As VP of Podcasting at Macmillan Publishers, Kathy Doyle knows a thing or two about the podcasting industry. From creative concepting to podcasting strategy, she oversees some of the most interesting ideas in the podcasting world.

In this episode of On the Mic with Ad Results Media, Lindsay Boyd and Nathan Spell sit down with Kathy to discuss her journey into podcasting, being a woman in the industry, and one of Macmillan's newest projects, "Driving the Green Book

Podcast Transcript

Macmillan Publishers is the only big five publishing company with a dedicated Podcasting team and their vice president. Kathy Doyle knows a thing or two about digital media and Podcasting in this episode of, On the Mic with Ad Results, Media Nathan Spell, and I sit down to discuss McMillan's Podcasting strategy, recruiting talent, and listeners being a woman in the Podcasting industry. And McMillan's newest immersive Podcast experience Driving the Green Book. So let's get started. So I think at the end of the day, everything we do Sikhs to be part of the same mission. My dream has always been to have podcasts, be a critical tool for our editors to use in the acquisition process.

Don't tell Marshall this, but I remember trying to poach one of your writers, a show needs a plan. Well, Kathy, I wanted to thank you so much for joining us today. If you wouldn't mind just introducing yourself for our listeners, that would be awesome. Sure. My name is Kathy Doyle. I'm the vice-president of Macmillan Podcast in New York. How did you get started with Macmillan? So I joined Macmillan in 2012 and my career up until that point had really been in all forms of digital media. I was actually on the original team that built and watched the wall street journal online, back in the nineties. So that was a really great entry into a digital media and the ways that it can help consumers gather and use electronic information.

(1m 30s):
So I kind of kept on my career throughout that period, doing a lot of different development projects for Dell Jones and the wall street journal, and do a lot of B2B and B to C development in digital media, mostly web based and software based development projects. And at the end of 2011, started a conversation with Macmillan. They were looking for someone to run their largest digital network called quick and dirty tips QDT. And it was a very large scale website that still exists today, but attached to it. It was a Podcast network and it really started out as a Podcast network before Podcast networks were truly even a thing. They started podcasting in 2007, that happens through a joint venture with Manion Fogarty who was grammar girl and editor there picked up the phone, had heard about what she was doing.

(2m 19s):
She was a freelance editor at the time and was finding that a lot of her client's in the Silicon Valley were making the same kinds of editing and grammar mistakes and the materials. And she'd heard about this sort of Audio thing that wasn't even quite called Podcasting at that point. This was like in 2006 and she thought, you know, I'm going to walk the walk. And she decided to start recording, editing tips for her clients mostly because it was just a really efficient way to disseminate. And she started doing that, you know, create a good avatar and became grammar girl, John Sterling, ed Macmillan literally picked up the phone to talk to her at the end of 2006 about a book.

(2m 59s):
And both of them sort of really quickly recognized that it could be something much more. And we formed a joint venture in 2007, which is still profitable and in place today. And that's the network that I want a quick and dirty tips. Then a couple years ago, you know, I went to a senior leadership at Macmillan and said, gosh, we're having such great success with this network. And these short format subject matter expert hosted shows that are all similar to grammar group in that they provide quick, actionable information to consumers and a variety of verticals, but we were sort of trying to fit authors into that format, which is a little bit of restricting. So we started the second network called Macmillan podcasts, where we do more freeform. We've done everything from science fiction to true crime to biography.

(3m 43s):
Now we have a history of Podcast. So all in all we've got About currently running about 15 shows, some of them are weekly and we've exceeded about 340 million downloads. So it's been quite a trajectory Cool that it started from just like that realization of how practical it was to have a quick Audio tip and built into something like over time. Maybe Catherine, could you tell us a little bit about the overall strategy for Podcasting at Macmillan? Like how do you guys approach recruiting talent and developing content? That's a great question. So I think at the end of the day, everything we do, whether it's a book or a podcast at Macmillan seeks to be a part of the same mission, right?

