Listeners often ask us about starting a podcast. In this episode, executive producer Juleyka Lantigua-Williams, gives a masterclass in the art and science of podcasting. From refining a concept, identifying your target audience, and understanding the mechanics of producing an episode, Juleyka offers useful insights about entering and standing out in the industry.
Follow Juleyka @JuleykaLantigua on Twitter and IG; and follow Latina to Latina @latinatolatina on Twitter and IG. If you loved this episode, listen to Martina Castro and Susie Jaramillo for more on building community and a media empire. Show your love and become a Latina to Latina Patreon supporter!
I decided I wanted to start a podcast. I had no idea what I was getting into, what it would take for it to succeed. Enter Juleyka Lantigua-Williams, our amazing executive producer and the show’s co-owner with me. She gave me a crash course on podcasting, worked with me to redefine the concept, and every day thinks about how to reach even more listeners like you.
I’ve spoken with some of you about how you want to start your own podcast, which is amazing, I love that idea, and so I thought it might be useful for Juleyka and I to pull back the curtain and give you a sense of what it really takes to create something special.
Juleyka Lantigua-Williams, come on down!
Oh my God. You are so obnoxious.
Menendez: She didn’t want to do this. I have convinced her to do this, so you’re welcome. Okay. Juleyka, I know this happens a lot to you, because you speak at industry events, people know you as someone who is a thought leader in this space. When people come to you and they say they want to start a podcast, what is the first thing you tell them?
Who’s the podcast for? That’s the first question. I don’t even care what the podcast is about, because that gets refined and redefined as you make it, but if the person is not clear about who they’re making the podcast for, they have a zero chance of success. If you’re making a podcast for everyone, then you’re not making a podcast for anyone.
Menendez: How often do people have an answer to that question:
Menendez: Right. Because we start from a place of what I would want to hear, without asking ourselves if other people would want to hear it, as well.
Yeah, and so the first thing, and it’s a hard thing to hear, is that you are not your ideal listener. It does not matter what you want to talk about, what you want your show to be about. You are not your ideal listener. What you are is your listener’s biggest and best advocate. That’s the role that you play as the creator. Which is why you first have to identify who your listener is.
Menendez: Is that different based on if you want to do a podcast that you can monetize, versus doing a podcast you do just as a passion project?
Absolutely. Yeah, there are two ways you can go right now with podcasting, which is you can make a podcast which is a hobby, which is something that you do by yourself, on the weekend, you get a couple hundred, few thousand listeners, and you’re happy because it’s a passion of yours. That’s fine. If you want to make money making a podcast, you absolutely have to have an audience, and the better that you define that audience, the better your chances of making money eventually with the podcast. Because what advertisers will pay you for is access to that audience.
Menendez: So, talk to me about finding your audience, then building the show. What does that actually mean?
It means that you think about what group of people that is one, already digitally savvy. That’s a must, because the only way to get a podcast is through a digital something or other. Your laptop, your smartphone, YouTube, et cetera. So you think about that, and then you think about what audience is being underserved, and then you drill down and you say, “Okay, well, there’s this whole other swath of a few million people who will enjoy a show about personal finance, but with a POV that talks to them about it.” Or there’s a whole subset of soccer fans who will enjoy a show that only focused on Latin American soccer teams.
And so, you figure out where is an audience that would be receptive to an idea that is smaller than the general audience.
Menendez: Right, I mean it’s part of how we landed on Latina to Latina, which is that I knew I wanted to do an interview show. There are lots of interview shows in the top-100 podcasts, but there are none geared towards us, and there are a lot of sort of things in the vein of how I built this, where people take you through their professional journeys, but our professional journeys are very often impacted by being Latina.
