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Should Your Arts Organization Produce a Podcast?
Episode 68

Should Your Arts Organization Produce a Podcast?

Live Panel from Digital Marketing Boot Camp

This episode is hosted by Alison Goldberg.

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At Digital Marketing Boot Camp for the Arts 2019, we hosted a panel called “Should Your Arts Organization Produce a Podcast?” With podcast listenership on the rise, we wanted to hear from arts administrators about their efforts producing podcasts.

Alison Goldberg: Hello, welcome to the session, “Should your arts organization produce a podcast?” We’ll see. (audience laughs) As Erik said, my name is Alison Goldberg and I listen to a lot of podcasts, which is why I’m the person moderating this panel. Before we start, would you all indulge me in a quick exercise like our hand raising from before? Raise your hands if you listen to one or more episodes of a podcast and a typical week. (audience reaction) Okay, keep your hand up if you listen to five or more podcasts in a typical week. Ten or more? (audience laughs) 20 or more? (audience laughs louder) 30 or more? (laughs) All right, you’re my man! I counted my podcast intake in a random week in September and I listened to 33 episodes of podcasts. That is twent hours of podcast audio in one week and yes, I am single. (audience laughs and applauds) That puts me with about 14% of podcast listeners in terms of my listening habits. I’ll be posting my favorite podcast in the Boot Camp app after this session. I’d love to hear yours. For context, in one week, an average podcast listener listens to seven podcast episodes. Podcasts are everywhere and there always new ones coming out, as we all know. Podcasts reached a milestone as of this year: the majority of Americans have now listened to a podcast. Edison research in their Infinite Dial study estimated that 14 million more people listened to podcasts weekly this year than in 2018. You’ll hear more about this from Erik tomorrow, but this is hot off the presses from our Performing Arts Ticket Buyer Media Usage Study: when looking specifically at surveyed arts buyers, according to this study, 59% of arts patrons reported having listened to a podcast, an impressive increase of 20 percentage points from 2017, when just 39% of users reported having listened to a podcast. Podcasts are mobile-first. The name from podcast actually came from “iPod” and “broadcast,” which I didn’t know before this panel (laughs), but what makes podcasts different than regular social media is that a can be with an audience member when they’re not able to actually look at their screens. Here are some activities that people reported doing while listening to podcasts. I personally don’t know who the 70% of people who are not doing anything else, (audience laughs) but if that’s you, more power to you. Many people, including myself, listen to podcasts while cooking, cleaning, walking, commuting to work, things like that. On the other hand, we still have those 41% of arts buyers who don’t listen to podcasts. Here are some reasons they might not: 75% of non-listeners had podcast just aren’t for them. Okay. And 36% said that there aren’t any podcasts that cover topics they’re interested in, which I think provides a great opportunity for arts organizations to fill that void. And then, there’s also an opportunity for current listeners. The same study from Edison Research said that people who do listen to podcasts listen because they want to learn new things, be entertained, feel inspired, and escape, which is all things that arts organizations already helped people do every day. And I think those are things art podcasts can help provide for those people, too. So, with that, that brings us to our panelists. And before we really get into it, I wanted to ask, what podcasts did you listen to on your way here today or most recently? (laughs)

Meg Stoltz: Well, I should preface this, which with I am also a rabid knitter, shall we say. So, I listened to the Knit-more Girls. (audience laughs) I had been, I had been saving them up for my flight.

Alison Goldberg: (laughs)

Elke Dehner: My last podcast was the BBC Radio Comedy of the Week. It’s my way of getting some news into my brain without being completely depressed.

Alison Goldberg: (laughs)

Laura Diffenderfer: I guess the last one I listened to as this morning and it was Recode Decode, which is Kara Swisher’s podcast that some of you may also enjoy. I love to hate it.

Alison Goldberg: (laughs) And I listened to The Daily, so that was pressing buttons. It’s fine.

Laura Diffenderfer: Yeah, I had to let that one go for a while.

Alison Goldberg: Yeah, that’s fair. (laughs) Okay, great. I wanted to start off with each of you just providing some context around your organizations and your organization’s podcast. So Laura, I’ll start with you.

Laura Diffenderfer: Sure. So, I work at The Joyce Theater, which is an international home for dance in the heart of Chelsea, here in New York city. We present dance almost every night, but Mon- every night by Monday, really, for 48 weeks out of the year. So, we’re all dance, all the time. And our podcast is called Still Spinning and it’s sort of deep-dive conversations about dance and the creative process with some of the most interesting dance artists I know.

