Award-winning presenter and historian Dan Snow has a passion for the past, whether it’s as the face presenting documentaries across the BBC or the voice behind the popular History Hit podcast, which has had a successful run since its launch in 2014. Now, Snow is the creative director of the History Hit podcast network and SVOD platform, home to eight podcasts and over 500 video programmes, after selling his company to Little Dot Studios in 2020.
Snow sat down with presenter Rhianna Dhillon and Rethink Audio managing director Matt Hill in the latest episode of PodPod to talk about why he believes this is the happiest he’s ever been in his career, what makes a successful history podcast, the importance of super-serving a niche community, and the lessons he learned from failure.
Find opportunities to make the news
“A couple of weeks ago, there was a story about some human remains found at the battlefield of Waterloo and I was like… we’ve got to be the partner for it, we’re gonna break the news to the rest of the media,” said Snow. “And it went well, it got in several newspapers, it was widely shared… if we keep creating news, and being shared in other media outlets - without us having to pay Mark Zuckerberg lots of money for it - I think that's what I see as kind of a really important role for me at the moment.”
Create your own platform, rather than waiting for someone else to do it
“No one got it. No one wanted to invest money and I completely understand. But no one was like, ‘You're right, here’s a hundred grand, go and make five documentaries about the First World War and we’ll stick it on our website.’ I understand why no one did that. But I’m glad [those pitches] didn’t work because I then eventually just said, ‘I’ve got to do this myself.’ Podcasts in 2014, 2015 became a way where you could do it yourself and actually, someone’s going to pay you money.
“I was on Twitter being pleased with myself cause I was going viral and trending but no one ever gave me one penny on Twitter. Literally never. So I was like… I need to get on a platform where you can enjoy success and then someone’s gonna pay for your producer and a microphone and whatever it might be.”
Cater to a niche, highly-engaged audience rather than a general one
[On what makes his podcast successful]
“I think it’s underserved. I think it’s because we make history for super fans and that’s the opposite of the old media,” said Snow. “That is the opposite of my training at the BBC, which is basically, ‘Look, guys, it’s a history show, count yourself lucky cause we’d rather do something else. And it’s going out on Friday night and also everyone hates history… so just try to find a way to make it interesting.’
“I can understand that in a very wide playing field, we just come at it from a completely different angle. There are people out there that are totally obsessed with it… and the internet allows you to access those superfans.”