SoundHER: Building Influence With Lauren Popish From The Wave Podcasting

Remember when reading was fun? When you tucked away in your bedroom and got lost in a story? Or maybe you got to witness your mother’s bookclubs, where womxn would discuss characters and plots well into the evening. Lauren Popish, founder of The Wave Podcasting, started her podcast, Book (Wine) Club, back in 2018. Her concept takes a contemporary twist on traditional bookclubs—where one might serve tea, Lauren decided to pair her reads with wine. But the road to building a successful and fulfilling podcast came with its challenges.

Two year ago, when Popish started her podcast, she ran into tons of questions. In looking for answers, she only found tech-heavy, masculine videos and help-guides that were frankly pretty intimidating. As a result, she founded The Wave, an inclusive place where womxn can learn how to build successful podcasts so they can grow their audience, share their message, and get paid.

When she’s not running The Wave, reading, or recording Book (Wine) Club, she’s taking care of her new adorable puppy, Ruthie, (named in honor of RGB—RIP, sister), and remembering to refer to her partner as ‘fiancee’ instead of ‘boyfriend’.

Today in our SoundHer interview you will learn:

  1. Why Podcasting Is The Superior Marketing Medium
  2. Popish’s Podcast Journey
  3. How Confidence And Influence Are Related
  4. What The Wave Can Offer Womxn Podcasters
  5. The Secret Timeline To Topping Podcast Charts
  6. Pro Tips For New And Existing Podcasters
  7. Gender In The Podcast Industry Today
  8. What The “X” In Womxn Means

Why Podcasting Is The Superior Marketing Medium

Larell Scardelli: Happy to finally sit down with you Lauren! So tell us: Why podcasting? What inspired you?

Lauren Popish: It was my experience as a podcaster that made me appreciate why the medium is unique.

The way the world is today, if you have an idea, a personal brand, or a company, you have to build an audience to get out your message. It’s a fundamental truth, whether you like it or not. Audience-building is the only way to distribute an idea out into the world. And I feel all the traditional mediums of marketing, like social media and especially blogging, are just inaccessible because they’re so saturated.

The podcast industry is still authentic.

Podcasting is incredibly unique because of where it’s at in its popularity journey. There are only 1.4 million podcasts on Apple podcasts. That’s nothing compared to the number of blogs online today. Starting a podcast in 2020 is like starting a blog in 2008.

And the podcast industry is still authentic. You can hire someone to write a blog post for you, but you can’t hire someone to speak on your behalf. There’s a level of connection that happens between host and listener that’s so much deeper and more authentic, and, really, the kind of connection people are looking for from brands and companies and people.

So the opportunity plus authenticity-factor makes it the best way to build an audience for whatever your thing is. That’s why I love it.

LS: That really speaks to what big companies are doing today—publishing audio content that’s tangentially related to their brand.

LP: Totally. Because the “what” of your company doesn’t always speak to the brand or mission, which is probably so much more. When you sell a product, it can be hard to communicate the intent, or mission, or key driving values.

Frankly, static marketing makes it hard to communicate that too. You can say that you’re about sustainability or womxn-led brands. At the end of the day, if you’re not exhibiting that, or showing through the things you do, it can be hard to get it across.

Podcasting offers a unique opportunity to communicate the “why” in the brand. And that’s what people care about. I don’t shop at DAME (a womxn’s pleasure product company) because they sell superior products to Amazon, I do it because they support gender equality and have a sex positive-mission. It’s the “why” I care about. Podcasting helps you get to the “why” faster.

LS: And it feels like because podcasting is so personal, once a customer or shopper is invested in a brand’s podcast, the brand has won?

LP: Absolutely. The average time spent on a YouTube video is 10 minutes. The average time spent on an Instagram post is three seconds. And the average time spent on a podcast is 30 minutes!

So as a brand, being able to speak directly to your target customer for an uninterrupted 30 minutes? WHAT? When you see a brand capture someone’s attention through a podcast, winning is the only way to describe it. You’ve converted a life-long customer.

Popish’s Podcast Journey

LS: Can you tell us more about how and why you started Book (Wine) Club?

LP: I bought the equipment before I had an idea of what I wanted to do. I was really chewing on what to speak about. Like I said, I thought there was potential in the medium even before I knew how to utilize it.

In coming up with my concept, the question that I asked myself was, “what can I speak about endlessly and stay happy, content, and inspired by that topic?” I’m an avid reader, and felt like the conversations I was having with friends and co-workers made me realize people really love talking about books!

I realized: you read and love books as a young person, and then you go to high school and college where you’re forced to read, and it’s so lame, and then you become an adult and you learn to read for pleasure again. It re-ignites this magical thing about books. I hit a point in my 20s where all my friends were reading or wanted to be reading. So, through Book (Wine) Club, I wanted to mimic a book club and recreate that as an audio experience.