Yep. Yep. When I was invited to come on board and work with you to do the pilot season, I was incredibly excited, because when I founded my company, absolutely my top audience were Latinas, and I wanted to iterate in many formats for them, because I know that there are a whole host of areas, self help, personal finance, family matters, education, these are a lot of areas, but the genius of starting with an interview show is that you get them talking about themselves, and telling their amazing stories. I knew that the show was gonna be successful. I knew that it was going to be difficult to find the audience, and when you and I became partners on the venture, that’s one of the first things that we talked about, and we have been really diligent about that.
That’s also part of why I ask who is your listener, because the second question that I ask is, “How are you gonna get the show to them?” In podcasting, it’s not like a radio dial, where you can just sort of scan through and the station is always there, and you keep scanning. There are hundreds of thousands of podcasts, and so you’ve gotta make sure that you put yours in front of the right audience, and the only way to do that is to determine who they are and where they are.
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Menendez: You recommend creating a psychographic profile of your listener.
Menendez: Okay, that sounds borderline creepy, so tell me what you mean.
Well, it is a little bit nerdy, I will admit to that, but what that does is it clarifies who is not your ideal audience, and so you don’t waste time going after audiences that are not your ideal audience. And so, what I mean is literally create an avatar of one listener that represents the qualities and characteristics of all the listeners, and so if you’ve given this person 12 qualities, it means that one of those qualities will be shared with as many listeners as you can find.
And so, I will tell you that the psychographic for our Latina, Latina to Latina show, you know this, she is college educated. She lives in the top 25 markets in the USA, the top 25 cities and the secondary 50 cities, so she’s urban dwelling. She comes from a large family. She’s very close to her family. She’s fully bilingual. She’s fully bicultural. She has friends that are Latino, that are Asian, that are black, that are white. She navigates multiple worlds. She is in the first decade of her career, most of them, and then about 30% are early moms, so like you and me, where our kids are under 10. And she cares about political issues, she votes, she cares about having both a work-life balance, so she’ll put in the long days when she has to, but she wants her weekends to go and hang out and have family dinner.
Menendez: I’m just imagining one of our listeners driving in her car, in the subway, looking over her shoulder, just being like, “Why are you in my business, Juleyka? Why?”
But you and I have been in their business for… I mean, a combined like 35 years, right? So, this is thing that a lot of listeners might not realize about us, is that you and I have been covering Latinos for three decades combined, and so we know so much about our listener. We’ve been writing about her for so long, and we, in a way, have helped to shape who she is by reporting on her when no one else was reporting on her.
Menendez: And we are her.
Yes. Of course.
Menendez: Which makes it very personal, and very real, so then how about the person who’s like, “But I’m a man and I listen to your podcast.” Or, “I don’t have a college degree.” We sent out some Christmas notes last year, and we had people in Idaho who were listening.
No, no, so the reason that you have one person is that from that person, she is basically your representative to her group of friends and her family. So, the way that I think of our ideal listener is that she then will recommend it to her best friend, will recommend it to her colleague, will make her boyfriend listen, will make her husband listen, and so what your ideal listener is is basically your PR person, and so yes, of course she has a cousin in Iowa. The way that I think about that ideal listener is that she is your entry into a bunch of other kinds of people.
Menendez: Tell me about a time, if you can, when you realized you had an idea, you created this psychographic profile, and then said to yourself, “Oh, that person doesn’t want to listen to the idea I have.” Have you ever had to shift gears, or have you ever watched someone else have to shift gears away from an idea because the listener didn’t want to listen to what they wanted?
Yes, and it still turned out to be a really good show. We just launched Feeling My Flo, and Mia Warren, the co-creator, she says to me, “I have this great idea. I want to do something about women astronauts menstruating in space.” So, I was like, “Okay, tell me more.”
Menendez: That is very specific.
Exactly, exactly, so she tells me more, and so after she tells me about her idea, I said, “Okay, but that’s an episode. That’s a fascinating episode. What’s the show? What’s the show that we’re gonna build, and then who’s gonna listen to that show?” So, she originally thought, “Oh, well you know, this would be a show for all kinds of women who see menstruation as something that is important to them, and something that has affected their lives, and we would just show them interesting stories.”
