The winner of the Publisher Podcast Hero of the Year award in 2021’s Publisher Podcast Awards was Theodora Louloudis, Head of Audio at The Telegraph. She was praised for the exceptional work produced with limited resources, including spearheading the launch of five new podcasts over a particularly challenging year, as well as her leadership in shaping strategy at the publisher.
We caught up with her to explore how Covid changed The Telegraph’s audio strategy, what it’s like working with columnists and journalists, and how they decide which podcasts to make. Theo also tells us what attributes she’d look for in a podcasting hero.
Here are some highlights, lightly edited for clarity:
How Covid impacted The Telegraph’s audio output
We were doing a daily Covid show. I was actually presenting and producing it. So I really turned all my time to Covid over the first five months of the whole thing. Then we slowed it down, and we made it twice a week.
It was really all hands on deck. In fact, I remember my boss having a serious conversation with me and saying, “Right, from now, you don’t work on anything that’s not COVID related.” To be honest, it was crazy. And it was stressful. But it did show me the value of being flexible and producing very snappy, reactive content.
People were listening. It got a million downloads in its first 10 days. I have to say that those are numbers that we’re not entirely used to.
Working alongside journalists on podcasts
They’re almost a co producer on on their own show. We work really closely with the hosts to decide what questions we’re going to ask our guests, how we’re going to treat a certain topic in the week. It’s very much a team game, and and the hosts are very much part of that. They’ll leave the editing side of things to us and the production side of things to us.
The other thing I would say about working with our own members of staff is that lots of them are very experienced journalists, but they’re not always very familiar with podcasting. It tends to be that they get a bit nervous the first couple of times in the studio, or even when you call it a podcast rather than audio.
Lots of the people that we work with are columnists. So it’ll be people like Bryony Gordon who presents Bryony Gordon’s MadWorld, our mental health show, or Brian Moore, who presents our Full Contact Rugby podcast. So it’s those big Telegraph names, people whose writing the audience might have enjoyed, bringing their writing off the page and bringing more personality than they can often in their writing.
Theo’s favourite style of podcast
There was a time a couple of years ago where making podcasts was both incredibly exciting, and a complete nightmare. I was producing our political show, Choppers Politics, and it used to be called Choppers Brexit Podcast. And we had this absurd situation where every time we sat down to record, a cabinet minister would resign, or a Brexit deal would be done, or there’d be some new amendment on the amendment on the amendment on the amendment.
I love making political shows, my kind of background is in music journalism. And that really is my bread and butter. I am quite glad that the new cycle is slowed ever so slightly, because because that was both really fun and fascinating, and a complete nightmare.
But I love making our big documentary series too. Who doesn’t want the luxury of being able to dig deep into a story for months and months at a time, especially at a daily newspaper, where that is such a luxury. Not all journalists in the newsroom get the luxury of working on a story for more than a few hours. So it is very satisfying to work on one story over 3, 6, 9, 12 months and come out of it with something really tangible, very crafted.
The qualities she looks for in a podcasting hero
For me, it’s about seeing podcasting from the very beginning of the process to the very end of the process. You can’t just have a great host, but not think about what they’re going to say, or who they’re going to interview, or how they’re going to record their series. You can’t just have a great host, think about what they’re going to say, book a great guest and then not have a great microphone.
If we’re talking publishers… you can’t just then have your great host, think about your content, record your great show, edit your great show with your great microphone, and then just leave it be. You need to promote it, you need to get people talking about it, you need to ask the guests and the hosts to share it and to talk about it.
I think it’s just not dropping the ball at any of those stages. Because often, you can make a great show, and then no one listens to it, because they don’t know about it or that that kind of thing. It’s a start to finish process.
— Theodora Louloudis (@T_Louloudis) May 28, 2021
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