Arielle Nissenblatt is pushing the limits of Podcasting by founding and being Head Curator of the EarBuds Podcast Collective. A listening movement that promotes podcasts and audio content through a weekly recommendation email. And, is the Marketing and Business Development Manager at Castbox where she runs their social media, helps podcasters with discoverability on Castbox, and does live speaking on behalf of Castbox.
- EarBuds Podcast Collective
- Village Podcast Studio
- Outlier Podcast Festival
- Feedback with EarBuds Podcast
- Skye Pillsbury’s Inside Podcasting Newsletter
- Ever Gonzalez
- District Queen Podcast
ARIELLE NISSENBLATT: I think at this point there needs to be a lot of overcompensation. If you think you need to talk to five women, triple that. Talk to 15 women, get 15 perspectives. You know, every woman is different. And no one person’s experience is going to be the same as others. And it’ll just make your experience down the line more complete if you have more opinions. And that standard, that…What I just mentioned, extends to everything.
ROCKWELL FELDER: Welcome to Between Two Mics.
ZACHARIAH MORENO: I’m Zach.
ROCK: And I’m Rock.
ZACH: We’re the co-founders of Squadcast [dot] fm.
ROCK: The best way to record remote interviews at studio quality like this one.
ZACH: Here on Between Two Mics, we explore the challenges, opportunities, and new ideas with the people who are pushing the limits of what’s possible in podcasting.
ZACH: Alright, so, uh, Arielle Nissenblatt is the founder and head curator of the popular EarBuds Podcast Collective, the founder of the Village Podcast Studio in Los Angeles, California. The manager of marketing and biz-dev at, at Castbox, the host of several Outlier Podcast festivals in cities all over the U.S., and host of a new podcast called Feedback with the EarBuds Podcast Collective. Arielle, welcome to Between Two Mics.
ARIELLE: Yeah, thank you for having me. Thanks for that intro.
ZACH: [chuckles] It was, it was quite an intro. So, uh, I appreciate your patience with it. Um, so as you know, the intro includes you’re, you’re very, very involved, uh, in lots of ways with podcasting. Uh, so thank you for that contribution. And, uh, I think we first met at Outlier LA, um, I believe last year, and I remember kind of waiting for our plane and talking to Rock and, and one of us noting that, um, that you’re kind of the only professional podcast listener in the community that, uh, that we were aware of. So, uh, how, how did, uh, your love for podcasts evolve into the EarBuds Podcast Collective?
ARIELLE: Good question. So my first job out of college was I worked at the Institute of Southern Jewish life in Jackson, Mississippi. It was a nonprofit. For that job, we would travel to different synagogues throughout the U.S. South. And if the drive was less than eight hours, we would drive it. And if it was more, we would fly. And then sometimes drive after flying. So it was a lot of car time. And because of that, I discovered podcasts. My roommate at the time told me about Radiolab or This American Life, or…She would listen to them while we were cooking. And I was like, what the hell is this? Like, what is this purple app on my phone? I don’t care. Like, I was like, not interested in that at the time. But then I was alone on these drives so often that I would, you know, you really go crazy when you’re driving for eight hours through like literally nothing. It is just, I-20, I-10, just like is nothing. [laughs] And there’s no traffic. There’s nothing to keep you occupied except for your thoughts. So finally you turned to podcasts. So I started listening in 2014. And then I moved to Los Angeles in 2016. And again, this time I was in a car a lot, but it was because of traffic. And, um, I was listening to a lot of podcasts because I was trying to maximize…um, I was trying to find a way to be occupied in the car and to be learning while I was quote unquote “wasting time” in traffic. And, um, you know, after a few months of doing this, I, and this was also the time that Trump was being elected. He was the president-elect at the time that I had the idea for EarBuds, November 2016. I thought, you know, number one, I want to find more podcasts that make me really say: Wow. You know, there’s podcasts that I’ll listen to every once in a while that I’m like: Holy ****. Like I did not know this before. I wouldn’t know it if it weren’t for podcasts, and I wanted more experiences like that, like I wanted to have that experience once a day. And at the rate that I was going, I was only having it about once every week. [laughs] So, um, and also in addition to that, with the Trump situation, I was like, you know, you were hearing a lot about the bubbles that we were in. So, you know, if you, if you identify as being on the left, you’re only really going to hear stories from people on the left. If you identify on the right…These bubbles don’t come together. So I was interested in finding a way to bridge these two bubbles or to combine the bubbles, um, and really just hear stories from other communities and people. And podcasts are obviously an incredible way of doing that. And, um, I always say that podcasts have made me way more of an empathetic person. They’ve exposed me to stories that I would never otherwise come across. So, um, in January of 2017, I had the idea to start EarBuds, which, um, I just reached out to some friends to share their favorite podcasts. They reached out to more friends, and then over time started sending an email every Sunday night that has a theme and then a different person picks the five podcast episodes on the theme that they’ve chosen every week. And since then, yeah, it’s basically, it kind of started out selfish. It was the idea that like I wanted more podcasts to listen to. And how could I, how could I find that. And now I created a newsletter for it.
ROCK: Talk about designing your life. That’s pretty awesome. And that’s honestly, one of the things that we, uh, instantly admired about you and were drawn to you was that, uh, we, you were speaking at Outlier, uh, I think you were kind of setting the events off at Outlier in LA is the one that we went to. And, uh, just how proud you were to be this listener. And to say that, like, I don’t have a podcast. And I remember for me personally, that that really spoke to me because I like, felt like a fraud almost because here we are trying to help out podcasters, but yet we don’t have a podcast of our own. To see someone, like you say, I’m just a listener, but I love podcasts just as much, if not even more than any of you all here. So like I belong here just as much as you. And so that certainly, uh, was like, yeah, I do belong here too. You know, thinking the same thing. Uh, but now, now that we have a podcast and, and as do you, you, you do as well now. It’s certainly good to be on the other side as well.
