In 2019, Tash Walker and Adam Zmith launched the award-winning history podcast The Log Books, looking at the lives of LGBTQ+ people in Britain based on archived entries from volunteers at this country’s second-oldest LGBTQ+ helpline Switchboard. Since then, the hosts and co-creators of the podcast used their learning and experience to launch their own independent production company Aunt Nell alongside the podcast’s producer and radio presenter Shivani Dave.
On this week’s episode, Walker and Zmith spoke to PodPod’s Rhianna Dhillon and Reem Makari about how they use their production company to amplify the voices of LGBTQ+ creators, the different ways they get their funding, working with partners like the National Archive on other podcasts, and the next phase of The Log Books after it wrapped in 2022 - adapting it into a book.
Transforming a podcast into a brand
“We've done [talks] at universities, at schools, within corporate environments for their LGBT plus networks… and it is something about us putting up the logbook entries on the screen and reading them to them that they're engaging with,” said Walker. “The brand of The Log Books has already got this life that's growing outside of it and to create a book that adds to that, that could be in schools, that could be in the library, that someone can then access is great and it’s something that we've been really wanting to do for a while.”
Adapting to changes in the podcast industry
As a very tiny independent production company with a focus which doesn't have a massive audience, we cannot promise to deliver you 10,000 listeners per episode or something yet,” said Zmith. “We're working on three and a half/four - depending on how you count it - projects that could become podcasts. Two of them are funded by a grant in partnership with other organisations and another one, maybe two, we'll be making off our own back.
“It's our own investment of time and money into it. I'm not a victim. I'm not saying no brand wants to play with us but I think that there are shifting sands in this industry, and if you're an indie like us, then you have to recognize that and build that into your planning.”
Making compromises when it comes to funding
“You've got sponsorship and brands and I suppose it's about how much creative control they have around the podcast and the content that you're making,” said Walker. “Then you have commissioners, if you make something for one of the big audio platforms or providers what do they do and what don't they want to feel comfortable with what you're creating? So I guess it's about the restrictions that are in place with what you're trying to make that always make things more complicated.”
“Unless you have money in the bank that's your own money that you're spending on making something, then it's just a question of like what compromises that you have to make,” said Zmith.