Talking Podcasts: Standard Issue

Following on from our articles on The Riff Raff and The Extraordinary Business Book Club, Abbie Headon interviews the team behind the brilliant Standard Issue podcast, an online magazine by women, for women.

1) Where did the idea for Standard Issue podcast spring from?

Standard Issue started life as an online women’s magazine almost three years ago, now. It was founded by comedian Sarah Millican in response to what she saw as a gap in the market for a publication that didn’t pander to society’s narrow definition of women. The idea was to create a women’s magazine that represented women’s interests and actually championed them, rather than making us feel bad about ourselves.

The magazine launched in September 2014 and was a great success in terms of readership and the responses we got from women, many of whom agreed that Standard Issue was a better, broader reflection of their interests. However, in terms of advertising we struggled to get traction with brands and we couldn’t make the magazine financially self-sustainable.

Having seen the response we got from our readers we really felt there was a need for something like Standard Issue, and with online journalism struggling while podcasts seemed to be a better growth market, we decided to see if we could make the same format – women’s voices creating content for women – work via that medium.

2) How does it fit into your wider activities?

The podcast exists as a standalone project now, but it had previously been one string to the magazine. We held monthly panel events in London and at festivals around the UK which we would record and put them out as podcasts alongside the magazine. We’ve continued to hold these events, which help us to raise revenue for the podcast but also give our listeners access to some incredible women with really interesting stories – we’ve been able to attract great guests like Dawn French, Sharon Horgan, Meera Syal, Sandi Toksvig and Sara Pascoe to name a few.

3) Who do you see as the main audience for your podcast – and when and where do they listen?

We do get a decent amount of men listening, because obviously smart, funny content appeals to everyone and that’s the whole point, but we make it with women in mind and our primary audience consists predominantly of women. We think we’re unique in terms of our content so our listeners are really varied – for example, we’re one of very few women’s magazines that gives women’s sport regular coverage; if we’re talking about TV, we’ll be talking about the best female roles we’ve seen on TV this year – there’s not really anyone else doing that.

We imagine a large proportion of our audience are commuters or weekend potterers, but we certainly get a good amount of tweets from people telling us they’re getting funny looks on the bus as they laugh along with it.

4) Why is podcasting the best medium for you to achieve your goals?

It’s the best medium in as much as it’s one with an ever increasing audience. Apparently around a quarter of people over the age of 12 regularly listen to podcasts in the US and about 10% of British people, which is up from 6.5% a couple of years ago. It’s not so much that a podcast is the best medium – we think it works as well as in the written word – but it’s the medium that looks most viable going forward. When you see adverts on the Guardian and Telegraph websites asking readers for donations, it’s obvious there’s a problem for online journalism.

5) What are your future plans for Standard Issue?

It’s been a steep learning curve for the team and we’re still figuring out what works and what doesn’t but we think we’re getting there. We’re relatively new so for now we’re focused on growing the audience and just continuing to source really engaging and interesting content.

6) What’s your advice to anyone who’s thinking of starting their own podcast?

Book a studio or at least get a pretty heavy duty duvet to hide under when you’re recording – although the latter is a bit awkward when there’s more than one of you.

Standard Issue was founded by comedian Sarah Millican and is written, produced and hosted by Editor Mickey Noonan, Deputy Hannah Dunleavy, and Jen Offord. Find out more at http://standardissuemagazine.com/.

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