ARIELLE: I think, I think too many people start podcasts without ever having listened to them. On the opposite side of that. The Twitter community for podcasts. Podcast Twitter is amazing in some ways, but it’s also like I’ve noticed over the past few minutes, it’s so self-promotion focused. It’s tons of people just like throwing their links to their latest episode, wherever the hell they can throw it. And it’s not actually offering any value. It’s all just like here, take this ,listen. And mostly it’s **** audio quality. Nobody really cares about the content. So my thing is like, listen to podcasts, find out what people actually care about and want to hear about, and then focus your content around that. And the only way you can really do that is if you become a connoisseur in listening to podcasts, become a professional podcast listener. So yeah, I wanted to really, um, think about the kind of podcast that I wanted to create. I wanted to really fill a gap in content before I put something out there.
ROCK: Well, it sounds like it was worth the wait. You seem to, um, have a good flow and, you know, it seems like something that you’ve been doing for years and, you know, you’ve just started this year, right?
ARIELLE: Yeah, I just started a month ago.
ROCK: Awesome. Congratulations. So how’s it been to, to be on the other side?
ARIELLE: I like it a lot. I don’t find it that stressful, but that might be because my episodes are six to 10 minutes long. Um, so that’s definitely a nice, a nice feature of doing it by myself. I don’t have any guests on for the most part. It’s just, it’s basically a companion podcast to the newsletter. Every Sunday night when the email goes out, I have a link to the most recent episode that has come out earlier that day, and it’s titled the same thing. So this week’s theme for example is called…um, I never remember the themes. I’m sorry. Um, let’s see.
ZACH: You’re too busy listening.
ARIELLE: I’m too busy listening. And also I’ve literally never missed a Sunday. So it’s hard for me to remember every single theme that we’ve done. They’ve been all over the place. This week’s theme. Oh yes. Okay. This week’s theme is former Celebrity Apprentice contestants. So, um, this is like, this is, I love when people do this. I love when people get super creative with how many podcasts there are out there and how amazing the content is out there and how niche it can get. I think it’s so amazing. I think this is such a good example. So all of the episodes that are on this week’s list are either by or feature people who were once on The Celebrity Apprentice. And it’s just ridiculous. That email went out this past Sunday. And, um, so did the episode, it’s called “Episode Number Four” because it’s our fourth, Former Celebrity Apprentice Contestants Week.” Basically the episode is like: Hey, I’m Arielle. This is EarBuds. This week’s theme is this. Here are the episodes. Here are our sponsors. And then just this past week I started, I’m also including headlines from, um, Skye Pillsbury’s Inside Podcasting newsletter cause I think that gives it some more added value. It gives people more of a reason to tune in. Yeah.
ROCK: And I noticed that the, uh, EarBuds Collective, it’s more involved. It’s not a very passive experience in the sense that you just send them a bunch of episodes and say, Hey, listen, and come back next week. It’s more like you get them involved and have them pick the episodes. Or…
ARIELLE: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
ROCK: Can you walk our listeners through what that’s like for the-those that are yet to join?
ARIELLE: Yeah, absolutely. So um, yes, anybody can curate a list and that doesn’t have to be-you don’t have to be a famous person. You don’t have to be a podcaster. You don’t have to own a network. You can literally be anybody. Um, you can be either somebody who loves podcasts and you want to group together those five podcasts, or it can be maybe you really love… um, maybe you’re studying, you’re getting a PhD right now in um, uh, I dunno, shoe design. And how shoes have changed over the years. Something as niche as that, and you found five podcast episodes. Or you want to challenge yourself to find five podcast episodes on shoe design throughout the years, you can go and do that. You can say, I would like to curate a list on shoe design throughout the years. I’m a PhD student. And I’ll say, great, go find that, put it on my spreadsheet, where we hold the information until it’s time. And then come back and then when it’s time for your week of curation, I’ll email you. And I’ll, uh, I’ll send you a questionnaire, and you’ll fill out that questionnaire. And I use that to then format the email that goes out the Sunday night of your week of curation. So, um, yeah, it’s-I don’t do any of the curation myself, other than just like checking it over and making sure no episodes are racist, sexist, homophobic, anything ****. Just make sure everything’s kosher. Yeah. And then we go from there and then throughout the week I follow up on social media. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, sometimes LinkedIn. Making sure that we’re promoting the episodes because it’s first of all, a good way to promote indie content. And it’s a great way to promote the curator and what they’re up to.
ZACH: Yeah, that’s one of my favorite parts and it was not obvious to me at first, you know, the, the promotional aspect that you’re kind of you’re, you’re kind of distributing that. And like you said, a lot of it is self promotion that we have these days, or it’s like, go leave me a review on iTunes, but that doesn’t necessarily make it out into social recommendations and social proof. Um, so I’m wondering though with the podcast and forgive me for not have, I haven’t listened to it yet. I’m excited to start. Um, are you, are you using like, uh, like, um, snippets of the shows in, in the production of the, of, of your episodes to have kind of like a, you know, a ten second, like quote or something like that from like a funny line or…whatever’s like a meaningful quote. Or is it, is it, is it all you, kind of like how James Cridland does it with Podnews.
ARIELLE: Yeah. So I would say for now it definitely sounds more like James Cridland’s. I do-I would say if I had an entire team behind me, I would get so creative, so funky with it, but for now I do what I can with just me. And I have an editor and then my engineer, um, that I work with, he just records me and gives me some suggestions every once in a while. And what I do to make it a little bit more fun than just like my own voice. I’ve asked the curators now to record their name. Hi, I’m Ian Elsner and my podcast is this. I curated a theme on blank or whatever they’ve chosen, and I chose this theme because, and then they fill that in as well. And then I put that into the episode as well, because you know, it makes it a little fun. It’s cute. And then I also have my engineer at the end say his name when I’m reading the credits, I think that makes it a little fun. And what else? Yeah.
ROCK: It’s very fun.