Elke Dehner: So, I am with The Rubin Museum. We’re neighbors and we’re also in Chelsea, here in downtown Manhattan. (clears throat) And the Rubin Museum is focused around art and the ideas of the Himalayas and what we do in the museum is not just exhibitions, but also a lot of programs and talks and concerts and workshops, etc., all around, really decoding this art that’s very esoteric. One of the programs that we do is the- is a weekly lunchtime meditation that also involves a piece of art, one piece of art per week that gets explained and a little bit unpacked, so it’s very accessible and we turn that into a podcast.

Meg Stoltz: And I’m with Seattle Opera. Shockingly, we produce opera. We do five mainstage productions a year, along with a couple of concerts. We have a chamber opera. We do a whole bunch of educational outreach events, as well, and our podcast is the Seattle Opera Podcast. The main bread and butter of the podcast is a 101 series where for every opera, there is a 101 podcast and it will be an exploration of the opera. It will be some information on the music. It’s designed to take the risk factor out of someone purchasing a ticket for opera or attending, so that they feel they’re ready when they walk through our doors. We also do, we have a series called “Voicewise,” which is for people who may not be familiar with opera. It’s going through the different voice types and what types of characters they play. And then, we also have started doing panel discussions that explore the social implications of telling some stories that are very dated and today would not be an acceptable movie or story in any way. And so, we record those and also put those up leading up to the production so that people can get an idea of what they’re getting into and what we’re trying to do and just learn more. Cause we have found that through various focus groups and such, people want information, they want background on these performances, whether they have been a subscriber for twenty years or they’re coming to us for the first time. So, we’re trying to use it as an engaging educational tool for our audiences.

Alison Goldberg: Laura, I want to start with you. I think your podcast is sort of the most traditional (laughs) of the three that we have here. So, I know why you sort of chose that more traditional interview format.

Laura Diffenderfer: The reason that I chose it is really because I love Terry Gross. (laughter) and I did have quite a bit of experience interviewing artists. It’s something that I really love doing. Like, it really lights me up. I used to work in programming and so some of the most fun parts of that job was, like, the meetings where I got to talk to the artists about what they’re gonna do and then stopping into rehearsal. And so, now it’s, like, my job to do that. (laughter)

Alison Goldberg: Elke and Meg, both of your podcasts involve sort of some live recording. Elke, could you start with how the decision came about to record those sessions and make them into a podcast?

Elke Dehner: Yeah, in our case, it was really all … it all happened at the same time and it was the brainchild of our fantastic Head of Programs, actually, who came up with … she was looking for a new idea for a lunchtime program and because of everything I just said, there was like this need to really create something really accessible, a program that’s really accessible for people to encounter the kind of art that we have that’s very mostly unknown, unknown to most people. So, very naturally, because of the nature of the art, she came up with this idea of the meditation and combining that with, sort of, this educational element at the beginning. So, essentially what she did, she created a ritualized format of a program and at the same time, thinking about it as a podcast. So, it really happened at the same time. So, there’s three parts: a brief showing of a piece of art projected on the wall with a brief explanation of what it means and it’s very casual, very easily accessible. And then, a meditation teacher comes on stage and does a brief talk inspired by the piece of art. And thenm the art goes away. And then, the meditation teacher sort of guides a meditation and that’s it. These three parts as 45 minutes fits into your lunch break.

Alison Goldberg: The Seattle Opera had a partnership with a local radio station and also produces a subscriber CD, so I’m curious to hear how the transition from those audio mediums happened to podcasting.

Meg Stoltz: Well, it’s a little bit easier for us because opera is an aural medium. That’s what it is. And we started working with King FM, which is the local classical station in Seattle, back in the ‘70s. And it was a broadcast, which we, I believe, still do, where we would broadcast the performance and very much like the Met broadcast, there’d be a panel during intermission and afterwards, where people would talk about the opera as it would normally be with the General Director. And that moved to a CD for our subscribers. Jonathan Dean, who still does our podcasts, and our General Director, they would sit down and kind of nerd out about opera, which was great for subscribers. But in 2018-19 season, in that season, we decided to expand it from those five to more than twenty episodes. And it was the transition from those five original episodes into a 101 series, which was more geared towards people who were new to our product, as well as subscribers. We still had them in there. And then, we also had the opportunity to use all of this other content that we were putting out there but wasn’t always making it to where we wanted it to be. And so, between the 2017-18 season, where we were still just doing our five standard, to 2018-19, we expanded- we went to twenty episodes and we also got on iTunes, which was a huge difference. We went from 700 downloads to over 6,000 and thought, “Okay, there’s content there that people want,” so that’s kinda been the journey. But yeah, it started as a radio broadcast and we just kind of, we’ll just keep transitioning in it to the next medium that comes along.

