My guest today is Jeanine Wright, COO of Simplecast, an all in one podcasting platform. In this interview, we are talking about the difference between women podcasters and men podcasters and the rise of women podcasting networks.
Juliette Roy: Podcasting is a fast-growing industry. It is expected to generate over ONE-BILLION-DOLLARS in ads revenue within the next two years in the U.S.
But it’s a sector where women podcasters, again, tend to be overshadowed by men.
The good news is, maybe not for long. Thanks to work done by companies like Simple Cast, a podcasting platform led by Jeanine Wright.
Juliette Roy: So far, I’ve talked to women about reducing plastic use, eco-friendly fashion, youth activism, social justice. Some amazing women are leading the way. But this next interview with Jeanine hits close to home. Because we will be talking about the podcasting industry, which of course, we, at Be Your Change, are passionate about. And, more specifically, about women podcasters. Which, of course, we are.
What is Simplecast?
Jeanine Wright: Simplecast is a podcasting technologies company. We are kind of the home for somebody who wants to release their audio out into the world. So once you make an audio file, you come to Simple cast, we:
Help you with one click distribution to everywhere you want to be.
Have many growth tools to help you find and connect with your audience.
Have industry-leading analytics to tell you how your listeners are engaging with your content. We think that that really empowers the creator in two ways. One, it helps you make better content and better connect with your audience. And two, it helps you when you want to start monetizing
Juliette Roy: Simplecast got their IAB certification, which is kind of a big deal in the podcasting industry. It certifies advertisers that the size of the podcaster audience is real and not inflated.
What would you recommend to women podcasters on how to choose a podcasting platform?
Jeanine Wright: Basically, there are three buckets of the podcasting technology companies that are like us:
The 3 different podcast technology platforms
The ones focus on very large shows. Many of them are essentially taking over the show’s infrastructure. They can represent them in ad sales and best monetize those podcasts. Basically, you finish your audio file. You hand it over to them, and they go out and sell it much in the same way that like television programs used to be made.
There are platforms that are really made for people who are just kind of playing around with audio. Most of those platforms are offering free hosting. Some of them might have fun little creator tools that you can play around with. It is not really a good long term solution for somebody who is interested in being serious about their podcast and who wants to make sure that they continue to have all of the rights to their podcasts.
SimpleCast fills that gap in the middle. We’re available for independent creators. Anybody who wants to come in and start their podcast and is serious about their podcasts would come to Simplecast. We have very low introductory prices. Then we have a tiered, as you grow, you can continue to grow with the platform. On the other end, we have tons of the major shows. So, for example, Dax Shepard is on the platform, you know, Nike, Tech crunch, Harvard, MIT, One password, Kickstarter, Medium. We’re excited about a quickly growing segment of podcasts, which is the branded podcasts.
What Makes Simplecast Different?
Jeanine Wright: We’re really excited about the proprietary technology that we’ve invented around analytics. We can track listeners; how they’re engaging with our web players. What speed they’re listening at and where they’re stopping and starting. Are they skipping your intro? Are they skipping your ads? We can tell if somebody is listening in a Tesla or if somebody listening in an airplane. We can make great assumptions about whether somebody is listening at work or that they’re listening at home or on their commute.
What are the main differences between women podcasters and men podcasters?
Jeanine Wright: This is a topic that I’m really interested in is.
Podcasting is a kind of brand new medium. We have this beautiful opportunity with this brand new medium not to have the same thing happen that has happened in every other medium where the voice of that medium is dominated by basically white men.
We have this blank slate for us to make sure that we have the voices that we hear in podcasting, reflective of the listeners who are listening to podcasts.
Juliette Roy: Another large podcasting platform, Libsyn with a woman CEO, announced a couple of weeks ago that 50% of the shows created in Q2 2019 are women hosted. It is exciting news, but if you look at the top 200 Apple Podcast Charts in the U.S., women only represent still 10%.
Women podcasters and women of color tend to shop differently.
Jeanine Wright. I think you need to be proactive in encouraging diverse voices. I’m really trying to find ways to connect with people who are podcasters of color or women, but also the people who are leading the way to teach others to find their voice. Some of the things that we’re finding are that women in podcasts of color tend to shop differently than men do. For example, it seems like the buying cycle for women podcasters in selecting a company like ours is longer.
Women podcasters are more thoughtful and self-aware.
