Who Are You Making This For?
Kameel Stanley: There was a shift in my brain of like, not only who I was making something for, but like who, who was my boss, right? Like I no longer thought of my boss as my boss. I thought of the audience as my boss.
Dessa: As podcasters, a lot of us want to serve diverse audiences. In this panel, we hear from four people who have gotten to know their audiences -- and find out how knowing who’s listening shapes the content they create. I’m Dessa, and this is the Werk It: the podcast, a compilation of some of the best moments from the live event.
Cristina Kim: Thank you. All right everybody. How's LA doing today? Thank you so much for joining us for this last session. We're so, so, so pleased to be here and we're going to be talking about audience. So there's this common adage that when you make something for everyone, you make it for no one. The truth is in audio that when you make it for everyone, you're making it for white people and more specifically you're making it for white, middle to high income, cisgender straight folks. I will say it again, white, middle to high income, cisgender straight folks.
Unfortunately, when you're making audio, especially in legacy public media institutions, there can be a real push to do just that. “Make it about whatever you want, you have free reins to do whatever you want, but make sure it appeals to everyone. Okay. We don't want to isolate our listeners,” ie our white listeners and we here on this panel think that's a real disservice to the power of audio, which allows folks to connect with one another and more specifically to make people of color feel seen -- and we're not talking about in that anthropological sense -- feel seen, you know, I see you, kind of things.
So that's what this panel is about. We're going to blow that all up. We're going to spill some tea and we're going to show you that how, by constantly asking yourself, who am I making this for? And really asking yourself, who the hell am I making this for? You can build a podcast and really reach the audience you want for, which for everyone here is people of color. So let's get started. Let me introduce you to this bad-ass panel of ladies right here. I've got Tonya Mosley, she is the producer and host of Truth Be Told as well as now the cohost of Here And Now. Tonya Mosley.
And here in the center with these lovely blue lips and these pink heels is Kameel Stanley. She is now the senior producer of The City from USA Today and formerly the co-host and producer of We Live Here.
And finally we have Berry Syk, the creator and mastermind behind Podcasts in Color. I know most of you know her. She's doing all the work here, getting us all our names out there. So welcome Berry. And here are the beautiful logos that represent these women but can never complete, encapsulate everything they do. Boom, boom, boom, boom. Truth Be Told, Podcasts in Color and The City. All right.
So what are we talking about today? We're talking about audience. So I'm going to ask each of you actually to just go, um, one by one and I'll start with you, Tonya. So when we're talking about audience, what do we mean when we say who are we making this for? I know we work together on Truth Be Told. So early on we were tasked with defining our audience and comparing our audiences, our show's audience to other people. But we kind of took a different approach. Who is Truth Be Told’s audience and how did we come up with that? How do we contrast with the other ways that the legacy news room was doing that?
Tonya Mosley: Yeah, so um, we were given the opportunity to make Truth Be Told -- at the time I worked for KQED. And, uh, just to give you a little backstory, Truth Be Told was a podcast and a show on a KQED back in 2015, 2016. It was before the presidential election. And so when we were given this opportunity to reimagine Truth Be Told, uh, both Cristina and I really thought deliberately about what audiences we need to serve that aren't currently being served and what is the void that we're trying to fill. Um, and so that's really how we came to this idea if we're going to make a podcast, what is the podcast in 2019 that people need to hear right now? We're in a different time than we were back then, before President Trump was President Trump. And so, when Trump was President Trump -- you get what I'm saying. Um, so that's really how we came to this idea of people of color.
Now there's also, um, been a lot of talk about that term “people of color” and what that truly means. And so for us we were very deliberate in thinking about, we were talking about black and brown people and, in the Bay specifically, we were thinking about the audiences that we would love to hear more from an answer from. And I'll tell you a little bit more about that a little bit later. But yeah, that's how we came to that.
Cristina: Great. And Kameel, can you tell us a little bit more about and want to talk about specifically, cause I know you work so much on we live here and in some ways you had to switch up who your audience was in the middle of production. And I think we really want to talk about that, cause some of you are probably already making podcasts and so it can be really easy to be like, “Okay, it's too late for us to reach or redefine our audience because it's going to make a shift in the middle.” But Kameel you were able to do that. So can you talk about -- a little bit about what the podcast is and who you were making it for and then that shift?
Kameel Stanley: Yeah. So, um, I moved to St. Louis, um, maybe four years ago after being a newspaper journalist where I made a lot of stuff for everyone and no one. And then I went to a public radio station where I was again making stuff for everyone and no one, and I specifically moved there to do this podcast about race and class, um, for the station and PRX. And, um, we didn't really know who our audience was. Um, because as a journalist I hadn't really been thinking that deeply about who my audience was. Or if I was thinking about it, it was very broad.