Alison Goldberg: Amazing. And how did you guys sort of go about launching the podcasts? Like we’re putting money behind the initiatives or promoting posts and blog posts on them. Is it just said like a soft launch or a big to-do for your podcasts?

Meg Stoltz: Yeah, for Seattle opera, it was putting it up on our website at first. That’s the only place you could get it. So, it was email and through letters, you know, our subscribers were used to getting their CD at the first performance and it was letting them know it’s all still available, but just go to our website. And then, once we had transitioned to iTunes, we actually started an email campaign and started using our podcast episodes in our social media advertising and in any campaign we could and that seemed to kind of get the traction that we needed. But it was definitely … we had to give it some love on its own to let people know that it was an actual opportunity for them.

Elke Dehner: We really did only organic at the beginning, very low-key. Obviously, we were on iTunes after a little while and put the word out through our emails and social media organically and it picked up very quickly, to our surprise, pretty, pretty well. And we did one, this was four years ago when we started and in 2018, we, for the first time, we did a paid campaign, which accelerated the growth of our listenership. Yeah, just mostly organic.

Laura Diffenderfer: We also started mostly organically. I mean, I think, when you start something new, it’s hard to … especially with podcasting because we all started our podcasts at least a year ago, it seems, and I feel like big launches are like a newer kind of a thing and I think if we did it again, I would want to go that route. But it was something new and we sort of wanted to see, you know, how it went and how people felt about it. So, yeah, it was mostly organic. And also, from the beginning, the podcast, was not only meant to be like something that people, you know, around the world could listen to if they were a dance lover, but something that we could use to help contextualize the performances. So, the pre- and post-show emails and things like that were important.

Alison Goldberg: Have you elicited feedback? I know, Meg, you talked a little bit about this feedback from listeners and patrons of the podcasts, or has you not had to elicit that feedback? (laughs)

Meg Stoltz: It’s come freely. (laughter) We have an engaged audience and they love to give us their opinion and we like to hear it. We do post-performance surveys and we never had a question about the podcast on there, but on the open-ended questions, we have had a lot of people write in and say, “Thank you so much. That was really helpful. I listened to it again when I got home,” and what was interesting for us is, it wasn’t our subscribers who’d been with us for a long time. It was someone who this was their first, second, or third opera, which we weren’t expecting. But no, we get feedback. (laughs) We don’t have to ask.

Elke Dehner: We haven’t been soliciting feedback actively. We’re actually … on iTunes for some … I’m just thinking of the online feedback on iTunes. There’s actually very little, but we are, we are partnering with a third party and free meditation app called Insight Timer. And they carry our … so, they publish our podcasts as well and we get 20%, you know, of our listenership roughly, is 10 to 20% is there. And there, we get the most comments. We have hundreds of comments, sometimes, per episode and almost completely positive. And people very effusive about how it made them feel and that they are brought to tears or you know, or that, you know, it was the right thing in the right moment and it was meaningful. So, they’re very expressive and mostly positive, which is nice.

Laura Diffenderfer: Yeah, we’ve also- we also get feedback through various channels. On Apple podcasts there’s, like, you know, a thing where you can like a podcast, so we have a number of five-star ratings and reviews there, but it’s still, you know, relatively small and niche, so, you know, it might be time to actually ask for more feedback. But we’ll kind of, I think, get to this later, it’s, it’s a little bit hard. You don’t have a direct access when someone downloads it. So, you know, a lot of it, honestly, is we rely on sort of people, you know, sending an email or saying like, “I listened to that. It helped me understand this work,” like Meg was saying, or, “I enjoyed it.” And those communications help us to know if we’re going the right way.

Alison Goldberg: Yeah. Laura, do you actively use the podcast to promote upcoming performances?

Laura Diffenderfer: We do both.

Alison Goldberg: Okay.

Laura Diffenderfer: It’s a long … it’s, you know, about 45 minutes and it’s a deeper dive. So, it’s really, sort of, more like a deeper engagement rather than sort of something more accessible, which I love that idea, too. And it would be really fun to do something like that.

Alison Goldberg: Meg, do you feel like it helps actually sell tickets, these podcasts? Or do you feel like it is more, once you’ve gotten those people, those new people in the door, like helping them …. Erik loves the flywheel, like, getting people more engaged with art before they go, they get there?

