Podcasters should avoid ‘soft launches’ if they want to maximise their listenership, according to award-winning audio producer Ed Morrish.
Speaking on the latest episode of PodPod, the head of Lead Mojo Productions recounted his previous experience producing a satirical podcast with Katherine Parkinson and Katy Brand in 2019 titled Women Like Us. The comedians play the roles of Jennifer Hudson and Lilian Bayliss, two columnists with deliberately outrageous takes on topics relating to women like the benefits of LSD and drinking urine.
“We didn't put Katherine and Katy's names in the artwork and we thought ‘it'd be really funny if people think it's real and we won't let on’,” said Morrish. “It just didn’t get the listenership and I think what we learned from that is, don’t do soft launches. Just don’t do them.”
Morrish now produces a similar show, NonCensored, alongside award-winning comedian and actor Rosie Holt, which features Holt playing a right-wing pundit named Harriet Langley-Swindon with highlights from a weekly radio show “that can’t be named for legal reasons.”
While preserving the illusion of the characters is appealing from a creative standpoint, Morrish pointed out that leveraging a host’s existing profile and popularity may help attract a larger audience, and when it came to producing NonCensored, Morrish made sure to lead with Holt’s name and photo in the show’s branding.
“Because Rosie Holt has a quarter of a million followers on Twitter, put her name on the logo,” said Morrish. “It destroys the artifice of the show, but it does mean people will find it.”
Another reason to highlight Holt’s identity is to make it clear from the get-go that Holt is playing a character, and not a real person, which Holt noted is particularly important given many of her character’s more objectionable views.
“The second time we did [the NonCensored live show],” Holt said, “I came on as me and said ‘look, this is what the podcast is’, which we didn't do with the first one and as a result, we had like five walkouts within the first ten minutes!”
“What’s that rule,” Morrish added; “There's no joke you can do on the internet that someone won't take seriously.”