Lawrenceville visual artist Genevieve Barbee, who hosted the interview-style AP Collection podcast, says she thinks not being “super self-promotey” got in the way of her being successful in the long-form format. She’s since evolved her podcast into a less conventional format, which she calls That’s What You’re Good At, where her interviewee leaves a voicemail message, and Barbee creates a drawing of them.
“My urge to do it came from wanting to document what was happening around me, because that’s what informed my art practice,” Barbee says. “I wasn’t interested in having a show about me.”
She’s always used her voice in creative ways, Barbee adds, which dates back to calling her high school and pretending to be her mother when she wanted to get out of class. It helped her confidence level when she got into podcasting, because she wasn’t all that concerned about how her voice sounded.
“In a way, I was already over the whole thing of listening to my voice, because it’s not about me, it’s about the people I’m talking to.”
“Stand-up” psychologist Dr. Nancy Berk agrees that self-promotion is one piece of the puzzle when it comes to building an audience for a podcast. She’s been doing her weekly celebrity/entertainment podcast Whine at 9 since 2011. Over the last three years, she has paired her Parade Magazine column Showbiz Analysis with her interviews for more intensive coverage of celebrities, like Seinfeld’s Jason Alexander and Allison Janney, who won a 2015 Supporting Actress Emmy for the CBS show Mom.
Berk, who lives in Pittsburgh and spends a lot of her time talking to celebs in Los Angeles, says the amount of time a podcast requires may be one barrier to entry for women. “We take care of everything, and we’re all incredibly busy,” she says.
“I would say to anyone considering starting a podcast to make sure you love what you’re doing, because it does take a lot of your time.”
Despite the runaway success of Serial, an independent podcast is not necessarily going to take off overnight and be lucrative, she adds, so be prepared for that too.
Even with all those caveats, Berk says, women should absolutely continue to find their way in podcasting. “Women’s voices are so important.”
But reach isn’t always the main motivation for women who get into podcasting; for some, like Barbee, it’s a medium for creative expression.
Kahmeela Adams currently co-hosts and produces four podcasts: Rugged Angel Cast, where she interviews “women who live out loud;” Down to Watch, where she and her husband discuss movies and TV; The Scandalized Podcast, which celebrates watching the ABC television show “Scandal;” and Revisiting Sunnydale, which reviews and discusses episodes of the cult TV show “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”
“I figured I would talk about things I was interested in,” she says.
Adams, who went to school for filmmaking, tried blogging but says she prefers the immediacy of podcasting to the laborious process of writing. Even once she’d made the decision to podcast, it took time for her to find her rhythm. “I struggled in the beginning with the thought ‘oh, does anyone really care what I have to say?'”
She says she’d love to produce someone else’s podcast, and continue to grow her audience. She’s most proud of her Rugged Angel podcast because it lets her shine a spotlight on women doing amazing things in Pittsburgh. “I haven’t run out of interesting women yet.”
So what podcasts to podcasters listen to? The list is varied. Berk says one of her favorites is the Satellite Sisters, which features conversations among five sisters. Mazzoni loves Chris Hardwick’s Nerdist and Dinner Party Download. Barbee has a long list of favorites that includes I Was There Too, which features actors who had small roles in huge movies and comedy podcast Whatever We Call It. Adams likes Denzel Washington Is The Greatest Actor of All Time Period and the Girl on Guy podcast by actress Aisha Tyler.
In addition to the Libsyn official podcast, Escobar co-hosts the She Podcasts show with Jessica Kupferman which is all about helping women podcasters and discussing their issues and challenges, from gadgets to relationship management to interview best practices. Making those connections on behalf of other women is crucial, Escobar adds.
“This is a community where together we can help each other and promote each other, and then it becomes a movement,” she says. “When somebody asks ‘what’s your favorite podcast?’ do your best to throw a woman in there.”
Who are your favorite podcasters in Pittsburgh, male and female? Tell us who we missed in the comments.