Meg Stoltz: So, one of the things the person who does our podcast for us that he does extremely well is he walks a fine line between needing to have a music degree to understand what he’s talking about and make it an interesting and accessible for someone who might not know much. And when I first started listening to these, I had two music degrees in voice and opera, and I was really shocked that I found it very, very interesting. And that, that has been key for both selling tickets and for bringing people in. Now, we also do episodes like, “How an opera makes it to the stage,” or, you know, we’ll do, like I said, the panel discussions or discussions on the different voice types in opera or recently we were talking about doing an episode on bel canto and Jonathan, who does our podcast, turned to me and said, “Well, everyone knows what bel canto is.” No, John. (laughter) They may not know that they know what it is. But most people, if you say, “Hey, you want to go to a bel canto opera?” they look at you and go, “What?”

Alison Goldberg: (laughs)

Meg Stoltz: So, it’s been useful in both ways. We definitely try to use our 101 series more as a doorway to buying a ticket and we have discovered through our Facebook paid ad campaigns that especially in our acquisition audiences, we get double the click-through rate and double the number of clicks on our podcast posts as we do from our remarketing and page-like audiences. So, there’s a lot of interest there. And then, once we get them to click through, they’re in our remarketing, so we can give them all the other info.

Alison Goldberg: (laughs)

Meg Stoltz: So, it has a dual function when we want it to.

Alison Goldberg: And so, you are really using it in paid advertising for-

Meg Stoltz: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. It’s part of the whole marketing plan now.

Alison Goldberg: Awesome. Elke, do you feel like you’ve seen an increase in, like, in-person attendance based on the podcast at all?

Elke Dehner: It’s almost impossible for us to say. We have such a small theater, we put 150 people in and our members get in for free. So, it’s sold out every single week and often in advance. So, it’s actually hard to get into. So, it’s kind of impossible.

Alison Goldberg: Right, yeah. (laughs)

Elke Dehner: We heard some feedback saying, “Oh, I definitely want to visit when I’m in New York,” and people seem to want to be there in person once they hear it, but I don’t know if anything, any numbers to prove that.

Alison Goldberg: Okay. In general, like with this sort of added podcast component, do you think of your organization as a media company? (laughter)

Meg Stoltz: We produce a lot of media. I mean, for us it’s between … Well, we do a lot of work in photography because pretty costumes, you know, video—music plus costumes—and then now podcast music. And so, in a way we really are. I mean, we’re producing it … We’re producing different types of media on a daily basis. So, you kind of have to be, yeah.

Laura Diffenderfer: Yeah, I feel the same. (laughs) I feel like we are a media company sometimes and, like, the ideas that I have are often in that realm. So … and I think it feels similar to me. I’ve worked in a little, a couple other realms, in journalism and in documentary. And so, to me it just seems really natural that like what we’re already doing sort of is a platform that people are drawn to. And so, I think it’s a great opportunity to sort of take some of those ideas that are being used by like media companies and to try to … the way that we put out, you know, content on the stage, it’s not so different. It’s the same skills producing something. And so, for me, I think it’s a really cool opportunity. It’s also daunting because there’s just so much you can do. There’s only so much you can do and only so much you can produce. But yeah, I definitely think of it that way.

Alison Goldberg: Awesome. So, now I want it to get technical. I feel like one of the most difficult sticking points when like thinking about starting a podcast is how you actually, like, make a podcast. I don’t really know how you make a podcast really. I know in our office, like, Erik records it in our office and we all have to tip toe around. So, my question is, you know, how did you start figuring out, like, how is it really put together and how did you get the resources, maybe when it’s sort of more of an untested product to be able to make it?

Meg Stoltz: We kind of cheated because we had a very close partnership with King FM. We were able to go over and say, “Hey, guys, how do you do this?” And they were really helpful in saying, “Well, you need this mixer and this microphone and you want this program on your laptop.” And sometimes, I believe at first they were even, we would go over there and record in their studio, which, they’re actually moving into our new building. They’re going to be our second-floor office-mates. So, fingers crossed we might be able to do that again. But yeah, that was how we got started to learn about what we needed. And Jonathan Dean, who started this, he did a lot of research and learned how to use all the software he needed to learn. And once it’s up and running, though, it’s pretty portable. It’s a laptop, a little mixer that you plug in, a microphone, and you’re done.

Alison Goldberg: And he hosts it and-

Meg Stoltz: He hosts it, he edits it, he puts it up on the server, and then we send it out into the world.