Um, but about two seasons in, um, we were challenged by PRX to say like, they asked us, who is your audience? And we were like, “Uh, you know, it's like curious people, who are, you know, interested in race and class.” And they were like, “that's not an audience.” Um, and so they really challenged us to think deeply about it and to stop, pause and pivot and figure out who we were making the show for.
Um, when we first started, it was very interesting, because clearly I am a black woman. I co-hosted the show with a white man and I worked with mostly white people. And so how they answered that question, they were like, well, our audience is who we think the public radio audience is. And I was like, “nah, black people listen to the show.” And they were like, “How do you know?” I was like, “Uh cause I talk to them,” and they were like, “Oh, okay.” So they, that was their first inkling that maybe who we have in our audiences is not actually who was listening to this show and who is being, um, impacted by this show. That really set us off to then pause everything that we were doing and really, um, figure out from our existing audience and other people and strangers. Did they even need a show about race and class? If they needed it, what it was going to do for them? Um, and so we really put the brakes on and put ourselves in a, um, I think very vulnerable but very necessary position of figuring out like, is your show actually needed?
And, uh, in podcasting there's just too many choices, and if you're not making something that's meaningful to people, it's not going to stick. Right? You're not going to get, you're not going to get listeners, um, if you're not make -- if you're not solving something for them, if they can't find a for you in their life. And so we had to, we had to do that.
Cristina: How many people are familiar with We Live Here just applaud. Okay. For everyone who's not though, can we talk about where is this based and why is it such a particular question about who are we making this for? Because I think with We Live Here, it matters.
Kameel: It definitely matters. Um, so I was at a public radio station station doing a show about race and class. Um, co-hosting it with a white dude in a part of the country that had had, and that still has, quite a bit of national attention on it when it comes to those issues. Um, and dealing with a lot of the stuff you deal with if you're a media, like distrust with the community, valid, um, all that good stuff. And so once we really figured and honed in on like who actually our audience was and we stuck to that, um, it really changed our show. Um, and getting the station to realize that who our audience was is not something, it was not someone that they were focusing on in any of their other content. Um, and being extremely strategic and intentional about like, “Nope, this is our audience. So that is who we tell everything. That's our lens.” Uh, just like you're telling most of your stories through an invisible lens that you don't talk about. Um, we’re intentional and we will talk about it out loud. This is who our lens is for.
Cristina: Hmm. We've got a little audio clip here that you have. Do you want to set it up for us?
Kameel: We do. So these, these words are probably like, why, what the heck do these words mean? Right. So race and class, obviously that's what the show was about when we first started. We had a very public radio-y tagline. It was, “Our show was race, class, power, poverty systems and the people they touch,” right? Sounds very public radio-y cause it was um, we transitioned after we did our audience work to, we were a show for people somewhere on the woke spectrum because that's what we found our, that's who our audience was.
Shanice is our number one audience member. Um, she's a 30 something black woman, um, who needs all sorts of things from us. And that's what we make -- that's who we make the show for. Daymon is probably her, uh, fan boy. Um, and Daymon is a white guy. Cause, remember I co-hosted with a white, uh, with a white counterpart. Um, Daymon, uh, also wanted to listen to those episodes and needed certain things from the show. Um, but we made the show for Shanice, um, and Jesus, I mean, Jesus is who he is.
Cristina: Why not? Alright, let's take a listen.
[Audio clip]: Hi everyone. I'm Jesus and I'm black. Oh. So do you go by black Jesus? No, of course not. Do you go by black Kameel or do you go by white Tim? Okay, point taken. Yeah, so why bring it up when you introduce yourself? For centuries, my brother and sister, people had been making all these statues and pictures of me as a white guy, which is weird cause I'm not a white fella. I mean, are you sure about that? Because I could have sworn that you're white dude, you're not alone. I get that from a lot of white folks, my brother, especially the Christians. [End audio clip].
Kameel: So Jesus was our first guest and our first episode after we went through our audience work and after we identified who our show was for and after, after, um, I had kind of a creative, a creative moment, um, and I was like, let's just tell it like it is, you know, I was just, I was just frustrated and I was venting. I was like, you know, it’s like, Jesus, like everybody know he's not white. And other people in the room were like, and I was like, Jesus is not white, Jesus black. And we were like, we had to do a, we were working on like a pilot or something and I was like, let's do black Jesus. And they was like, how are we gonna do black Jesus? And I was like, we just gon’ do a black Jesus. And we did black Jesus. Um, and after that everybody knew that like our show had changed. It was clearly intentional and that we were just gonna. Um, we had made a big pivot.
Cristina: Nice. All right Berry. So I'm really excited that Kameel recommended you for this panel because you're not a podcast creator for a legacy organization. You are instead a key figure in curating and helping audiences of color find podcasts by people of color. That is a huge fricking job.