(4m 30s):
Which is to develop great content, great stories, and to get them in the hands of as many readers or listeners as we can around the world. We're so fortunate as a global publishing house, to be able to draw upon the resources of our imprints for talent. So we have Henry Holt, for example, a tour, which is our science fiction, imprint St. Martin's press led iron books, and we've actually done podcasts with authors and all of those and prints on the QDT side. It's more a matter of finding the right subject matter expert to host a vertical. And typically we will look to find verticals where either there are content gaps across the Podcasting ecosystem, or it happens to be a vertical where Macmillan has just a lot of talent that we could bring onto the platform.

(5m 13s):
So it kind of works in a lot of different ways. So it sounds like the Podcast division is sort of, it really is integrated into the overall strategy of Macmillan is a hole as a publishing house. Is that right? It is. And, you know, we spend a lot of time talking like my dream has always been to have podcasts, be a critical tool for our editors to use in the acquisition process, right? It's definitely something that gives Macmillan a leg up since one of the only one of the big five that is actually doing this, you know, with the full-time team. But we also do a lot of educating within the organization. You know, we do roadshows or at least we did a pre COVID where we could actually spend time in person with our colleagues. We did a lot of road shows where we would go from imprint to imprint and just educate them on Podcasting and it can help their authors.

(5m 58s):
So because not every author is obviously going to be a good fit for us where a small team, we can't take on that many new initiatives every year, but we can do is take those authors and bring them onto the QDT platform. Last year alone, we surfaced 80 Macmillan authors on that platform in one way, shape or form, whether that was through running Audio excerpts, that we're relevant to some of the verticals like grammar, like nutrition, like psychology, having authors, obviously on as guests. If we have open Ad inventory, we can use that for Book promos. And then we can do blog posts on the web portion of the network, the large website that has the transcripts from every episode.

(6m 39s):
And we can run additional new and bonus content from other authors who maybe aren't Podcasting with us. So it's a very well-oiled machine that works really well for the organization. The greater good. I like to say of the organization. I'm curious because obviously you all have a great strategy as far as a recruiting talent, but how exactly are y'all marketing your podcasts and attracting lists? That's such a great question. And as you know, it has become incredibly competitive. I think there's like I look this morning at 1.7 million Podcast now available when I first started that number was under 2000. So it's become really, really challenging to find and develop an audience.

(7m 20s):
So we've just, we've learned over the years, you know, we do what a lot of the other big networks do, which as I was just saying, we use our own platform as an in house marketing tool and that's a great cause it's free to us and it gives great levels of impressions and downloads for authors throughout the organization. I have a secret weapon. Her name is Morgan Ratner. She's been with us for several years. She's really deepened our relationships with all of the different distributors, Apple, Spotify, Stitcher, everyone. So we spend a lot of time trying to be a great partner. We also do some syndication. We have Karen Hertzberg, who's our editor.

(8m 1s):
We have relationships with a scientific American. They will take portions of our transcripts along with a link to the full Audio and integrate that into their editorial content. So that's a great, and we do the same for them. So it's a great back and forth. We work with psychology today. Every month they will run content from our savvy psychologist. Again, with a link back to the Podcast. Grammar girl has courses on LinkedIn. And I know perhaps we can talk a little more, a little bit later about Driving the Green Book, which was a collaboration with Apple. So I think we have just learned how to take the content that we think will be a value to other platforms outside of our own ecosystem and work those relationships in ways that are beneficial for listeners and help us diversify and expand our audience.

(8m 48s):
In addition to expanding your audience, there's always a question of how to monetize that, that sort of reach, how do you approach Advertising? So I think we have, we've been doing the host rate has in fact, it's so funny because I actually was looking through some old email the other day and I came across an email from Ad Results from 2012. So we've actually, we've actually had deep roots with the Advertising community since that time. In fact, I, I virtually remember, don't tell Marshall this, but I remember trying to poach one of your writers back in 2012, it didn't work. She stayed with you, but we, so we've been doing hosted ads since 2007. Most of our shows are represented by Midroll media and have great sell-through rates.

