Hope you’re enjoying the gorgeous bank holiday sunshine - it’s already 28 degrees C out there!
With the London Podcast Festival only weeks away, I’ve been sticking to a podcast theme on Freelance Pod. This week, it’s the host of Podcast Radio Hour on BBC Radio 4 Extra, Amanda Litherland! Freelance Pod was featured on the show back in April.
Podcast discovery is still tough. It’s like looking down a tiny funnel, so you only see the same 5 or 6 podcasts each time, and you’ve got not idea if they’re for you - but actually listening to each one of them feels like a chore. Amanda’s show takes some of the hard work out of discovering the podcasts you’ll love, as she features clips, speaks to podcasters and invites podcast critics on too. She makes a point of supporting independent podcasters, as she knows how much work goes into making them.
Amanda was a BBC radio producer when she pitched the idea of the Podcast Radio Hour to her bosses, and suddenly found herself on the other side of the microphone. She tells me how her background in comedy has helped, how she’s learning to interview and what kinds of podcasts she’d like to feature more of on the show. You can get in touch with her on Twitter: https://twitter.com/amandlitherland
Please take a moment to read about my schoolfriend Emily, who died on Saturday.
Things I’ve been writing / making / doing
This has been the summer of waiting to gather sources for a story, or waiting for a story to be published. I hope that means that I’m trying out more ambitious stories, and not just that I’m reverting to my natural impatient state…
About a month ago, after being offered an interview with Ziauddin Yousafzai (aka Malala’s dad and a huge influence on her activism), I pitched it out with basically zero success - in fact, more editors than usual responded, if only to say no.
I realised that I’d need to fold his interview into a bigger story that hooked into the zeitgeist if I was going to get that elusive yes. With Greta Thunberg in the news, and that connection to Malala, I decided to look at child activists. I put together a pitch and went back out there, tailoring it more closely to each publication than I had with the last one.
Finally, an American website which I’m not going to name here, offered me a good rate. The deadline was flexible. The editor knows me, and had a level of trust in me.
Time passed. Getting the nuts and bolts together to build the story took longer than I thought. It’s summer. People are all over the place. I’ll get back to it. Other paying work started to jump ahead in the queue.
When it finally came together, I felt that the news narrative had moved on, and I wasn’t entirely sure of my story any more, or if it remained as relevant. Still, I had a commission, and I needed to honour it.
I felt strongly about the adults I was seeing on Twitter bullying Thunberg, and that angle seemed to work well with what I had from the Ziauddin Yousafzai interview. So that’s the story I wrote - but as my editor rightly said, it wasn’t the story that had been commissioned. Unfortunately, another, similar piece was being written by someone else, so the only thing to do was to kill my story, along with a fee, which was 25% of the original rate.
That seemed completely fair to me, and my editor had been very kind in explaining all of this, continuing to encourage me to pitch again in the future. The draft itself was fine, and I could take it elsewhere.
I didn’t feel like I had the time or energy to start pitching the story out again - for the third time. I wanted to do something with it, though. I was really proud of the reporting that had gone into it, and it seemed such a shame to let logistics (and my own writing decisions, let’s not forget) tank a good story.
So I put it up on Medium and forgot about it.
About half a day later, I got an email from an editor at GEN, “Medium's new(ish) publication covering politics, culture, and power,” and my number one Medium vertical to get into. NGL, I was cartwheeling with joy!
GEN wanted to feature the story, would pay me a rate of about half what my original commission would’ve got, plus anything more the story makes through the Medium Partner Program, which is a thing I don’t entirely understand yet. The story went on to make Medium’s Featured Stories for the day, which means that it’s sent out in more newsletters and seen on more Medium verticals.
Overall, I’ll have made 75% of the fee of my original commission from the kill fee and Medium, plus anything extra from page views. Seeing as I was the one who didn’t fulfil the conditions of my original pitch, this is not a bad outcome.
Also - GEN did a really nice edit of my piece, with lots of communication and helpful feedback. It was a useful process, and one more reason I’d recommend working with them.
The moral of the story? If in doubt, try it out on Medium. It’s better that someone sees your work, rather than no one. You never know what might come out of it.
Will I still pitch the website that killed my story? Of course! Next time, I’ll try to be a bit more patient with my own story.
Podcast live show planning continues and tbh it’s only getting weirder…
Things I’ve been reading
Want to Start a Company Podcast? Read This First Before Getting Behind the Mic. - I’m just so glad someone’s written this down so I don’t have to keep repeating myself.
Things I’ve been trying to watch
Succession. I’m going to feel so left out, but… I give up.
Things to go to
That’s all from me, make sure you’ve got some extra-high-SPF sunscreen on, and enjoy your bank hol! x