Elke Dehner: Yeah. I mean, the bulk of our podcast episodes are recordings of the live program and, you know, we try and keep the sound as good as possible. It’s never going to be as good as a studio, but it works okay, I think. And then, we just recorded an intro and an outro and we did that. Really, I wasn’t actually there when it happened. I think it happened in our green room, were there with a mic and, (laughter) you know, and recorded and we commissioned a piece of music for the intro and outro sound for just not that much money for a local musician that we knew. So, yeah, it was very boot-strappy. For those of you who are in New York city, in case you don’t know, Google has a studio and they’ve been offering it to not-for-profits. You have to sign up and get trained and all that, but there is a partnership with non-for-profits, so … I haven’t done it yet, but I’m trying to do that for this next recording.

Alison Goldberg: Awesome. Cool.

Laura Diffenderfer: So, I did, like, a ton of research before I pitched the idea about how to record and edit a podcast. And there was somebody on our team who is very good at technical things and I thought, you know, “We could do this together. It’s going to be great,” and then something happened that you can probably all relate to: we had, like, a crazy gala (laughter) and all of a sudden, sort of a lot of our marketing resources were being used for gala and other sort of things that had come up. And I think this is just something that we all face when we start something new. You know, it’s like the biggest limiting factor is our own time. So, we were sort of getting to the point where it was, like, time to launch and I was faced with my own technical fears (laughs) and so we just pivoted. And so, we had, I had set aside some money to purchase equipment and go that route. But I thought, you know, “If this is really gonna happen, as a person, I’m just going to need a little bit of help.” So, there’s a ton of great studios in New York and I’m sure also in any location that you would be in and so we record at Threshold Studios, which is actually nearby here and they’ve been really great. At some point, we may end up investing in the equipment, but actually, I think probably, overall, we may have saved a little money at this point cause we don’t produce like a vast number of podcasts. We have thirteen so far. So, I think as we go, we’ll figure out if doing it in house is the right route. But I think something that I personally have been trying to work on is, you know, like, when you need help, is there an easier way (laughs) to do something? And, you know, you don’t always end having to spend more money by doing the easier thing. And for us, the easier thing and the better thing was really to do it in a studio. And what’s great about that is, a lot of times, I can do the interview on a Monday when the company is loading in and it can be ready for me that night, which is … it’s possible that all your people are that fast, too. But if I was doing it, I knew it would take me

Alison Goldberg: This is, like, a two-part yin-and-yang question. What was unexpectedly difficult and unexpectedly easy about producing and putting your podcasts into the world?

Meg Stoltz: For us, it was unexpectedly difficult to get onto iTunes. (laughter) We had some issues with accounts and people not working there and it took a solid two months to get that completed. It was well worth it, but that was something we were just like, “Oh, yeah, this’ll be really simple.” No, no, it was not, it was lots of emailing back and forth, code that had to be put in certain places. None of it was difficult, really. It just was time-consuming and not what we were hoping for. We were like, “Oh, yeah, by, like, Thursday, we’ll be on iTunes … or not.” (laughter) I would say … You said the other one was what was easy about it?

Alison Goldberg: Unexpectedly easy, yeah.

Meg Stoltz: Coming up with content. It turns out, we have a lot to say. We’re enthusiastic. I mean, we’re all here because we’re enthusiastic about what we do. And so, we have a lot to say. And so, it’s really easy to, you know, like, “Oh, what should we do next? Well … “ and then here are a whole bunch of ideas. (laughter) Because I think that was a bit of a concern is, “Well, what else can we possibly say?” We haven’t shut up yet, so … (laughter)

Laura Diffenderfer: There’s a lot of little parts to, you know, getting the podcast together and then, I guess something that always seems a little harder than it should is just scheduling, you know?

Alison Goldberg: Is it hard to get, is it difficult to get guests to agree to be on?

Laura Diffenderfer: Well, it’s not. People always want to do it, but then it’s a matter of timing because we have a lot of artists who are international and I like to do the podcast in-person and so it’s just kind of a scheduling situation, but also hasn’t been that hard, you know, it’s just like …

Elke Dehner: And you probably also want to do it before the performance, right?

Laura Diffenderfer: Right! We want to do it before the performance. And a lot of times artists doesn’t arrive until the Monday before the Tuesday open. I think it is just important to note, like, if you’re interested in making a podcast, that each of those little steps can take a little bit of time. So, that also complicates the whole launch situation.

Alison Goldberg: Right.

Laura Diffenderfer: But anyway, it worked out. It worked out fine.

