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April 21, 2016, 11:47 a.m.
Mobile & Apps

“People want to see themselves”: Postloudness aims to build a podcast network for diverse voices

“We have so many friends in this city doing great things, but there hasn’t been the right platform for them to break through.”

The great podcast renaissance is here. The problem, according to James T. Green: It’s mostly white, straight, and male.

Green is the cofounder and chief digital officer of Postloudness, a Chicago-based podcast collective trying to create a community of shows by women, people of color, and queer-identified hosts. The goal: to help more underrepresented voices create their own shows, and, in the process, bring more diversity to podcasting. And hopefully make a business out of it.

“Everyone keeps saying that podcasts are back, but we kept seeing that the ones that they’re taking about are either very white or hosted by men,” he said. “There are so many other voices out there, but you never see them mentioned.”

Green, along with cofounders Cher Vincent and Alexandra Cox, launched Postloudness to create a platform that better reflected the kinds of diverse voices and perspectives they encountered every day. That diversity is already reflected in the network’s early lineup of shows, most of which talk about big issues through the lens of race, gender, or sexuality. Roboism, for example, focuses on robots and feminism, while Refresh is about technology and sex positivity.

“People want to see themselves represented and want to be a part of the conversation, whether they’re in person or listening through headphones,” Green said.

It’s not a new idea. Postloudness was inspired in part by This Week in Blackness, an Oakland–based media network and podcast platform that also focuses on underrepresented voices.

Postloudness shares some DNA with the Chicago Podcast Cooperative, the podcast network by the company behind Cards Against Humanity. Like the cooperative (and unlike large national podcast networks such as Panoply and Radiotopia), Postloudness is focusing its efforts on Chicago-based shows and creators. Vincent, Postloudness’s CMO, said that this intensely regional focus is a reaction to the relative lack of attention paid to the Chicago creative and media communities compared to those on the East and West Coasts.

“We have so many friends in this city doing great things, but there hasn’t been the right platform for them to break through,” she said.

Public radio, too, has been criticized for the “infinite whiteness” of its voices, focus, and tone. While the diversity issue is a microcosm of the diversity problem in American culture more broadly, it feels more acute in audio, where “hearing from different voices” is both metaphorical and literal.

But Postloudness wants to do more than distribute podcasts — it also wants to have a hand in production for the hosts who need it. Vincent said that one factor holding new voices back from entering the podcast space is a lack of understanding about how to go from idea to execution. Chakka Reeves, the host of Postloudness’s Highwater, for example, had a background in video, but knew little about branding, editing, and publishing a podcast. Postloudness helped her through the whole process, from coming up with the name for the show and figuring out the format to developing branding.

“We’re trying to remove as much friction as possible for getting the show out there,” Green said.

Ultimately, the typical goal behind a podcast network is to build audiences for each individual show, roll them up, and sell that collective (and hopefully large) audience to advertisers. Postloudness plans to take the lead for ad sales for its member podcasts, and will take a 30 percent cut of the revenue of the shows it helps produce. (It won’t take a revenue share from fully formed shows that join the network.)

While Green said Postloudness would never turn away a big podcast advertiser like Squarespace, the ideal advertisers for the network are niche local brands and organizations that cater to Postloudness listeners’ worldview and interests, such as women-owned book stores or independent sex-positive sex toy shops. That’s a niche where there is opportunity for growth, Vincent believes.

“We’ve had so many friends telling us they want to start a podcast on X or listen to one about Y,” Vincent said. “The way we see it, if people are asking for something so much, then it’s probably a good business to be in.”

POSTED     April 21, 2016, 11:47 a.m.
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