People connect with authenticity; don’t be afraid to be yourself and trust your gut when it comes to your show.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Doree Shafrir and Kate Spencer, hosts of the popular beauty and wellness podcast Forever35.
Doree Shafrir is a writer and podcaster, and host of the Forever35 podcast. Her first novel, Startup, was published by Little, Brown in 2017, and she co-hosts the Matt and Doree’s Eggcellent Adventure podcast with her husband. She is a former senior writer for BuzzFeed News and has also worked as an editor or staff writer at Rolling Stone, the New York Observer, Gawker, and Philadelphia Weekly, and has contributed to publications including the New York Times, The New Yorker, Slate, and Wired. She lives in LA with her husband, son, and dog.
Kate Spencer is the author of the memoir, The Dead Moms Club, published by Seal Press in 2017 and host of the Forever35 podcast. Additionally, her work has been featured on Cosmopolitan, Rolling Stone, The Washington Post, Esquire, Buzzfeed, Refinery29, Women’s Health, Salon, The Huffington Post, and The Daily Beast. Previously, Kate worked as a Senior Producer, Writer, and On-Air Host at VH1 and is a longtime performer at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre. She lives with her husband and two kids in Los Angeles.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit of your “personal backstory? What is your background and what eventually brought you to this particular career path?
Doree’s background is in journalism, most recently as a Senior Tech Writer at Buzzfeed, and Kate worked for many years as a Senior Writer and Producer for VH1/VH1 News. We both are also published authors, Doree wrote the novel Startup and has a new memoir coming out in 2021, and Kate wrote the memoir The Dead Mom’s Club and has a novel coming out in 2022.
Can you share a story about the most interesting thing that has happened to you since you started podcasting?
Honestly, the most interesting thing that has happened is that our podcast grew quickly from something we decided to do for fun into our full-time jobs. Neither of us went into making this show expecting that to happen, but we’re both thrilled that this is what we get to do for a living.
Can you share a story about the biggest or funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson or takeaways you learned from that?
Luckily Doree came into this endeavor a seasoned podcaster, and so her wisdom was instrumental in us not making many mistakes while first starting. That being said, we’re always trying to record with dogs barking, our kids screaming, or appliances whirring in the background. Recording in a messy, overflowing closet for true quiet is truly the greatest podcasting tip we’ve ever received, and given.
How long have you been podcasting and how many shows have you aired?
We’ve been podcasting since January 2018 and we’ve aired 156 full-length episodes and 176 mini-episodes.
What are the main takeaways, lessons or messages that you want your listeners to walk away with after listening to your show?
We hope listeners come away with new tips and tricks for self-care, but also feeling seen and recognized. We want it to be a space for exploration as well as community and connection.
In your opinion what makes your podcast binge-listenable? What do you think makes your podcast unique from the others in your category? What do you think is special about you as a host, your guests, or your content?
People always tell us how relatable we are, that we feel like their best friends or big sisters. They love that we address the topics they care about in a way that resonates with them — we try to keep it real, but with kindness. And we have amazing, diverse guests who share their wisdom with us every week!
Doing something on a consistent basis is not easy. Podcasting every work-day, or even every week can be monotonous. What would you recommend to others about how to maintain discipline and consistency? What would you recommend to others about how to avoid burnout?
To avoid burnout: Build in breaks for yourself. We have four weeks a year where we re-run episodes instead of producing new ones, to give ourselves a break. To maintain discipline and consistency: you have to have a schedule, both for releasing new eps and for recording. It helps to know that every week you’ll be doing things at the same time.
What resources do you get your inspiration for materials from?
We really find inspiration in our own everyday lives, as well as the lives of our listeners. We talk about personal experiences, and we’re so grateful listeners feel inspired to share theirs with us.
Ok fantastic. Let’s now shift to the main questions of our discussion. Is there someone in the podcasting world who you think is a great model for how to run a really fantastic podcast?
Kate Kennedy/Be There In Five, Alie Ward/Ologies, Michael Hobbes and Sarah Marshall/You’re Wrong About, all built their podcasts on their own and have really strong fan communities.
What are the ingredients that make that podcast so successful? If you could break that down into a blueprint, what would that blueprint look like?
Compelling topic, engaging host(s), eye-catching logo, consistency. If you have all four of those, you’re on the right track.
You are a very successful podcaster yourself. Can you share with our readers the five things you need to know to create an extremely successful podcast? (Please share a story or example for each, if you can.)
- Consistency is key: make a schedule for releasing your show and stick to it. (We release episodes on the same days at the same time every week.)
- Always introduce listeners to your show up top; you never know who is listening for the first time. (We always introduce ourselves and our show at the beginning of every ep, and include our contact info. We recently had a listener write in to tell us she confused our podcast phone number with her husband’s!)
- People connect with authenticity; don’t be afraid to be yourself and trust your gut when it comes to your show.
- Listen to other podcasts! Support other podcasters! Community is everything, and we learn so much from our podcasting peers.
- Engage with your listeners. Podcasting truly is a two-way relationship.
Can you share some insight from your experience about the best ways to: 1) book great guests; 2) increase listeners; 3) produce it in a professional way; 4) encourage engagement; and 5) the best way to monetize it? (Please share a story or example for each, if you can.)
- We put together a one sheet about our show that explains who we are, our audience, and what we look for in our guests. When we’re cold emailing someone, we send it to them along with a personalized email that pitches them on coming on our show.
- Be a guest on other podcasts and do cross-promo ad swaps with other shows. Press also helps, but most people find out about new podcasts from shows they already listen to.
- Hire an editor/producer and make sure that you have somewhere quiet to record.
- Encourage your listeners to email and/or call you and have a presence on the social media platform that makes the most sense for your show. For us, it’s Facebook and Instagram, so we’ve put a lot of resources into making those communities strong.
- When you reach around 20,000 listeners per week, you can start monetizing your show with ads. Otherwise, if you have a devoted following, you can try launching a Patreon and offering bonus episodes to subscribers.
For someone looking to start their own podcast, which equipment would you recommend that they start with?
For anyone recording remotely, all you really need is a good USB microphone and a pair of over-the-ear headphones.
How can our readers follow you online?
Thank you so much for sharing your time and your excellent insights! We wish you continued success.
Thanks for interviewing us!