Jay Walkerden reflects on life after NOVA & why he chases down podcasts others would say ‘no’ to
Jay Walkerden used to head up podcasting for NOVA Entertainment, but says he loves running his own show now. Here, the Podcast Power Player speaks to Vivienne Kelly about the hustle, the hard work and the ‘huh?’ moments – including why he said yes to that MAFS podcast.
VK: Describe your job in one word:
It’s awesome, it’s awesome. I love it. Why? Because I can do what I want, when I want, and that means that if I want to have a thinking session at 11 o’clock at night, then that’s what I’m doing, and I don’t feel bad about it.
So yea, it’s awesome.
VK: Speaking of doing what you want when you want, if you could make a podcast about absolutely anything, what would the ‘Jay Walkerden Podcast’ be about?
JW: It’s a great question because we’re actually making most of the stuff that I care about anyway.
But to be honest, the big one is people’s stories, and being able to tell their stories in their own way. That for me, is what the dream was about, why we started Podshape and equally why I’m so invested in other things that we’re doing outside of just our true crimes or whatever.
Why, for instance, Bryce and Mellissa was an interesting one. Why the hell did I go after them to have them on? Because they have a story to tell. It’s their story. And they did that. You don’t have to listen to it, that’s cool. But they wanted to tell their story, so we gave them that platform.
VK: So speaking of that Bryce and Melissa podcast, it was obviously a very mixed response, shall we say, in the comment thread. How’s the podcast actually going? Have you had feedback beyond the vitriol in the comment thread?
JW: Yea, listen, that’s probably one of my pet peeves in podcasting, and less so on RT [Radio Today] than it is on Apple – but one of the things that I really don’t like is that you can troll someone on Apple Podcasts, and nobody knows who you are and it’s totally anonymous and you can change your name and call yourself ‘triple j’ or whatever you want, or call yourself someone else, and you can give it a one-star and give it a rating. So I think that for me, it’s an annoyance more than anything.
But what they don’t realise is when they’re doing that, they’re actually pushing it up the charts. If you like it and comment, or even if you hate something and give it a one-star and you write a comment, you’re pushing it up the Apple charts because it’s engagement. It actually drives it up because it’s just activity. So it’s like ‘Oh, okay, thank you’.
But there’s an audience for it. And the audience that is listening to it, loves it, because they keep coming back for every episode.
VK: And what about the biggest mistake you see in podcasting?
JW: I reckon thinking everything has to be long. And that thinking of ‘Well Joe Rogan does a three-hour podcast, so I can do one’. We talk to creators all the time around, people say ‘What’s the perfect time length?’ Well it’s like anything, the perfect time length is if it’s still engaging. But there are parts of some podcasts that I hear that I go ‘Wow, well you should have stopped about 20 minutes ago, because this ain’t going anywhere.’
VK: So then what advice would you give to someone looking to work in podcasting? Keep it shorter?
JW: Give me a bell?
Honestly, I think, listen to lots of podcasts is the first thing. When I have conversations with people who are interested in working in podcasting, whether it be with us or going for another job somewhere, when you ask them what they listen to and they give you a couple, you go ‘Okay, cool, you’ve just pretty much told me the top two on the chart right now.’ But, listen to pods, understand why people are making that particular type of content, which could then give you an insight into why you want to make a particular type of content.
I think like anything: Why do you want to work in radio? Well if you listen to a brand or a radio station and you really love that radio station, then you sort of get the idea of what you need to do to be able to get yourself a gig at that place. So it’s similar to podcasting I think.
VK: And so you mentioned your job is awesome, but what is the best part of your role?
JW: I love the hustle.
And what I mean by that is we have a saying that I think I stole from someone much smarter than me, which was ‘Everything is written in pencil’ – which I really, really like – which means you don’t have to go with the first idea, and equally, you don’t have to stick with your last idea. Ideas are meant to fail. This is just content. So it’s okay to release something and go ‘Oh, that wasn’t as good as I thought it could be, let’s try something else’. So, for me, the best part of my role, the best part of the thing that I do is about the hustle. It’s being able to think on your feet and equally making sure that you’re not set in stone. You release a podcast with a view that it’s going to be successful, but if it’s not, that’s okay, just move on.
VK: So if you’re not worrying about success versus failure, what’s the biggest challenge of your role? What do you worry about?
JW: Time. That’s it.
Like any start-up, it’s time. Time thinking outside the business and not in it. So, not being in an edit all day or on a Teams call with one of our sales team or whatever it might be. It’s actually just time to think, time to go and listen to something and go ‘Oh, okay, cool, that’s interesting’.
That new Ricky Gervais podcast, I’m a fan of. I heard it last night for the first time. And it’s very different to what Ricky normally does. He’s not doing comedy, but he is doing inquisitive mind, which is what Ricky does, which ends up being in comedy. So you go, ‘If I didn’t allow myself to have the time to do that’ – and that, in our industry, that’s work, it’s not pleasure. It’s partly pleasure, but it’s not done for pleasure, it’s done because you want to hear how someone is doing some content.
VK: And how about zooming out to the wider industry. What challenges do you think it’s facing?
JW: I think everyone’s sort of nailed it recently. The race for content, which is great for podcasters and talents and influencers, but I think in the long run, we might miss some of those podcast gems that aren’t in the mainstream, that might sneak through.
So everyone’s doing big podcasts with big names, but while there are some small pods and some people in those places who do some amazing content work, it would be horrible to see those guys left by the wayside because they’re not part of the big three or big four.
So for me, I think the indie market needs to be strong still. It was the place that it stated. But at the same time, we need to keep making sure that we’re looking for the gems and not going for the easy wins.
VK: So, looking five years ahead then, where do you think the industry will be in 2026?
JW: From a commercial perspective, I think it will be worth a lot more money, which in itself means that more people, companies are investing in it in a bigger way, like true investment.
And then I think from there we start getting some more of that, some of the stuff that happened in media over the last 10 years which is the bargaining for talent, so it becomes a commodity in itself of looking for a big name.
Reading a couple of articles on Radio Today in the last couple of days, the Australian radio talent that’s come out and is saying ‘Maybe in the next five years, podcasting is the palace that everyone’s going to go to consume audio’. I think our biggest challenge or what the next five years looks like is the growth of podcasting as a major media player as a standalone major media player, which then brings all of the same challenges that all the other major media players have right now.
VK: What’s something about you that might surprise people, Jay?
JW: I don’t have any surprises. Radio Today has written them all.
Quite honestly, anyone that knows me knows that I probably talk too much, so I don’t keep secrets. So there are no surprises. I am who I am.
VK: Final question, if you weren’t in podcasting, what do you think you’d be doing?
JW: I reckon running maybe podcasting for one of the major radio networks. Oh, hang on, I did that…
I’d be doing what I’m doing now. I love what I’m doing now. I love the opportunity that we’ve been given to build this business and create some content that hopefully is memorable.
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