growth and development is an important strategy to consider. It is hard to grow your podcast if you don’t know who your podcast is for. Understanding who the ideal listener is will allow you to target them directly.

Creating Content That Connects With Your Audience

If you know your ideal listener, creating content that they’ll want to consume hungrily will be easy. You’ll know what content to avoid and what content to chase. It makes your life easier.

Finding Advertisers And Monetizing Your Podcast

If you are able to grow and develop your audience, while also creating great connect that they connect with, you’ll be able to attract sponsorship.

Sponsors also have their ideal customers. And if your ideal listener is their ideal customer, you have gold!

Next week, I’ll share tips on how you can track down your ideal listener. Let me know what you thought of this post in the comments.

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Check out my new free guide for African podcasters:  “Podcast Tips That Won’t Leave You Broke Or Overwhelmed“

What Every African Podcaster Should Know About Anchor.

This article was first published on the 17th of August 2020 at Pods4Africa

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A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about how many new African podcaster are leaning towards Anchor as their “starter” host and distributor over Soundcloud.

For a long time, Soundcloud was the first-choice for new podcasters on the continent, and the new (circa 2020) breed of podcasters are no longer turning to it for a number of reasons.

But is Anchor really the right place for the African podcaster? What’s the catch?

That’s a question that came up in the LinkedIn comments of that particular article after I’d recommended the use of Anchor to Ntshadi Mofokeng, a South African podcaster. The discussion that ensued involved the lovely Chris Mottes of Hindenburg Systems (a great audio editing software system), who brought up a… PINK FLAG… about using Anchor.

I thought it was worth sharing it here.

Was I missing something? Luckily, Chris was able to help further!

And there’s more! Ntshadi went on to actually ask Anchor (duh!) their policy on this. And the company shared a link to this blogpost.

The blog post says a lot, including the fact that they do not own your content. But ultimately we arrived at the same conclusion Chris pointed out: you can lose your RSS feed and doing so can be damaging to all the work you’ve already put in.

And so the question comes down to, do you care if you lose your RSS feed?

Perhaps, your podcast is simply for pleasure and you don’t see yourself wanting to do more with it. That’s totally fine and Anchor is the place for you.

But if you have bigger, wider goals for your podcast that might one day involve removing it from Anchor…well, buyer beware!

Thanks to Chris and Ntshadi!

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Check out my new free guide for African podcasters:  “Podcast Tips That Won’t Leave You Broke Or Overwhelmed“

What To Look For In A Podcast Producer.

Are you looking for a podcast producer?

In 2021, I have had a lot of enquiries from people looking for a podcast producer. The requests have come from new podcasters, established podcasters, organizations and more. But due to my schedule, I often have to say no.

Recently, I have noticed that most of the requests coming my way involve fixing whole productions that started without me, but need me to get to the finish line. When I am called to do this, it is usually because the producer before me has been fired for various reasons, including lack of delivery, lack of skill set, missing deadlines, miscommunication and more.

Fixing a production usually takes much more time and money than if you had the right producer in place from the start. So here is a list of what you should be looking for when looking to hire a podcast producer:

Are you being realistic about your expectations?
Podcast production is A LOT of work, the parameters of which are often misunderstood . Before you even consider looking for a producer, you have to be realistic about what you are asking. If you want someone to plan your episodes, do your bookings, record your podcast (audio and video), edit your podcasts (audio and video), perform the upload rites, and work on your podcast promotion (social media) as well…are you willing to hire them full time and pay them accordingly? In this description alone, I shared at least 8 different pretty specialized skill sets. It is not possible for one person to take on all these roles and do them well. Go check out the credits of your favorite podcasts. There is usually some form of a team behind the production, so be realistic about what you expect from your single producer.

Do they meet your podcast parameters and goals?
Once you have come up with specific expectations of your producer, be diligent in investigating whether or not the person you want to work with can actually do the work. A lot of the clients who come to me to clean up their projects often complain that the previous producer “said he/she could do it.” Sure, but how did you verify that fact to be true? Be diligent in verifying this because it will save you money, time and headache.

How is their professionalism?
Do they communicate well? Do they make deadlines? Is the final product what they promised? Do they take on your feedback? The technical work of your podcast is not the only thing you need to hire for. Make sure they are professional in their work and delivery. Ask for references to verify.

Does their rate fit your budget? 
Good producers are not cheap. So you often get what you pay for (although there are bad producers who are also pricey!!). But you also have to make sure that the producer you want to work with fits your budget. I talk about the need to budget for your podcast in my FREE GUIDE, so make sure you can actually afford to take on a producer. If you don’t consider this, your podcast will be short lived .

That’s my list. For those of you looking for a podcast producer, what are you looking for? And for those of you working with one, tell us what you like about working with your producer.

