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Can Carrie Boost Women in Podcasting? – WWD

Female podcasters have gotten a new spotlight, thanks to Carrie Bradshaw.

HBO Max’s “Sex and the City” revival “And Just Like That” premiered Thursday with Sarah Jessica Parker’s fictional writer spinning her knack for words into an audio career — or at least, the character is hoping to, once she gets the hang of it.

Although podcasts have been around for nearly two decades, the gig marks a digital milestone for Bradshaw that feels very of-the-moment. Over the pandemic, audio content — from Clubhouse rooms to podcasts — surged as kicking back and listening in offered sweet relief for screen-fatigued eyes.

In the U.S., Edison Research’s The Infinite Dial 2020 report tracked 68 million Americans tuning in weekly to podcasts, a jump of 22 percent over the previous year. The 2021 edition pegged around 80 million. According to a new report from Cumulus Media and Signal Hill Insights, women make up 43 percent of listeners who began four or more years ago, but account for 60 percent of new listeners over the last year.

The proportion of female podcasters, however, lags behind, with some estimates ranging from 21 to 28 percent of hosts. 

Perhaps if anyone can make podcasting fashionable for women, it’s Carrie. (And speaking of representation, if anyone can inspire LGBTQ, nonbinary hosts, it’s Carrie’s smart and fearless podcaster in chief Che Diaz, as played by Tony Award winner Sara Ramírez.)

So far, “And Just Like That” delivered impressive visibility for the show and everything in it — despite decidedly mixed reviews for the first few episodes. Peloton learned that the hard way when an unfortunate product placement in a pivotal scene flushed more than $5, or 11 percent, from its share price. 

But for the actors, the fashion and perhaps for female podcasters, the attention looks like a boon. HBO Max didn’t post specific viewership numbers for the premiere, but its rankings point to a large audience. The two-episode debut’s “24-hour performance ranks in the Top 10 of all movies and series debuts on HBO Max since launch [in May 2020],” according to the streaming platform. “The series also saw the most ‘first views’ of any new original series on HBO Max and was the top title on the platform Thursday, with the debut episodes ranking first and second among all individual assets.” 

There is, of course, inspiration in the real world for women interested in grabbing the mic.

WWD posed a set of questions to hosts of some of Apple’s most popular and fastest-growing female-run podcasts to learn how they started, who their role models are and more. With most coming from media backgrounds, it’s tempting to call them real-life Carrie Bradshaws. But each has a style and story all their own. 

Kara Swisher attends TBS' Full Frontal with Samantha Bee For Your Consideration event at NeueHouse Madison Square on Monday, May 14, 2018, in New York. (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP)

Kara Swisher
Charles Sykes/Invision/AP

Kara Swisher

Swisher is a technology journalist; host of “Sway,” an interview show from The New York Times; cohost of “Pivot” from New York Magazine, and host of the official “Succession” podcast, a show that “unpacks real-world events that echo the saga unfolding on screen.”

How did you get started?

I had listened to a series of podcasts by small outfits and I decided to try it, since I thought it would be popular. It was me and one intern only.

As a woman in podcasting, did you have particular hurdles or opportunities?

I do not find there are any hurdles except when people try to split male and female podcasters into separate categories. It’s not like we need to do a feat of strength to show how we perform.

Is female representation lacking?

Yes, obviously, it is yet another male-dominated medium, like all the others.

Who are your idols? Who do you admire?

My inspiration for an interview show is Diane Rehm of WAMU [in Washington, D.C.], back when I was living here. She was smart, curious and very funny.

Describe a stand-out or milestone moment in your podcasting career.

Obviously, my interview with the Parler CEO [John Matze] on Jan. 6, 2021, was one that I will not forget, since it led to that site being shut down. But I think I like the quiet ones, like I did with Monica Lewinsky and Maria Ressa, both of whom I admire for their grace and kindness under fire.

Can Carrie Boost Women in Podcasting?

