After spending a decade working on television shows like “The Dr. Oz Show” and “The Tyra Banks Show,” Ali Perry made the leap to audio six months ago when she joined iHeartMedia as Executive Producer of the platform’s lifestyle, beauty and fashion podcasts. How does that translate to audio? And how do podcast compare to TV? Perry sat down for some Questions and Answers.
Q: What are you working on right now?
A: I am developing a new slate of podcasts mainly in the fashion and beauty space, for women, by women. I’m looking for talent and brands to partner with, I’m working with them on their ideas, and overseeing production.
Q: What kind of fashion and beauty content will you be developing?
A: Fashion and beauty are really just the ways into larger conversations about the inner lives of women. For example, What I Wore When is the first podcast I produced with iHeartMedia, and it’s in partnership with Glamour magazine. The host, Perrie Samotin, is their digital director. She’s a dream host. She’s knowledgeable about style, but she’s also someone you want to be friends with, which makes her easy to talk to and a joy to listen to. The show features influential women talking about what they wore at a pivotal moment in their life – the big audition, the job interview, when they wrote their first hit song. But in reality, the “what they wore” moment is only about five percent of a much bigger conversation. It’s about how they navigated their careers, what style means to them, and pretty much whatever they hit it off with Perrie about. There have been deep conversations about everything from body insecurities to cancer diagnoses to fertility treatments. Fashion and beauty are entry points for women into ideas and issues that matter to them.
Q: You come from the TV world. What do you think are the key differences between video and audio storytelling?
A: With audio, you get to be more flexible. Shows can be the length they need to be, instead of a prescribed length. It’s less expensive to produce so you can do much more. I’ve also found that people are much more nervous when they’re being interviewed on TV. They’re in full hair and makeup, they’ve carefully picked out their outfits, there are cameras and lights, and it goes by in a flash. They’re like, what just happened?! But with podcasts, it’s more intimate. It’s two people in a room. The conversations take the time they need to get where they need to go. We’ve had A-list actors show up in a messy bun, with no makeup on. That’s really cool and a very natural way to have a conversation. It lends itself well to intimacy and authenticity, content that is easy to listen to. And I think the audience can feel the difference.
Q: As a seasoned producer, how do you find compelling stories to tell?
A: I think relatability is the biggest factor. I try to create content people will find themselves in in some way, whether it’s an experience they can directly relate to, or experiences they’d want to try. And as far as hosts, you want to listen to someone you’d want to hang out with, but also someone you trust.
Q: The big critique of today’s fashion and beauty influencers is that their coverage lacks authenticity. Everything feels so manufactured. How is podcasting an antidote to that?
A: I think it’s almost impossible to be inauthentic in an audio setting. You can’t look someone in the eye across a table and talk for an hour about your experiences without being real. And if that happens, it’s just not an engaging conversation. You can tell, not just as a producer, but as a listener. With the hosts I’ve been working with, as the recordings and episodes progress, you really feel like you get to know them. It’s not something that can be faked.
Q: For brands that are interested in podcasts, what should they keep in mind when they look for hosts or in-house talent to cast as guests?
A: The host should be knowledgeable, with stories to tell and questions to ask. I always say that the host should be someone you want to be friends with or learn from. And the content has to be relatable. That’s the magic mix. The thing you have to keep in mind is that people’s time is precious. People listen to podcasts on their commutes, while they’re exercising, while they’re cooking dinner. It’s their private time. And it’s intimate for that reason. The listener chooses to make time for you, invite you into her life. So the expectation is high. You have to deliver.