Most podcasters would consider it an achievement to make it to their hundredth episode - but for Empire Film Podcast co-hosts Chris Hewitt, James Dyer and Helen O’Hara, this milestone has long since been surpassed. With an episode count somewhere in “the low thousands”, the Empire podcast has built a devoted following and spawned a number of brand extension opportunities such as live shows and paid membership schemes.
These achievements have been reached, at least in part, through sheer force of will over the span of more than a decade. The show’s hosts have been doggedly determined to keep the show going despite workload pressures, a steep learning curve and the impact of a global pandemic, and in this week’s episode of PodPod, they share how they’ve managed to maintain the show’s chemistry, energy and enthusiasm.
Don’t be afraid to take your time
“We actually implemented a rule from day one that we have never broken and we never will, says Hewitt; “that the interviews on the podcast are a minimum of 15 minutes.”
“I think the longer the better, because some of the greatest moments we've had on the podcast are those long, in-depth deep dives into people's careers, where you get time to relax, you get relaxed into the subject, you get to relax into their filmography. I'm thinking of things like our epic interviews with Chris McQuarrie about the Mission Impossible movies…we did six hours on one movie alone with the guy.”
Build a wider brand strategy around your podcast
“As all magazines now, we don't talk about subscribers,” Dyer says; “we talk about members. It's all about membership… with the brand. And I think we've got better at tieing these threads together.”
“It is a larger brand umbrella and we do cross pollinate. We have an Empire VIP service where you get a subscription to the magazine, you also get free access to the paywalled podcasts, you get priority booking at the live events. You also get to come to special VIP events, like we've done some Q&As and screenings and things like that.”
Embrace new technologies
“In theory, we record on a Thursday morning, but we have to obviously figure out James’ Pilot schedule as well,” O’Hara notes. “They usually record Thursday afternoon, so we can't just simply move one around and then there'll just be [things like] one of us is on a set visit, or one of us has scheduled the big interview for that moment, and that's the only time that celebrity X could do. It's those kinds of things that keep coming up.”
“But it's crazy to think that pre-pandemic, the thought of doing a remote podcast wasn't even something that had crossed our mind,” adds Dyer. “But the fact that we could, and the fact that we can, has been a game changer… it makes podcasting accessible to more people because you don't need a studio.”