Alison Goldberg: If you’ve been to Boot Camp before or you’re a CI client, you know we care a lot about measurement. (laughs) But measurement is still a really evolving area for podcasts. There isn’t really one overarching agreement of what a listen or whatever is. So, I want to know how you measure your own listenerships.

Meg Stoltz: I measure downloads because that’s what I can measure right now. When we were previously on SoundCloud and just had our podcasts on our website, we could measure listens but once we moved away from that, it wasn’t an option anymore. So, I try to look at how many unique downloads we’ve had in our history and compare that to our downloads for each individual series, just to see, you know, “Are people listening to it multiple times?” We also publish some of our podcasts more than once a year. Like, we’ll do it once when the season opens and then once two months out from every production, that kind of thing. So, we see how many downloads did we get when we first released it. And then, when we released it the second time, cause you can normally do a date range and such. But that’s, that’s kinda how we have to. And the other way I’ve been measuring is through our paid campaigns on Facebook. I have a more metrics to choose from there. So, we kind of have been using that as a, “Let’s see what people are actually doing or get a clearer idea.”

Elke Dehner: So, what was the ratio between the unique downloads and the listens? Do you remember?

Meg Stoltz: It was something like double the listens to downloads. But that was also when it was pretty much just our subscribers who already knew that our podcast existed. You know, this was our most loyal audience and we had never really told anyone else that had existed. (laughs) So, you know, it was like, “Oh, the most enthusiastic people are listening more than once.” (laughter) Well, yeah. So, it’s been interesting to see as we’ve moved into looking at people who maybe aren’t our most loyal customers and how we can make them our most loyal customers, what they’re doing on these posts and on email links and anywhere else I can find data.

Elke Dehner: Yeah, we’re still very baseline, like, looking at SoundCloud, which is where we’re hosting the podcast from. And as Meg said, it’s … on SoundCloud, just, I don’t know how much you know about this, but essentially the holy grail of podcast measurement is to find out how many unique listeners you have or unique downloads you have, because that’ll tell you how many people are actually getting to your podcast. But when you look at listens, that could be one person listening twice or multiple times, it could be one person listening on multiple devices, it you could be all kinds of things. So, it’s really like, you’ve got the holy grail, you got the unique downloads, good job. I get the listens. But the good thing is, no matter where you look, if you look over time, you’ll still get the trend. So, yeah.

Meg Stoltz: Well, and we’re in LibSyn, where you can get your overall unique downloads, but you can’t find out for each podcast, at least I haven’t found it yet. Their reporting isn’t …

Alison Goldberg: Like, for each episode?

Meg Stoltz: Yeah. Like, you can’t get it for each episode.

Alison Goldberg: Oh!

Meg Stoltz: So, I know that-

Laura Diffenderfer: The unique ones?

Meg Stoltz: Yeah. I’ve been able to just get downloads, which someone could download on their iPad and then on their iPhone and then, you know, on their desktop. And that’s one person, three downloads. So, it’s not perfect.

Elke Dehner: Semi-holy grail.

Meg Stoltz: Yeah, semi Holy grail (laughs). I know how many people have downloaded an episode, but I can’t always see that per episode.

Laura Diffenderfer: Yeah, we similarly look at, I look at the LibSyn downloads to see, you know, what’s happening. And also, we can sort of gauge it on social media. Often, the content we create is some of our best organic content. And so, that is helpful. But, you know, obviously, metrics are all important, but there are also limits and I think that, you know, with something like the podcast, it seemed like a good idea without necessarily knowing if we could tie it to a ticket sale and we can’t really do that yet. I’m confident that there’s all sorts of ways that are coming because there’s a lot of money on the line and everybody’s into podcasts. But, you know, other than looking at the downloads and checking to see how many people, you know, are clicking on things, it’s hard to tie it to other things. Hopefully, we will be able to at some point, but until then, I feel okay not knowing in this realm because this seems like an interesting thing to try.

Alison Goldberg: And I’ll say, I know one of the things is that even if you can measure listens, you can’t measure that they listened to the whole episode or how far they listen.

Elke Dehner: Yeah.

Laura Diffenderfer: I think the other thing is like, especially you know, for something that isn’t, you know, like a top-of-funnel, looking-for-new-audiences type of thing. Like, it’s a little bit harder to gauge, like, that someone now understands the nuance of Indian dance (laughter). You know what I mean?

Alison Goldberg: Yeah.

Laura Diffenderfer: So, anyway (laughs).