ARIELLE: Yeah. [laugh] And I’m also trying to do some bonus content, so I’ve put out I believe two episodes of bonus right now. The first one was while I was at the She Podcasts festival earlier this month in October. I got some Buzzsprout time. Buzzsprout put out a booth. They-it was semi soundproof. I signed up for some time, and I had signed up for time but like did not think about what I wanted to do with my time in there. I wasn’t ready to record the next week’s EarBuds episode. So I was like **** okay, so now I have to figure out what to do. So I sat down and I was like, oh, you know what? I’m at this podcast festival, I’ve been to tons of other podcasts festivals. You hear about new ones popping up all the time. Let me do like a quick five to seven minute episode on your guide to podcasts festivals. So I just talked about each one that I’ve been to and then mentioned others that I have not been to yet and gave some resources to check out. And then two weeks ago, I put out another bonus episode where I asked, um, friends and podcast colleagues to send me a short 30 second snippet on the first podcast they listened to and how did they find it. And I put together a compilation episode like that. So I plan to do episodes like that. I feel like that’s an area that’s not really tapped. I have a lot of connections throughout the podcast space. It’s a fun way to, to experiment with the audio atmosphere and get other people’s input. The next one coming up is… I have sent an email. I have the request out to all the other people that put out weekly or semi-regular podcast newsletters. 30 seconds, their name, their podcast newsletter, how to find it, what’s it all about. And then I’m going to string those together. It’ll be a nice resource for people who want more recommendations or want some industry news and things like that. Yeah.
ROCK: Very impressive. I got to know though, how, uh, how much are you listening to podcasts a week?
ARIELLE: Like, five hours a day.
ROCK: Five hours a day. That’s not all the commute though, right.
ARIELLE: Oh no, I don’t-I work at home. It’s amazing.
ROCK: Oh, did that kind of eat into your podcast time at first-
ARIELLE: It definitely did.
ROCK: Yeah, mine too. It’s been a little weird. I’ve had to, yeah, you got to find extra ways like, oh, I’m going to go on an extra long walk now so I can listen to this whole episode.
ARIELLE: I go on walks three times a day. Try to get some podcast listening in.
ROCK: Good for you. That’s awesome.
ARIELLE: I also love washing dishes, love cleaning, all that kind of stuff.
ROCK: Yeah. Not a dish is dirty in my house anymore. Um, how, uh, like do you get to listen to stuff that you want to listen to for fun now? Cause I mean, you kinda got to your, your job is almost to constantly look, listen to new content, and I’ve been finding myself having, uh, trouble- or not having trouble, but really realizing I need to branch out of what I like to listen to because there’s… like you said, there’s just so much out there to listen to. And you know, it’s helpful for me to learn about, you know, what’s emerging, what’s new, what’s really, you know, far out there. Because there’s no shortage of it, but, uh, you know, if I stick to what I’m interested in, you know, I’m never going to find those. So, uh, do you get to listen to what you actually want to that’s, you know, like a regular podcast you would listen to, if you didn’t have the EarBuds Collective?
ARIELLE: I would say for the most part, what I do with the EarBuds listening is I do listen to them as-on the day that they’re recommended. In advance, what I do is I check, you know, for like what I said before for racism, sexism, homophobia, all the **** things, check for all those. And then if they pass the test, which 97% of the time they do, I’ve only rejected a few episodes. Um, I will just listen to them on the day that they’re recommended. And then other than that, I’m always listening to what I want to be listening to.
ZACH: That’s good. Yeah. And, uh, you know, to, to transition into your work at Castbox, that was one of the, you, first teams that we met at our first Podcast Movement that we sponsored. The team has always been great to us. And, um, I don’t, I don’t believe I’ve ever met Renee, um, in person, but I am a big fan of her work and, uh, that, that is a, you know, one of, one of my go-to apps. I tend to use them for like different purposes. Um, so, so I use, um, I use Castbox for for my learning experience because it helps-it helps me find, um, I have one for like fiction and then another one for like industry stuff, uh, Pocketcast and Google Podcasts. Those are the three that I, yeah-
ARIELLE: That’s probably an interesting case. I don’t think most people, um, switch up their podcast player that often.
ZACH: Yeah, and I mean, it’s awesome cause we have a bunch of friends who, you know, have these, have these apps. So it’s a, it’s not even enough to, to go that far, but, um, the, uh, the Castbox experience with search, um, I think, you know, really eye-opening for me. And this was back in early 2008, I think. Um, so it’s gotten better since then, revolutionary.
ZACH: Uh, yeah, did I say 2008?
ARIELLE: I’ve been doing that too lately. We’re old now.
ZACH: 2018, my apologies, uh, 2018. And, um, you know, it’s, it’s gotta be, uh, an honor for Google to basically copy you, um, with, with their-
ARIELLE: That’s huge.
ZACH: It’s crazy. I mean, um, so definitely, you know, uh, uh, moving the needle for, for what’s possible in the consumption, discoverability. And you know, it’s even up for debate, I guess these days, if discoverability is a, is a problem or not, um, I don’t tend to buy into that. There’s always improvements and we can certainly-
ARIELLE: I always find things. You know.
ZACH: And, and especially with your, with your work. I think you’re kind of the perfect case study for finding new things and discoverability. So, um, so can you tell us a little bit about your work at Castbox and kind of how, how that fits into your podcast story?
ARIELLE: Yeah, so I actually met Castbox. I met representatives from Castbox a long time ago. I-at Podcast Movement in 2017, which was in Anaheim. I, uh, I was sh-I went alone. I was able to get a free ticket by advertising for a Podcast Movement on my newsletter, but I knew nothing. This was like way before I was comfortable in the podcast space. I didn’t really know my place. I didn’t know where I wanted to-who I wanted to be, where I wanted to mark myself. But, um, I went, and I was just wandering around from table to table, and I happened upon Castbox. What I do when I go to, um, conferences in general is just like see, who has the best swag hang out there, steal the swag, you know, schmooze up. Schmooze with the people. So they had really good swag at the time. Castbox had this, uh, they had this really cute-
ZACH: Great backdrop.