The pairing of the wine was a fun aspect, because I don’t know anything about wine. So the idea of pairing it based on the topic of the book rather than anything about the wine was a fun way to make wine accessible. I’m even more obsessed with books and wine now from doing this podcast.

LS: Did you learn any big lessons from your first few episodes?

LP: In the early days, because of nerves, both me and my guests hit the wine pretty hard, which made the first and second half of the show starkly different. Like, the first 30 minutes could not be more different from the last 30 minutes because we’d get too drunk and just babble about books. So the biggest lesson I took away from those early days was not too hit the wine hard for nerves.

On a more serious note, it is the role of the host to prepare guests and calm their nerves. This was a big takeaway for me too. I was having guests— who were just friends that shared book interests, and I was shocked at how anxious and nervous they were to come on the show even though it’s edited, and we know each other!

I learned it’s my role to make all guests feel informed and calm, and there’s a lot of ways to do that. I put a lot of that comfort into the recording studio for womxn we built. Comfort has a lot to do with confidence in podcasting.

LS: No way, did you publish the episode where you got too wavy at the end?

LP: Too boozed? Yes, I definitely did. Definitely got some feedback, from my mom, like, “you can really notice a difference between the beginning and the end.” I mean, in the early days, the only person listening is your mom. But, yeah. Bottle of wine later. Tune back to the first episode, if you want to hear it.

We’ve put out two seasons so far. I’ve read more good books and bad books, and drank more good wine and terrible wine, than I have in my life. It’s done everything I wanted it to do for me. And soon, I’m starting a new podcast related to The Wave!

How Confidence And Influence Are Related

LS: How did your podcast motivate the creation of The Wave?

LP: This podcast really opened the door for me to start The Wave. It was the thing that showed me just how powerful podcasting can be and how good it is at helping encourage confidence. I think podcasting is a confidence-building tool, especially around speaking.

At the time I started the podcast, I was going through a personal period of developing anxiety around public speaking and using my voice. I was losing influence in my life, in my job, and in personal relationships.

I was losing influence in my life, in my job, and in personal relationships.

As I was podcasting, it felt like a safe way to build confidence around speaking. And I wanted to build a company that was useful and mission-driven. (I’ve always been kind of a side-hustle queen.) I really started to put two and two together.

When podcasting emerged as this tool for me, all I could think was, “What if I could help more womxn increase their influence and get their idea out there in a safe way that felt comfortable and was actually confidence-building in the process?” That’s a mission I can get behind. That’s really what started the company.

LS: Wanting to help womxn take up more space in this world is a common mission, but I love how you drilled down even further. What’s the connection between confidence and influence?

LP: It’s one of those things that if you don’t speak up, it’s not like that opportunity just disappears. Someone else steps up in your place. When I wasn’t raising my hand at work, one of my co-workers was, and THEIR influence was growing. Their name, their brand, their mission. So it’s not like it had a neutral effect on my career. It was actually having a negative, inverse impact. So much of having an idea is telling people about it.

What The Wave Offers Womxn Podcasters Of All Sizes

LS: What does The Wave offer to help foster this mission?

LP: The original concept—the “what,” was safe, comfortable podcast studio space. We always wanted to be a physical space.

I started in Brooklyn and rented out a studio. When I moved to LA and opened a studio here, COVID happened, so I had to close it down and pivot. I asked myself “if I can’t provide the physical space, how can I help womxn build podcasts with the mission of helping them share their ideas?” And the answer was through digital resources and community.

I have had more inquiries for studio space recently. So, if you’re not in LA, we can provide you all the digital resources you need. In your ARE in LA, we can provide you a comfortable and affordable space for womxn to come in to spread their build, mission, and brand.

LS: What are some of the digital offerings?

LP: We offer podcast consulting. So we can sit down with you one-on-one, and there are three ways that we structure that. One is a Crafting package for people who are just starting. Together we’re going to ideate, we’re going to come up with a name, we’re going to make your listener persona. We’re going to do that beginning competitive research — all those things that are going to foundationally set up your podcast for success.

There is a Production consulting package that is all about the technical stuff. We’re getting you the right equipment, we’re looking at how to edit, we’re looking at proper mic technique, interview technique, vocal warmup technique, all of those types of things.

The last section is Growing. These are people who’ve had a podcast for a while and they’re looking to take it to the next level. They want more listeners and want to start monetizing. We look at how to build an email list and how to make sure that you’re marketing towards the right platforms. And then we also look at monetization techniques like advertising, affiliate, user donations, and all the traditional ones. Together we really find the right fit for your podcast.