Ashley Flowers
Courtesy photo

Ashley Flowers

Flowers is host of true-crime podcast “Crime Junkie,” and founder and chief executive officer of podcast production company Audiochuck. 

How did you get started?

I got into podcasting because I truly loved the medium. I was consuming everything I could get my hands on, but there were still specific shows I couldn’t find. So instead of waiting for someone else to make them, I did.

As a woman in podcasting, did you have particular hurdles or opportunities?

Being a woman in podcasting holds all the same challenges as being a woman in any industry. It is harder to get the respect you deserve and to be acknowledged on the same level as your male counterparts. But it’s worth the work because our audience is women like me. They want to see themselves in the shows they listen to, and having a voice that speaks to them in a personal way has only helped the success of our show.

Is female representation lacking?

I think female representation is lacking in the executive side of podcasting. But I know so many smart and creative women are out there doing the work and putting shows into the world, and they deserve a seat at the table as this industry continues to evolve.

Who are your idols? Who do you admire?

I think Jenna Weiss-Berman of Pineapple Street created a top-notch network that consistently puts out incredible content.   

Describe a stand-out or milestone moment in your podcasting career.

This year, the nonprofit I founded (Season of Justice) helped identify a serial rapist in my hometown of Indianapolis.

When I started my podcasting business, it was about more than entertainment. I wanted to redefine how consumers of true crime engage with the content and use our work to make a tangible difference in the true-crime space. And we have done a lot of work supporting a ton of amazing organizations over the years. But this nonprofit was something I could point to and say, without Audiochuck and without every person who listens to our shows, this wouldn’t have happened. We are fulfilling our mission as a company and that’s so rewarding.

Can Carrie Boost Women in Podcasting?

Maya Shankar
Courtesy photo

Maya Shankar

A cognitive scientist and former senior adviser in the Obama White House, Shankar is creator, host and executive producer of “A Slight Change in Plans.”

How did you get started?

It was 2020, and like so many people, I felt overwhelmed by the change that was happening globally, and in my personal life and on racial injustice in our country. I looked at the science around change, and it felt like it was falling short for me. I realized that I just wanted to connect with people that have gone through extraordinary change and see whether we could learn from them — how it is that Tiffany Haddish, Kacey Musgraves, Hillary Rodham Clinton or Amanda Knox navigated change.

I was a little nervous when I was developing the show as an unknown name in podcasting. I knew that I wanted it to be a really honest take on what change is like, and that often means in every episode, you don’t have this wrapped-up ending. You don’t get the feeling of full resolution, because that actually is what the reality of change is like for people.

As a woman in podcasting, did you have particular hurdles or opportunities?

One, I am an exceptionally proud female, I’ll just start off by saying that. But I am a very petite woman and sometimes my exterior betrays my inner spirit, which is fierce and confident, and willing to stand for what I believe in and people that I believe in.

Sometimes I feel I can be lost in my voice. I have a very youthful exuberance, even the way that I chat. Sometimes, it can lead people to underestimate me. But sorry, I’m not willing to let you say something that is not true or speak poorly about someone that doesn’t deserve that treatment.

Is female representation lacking?

First of all, I’ll always advocate for having more women in the business of podcasting. For me, I feel like the diverse perspective that I offer is being a woman; it’s being a woman of South Indian background, and being a scientist with a Ph.D. in cognitive science. I think, together, that background creates my unique voice on the show.

When I look to see other women hosts of color out there, absolutely, it feels like it’s lacking. I haven’t heard of very many Indian female podcast hosts. But I have heard from South Asian women who said, “It’s so exciting that you’re an Indian woman in this business. That’s inspiring me to potentially become a podcast host myself.” That means so much to me.

Who are your idols? Who do you admire?

My idol is Professor Laurie Santos, host of the podcast “The Happiness Lab.” I’ve known her since I was a 17-year-old undergrad at Yale. She was my adviser, and she’s the reason that I became a cognitive scientist in the first place.