And so you're also in dialogue, directly in dialogue, with the audiences that we're trying to make things for, we're trying to reach. And so when you're thinking, when you're thinking about this question, who is this for, how do you then, how do you recognize that? How when you're listening and curating and like deciding to highlight podcasts, how are you thinking about that question and the way that you're highlighting work?
Berry: Um, I was telling somebody I make things as if I was the audience member. It's like, how do you, I live in Denver, Colorado. I'm not in New York or LA like most people. Um, my favorite podcast is The Read and I'm like, I am always on social media. People understand that. And I'm like, how do other people really find the things that I'm finding in where is that at? And I was like, so I'm going to approach it as if I was approaching this and I didn't know anything and how do I find this? So I'm going to go to a website cause my first thing is always going to be Google. Um, and I really just started from there. Everything I do, I think like, if I didn't already know this, how would I find this? And what are the steps that I would do? Am I searching keywords, you know, am I asking a friend, am I going to be on Instagram searching hashtags and different things? And I really more looked into that, looked into how people use that. Especially people of color. We’re big on hashtags. Of course we’re big on Twitter and other things like that. And really trying to use all the things that we use on a regular basis to reach other people like me. And it's worked that way.
So I find that as long as I'm doing things where I'm like, this is where I would be. So I know other people like me are here, um, it's a thing. I tell people how I started in this is like I said, I'm a fan of The Read and on SoundCloud you can see how many people listen. And so, on SoundCloud, refreshing for The Read to publish on Thursdays when I used to, I used to notice that like, you know, within the first we're going from zero to like 10,000. And I'm like, so there are other people on here that are all waiting, you know, for this and all the live shows I've been to for The Read and things like that, unlike -- I'm in Denver, so like when I go to music or anything that's a rap and it's a black person, it's a crowd full of white people. Unlike that, when I go to podcasts, live shows and it’s a black podcast, it's full of black people. And so I'm like, there has to be something and if I keep doing this, I know I can reach the people that are listening. You know? I was like, I can't buy ads on these things. I don't have any money. So literally just using social media and then saying I can do this and let me use the way that I would think about things to reach people that are looking for the things I'm looking for. And that's worked so far. So I mean I know it's possible, which is why when people only reach out to white people, I'm like, I know it's possible because it's mostly POC people that find me from all over the world. So you know, it's a part of that.
Cristina: But what I'm hearing also from you is that there was a gap that you're filling, right? When you first went to look for other podcasts beyond The Read, you’re like, “Hey, I want to listen to more podcasts by black creators, by people of color creators.” I mean, you weren't finding that is what I’m hearing.
Berry: It’s more pop culture. It's very easy to find somebody talking about what's talking about on Twitter. Somebody's talking about, you know, like politics or like the latest thing that they feel like somebody wants to hear. But who's talking about the things we regularly talk about, you know? Who's talking about like the history of things we've done? Who's talking about the books that we read? Because I'm a very big romance book reader.
Cristina: Oh, me, too!
Berry: Who’s talking about like the other things that we are open to? Business entrepreneurship, um, beauty, wine, food. and like, there's a variety of things. And so I went through searching, um, and trying to fill that gap and trying to like gather people to say like there is a bigger industry because a lot of things is I would find a person and they felt like they were alone. And my thing was like, if I can connect you to, for you to understand there is a bigger industry, there are other POC podcasts, then you can grow past making something that you feel like is not being made if it's being made, to what you really want to make and trying to fill that gap of things that we really don't have. Instead of a lot of people making the same thing cause they think they're alone, then they find me or something else and they're like, “Oh there are a lot of other podcasts like this. I could have made the podcasts on yarn or something that I really wanted, but I thought the thing I needed to hear from these people because nobody was hearing from them.” But really we're just not highlighted or featured, which is what I started doing so that people can find the other kind of things.
Cristina: So each and every one of you have defined your audience, which in some ways can be the easy part. “I want to reach these people.” But then comes the work and also sometimes the challenges. So Tonya, I wanted to ask you, so once you know who your audience is, like, now what? And for us, you know, the goal was make a podcast for POC’s, but how do you actually go about reaching that audience and then also making sure that that content is reflective of the diverse experiences within that umbrella term?
Tonya: Right. Well that's a great question, Kameel brought up something that, um, I kind of dealt with as well during my time at KQED, although it wasn't as specific. Uh, people weren't overtly saying, “Well, our audience is just white. And so there aren't any really people of color. Are they really listening to us?” Um, but in other ways I was hearing that. And so when we came up with this, when we decided that we wanted to focus on people of color and make a podcast not only by, because we were, are people of color, but for people of color, um, I just thought, we both thought that the first thing we need to do is to hear from people. We know from our circles that people listen to KQED. We know the things that they're yearning for. Um, but let's hear from them about what they want in a podcast, uh, from KQED.