And I said, “Okay, but we’re not gonna get all kinds of women, so who are the women?
Menendez: And the astronaut community is very small.
Yes. Very, very small. And so then we talked for an hour, and after an hour, we had the entire concept for the show, and the concept for the show was we’re gonna make a show for anyone who has a young person, 12 to 16, in their lives, who wants to learn more and understand about this part of their lives. So, that kind of narrow focus really helped to define that show.
Menendez: Which also speaks to your earlier point, which is I am not the target audience for that show, but what you then told me through the show, just by listening to the trailer, I said, “Oh, this is for anyone in my life who has a child or a relative that age.”
In that age. Yep.
Menendez: And so I knew exactly the 10 people I needed to fire it off to, because it was created for them.
Yep, precisely. Thank you for doing that.
Menendez: Thank you. It’s really very good.
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Menendez: When I wanted to launch a podcast, one of the things I was woefully ignorant about was I was like, “Well, I’ll just do them when I do them. I’ll do… You know? I’ll grab a good interview and I’ll put it up on air, and then…” Which, again, if it were just a passion project would be fine, but I wanted to pursue this as a professional endeavor, so you convinced me. You said, “You’ve gotta at least have a weekly offering. People need to know when they can expect this and there needs to be some regularity. And you also need to get to a critical number of episodes such that when someone finds the podcast, they don’t just have three episodes, or six episodes.” And we’ve seen a lot of growth just as a product of having a larger catalog of episodes that people, once they find the podcast, can come to, listen to. So, does every show need to be a weekly show?
No, not at all. Some shows should not be a weekly show. Our show almost demands that it be weekly because it’s so easy to consume. So, you’ve got these really dynamic conversations between you and our guest, and they’re 25 minutes on average, and I can listen to it a couple times a week, but by the time Sunday comes around, I’m ready for another such conversation. So, we created essentially the necessity for it to be weekly.
There are other shows, first, they take much longer to produce, so a show like 70 Million, which is a reported show, it takes five months for us to do 35 minutes for an episode. Between assigning it, reporting it, editing it, fact checking it, producing it, mixing it, and then publishing it.
Menendez: Let’s talk a little bit about what goes into the production for an interview show like Latina to Latina, because I do think when I’ve talked to our listeners about shows that they would want to do, it very often follows the format, because it is the lowest barrier to entry.
Menendez: To have two people talking on the line. I always think of it as I run point on the front end and you run point on the back end, but we’re both informed and involved throughout. So, for us, we do a lot of talking about who would be a good guest. We probably send each other six emails a day with people we found on Twitter, or in magazines, and send them back and forth, and vet them with each other. We have an Excel spreadsheet that has all their names and where they are, so that should I ever find myself in New Mexico, I know that we have six guests in New Mexico. And then I do all of the outreach, and I want to talk a little bit about that, because I think that that is part of where we’ve succeeded, which is you can’t just sort of send an email that says like, “Hey, do you want to be on this podcast?”
There are a few things-
Don’t do that.
Menendez: … that you need to do, which is I substantiate that I am a person that has some experience in this world. Doesn’t mean that you need to have the same type of experience I have, which is journalistic experience. I think if you’re talking about something, a personal life experience that you’ve gone through, and that is the touchstone, you can just orient them to say, “Hey, I’ve gone through this, too. I thought you might want to speak with me.” As the podcast has gotten accolades, I certainly include them. We were featured in Oprah Magazine. Then all of a sudden it feels like, “Okay, this is a real thing.” We have a website, we have a deck. I link to both of those things. And I tell them who the other guests have been on the show, which also I think creates some sense of credibility, and then I leave it very open-ended about how they can get in touch with me, when we can record, and I take things from there.
