We love to spotlight creators on Simplecast–this week, we talked to the team behind MomsTown, a community dedicated to shining a light on mom creators. Read on for how Mary and Heather teamed up, started their network, and how they're building a chorus of mom podcasters.
So, tell me a little bit about the start of MomsTown.
Mary: Back in 2002, I was doing an internet radio show for Entrepreneur Magazine. I did two shows a week for them. Then Heather started MomsTown and was doing a radio show for that brand. My listening audience was nationwide and worldwide, but just a little teeny show. It was live so I could take callers so people could tune in–this was way back before social media. And then Heather found my show and we decided to get together and talk and realized we lived three miles apart!
Heather: Isn't it so weird? But it was like kismet, meant to be. We were both doing internet-based radio shows, and then we were living in the same zip code..
Mary: We started doing shows because we both had kids under five years old. The show was our once-a-week respite to go and laugh and have fun and do a radio show and take callers. And we started growing our audience. Two months later, on a Monday with too much caffeine, I said, "Heather, let's write a book for moms." And she said, "Yeah, let's do that.” How they can make money and stay home with their kids." We put it out in our newsletter the next day. And then, Wednesday at 6:00 AM, we get an email from an editor at Hyperion Books saying, we want to talk to you about your workbook for moms.
We had no agent. So we had to find someone to help us negotiate. And then Dr. Phil found out about us, and then we got our second book deal by his publisher, Simon and Schuster. Even way back then, we were doing 11 and a half minutes segments, three of them in an hour and then the nine and a half minute segment. And then we would send it out as an MP3 in our newsletters.
Now fast forward to 2021–that's what they call podcasting. But, back then, technology was so clunky and expensive.
Heather: What we've found is that everything good that has ever happened in our business has come from audio–either radio or podcasting. Today, the technology is so light and easy and airy compared to what we were really trying to lift so many years ago. Podcasting is amazing, and we think it's a great platform for building a brand, for building a business, and for our message and what we want to do. Our whole goal is to shine a light on mom creators, because we know when we shine the lights on others, our light shines bright. Moms deserve to have their light shine and have their voices heard. With our network, we're trying to create a chorus of mom voices and let moms be heard, have their messages out into the world and do that through podcasting.
I like what you're saying about this chorus of moms. I often feel like there's this flattening of the media depictions of moms. I remember watching some ad and it was like, “Technology that is so easy your mom can do it.” My mom is a very smart lady. I don't know who this ad is talking to, but what a weird assumption to make. Do you think you're complicating and giving more nuance to mothers in media?
Mary: Well, we think that there should be more moms in media and more mom voices. You know, every mom is unique. Every mom has a unique message. We want to create a chorus of voices because we want every mom's voice to be heard. We respect that a mom can easily podcast, can easily create her own voice and her own thing. Technology is not holding her back. You know, mom is just as savvy and ready to go as the next person, just because she's a mom.
Whether during COVID-19 or not, do you think podcasting can help moms fight some of this mom-specific loneliness we hear a lot about? What draws moms to podcasting?
Mary: Absolutely. I know of a gal who, after the kids go to bed at 11 o'clock, she'll record a podcast for other moms on starting their own business. And it's a way for her to connect, because her kids were very, very small at the time. So the thing that Heather and I recognized at the time we met, we were in the same place with our kids, which was really interesting as well.
We recognize that moms want to make the world a better place. That's where all these inventions come from. Oh, the kids spill all their Cheerio's in the car. Let's make one of those little plastic cups. I mean, if you go to the ABC Kids Expo, it's amazing what moms would come up with as a life hack for being a mom with little kids. If you can create a life in 40 weeks while you're asleep, imagine what you could do with your own life while you're awake. Women become super creative and we like to showcase creative moms.
Heather: And to your point, and also about moms being lonely, I do think that's the case because even before, when we were doing our internet radio show, audio and radio are such an intimate medium, and it's such an intimate way to connect with people. You know, you're basically in their head. We have one email from a mom who said that our radio show literally saved her life. She was suffering from postpartum depression and she would tune in once a week and she would feel like she was not alone. She would feel like she wasn't just going through this whole thing by herself. So we know that audio is really powerful and we know that it has a way to connect in a real intimate way. And literally we know that when people can connect it can save lives and it can bring them out of dark places and into light.
When you’re thinking about creating content specifically for moms, is there anything in particular you’re doing for that audience?
Mary: We chose the 10-minute model because we respect her time. We want her to be able to get captured by what the title of the episode is. And she's in and out in 10 minutes, she can binge on a few or she could just listen to 10 minutes. It can be overwhelmingto see a podcast at 60 minutes, even 45, 30 minutes. I'm like, oh my gosh, I, I can't, I can't commit to that right now. I'll get to it later. And then I don't. So if she can consume 10 minutes at a time, we just think that's easier.
What kind of community are you looking to cultivate among MomsTown listeners?
Mary: The gals that we have on our show, we send them a producer sheet to fill out, you know, what are the talking points you want to make sure we cover? And a little bio about yourself. And it's amazing how transparent they are, and when they come on the air it's amazing how they round out their story with the good and the challenging. So any mom who's listening can say, "I'm not the only one. Okay. I had a bout of postpartum depression or I'm struggling financially, or my first idea falls flat, but look where I am now." I think that is what binds our community together. No one's better than the other, but somebody might be a few steps further ahead and listeners can go, "Oh, well look what she went through. She made it." That's the kind of motivation I think they get from our show.
Is there a specific type of support you offer mom podcast creators?
Heather: The moms want community. That keeps them going. We support their ideas and help with cross promotion and marketing–MomsTown can also bring some sales and some potential sponsors to their shows. So we can do those things that a mom who's kind of out there, podcasting by herself maybe won't have access to that, but as a community we do.
And then the other thing kind of dovetails with the community aspects. We have one mom who says, “I just don't want to do this by myself. I want a co-host.” They want me, they want a Heather, they want somebody to do it with because it can be very lonely, just podcasting and talking by yourself. So we bring those different aspects to it. And even in our single-host podcasts, at least they feel like they're not by themselves.
What misconceptions have you encountered about podcasting?
Mary: I was part of the new media summits even times and I was on a panel on stage. And they go, “Well, what's your schedule for recording and then editing and then posting?” And I just said, “We don't edit. We never edit.” And you heard the gasps from the audience of people clutching their pearls.
I like it when I can goof up. It's okay. It's real. We're just who we are. Now I'm hearing more and more people don’t edit. When they get into the Clubhouse app, they don't edit. They're just talking. People don't know that they can do a successful podcast without editing. They don’t know that they can have their own clock and make their own time. Your show doesn't have to be an hour. It doesn't have to be 30 minutes. It can be 14 minutes. It can be whatever you want it to be.
All right. Last question. What advice would you give to any mom who was thinking about starting a podcast?
Mary: Just start. Call us.
Heather: Call us, email us. We recently interviewed a mom who had been dreaming for years about starting a music career. She had all this self-doubt and she had all these questions and then she didn't want to do it. And she said one day she decided just to get over it. And she just did it. And now she's an award-winning musician and book author. She's writing music, she's writing books for kids and she's winning awards and she's having the best time of her life. And it was all because she decided to just go for it and just do it. I mean, it sounds like a Nike commercial, but for goodness sakes, just get over it and try.