ARIELLE: Yes. The orange is so nice. They have this really nice ring on the back of the phone that you use. You put your finger through it. It helps you not, I don’t know, put too much weight on your fingers while you’re holding your phone. We’re-we’re so weak nowadays. [laughs] Anyway, I liked the swag so much. I stayed in touch. They told me about the in-app audio search that I was-I really liked that. I downloaded the app. I used it. Swag can really do that. You know, it really can have a big impact on people. So, um, I started using them. I started recommending them to everybody. I stayed in touch with them over the years. And then, um, I met Renee and the team at Podcast Movement 2018, a year later in Philadelphia. Um, hung out with them, got to go to their party. Which was the best party I’ve ever been to, podcast party or not. That was at the Redding Terminal Market. They rented out the whole thing. And like, threw the biggest rager, it was amazing. There were free donuts and lots of things. Um, so I had a great time there.
ZACH: And what a great venue too.
ARIELLE: I know it was the coolest. So then, uh, another year passes. And, um, they were looking for somebody to do marketing and business development, and they thought of me because I’ve been in touch with them for a long time. And I was pumped because I’d been loving the product for so long. Now what I do for them is social media. So I’m the one behind all the ridiculous tweets. I’ve found that social media is a game of, you know, just tweet the most ridiculous thing you can. See how people respond to it. Me and Podchaser are in this game together, if you haven’t noticed.
ROCK: We have. We’re big fans.
ARIELLE: So I do that. I help people grow their podcast on the platform. So our goal really is to teach people about all the capabilities of Castbox and how you can use those to grow your show. So for example, anybody who has a podcast can claim their show on Castbox and that gives you access to analytics, to where your people are listening from. Um, are they unsubscribing? Are they subscribing? We’re also one of the only apps that has subscriber count and play count. Which is super helpful and gives you a sense of how your podcast is doing overall. So we like to teach people things like that. And then we also-we have our in-app banner that helps with discoverability. So we’re always trying to find people to take that banner spot. And then we also have a few other real estate spots throughout the app that we are looking to fill as well. So my job is a combination of that. And I also speak at conferences on behalf of Castbox. And whatever else the task may call for.
ROCK: What topics do you like to speak out-about?
ARIELLE: Um, feminism, and the audio industry and diversity in the audio industry. And also on a separate note, I like to talk about-I find that panels can be very dry. So my thing nowadays is like, how can we put more meaningful content into the podcast space when we are at conferences. So I find that, you know, anybody can apply for a panel to moderate a panel or to be on a panel. And it’s kind of just a way to like brush your, uh, to what’s it called, um… to stroke your own ego. Like yeah, you’re, you’re approved. You get to be on this panel. All great. You get to post about it, but like, what are you actually doing? I don’t think it’s the best way to convey information a lot of the time, I think there are way more effective ways. So what I like to do nowadays is I like to pitch non-panel panels and kind of what I did at the last Outlier Podcast Festival. I worked with a woman named Christina Barsi, and we did an anti-panel or a non-panel-panel where we broke everybody up into groups. Uh, we had them discuss their pain points when it came to-one group was marketing, one group was community engagement with their podcasts. And the other one was, um, like technical aspects, like microphone usage and things like that. So we had them discuss pain points. Then we would ask a question and whoever felt like an expert in that question from each group, one person would come up. They would be the panel. So while we were still facilitating it, we were giving everybody a chance to show their expertise and to also be vulnerable and say, this is something that I’m not that comfortable with. And we kind of-We liked that because it, it lets everybody have a stake in the situation rather than just kind of sitting there and passively either taking in information or not really taking in information. So, um, I tried to pitch panels like that. And then I’m also working on another speech that will be about how podcasts creators can work with podcasts apps to maximize their reach. So that’s my next, my next thing.
ZACH: I love the, the built-in candor and kind of community aspect of the non-panel panel. And I love that title by the way. Um, and, uh, yeah, I, I tend to agree with you. I think the conferences, uh, the organizers, the people who are choosing the speakers, because you know-The top -competition is tough in our industry, because we’re all, we’re all basically professional speakers. Uh, you know, they don’t like telling people no, they get hit up I’m sure. So it’s like, okay, this is a way to kind of, you know, uh, kill five birds with one stone.
ARIELLE: Panels, they’re super easy. And look, I’m guilty of it too, with Outlier Podcast Festival I, um, I’m also in charge of trying to figure out where to place people, who’s going to be the keynote speaker, who’s going to lead a workshop or a training session. And then yeah, some panels can be really amazing. Some of them can be great ways to convey information. Others are not. Um, so I try when we do Outlier to have there be some sort of funky element to everything. So, um, what are we thinking of for the-So we have last, last Outlier Podcast Festival in September, we had Akiya McKnight. She has a podcast called District Queen. Um, it’s a, it’s a scripted audio drama about the underground sex worker scene in Atlanta. It’s like really specific and amazing and sound-rich. And instead of having her just like on a regular panel, what we did is we had her-She reached out and she got grant funding to get nice headphones for a bunch of people. I think 35 people were in this session, and they played the two episodes of the first two episodes of District Queen. And then they had a discussion about it, you know? So it was more than just here, you know, frontal lobe, front of brain, like here’s a discussion. It was like, let’s have you interact with this content and then let’s discuss it. So we like things like that.
ROCK: Well, and I’m glad you brought up the Outlier Festival cause you know, your one half of that. And, um, we’ve went to the one in LA and Ever your, your, your co-pilot on that or partner in crime, whatever you want to call him, he’s been good to us as well. So, um, how did that come about and why did Outlier need to exist? Cause you guys are definitely doing a few different things, but why did you two specifically think this needs to be out there for, for podcasters and podcasting?
ARIELLE: Yeah. So Outlier, actually the first Outlier Podcast Festival was in St. George in May of 2018. I came to know about it, probably through newsletters. I like to stay on top of like everything that’s happening. So in February, two, three months before Outlier Podcast Festival, I saw that Outlier Podcasts Festival was happening. I saw a bunch of the speakers on the website. I saw that they were mostly white men. Um, so I reached out to Ever, and I said, Hey, I noticed that you’re lacking diversity on your panel. Do you mind if I-Do you mind if I come, basically and lead a panel on women in podcasting? Or really I just said like, can I come? You know. And he suggested having this panel, and then I got to put together that panel. And I went and it was a great panel. It was, it was interesting. It’s a St. George, Utah is a more conservative area obviously than Los Angeles. So on the first, uh-They, they videotaped all of the sessions, and I make a comment during my panel about like, there being so many white men in podcasting. And you literally hear somebody in the background go like, “HA!” They were just like, they didn’t want to hear it.