Elke Dehner: One thing metrics can also be good for us to detect opportunities. I was listening to the single most … there’s one podcast, one meditation episode that is double the next one down. Like, it’s just such a spike. And I’m like, “What happened there?” And usually it is like the spike on day one and two and then he goes down and it trickles out. And this one has the same spike and then three months later, there was another spike and it was even higher than the first spike and I was like … and I just Googled and I found out that it still didn’t make sense, but that same teacher had another workshop, actually, at the Rubin that day. I still don’t understand why, like, 2,000 people would listen to a podcast when she has a workshop that wasn’t broadcast a live streamed. So, you know, but maybe she talked about it and maybe she shared it somewhere else that I don’t know, but it’s just made me think about, “Huh,” and then leveraging these speakers more and see what, how they can share it and that can increase your listens. It can double your listens, you know, that’s brought up new ideas so that, that’s what metrics can be good for all, so …

Laura Diffenderfer: Yeah, and it’s kind of cool that it can grow over time. You know, somebody could listen to that, like-

Alison Goldberg: Three months from now-

Laura Diffenderfer: … three months from now and then send it to their friends, or whatever.

Alison Goldberg: Yeah. So, we’re just about at our question-and-answer portion. So, you think of your questions. So, if you had, like, a few words of advice for someone who wanted to start a podcast of their organization?

Meg Stoltz: To quote our first session, “Give yourself the luxury of time.” If you’re gonna do a podcast, plan it out, figure out what content you want, and have a plan around it. Are you going to include it in emails? We include it in our “Learn More” emails before production. Are you going to have it as part of your social media campaign? Is it going to be available on your website? Because if people can’t find it easily, you don’t meet them where they’re at. As we discovered as an organization, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity. So, really sit down and figure out exactly what you want to do with this podcast.

Elke Dehner: I would say, “Think outside-in and not inside-out.” Really think about, do you have a good story to tell that people will want to hear? Even if it’s a niche market, you know, think about the outside-in perspective. Like, how would you frame it? How would you promote it? What’s the angle? Make sure that’s strong.

Laura Diffenderfer: I think, like, if you’re going to be the person doing the interviews and sort of the heavy lifting in that area, it would be great to make sure you have a partner or, you know, kind of just divide things up a little bit if you can. Cause it does make it a lot, a lot easier. And, you know, starting a new project can be daunting if it’s just you. And everybody loves podcasts now, so find a buddy (laughter) and, you know, have someone help you make it happen.

Alison Goldberg: Awesome. Are there any questions from the audience?

Audience Member: Hey, I think one of the biggest things for me when I’m thinking about starting a podcast is the “why” behind it. So, if each of you could just give a quick, “This podcast exists because … “ your why statement, that way when I’m thinking about it, I can have something to reference.

Meg Stoltz: Our podcast exists because there’s so much more behind the performance that people don’t always know about and we have an amazing opportunity to get that to our audience and to make them feel like they are part of our organization and they’re also an insider. And so, that’s the why. We want to make them feel like they are part of Seattle Opera and that they are an insider. They know more than maybe somebody else because people seem to like that. I don’t know. (laughter)

Elke Dehner: Our podcast exists because it’s a natural connection point between an existing desire that a lot of people seem to have right now to meditate and use that as a vehicle to make this very densely esoteric and complex art that we have much more accessible.

Laura Diffenderfer: Our podcast exists because I think a number of us at the Joyce feel, and probably you all feel, too, that, like, part of our work is elevating the voices of artists and we’re working in the realm of dance. And so, it can be great for an audience just to be able to hear the voice of an artist. Sometimes, abstract work, you know, is hard to enter, even for those who have an interest. And so, I guess it’s sort of for those people who already have an interest and for whom hearing the artist’s voice is going to bring more to their in-person experience or just bring more to the … more understanding about dance, which is also a mission that we have even outside of presenting work on our, on our own stage.

Alana Harper: Hi, my name is Alana Harper and I work at Alvin Ailey. My question is about getting buy-in from the people in your organization about doing this, specifically because, as you said, there’s not, like, a direct, you know, measurement of, like, “We had this many listens or downloads and it translated to this many ticket sales,” but I’m also thinking about how many people would ask … when you say, like, “Let’s do a podcast,” how many people would ask, “Well, how is that going to translate into our ticket sales into, you know, lifting them or whatever,”and considering the fact that podcasts, unlike, maybe, like a one-off event has this regularly recurring effort and costs that’s required for it, you know, it can get … depending on how big you’re doing it, it can get expensive and it can also just take a lot of time. And then, again, since you don’t have that direct correlation to it translating into a certain number of ticket sales, I’m just sort of curious to know how many of you maybe got that question when you were first pitching the idea of, “How is this going to, you know, generate more money for us?” and how did you answer it?

