Creator Download: Kim Normanton and David Smith

The rewarding task of making podcasts for younger minds

The children’s podcast market is a rapidly-growing space, but navigating the process of creating podcasts for younger minds comes with its own challenges. One of the best podcasts in this space is Super Great Kids Stories, which picked up a British Podcast Award for its work in the space earlier this year. 

PodPod sat down with host Kim Normanton and producer David Smith, director of production company Small Wardour, to discuss the podcast’s growth, and the rewarding task of making a podcast for young children.

How would you describe the podcast?

Normanton: It's traditional folk tales from storytellers around the world, and it's aimed at children aged five to 105, is what we say. The beauty of the storytellers is that they make their own percussion; they make noises with their mouths, they do sad whales and they do swooping Eagles and they do a lot of drumming and things.

Smith: The format of the stories works really well, particularly for kids, because they're quite bite-sized. They tend to be under 15 minutes, roughly. The stories are very much like a recorded live performance - we do edit, we tidy things up, but it is more or less what the storytellers perform.

Why did you start the podcast?

Smith: We started in 2020. Kim has been a Storyteller for a long time, but also was a reception teacher and was in touch with a lot of parents. We both worked together for a long time in radio and had worked on a couple of shows which involve storytellers and we had had some recordings from that period that we'd never got around to doing something with.

Normanton: Parents were all stuck at home with their kids, trying to homeschool them and going a bit crazy. Friends knew that I'd got some stories that I'd recorded from storytellers around the world, and they all said ‘have you got more of those stories, because we're trying to stop them just looking at screens the whole time’. 

What advice do you wish you'd been given when you first started?

Normanton: I think about advertising for children, which is so complicated. I wish we'd understood about Revenue a little bit better; we spent a lot of time trying different types of advertising out and it's just too complicated. It's very complicated but we're still trying. 

Smith: On the flip side of that, the thing we've discovered that does work is building the audience and building a subscription model for how it supports the show. The support comes from building the community, because we have a big presence on Facebook. Kids send in drawings - we just did a drawing competition for our birthday.I think the kids' audio world is still developing a lot, so we're learning a lot. The advertising revenue thing was one of those things we didn't know how it would work. 

How many people does it take to create an episode of your show?

Normanton: I find the storytellers and so as a production team, it's really me and David and then a couple of younger people help now with the editing. It's not many. Me and David, and a couple of friends, when we need them. My partner sold t-shirts at our show. He got roped in; he's never done anything like that before.

Smith: In terms of just making the episodes, we do have help but it could be the two of us. As it's got bigger, it becomes a bigger thing; there's more ground to cover. A friend of Kim's also helps with the community engagement on Facebook and my partner helps with some of the social for Instagram. It can grow from there, but we certainly don't have a 50-strong production team. 

Do you monetise your podcast?

Smith: The subscriber base is really, really supportive of what we do and helps us keep making it. If we were a comedy podcast or something, we could have lots of ads for beer and mattresses andthe usual stuff - but that doesn't fit, so we can't do automated ads, really; we've tried it a few times and it just doesn't work. It's not safe enough.

Normanton: Host-read is fine, because you know what it is. We're doing HelloFresh at the moment, which has been quite nice, because they provided me with five meals. What a perk - never got that at Radio 4!

How do you promote your podcast?

Smith: The main way is through the distribution platforms. Early on, I knew Danni [Haughan] - who's now part of our world of podcasting with Small Wardour. Danni used to be at Apple, and I've known her for years, so I wrote to her and we were fortunate early on that she was able to get it visible in Apple Podcasts. That's the most frequent place that's been promoted. I did some Google ads when I wanted to get it a bit more visible in Australia and South Pacific a bit. It's been mostly organic. 

Normanton: And David wrote a song, because we were trying to think how we could get people to pass it around - and it's one of our most popular songs. It was great fun, and the kids love it. A few kids have come over from different countries on their summer holidays and wanted to see us, and they were all singing this song to me. Then there’s the Spotify billboard; it was the closest I've ever felt, and probably ever will, to being famous. Tthere was no picture of us on it, sadly, but it was amazing - the size of that thing, in Leicester Square.

Who listens to your podcast?

Smith: We have a pretty good sense of that. Our audience has grown; the original big audience was in Apple Podcasts, but Spotify is now as big, probably. We can look at stats, obviously, but it's mainly about people who get in touch with us directly. We get so much feedback now; we know a lot just by what listeners tell us about where and how they listen.

Normanton: A lot of the parents come from two different cultures, and are maybe living in a third culture. So they're really keen for their kids to listen to these stories from the Caribbean or from Poland or wherever they're from but not living in. We just got a little message today from someone saying they just did a three-day journey from somewhere on the northwest coast of the States up to Canada.

What have you learned about yourself since starting your podcast?

Normanton: I really do love little people. I've worked most of my life in Radio 4 with adults, and little people make me happy. I also learned that I'm not brilliant at business - It’s quite hard work trying to figure it all out. Even though we both worked in radio all our lives, I was really surprised at how intimate you can be with people's millions of miles away and how people feel that they know us, which is quite powerful.

Smith: I think making a show every week is a real discipline. That's a lot to arrange. We do our bonuses as well; I don't know how people make more than one a week. There's some shows that do multiple episodes every week. And obviously then you need a bigger team. We really care about it, so you can't just phone it in. Everyone's got to be cared about I think.

What was the last podcast you listened to?

Smith: The last for me was Adam Buxton. I've always liked Adam Buxton. I listen when I cook, at tea time in the evening. I've got a rotation of podcasts I listen to, but he has hiatus periods andhe's popped up again with a lot of good interviews. So I quite enjoy listening to that while I'm cooking.

Normanton: I listen to a lot of children's podcasts when I'm walking around the woods. So instead of listening to the birdies tweeting, I'm listening to Stories, Science and Secrets, which is one I listened to very recently which is very good; really quality. It's just come on the market. About the only one I listen to that isn't children's is The Rest Is History - but then, the rest of the world is listening to that too.