ROCK: They didn’t hear that. They’re not used to hearing that.
ARIELLE: And I was like, no, no, I’m not used to me being like this loud person from New York, just being like here’s lack of diversity when I see it, I’m going to call it out, you know. So that was, that was a fun experience. And then after that Ever was like, I liked your style. Let’s, let’s partner and do this together. So now I’ve been, uh, helping with each of the different festivals that we do in different cities for the last few years. And it’s fun. It’s a, it’s a, it’s like a canvas to draw on because I think a lot of people fall on the easy things that make money and are safe. And that is so understandable. And to a certain extent, it would be easier if we did that. But also, the podcast industry is so new. So like, let’s get weird with it.
ROCK: Well, that’s your slogan, keeping it weird so, uh, you’re definitely, definitely following through on that.
ARIELLE: That’s right, yeah.
ROCK: Um, that’s a really neat story about how that got started and you reaching out and doing that. And also it’s equally as neat that, you know, Ever was receptive and, and listened to you because I think that’s what’s important. And, uh, you know, we certainly fell victim to that as well. And you, uh, true to form called us out on that. And so, um, you know, I do appreciate you bringing that up, but, you know, why is diversity a problem in podcasting from your perspective? Like how have we gotten here?
ARIELLE: Yeah. Um, I think diversity is a problem across every industry.
ROCK: True. Fair.
ARIELLE: Um, yeah. And in podcasting, we’re in a unique spot because we’re still in the infancy. Um, so I, I actually think right now is the time for us to be so vocal about it and to call out when we see problems, because that means that we can nip them in the bud early.
ZACH: And there’s still room for good design, right? Like it’s still being formed out.
ARIELLE: Absolutely. So that’s why I think it was important right away when, um, these sexist remarks about vocal fry and women’s voices being annoying, when those started to come out. When people, you know, write your thing pieces on them, make your podcast reactions to them. Like that’s important. That’s a really important thing to do. Now while we still can, here’s tons of media companies being created by women for women, or by women for everyone. And those are awesome and we need more of those. To combat the fact that in other industries that has not been the case. How do we get here? Just like from long standing oppression of women. [laughs]
ROCK: I guess you’re right. I wasn’t trying to go that deep, but you’re right. That’s where, that’s where it starts from. And you’re right. We do have, uh, an opportunity to change it. And I think that’s why, uh, Zach and I took the, uh, response from, and for our listeners that don’t know we had an announcement of our advisory board. Our advisory board is full of men right now. That’s not going to be the case forever. And those are not the only people that we seek advice from. However, uh, that announcement we understand, uh, could give that impression. And so, um, you know, it was a big mistake on our part. And people like, uh, you Arielle, were holding us to a higher standard and we really appreciate it because, um, you know, although we don’t like making people disappointed because we spend all day and every day trying to do the exact opposite, uh, cooking up ways to do that with Squadcast. Um, you know, we take it very seriously. So I think, I’m gla-thank you for doing that because, uh, we are listening. We you know, we do take it very seriously. Um, you know, we had this interview booked with you before we made this announcement. So it’s not like we did this in response. We’ve always wanted you.
ARIELLE: I can confirm that.
ROCK: Yeah yeah, thank you. On the record. Because we do value everyone’s input and that’s what podcasting is all about. So for us to drop the ball on it was very disappointing. But, um, you know, again, I just want to reiterate. Right, like, you know, this is not something we’re running away from, and I really do want to thank you. And so, um, you know, like, I guess the best culmination or representation of podcasting really moving forward with that, I guess you could say recently has been She Podcast. So She Podcasts Live, uh, their first live event. Um, what was that like from your experience and how, how important is that to, to podcasting?
ARIELLE: It was an awesome, it was a really great event. So She Podcasts happened. I think it was October 11th through 13th, or that weekend.
ROCK: Good memory.
ARIELLE: Yeah. And just so that I remember, I want to get back to what you said a minute ago. Do you mind if I take it back a second?
ROCK: No, yeah, let’s do it. Do whatever you want.
ARIELLE: Yeah so um…What-what’s your, do you have an immediate plan right now to help build some diversity into your team?
ZACH: Absolutely. And, uh, and we’re not starting at zero either. So both, uh, you know, our, our core team and our, our advisory board, um, already feature some facets of diversity, but obviously it’s missing huge, huge other areas. So that’s where we’re focused on now. And we believe because of that both strong foundation, existing relationships and then formalizing some of those existing relationships, as well as, uh, you know, seeking, seeking voices, uh, from outside of our, of our bubble. Uh, I believe we have a real opportunity, and that’s what this brought to our attention was we have a real opportunity because like you said, our industry is so, so relatively young. And then as a company, being three years old, we’re relatively young and can actually help move the needle on this.
ZACH: So we feel that there’s a kind of a unique opportunity to, uh, to help set that standard and become one of the more diverse teams in our industry.
ARIELLE: So there’s really something to that, you know?
ZACH: Oh yeah. Yeah, absolutely. And, um, so kind of the first move is to, uh, to formalize, uh, existing relationships with, uh, with, formerly non-formal advisors to, uh, to bring them in to a, to a regular cadence and more formalized, a relationship there. And also more equitable.
ZACH: So that’s kind of a first move, um, while remaining kind of, uh, trying to remain as deliberate and intentional as possible. We feel that a lack of intention got us into this, uh, situation, and we didn’t want to have a knee-jerk response that, um, was somehow less intentional. So, so we, uh, we do recognize, you know, we, we need to move quickly. Um, and we missed a huge opportunity to, um, to, you know, set this standard from the, from the jump. Um, but we still have that opportunity. Um, we just kind of, um, you know, missed the mark on the optics and how we position the first respon-sorry, the first announcement. Um, and, uh, you know, those things I think are, are, are relatively right around the corner because we didn’t have to go out and like, you know, interview and talk to people. We had existing long-term, multi-year relationships. So we, uh, we kind of started there and, uh, and uh, formalized from there.
