Foster a Great Sense of Community to Create a Bingeable Podcast with Jeanette Bonner of #Single Podcast
As part of my series of interviews about “5 things you need to know to create a very bingeable podcast”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jeanette Bonner, award-winning producer working in narrative film, theater, digital content, reality and podcast.
Jeanette is the Producer and Creator of two digital series, Ghost Light (streaming through Seed & Spark) and The Scoop, winner of a Bronze Medal Telly Award for Best Unscripted Online Series and a Final Selection for Bravo TV’s Pitch & Development Lab. She hosts and produces podcast #single, a feminist podcast about navigating online dating.
#single was created in order to have open conversations with strong, independent women and destigmatize the state of being single. #single was an Official Selection of ITVFest in Manchester, VT and has since been downloaded in over ten countries worldwide. In addition to interviewing everyday single women, #single features a monthly Guest Expert on the topic of sex and dating. Experts have included sexologists and co-authors of “The Ultimate Guide to Seduction & Foreplay” Dr. Jess O’Reilly and Marla Renee Stewart, renowned clinical psychologist Dr. Alexandra Solomon, and founder of dating app Chorus Emily J. Smith. More importantly, #single has created a community of like-minded successful, badass, and unapologetically single women who are seeking love but not letting it define them.
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Can you tell us a bit of your “personal backstory? What is your background and what eventually brought you to this particular career path?
I’ve been producing in the entertainment industry for over ten years. I wrote, created, and produced a two-season web series right as the industry started to go digital and everyone and their roommate had a web series (often about being roommates).
In 2018 I was beginning to think about what my next project would look like, right on the cusp of when everyone and their mom started having a podcast (often about being moms). I was in the middle of regaling a friend yet another one of my horrible dating stories, which I’ve been sharing on Facebook for years when he said the magic words: “You should have a podcast.” I didn’t want to do it at first. I keep pushing him off, saying there were a million and one dating podcasts already. But one day I woke up and I realized I had something specific I wanted to get out into the world. And so #single was born.
Can you share a story about the most interesting thing that has happened to you since you started podcasting?
Well, I’m actively dating right now and I had gone on a date early last year where my date and I got into a really interesting conversation about who pays on the first date. So interesting in the fact that I couldn’t help but ask if he would be a guest on my podcast. And he said yes! Unfortunately, it didn’t work out for us romantically, but he’s an awesome person and the backstory of how we met made for a great episode too.
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?
One of the first decisions I made at the beginning was not to record in my apartment (for various reasons), which meant I needed a recording studio. After price shopping around in NYC, I settled on a booth that was connected to a rehearsal studio in Chelsea. I later learned that the booth was a newer addition to the studio, meaning they had just built up a partition wall to create the booth, which meant that once you were inside and closed the door, there was no airflow from the central air system. And let me tell you… it got SO HOT in there. I remember recording an episode in February and we just came out of there drenched. It got to a point where we had to warn our guests ahead of time — don’t wear anything nice, you’re gonna get really sweaty! Fortunately, now we use a different studio. It’s pricier, but it’s worth the upgrade.
How long have you been podcasting and how many shows have you aired?
At the time of this interview, I’ve published 29 episodes. We launched in October 2018.
What are the main takeaways, lessons or messages that you want your listeners to walk away with after listening to your show?
Well, first and foremost, the show is a feminist podcast about dating. There are several recurring themes that often come up. Two of the most important messages I believe are: 1) Don’t apologize for who you are or your journey; being single does not define you. More importantly, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with being single. And 2) You are responsible for that journey. It’s up to you to work on you, to be a grown-ass person and to be willing to grow. You need to be accountable for yourself and your actions.
I also just really want to destigmatize the negativity associated with being single as much as possible. Hopefully, other single people are listening to the podcast, realizing that they are not alone, that this is a shared experience, and take comfort knowing there is absolutely nothing wrong with them for not finding or having a partner.
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?
What I’m really proud about was the decision I made to not just have the podcast be about me and my stories but to interview other single people about their experiences. I think by having a different guest with a unique voice, perspective, age, and sexuality each week keeps the show fresh and fosters a greater sense of community.
This year I decided I wanted to expand that offering with a Guest Expert once a month. This can be anyone who is an authority in the realm of sex, women’s health, dating, etc. I was feeling that the single community can often feel a little lost and seeks answers from experts on how to manage dating and I thought this might also be a nice respite from listening to other people talk about their dating problems. You know — offer solutions instead of just whining that things suck all the time. I don’t think there are any dating podcasts that combine both of those elements together the way #single does.
