Two Years Of Kitchen Table Podcasting: Here’s What I Learned
Today marks two years since the launch of A Single Serving Podcast, the brainchild of a frustrated writer who was tired of beachy wave influencers achieving outlandish success by creating “I think for me…” content. If they can do it, so can I, and I did.
The podcast exists because I wanted single women to have something made for them that wasn’t about dating, that didn’t imply from its very existence that their singlehood was something wrong with them. Beyond that, I actually wanted to help single women feel good about being single, so that we’d be less likely to settle for one-word texts from Chad on Tinder twice a year when no one else is responding to him and sex work is taking too long to be legal. When there’s nothing wrong with being single, it’s a lot easier to spot what is wrong with dating culture, and then refuse to let it bring you down.
A Single Serving Podcast launched on Monday, April 8th 2019, publishing new episodes every Monday morning with the exception of that one week my microphone broke. I still publish episodes every Monday morning, but only one of those each month is accessible for free. More on this later. For now, I thought I’d celebrate my anniversary by sharing my experience-led knowledge, just in case there’s anyone out there who wants to start a podcast but feels intimidated by the to-do list, best practices, or just the inherent arrogance of assuming people want to hear what you have to say. Don’t worry about any of that. You have my permission, and encouragement, to start a podcast.
You Don’t Need A Studio Or Anything Fancy: I’ve made it two years and 465K downloads without an OUNCE of soundproofing and I want you to know you can do the same. I’ve spoken about how much it actually costs to start a podcast, and you should know that it’s a relatively affordable thing to get up and running. The expense comes in when your ego does. When you want your podcast to sound “professional,” and you start bringing in costs like studio recording time and a producer who knows what the hell they’re doing, podcasting gets expensive, fast, and please remember that podcasts are by and large always released for free, and no one pays podcast creators to make them. The people getting paid to make podcasts have been doing this for a long time and give their audiences something they REALLY want. That, or they’re a celebrity, and they make a shitload of money from day one. For us normals, there’s very little financial return on podcasting, especially in the beginning, but the good news is that podcasts don’t need to be expensively produced. They just need to contain good shit.
I prefer Kitchen Table Podcasting for beginners, because this puts the focus on the actual content of the podcast, not how good it sounds in an Airpod. Trust me, if your content is of value to your listeners, they’ll listen to you broadcast from inside a cement truck. I record my podcast from my kitchen table in my Brooklyn apartment, and I edit it myself in GarageBand. If you want to create something, I want you to know that you can.
Have A Point: A word about pointless podcasts…can we not? If I’m 15 minutes into an episode and I have no idea what the intention of the episode or even the pod itself is, I’m gone. I’m moving onto something with a bit more purpose and structure, because while you and your friend think you’re cool, not all of your conversations are interesting enough for the world to eavesdrop on. It needs to be said—we’re not all as effortlessly interesting as we want to be, and that’s okay. It’s okay to put a little effort and thought into how you’re going to be interesting. What is the point of your podcast? Why would someone listen to it? What will the listener have afterward that they didn’t have before? Identify these things, then hit record.
Plan Your Episodes: Brief every episode, write every interview, even if it’s just you recording without a guest. Advanced planning and thoughtfulness will serve you SO well during the recording. It is 100% possible to get on a mic and simply riff, but advanced planning prepares you to riff, and it also helps you pick back up when things go off the rails.
Podcast briefs are also really helpful for guests, so that they have all the logistics info they need in one place, and if they have a chance to see your interview questions in advance, they’ll give you better answers, with far fewer “ums.”
Build A Community: This one is optional, but I’ve really seen a benefit to it so it’s my strong suggestion. Podcasting is very isolated, both when you’re making them and also when you’re a listener consuming them. There’s also very little incentive to share podcasts socially because for some annoying reason that’s become a bit of an eyeroll. Also no one ever listens to your recommendations, it’s a basic human flaw. Building community via a Facebook group or a Slack brings listeners together, and keeps them interested in your work for way longer than the one hour they listened to you while scrubbing the bathtub. A community builds stronger fans, and it also helps them connect and make new friends, because they’ve already got something in common—you.
It’s A Lot Of Work: Podcasting takes time and is a lot of work. Lots of podcasts fizzle out after the first few episodes when creators realize just how much work it is AND they realize they’re not getting paid for it. Podcast advertising is a little bit of a joke, you can’t even access it until you have 10–15K monthly listeners. I’ve been doing this for two years with steady, continuous listener growth, and I still don’t have that. I was on target to hit that number after four years of podcasting, and I really didn’t want to wait that long to be compensated for work that I knew was really helping a community of single women. So I took my podcast off free-access platforms, and moved it over to Patreon. One episode per month is free and available on Apple Podcasts and the like, but every other weekly episode requires joining my Patreon at the $5 per month tier. That’s about $1.25 per episode, and I like this model because it keeps the cost low for the consumer, and helps the creator grow an infinite income over time. I have roughly 5K listeners per month on free-access platforms, and 411 of them have become Patrons so far. That’s about 12% of my audience paying for the content they’re enjoying. On an internet built on the back of “everything’s free!” that makes me very proud.
In the grand scheme of people creating news, entertainment, self-help, and apparently things about murder, podcasting is a really new medium. The fact that it’s accessible to anyone, in much the same way writing, YouTubing, etc. is, makes me happy. We’ve spent so much time believing that we need permission and acceptance from authority in order to create what we want. We need to get cast in that role, or we need that publisher to give us a book deal, or we need a record label to look at us and see dollar signs. With podcasting, that’s not true. There is nothing holding creatives back from making podcasts, from entertaining and helping people with their talent and knowledge. If you want to do this, you can. My kitchen table and I are proof.
Shani Silver is a humor essayist and podcaster. You can read all her Medium essays here.