So we had this idea that we wanted to do an advice show, but we wanted to hear from folks about what they wanted in an advice show. So we held various listening sessions where we kind of pitched our idea to them. Uh, I heard from folks within KQED, uh, say to me, “Well, you know, you may not get a lot of people to show up, but even those still, that's a nice idea that you're going to have these listening sessions.” Well, we, uh,
Cristina: We planned them in a week.
Tonya: We planned them in a week. We planned them in a week, we got some food, we got some drinks. And on a weekday night we had a large group of people come to KQED, which I think is also important. If you work for a legacy news organization, it's important to invite people of color to your organization. Now there are two schools of thought on this. There, there's a thought that, “Hey, you should go to where they are,” which is important as well. You should be going to where they are. But you also want to show them that they're important enough that you want to bring them into the fold. You want to bring them into the building. So when we had our first listening session, there were people who came who said, “I've lived in the Bay Area all of my life and I've never been here. Um, it's so nice to be inside of this building.” And so I realized that meant a lot for them to be able to be thought of in that way, that they were important enough to come in the building, but also that we wanted to hear from them.
So, uh, we held these listening sessions and then we had breakout sessions where we asked them questions, what would they want in the show if we were to take on questions, what would they like, what topics would they like for us to do? It was also eye-opening because a lot of them said to us, I mean more than a few, “Is KQED really behind this? I know that you said it's by and for people of color, are they really down with this? Is this going to be for the long haul? Is this a gimmick?” And then they also asked things like, “well, where are the folks in larger management? We see that you're here, but are they really behind you?” And that's important, too, when you're thinking about audiences of color because they've seen things come and go. We're not the first ones to ever think about targeting an audience. You know, if you talk to people who've been in the business, I talk with journalists who've been in the business since the sixties and seventies. They've also had these projects where they've tried to reach out and maybe they've had a show on regular radio and that show was on and that the people of color thought it was very popular. Black people, for instance. And then, you know, two years later the show goes away and there's the perception that the legacy organization was not interested in investing in that show.
So I say that to say it's very important, uh, to know that, um, when you reach out to people and you want to hear what they have to say, that you also listen to them and then you make that, you bake that, into your project. And that's what we did. We listened to them. We got something like over 200 questions for -- and we were only gonna make six episodes the first run. And, uh, from that, from our listening sessions, Cristina and I just put them all out on post-its and then put them into themes. And we saw that there were themes and from there we started to build the show.
Cristina: And I want to talk -- and Kameel, I think you can speak to this as well as Tonya. So I think depending on where you are, there's this kind of blurred line between producer and audience. And sometimes your editor will be like, “We can't just appeal to the audience! Like you are a reporter, you are a producer. You, you have to create the content.” So there's that blurred line. But I think that that tension gets particularly exacerbated when there's -- it’s crossing gender and race. Can you talk a little bit about that? So like this idea of like you're pandering to your audience and what that means when you're a creator of color, especially a woman of color.
Kameel: Yeah. Um, that's true. That's true. There's a, there's an interesting thing that happens, I think if you're a creator of color, um, where when you do something and it's intentional and targeted toward your community, um, you get a lot of second guessing or people will be like, well, I mean [inaudible], they’ll even, maybe they'll say something about bias or things like that. And I'm like, “Look, nobody talks to like white people or white reporters about like, what are they bringing to when they're doing their stories?” Um, how are they framing, what framing are they using and why they're so invested in this story about X. Um, where if I'm bringing, if I'm doing a story about, uh, housing or gentrification or something like that, or I'm bringing like, I really, you know, Shanice um, this will really appeal to Shanice because like she told me it would it appeal to her like this is something that she cares about. Like, well, you know, um, I mean, are you sure? Or there's a line there. Um, yeah, it happens. And I think that doing the audience work though gives you the backup because it's, it's much more powerful if you can say, “we're making this show or we're not making this show because it's not for our audience,” as opposed to, uh, “we're not making this show because I'm not interested in it as a journalist.” or “I'm making this show because it's a really good story.” I mean, there were stories after we did our audience work that we killed because we were like, it's not for Shanice, like she doesn't care about it.
So, and there was, were stories that as someone who's a trained journalist that like I probably would've done, they were, they would have been easy. I would have thought, I mean, they were in the realm of race and class, but they were not for our audience. And once you hone in on, um, once you hone in on who that audience is and you, you really kind of use it to evaluate everything you're doing. Um, it's just, it's changed like how I, how I do my job, how I approach my work. Um, and I think it's especially important in podcasting because again, there's so much noise in podcasts, um, that if you're not making, not making, um, if you're not making something that's meaningful for people, um, you know, it's not gonna stick.
