- The Podcast Catalyst
- What makes The Great Equalizer tick?
What makes The Great Equalizer tick?
Behind The Podcast
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Hello pod buddies,
Did you know podcasting started on 9 July 2003? This means Sunday, 9 July marked the now thriving industry’s 20th birthday. 🎉🎉
To celebrate the massive growth of the industry The Podcast Catalyst will go behind the scenes with African podcasters over the next few months in an attempt to highlight the hard work and wide variety of skills that go into making quality productions. I for one cannot wait to learn from other creators.
Also in this newsy, the APVA Awards nominees have been announced and voting is officially open! Plus the Edison Research published the ‘core audience’ for different audio platforms. Infographic down below.
🍦 Under The Hood Of The Great Equalizer
Cozy in as we get to know with dynamic hosts, Sam Herbst and Charlene Armstrong from Johannesburg.
Where did the idea to start a podcast come from and how long have you been doing this for?
The Great Equalizer was a ‘shower idea’ that I actioned. I have these ideas, very unoriginally, in the shower, and I often need to dash to my phone’s Notes app to write down the idea before it goes to the place that my unbirthed brain babies disappear to.
It was 2018 and I had quit my full-time job to start a career in freelancing. As a mom (to a then 1yo) with a husband who travels quite a bit, I needed the flexibility that freelancing would give me. But, as any freelancer will tell you, it’s rough out there. So, while lathering furiously in aforementioned shower (and, quite possibly, crying a bit), I lamented that there weren’t South Africa-based parenting podcasts like my favourite US-based mom pod, One Bad Mother. Ones with local tie-ins and relevant product placements and discussions that contextualised the beast that is parenting in a country like South Africa. And then the thought crept in, “Why not me?”
Luckily, I wrote down this particular brain baby immediately, and I remember doing a quick Google search of ‘parenting podcasts South Africa’. I was still in my towel and dripping wet from my idea chamber. The only podcast that cropped up (at the time) was AfroDaddy, the parenting podcast by Terence Mentor (who has come to be a great friend and supporter of The Great Equalizer). In our very first conversation (on Facebook Messenger) Terence mentioned how excited he was for the podcast, offered some sage advice and said ‘rising ships and all that’. I’ll always be grateful for his generosity of spirit – that’s the great thing that sets podcasters (and great people) apart.
Anyway, the evening after my shower cry/idea, I sent a weird message to an acquaintance – and now close friend – asking if she wanted to follow a random pipe dream that would not pay for several years, if at all. The pipe dream would ask a lot of us but, if it succeeded, mothers going through what we were going through at the time wouldn’t feel alone. Lucky for me, the crazy woman (my podcast host and co-creator, Charlene Armstrong) said yes. And the rest is history
What genre or category does your podcast fall into?
Parenting, Women’s Interest, Lifestyle, Family. We’ve grown over the years from a mom-centred pod (where we chat about nappies, sleep training and making mom friends) to one that includes our broad scope of interests. This is in keeping with one of the thematic cornerstones of the podcast, which is that we (mothers) are people too, with varied and unique passions, interests and challenges.
How did you come up with the name for your podcast?
It was a passing comment once made by Biz, host of One Bad Mother, which really resonated. We’ve expanded on it since to explain that, no matter who you are in the world – from Queen Bey herself, to a single mom, a supported mom, a working mom, a stay-at-home mom, a Pinterest mom, a go-with-the-flow mom – we’re all, at times, someone’s Snack B*tch, and we’ve all sniffed a tiny butt in public.
Parenting really is the perfect leveller, The Great Equalizer.
Who did the artwork for your podcast? What was the inspiration behind it?
Oh goodness, what an awesome question. The amazing, inimitable legendary designer and art director Larissa Elliott. Since helping us with our rebrand in 2019, Larissa had a little legend baby herself and joined the momming space. She’s such a great force and we consider her an honourary member of Team TGE – she just got us right off the bat.