(9m 31s):
The quote that I like to use for one of the mid roll sales executives is that our shows are safe havens for advertisers. You know, we have Ad operations down to a science, Michele Margolis. Who's our Ad operation specialist is really well skilled at taking what I call sort of a giant game of telephone. And you guys know this better than anyone, right? Cause it starts all the way at the company who has a product manager or an ad manager who has a great idea or how to leverage podcasts, but doesn't really know how to take that all the way through to the end of the funnel, which of course is the host of whatever show that campaign comes on. So it's a long process and it's a process that is quite manual to some extent. So she's really good at just when, when a campaign comes in, she'll work with Midroll to make sure the talking points or S or a very authentic for the host and then, you know, literally take it through that pipeline and make sure all the way through to if it's direct response, making sure that we test the code that we're given the URL that we're given, make sure it works before we execute the campaign.

(10m 30s):
I mean, we know we don't have to do this. We'd been doing it for a very long time. So we'd love to see those occasional branding campaigns that are coming in we've now also started to do some injection of announcer read ads on a platform where as of earlier this year, all of our nearly 7,000 episodes in our archive are set up for dynamic ad insertion for the first time. That was an incredible project that as you can imagine was quite labor-intensive, but we know we'll have great payoff in the years to come. And then I think too, we diversify our revenue in some other ways beyond Advertising, we do some licensing for a long time or Podcast. We're the exclusive in-flight entertainment for United airlines.

(11m 10s):
They were very deep in their in-flight entertainment system, but they were there. And we do some stuff, like I said, with LinkedIn and a couple of other outside opportunities. I know that you listened to our women in Podcasting series. So I'm curious as a woman in Podcasting, were there any unexpected obstacles that you faced when you were breaking into the industry? Not so much in Podcasting, although I will say in the early days, 2011, 2012, you know, Podcasting has deep roots in comedy. So I definitely did feel outnumbered to some extent, and this is a great series, by the way. I'm so honored to be part of it. You've had some great guests on this, but I will say early on in my career actually started my career in television.

(11m 56s):
And I was right out of college, hired as an associate producer for an NBC news affiliate in the new England. And within a couple of months, the nighttime assignment editor had gone out on a very sudden, very unexpected medical leave and the television news or in the assignment desk, like literally sits up above the newsroom. And they're sort of responsible for the heartbeat of what's going to happen for that day's newscasts. They assign crews, they pick the stories, they respond to breaking news. And I was so excited because the news director literally came out of this happened. So suddenly he came out of his fishbowl On office and came up to me, grabbed me by the shoulder and pulled me up to the top of the assignment desk and said, this is your job now because they had no one for the night shift.

(12m 43s):
It was two to 10:00 PM. And I was really like thrown into the fire. It was, I was in way over my head. I was 22 years old. And I remember feeling this is going to be an amazing opportunity for me to learn from some of the women in this newsroom. And there was a female anchor there never told this story before. There was a female anchor there who I really looked up to the four years. I was at university in that market. I had watched her and idolized her to some extent, and she just turned out to be an incredible bully. She, every assignment I gave her was wrong. Every crew I assigned her to was wrong. Every time I did background research, it wasn't enough.

(13m 25s):
She just, and she would admonish me publicly in front of the rest of the newsroom. And that stayed with me for, so I was doing a good job. She was the only person in the whole newsroom I had a problem with and I was 22 and straight out of college. And that has stayed with me for all of these years. And I think has led to me being an advocate for women, not just women or for everyone starting out their career. I work really closely with Emily Miller on our team who feels as passionate about, about this as I do. We're constantly doing informational interviews for students or just coming out of school. I'm a mentor that Macmillan, I'm a mentor at the Podcast in the Academy.

(14m 8s):
We do we'll bring in university communication students or Media students. We want to learn more about publishing. Everybody at Macmillan knows that they, if they get a call from me, it's likely going to be, Hey, there's a senior from wake forest, visiting New York. Do you have 15 minutes to tell them about your job? And I'd helped a lot of people get jobs. So I always tell my kids, you know, you can learn so much more of what someone does wrong and what they do right. Sometimes. And I feel like for me, it took me many years to realize it, but that was a lesson that I benefited from because it made me so much more sensitive to helping people out, just starting out in their careers and, you know, understanding that a simple explanation can go a long way toward helping them feel confident in their roles and really grow and develop.