ARIELLE: Yeah. I think, you know, the issue when it comes to mistakes like this are made is that … The excuse, and I’m not saying that you made this excuse, but the excuse is often that, you know: We knew a lot of men prior, you know, so obviously those are going to be the people that we we call on. So I think, yeah, exactly.
ZACH: It’s a pipeline problem.
ARIELLE: So, yeah, obviously I’m reaching out of the bubble, reaching out of the box or finding another pipeline is harder, but it is so much more rewarding when you have different pipelines leading in and-and it’s hard. But I saw that you guys were commenting-replying to the comments on your announcement that, um, you’re making phone calls, you’re setting up phone calls with, um, a lot of different women. A lot of people of color. Has that been successful?
ZACH: Very, yeah, very successful. And as a bootstrapped company, as a startup, we welcome any additional resources. So that is, uh, has been kind of amazing, you know, uh, show of support from the community who have helped us get to this point and our help-are going to help us get to where we’re going. Um, so it’s a, it’s a very, you know, open dialogue and that’s pretty much, you know, um, uh, been a big portion of how Rock and I have spent the last, uh, you know, a little bit over a week now. With a lot of those conversations and a lot of, a lot of, uh, not very fun conversations, but, but I think that’s where it’s, you know, needed because it was, it was admittedly, uh, too much of a blind spot before. So hearing the hard truth is, is positive, um, and how we are going to improve. So, uh, so there’s a lot of, you know, a lot of passion there. And, uh, like yourself, we strive to be professional listeners and not put up fences and barriers. Uh, so we’re not, we’re, we’re running towards the problem. That’s where our opportunities to improve lie and, uh, and so is true for our industry. So, uh, so that’s where they were, you know, we’re grateful that people like yourself and Jay Connor and Simplecast, they’ve all had these amazing, uh, meetups and conversations uh, within the community on the topic of diversity. And we’ve, we’ve, you know, been, uh, been, uh, grateful to, to help in those in some small way, but we, we’ve never kind of championed our own along those lines. So I think, um, some of the, some of the recent conversations we’ve had with advisors coming on is to, uh, is to make the most of that. And also we’re grateful for Outlier because it’s a, it’s, you know, it’s a West Coast event and we feel that there’s an imbalance where it’s mostly East Coast um, in the event space. And, um, so we’re really happy anytime there’s a West Coast event. Um, and, uh, and we’ve long wanted a, um, being in the Bay Area here, one of the most diverse places in the world, we have always wanted to bring a podcasting event to, to the Bay Area. So we feel that there’s a nice combo there where we can, uh, we can have that open conversation and dialogue about diversity in our industry, in our company, um, and how we can, um, can help set that standard and have it in a, you know, in a place where, uh, it kind of echoes that. So, uh, I know I’ve talked with Ever about it in the past. He seems game. But I know the schedule is pretty far out. Um, so it’s, it’s something we’ve always lobbied all of the event organizers to do more in California or the West Coast. So I think, uh, we have an opportunity to to have some of our own style in there, as well as, you know, make it a meaningful conversation for, like you said, a lot of these topics that people cover, it’s just kind of lip service or, you know, stroking egos. And I got my picture taken on a stage somewhere and I can put that on my Twitter.
ZACH: No, we actually want to have, you know, and empower meaningful conversation. So I think that’s one of the more important ones we can have.
ARIELLE: Yeah. I mean, what’s the point of this whole thing If we’re not trying to actually create meaningful content, you know? Podcasts are-they’re an amazing way to get right into your brain with whatever you’re listening to, whether it’s, you know, surface level comedy, whether it’s deeper comedy. You know, we can really use this we can use this space to learn more about other people’s experiences. And that, like what I said about me really gaining empathy through podcasts has been huge. It’s been a huge thing.
ZACH: Absolutely. And, and the doors that open from collaborating with people, you never know, really, even if you have an outline or idea of where you want to take a conversation, you’re still, you know, basically, uh, improv-ing with another human. So it’s going to be much more dynamic than just you reading a script or just me reading a script or anything like that. So you know, hat’s how we, that’s how we break down those barriers. And I think that the script actually serves as some kind of barrier here. Uh, so, so to let it be, you know, more organic and, and natural that’s, that’s what, you know, listeners, um, you know, uh, identify with anyway. So, so let’s, uh, let’s have that, the tougher conversations early on in our, you know, in our industry, in our company. And uh, you know, it’s really brought this whole, uh, learning experience has really, for me, brought to light, uh, you know, the opportunity that, that we have to, uh, to help set the standard in our industry. Um, and, and like Rock said, thank you for, for being part of holding us to that, to that standard. Um, and you know, once we, uh, continue to make progress along those lines, um, not just stopping there. Right. Uh, continuing, helping others, uh, live up to this, uh, live up to this standard. And, and if podcasting overall, um, can be more diverse than the bubble it’s within in tech, then I think that’s a real shining star of what’s possible.
AIRELLE: Yeah, that would be awesome. Let’s do it. Why not?
ROCK: Yeah. We’re definitely thinking of how to resolve this in the short term, but what the whole mindset of this is a long-term thing that’s going to be, you know, how we are as leaders, how our company is going to be. Um, so I think the way you said podcasting makes you more-has helped you with your empathy. I feel like, uh, yes, plus one of that. But then just like being a business owner and entrepreneur is like the same thing. Where it’s just like I just-why would we want to cut off like, not just anybody, but like 50% of the people, you know. It’s just bad business, first of all. So, um, yeah, no, thank you. And I mean. How do you think the industry could, could be better? I mean, what else is there? I’ve heard of you know, through my conversations with ladies that have, uh, reached out who have been so generous to give, uh, to give us their thoughts and, um, how the announcement made them feel and how they think we can, um, you know, move forward in a, in a, in the right way. You know, I’ve talked to some people who, uh, you know, are-hold some very, uh, awesome positions in podcasting and have been doing it for years. And they’re telling me that She Podcasts was the first opportunity-opportunity they got to speak at a live event. Um, which you know, is weird.
ZACH: Eye opening.