Our primary logo features an upside-down ice cream cone, which is such a great metaphor for parenting. You know, sh*t happens sometimes. The ice cream drops and chaos is bound to ensue. So the true test of parenting is, where to from here? When we’re up that creek without a paddle, or the (breast)milk just spilled and we’re brimming with tears, or the proverbial ice cream cone just donnered to the flippen’ floor… What are we gonna do?
And, because our motto is #nojudgies, if your behaviour post ice cream drop is less than savoury (hard relate), where to then from there. The ice cream, I guess, symbolises the inevitable sh*t show that is parenting and the solidarity in knowing that it’s the same for everyone. Sometimes the future from there is unclear and the best thing to do is simply “the next right thing” (if you get that reference, you are my people).
Other icons that we play with in our design (all thanks to the ever-knowing Larissa) include a splat (like a spill, or even an ink blot test), and a scribble (denoting frustration). There’s a lot of real feels and humour behind our design and we love it.
How often do you record and publish episodes?
Oef. This is tough because, pre-pandemic (and pre-fourth baby in the collective mix) we managed to sit down once a week. Now we’re lucky if we can get together once a month. So now we record once monthly, with a few bonus episodes and books episodes thrown in (we started populating a spin-off podcast that focuses on books called TGE’s Current Read).
Which podcast host do you use and have you ever migrated your show from a different platform?
We currently use Iono (so we can house our three separate channels under one umbrella (TGE Media). And for video, we’re on YouTube. We started out old school, on SoundCloud, but by 2020 it became necessary to migrate and we’re happy to be supporting a proudly South African platform.
What equipment did you start your podcast with and what are you using now?
Ag. We were so cute. Our first episode was recorded on an iPhone 7 or 8? I hit record and Charlene and I sat on the floor in my son’s nursery (after we hit stop we spoke for another hour, which should have been recorded).
About six months after that we recorded on a Zoom H5 Portable Digital Microphone (and we hooked up a couple of mics to), after which our lives were forever changed by a Rodecaster. For the first time ever, we could chat with a guest over the phone (this was prior to Covid making Zoom and Teams platforms and recordings so accessible).
For the first four years I edited every episode myself with (don’t choke) Garage Band. I taught myself to edit (thanks to YouTube) and, frankly, I’m so glad I did because I have newfound appreciation and love for editors and sound engineers. The podcast was truly a labour of love. I kept meaning to train on more advanced software but life kept getting in the way and Garage Band was like a safety net (a really old safety net, but still).
In our fifth year of production we moved in with ARGH! Studios who not only edit and package our pods, they also film us and stick our pretty little faces up on YouTube (we moan about having to put make up on but we secretly love it).
The move to YouTube was a big leap but a dream come true. It’s been so awesome reaching a new audience and being able to engage via IG Reels and TikToks as well… Before adding the video element, we just used to cut sound bites with sound bar imager and a still pic for thumbnails.
How much time does it take to edit each episode?
In the Garage Band days I took at least double the time that it would take to record the podcast, not including the time it takes to source images, compile artwork, write the blurbs, post to the platform, post and cross post. ISSA LOT!
But just for editing? If we spoke for one hour (and, let’s be honest, we always go over that), I would be editing for minimum two. My perfectionism has never been my friend in this instance but our sound got so much better over time and I blame being super anal. Not the worst fatal flaw but it gives me plenty sleepless nights.
Nowadays, however, the editing is done live in studio (cut on a Blackmagic Atem). It’s not often that we’ll chop anything out in between, but it doesn’t take long before that’s done… Let’s say it takes as long as the episode plays out (another hour or so) to include our elements (straplines, logo placement etc.) before the show is ready to be loaded.
How much planning goes into each episode?
Refer to previous answer regarding my perfectionism
A fair amount of planning… Charlene and I will touch base to chat about how we feel about the issue. That will elicit some talking points and then I’ll set to work (as producer) bringing in a guest, doing some research on the topic, the guest, and any relevant news/reading material that crops up. Then I’ll sketch an outline of the episode so we don’t go too far off track while recording.
How do you use social media for your podcast?