Berry: Like how, I like what Kameel is saying. There was a panel yesterday where they were like, “Can you take feedback and how do you take in that feedback?” And a lot of people don't ever ask for feedback or if they get any type of feedback, which is in tweets or an email or something, it's immediately taken as like, “Ugh, I can't believe that person said that. I can't believe they insulted my audio. I can't believe they asked me, you know, maybe could I clean up the audio or not chew gum on the mic or can I”, you know, do this or different things. And it's like, it really is important, like how the panel said yesterday is how do you take in feedback to be able to not like, take it as an affront of that somebody is asking a question or asking for more, but, um, being able to take in feedback and pour it back into your podcast. a\And I feel like podcasts that reach POC are really good at getting feedback, looking at what people are saying about the podcast and applying that to the podcast to reach more people of people of color because there's always going to be a gap or like, “This is how you can reach me, and it seems like you're talking to somebody else. I don't know like, how you're doing this. Is that right?” And a lot of people don't really take that in or if that happens, they're like, “I can't believe somebody said that. You know?”
Kameel: I think with this like doing this audience work, like I it, there was a shift in my brain of like, not only who I was making something for, but like who, who was my boss, right? Like I no longer thought of my boss as my boss. Um, I thought of the audience as my boss. I wanted to make something for them. I wanted to make something with them. I was, um, wanted to see that the feedback that I was getting and I, you know, did my storytelling thing and put it back out into the world. Like it meant as much to me how it landed with them. And look, I've been a journalist for a long time. I got thick skin, I used to be a crime reporter. Like I'm used to people, you know, cussing me out, slammin’ doors in my face, things like that. But there is a, there is still a different level of intimacy that we have with our audiences as podcasters.
And, um, there's just a difference in how we think of them. You know, like with, with, um, after we did our audience work, like it wasn't just one time, we didn't just do it at the beginning. Um, like, like Tonya and Cristina, like throughout the year we brought people back and kept making sure, like, okay, how are we doing now? How are we doing now? We're making this show with you. You want to hear a little bit of like, let's test out some audience, some audio with you. And that was a totally different way that other people within my organization were doing their jobs, were doing their journalism. And you know, I'm sure some people thought we were crazy, but you know, the results spoke for themselves.
Tonya: And what both of you guys are saying brought to mind to me, um, what we're really talking about too, in building podcasts for people of color. It's about de-centering whiteness and that's a journey that you will be on for the rest of your life. But taking feedback from your audience really gets you closer to that mission. And so, you know, you mentioned Kameel, as a journalist and you being out in the field, um, and you do stories and you do them, you know, because that's what you do. There's a certain level of undoing what you learned to be able to build yourself back up to create something specifically for an audience. Um, and that de-centering of the whiteness and listening to your audience when they give you that feedback, you think you hit the mark, but it's like, no, wait a minute, you know, maybe I need to do this or maybe I need to change or shift and evolve as you both are saying, um, is a work in progress that that happens throughout the process.
Cristina: And I think, going back to you Tonya, I think something that we both weren't prepared for is that feedback that when you talk to your audience you have to be willing to hear things that you don't want to hear. Like they're really going to question you. I know Tonya, like that day, like we were, thought we were going to have like, this nice presentation about our work and talk about advice, but we were like, put on the grill, specifically around like who is this show for? Do you want to talk a little about that? And then how we got to make the show we made.
Tonya: Yeah. Um, I mentioned earlier how they were asking us how committed KQED was to the project, which KQED has been, uh, very supportive of this project, which is amazing because I have worked at lots of places throughout my career where if I brought up, “Hey, we want to do a show just for people of color,” they'd been like, “Okay, yeah, that's nice Tonya, we hired you. That's why you're here. You are our color.” You know? So, um, it's true, but KQED has is very evolved in thinking about these things and allows us where we're doing a second season and we're continuing on because of that. Um, but yeah, they asked us specific questions about, um, how committed, uh, KQED was, uh, who this is for, how over time, um, they've seen, you know, there are a lot of systemic issues within the Bay Area that they said over time, you know, feeling marginalized within the Bay Area, um, as it shifts and changes. Uh, and so we finally came up with something that we felt really proud of and really spoke to the authenticity of what our audience was asking. And yeah.
Cristina: Here you can take a listen to all the voices that made that.
