With recording equipment set up in the dining room of her Crafton home, Marta Mazzoni has built a loyal following for her quirky interview style in her Marta on the Move podcast. What started off as a way to combine her love of travel with the art of conversation has evolved into a podcast highlighting interesting people and events in Pittsburgh, with travel advice, gaming and “general nerdery” thrown in for good measure. Her guests have included Mayor Bill Peduto, and in her just-posted 50th episode, actor Patrick Wilson.
“I got into it because I loved interviewing people,” Mazzoni says, adding she used to “interview” her stuffed animals as a kid. Through the podcast, she says she’s been able “to discover people in my hometown who are interesting and engaging.”
Ever since Sarah Koenig took up the cause of Adnan Syed in Serial, podcasting has enjoyed a resurgence. It’s been around for more than a decade, but suddenly podcasting is outpacing blogging as a way for people to have their voices (literally) heard in the public square.
Even though it was a woman-hosted podcast that’s fueled much of podcasting’s revival, women like Marta are the minority in the field, which by all measures skews largely male. The measures, though, may be part of the problem with determining who’s podcasting and where.
Mike Sorg, who’s been in the podcasting space since the mid-2000s, produces several podcasts through Sorgatron Media, and hosts the weekly AwesomeCast podcast, which focuses on tech and the tech industry. He leads how-to discussions at Pittsburgh’s annual PodCamp conference, and tells people who want to get into the field to just get started.
Sorg says it’s easy to trace podcasting’s roots to the tech industry, where women are notoriously underrepresented. “So in a way, it’s an extension of that, and probably why we see fewer women in the space,” he says.
Sorg says he makes a conscious effort to make sure his rotating cohosts on the AwesomeCast regularly include a woman, like ScareHouse’s Katie Dudas, because he believes it makes the conversations that much better. “You can’t have the same insights from the same guys all the time.”
Elsie Escobar, who cofounded She Podcasts, rejects the oft-repeated notion that there are few or no women podcasters. The She Podcasts Facebook group has close to 3,000 members, Escobar says, many of whom have produced their own podcasts for a long time, and some who are just starting out and seeking advice.
She started her online yoga instruction podcast Elsie’s Yoga Kula ten years ago, and has worked to help other women podcasters find resources and training to produce their own.
“When I first started, it really was the case that a lot less women were doing the podcasting thing, by a vast amount.” As the field has grown, and the tech requirements have become less of a barrier, so too have the number of women producing their own podcasts, she says. The problem with women’s podcasts, Escobar says, is that most just aren’t being seen.
The main place where people look for podcasts is iTunes, Escobar explains, which shows the most downloaded or most popular podcasts. “But that’s really driven by an algorithm that doesn’t necessarily encompass what a successful, well-rounded podcast looks like,” she says.
Unlike radio, which has independent and college stations among the pop music-fueled commercial stations, there isn’t a good mechanism in place for listeners to seek out and find indie podcasts. So promotion often falls to the podcasters themselves.
Escobar is the social media community manager for Pittsburgh-based Libsyn, one of the oldest podcasting companies, which fuels 30 percent of all the podcasts on iTunes. She runs the company’s “Promote the Tar Out of Yourself Friday” challenge every week, encouraging its podcasters to step up and get their links out there on social media. “The majority of the time it’s the men who are promoting themselves,” she says. “Women just need to step out of our comfort zones and promote ourselves, and we’re not used to doing that.”