We also offer guides that follow the same three chunks. You can buy a complete one or purchase them in three sections. Our big thing that we’re launching by the end of the year is a growth course, because what we’ve learned from the womxn in our community is that there a a lot of online resources about how to start a podcast, and much fewer resources about how to get your podcast there.

It’s a big hump to get over to start a podcast, but then the long game is what happens one to two to three years after the start, and it takes a lot to get there. So for existing podcasters, whether you’ve done it for two months or two years, it’ll be relevant to that group. That will be launching at the end of 2020.

LS: You mentioned community. Where does that come in?

LP: We have a small but mighty Slack group. This is a place for female podcasters to learn and support each other. After interviewing dozens of womxn, one of the major barriers we discovered is confidence.

A community helps normalize imposter syndrome.

There is serious imposter syndrome that occurs for womxn specifically when starting and growing a podcast. There’s just this feeling of “I can’t do it” or “I’m not doing it correctly”. A community helps normalize some of those feelings.

There’s some cute stuff happening in there. The biggest thing we do is a weekly challenge. This is a way to push each other to do the things we know will be good for our podcast, help us grow, and help us implement best practices, that we might not be doing because of time or motivation.

This week’s challenge is all about building a media kit so you can go out there and ask high-profile guests to come on your show, or ask a publication to write about your podcast. We have our own little weekly newsletter. It’s a tiny group, but it’s strong.

You can sign up via a form on the website. It’s the VIP (and totally free) version of The Wave for womxn who are wanting to dive one level deeper.

The Secret Timeline To Topping Podcast Charts

LS: It’s refreshing to see someone serving not just the beginner but the existing podcasters. What’s so important about this group?

LP: The womxn in our Slack group are largely the latter. There are a million blog posts on which microphone you should use. There are much fewer articles on, you know, how to approach a publication to feature your podcast so you can get new listeners. I’ve done a lot of user-research interviews and data collection, and it all skews towards a need for building the strategy and finding stamina to keep going.

The course that we’re working on has a section on habit-building because longevity isn’t about your technical skills it’s about your discipline, which is the hardest thing to cultivate in some ways. So we use things like psychology and habit-building science to help you actually build systems that can get you to that two year mark.

LS: What’s so important about the two year mark?

LP: There is a clear correlation between time and rankings. Because podcasting is so new, if you can get to two years, you can pretty much ensure success. There’s so few podcasts out there, like it’s kind of just a waiting game. But it’s hard to get to two years or about 50 episodes.

50 to 100 episodes is where people start seeing success. I find it hard for people to put out a weekly podcast successfully for two years, but a lot of people can do every other week. If you just do the math, fifty episodes every other week is about two years.

If you can get there, you can be successful. But getting there is really freaking hard.

When we see people hit that ten thousand downloads mark, we see people start moving into more a professional level with monetization and things like that. So if you can get there, you can be successful. But getting there is really freaking hard. We have so many people in our community who are in that two month to six month mark, and it’s just painful. We serve everyone, but that’s what I see as an underserved user demographic.

LS: How do the womxn in your community react to this not-so-secret timeline to success?

LP: Knowing that is inspiration enough to stick it out. You can be in the hustle and think, “what’s it worth?” But if you have this timeline in your head of like, let me hit fifty episodes, let me hit that to year mark — it can be a driving motivating factor in itself.

The most popular podcasts have been there for a long time, right, and they’re majority male-hosted because the industry was really predicated on these tech-y guys who could make their own RSS feeds.

So when you look at the rankings, they’re super skewed because the oldest podcasts are majority male-hosted. We want more female hosted podcasts in the top fifty ranked podcasteds!

Pro Tips For New And Existing Podcasters

LS: What advice do you have for womxn who are stuck at the starting gates?

LP: Any opportunity to learn about yourself is a good one. If you’re wondering ‘am I good enough?’ ‘do I have a topic worth sharing?’ or ‘can I take this podcast to the top?’ it’s not really about that if in the end you learn something new about yourself or formalize that idea you’ve been marinating on for a long time.

Doing is a better teacher than thinking.

There are numbers as high as 75% of the podcasts on Apple Podcasts have podfaded (not actively being produced). That’s a ton! So a lot of people went through that journey, is my point.

Doing is a better teacher than thinking. The doing of making the podcast will teach you more than the thinking about making a podcast. Even if all you get out of it is understanding the nature of audio equipment! To understand that on every single Zoom call you should have an external mic and headphones will make you more useful and helpful in every office setting. The world is becoming more audio and visual.

Like I said, you have to build an audience to get an idea out. So the practice of building an audience in any medium is a beneficial one over the long-term. Knowing how to engage your audience and create compelling content is useful.

LS: It kind of takes the pressure off of starting a podcast when you think about it as a learning experience rather than a long-term commitment.