[Audio clip]: Let's talk for a minute. I am obsessed with getting and giving advice. I can't get enough. Dear Abby, I need you. I need your help. But sometimes, oh, let's be real, a lot of the time, the most popular advice shows in columns leave people like me, people like us, black, brown, indigenous, and Asian folks out of the conversation. Is it okay to feel huge, phenomenal, amazing joy when it seems like the rest of the world is burning? I'm Tonya Mosley. Welcome to Truth Be Told, the advice show you always wanted. We need to love women of color more and kind of be more generous. You are my, yes. We're giving each other high fives in here over that. If the other shows are telling you how to blend in and behave, we explore how you can be you in a world that doesn't always want you to just fully be -- a place where you can laugh, cry, bitch, moan. Every day I wake up and I'm just like, “okay, so how am I going to handle this? Or how am I going to do this?” Yup. We all have different experiences in this country, but Truth Be Told is intentional when we say people of color. This show is a place where we meet at the intersection of not only our oppression, but our resilience -- allowing us to ultimately discover the truth that lead us all closer to feeling whole. What would you do if you weren't afraid? When I'm really honest with myself about the answer to that question, that's exactly what I'm supposed to do. Each week me and a brilliant special guest will unpack your questions, predicaments and experiences about race and culture in these United States. Truth Be Told, we see you, we feel you, we hear you. Hear us anywhere and everywhere you get your podcasts.. And click that little subscribe button now so you won't miss a minute. [End audio clip].
Tonya: I do want to say a couple of things. Uh, and um, Kameel brought this up as well, but, uh, every step of the way also including people of color, so black and brown people, uh, when it comes to the logo, when it comes to the design, all of those things were important. And so really if you're thinking about being an ally, um, it's really simple is like stepping out of the way. So collaborating with those folks who want to create podcasts within a space, uh, but then also being, uh, allowing yourself to step out of the way to allow those things to happen.
And so what was beautiful is we were able to actually do that, where we had folks who were able to come in and give their ideas and thoughts and opinions to make this podcast authentically their own. Um, and that's a big part of it because oftentimes we feel like, okay, I've seen it happen where someone feels like I'm such an ally that I need to be in a big part of this. I need to have my fingers in the mix. And no, a big thing that you can do is just support. I mean, that's a huge part of being able to continue this work.
Cristina: And really quickly, I'm going to go to Kameel, but I just want to, this is some images you're seeing here is that at the end of Truth Be Told, we had a live event where we invited a lot of the people who had given us the questions, who had helped us make the show and then new listeners to come join in a night of a live taping and I think that's something to bear in mind. We're talking about focusing our audiences, which doesn't mean use your audience. Like you are in a relationship with them. You want to be in constant dialogue. Like Kameel is saying to use their expertise to be in dialogue with them so they're not just feeling used.
But Kameel, I really want to talk to you really quickly. I think it's really easy to say, Hey, we want to reach people of color or local community in, in your instance, specifically black listeners, but it can be really hard in a white newsroom to be like, Hey, hold up. We're not reaching that audience. How do you actually have that conversation? How do you get people on board in an instance where the show's already running and you haven't already had the conversations, where you’re like, “We're going to do this, we're getting the green light, we're going into our own corner?” You had to do a lot of negotiating, collaborating. How do you get people onboard and stay sane?
Kameel: Um, I think I was lucky in that the point at which I entered that newsroom and started on that show, um, there was a lot of white guilt flowing. And um, so they were, you know, it was, they were kind of primed, um, for maybe not necessarily knowing what it would mean if I suggested something, but, um, they were feeling the pressure and a lot of times in those moments you just go for it. And it also happened to be good that I like, I wasn't, I wasn't, um, I wasn't a baby reporter anymore. Um, I had already had some accomplishments. I was much more assertive, um, as a woman. Um, and so I just kept pushing back on things. And again, doing the work, I had evidence behind me. Right? It was, it was easier for me to be like, we're making this show for this person because here she is right here and here are all these other people who tell us that we're doing it this way. Um, as opposed to just like, “I just wanna make this thing cause I think it will be cool. Just trust me.” They don't trust you. Right? So you have to show them and you have to bring your evidence and you have to, um, then you gotta deliver. So
Cristina: Is there any particularly hard conversation that you had to get people on board or you were able to really,
Kameel: Um, no, like I said, um, use the white guilt. Yeah. To your advantage.
Cristina: And Berry, even the best laid plans for a podcast can't go far if your listeners aren't with you. So on your side of things, you're kind of seeing the whole landscape. And I know that you look at podcasts internationally too. Like you were telling me before that you're looking at what Spotify is putting out on UK to see when Spotify UK is missing out on Black History Month. So like you are on it internationally. So I mean that's kind of what I'm about to ask you is like what are the real, the realized or missed opportunities on the distribution marketing side for people who want to get their, their podcasts to people of color?
Berry: One of the things I think Renee Richardson might be here, she's not, she's located in London. She's one of the like one of the people that I'm like, “Hey can you tell me what you see?” Or like, “Do you see this?” Like she's one of the people I'll ask if things are going on over there cause I can't see what Spotify looks like over there. So I'll ask somebody that lives in a different country, “Hey can you look on your page and tell me if you see X thing?” And most of them are like, “sure, let me go and do that.” And I'll look into it and just kind of see. I tweet about it if it's not there. I do look into where people are being highlighted and who is being highlighted. I'm big on just scrolling a podcast page and not clicking on anything. And I'm like, if I'm doing that and only seeing white faces, that means you all working there are doing the same and not seeing anything wrong. And, to me, that's a problem. So it's easier for me to take a screenshot of that page and say, “Hey, do you all see this?” And no, I tell people all the time, it's not a thing that people really respond to me. The response comes through the app. It's a week later where now you're seeing somebody highlighted that wasn't there, you know you're seeing a list that wasn't there, other podcasts that weren't there, that I can tell they probably went on my site and were like, “Oh, these podcasts are on her first page. We'll just include these things.” And I'm like, “It works though.”
