Telum Talks To: Kellie Riordan, Founder / Director at Deadset Studios

Telum Talks To: Kellie Riordan, Founder / Director at Deadset Studios

By Kristy Nguyen

Tell us about Deadset Studios and how it got started.
I was the head of the podcast team at the ABC, and launched many hit shows from the juggernaut that is Conversations, to lifestyle podcasts such as Ladies, We Need To Talk and The Pineapple Project, comedy shows like Judith Lucy Overwhelmed and Dying, narrative series such as Days Like These and The Eleventh, and kids shows such as Short & Curly and Fierce Girls.

I could see that podcasting was exploding globally, and I was interested in doing shows beyond Australia so I set up Deadset Studios. It is a podcast production house and also a consultancy that helps organisations and media houses get their audio strategy right.

Deadset Studios has worked with Australian media houses such as ARN and the ABC, but also with the BBC and Global in the UK, and PinnaFM in the US. We also work with various brands and organisations value adding podcasting to their messaging for customers and clients.

What does a day in the role of Founder / Director look like?
Hectic! I’ve had to learn an awful lot about running a small business so my day includes everything from payroll and superannuation obligations, to creating budgets and production schedules for new podcasts, as well as the creative work, helping our executive producers and producers develop new podcast formats and episodes.

I spend quite a bit of time working with media houses and brands to develop an over-arching podcast roadmap that connects to their organisation’s strategic objectives and finds audiences. Businesses are increasingly finding that a podcast is just as important in your content mix as having social media channels or a newsletter.

How have you seen the podcasting industry change over the past decade? 
The audience size has obviously increased with more than a third of Australians now regularly listening to podcasts, and many of them listening to more than three hours of content a week. I’ve also seen the maturing of formats.

A decade ago, most podcasts were still in an interview or panel format, with three people in a chair nattering on. Nowadays, there’s much more sophistication in format, whether it’s a part-documentary and part-courtroom drama such as Ben Roberts-Smith v The Media, a scripted comedy like The Lamb, a genre mash-up such as comedy / musical CrossBread, or a blind-date game show like Queen of Hearts.

What genres are most popular with audiences?
The PodPoll 2023: Australia’s podcast insights survey found that comedy, true crime, and health and wellbeing are the most popular genres. That was unsurprising to me. But what was super interesting was that if you dug deeper and asked people not just what they are listening to, but what they would like to listen to, genres like science and environment showed up. People also want more podcast content on food and beverage, which is quite an under-served genre in terms of podcasts.

Are there any unexpected trends you've noticed that you find interesting?
I was shocked by how many people are co-listening to podcasts (listening to a show with other people). We all imagine it’s an intimate, earbud experience and very tailored to one person’s needs given the opt-in nature of podcast listening, but about a third of Australian listeners told us they listen with other people. So this could be a family listening in the car, or perhaps partners consuming a podcast while they cook dinner together.

What podcasts do you enjoy listening to?
Heavyweight remains my go-to thanks to killer plot-driven storylines and witty scripting from host Jonathan Goldstein. I recently binged the series The Witch Trials of JK Rowling because it expertly unpacked several complex, thorny issues. HBO’s Succession Podcast was a fabulous recap series given it was hosted by tech journalist Kara Swisher who knows the Murdochs from decades of reporting.

We worked on a very funny series from Britt Hockley and Laura Byrne called Hooked, Hitched & Hung Up, which was a great deep dive into the make-ups and break-ups of celebrity relationships, with some hilariously re-created scenes from the romances we all obsess over.

I always go back to Teamistry as a great example of a lightly-branded show that does a stellar job of being a broad-appeal show about how teams collaborate with very little oversell from Atlassian. It features untold stories of amazing teams, such as the woman who made the Nasa space suits, the team that invented Google Maps, and how Sir Ernest Shackleton led his crew that walked across the Antarctic in 1914.

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Kellie Riordan

Founder / Director

Deadset Studios

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