And then once someone reaches back with interest we get them on the calendar, we book studio time, and then we start putting together a list of questions that really get at who they are, how they grew up, and how they got to be who they are in a professional context.
Yeah, I mean you do a phenomenal job on that. It gives me great confidence, even when sometimes I have never heard of the person that you’ve booked, I just know that the person’s gonna be amazing, right? Because this is what you do. Your criteria is not high, but there has to be a very high threshold of complexity, and interest, and introspection, like this person has to know how they came to be who they are, right? Because that’s the essence of what we want on the show. How did you get to be so fabulous? How did you get to be such a hard-working person? How did you get to be so respected for what you do? That’s the essence of what we’re trying to get at.
And so then I pick it up after the studio session is done.
Menendez: Which, let me just say, again, my naivete, I thought you’d just… I’d be like, “All right, let me take this raw and just beam it up to I don’t know where.” But no, it turns out there’s a lot of work that happens after I leave the studio.
Yes, so as any writer listening will confirm, the writing is in the editing, and I cannot emphasize that enough in terms of what you put out as a podcast episode. It is really in the editing. You’ve got to think of your episode, especially if it’s an interview show, as a three act play, right? You’ve gotta have a clear beginning, you’ve got a clear middle, you’ve gotta have a clear end, and then it should build. The emotional current should really build, so that the ending feels like, “Wow, I’ve just grown by just simply listening to this person tell their story.” That’s what we hope to achieve with every single episode.
And we get a lot of feedback from you guys that says, “This episode made me cry. I shared this episode with my mother. I’ve listened to this episode 23 times now, because every time I get something different from it.”
Menendez: Though nothing is as my favorite as when we were doing musical beds underneath. You also told us you didn’t like that, which really made us laugh, and we got rid of it.
Menendez: We used to, like when someone would start crying and doing it we’d be like… and you guys were like, “You have to please stop.”
And we stopped. But you know, we were young then and still experimenting.
Menendez: Let’s also be clear. You edit it on text.
Menendez: But then you hand it off to someone else on our team.
Yes, so I’m an old school word person, so I much prefer to have a transcript and edit the transcript. I listen to the audio as I’m editing the transcript, but I definitely prefer to… Because I’m just more comfortable, and I don’t have sort of like the high technical acumen to be allowed to mess around with the actual audio file. I would not allow myself to do that.
But we have this brilliant producer, Maria Murriel, who then translates my edits into the audio, and then she also puts in her edits and her suggestions, and so that’s three people so far, and then sometimes because of audio quality in the studio, because of whatever reason, we have to send it to a sound engineer. So, we also have Carolina Rodriguez, who is a marvelous sound engineer, so she literally takes an x-ray, basically, of the audio file, and she cleans up on a granular level things that just a regular human ear wouldn’t pick up. But we want the audio to be so clean and so crisp that we just go in and clean out those sessions.
So then, after Alicia and I sort of say, “Great, this sounds really good,” it gets mastered, which means that all the audio levels are set, any plotives or the popping Ps are cleaned up, all of these things are done. Then we send it out to get a clean transcript and our assistant producer, Emma Forbes, she handles all of that. She cleans up the transcript, she formats it.
Menendez: Which makes it accessible to those who are not able to hear for any reason.
Yes, and then we just kind of pray that you guys love it.
Menendez: One of the genres of podcasting that I hear the most frequently that we haven’t really touched on yet is this two girls at a mic, or three people around the table, and I do wonder if… Because I think that is truly the lowest barrier to entry, because you can get a mic set and be off to the races. You don’t need to go through the booking process. Just any counsel or insights on what makes those stand out, and what works, and what doesn’t?
So, the thing that works on those is preparation. Don’t take for granted that it’s two girls and two mics, or two guys and two mics. They have prepared. The ones that are doing really well, they have prepared a dossier on their guest. They have read everything that their guest has written. They have three or four pages of questions in front of them.
Menendez: And even if there’s not a guest, they know between the two of them the beats that they are going to hit over the course of an episode.