Alison Goldberg: (laughs)

Meg Stoltz: I told you we, we kind of, we kind of cheated on this one too because we were saving so much that for us, it was kind of a no brainer. The slightly snarky side of me wants to relate this to the fact that most of our organizations, we still do direct mail and that’s great. And that’s a great part of our marketing. The metrics on direct mail can be measured, but they’re not really all that detailed. And yet, we still do it because we want to get our content out there and we hope that that person’s going to read that postcard. We put a lot of money behind it. And I would say with a podcast, you can kind of make the same argument of, “Okay, yeah, we, we don’t have great metrics on this yet, but first of all, we won’t know until we put it out there and second, there are other things that we do that we simply cannot, we can’t, you know, measure how many people see a billboard, yet we still have faith that it works.” So, I don’t know if that’s the right answer to take to your boss or your board, but … (laughter

Elke Dehner: I would say two things. One is, of course you have the mission argument, right? There’s a mission. It’s like we heard this morning, it’s not-for-profit. It’s not for profit, but it’s for a mission. So … and in terms of the moneymaking, I think it’s also something that Capacity talks about a lot, is it’s like, the content strategy is such that you have to offer, you have to offer a really valuable content in order to engage people and keep them and delight them and keep them coming back. It’s just part of what we all have to do. It’s kind of a baseline now.

Alison Goldberg: Mm-hmm (affirmative)

Laura Diffenderfer: I think it might also … I don’t know if this would be useful to you, but for us, at least, it was helpful to think about it as being, like, a piece of education, kind of. And so, sometimes there’s, you know, money for education that, you know, could be used for something like a podcast. And in our case, that was helpful. And then, it was just helpful, also, to kind of come with an idea about how much money it was going to cost to produce and to get … it’s really, it’s small, though, in comparison with some other things. I mean, audio … you know, video is more expensive to produce, in my experience, than audio. And if you can do it yourself, it’s really just a lot of time. So, yeah, I mean if you can think of it as audience engagement and kind of enrichment, that could help, I think, get people on board. Also, sorry, I just want to say one other thing. The other thing about content is, like, you can also draw resources towards an institution by doing new things. And so, that, I think, is something that has also been really helpful and I’ve had good experiences with certain ideas like this, including the podcast, where a conversation with development can, you know, like, “Is there a funder who could be interested in that?” and then, you know, (snaps) there’s that pocket of money!

Meg Stoltz: I would go with their answers. (laughter)

Alison Goldberg: I think we have time for one more very quick question.

Alex: Hi, with Tennessee Performing Arts Center and we have a podcast called TPAC Inside-Out and I’m really interested in getting a sponsor for it and I was wondering if any of you have looked into getting a sponsor for your podcast and, if so, how did you go about it and how did you appeal to them and where did you work sponsorship into your podcast if you have?

Panelists: We have not. No, no, no.

Meg Stoltz: We haven’t. It’s been, I think, low-cost enough that we’ve just been kind of footing the bill. But I like that idea. (laughter) I’ll take that back.

Elke Dehner: I like the idea. Thank you. It would have to be a different content podcast because at the end of the meditation, the last thing you want to hear is … (laughter)

Laura Diffenderfer: Yeah, I’ve definitely thought about trying to do it, but I think at this point, we think of ourselves as being the sponsor and kind of, like, it’s just a piece of content marketing that’s drawing people, hopefully, towards the Joyce. So, we haven’t done it yet, but I would definitely think about it in the future. And actually, once you get a certain number of downloads per month, there’s sort of some tools to help you do that.

Alison Goldberg: Cool. Well, thank you all so much. I really appreciate it. (applause)

About Our Guests
Alison Goldberg
Alison Goldberg
Senior Consultant, Capacity Interactive

Alison Goldberg joined the Capacity Interactive team after working in development for non-profit organizations across theater and film, including the Shakespeare Theatre Company in Washington, DC and the Film Society of Lincoln Center.

Read more
Elke Dehner
Elke Dehner
Director of Marketing and Communications, The Rubin Museum of Art
Laura Diffenderfer
Laura Diffenderfer
Associate Director - Content Strategy, The Joyce Theater
Meg Stoltz
Meg Stoltz
Digital Marketing Manager, Seattle Opera

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