She’s always made space and time to be an incredible mentor for me at very important inflection moments in my life — like when I transitioned from academia to public policy, worked in the Obama White House and when I was trying to pitch my show idea for “A Slight Change of Plans.”

What’s a stand-out or milestone moment in your podcasting career?

By a mile, it’s been Apple naming “A Slight Change of Plans” the best show of the year for 2021. Also, the show is being adapted into a TV documentary series [from The Cinemart].

But what meant the most to me is that, in the last few months, I opened up about a serious personal change: My husband and I lost identical twin girls to a miscarriage via surrogacy, and I was able to share my personal story as it unfolded in real time. That was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.

I’ve heard from people all over the world who have been pouring their hearts, sharing their own stories of grief and loss. I feel more connected than ever to the people that occupy this planet, and I can’t think of a greater gift than that.

ABC NEWS - REBECCA JARVIS.(ABC/ Donna Svennevik) REBECCA JARVIS

Rebecca Jarvis
ABC/Donna Svennevik

Rebecca Jarvis

Jarvis, ABC News chief business, technology and economics correspondent, covers the Elizabeth Holmes (Theranos) trial in her podcast, “The Dropout.” 

How did you get started? 

I loved listening to podcasts and always wanted to give the medium a try. I started with the “No Limits With Rebecca Jarvis” podcast, interviewing women about their career paths. But I really wanted to try it with the narrative format, and when I began thinking about how I might tell the Elizabeth Holmes story, a podcast felt like a natural fit — a place where I could go deep with details and take a journey with the audience.

As a woman in podcasting, did you have particular hurdles or opportunities?

I don’t know anything different. I think it’s an incredible space for all storytellers. I’m driven by curiosity and I believe that’s also something that unites podcast listeners. The audience wants nuance, texture and details, and they’re willing to hang with you and take a detour. I love that freedom and the opportunity to really peel back the layers. I also think part of what makes the story of Elizabeth Holmes so engaging is how high the stakes are for everyone — what it says about society, start-ups, ambition, power and privilege. It touches on so many themes of our time.

Is female representation lacking?

“The Dropout” team is mostly women. [Producers] Taylor Dunn and Victoria Thompson have been along for this wild ride since the start. I’m so grateful to them for pouring their lives into this work and coming along for a journey through the wilderness — none of us had ever done a narrative podcast when we began.

My hope is that anyone reading this right now with a nagging idea, unanswered questions that keep them up at night, and a story of infinite possibilities just gets to work. I didn’t have all the answers when I got started. And if I’d listened to the people who told me not to pursue Elizabeth Holmes, who said not to waste my time on a podcast, there wouldn’t be “The Dropout.”

Who are your idols? Who do you admire?

The original, Sarah Koenig. From the moment I started listening to “Serial” I was hooked and I immediately began thinking about how I might someday use the format to tell a story.

Bigger picture: My mom, Gail MarksJarvis. She’s a journalist, too, and taught me to always ask questions and pursue my curiosity.

Describe a stand-out or milestone moment in your podcasting career.

I loved the process. The reporting and research that took a number of years. I can still picture myself sitting at my kitchen table at seven, eight and nine months pregnant — all hours of the night — writing, writing, writing that first season of “The Dropout.” Starting with a completely blank canvas and no rules was like piecing together this giant jigsaw puzzle of facts, sound and story. I loved the creative process of putting it all together.

I remember hearing the first cut of the first episode, it was still really rough, but it was also a truly a magical moment. I could hear the possibilities. But after you’ve spent so much time alone with material, it’s hard to know how listeners are going to respond. When people started listening and asking for more, another episode — which usually wasn’t done yet when they were asking — it was also an incredible feeling. And incredibly daunting.

https://wwd.com/business-news/technology/carrie-bradshaw-and-just-like-that-women-podcasting-1235016598/ Can Carrie Boost Women in Podcasting? – WWD

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