Yes. Yep. There’s a plan for that episode, so you and I, in front of us, have pages of notes that we’ve made to ourselves for the things that are most important to convey in the interview, right? So, preparation is the key. There are a lot of shows being done by a lot of interesting people, but just turning the mic on and free flowing is just… It’s a recipe for disaster.
Menendez: I think part of the confusion around that, part of my confusion around that, so let me just speak for myself, is that there are some very early adopters to podcasting who did that, and who had a lot of success, and that was before the market was flooded.
Yes, so Joe Rogan, who at this point probably has six producers working on his show, he started out like that. Like 10 years ago he started out him, being an interesting person to talk to, bringing celebrities in, having maybe a few notes of things that he wanted to hit, but just waiting to see what happens in the studio, right? But he built a multimillion following, and so now he can “improvise” an interview. Well, he’s really not improvising an interview. He’s got a boatload of producers, probably, who are preparing the interview for him, and who have literally up until that moment when the person walks in been following what the person is doing, so that the interview feels really relevant.
So, preparation is really the key, and then the second thing is that you’ve got to have some sort of creative conflict in whatever you’re doing, right? And creative conflict is not animosity. Creative conflict is there is some tension inherently in the topics that we cover, right? Because that’s what’s gonna keep the listener coming back. In sports, there’s always tension because it’s the players versus the league, it’s this team against this other team, right? So sports, it’s easy. There’s embedded tension everywhere with sports.
Menendez: You’re speaking, though, to why this is not my favorite genre of podcasts, which is very often it’s two people who are very much of one mind on something.
In agreement. Yep.
Menendez: And so then it feels like, “Yeah, that’s a great idea. More about that.”
Right, right. No, which is why when you and I do your prep for your guest, I’m always putting in questions, not that create tension between you and the guest, but… and you sometimes preface it, like you’re so great at just being like, “All right, so it’s about to get real. I have to ask you about this.” I love that because those are the moments where the listener kind of leans in a little deeper into the listening, because we know that something’s about to be revealed. There has to be a level of revelation in a way that feels natural, instructive, and where there is growth through that revelation. And I mean, you make people cry. You don’t make people cry, but people cry when they talk to you because you have a way of getting them to that point of revelation, and they don’t even know that they’ve been led to that point. And there they are crying.
Menendez: I mean really, now I sound like just a silly goose, but like this is an industry.
Menendez: This is an industry.
This is a business.
Menendez: There is money, and there is gonna be a lot more money, so tell me about the money.
I will tell you about the money.
Menendez: We’re talking about the industry that’s making all the money.
But let’s be clear that Alicia and I are not yet making the money.
Menendez: Yeah. Did I tell you about our Patreon page?
Menendez: Our merch?
Head on over to latinatolatina.com/shop.
Menendez: But you got me to stop thinking of it as… I wasn’t thinking of it just as a passion project. I was thinking of it as part of a professional portfolio.
Menendez: Being a person who loves to interview and wanted another space in which to do that. You woke me up to the fact that someone’s going to make money doing this.
Yeah, and it could be us. I’ll start by just giving everybody sort of like a lay of the land. So, podcasting got started about 15 years ago. It was very niche. Only sort of like audio producers and audio nerds really knew what a podcast was, were able to follow them, even able to make them. And then about five years ago Serial, which is really the mother of modern podcasting, hit. It was a massive phenomenal hit and that’s when… That was a crossover moment, right? That’s when the general public became aware.
Menendez: I can’t even hear you talk about Serial without hearing K-Ci and JoJo in my head. It’s that culturally resonant.
Yeah. No, no. Absolutely. Absolutely. And so today, Apple Podcasts episodes that there are about 750,000. 750,000 podcasts in existence, right? And that includes shows that started 15 years ago, shows that had one episode, shows that had 20 episodes, right? And so about 80% of them have not had an episode in the last year, so they’re basically inactive, and today, about only 20% of those are in active production like our show, where we put out an episode regularly.
