On “Still Podcasting” – Women Hosted Podcasting, 2012 (Transom, Libsyn And More)

Token Skeptic on iTunesIt’s a little difficult telling people what I do for fun.

Yesterday, at a lunch, I had people doing the usual, polite “So, what are you doing now?” kind of conversation, and instead of my knee-jerk reaction of “Oh, the usual: swinging upside down on a chandelier, covered in blancmange, dripping stars and singing to the elephants,” I said that I was studying radio full-time, teaching part-time, creating resources for a number of groups (education locally and international), volunteering here and there, hoping to get a conference or two attended by the end of the year…

…and still podcasting.

Mind, when I respond with “So, what are you doing?” they always seem far busier than me and usually with more offspring  - which to me is precisely the equivalent of “Swinging upside down on a chandelier, covered in blancmange, dripping stars and singing to the elephants“.

Anyway, the podcast part of my “what I’m doing” gets the usual “…huh…” and polite blank look and resulting change of topic and I just end up I reflecting on the drive home that no one I usually associate with are podcast listeners, let alone can define the word “podcast” and just plain don’t get it.

[Kind of my not getting the offspring thing, but mine involves less... placenta and yearly vaccination schedules, I guess.]

Which is fine and all, but the “podcast… huh?” eventually gets you down, particularly when your cat has developed a habit of excitedly running into your office and perching on the footstool you’ve grudgingly given up as her perch and does her “Let’s Podcast!” chirp – because if there’s one thing she loves, it’s being scritched on the ears during editing and making loud jingling noises during the more intense interviews. It’s become so regular, she’s adopted podcasting time as equivalent to bonding time. My most dedicated listener to the show I’ve devoted days of time to, with over 200+ eps… is my cat.

(I was even thinking of giving out a prize to the listener who can correctly identify which episodes have collar bell-jingles during the shows, but I can’t be bothered going back and counting them all).

Anyway, about now the metaphor for birthing a podcast breaks down entirely as it’s not fair to compare my show to having kids – it’s certainly a lot easier than raising offspring. But you can probably get the idea that podcasting means a lot to me.

Particularly since I’m writing this part at 1:23am on a Monday morning.

[Break for sleep]

So, I admit that there’s a lower bar when it comes to getting involved in podcasting. It’s one of the things that was emphasised in the interview I did with Dr Pamela Gay and Fraser Cain on science podcasting – that it’s fairly straightforward and if you enjoy it, you should keep going. But why are there so few women like me in podcasting?

This is why I was fascinated by an article over on Transom, by Julie Shapiro (with big thanks to Ashley Milne-Tyte for passing it onto me): “Women Hosted Podcasts“.

What’s the aural equivalent of a vantage point? From whatever that’s called, from my perch at the Third Coast International Audio Festival, an observation has been increasingly nagging. It’s nothing new, it’s fairly obvious, and it deserves your attention. It is the lack of female hosts in the ever-widening world of podcasts.

I generally keep up (or try to) with what’s out there in the radio/audio/podcast cosmos, so I’ve been aware that male-hosted podcasts (MHPs) out-number women-hosted podcasts (WHPs), easily. But the actual numbers floored me.

According to the widely-used podcast-delivery phone app Stitcher, as of mid-February, 2013, out of the top 100 podcasts in their system, 71 are hosted by men (many by two or three men), 11 are hosted by women (of which three are just 60 seconds long), 9 are co-hosted by a man and woman, and 9 are either NPR or BBC news aggregation podcasts with alternating hosts and reporters, or it’s unclear who hosts. iTunes results were similar.

It’s also something that is reflected in some research done by Libsyn, who is probably the most popular podcast host out there – the blogpost by Libsyn gives more details, but the comments by Rob Walsh, the VP for Podcaster Relations in the Transom article sums it up:

I am the VP of Podcaster relations with Libsyn.com the largest podcasting host and where many of the podcasts you mention above host their files (Aisha Tyler, Grammar Girl, Democracy Now to name a few). I first wrote about this topic back in 2007 for Blogger and Podcaster magazine and then did a follow up post late in 2012.

…In December we looked at users of libsyn.com and if the primary contact for the account was male or female – we found just 12.5% of our users out of the 10,000 accounts we looked at were female. This is inline with survey’s done back in 2005 and 2007 that I mentioned in my original post. Sadly the percentage of female podcasters did not go up like they did in blogging over the past 8 years.

