The Simplecast team is on the record as being big fans of romantic audiofiction like 36 Questions and Jules & James–that's why we were so excited to see Meet Cute on Simplecast! We were lucky enough to chat with Naomi Shah, Meet Cute's CEO and founder about how Meet Cute has changed since launch, where it's going next, and how it's getting there.
What was the impetus behind starting Meet Cute? Was there a lack in the industry that you saw and wanted to address?
Meet Cute was founded to create a new format of entertainment that was short-form, audio-only, and uplifting. We wanted it to be the antidote to the uncertain headlines we are hit with every morning when we pick up our phones. Our mission statement is “hope for the whole word” and that’s the biggest gap we wanted to address through 15-minute romantic comedies - a whole genre devoted to hope, human connection and happiness. Short, fits-anywhere-in-your-day, fictional content is still quite underserved in the world of podcasts.
Has Meet Cute changed since launch? How?
Meet Cute is constantly changing and adapting to what we think will create the best experience for our listeners. With each story, we get immediate feedback about what works and what doesn’t and are able to feed that back into the development process of new stories. One example is experimenting with interconnected 15-minute stories; we found that people, including our writers, enjoyed following the characters for more than one story. So in a series, the universe stays the same and the main characters in one story become side characters in the next and vice versa, leaving room for continued growth.
Who's the typical Meet Cute listener, if there is one?
Currently, a majority of our audience is female, between the ages of 18 and 34. However, in creating stories we keep in mind that we want every person who comes to Meet Cute to hear themselves reflected in our stories and to break the mold that romantic comedies are meant for a specific type of person.
By rapidly creating content, we enable a new type of freshness and diversity in romantic comedies that hasn’t been done before. It’s important to us that we tell stories about first loves and second chances at love alike, we want as many communities represented including Latinx, Native American, LGBTQ+, as well as geographic diversity. We believe that diversity results in better stories for our listeners.
What do you hope audiences get out of Meet Cute?
Our mission statement is “hope for the whole world”. At the end of a 15-minute story we want our listeners to feel that hit of happily ever after that you associate with your favorite rom coms. The stories we publish highlight moments of human connection, and bring everyday emotions to life via fictional characters. They are the perfect escape, or antidote, to uncertain headlines and the current news cycles.
Because they are only 15 minutes - and broken into five 3-minute chapters - listeners can make Meet Cutes part of their routine, wherever it fits into their day.
What do you think is coming next in the world of fiction podcasting?
Stories that people can connect to emotionally, more character depth similar to the Marvel universe of characters, and wider reach as fictional podcasts continue to become more mainstream.
Can you walk us through the format of Meet Cute's episodes? How or why did you land on this format?
Each Meet Cute story is exactly 15 minutes long, broken up into five, 3-minute chapters. We liked three minute chunks because it felt bite-sized and digestible enough that you don’t have to think too much when you click into a story and you feel like you’re pulled into the story quickly. Three minutes is also the average length of a pop song, which is kind of fun! The five chapters are structured this way to mirror the narrative arc of rom coms, which always start with a Meet Cute and end with a Happily Ever After.
Our stories are released as stand-alones, i.e. self-contained 15 minute stories, or as a series. There are usually three stories in a series all in one interconnected universe with recurring characters and settings.
A lot of the criticism of the podcasting industry is that it's a lot of white men–how are you addressing this?
As a younger, non-white, female founder this is something I think about a lot; and every person actively thinking about this issue in the entertainment industry - and podcasting, specifically - can make a difference. Diversity is important to me and the whole Meet Cute team, not only as a matter of principle, but because we think it results in better storytelling too. We have a wide and diverse network of creative talent - which we think improves the quality and uniqueness of our stories. Over half of our writers, producers, and voice actors are female and represent different backgrounds. By elevating minority voices and giving them a platform to tell fictional stories, we are seeing standout storytelling, production, and voice acting. It’s incredible.
What's one trend you'd like to see left behind in the podcasting industry?
Long, rambly interview podcasts. Sometimes the essence of the interview gets lost in length and listeners forget why they clicked into the podcast in the first place, when two people are just chatting back and forth. Don’t get me wrong, at times it is super interesting, but other times it feels drawn out. For me, and a lot of others, I think there’s friction to click on longer interviews if you don’t know exactly what you’re going to get out of it, especially because there’s no table of contents in audio.
What podcasts do you love?
I love the podcast Everything Is Alive. It’s an unscripted interview show with inanimate objects and super well-done. It makes me think differently about the objects around me. I saw an episode performed live last year in Portland, Oregon at the XOXO conference and it drew me in!
What are you most excited for in the future of Meet Cute?
I’m excited for Meet Cute to be THE go-to source for timeless rom com content, from throwbacks to the classics to highlighting the funkiest and freshest love stories of today. We’re making new rom coms each week and releasing them everywhere you can listen to audio, and we want this content to be accessible and fun. We want people to tell us more of what they want to hear, and then to create that for them.
Want more Meet Cute? Listen here, and subscribe to their newsletter!
Naomi Shah is the founder and CEO of Meet Cute, a modern entertainment company that makes short, audio romantic comedies. The intersection between entertainment and technology is what excites her most about building Meet Cute. A year ago, she wouldn't have imagined running a rom com storytelling company. Before starting Meet Cute, she was a member of the investment team at Union Square Ventures, a technology venture capital firm in New York, where she spent most of her time talking to companies in the consumer and well-being space. Prior to that, she was a macro equities trader at Goldman Sachs and studied Mechanical Engineering (with a minor in Human Biology) at Stanford University.