LP: Exactly. It’s almost like a trial run. And it’s such a low-risk experiment. I talk about this a lot, especially with career changes. Applying to business school and spending $100k to test a theory—that’s very high-risk. Starting a podcast or taking an internship? Those are very low-risk ways to test a theory.

I think humans in general need to become more comfortable with low-risk experimentation. There is so much evidence that low-risk, quick-learning iteration and experimentation gets you to the answer faster!

For people just starting out with podcasting, how lean do you want to be? You can record a podcast on your phone. You can get free hosting through Sounder. It’s about what you’re willing to commit.

LS: What is your biggest tips for existing women podcasters?

LP: Create an email list for your podcast! It is, hands down, the best way to increase your listenership and to convert more people. Take your existing listener’s emails and email them new episodes. I promise you will see better numbers than social media. Social is not the best way to build a podcast audience! It’s a platform where you need to exit to listen. Get off Instagram. Build email list.

Gender In The Podcast Industry Today

LS: Can you describe the core message of The Wave?

LP: We help womxn start and grow podcasts, so they can leave their mark on the world. I think podcasting can be an ignition switch, it can also be the additional fuel you need to grow something that is already started.

LS: What do you wish to solve in the podcast industry?

LP: I think podcasting has a number of barriers to entry that impact marginalized demographics more than others. Meaning, the things that make it hard: cost, technical expertise, and the confidence that they have something of importance to share. All three of these barriers impact womxn and marginalized demographics more than they do others.

That means the perspectives we get to hear in our media (through radio and podcasts) are skewed towards a perspective where those things aren’t a barrier, which is skewed towards men.

I wish to make the information we get through podcasts as diverse as the people who listen to them.

The thing I wish to solve is just to make the information we get through podcasts as diverse as the people who listen to them. The data shows that people who listen to podcasts is almost a 50/50 split male and female. That’s remarkable alone. But the production stats are less diverse. Fewer womxn are producing podcasts than men.

Your own perspective is normalized when you hear someone else who has the same perspective as you. That’s what’s missing today for me. I hear all the time that womxn can’t find themselves in the media. Even in the resources to learn about podcasting.

LS: I never thought about the tone of resources before. They are very shiny and masculine. Can you expand?

LP: You cannot find a resource that isn’t written by someone who doesn’t feel tech-savvy. Even the graphics are like shiny, tech, black, *ZING,* sleek. Why are all the visuals we see that explain podcasting so intimidating and technical? Because they are not written from people who are intimidated by tech.

I’m not stereotyping women as being less technical, but if you look at the tech industry, data shows there are fewer women than men in the tech industry. So from that we can glean that women are generally not as interested or knowledgable about tech. And podcasting is a technical medium. At The Wave, we’re trying to produce more content that makes it all feel less intimidating.

What The “X” In Womxn Means

LS: What does the “X” in womxn mean to you?

LP: It means female-identifying. The “X” is for anybody that feels like they’re not represented in anything outside of women. It’s people who aren’t identifying with male perspective and gender. You don’t have to call yourself a female to identify with womxn and “X.” It’s a mindset.

LS: Who do you listen to? Do any female podcasters/shows inspire you?

LP: I’m a big fan of Jenna Kutcher’s Goal Digger. She’s inspirational from what she’s built as a business. I also enjoy Online Marketing Made Easy by Amy Porterfield and Cathy Heller’s Don’t Keep Your Day Job. I realize these are all top-ranking podcasters.

We love and serve indie podcasts too. One of my favorites is Of Music and Men. It’s an audio drama produced by a single womxn who wrote this podcast concept for television but turned it into a podcast. She does all the different voices. It’s got the background noise, it’s self produced, and it is so cool.

It’s a ton of work to make an audio drama, and it’s so impressive when you do that by yourself. I think it just opens the door to a different format. You don’t have to start an interview podcast! It’s a great technique, but there are other options.

LS: What’s your five year plan for The Wave?

LP: I’d love to have an East and West coast podcast studio for womxn, though that’s contingent on COVID not changing the way we interact in the world. And then I want to have a suite of digital resources for womxn at every phase of their journey and at every price point. Accessibility is a corner-stone value for us.

LS: Where can people find you on social media? Anything exciting coming up at The Wave?

LP: We are on all social channels @thewavepodcasting!

We’re starting our own educational podcast about podcasting soon. What’s cool is that we’re filming the whole journey of starting the podcast. It’s a very behind the scenes look at what that process actually looks like.

We’re producing a growth course by the end of the year. Like I said, there are a lot of online resources about how to start a podcast. The long-game for existing podcasters is where we need more content. Longevity is about the discipline.

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Thank you for joining this month’s edition of #soundHER! If you have any questions for Lauren Popish or would like to be featured as Sounder’s next female voice, email us at support@sounder.fm or tag us on social using #soundHER.

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