ROCK: Yeah. Yeah. Um, we didn’t know that before, and I’m not making excuses, but it’s just been eye opening in a lot of ways. And so, um, I think…the initial, uh, response, uh, of, you know, upsetting people that sucked. But I think, uh, Zach and I both agree that we actually believe this is actually a good thing it happened. Because it happened so early because we can correct it. Um, and because like, it’s, I mean kind of awakened to a monster in us to like, no, we’re gonna make this right. To the exact opposite. So, you know, what do you, I mean, just for podcasting as an industry, not just, you know, screw Squadcast, but like the industry, what does the industry need to do?
ARIELLE: Yeah. Um, I think at this point there needs to be a lot of overcompensation. So like, if you, if you think you need to talk to five women, triple that. Talk to 15 women, get 15 perspectives.
ARIELLE: Um, you know, every woman is different and, uh, no one person’s experience is going to be the same as others. And It’ll just make your experience down the line more complete if you have more opinions. Um, and that standard, that-what I just mentioned extends to everything. So if you think you need one woman on your board, triple that. You know. Triple it. Is, I guess what we’re going to say.
ROCK: Fair rule.
ARIELLE: Yeah. Um, basically. Because men have been, so there’s a quote…um, I don’t, I forget who, I think it was, um, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Justice, Justice Ginsburg. Somebody said how many or maybe it was Sandra Day O’Connor. Don’t quote me. Um, how, how many women will be enough to be on the Supreme Court. And it was like, when there are nine. When there are nine women on The Supreme Court. Because why there were nine men on the Supreme Court for so long. Why, why should it need to be equal?
ZACH: My, my wife was just RBG for, for Halloween or over the weekend at a party. Yeah, she, she got this, uh, this necklace on Etsy that was like super on point.
ARIELLE: The dissent necklace.
ARIELLE: Do you know about this? Ruth Bader Ginsburg wears specific clothing when she’s delivering a dissenting opinion. And when she’s giving an agreeing opinion.
ZACH: It’s like, it’s more like lines, right versus like the beads. There’s like a couple of different. Yeah, she had a, it was, it was a great costume too.
ARIELLE: That’s a really great costume.
ZACH: Because she was, it was super simple for her. She got to basically reuse and recycle uh, a graduation gown that she had never worn before. And then it was really just the necklace and some glasses. So she had a good time. Yeah. So, uh, so, you know, overall, you know. The, the industry to, to bring it back to that, you know, uh, I don’t, I don’t think, um, you know: Panels, it sounds like, you know, aren’t, aren’t going to get us there, like, you know, more, more events.
ARIELLE: Um, can I add something?
ZACH: Please, yeah.
ARIELLE: Yeah. So, um, another thing is let’s stop having women in podcasting panels, but let’s start having women… in podcasting panels. See the difference there?
ROCK: I love that.
ARIELLE: I think, I think it’s great for there to be. Um, you know, it’s great when an effort is made to have women at a podcasting event noted for the fact that they are women at a podcasting event, but also women can be in audio drama discussions. They can be in literally anything. Women are represented in all aspects of the podcast industry. So like why wouldn’t they also be in every aspect. Go ahead.
ROCK: Yeah. And that’s what I was kind of alluding to when I said that, like yes, we’re going to respond in the short-term, but like the long-term fix is that we just make this part of our DNA, or this is not like a thought of like, oh, we need to, you know, have a woman here. We need to have, you know, this person here or whatever. Like, that’s just, we want it to become just who we are. So it’s not this like, oh, we need a woman on this panel because we want it for diversity. No, we’re just, we just want that to be what this is. So, um, I think that’s an important distinction.
ARIELLE: Yeah. You do, you do have women on your team, not the advisory board, but your employees?
ZACH: So our employees are our founding team. So everybody has basically been an unpaid volunteer for the last three years, uh, just for some transparency there. And, um, and the, the two kind of, uh, non-founding team members, um, although very early on were, um, uh, were each lady software engineers.
ZACH: One of them, one of them was my, um, was my student at Cal Berkeley. And, uh, and the reason she moved on was because I, uh, I helped her, you know, with recommendation letters and a bunch of other stuff. It was more of a transitional period after our class to, uh, into a full-time position where somebody could afford to pay her, unlike us at the time, like two years ago. Um, so, you know, we’re excited to, uh, to, to bring that back full circle. Grow the team, of course, which is going to be good for, for everybody. Um, but you know, Rock and I have long talked about having, uh, you know, aspirations for a female CTO, uh, which I think would be kind of unusual and in, uh, just tech in general, but, uh, but also something off of my plate. Cause I kind of fill that role.
ARIELLE: You do some “T.”
ZACH: [laughs] Um, yeah, I, I build stuff, uh, from time to time, but it’s um, you know, opportunities like that, uh, you know, have, uh, have, have been in the past, but also are, um, thankfully you know, more, more out in the future. Uh, and that’s to answer your question about the core team, um. And my own personal, uh, in the advisor category, my own personal, uh, mentor outside of the company, um, is a, is a, um…strong woman leader in, within Disney. She, uh, I don’t, I don’t think she would want me saying who she is, but, um, she’s like, uh, uh, crazy busy.
ZACH: So that’s why she’s not, she’s not available for our monthly, uh, you know, advisory meetings and things like that. But, but I do get some DMS in there occasionally with her and, and, and, uh, you know, tough questions. So, um, you know, this is, this is something that, um, like Rock said, is, it’s never never good to, to disappoint people. Um, but you know, we do have a lot of existing relationships. They, uh, they were just not formalized as part of that, uh, part of that advisory board or, or in time for that announcement. I think would be a better way to say it.
ARIELLE: Right. Yeah. And then obviously the argument is: Why make the announcement if you’re not, if you don’t see parody or more than parody, but you know…
ROCK: No doubt we have to.
ARIELLE: Right, right. And I’m not trying to reiterate that. So I would say you’re asking, you are having phone calls with people. That’s awesome. With women and people of color. That’s amazing. Um, my advice is triple it, always. If you think you’re doing the right thing, triple that right thing. If you think you’ve hit the nail on the head in a positive way, hit it three more times. Um, stop thinking, not you specifically, but people stop thinking of women just as people who can represent the women’s perspective of something. Um, and yeah, overcompensate in every direction. Um, until, until we don’t have to anymore.
