How to create a more inclusive space.
The hashtag #podcastssowhite was trending in 2017. In the four years since, what has the podcasting industry done to address this accurate and frustrating reality? By some accounts, there has been positive progress to creating a more inclusive space. The percentage of non-white listeners has skyrocketed in the past few years. In fact, Nielsen found that the podcast listening audience is more diverse than the U.S. population as a whole. But the number of non-white podcast creators has yet to catch up.
By way of full transparency, this writer is a white, cis female, and an age that 18-year-old me would have considered being ancient. I will not pretend that I understand how difficult it is for people of color to find their way into the podcasting world. But I would like to challenge my fellow white podcasters to consider the concept that this isn’t just a person of color’s issue — it’s ours. If the majority of podcasters are white, then it’s incumbent on white people to help change the demographics.
When I was looking to start a podcast, all the people I knew who were podcasting were white. All of them were college educated. All of them were male. The other important aspect they all shared is that they were pumped to impart their podcasting knowledge to me. I quickly learned that podcasters love to help other podcasters! One of the biggest pieces of advice I got was to use Blubrry as my hosting service for its ease of use, its listener stats, and most importantly, I could talk to a human being if I had questions (and oh boy — I had questions).
But what would I have done if I didn’t have the privilege of being able to directly contact podcast pros? Honestly, I would have been too intimidated and felt like I wasn’t technically savvy enough to start a podcast. It’s no surprise that people of color aren’t jumping into podcasting as quickly as people like me are. I had a starting point. I had access. This is where the barriers to entry start, and sadly often end, for people of color. The great news is there are a ton of things we, as people with baked-in access, can do to address this inequity.
How to Improve
First and foremost, seek out, subscribe and support existing diverse shows. Places like Podcasts In Color and The Loudspeakers Network are great resources to find your new favorite podcast. Listening and connecting with people outside your direct circle of influence is crucial to amplifying creators from all walks of life.
A second barrier to entry is the cost of producing a podcast, the basic know-how to do that. Most people don’t realize that if they have a great idea or story, they can start a podcast with an iPhone and a hosting service. We can all carve out a few hours a month to volunteer our services and knowledge to students and newbies. If you aren’t in the position to volunteer your time, trade services with an up-and-coming podcaster. Barter your podcast wizardry for a few hours of yard work, a haircut, or even babysitting.
For those with existing podcasts, work harder to diversify your guests. Make an effort to find new voices with a great story to tell, product to share, or point of view your audience hasn’t heard yet. Social media is a great place to find new guests. This is probably the first and only time I’ll say this but, slide into those DM’s, people!
On the production side, it’s incumbent that producers seek out talent that is traditionally underrepresented. If the people putting together podcasts and shaping content aren’t also diversified, podcasts will continue to be status quo. There are great listservs, like Ladio, and other city-specific job boards, where opportunities are posted every day. It doesn’t matter if your podcast has 20 listeners or 20 million listeners, including diverse voices matters at every level.
Currently, encouraging diversity is still a blind spot in podcasting. The more we shine a light on the issue, the more I believe this community will work to change that. Now let’s get out there and lend a mic or two!
Written by: Tara Jean O’Brien
Tara Jean O’Brien has been a writer, actor, improviser, podcaster, and stand-up for nearly 800 years. When not producing, editing, and hosting her podcast, Single Vs. Married, or co-hosting, Cinema Craptaculus Presents: B-sides, she also writes on Medium and recently found a floor safe hidden in her coat closet.