So my thing is is like if you're, a lot of people are like, “How do I get featured? Is it numbers?” And I'm like, “No, it's the person behind the page.” So I can, I know I don't necessarily reach out or email them, but I can tell you who's behind different pages because I pay attention. People will say it at different points. If you pay attention to the news and things like that. I'm a detailed person, like at least podcasts, so I'm like, if I'm paying attention to that, that's how to me, I end up helping and then two I know how to highlight people more like I'm always on Twitter. A big thing is if you search Twitter, you can always find somebody asking for a podcast, “Hey, are there podcasts on X thing? Are there podcasts on X thing?” And I'm like, I searched those tweets and that tells me what gaps aren't being filled. If you're always asking for podcasts on black women and all these threads are going viral for podcasts on black women, that tells me they're not being featured enough places because people are like, “I don't know how to find these podcasts!” So they have to keep asking Twitter and Facebook and all these other places, and so then I'm going to do more lists by black women. I'm going to do more things of like, if I see somebody asking where are the Latinx podcasts, I'm going to have a Latinx list. If I see one, I'm going to post it, so that you know you can go link to it and find other people.
If you ask me, you know, where I tell people like I have the map on my site, a Google map. If you submit to my thing, I've put you in a Google map. So I'm like podcasts all over the world. If you're like, “where are the podcasts in Oklahoma” I don't want you to have to reach out to me. You can go on my site and find that. I tell people, “I'm a person and I don't plan on always being around, but I plan on having a resource that if you would like to find the information that you say you're looking for, it is out there and easily for you to find.” And that's what I try to be. I'm like it's there. The people are looking for it and if you're actually like trying to like, talk to those people, like even in the crowd, I feel like I've met so many people in there like, “I didn't know so many women of color podcasts existed!” You know, at Werk It, and I'm like, that's a problem. The fact that you're saying these things, that's part of the gap. That's not the gap that anybody is helping fill on a bigger level. Like we can get a couple of podcasts, but I'm like, are we really doing anything that people are reaching to podcasts that aren't always, like I say, entertainment, that we're getting into deeper subjects, that we're not only highlighting entertainers, that have different podcasts on whatever network it is. So to me it's like the gap isn't going to be filled if more entertainers get a podcast and people listen to T.I.'s podcast. The gap is going to be filled when people find out that there's wine podcasts and they can listen to those or therapy for black girls or like the other things of like, Oh, okay, we do talk about therapy because I'm so sick of people saying we don't talk about therapy and here I'm like, “Do you Google things? Because we are out here.” Like, you know, it's not like somebody's knocking on your door like, “Hi, I'm black and I’d like to talk to you about therapy today.” But like if you Google, we are out here trying to do different things.
So I'm like, in a different place of, and this would come into a thing of a Google Podcast and different places it's going to be being Google-able unlike almost bypassing those other places. Like right now you need people's curated pages, but with Google Podcasts coming in and game. If you are actually paying attention and like you come up in Google, you're paying attention to your episode notes and things like that, you're going to be able to bypass them on saying, I have to be on your curated page because you're paying attention to SEO and then if somebody Googles you, they can find you without having to go through them other apps, so.
Cristina: And I just want to highlight, Berry does that, that website, that curated website she's talking about, unpaid. So give her a round of applause, which is going to bring us to one of our last things, which I'm exhausted. Please fucking pay me. Because: let's be real. All of these women are here because they're doing the work. They're highlighting podcasts made by people of color. They are women of color, creating content for their communities and their people. But that's often coming at a personal toll of a lot of gaslighting happens. So I want each and every one of you to just go down and talk about what you do to recharge and how you, what you do to keep yourself accountable to the work, but also keep those around you accountable to the work.
Berry: Um, you want me to start?
Cristina: And I want you to start.
Berry: Let's see, I mean, I live in Denver, Colorado, so there is this legal thing, um, that helps me recharge sometimes. Um, I'm very big on taking walks. Um, that's how I listen to podcasts. As I tell people, it's me, my headphones and I'm walking around, um listening to podcasts. That's like how I take 'em in. Um, and that's really my calm down is that like I’ll pick one. Sometimes I'll pick an older episode of something I've already listened to and just listen to it again and laugh or you know, something I like. Um, a lot of times if I'm trying something new, it's something I really want to pay attention to, because like other things I can, you know, wander off in the mind.
