The Receipts are a masterclass on how to build a winning media brand that is based on their strengths
|Sep 17, 2018||Public post|| 1|
Welcome to the TFC Newsletter Issue 3 - a weekly essay, plus a roundup of the stories that are shaping & explaining the emerging landscape for creators & media brands
It’s easy to look at Tolani, Milena & Audrey, formally known as #TheReceiptsPodcast and attribute their success over the last two years to simply being one of the first podcasts created by women of colour in Britain. Because why else would the conversations between these three women of colour about sex, love and relationships in the UK be used to kick off a major part of the BBC’s efforts into podcasting?
That would be easy, but wrong.
The Receipts Podcast is an example of the type of content uniquely enabled by the internet, that has gone on to earn its audiences’ validation, and some of the success that comes with it. But what makes them so good?
The authentic conversation black & brown women aren’t having publicly
For the uninitiated, #TheReceiptsPodcast is a British podcast hosted by Tolani, Audrey & Milena that delves into their love lives, relationships and opinionated takes.
From the simple sound of a receipt being ripped to signify the beginning of the show, it’s clear that The Receipts doesn’t try to be anything that it or its hosts are not. There is no jingle, or intro music, nor is there a sound board for special sound effects in an effort to improve the audio quality or experience, neither do they over-intellectualise their thoughts.
Instead, the conversations Tolani, Audrey & Milena have are front and centre, and are reminiscent of one of our generation’s most sacred spaces - the group chat - but in podcast form. They have figured out how to have the conversations reserved for secured chat spaces or club toilets, as Tolani put it in a recent interview with Dazed, in public in a way that we can relate to. For these ladies that means sticking to language that you’re more likely to hear in a salon than a BBC newsroom, telling stories that could be a real problem if your parents overheard and doing so with minimal remorse. As the trio collectively cackle their way through the topics they’ve listed, the result of this relatively simple set-up is clear - authenticity.
This authenticity is the engine behind their listenership, which a recent article in the Hot Pod Newsletter pegs at approximately 25,000 listens per episode, an estimate that is likely on the low end based solely on the numbers on their SoundCloud page. However, there is more to the podcast’s success than its authentic approach.
A weekly conversation designed to be sharable
Podcasts typically struggle to get discovered and develop audiences compared to other forms of media because:
There isn’t a dominant social network that features audio experiences prominently, making discoverability difficult
Not only is audio harder to stumble upon than text & video based content because of the point above, it’s also more difficult to consume compared to text, which can be read anytime your smartphone is in your hand, or even video, which can be watched in silence on most social media apps. Podcasts on the other hand, have to be consumed by going into a separate app, with the user needing to put on headphones in order to consume the content, far less discreet than with other content formats
Faced of these challenges, The Receipts’ conversation-centric approach to their distribution is worth exploring:
The starting point to The Receipts’ distribution strategy is actually the content of their podcast - they produce content that their audience is, or has already thought or talked about privately. Listeners then go on to share it on social or in their chat groups because:
The podcast has made it safer to discuss the topic openly
Someone on the podcast articulates something similar/contrary to a previous thought or point of view
They just want to salute one of the hosts for something they’ve said
Or all of the above
The podcast’s sharable nature helps it escape the isolated walls of podcast consumption and into the conversations its listeners are having in real life and on social media.
The Receipts do not have an account for the show on social platforms outside of a Facebook page with has not been used this calendar year. Instead they encourage listeners to use their hashtag #TheReceiptsPodcast when talking about the show. The approach makes the show appear like a topic others are talking about, creating a sense of FOMO and making the hashtag appearing worthy of a deep dive to see other opinions, as well as discover and follow the hosts.
Tripling down on the conversational nature of the podcast, Twitter is the social platform of choice for pushing the conversations surrounding the podcast. Not only is the platform well suited to the short sharable soundbites that come from the show, Twitter is the best platform for making a topic that multiple people are talking about seem like an event that everyone is engaging in, driving intrigue among those not listening yet.
When you combine all of these factors with the fact that this cycle takes place every Wednesday when a new episode drops, it is easy to see how what could just be another weekly podcast, turns into the weekly, habit forming, Twitter-centric event, that can be hard to escape for those on the outside looking in.
Unapologetically, authentically, talented
There will be some who have or will look at The Receipts’ collaboration with the BBC and wonder what makes their show so special. They will say that the podcast sounds just like them and their friends talking at dinner and that the BBC would never make a show like this by themselves, but if they wanted to, they could simply copy the points above and make their own version.
Those people miss the point. The magic of the show isn’t in the tactics, it’s in Tolani’s, Audrey’s & Milena’s talent. A podcast like The Receipts is difficult to duplicate, because it’s far from easy to have these otherwise private conversations in an entertaining way and become personalities that listeners want to engage with. If there is one core takeaway, it’s that good content starts with a desirable skill or ability that very few can copy, then aligning the content production and strategy to maximise that piece of magic.
In the long run, The Receipts’ ability to have conversations that entertain and engage a generation of women will also drive their ability to build a meaningful business around themselves if they so choose. They have already had sell-out live shows & events, are coming to the end of an eight-episode deal with the BBC and have amassed a listenership of at least 25,000 per episode, which could be pulling in around £1,000 a week, if they ran 3 ads per episode at industry rates.
Tolani, Audrey and Milena have created the equivalent of a radio show that likely wouldn’t have existed on any radio station 15 years ago. The success of the show is evidence that the internet enables anyone who is good enough, to create and build a media brand. We’re all seeing the receipts in real time.
If the EU gets its way, it will be a lot harder for shows like The Receipts to get of the ground. The Verge reported last week that the European Parliament has voted in favour of the Copyright Directive. If this goes through in the final vote next January, then publishers will be able to charge platforms every time a link of theirs is posted on said platform. Google has shown in the past that they are more than happy to stop linking to creators in regions which take such approaches, while Facebook would be more than happy to stop linking to external content and focus exclusively on organic Facebook content. So guess who would lose if this law were to successfully be passed?
Those looking to get venture funding for their content startup suffered a blow in recent weeks upon the news that another venture backed media start up looked to be on its last legs. CJR explains why venture funding and media startups seem incompatible and why The Outline ended up firing all of their staff writers. Another cautionary tale that shows the answer to winning in media isn’t just “more money and readers”.
If you have any interest in fashion, you have probably seen the work of Imran Amed, the man behind the site Business of Fashion. This Guardian profile tells the story of how Imran’s “little blog” that he started in 2007 eventually enabled him to become fashion’s most influential man.
Finally, yours truly was invited on the #AdzvicePodcast to talk why its never been easier to build a media brand, but never been harder to build a media business. Oh, and I gave my two cents on Cardi B vs Nicki Minaj. You can listen on SoundCloud or iTunes
Talk to me on Twitter or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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