What I learned after a year in podcasting

A world of many opportunities, especially for young people

At the start of April, I officially marked 10 months since I entered the podcasting industry. Straight out of completing my postgrad in magazine journalism and riding the high of running an award-winning student publication, I was offered a freelance position at Haymarket Media Group, which was the perfect placement opportunity for me post university. 

My first meeting with the team was in early June, when PodPod was still in its early developmental stages. At the time, it was referred to as “the podcast for podcasters, by podcasters, about podcasting” - and if you think that’s a mouthful just reading it, imagine running around doing vox pops and having to say it every time you start an interview.

Four months later, I was offered a full-time position at PodPod ahead of the launch, and by that time I was already fully engrossed in the podcasting world. We’d already recorded a number of pilot episodes for the podcast, I’d attended events and interviewed people at places like the British Podcast Awards and the London Podcast Festival, and had more involvement in the industry than I’d ever experienced before. 

Prior to entering the world of podcasting, I have to admit that the extent of my podcast industry knowledge was very limited. Yes, I have my go-to comfort podcasts that have kept me sane since lockdown (thank you Seek Treatment) and have occasionally tried to start my own podcast after one too many hilarious conversations with my friends - but that’s about it in terms of behind-the-scenes insights. 

I didn’t know much about the logistics and realities of podcasting - things like setting up a remote recording, researching guests and putting together interview briefs, editing episodes, marketing a show, and last but certainly not least: how to make money. Ten months ago, I would’ve thought all podcasters were rolling in money with all their product placements, so imagine the shock I endured learning that 10,000 downloads per episode amounts to just $141-211 per ad (according to Influencer Marketing Hub). 

If I’m being honest, being a part of the PodPod team has acted kind of like exposure therapy to the slightly intimidating world of podcasting. There’s a lot of writing that comes with my position which means speaking and networking with people from all over the podcasting industry - from professional creators to up and coming independents, producers, audio industry professionals, and so on.

I’ve had the privilege of learning things like the ABCs of podcast advertising and what ‘programmatic’ advertising means (even though I’d never so much as heard the term before), how to market and promote a podcast, what to know before launching, and so much more. And with our own podcast, I’ve learned a lot watching our talented host Rhianna Dhillon go through her internal process during every recording session. Being able to automatically know when a sentence may sound a little off and immediately stopping and picking it up again without ever losing her train of thought is a fantastic skill.

Somehow, each time we record, even if we go through the same sentence five times or remember something we need to add to the intro at the very end of the recording, our wonderful producer Emma Corsham is able to use her talent to seamlessly edit all of that together and produce one smooth and coherent episode, and you’d never be able to guess how much work went into it behind the scenes. 

Another thing that has stood out for me over the past ten months is just how easy it is to network with other podcasters in the community. I remember the first ever podcasting event that I attended, which was the announcement party for last year’s British Podcast Awards nominations at the end of June. Myself and two freelance colleagues were thrown into the trenches with a dated audiorecorder, a mic, and a list of questions on our phone, and spent our evening trying to drag attendees to the only silent corner of the venue for some vox pops. 

At no point during the event, despite the increasingly festive atmosphere as the night wore on, did anyone seem pressed about talking in front of the mic. In fact, they were all more than pleased to share their experiences, what they’ve learned, and the advice they’d like to give to other podcasters. Poppy Jay, co-host of Brown Girls Do It Toohosted the event that night, and during our vox pop interview with her - after she complimented our freshly done nails - she also spoke about how easy it is to network within the podcasting community. 

“I love this podcast community because they share tips and tricks,” she enthused. “When I meet fellow podcasters, I can see that there is a real hunger for information, and sharing information and experiences.”

Through these conversations, we learned a lot of advice as three freelancers who were literally just starting out in the podcasting world - like don’t use the word ‘podcast’ in your show’s title (courtesy of Acast’s Sam Shetabi). Even nearly a year later, I feel like I’m still learning something new from every conversation I have. Everyone’s experience and perspective is unique, which means that podcasters who are seeking advice can try more than one thing and discover what works best for their podcast instead of having to follow strict rules. 

I recognise that being a podcast industry publication does help with getting this kind of access but even so, it seemed like everyone I spoke to had just discovered this new wealth of information about their podcast experience, and was waiting for the opportunity to share it with everyone else. For example, just a few weeks ago we had Masala Podcast’s Sangeeta Pillai feature as a guest on the PodPod podcast and she said the same thing. 

“Most people are happy to speak to you, and that doesn't happen in other worlds,” said Pillai. “I come from a marketing and advertising background, you can't walk up and ask to speak to the creative director in an agency. They won't speak to you, it doesn't work like that; but with podcasting, people do speak to you, and I think that's really wonderful.”

According to Forbes, there were over 2 million independent podcasts by January 2023, with tens of millions of episodes between them. As a young journalist who is still relatively new to the industry, it’s very encouraging for me to see how supportive the podcast network is - especially to independents, as most of my generation has already chosen to go freelance rather than working full-time. 

If I had to put down a list of the many experiences and objectives I’ve learned from my experience so far, I’d probably end up writing a whole other dissertation; and I’ve only just gotten over the stress of having submitted mine in September. Moving forward however, I think it’s important to recognise the privilege of getting to learn these things, and using this platform to share them with other young podcasters as they grow into the audio leaders of the future.