One of podcasting’s great virtues is that the barriers to entry are comparatively low. Anyone can pick up a microphone, start recording and potentially create the next hit show – and as a result, podcasting is one of the most diverse media formats. However, there is still work to be done to make podcasting more inclusive, and to increase diversity at higher levels within the industry.
One of the organisations trying to address this imbalance and level the playing field is BIPOC Podcast Creators, a community group for Black, indigenous and people of colour working in the podcast industry. In this week’s episode, Rhianna Dhillon and Reem Makari spoke to BIPOC Podcast Creators co-founder Tangia Al-awaji Estrada about the importance of having spaces and support structures for diverse groups within podcasting, and why true representation is about more than events like Black History Month or International Women’s Day.
Look at the data
“Across the board, we don't have great data on creators themselves,” Estrada said. “There's lots of data on listeners, like, what are the demographics? How old are they? Where do they live? How long do they listen for? And that data is really helpful because it has shown us one thing if we're talking about diversity and inclusion in the space: it has shown, year over year, growth in listeners of colour across the board.
“Now, why is that? It's because creators of colour are creating more and more. The industry still has this gap of understanding that when Black and brown [people] and women come into the space and start creating content, they open up entirely new audiences to the industry, and that's why the future of podcasting is multicultural.”
Find the right platform for your community
“One issue [with Facebook] is the age demographic. So it's skewed older now, which isn't necessarily a problem, but as you are thinking about the future of podcasting and you want to be able to bring in a younger audience so that they have an opportunity to grow into the space, they're just not using Facebook,” Estrada said. “They're not, and they're not going to, and there's nothing we can do about that. We can't make them use it. They're not interested.
“The culture of Facebook, I guess, can be quite toxic and can be quite ugly and there's so much noise on the platform itself, as a group creator and you're trying to use it to house your community, it's difficult to break through all of that other stuff because that feed is constant. And it's tough, and people get very fatigued and so they leave Facebook, and now we're seeing there's a lot of people that are not on Facebook at all, so we have to find another way to try to create community with them when they're not using it.”
Build teams with an inclusive mindset
“I think across the board – whether we're talking about Apple, we're talking about Spotify, any of the big companies – there's a lot more that can be done. I mean, what's challenging is that [featured collections] are selected by an actual person. Which is what you want, right? You want a human that's listening to shows and saying, this is great content, right? That's what you want. But each person has very individual tastes. And then each person has their own individual conscious or unconscious biases.
“The onus is on the company to create a team that is very, very diverse and has an inclusivity mindset. That's what's hard about it, and until companies value that, beyond numbers, beyond the bottom line, we are going to continue to have this situation where you only learn about Black podcast creators during Black History Month and women podcasters are mostly only elevated during Women's History Month and South Asian History Month or Heritage Month, and you know, Indigenous Heritage Month. That's going to continue to happen. I think there's no great solve for that.”