ZACH: Yeah, and for me as a, you know, a background of going to art school and design… I worked in government for five years pre Squadcast, and I would, I would often, yeah.
ZACH: Uh, thank you for your, uh, tax dollars and being a great constituent. Um, I, uh, I would call out at every opportunity, all of the bad design that I would see across the government, um, in technology.
ARIELLE: There’s tons.
ZACH: Um, it’s just, it’s just designed by not designing, you know, it’s like, assuming that, uh, that systems will kind of take care of themselves, but you know, whether you’re designing- whether you’re aware of being a designer or not, you know, things are being designed by default or otherwise. And, and then, you know, to, to, uh, flip that around, I found us in that same situation where it was, you know, design by lack of intention. Design-which is still bad design. Um, and it was very eye opening that I had found myself kind of, in the path…
ARIELLE: In that situation, yeah.
ZACH: I was, you know, uh, critical of my, uh, of my own, uh, doing, you know and all…
ARIELLE: That’s good. That’s good to actually have the self-awareness to see that. I would say another thing that we can do in terms of combating the problem of sexism in the industry and lack of parody in the industry. So I think that what you should do, and what I try to do, like you said, you call out um, issues when you see them. You would call out bad design. I think it’s important when you see something happening that is not fair. Or if there are all five white men on a panel, or if this conference is led clearly by men and there are not, um, concessions taken, or there are not clear signs that there have been women involved in the planning process. It’s okay to call that out. It’s important to always call that out, even if it’s uncomfortable. Even if it makes people say: Oh, Arielle, She always brings up women. She is known for always doing this. Like, I don’t care. I want to be known for that. It doesn’t matter. You know, even if a subsection of whatever population is going to hate me, it doesn’t matter. Um, so you should do that too. You know, everybody. Men, we need allies, you know, we need men to do that too. And, um, we need people of color to do that. We need white people to do that. We need everybody to be calling out injustices when they see it. And that extends to every aspect of the podcast industry as well.
ROCK: We got you. Thank you so much for sharing your, your input and, and advice on it ‘cause it’s valuable for us to hear. But I think also for our listeners, cause, uh, you know, we’re all probably fallen victim to this in one way or another.
ZACH: And our peer companies. Right. You know, and that’s where I think, uh, I, I hope that, you know, this isn’t just a learning experience for, for Squadcast or, you know, uh, you know, more broadly in the industry, there’s a lot of room for improvement. Um, so I think that, you know, having some of those conversations, um, with, uh, with some of the, some of the leadership who we are in connections with is, um, you know, in, in public, on panels, whatever, um, in, in private, wherever. Just, just bringing that up more, more readily and, uh, and calling it where we see it. I think is, uh, is that that’s kind of the industry self-awareness is, is you, is us and, you know, bringing that stuff to light.
ARIELLE: Yeah. Awesome.
ZACH: So definitely not, uh, definitely not, you know, a comfortable situation to walk into. Um, but it was a, or, or a conversation to have. Um, so, you know, I, I, uh, I do think, you know, we had a, we had an awesome structure for this interview, uh, planned when, when we originally reached out. And, uh, and that I think, you know, is, is, uh, our, by our own doing a kind of different turn of event, but probably an overall healthier conversation to have.
ARIELLE: Totally. Yeah. I mean, I would probably bring this up anyway, even if you hadn’t had this problem. I love bringing it up.
ROCK: Good. That’s what you do.
ARIELLE: Well, thank you guys. Thank you guys for being so willing to discuss it. That’s big.
ZACH: Oh, yeah. And, and you know, this is where, this is where the opportunity lies. So I think that, um, this is not something that we’re just going to be like, oh, we published the first half of our interview with Arielle and, you know, uh, we just cut off all the dialogue about, uh, constructive criticism. So I think that, uh, that’s really where, you know, as a, as a company, we have this opportunity to grow as, as an industry in its relative infancy. Uh, it’s, it’s a lot, a lot easier for us to address these challenges upfront rather than, you know, two decades from now when, uh, when stereotypes are in place and everything’s more solidified and whatever with giant companies-
ARIELLE: Right. Or stereotypes are completely abolished.
ROCK: That’ll be the day.
ARIELLE: Gotta believe.
ZACH: Yeah. Yeah. So, uh, so I do agree though that our medium definitely lends itself to, uh, to, you know, collaborative, uh, creation across different barriers. And that’s something that has always been part of our mission. So that’s why this felt like, kind of doubly stung to us, was like, we’re not, ****, we’re not living up to our mission. Like we’re not holding up this standard.
ZACH: Um, so to, to, you know, be in a position, uh, we’re very grateful to help with people all over the world. And then for, you know, our team to not represent that, that voice internally is something that, you know, we, uh, aspire to for intrinsic reasons, as well as extrinsic reasons with, uh, the, the standard that we’re working to set and uphold in our industry. So a lot of opportunities to improve there and we’re just getting started with it, um, as our industry is. So I really want to thank you again for, for bringing, um, being willing to come in and talk about something that’s probably less comfortable than all the awesome stuff that you’re working on. Um, but you know, I think that if, if we didn’t, it would be doing a disservice and, uh, and we would still be, you know, standing still when we have this massive opportunity to improve.
ROCK: But we’ll definitely have to do a progress report on this, okay?
ARIELLE: Yeah, yeah, yeah, absolutely.
ZACH: Thank you, Arielle.
ARIELLE: No worries.
ZACH: All right. Have a good day.
ROCK: Uh, this has been another episode of Between Two Mics with Zach and Rock from Squadcast.
ZACH: The best way to record remote podcast interviews like today’s, in studio quality.
ROCK: Visit bit.ly/squadpod to check out our resources page where you can download your free remote interview checklist.
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Vincent Moreno Jr. is an Audio Engineer, head of SquadCast Support, and avid BBQ’er. He aims to make sure Podcasters can create content smoothly while sounding crystal clear with ease.