#GrowthGoals: One content creator’s forage into the podcasting space. A blog series exploring the well-intentioned attempt of a content creative to learn about a new trade.

As I was thinking about who I was making my podcast for, I began pulling out my hair. The imperative of defining a niche audience is a seriously hard task. If I wanted to be a connector for like-minded people who would be supporters and fans of my podcast, I’d have to figure out who my people were.

NPR’s Oakland-based ‘Truth Be Told’ was created by people of color for people of color, and it delves into listener-based questions on intriguing topics, such as “Colonized Desire” and “Well-Meaning White Folks.”

As Tonya Mosley, host of podcasts ‘Truth Be Told’ and co-host of ‘Here & Now,’ explains, intentional audience building is based on certain values.

“We thought very deliberately about what audiences we needed to serve that aren’t currently being served,” Mosley said as a panelist about audience building strategies at WerkIt 2019. “What is the void that we are trying to fill?”

For ‘Truth Be Told,’ Mosley says making podcasts for people of color was about “de-centering whiteness, and that’s a journey you will be on for the rest of your life.”

She talked about how journalists need to unlearn what legacy media institutions have taught in order to create something specifically for an audience that has been underserved. Feedback from the audience helps you keep yourself on the mark.

I took this discussion deeply to heart. On the one hand, I love that podcasting creates this space where unheard, underserved people have a platform to talk about issues that no mainstream media talks about.

Yet, on the other hand, my mind also went: Who wants to make a podcast for only a small group of people? Did I really want my audience only to comprise of first-generation, Cambodian-Americans who grew up with parents who didn’t talk about the post-traumatic stress of surviving a genocide?

Why you need to define a niche audience of target listeners when creating a podcast.

Defining a niche audience of target listeners:

My slice of audience would be the 267,667 persons of Cambodian descent in the United States (according to the 2010 US Census, which I would debate is highly undercounted).

Clearly, niche audiences are something to strive for, especially as advertisers are becoming more focused on target audiences. Building on a community’s values, and being an expert in a particular topic drives listeners to you, but I wondered if that was the kind of podcast I wanted to make.

As an exercise, I imagined who my audience might be. Who would my listener be?

  • First attempt: A 25-35-year old, brown, black or Asian woman interested in stories about other women striving to make meaning in their life by their social activism.
  • Second attempt: A 30-something woman who wants to be inspired and challenged by hearing about the amazing stories of other women trying to change the world.

For both attempts, the parameters are contained enough to help me define what topics to cover, some people to interview, and which stories to tell. But was I doing this right?

Of the podcasts I liked, the ones which took a specific story and drew out the big implications with its context, were the best.

One such podcast, ‘This Land,’ straddles the line of being very specific to a singular audience and widens the impact of that one case to encompass how we define tribal sovereignty throughout the country.

In an upcoming blog, I hope to deconstruct how ‘This Land’s host Rebecca Nagle structured her podcast so that something so specific to her people (members of Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma) expands into a story challenging all Americans to re-evaluate the laws and legal structures we live by.