(14m 56s):
So I think that's a long-winded way of saying that was probably the one and only time. I really had a challenge with another woman in my career. I think it's incredible that you turned that into such a force for good though. And turn that into, you know, a sort of like you said, an example of how not to be and to set up a totally different example and be a force for helping the younger people break in. I think that's no, that's such a cool outcome. So I'm curious, that's such a big lesson already. I'm curious, what other, and then what would you say as the most interesting thing you've learned so far in the, you know, in your career making content for Macmillan in the Podcast form, or just in general?

(15m 43s):
It's a really simple answer. It's hard work, right? I think there is still even so many years into this industry, a perception that you can put a person behind a microphone and they can develop a great Podcast. I just shared something with my team this morning that I read, I read a lot of industry stuff and I love it when people take the time to explain a show needs a plan. You know, you need to make sure that you're working with a team and everyone's under the same assumptions about how a show is going to turn out. That can be really challenging if the host by the talent has one idea, the producer has another idea in a marketer has another idea. So we work really hard to develop a, a very expansive brief for every show that we do.

(16m 28s):
We do pilots. We take the time to really craft that audience in our mind, like who is that core listener and everything we do checks back to that person, right? You're always, you have that person in your head while you're developing content, while your setting the stage for how your production values are going to be what your sound design is going to be like. So really just, I think making sure people understand that the process is much more involved than they probably think. And that's why it's so exciting when you, when you listen to a show and you're like, Oh my gosh, listen to that sound design. Or that is an incredible way of telling this story. I listened to an NPR show this morning where it was about the constitution and they had two kids asking questions and the author was answering questions and trying to pull from where in the constitution, that question came from and give some context and meaning to it.

(17m 17s):
And I was like, that is brilliant. What a great way to educate children on the constitution. So I mean, finding those nuggets and those great shows that really do their job in terms of telling a story and telling it well and leaving the listener with something that they can take away, there's no better job in the world when you do that. Well, It's amazing to think, like no one seems to look at a polished film and think if I just had a camera, I could make that. But for some reason, when we hear a great piece of Audio, it seems like, you know, there's, we, we maybe miss the, all of the, the scenes work that goes Into it. We've been doing this for about a year now. And I was thinking about this the other day. I honestly feel like we just recently kind of hit our stride.

(17m 60s):
I really feel like the first year was a lot of, a lot of stumbles and a lot of various learning experiences, even though we work in the Podcast industry. And I personally have been in the industry for about five years, getting this off the ground was, was an experience. You know, Lindsay, that's such a good point. And I think, unfortunately we don't always have that kind of time. It does take time to hit your stride for sure. And there's a lot of pressure, particularly on shows at networks where profit and profitability is critical. They have to sort of try to hit those benchmarks within the first couple of episodes. And you're absolutely right. You can take four or five, six or more episodes before you really start to develop that core audience.

(18m 41s):
And so until the host can hit that stride. So you mentioned Driving the Green Book earlier, and I kind of wanted to bring the conversation back to that new Podcast. If I remember correctly, it dropped on September 14th. So can you tell us a little more about the show as well as its integration to Apple Podcast and Apple maps? That was a really cool thing that I read about. Thank you. Yeah, it dropped that week. And coincidentally, that was the same week that I was 14 dropped, which is how the Apple maps piece sort of came to be, which I'll get to him in a minute. But we started planning for that show. You know, even in the year before with Alvin hall, who's an educator and a BBC journalist who is really considered to be one of the leading experts on the Green book in our country.

(19m 26s):
We sent him on the road along with Janae woods Weber. Who's an activist and former attorney and they really recreated a Green Book, inspired chip. You know what it was like for black Americans to travel. The Green Book, as you may know, was used as a travel guide for black Americans during Jim Crow and segregation as a way to get them from place to place. They could look up places to eat places, to stay places to avoid. And Alvin grew up in the deep South and was part of the great migration, the last wave of the great migration and came to us with just a real passion for taking his experiences, his knowledge on the road, and knew that he could create a series that was really about a very underreported time in American history.