Jeanine Wright: Some of the preliminary assumptions found on a report we conducted are that women are more thoughtful in their approach. They are more likely to:
Record a number of episodes before they decide to launch. Maybe men are more likely to just record something and throw it up there and see what happens.
Spend more time thinking about whether they quote-unquote «really have something to say.»
Be more anxious around whether they’re going to be able to connect with an audience or find an audience.
Be more anxious about self-promotion. How do I tell everybody to listen to this without sounding like I’m bragging about myself? Right?
Women podcasters are less comfortable making a financial ask.
Jeanine Wright: We’re working on the analytics to back it up but what we see typically is that for example:
When women podcasters are doing a call for support, they tend to put the call for support at the end of the podcast instead of at the beginning. The middle and the end of the podcast is when you’re least likely to have listeners, right? So people tend to fade off through the end of the podcast.
When women do make an ask for support. Instead of being an ask like you’re listening to this podcast and enjoying it, and it costs money to make this, so if you could, please contribute. Instead, women tend to frame their asks as if you like me or if you like this show, please give me, please donate on Patreon. Right. Or whatever it is. which tends to be, it’s just a different kind of ask. Right.
How did you make the discovery that men and women podcasters have different ways of putting their voices out there?
I think the first thing that sparked it for me was the ask and the placement of the ask for support. Even a lot of really confident women who had been podcasting for a long time, just started noticing that they either didn’t make an ask or they put the ask at the end of the podcast.
Then that just sparked that thing in me where I was like, is this really a thing, or is this just something anecdotal that I’m noticing and or are these just outliers? I’m spending a lot of my time in a lot of these online forums and noticing how the questions are different or the approach is different.
I’ve seen women and people of color are posting in, the more the broader, podcasts or community Facebook groups, seeing them hedge in the way that they ask beginner questions like that, there they seem more anxious about figuring out the process. and so then I just started taking note of all these little things and then started making a list of the things that I found curious.
The growth of women podcasting network
Jeanine Wright: We’re starting to see more women’s voices, especially in media companies and, and especially with the women networks that people are starting to create. So I’m excited to see that.
We’re definitely seeing the rise of women podcast networks, which is fantastic.
The one thing that I think women struggle with is that when women are getting ready to monetize, and they start talking to advertisers, they often hear the feedback about their show like:
Is your show catered towards women or a general audience?
Is your show catered towards Latino women because you’re a Latina woman? Advertisers look at their marketing or advertising budget for targeting Latina women instead of targeting people in general.
Women feel like the advertising pot from which they’re pulling is much smaller. They’re artificially categorized into these niche spaces. That’s an interesting issue that we need to figure out how to solve two from the advertiser’s perspective.
I think the default thinkin is that if it is a woman host or if it’s women related issues, then it’s a women’s audience. I don’t know if that’s necessarily true.
We need to find a better way through data and conversations with the advertising industry about when you are targeting a niche audience and when maybe you’re making false assumptions about what an audience looks like because you think that women only listened to women or that Latina women only listen to Latina women. You know, those kinds of assumptions that I think people come to the table with sometimes.
The Increase Of Women-Led Podcasting Companies
Juliette narration: The boom of the podcasting industry is definitely bringing a lot more women to the audio field. They have figured out that having a podcast is a way of marketing yourself, but what still strikes me is many women-led podcast companies are mainly on the production side of podcasting. Women are great producers but we are seeing more women-led companies in advertising with Ossa network and Lipstick and Vynil as well as women network, e.g Wonder media.
We need more women-led companies in audio software. We need more women-led companies in audio software, device hardware, and listening platforms. Almost no women have created one. I can think of many reasons why but as everyone knows, V.C. funding towards women represents roughly 2% of V.C.s money. Building a tech platform requires capital, and we need to increase investment in women to get the next Spotify started by a woman. I can not wait to see a woman developing the next Spotify or alike platform. In real life, it means investment, and this is a good segway in the next bit of conversation with Jeanine. Luckily, the women podcasting community is becoming highly organized thanks to the hard work of many groups such as the well-known She Podcast, an incredible success story that started with a Facebook group and two podcast passionate girls Elsie Escobar and Jessica Kupferman and now to a conference in October in Atlanta, which of course we are going! So, girls, we are ready to take the podcast industry by storm.
How do you explain that there are very few women who are CEO, COO, or founder of tech music or podcasting platforms?