Our audience includes moms who convene largely on Instagram and, to a lesser extent, Facebook (although the TikTokkers have really enjoyed our reels). Twitter is there too…
We use socials to check in with our audience, and we often use it to canvas different opinions or experiences, find experts for a topic, share relevant content and – of course – share our episodes. Parenting can be very isolating, especially when your little ones are small (but also, Mom Taxi Life is also pretty solitary). So social media has been so great to touch base with our audience and to grow our little community.
Do you make use of any automation or AI tools when producing your podcast?
Errrr, can you repeat the question? Flip… I’m going to say no? I don’t think so. The most I’ll use AI is if we need to transcribe an episode (because then transcription services are the bomb.com). Does automated captioning on YouTube count as I? How about using a hashtags generator to find appropriate hashtags when sharing on socials?
The short answer is: No, we don’t intentionally use AI to produce the pod. But that doesn’t mean it’s not happening organically.
If you were to teach someone just one aspect of podcasting, which aspect do you feel you have mastered?
I think we do well to truly understand the topic at hand and give it due diligence. In parenting, as in life, as in podcasting, there are so many ways to speak your truth and offer a platform for someone else’s truth and hold space for those who are not yet at a point where they want to publicly share.
This answer is quite philosophical but we take this job seriously. Podcasts can do a lot of damage through misappropriation, parading fiction as fact and not keeping the lived reality and feelings of others’ top of mind. While our podcast is pretty irreverent and we’re wildly potty mouthed, representation, inclusivity and kindness are central to our brand and we work hard to continuously improve on this front.
What would you do differently if you started a second podcast?
We would definitely serialise it (as in, create Seasons instead of keeping an ongoing podcast on the run). Serialising a podcast gives you time to breathe and (I would imagine) it doesn’t feel like you’re constantly chasing your tail.
But, to be honest, when we started The Great Equalizer, serialising wasn’t really a thing. That only came later… So we’re proud to be early adopters still chasing our tails.
What are the last three podcasts you listened to?
Podcrushed (by Penn Badgley and friends).
In the latest episode he interviews Kelly Clarkson. We love this podcast for the insight it gives into the preteen years (middle school), which offers some fresh parenting perspectives.
Big Time Adulting (by the hilarious influencer Caitlin Murray).
Caitlin’s hilarious but sobering take on parenting resonates so much with Team TGE and her guests are absolute #goals for us.
The Great Equalizer (by us).
Before you roll your eyes… We often go back to our most recent or older episodes for various reasons. Podcasts never expire and, depending on your content, they stay relevant. Charlene and I will often go back to things we said in the past (especially when listeners or friends ask us to send episodes relevant to what they’re going through).
It’s almost like we’re vetting ourselves – we go back to what we said before in whatever episode to make sure that what we said back then is still something we would agree with now. Case in point, I sent an episode on the newborn haze (Episode 27) to a friend but first listened to it to make sure nothing was judgy, or incorrect, or dated.
And here is where you can catch up with Sam and Charlene:
📰 Let’s wrap up with some industry news
If you’ve been wondering what the core audience for podcasting is, Edison Research says that it’s men aged 25-34. Share of Ear® has published the ‘core audience’ for different audio platforms. See below. Men in this age bracket spend 16% of their total audio time with podcasts compared to other audio mediums.
Professional UK voice artist, Greg Marston, recently stumbled across his own voice on a demo for Revoicer, an AI-powered text-to-speech service. His voice had been used without his knowledge. Apparently Revoicer had purchased the rights to his voice from a company that he had signed a contract with back in 2005. Marston is the the voice of LBC, Joburg’s 702 and Virgin Smooth in Bangkok, and now finds himself in competition with his own voice. Would you use a AI version of your voice on a podcast?
Entries for the 2023 APVA Awards sponsored by Afripods are officially closed and the nominees in each category were made public over the weekend. Voting is open until 30 July. Good luck to everyone involved!
The Association of African Podcasters and Voice Artists also announced the judges for the various categories last week. Tony Doe, Gathoni Ngumba, Osagie Alonge and I make up the panel for the podcasting categories.
To make a podcast recommedation or request a feature, you know where to find me: [email protected].
Until the next time, happy podcasting.