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Check out my new free guide for African podcasters: “Podcast Tips That Won’t Leave You Broke Or Overwhelmed“

“In Africa, Podcasting Is An Elitist Medium.”

I was recently in a meeting in which I was helping a local organization build a podcast training curriculum for their employees. One of the other trainers, who is well-versed in the local media landscape said something that gave me pause.

“At this time, podcasting is still an elitist medium in Africa.”

I flinched… mostly because he was right. At this particular time, podcasting is for the middle class and higher. It is yet to become a platform for the African mass market.

This fact was obvious early on when I started building Africa Podfest in 2019. One of our early events in Nairobi was a series called the “Unconference on Podcasting,” an effort to bring together podcasters from around the city to connect and talk about their podcasting journeys.

The audience that showed up were majority middle class and higher. It was clear then that part of the work of Africa Podcast would be to bridge that gap.

How do you make podcasting accessible to all?

Here are  the three reasons why podcasting remains inaccessible to the mass market.

  • The Cost of Listening
    Most podcasts are listened to on our phones. As a result, many either download their podcasts at home or at work where they have access to the internet. But the other option is to pay for bundles to access the internet, which can be pricey depending on your country’s options. Furthermore, telecom companies have  yet to offer special podcasting bundles with platforms as they do, for example, for YouTube. Until we get more accessible bundle pricing packages for podcasts, this will continue to be an issue.
  • The Cost of Making A Podcast
    At this particular point in time, making a podcast in Africa could be more affordable. I talk about that in this blogpost  “The 3 most Common causes of podcast death.” This is the main reason why podcasting feels like a medium for the middle class and up. Because those who get to make and sustain podcasts are from this demographic.
  • Are the podcast topics accessible?
    Because the cost of making a podcast can limit the people who get to make podcasts, it also limits the potential diversity in content/languages that would be of interest to a mass market. For audiences to listen, they have to feel like a podcast has been created for them and reflect their lives. This has to be reflected in the podcasts we are producing

I’d love to hear your thoughts on these three points I made for why podcasts are currently being considered a medium for a certain class of people. I’d also love to hear any particular solutions you see to help podcasts become more accessible to the mass market

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Check out my new free guide for African podcasters:
Podcast Tips That Won’t Leave You Broke Or Overwhelmed

Three New Innovations In Audio That Will Affect African Podcasters (Feat. Facebook, Apple & Twitter)

Sometimes there is news in the podcasting space that doesn’t necessarily affect African or developing market podcasters. Announcements like this are a big example.

But the month of April has been an interesting time for podcast tech announcements that actually could have an impact on the African continent. If the arrival of Spotify earlier this year was an indicator of things to come, these three innovations will do a lot more for the growth of African podcasting. Let’s jump into them.

Facebook Enters the Podcast Game
Facebook announced that their app will include a podcast player, as part of an upcoming set of “social audio experiences”  within the next few months.

As there has yet to be a podcast platform to own the podcast audience market  share on the majority Android-continent, Facebook’s introduction is big news! According Forbes , Facebook had 139 million users a month in Africa in 2018, 98% of whom connected via mobile. This was in 2018!!. The opportunity to reach new audiences through Facebook are huge! So watch this space!

Apple Podcasts Offers New Monetization Opportunity

Apple is up next. The tech giant announced the launch of Apple Podcasts Subscriptions to facilitate the discovery of “premium subscriptions.” Starting in May, listeners worldwide can pay to subscribe to podcasts and enjoy ad-free listening, additional content, and “early access to new series.

I have already written about the opportunities for podcast monetization in Africa. So this Apple announcement offers new opportunities.

Again, Africa is Android territory, but the socioeconomics around African podcasting have it that iOs users have been the earliest adopters of podcasts on the continent (I’ll write more about this soon).

Twitter Spaces Is Here And More Accessible Than Clubhouse

Clubhouse, a social networking app based on audio-chat, was all the rage in Q1 of this year. It seemed like everyone was on it. Twitter  rolled out its own version of the platform on its app in April, calling it Twitter Spaces. (I should note that part of Facebook’s answer to  Clubhouse, “Live Audio Rooms” was  also announced).

Twitter Spaces is important for the continent because Clubhouse is an iOs-only app. And with just under 80 percent of African mobile users on the Android platform, Clubhouse was leaving a lot of people out. Twitter Spaces allows for Android and iOs users, making this audio social media app accessible to all.

There  we go. Big news from Facebook, Twitter and Apple! Of course, I am taking the stance of wait-and-see to see how African podcasters and our audiences take up these platforms. If you’re an African podcaster I’d love to hear if and how you  plan to use these platforms to your advantage!

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Check out my new free guide for African podcasters: “Podcast Tips That Won’t Leave You Broke Or Overwhelmed“