You’ve gotta understand that this is a highly-saturated market, but that every format has not been explored or invented. Every audience, absolutely every audience has not been touched. Only about 12% of Americans have ever listened to a podcast. If you’re interested in doing podcasting, it is very much wide open for you to come in with an original idea.
And so, the ways to make money are two pathways, so one is the hobbyist pathways, which is you make a show, there’s a mythical 1,000 loyal listeners that podcasters talk about, that if you are a small independent producer and you can do well, and you can get 1,000 loyal listeners, you can have a really good show. And you can have fun doing it, and your costs for producing the show will be low, and so yeah, if you get 50 of those people to give you some money on Patreon, you could actually have the show pay for itself, right? But that’s when you have a full-time job or other way to make money.
And then there’s the pathway that Alicia and I are pursuing, which is we’re trying to create, or we are creating a business, and we see Latina to Latina as our anchor for other things that we want to offer to our listenership. But the challenge that she and I face is that we also have to go and find you. The way that you can come into podcasting if you are serious about it growing into a business is you can seek pre-production grants. You can seek branded sponsorship, which means you get a business to sponsor you to make your first season. And then, there are two types of ads right now. We have what are called baked-in ads, which are usually read by the host. You’ve listened to a bunch of those done by Alicia. And then there are ads that are called dynamically inserted, and that’s by an algorithm in an app or on a platform, and you basically mark the audio and the machine says, “Oh, here’s my mark. I’m gonna drop an ad in there.” And then you get money, you get paid based on how many times the ad gets played.
Another thing that we’ve tried is merch, so you can sell merchandise that’s branded to the show, and if people are loyal listeners like many of you are, you buy the merch, you send us pictures on Instagram and we love it. There are live events, where you gather your listener community around something that you have in common. You also do live episodes.
Menendez: You are a treasure trove. No, you are. You know so much about this. So, we’re gonna post some more resources about podcasting on our Instagram, our Twitter, and our Facebook, so be sure that you’re following us there. We’re Latina to Latina on all of those platforms. But Juleyka, for now, for someone who took all this in, what’s a next solid step? What’s a next good resource to go to to learn more about podcasting?
Best place is to go to podcastgarage.org. It’s out of PRX. It’s basically a small institute for podcasting and audio creation. Another place that’s really great is Bello Collective, so it’s bellocollective.com, and they have an entire landing page dedicated to podcasting, and it’s bellocollective.com/podcasting101. I have an article on there. A ton of industry folks have articles on there breaking down all of the different aspects for you to get some useful, free information on how to get started.
Menendez: Juleyka, thank you. I think this was… I learned a lot. Even though I’m in the thick of this. I do want to also remind you that if this is something that you are thinking about, we have our Patreon page. There are a variety of levels on our Patreon page, and they come with different perks. One of the levels, it allows you after a year to get a free coaching session with me or Juleyka. I really, just I can’t tell you how the trajectory of this podcast was so radically changed by a one-hour conversation with Juleyka, so if this is something that you’re thinking about for yourself, just… You have access here to someone who really knows what they’re doing, and would highly recommend that you consider that both in supporting the show and then in supporting your future idea, so thank you so much.
Menendez: Thanks as always for joining us. Latina to Latina is executive produced and owned by Juleyka Lantigua-Williams and me. Maria Murriel is our producer. Carolina Rodriguez is our sound engineer. Emma Forbes is our assistant producer. We love hearing from you, so email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and remember to subscribe or follow us on RadioPublic, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Pandora, Spotify, or wherever you’re listening, and please leave a review. It’s one of the quickest ways to help us grow as a community.
Menendez, Alicia, host. “Our EP, Juleyka, Demystifies How to Start a Podcast.” Latina to Latina, Lantigua Williams & Co., January 5, 2020. LatinaToLatina.com