Um, but really, I guess, I'm just out here. Like I'm out here. I try to do the things that I'm supposed to do. What really helps me is like knowing other people are working. Like I was telling people, I've been a great wing woman at this conference. Like I want people to know each other and that to me it like, helps me because I know even if I'm not doing something, other people are linking up to be able to do things that I wouldn't be able to do. So I'm like, I don't want to be the only person -- I tell people, you ain't gotta follow me. I'm not even worried about all of that. What I'm worried about is growing in this industry and that we all have a place there and that's what I'm doing. Like I want people to link up. I'm always doing that. I'm always like, how can I help you? How can I push you to something else? Who can I introduce you to that I know, you know, that can help you? So my recharging is like taking a moment and then thinking about things I can do that don't necessarily take a lot. I don't think an introduction from me really takes a lot. I'm literally saying, this is what this person does. This is what this person does. You all should do something, you know? So that's it.
Kameel: If you've never been like connected by Berry, you should, she will do it. She's been doing it this whole, this whole conference and it's just like a, it's a magical thing. She's like, Oh, do you know this? She'll run down your whole thing. You'd be like, what? Okay. You feel special. She makes you feel warm. Um, what do I, what do I do to recharge? Um, uh, yoga is a big solace for me. Um, music is a big solace for me. Um, those are two, two big things that I do. And what keeps me going is, um, you know, like I'm, I'm here for my people and I want things to be better for black people and I'm going to do whatever I can, wherever I'm at, wherever I'm at um, to do that. And so it is that that source is not hard for me to, to replenish.
Tonya: Yes. I would say it's the same thing. I haven't figured out the whole thing about like yoga and meditation and stuff like that yet. I'll get there. But, um, honestly the producing Truth Be Told specifically never felt like a job and it does not feel like a job. And part of recharging is to be able to do this kind of work. So to echo what both of you all are saying, the opportunity to be able to produce something that I really felt was authentic and serving an audience and then to receive that feedback from the audience, it really did feel like therapy to have to have people contact us and say, “Oh my gosh, I feel the same way.” And we end up having an hour-long conversation with those people, with a woman or with -- all over the country. You know, it just felt so therapeutic and it that is what really keeps me going.
Berry: Agreed. When people tell me they found a podcast or like something else, I’m like, “Thanks! That’s what I do this for.”
Tonya: Exactly. Exactly.
Cristina: So I'm going to do takeaways, but I do want to highlight this quote from the Combahee River Collective and which was a black radical feminist group from 1977 and I just think this quote kind of encapsulates what's been going on in this panel and the work that we're doing, which is “We realized that the only people who care enough about us to work consistently for our liberation are us. Our politics evolved from a healthy love for ourselves, our sisters and our community, which allows us to continue our struggle and work.”
And I've got to say, for Truth Be Told, like I am not a black woman. But what we said from the beginning is that when we say people of color, we are centering blackness and specifically black women because it's only when we do that that we can really get at the system of oppression that keeps all women down, so I just want to highlight that.
And then say that we have three takeaways that I want each and every one of you to each, each and every one of you contributed. And I think just to round it up, I know this has been a conversation that has been about each of our work and the work that we do, but it is also work that you can take away with yourself. So no matter what kind of podcast you are making, you are speaking to someone and there's a big chance that you're going to speak to someone and your editor or someone is going to tell you that you're too narrow or that you can’t reach them. And these are our takeaways and maybe you can see them so you can just take one away.
Tonya: It's not a hard or heavy lift. Don't ask the question if you don't want the answer or aren't willing to change based on your findings.
Kameel: Listen and make ways to listen and respond.
Berry: Meet audience where they are already and distribute accordingly. And when I say that, I don't mean just online like I talk about, you know where people eat. Like, Starbucks lets you put up signs like you know, people hang out all day there. And in different restaurants you go and you see they let you leave flyers or different like that and it's like, are the people you're trying to reach in those places? So maybe that's the places that you should be. Maybe they're not on Twitter but you're looking for local people and you should be in local restaurants and that sort of thing. So looking further.
Cristina: We are out of time, actually it just went to zero, zero, zero and I think, is there any last statements you want to make? Anybody?
Tonya: Thank you for taking the time to listen to us.
Cristina: Thank you.
Tonya: And if you have any questions, I think like, the party is across the street or something, just grab one of us.
Dessa: That was Cristina Kim, Tonya Mosley, Kameel Stanley and Berry Syk at the 2019 Werk It festival.
Both the festival and the podcast are produced by WNYC Studios and are made possible by major funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting with additional support from the Annenberg Foundation.
Event sponsors include Luminary, Spotify, Spreaker, Acast, Himalaya, and the Women’s Foundation of California.