April 21, 2020 Blog

Podcasting (and Running a Small Business) during a Crisis

We’re in the midst of challenging times that few, if any of us, have ever before experienced. And right as the global pandemic started to fully surface in the United States, at Lemonada we were celebrating our first anniversary as a media startup (you can read more about that here). Talk about timing. Just like for many of you, this is a scary time for us. For our families, for our business, for the world.

But, the truth is, Lemonada was sort of made for this moment. Our origin story is about taking a giant lemon (losing our brothers) and making healing art out of it (Last Day). Our podcasts are all about helping listeners get out of bed in the morning, and boy do we need that in the early days of self-quarantine. And yet we weren’t sure how our audience would respond to staying at home. Or how our podcasts would hold up in this moment. Would listeners keep listening, or would childcare, homeschooling, working from home with no commute, or trying to balance all of these competing priorities, slowly erode the growing podcast listener audience? Would our shows still make sense in this moment?

Within weeks, we realized that, while morning and evening commutes no longer exist for most people (shout out to all those still working to keep us safe and fed), 8% of adults say they’re listening more. But patterns and interests have changed wildly.  News consumption is up, especially about the pandemic. Gen Z listeners are finding podcasts more frequently than before. And every day a new article about what types of podcasts are winning (and losing) emerges. At Lemonada, even with the sunset of Last Day, Season 1, our overall listens have increased by 60% since #stayhome, though listens are coming at different times (consistently throughout the day and week) than “before.” (We’re picturing you listening as you walk the dog or while hiding from family members in your closet, or while walking around your apartment solo.)

When stay-at-home policies were enacted, our first pivot was to support our national production team (we have staff in Minneapolis, Houston, NYC, LA, Seattle, Salt Lake City, Connecticut, and Dallas and hosts on three continents) with getting creative about recording podcast content outside of a typical studio. We ensured our hosts all had at-home studio mics and producers had flexible options for guest-based recording devices to deliver relatively high-quality sound from a safe distance. As a business, our core priority was to ensure stability for our team and prioritize new part-time gigs for our current freelancers. 

We also made some programmatic shifts:

Our biggest shift was the addition of our fifth show, In the Bubble with Andy Slavitt. The idea for the show arose on a Saturday night with an email from Andy to me and Stephanie Wittels Wachs, our Chief Creative Officer, and within six days, we released the trailer to the public. We mobilized (recording, art, music, platform support, and ad sales from our incredible partners at Westwood One) out of a moral imperative that Andy’s podcast would provide a critical trusted source of nonpartisan information and a little bit of hope in a confusing and scary time. And so far, so good – the show’s already sitting in Apple’s Top 10 News podcasts list, as bringing calm, informed dialogue about the COVID-19 pandemic to listeners’ ears. Guests like Mark Cuban, Senator Amy Klobuchar, Vivek Murthy and many more have joined in, with Tina Fey, Kumail Nanjiani, Chelsea Clinton, Ron Klain and David Frum slated for the coming weeks. 

On Good Kids we’ve updated the title of the show to “Good Kids: Stay at Home Edition,” and toned down the swearing (for now). Our recent guests have provided reflections and resources for parents and children’s caregivers who are now with their kids 24-7. For example, Dr. Nadine Burke-Harris, MD joined to share tips on talking to kids about the pandemic in ways that aren’t traumatic. Solo parenting, being okay with mediocrity and a host of other topics have been discussed and we’ll keep providing solace and context for the parents and educators out there who need support and resources. 

On As Me, Sinéad has been bunkercasting from her home outside of Dublin, and talking to all sorts of interested guests from their respective bunkers: Akilah Hughes, Lonnie Bunch, and more. The same “what’s it like to be you” flair, but with the added context of the pandemic to the conversations.

We continue to help sports-starved fans get their fill of #NFL antics with Mouthpeace. Last week Martellus Bennett and his wife Sigi joined brother / sis-in-law Michael and Pele Bennett; and this week Cliff Avril and his wife Tia are on. We can’t watch sports, but just hearing about them helps distract and fill the giant hole in sports programming right now.

Amidst this pandemic, we wrapped our first show, Last Day, including a just-released Epilogue with The Lumineers’ Jeremiah Fraites, recorded virtually in lieu of our in-person backstage plans. Leaving Last Day listeners in the lurch was beyond moral comprehension, so we’re spinning off a new series in May with Dr. Nzinga Harrison, a frequent Last Day guest, called In Recovery about all things addiction. . Nzinga will dive deep on listener questions in an old-school chat radio format every Monday. . 

None of us know how long we’ll be podcasting from home. None of us know when ad sales will return to normal. None of us know how to run a company during a global health and economic crisis. For now, we’re focusing our efforts at Lemonada on creating content about the hardest things in life (with a specialty in epidemics), providing security to our team members, and doing our best to be a real-time processing space for so many individuals in the U.S. and beyond. Stay home (if you can), stay safe, and keep listening.

Hear and read more of our content, and follow us @lemonadamedia across social platforms. Transcriptions available for each and every Lemonada podcast episode for the deaf community. For questions and commentary about our work, including our business and advertising, email hey@lemonadamedia.com.

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