(20m 13s):
So we sent him out with a producer last summer, they came, they was a 2100 mile road ship from Detroit to new Orleans. And when they came back, they just had, you know, we started to listen to a lot of tape and it was just incredible. You know, we knew we had the honor and privilege to tell these American stories in a format that they really haven't been told in before there was a movie, but there's never a little bit of a podcast about the Green Book. And we also, you know, started to work with flat iron books on developing the book. And then as the series started to come together, we brought Dzaleka On Antigua Williams and Cedrick Wilson, her producer to teach her sort of finish out in a round out the team.

(20m 53s):
And we started to think about how we were going to bring these stories to life and bring them to as wide and an audience as possible. And we started talking to Apple Podcast because we've always been collaborating with them over the years of our new shows. And we actually went to them and said, listen to music, played a really important part in this series. They interviewed a lot of musicians. There was a lot of conversation about music. Music was such an integral part of life at that time in our country. Of course it still is today. And they obviously listened to music while they were taking the actual trip. So we knew that we knew that we could come up with a great music playlist. We also knew that Alvin had a lot of resources for people who perhaps wanted to deepen their research on this topic once they heard the series.

(21m 39s):
And then we kind of thought, I don't know, is there something we can do with Apple maps? So we went to them with a deck that included Apple maps, but we really didn't have any specific idea for what, if anything we could do. And they immediately put us under NDA. And we found out very quickly that they were working toward the launch of iOS 14 and we're developing some really cool in addition to this feature, a new features for the map part of the, in their ecosystem. And they were developing these very curated, very visual map guides. So it was an incredibly perfect opportunity for us to develop a very immersive, very complimentary experience to go with the Podcast where you could actually feel like you're taking the trip with Alvin engineering.

(22m 23s):
So we work with their team and literally launched that the same week that the Podcast launched, because coincidentally, we had no idea when we set our release date from the podcast, but iOS 14, introducing map guides launched the same thing. So it was some of it was luck. Some of it was just great collaboration and planning with the folks at Apple who were just so supportive of the mission of the show and helping us to develop these complimentary resources. I just saw yesterday that Aaron manky from lore introduced a new map guide. So he's the second Podcast to develop one for cemeteries that are covered in some of his series, which I thought it was a really cool for his horror podcasts, but I think we're going to see more and more creators leveraging tools like this that can take a podcast and really bring it to life in ways that up until now we haven't been able to do so.

(23m 12s):
I hope I answered your question. That's kind of how that came to be. And it's just been an incredible experience, you know, to, to work with them and to, to have the podcast to be so present on all four of the major pillars of the Apple ecosystem. We're very proud of the way. Yeah. I just, I love the idea of just the immersive aspect of it and, and really being able to kind of experience it as you listened to the podcast. I think that that is just such an, an amazing idea. Yeah. Yeah. We did two, we did two and we're getting a lot of great feedback from listeners that they're enjoying the map guide. So, and if you get a chance to, I mean, what's also really cool is that if you're in Apple music and you're you go to the playlist, there's a massive link back to the Podcast.

(23m 53s):
So the cross linking within the platform is unprecedented for us. Any other show that we've ever done and really does round out the collection really nicely, you know, we're hoping, in fact, I just approved an add for a Macmillan catalog for the Podcast, for the academic market, coz it's our vision that some point perhaps in all of these resources could serve as a first-year experience for college and university students. It just, it has a really long tail. And these are under-reported stories that just give great context and meaning to what it was like to be in a black American traveling during this time. And sadly, you know, we had to actually step back and update some of the episodes before we release them.

(24m 36s):
Cause keep in mind, this all started back to one summer of 2019 before the racial unrest happened in our country. So Alvin really wanted to get it right, of course, and make sure that he was being very sensitive and weaving in contextual references to what's unfortunately happened, happened in our country now in terms of racial invest. So it was a, it was a privilege and an honor to work on a series. And we knew that these were just really important stories that have to be told. Right. What would you say was the biggest, you know, just imagining like Lindsey was saying that immersive thing is what drove us in addition to the, like the timeliness and the need for this, these stories to be told, I'm curious, what was the challenge or what challenges were present dealing with new technology like this as you're developing new content?

