How do you get into podcast charts if you’ve never made a podcast before? Genevieve Hassan found her first effort, Celebrity Catch Up, doing just this. In November last year, she was surprised to find her podcast rocketing up the Apple Podcast charts. We asked her to tells us how she came to beat the likes of Strictly Come Dancing – and share the advice she has for other independent podcasters.
I was watching Top of the Pops 1989 in the small hours of the morning one weekend last May. Martika was singing her classic song Toy Soldiers and I wondered: “What happened to her?” And that was the idea that kicked off my podcast, Celebrity Catch Up: Life After That Thing I Did.
It’s an unashamedly nostalgic interview show that catches up with stars who were involved with much-loved TV, film and music in the 1980s-early 2000s, where we reminisce and talk about how their lives unfolded after.
I’ve had some amazingly lovely guests on my first series, including Sir Tony Robinson, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off star Alan Ruck, director Dexter Fletcher, Fresh Prince of Bel Air’s Karyn Parsons and Zammo from Grange Hill.
In November I found myself at #2 in the Apple Podcast TV/Film chart – a surprising feat considering it’s literally just me making my podcast. No producers or researchers, no editors and no money to spend on marketing and promotion – let alone make the thing. Just me. In my spare room. With a microphone and Zoom.
If you rewind back to June, I didn’t even think I’d get the podcast off the ground. I booked my first two guests within a couple of days, but then hit a wall of “no” for four weeks. I bit the bullet and started releasing fortnightly episodes in July, thinking it would buy me time to secure more guests and I’d have an actual podcast to point people to. But I still hit a wall of rejection – this time for two months – and it hit me pretty hard.
Professional pride took over and after a few tears I was ready to throw in the towel. It was so frustrating, discouraging and disheartening.
But then why would a celebrity give up their time to be on a podcast made by a ‘nobody’? Especially when they have nothing to promote. What was I thinking?! I should just accept that while it was a nice idea, in practice it was just too difficult for the Average Joe to pull off.
A mixture of hope and stubbornness made me persevere. One of my eventual guests followed me on Twitter and I asked him if he could spare the time to talk to me. He was my fairy godfather – he instantly legitimised the podcast and paved the way for others to say yes. (I’m sparing his name so he doesn’t get bombarded with lots of podcast requests!) Although it’s a testament to every guest I’ve had that they were so generous with their time in my early stages.
And then it happened. I was mentioned on Great British Podcasts’ weekly newsletter… two weeks later I was a pick in The Guardian and I slowly started gaining traction. My first series ended mid-November and I made it onto Apple Podcasts’ New & Noteworthy section.
Despite being in the competitive – and arguably oversaturated – TV and Film category, I slowly climbed Apple’s chart. I watched in amazement as I overtook celebrity-fronted and “officially produced” podcasts – and then one day, I overtook Strictly Come Dancing: The Official Podcast, and found myself at #2 behind The Crown. I couldn’t believe it – I had achieved what I thought was unachievable.
It’s pretty unheard of these days for a podcast made by just one person to almost top the Apple chart in that category. The thoughts from my wobble a couple of months before disappeared and I was so chuffed. I’ve since gone on to hit the top spot in a number of countries around the world and I couldn’t be prouder. The pressure’s now on to replicate the success for series two though – and I’m not going to lie, booking guests hasn’t got any easier!
So if you’ve been thinking about launching a podcast, or if you’ve been at it for a while and feeling a bit despondent and wondering if you should continue, I hope my story will inspire you. Take the plunge. Persevere.
My podcast has obviously tapped into something people like, but it’s taken a huge amount of work (and some tears…) in the face of a lot of rejection to get there.
But I’m proof that one person with an idea – competing in a space full of celebrity-fronted pods and ones made by established media companies with big budgets for production and marketing – can cut through and take on the big boys.
If you make great content, people will listen.