- The Podcast Catalyst
- Inside Diane Macpherson's podcast brain
Inside Diane Macpherson's podcast brain
Inside Diane Macpherson's podcast brain
Diane is based in South Africa and is the On Demand Content head for Kagiso Media’s flagship radio stations, East Coast Radio and Jacaranda FM.
In the podcast space, Diane has been involved in the creation of many podcasts over the years, including ‘First Person’ in 2016, ‘Good Things Guy’ with Brent Lindeque in 2018, ‘KindnessCan’ with Jane Linley-Thomas and Paul Bushell, ‘Snake Rescue’ with Nick Evans in 2020, ‘The Money Podcast’ in 2021, ‘To Catch a Serial Killer’ in 2021, ‘Don’t Hold Back’ with Nozibele Qamngana-Mayaba in 2022 (an international collaboration with Deutsche Welle) and ‘African Story Magic with Gcina Mhlophe’ in 2023. A beacon of skill, talent and content creation knowledge, I asked Diana a few questions about her journey and the future of podcasting in South Africa.
TPC: What inspired you to get into podcasting, and how have you seen the industry evolve since you started?
DM: In the context of the radio environment, and specifically as a journalist and later news editor at East Coast Radio, podcasting was a natural and logical extension. We were already obsessed with audio, and podcasting technology, such as Echocast, developed in 2007 by Durban-based Immedia, gave us the ability to deliver our bulletins and on-air features in podcast form from as early as 2007. We were way ahead of the curve in this sense. Catch up radio content – while not bespoke podcast content – has arguably largely driven early podcasting shows and downloads in South Africa, allowing listeners to access content in an on-demand format. Before the term ‘went viral’ was a thing, we were experiencing and creating viral content which lived beyond its on-air moment in podcast form. A controversial presenter monologue on-air on ECR many years ago resulted in over 100 000 downloads of the podcast episode in a single day. Anyone in podcasting today knows that is the Holy Grail to achieve in the SA context. Kagiso Media radio stations understand that podcasting is a natural extension for FM radio stations, and over the years we have extended our offering, maintaining the catch up content, while simultaneously developing bespoke content in multiple languages.
TPC: How do you see podcasting fitting into the larger media landscape in South Africa, and what role do you think it will play in the future?
DM: I think I’ve tackled this question in my previous reply. South Africa is several years behind markets like the USA, Australia, or Europe in terms of mass popularisation and consumption of podcasts. In radio, especially as Kagiso Media Radio, we understand that we have an important role to play in not only supporting the development and popularity of the medium and in creating our own offerings, but also in respecting and supporting the independent players and publishers in this space. Podcasting is hard work. Brands, while interested in the space, are not investing heavily in the SA context, but we know this will come – as it has in developed podcast markets overseas.
TPC: What are some of the most popular podcast genres among South African audiences, and why do you think that is?
DM: News, motivational, true crime, comedy, history, personal finance, mental health – these are just some of the genres that have come up strongly in our research, mirroring what is generally doing well internationally. Having said that, I believe audiences want interesting, conversational or storytelling content - and interviews, carried out by hosts who are authentic and who allow the stories and expertise of their guests to shine and be heard. Hosts who interrupt guests or try to look more intelligent than them are not the benchmark to aspire to.
TPC: How do you think South African podcast creators can differentiate themselves in a global market?
DM: I think we should play to our strengths and make the strongest, most engaging, and relevant local content we can. We need to find our own niches, locally. On a practical note, if we’re going to be able to monetise our content, most brands will want strong buy in from South African consumers – unless they happen to be a global brand.
TPC: What are some best practices for creating engaging content?
DM: Often, it’s less about creating engaging content and more about making sure you have an audience to consume it! There are so many examples of strong and engaging content in SA. It’s getting these amazing listens in front of an audience that’s the hard part. This is where the host’s personal network, social media platforms etc help to aggregate a community of listeners. Radio has a natural advantage as we can tell our considerable listenership about a new podcast, meaning we start off with a receptive audience base as opposed to starting from scratch. Having said that, content should be made for the listener first -- be it a meticulously researched history or true crime podcast, an African story, a vulnerable, no holds barred conversation between two interesting characters. All of these should be authentic and full of heart and soul. Technical proficiency is also important. There are so many tools to help create professional sounding podcasts, and most have free versions, so there’s no excuse for quality.
TPC: What advice would you give to someone who is interested in starting a podcast, but doesn't know where to begin?
DM: First be sure of your ‘why’. Starting a podcast is relatively easy. Sustaining it is the hard part. Finding someone to listen to it or invest in it is even harder. Ultimately, be prepared to work day and night to get new listens; to widen your audience and build a community. For the vast majority, there’s very little glamour in it, it’s mainly about being conscientious, being quality-oriented, being consistent and being clear on what you want to achieve. You may need to prepare yourself mentally to be prepared to release weekly episodes of your podcast for 12 months before you even get noticed!
TPC: What advice would you give to someone who wants to make a career out of podcasting in South Africa, and what skills or qualities are essential for success in the industry?
DM: My response above applies here too. I can only emphasise that you will need to work very hard for every listen and for every rand and cent.
TPC: What role do you see collaboration playing in podcasting, and what are some benefits of working with other creators or brands?
DM: We need to work together to build the medium in South Africa. We need to organise ourselves effectively to be taken seriously. We need to work together to build literacy around podcasting in general. We assume our audiences know how and where to listen, but this isn’t always the case. It’s with all of these aspects in mind that radio can help. If you’d love to collaborate, drop me an email, and let me know why. We may be able to help shine a spotlight on your podcast on either Jacaranda FM or East Coast Radio – or both.