(25m 26s):
I think just making sure that each aspect could stand on its own. So even if you're just experiencing the playlist or you're just experiencing the map guide, you'll come away learning and learning more than you knew going into it about this time in Green book and what it was like. I think too, for us, the challenge that we faced was we were only halfway, not even halfway done recording the series in our studios when COVID-19 hit and we had to step away from our studios. We're still not back in a studio. So we've had some challenges there, you know, just ensuring that we could develop a series that sounded as good as we wanted it to sound.

(26m 7s):
And that was production values were as good as they would of been had. We done them in our own studio. Then we ended up having Alvin recorded a lot of it in his home. And we did have some recording time at a contact list studio in New York to make sure that everybody was safe, but that's certainly that. And then of course, everything that happened with the racial unrest just really forced a lot of changes that I think things probably would've gone a little bit differently. Had we stayed working in New York in our studios and just plowing through the series. Our original release date was may we didn't end up releasing it until September. So I'm curious as to what some of your favorite podcasts are and what you're currently using.

(26m 51s):
So I have three excellent recommendations for you. The first is deep six. Are you familiar with Tom Webster and the work that he does at Edison research? Yes we are. He's of course, you know, Tom he's, he does incredible work, but you know, in the last couple of weeks, Spotify has introduced to this amazing new feature where some full format music can actually be integrated into podcasts. It's a game changer. And I think we're going to see a lot of DJs creating podcasts now taking advantage of this, this opportunity to really integrate full tracks of music into their Podcast. It's never been done before. So last week on deep sex, I had such a blast listening to this episode.

(27m 33s):
Tom did something that took Christopher Cross and Chris cross, and sort of did this music Episode where he plays full tracks from different artists and kind of walks through this, this playlist. It's a really, really incredible. And then the other one is a season two of the kids from lemon out of Media, also an amazing team of women creators. They have just done some really great work. I don't know if I could say this if we have 'em, but the tagline for this show is how to raise an asshole. So my kids are grown and I think, and I hope, and I pray that I didn't raise assholes, but the approach is just very fresh and honest and great for this current time period.

(28m 16s):
So it's a wonderful series that I encourage you to check out or done some really great interviews. And then unfinished the series. I listen to the deep South that's one of the stitchers documentaries, and that was kind of comparable. It was about a lynching that happened, I think in, I forget what year it was in the deep South, but it was a, it was a fascinating story that also had some real important historical context. So those are the three. Kathy, do you have any final words of advice for content creators out there and maybe people that are already developing a podcast or maybe thinking about developing Podcast? You know, it comes back to some of what we already talked about.

(28m 57s):
Like do the work I think about who your audience is, have that person in your mind, literally sitting in your mind as you're developing your plan for your Podcast. We get a ton of pitches. You guys probably do too for a new shows. And I'm always amazed when they're half baked. You know, again, it goes back to what we were saying before, about how there is this perception that there's just all this money and, you know, people are just going to throw out an idea for a podcast and it's going to be an instant success, but I'll get pitches from people. And they'll say, you know, there'll be a slide in the deck that says, we just want to cover our production costs, but there's no production budget in the pitch.

(29m 39s):
So they want us to figure all that out for them. I mean, I just think do the work like do the proper planning to figure out the aesthetic of the show, figuring out who your audience is going to be, you know, work with great people, you know, have, have really strong content. And then we do a lot of when we plan for a new show to, we do a lot of due diligence, we will very carefully check out the competition. See what other shows in that genre are out there and try to really also work with our partners to find out where the content gaps are. So maybe we can fill them, you know, to try to do something original that hasn't been done. That's, that's becoming increasingly more challenging.

(30m 19s):
I think as more and more people joined and especially more than one major media companies, If you enjoyed this episode, be sure to subscribe for updates on future episodes and leave us a comment with your feedback, questions, or ideas for future segments. If you would like more info on Ad Results Media in what we do, please visit us online at Ad Results. Media dot com. This podcast is an Ad Results, Media production.