Creator Download: Chanté Joseph

How the host of The Guardian’s Pop Culture makes sure to leave her mark on the podcast

Chanté Joseph is an experienced freelance writer and journalist contributing to multiple publications including British Vogue, Vice and Gal-Dem, and she’s also hosted Channel 4’s YouTube show ‘How Not To Be Racist’ and The Face’s four-episode podcast My Public Me

Now, a new path in her career has taken her to becoming the face - and the voice - of The Guardian’s Pop Culture podcast which takes a deep dive into the biggest trending stories in the internet and explores their impact on society. 

The podcast launched on 3 November, and The Guardian’s head of audio Nicole Jackson said on a previous PodPod episode that she couldn’t imagine anyone but Joseph being the host of the show. “She really stood out, I have to say, she had the thing when you’re just hearing and you’re like, ‘ah, there it is’.”

We spoke to Joseph about her involvement behind the scenes of creating the podcast and contributing ideas in a collaborative space.

How would you describe your podcast?

It’s a weekly series hosted by myself, and it’s a podcast that while, yes, it is about pop culture, it’s more about the stories underneath the surface. It’s less so about the latest drama with celebrities and more about what this incident and how we react to it tells us about ourselves and tells us about society. It’s a nice deep dive into big pop culture stories, but sometimes finding the politics or social lessons that we learn from these stories.

Why did you start the podcast?

The podcast was conceived as an idea prior to me being associated with it and from my understanding, it was because The Guardian wasn’t really doing a lot surrounding pop culture in this way. The Guardian podcast team was like, we want to tap into this and create for it because there was definitely a gap in the market.

There's a lot of pop culture content out there but either a lot of it is very American or it's very chatty and opinionated; not a lot of it was going beneath the surface or really looking at and investigating and analysing trends and all that sort of stuff that happens around the media and pop culture.

What advice do you wish you'd been giving when you first started?

I come from a journalism and writing background and as much as I listened to many podcasts, I had never been involved in actually making one, so when we were doing things like scripting for some of the aspects of the podcast, I would always write how people would read it. 

I would never write for audio and it's one thing that I think I really struggled with - because this is a completely new skill that you don't realise you have to train yourself with when you start podcasting. So I think for me, turning all the skills I had in journalism and writing into producing something for a listening audience was interesting.

How many people does it take to create an episode of your podcast?

It's literally a whole team. For each episode, we have a producer, Hattie Moir, then the executive producer, Maz Ebtehaj, a sound designer, Mau Loseto, and music made by Axel Kacoutié but he made the music once and that was kind of the music. It takes basically all four of us, including myself, to get it up and running and we have an exec person who drops in and gives us support and ideas when we’re figuring out what narrative we want to take - but it’s mainly just the four of us as a unit making it happen.

How do you monetize the show?

I don't know too much about that. I think the podcast is monetized in a number of ways, but there's a commercial team that handles all that side of the business, and I kind of just show up and chat.

Who listens to the podcast?

So far our audience has been mostly female, also quite young and under 30. These are, I guess, mainly people that have an interest in pop and internet culture anyway, and most of our listeners are in the UK. We also have some people tune in from the US and Australia and across Europe. But of course you want to attract more international audiences over time, especially because pop culture as a subject is very universal; the culture exists everywhere in the world and sometimes they intersect between countries, regions, languages and stuff. There’s a lot more I want to do to have more of a worldwide audience.

What have you learned about yourself since starting the podcast?

I think the biggest thing I've learned about myself is that I shouldn't be so anxious around pitching and suggesting ideas and I think the whole process of coming up with a theme of the episode or deciding what we're going to talk about is very collaborative. If I come up with something, it may not be the idea that we take but somebody else will have a thought on the idea and then we'll build it up into something that we've all worked on together. 

Sometimes I'm like, I don't know if this is a rubbish idea, but they always say to just say what's on your mind because you just never know the sort of conversation that it could spark and where it could lead us. I've learned to become a bit more trusting in myself and the ideas that I have and less afraid to pitch stuff. Even if I'm like, all this sounds a bit ‘meh’, but it's better to just put it out there then keep it to yourself and it could have ultimately been a really good topic to cover.

How do you promote your podcast?

Mainly through social media. For each episode, we create short videos with snippets from the conversations and then I create my own videos which basically talk about the topic at hand, maybe give a bit more of my personal opinion and give a lot more context and then at the end of the video, I lead people back to the podcast so they can listen to the full breadth of ideas that were explored in the episode. 

Once it's out, The Guardian puts up social posts on Twitter, Instagram, and so on. The marketing team is helping us loads in terms of finding different formats on different platforms to help us get the podcast out there but mainly social media, and maybe word of mouth. When we first launched, they also ran ads for our podcast at the beginning of other Guardian podcasts like Today in Focus and Politics Weekly.

What was the last podcast that you listened to?

The last podcast I listened to this morning was Scamfluencers on Spotify. I know it's a Wondery podcast and it's basically about picking some of the biggest scammers that you have heard about and you haven't heard about and some of them are influencers, some of them are the business people, but it's, basically a podcast all about scams and I am obsessed with it. I listen every single week it comes out - it’s like my go-to, perfect train listening.