I have felt for a long time one of the things that would really spur great growth on the podcasting side is if there were more content created by females. Hopefully with the iPad and how easy it is now to podcast that might help. But I do not believe it is a content issue – as 51% of bloggers are Female – and they did not have an issue with content. I believe it is more of a time issue – it is easy to be a blogger when you have kids running around screaming – it is harder to do that as a podcaster. As I tell female bloggers if you want to stand out from the crowd Podcasting is how you do it. For every 3,600 female bloggers there is just one female podcaster.

Other stats that were mentioned in the comments – Kris Markham:

I’m a (female) academic who studies independent podcasting (podcasts not associated with traditional media orgs). I just wanted to add that your impressions are backed up by my research, and the few other studies that are out there. In two surveys of independent podcasters, one in 2008/9 and a follow-up in 2012, the vast majority of my respondents were male, more than 80%.

An international study of podcasters conducted in Germany in 2007 found 86.2% were male, and a study of educational podcasters in 2009 found 69% were male. And many of these are looking at podcasts way out at the end of the long tail, not just the most popular podcasts. So for whatever reasons, the available data so far shows that women are by and large not choosing to podcast.

Concerns in the comments also include “ladies only” channel[s] risk[ing] ghettoizing the very radio and individuals it aims to promote’, and yet lists like those featured on Women in Podcasting demonstrate that there’s a lot of producers out there who are no longer podcasting, and I wonder why. That same comment (by Sydney Beveridge) suggests a number of strategies to help avoid tokenism:

-Cross-promote shows.
-Make plugs for little-heard programs on different Stitcher channels.
-Book more female guests/experts on shows (this would also help normalize “authoritative voices” coming from women, and lend space to rising talent).
-Give young girls recording equipment to play with to close the gadget gap.
-Offer workshops and best practices for marketing and monetizing podcasts (everyone could benefit from that).
-Learn to promote ourselves and each other. (For instance, participating in a public speaking course and networking events has highly influenced the way I present myself and my work. Such activities have also connected me with new ideas and people.)
-Write more excellent articles like Julie Shapiro’s to keep the conversation going.

In skeptical podcasting, I’m one of the very few solo-female shows (and, I suspect, one of the few wholly-produced and maintained by myself, rather than working in a team or with an assistant). In terms of encouragement, it’s great to get positive reinforcement from listeners, presenting lectures and the recognition from the Skeptic Ockham Awards. Particularly as an independent podcaster, when there’s so many “professional” and radio-tie-ins that dominate the podcast lists over at iTunes.

It’s interesting that most of the people who attend my talks on science podcasting are women (such as the recent talk at UWA) – and yet I don’t know how many would actually go on to try podcasting themselves. I have a few theories as to why not, to add to Julie Shapiro’s article, which I ended up mentioning in the comments of the article. I also wonder if there’s a sense of competitiveness in skepticism for some shows to be foregrounded and promoted more than others? Or is podcasting considered so “typical” in the skeptic landscape, that it’s no longer considered interesting or useful to promote them, even ones created by minorities?

Anyway. I highly recommend checking out all the comments and links that are included with the article by Julie Shapiro – the blogpost seems to “hide” comments due to the numbers, but this link to Ashley’s first comment will give you a chance to read them all by scrolling down.

For my own part, I have added my Token Skeptic show to Stitcher’s “Women Hosted Podcasts” station and Rachel of Stitcher says in the comments that If anyone hosts a show that they would like to add to this station, please contact me (rachel@stitcher.com)” , and to the list over at I Love Lard called Women in Podcasting.

Oh, and new Token Skeptic episodes out later this week… stay tuned.

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About Kylie Sturgess

Kylie Sturgess is a Philosophy teacher, media and psychology student, blogger at Patheos and podcaster at Token Skeptic. She has conducted over a hundred interviews including artists, scientists, politicians and activists, worldwide.
She’s the author of the ‘Curiouser and Curiouser‘ column at the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry website and travels internationally lecturing on feminism, skepticism, and science.

  • http://app.stitcher.com/ Rachel

    Hi Kylie, The Token Skeptic is now up in the WHP station http://app.stitcher.com/browse/1/1168518.
    Thanks so much in helping to bring awareness!

    • Kylie Sturgess

      Thank you! It was wonderful to see lots of comments and support!


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