September 16, 2012
Next weekend I'm going to be giving a talk at a radio festival at Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, NY. The topic is women in radio and podcasting (as subjects and hosts). In researching my talk, I've become even more aware of how relatively few podcasts are hosted by women. I already knew that the majority of podcast listeners are men (this from an unlinkable eMarketer report I accessed at Baruch College's library back in the spring, while doing my market research at CUNY) and that this is sometimes blamed on the 'geek factor'. But I honestly hadn't thought until recently about who was hosting the podcast. If you look at iTunes' list of its top 200 podcasts, you'll see only a handful have female hosts. The number depends on the day, but when I've checked it's been anywhere from five out of 200 to 15. Why? I know there are tens of thousands of English language podcasts out there, and I know there are women doing podcasts, because I stumble across new ones all the time. But they appear to be far outnumbered by men. Go to any article or comment section on podcasts and virtually every podcast under discussion is a man's.
Does this come down to a common woman problem - that we females are simply less likely to put ourselves out there, to take a risk and start a new project? Are we not 'geeky' enough to handle the (relatively simple) technology involved? When I look at the podcasts that do make it into the top 200, and sometimes the top 10, the female-hosted ones are usually public radio programs such as Fresh Air or On Being. Rachel Maddow makes it in there too from time to time. Since the most popular podcasts are often public radio shows, I began thinking about who hosts such shows. Usually men. Take my own local station, WNYC. Of all the shows they produce in-house, only one is hosted by a woman. That's the local All Things Considered with Amy Eddings. Actually, no, they have just started airing a new show called New Tech City with my friend Manoush Zomorodi as host. So that's two shows. But everything else the station produces (Radiolab, Brian Lehrer, Leonard Lopate, Sound Check and Money Talking to name a few) are hosted by guys, or a man and a woman, as in the case of On the Media. Fair Game, hosted by Faith Salie, was canceled in 2008 because the show couldn't land a big enough underwriter (which raises yet more questions).
Anyone have any theories about all this?