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?
Great question! I think when starting a podcast people can forget that you just cannot let that ball drop. You are committed to continually executing on this idea for the future life of the podcast. Honestly, I think it’s just about knowing yourself, your schedule, and setting realistic goals around that.
#single comes out bi-weekly, which is on the less frequent side, but I didn’t ever want to get to a place where I felt like I had to do the podcast versus wanting to do the podcast. From the get-go, two episodes a month felt realistic for me and my life. It should always be fun. When it stops being fun, there’s no longer a point in doing it.
What resources do you get your inspiration for materials from?
Oh, man. Are you single?? Haha. If you are, you know that dating life in New York and behavior on dating apps is enough to keep my podcast in business for a looooooong time.
Is there someone in the podcasting world who you think is a great model for how to run a really fantastic podcast?
If you’re asking me if I have a podcasting crush, I absolutely do. I think the women behind Girls Gotta Eat — another dating podcast, incidentally — are absolutely crushing it. Not only do they have a successful podcast, but they’ve been able to harness it into a successful business that they co-run and have created a listener community of thousands that even attend live events. I’m in awe of them.
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?
I think what works for Girls Gotta Eat is that first and foremost they are comedians, so their content is always fun and funny. They are charismatic but also brutally honest so it just feels like listening in to your best friends. They’re also just phenomenal at social media content and engagement, which I think is one of the tricky things for podcasters to figure out. Figuring out how to take audio content and translate that visually for other social media platforms in a way that doesn’t just feel promotional is really very hard. I suppose it all comes down to one thing: branding. They’ve got that down solid. They know who they are, who they’re talking to, and what people come to them for.
Can you share with our readers the five things you need to know to create an extremely successful podcast?
- Know your brand. Know who you are. Know who your audience is. Know what your message is. Know why people come to your podcast instead of another on the same topic. And stay firm in that. We’ve used the word “feminist” to describe #single from early stages. That automatically IDs a certain type of listener.
- Have a long-term strategy. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard people say they were gonna start a podcast on a very narrow topic, like “people who like to organize” and the first thing I think is: Are there 200 potential episodes on that topic that no one’s ever heard before and is absolutely aching for? How do you execute that long-term so you retain your audience?
- Have a desire and a curiosity to grow the podcast. Always be moving the goal post. Always be asking, What next? None of us have the full answers on what will become viral, what the next hit is, how we can effortlessly increase our audience size. But the intention to keep learning is key to growth.
- Pick something that lights you up inside. That way, even if you only see ten downloads, you’re not dependent on external factors to enjoy the process.
- Stay connected to the community around your niche. One of my biggest guests I snagged simply because I follow her on Instagram and saw that she was coming out with a new book. I thought, What happens if I offer her some free publicity? And she said yes. But I wouldn’t have had the courage to reach out to her blindly unless I felt like we were part of the same community. There are a lot of us trying to do the same thing, we share audiences, and we should be lifting each other up as much as possible.
Check out the full interview in Tracy Hazzard’s Authority Magazine article about Jeanette Bonner!
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1) Book Great Guests. Knowing the value of what you offer and simply reach out. In today’s oversaturated media world, podcast coverage is an outlet that’s considered very desirable by publicists. So even though you are emailing asking for something you want, know that you are also providing something they need as well.
2) Increase Listeners. Availability and word-of-mouth — that means being on as many platforms as possible. Word-of-mouth happens between listeners and friends, but it also means that when people say casually at a cocktail party “What do you do/What have you been up to?” you’re ready to jump in and tell them you have a podcast you host and produce. Most people will respond “That’s cool! I’ll definitely check it out” and with luck, you’ve now expanded into another arena of influence, cause if they like it, they’ll tell their friends, and so on.
3) Produce in a Professional Way. I do not edit well, so before I even started I decided to hire an editor for my show. I create show notes as the producer and send them to him and he executes the editing for me. It makes me feel better knowing I have someone on my team who can fix things if the episode goes horribly awry.
4) Encourage Engagement. Something I’m starting to work on with the podcast is a call to action. Often in social media you’ll see “Let us know in the comments!”, which I’ve always thought is really hokey, but the key is to find a way to tell your listeners and followers that you’d like to hear from them that doesn’t come off as commercial and inauthentic.
5) Monetize Your Show. Once you hit a certain metric of downloads per month or per episode, you can seek ad placement very easily. Podcasting is having a moment and advertisers are actively seeking this new form of media for a ready audience.
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 the content itself?
Check out the full interview in Tracy Hazzard’s Authority Magazine article about Jeanette Bonner!