Jeanine Wright: I don’t know how we ended up here. I definitely feel like the overwhelming majority of the time I’m the only woman in the room. I think in tech, in particular, tech tends to be more male. You know, my first company, after working at a law firm, I was doing entertainment and media law at a law firm for a number of years. And then I was lucky enough to get the job as a general counsel at a Tech Company in Culver city called Media Temple. A really fantastic company. And the leadership, they’re very, supportive of wanting to find more diversity in tech. It is very difficult for them because they were hardcore internet infrastructure, so not just regular tech, but Internet infrastructure tech. So I think when I joined the company, we had 120 employees and we had 17 women.
And it was interesting to have gone from a law firm where, you know, maybe it was flip-flopped in the management dynamics where the overwhelming majority of the partners were men. But there were plenty of women around. And certainly, you know, the overwhelming majority of the support staff were women. But then to go into a company where you could definitely feel that it was a more male company, you know, it had a more masculine type. And I’m pretty sure that I was the first employee to be pregnant at media temple. Yeah. And especially an executive to be pregnant. And we were in the process of selling a media temple to go daddy at the time, which had been nine, 10-month process.
How Jeanine Wright set up a nursery in her office
Jeanine Wright: I ended up having my second son towards the end of the sales transaction with Godaddy. And it was hard because we were in the really the thick of it in negotiating that deal. And I had been the lead negotiator on the deal. I was doing all the legal docs, we were working with outside counsel, but I was the one who had really been leading that part of the process. And so, you know, I had a baby, and I was back on phone calls, you know, four or five days later. And then the next week I just realized that there was no way that it was going to work for me to stay at home with my son, Evan.
And so, you know, I did what I needed to do and I found a woman in my neighborhood and I hired her to come into the office with me and I set up my office like a nursery.
I mean, I had a swing and a crib and, and so I just brought Evan to work with me and I wore him on my chest most of the day, and I breastfed and the office and he took naps and I took naps. We took naps together in the office. You know, we just, we did what we needed to do in order to make it work so that I could, um, carry media temple through the rest of the Godaddy transaction. And, and it was kind of that I maybe it was almost like the rip the bandaid that the organization needed because as soon as I came there with this baby, I mean, they just decided to make that hard shift. You know, they got him media temple onesies and you know, it became almost like this, a really loving child-friendly, a women-friendly culture.
The unique barriers to entry to entrepreneurship for women
Jeanine Wright: I guess that kind of an interesting transition into some of the investing that I’ve been doing. Um, so after the media to say Media Temple sale, I was lucky enough to make a little bit of money in that transaction and you know, sat down and looked at my portfolio and work, how can we diversify, um, and having our very safe investments in our 401k et cetera. and so I have, a few years ago I started just becoming really involved in, in particular, the L.A. Startup scene. I started becoming involved in, um, in women’s start-up organizations. Um, and then just in general, just started having some conversations with people about how this was something that I was interested in and that I was interested in investing in young companies and finding good opportunities to work with entrepreneurs that we’re working on something exciting. The overwhelming of entrepreneurs out there are men. and some of that I have some theories about, you know, women statistically are more likely to have more student loan debt.
Women are likely to:
Have more family obligations to the generation below them.
Have children, but they’re also more likely to have obligations to the generation above them.
Women are less likely to:
Make as much money in the job that they’re at.
Have an inheritance.
Have as much in their 401k.
All of these things go into that risk factor calculation that I think you have to make when you’re an entrepreneur as to whether you’re going to like put everything on the line to make this work.
And I think that the bottom line is that for most women, it is a lot riskier for them to take that leap into starting a business. I think that there is a big disconnect between, the risk that women are taking when they start a company and what the expectation is from the investor community in particular.
Juliette Roy: We ended up talking a lot more with Jeanine. We talk about the importance of having a support network, like an encouraging family, or a husband that is as much a rock as a partner. We talk about giving back to the community, about being lucky, sometimes, but above all, about working hard to achieve your goals. And Jeanine didn’t want to end the conversation without offering some advice:
I think some people get overwhelmed by the prospect of needing to do something big and grandiose.
Like, I need to make a difference. I need to feel like I make this difference. I would just say like, slow and steady wins the race, like just find your things, something that resonates with you, find some of these small and do it on a regular basis and make it part of your life. It’s hard at first. Then you get used to the cadence and then you’ll find that you’re driving so much more energy and joy from it than the effort that it takes to put into it.
What if the podcast industry was – finally – a place where women could actually be in the drivers’ seat? – Be Your Change