Helen Zaltzman - The Queen of British Podcasting

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Helen Zaltzman – The Queen of British Podcasting

What a great pleasure to welcome the wonderful Helen Zaltzman onto Podcast Divas.  Helen is without doubt one of the most accomplished and long serving podcasters in the UK (and world) and thoroughly deserving of the ‘queen of British podcasting’ title I’ve bestowed on her here.

Helen says of herself; I make podcasts: mainly Answer Me This! and The Allusionist, part of Radiotopia. I sometimes turn up on the radio; I write stuff; and I make things.

This typically modest description belies the fact Answer Me This is a multi award-winning show, one of the longest running British podcasts and an iTunes classic, and the Allusionist was an iTunes show of the year 2015.

‘For so many years that I’ve been podcasting it was not a thing that people recognised, not just as a job, but as a thing!’

Helen has what many of us would consider the perfect job – she gets paid for podcasting. It was a joy to talk to Helen about her experience of podcasting over many years and thoughts about possible future directions. Listen in for many insights, observations and lessons, whether you’re a longtime podcaster or just getting started.

‘I could be a bloke with a recorder.’

There’s simply so much good stuff in this interview it’s hard to pull out the good bits without ending up with a massive long list – so just listen, enjoy and learn. But here’s a taster of what you’ll hear:

  • How Helen got into podcasting way back when
  • How having a musician physicist for a husband proved useful
  • How Helen taught herself the mysteries of the RSS feed
  • What Answer Me This is about and how it’s changed (or not) since January 2007
  • The beauty of audience generated content
  • Why a successful show is created in the edit
  • How long it takes to edit Helen’s shows and the editing rule of thumb
  • The sexist world of radio presenters
  • What ‘Sound Women’ is all about
  • How Helen got involved with Radiotopia and came to make The Allusionist
  • What’s The Allusionist and why it’s Helen’s best ever job in spite of the challenges a show like this presents
  • The different ways Helen monetizes her podcast
  • What has kept Helen podcasting for such a long time
  • What podcasting’s done for Helen
  • The potential future of podcasting
  • Podcasting in the US and UK and getting non US voices heard
  • Podcasting and the BBC

‘I think a lot of people think starting is the hard thing, but it’s a lot less hard than carrying on… Don’t want to put you off.’

Advice for podcasters and Divas-in-waiting

Just get on with it.

‘There are so many reasons not to do something but just ignore them.’

‘Don’t worry about it being perfect.’

That stops people wanting to do creative pursuits.  They’ve heard shows and they want to be as good as the shows they like straight away, and that’s not how that happened.  The shows you like started out not very good as well.’

Just have a go and keep doing it.

Set a schedule because then you have to keep going and it’s that regular practice that forms the habits. Persistence is key.

‘Try the biggest idea you can, then figure out how you can make it workable…How imaginative can you make it within the technological and time resources you have.’

Helen Zaltzman’s favourite episodes

The Allusionist:

  • Episode 25 on Toki Pona, a minimalist invented language Helen tried to learn (with difficulty) that impacted her psyche but she still thought was fun

Answer Me This:

  • Pick any episode at random or episode 200 featuring their families

‘Everything benefits from a bit of an edit.’

A Podcast Diva Helen likes listening to

  • Criminal with Phoebe Judge

‘Now there are so many podcasts, I think people should think very hard before they launch one, whether it’s a worthwhile use of internet – and their own time.’

Where to find Helen Zaltzman

‘I think it takes a long time to make a bad podcast so it doesn’t take much more time to make a good one.’

Thank you

Thanks to Helen for being a fabulous and fun guest and to you for listening and being here.

If you enjoyed the show it would be great to let Helen and I know, and help get the word out by sharing it and leaving a review on iTunes.

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