Revisiting That Jeddah Podcast: An Interview with Diana, co-host and blogger.
We’ve written about That Jeddah Podcast before – about why they’re awesome and why we ‘like’ them. We ‘like’ them for their randomness, their charming quirkiness and their cast of characters. This time Anousha Vakani speaks to Diana, co-host and blogger, about the inception of the podcast, the process of recording each episode and much more!
How and when did you start the podcast? Where did you get the inspiration to start a podcast and how did you launch the idea?
I’m a fan of podcasts. I especially like informative ones like Stuff You Should Know and Neil deGrasse Tyson’s StarTalk, and comedy ones like The Nerdist and (the now-defunct) The Exploding Sandwich.
In 2009, I recorded fake interviews with my friends in Jeddah, and later that year, posted them on my blog as a joke. Early 2010, perhaps also as a joke, Fayiz Melibary set up an iTunes account for a Jeddah Podcast, and this was what “forced” me to just go ahead, make it official and register it in the iTunes podcast directory.
What advice would you give someone who wanted to start a podcast in Saudi Arabia? Is it generally easy or difficult to set up and maintain?
Launching a podcast is extremely easy because of its nature. You record an episode, post it online whenever you like, for free, and subscribers can listen to it whenever and wherever they want.
Whether or not the process of maintaining a podcast is difficult really depends on the producers. I encourage Jeddawis to podcast, it’s an easy enough platform to use if you’re looking to express yourself.
If you can commit to learning how to do it, and you have a general topic you like to discuss with friends, I say go for it. That Jeddah Podcast ultimately wants to be a one-stop-shop place for people to find podcasts that cater to the Jeddah community. Contact us, maybe we can help you.
Who are your listeners and what feedback do you get from them?
When TJP first started out, I thought it would only attract my friends as listeners, mainly because it features them. In the past couple of years, though, it has attracted the attention of many other English-speaking Saudis and expats within the Kingdom, including other cities like Riyadh and Dammam. We also have listeners from abroad, some of them Saudis who want to get updates about home, some of them non-Saudis who just want to get an idea of what it’s like living in Saudi Arabia.
It’s one of the most awesome things about having a podcast, being able to connect with these people with whom I have something in common – a hometown.
Generally, the feedback is good. We get requests on topics they’d want us to cover, or we get asked questions about places in Jeddah, common practices, recommendations. We’re not “experts” on Jeddah, but it’s nice to be treated like one.
What process do you go through to record one episode?
Outside Saudi Arabia, a podcast is the lowest-maintenance project you can start, but in Jeddah, there are challenges. Some of the things I’ve had to do were: schedule guests and co-hosts to record with me, find a quiet venue to record in, learn some technical things about podcasting (sound editing, feeds, some HTML/CSS), write or brainstorm topics for each episode, and promote the podcast on social media platforms. It takes lots of time and hard work, like most anything, really.
But then also, the beauty of having a podcast is that it doesn’t have to be “conventional radio,” if that makes sense. Every now and then, I’d record a “rogue” unscheduled episode, where I just show up with a mic/recorder at a hangout with friends and record what’s being said. No need for formality.
How do you decide on topics? What topics do you think come up again and again? And what topics do you avoid?
As a general rule, we stay away from the topics of government and religion. We pick topics we know well. When in doubt, I always just think: “would I listen to this episode?” We like sci-fi, pop culture, fitness, the internet, music, the sciences, languages, literature; these things interest us, and we try to stay within the bounds of our interests. Otherwise, they come off as pretentious. Nobody wants that.
We always seem to come back to topics about Jeddah, which is a good thing. There are many episodes about our culture here, what it’s like to live here, what places we go to, what we do at certain social situations.
You were mentioned on BBC a few months ago, what was that like?
That was a nice spike in our traffic. I wish I could say it propelled us to celebrity status.
Do you think you are contributing to some sort of change in Saudi Arabia or in the way the rest of the world might view Saudi and its people?
That’s huge. The quick answer is “no”. We’re not political. We like information, and we like entertainment, and that’s what we have to offer.
We’re implementing some (good) changes, or additions, to the podcast as we speak. We are going to introduce more team members, more podcasts and more segments. If this contributes some good to the society, hey, how about that.