Dominating a Podcast Niche

Episode 136 on the Business Bites Podcast

Content is king. That has never been more true than right now. It can be daunting to think about content creation for your business, podcast, YouTube channel, book, etc. On this episode, Heather and Christie from Sinisterhood discuss their podcast, how they started, and what it took to be successful.

They met in 2016 at the Dallas Comedy House (now closed), and bonded over their shared passion of learning about murder and cults. They recorded their two-person group meetings where they discussed the topic “just incase anything fun” happened. That evolved into what you hear today.

Since then, they’ve become a top crime and mystery podcast. They make money talking about a subject they love, and have fun doing it. That is something that will make you successful. Find something you’re proud of, something you love, and just go for it.

One of the biggest things that keeps people from starting anything new is fear. And one fear many people have is the fear of rejection and negativity. How do you combat that? Don’t feed into the negativity. Don’t read reviews. Do something you’re passionate about. Create something you would want to listen to or read. If you do that, the content will flow, and your audience will feel the passion and authenticity that will keep them going back for more.

I think that’s important for anyone starting a podcast is if you want to do it, just do it, because you learn so much as you go. And the podcast that you think you might want to create at the beginning might transition into something totally else, but we’ve learned so much over the past two years to get us where we are now. We still learn, all the time.

Christie Wallace

What you will learn:

    • How to start monetizing your show [10:44]
    • Dealing with reviews [19:21]
    • Why Christie and Heather decided it was time to start utilizing Patreon
    • and more!

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN.

Mentioned in this episode:

Read Episode Transcript

Rachel Brenke:
All right friends, my pits are sweating, I’m out of breath. I just finished this episode with two of my favorite podcasters in the entire world, so please go ahead and forgive me now when you hear me stumble over myself, fangirl, and just try to ask all the questions I can in this short episode. I’m interviewing the ladies from Sinisterhood podcast. It’s going to be episode 136, so as always, you’ll find the show notes at rachelbrenke.com/epi136. Come in with us, you’re going to learn all about podcasting, how to start monetizing, dealing with reviews, Patreon, and so forth. If you’ve been thinking about podcasting or even just content creating, whether it’s YouTube, blog, book, anything. This is great information for you, plus you get to see me off my game a little bit. So come on and let’s listen.

Speaker 2:
Welcome to The Business Bites Podcast. The podcast for busy entrepreneurs. Whether you’re an online entrepreneur or seeking after brick and mortar success, this podcast brings you quick bites of content so you can learn and grow anywhere you are. Now here’s your host, Rachel Brenke.

Rachel Brenke:
Hey y’all, welcome to another week of the Business Bites Podcast, my name is Rachel Brenke, and you’re in for a real treat today. We have celebrity podcast guests, the duo from Sinisterhood podcast. Heather and Christie, I’m so excited to have y’all.

Christie:
Thank you for having us. We’re excited to be here.

Heather:
Yeah, thank you.

Rachel Brenke:
Yeah, and by the way, my y’alls are already slipping out, because of [inaudible 00:02:24].

Heather:
I love it.

Rachel Brenke:
Awesome. Well, I am a huge fan. A lot of listeners are big fans. I want to start from the very beginning. How you got into podcasting. I’ll through it to either of you that wants to talk about how you … I know you’re childhood friends, connected with each other, but how did you really think to dig into crime and comedy?

Christie:
Well, we’re actually not childhood friends, although we’re children at heart. We met, what was it Heather?

Heather:
2016?

Christie:
2016, yeah. 2016 we met through Dallas Comedy House which is where we both performed regularly. And at the time a docuseries was out called The Keepers. I don’t know if you watched that, Rachel, on Netflix. I was really intrigued by it and how these women were solving these cold cases. And I kind of started talking to my husband, and I was like, “Do you think there’re book clubs, but instead just people sit around and talk about murder and cults?”

Christie:
And he was like, “I don’t know, but you could start one.” And I was like, “That’s a really good idea.” So I reached out on a Facebook group through the Dallas Comedy House, it’s an all women’s group, and I just put it out there, “Hey, does anybody want to sit around and just talk about this stuff?” And Heather was like, “Hell yeah, I do.” And we got together and at first we didn’t really have the intention of it being a podcast, although we did record it just in case anything fun happened. It was kind of, yeah, that’s the way it got started. As the ball started rolling we decided we probably should get a format together and figure out our roles better and everything. That all kind of fell into place around episode 13.

Rachel Brenke:
I love it. Well, and as you know, it’s funny, the whole childhood thing, and you’re like, “It was just a couple years ago.” And I’m like, “Dude, pandemic. It feels like it’s been 30 years.”

Heather:
True.

Christie:
We’re all 75 years old now.

Rachel Brenke:
Oh my god, I feel that some days. But you know, we’ll get to talking a little bit about pandemic and how that’s impacted your podcasting. You all got into this talking about crime, improv, comedy, and if y’all haven’t listened, by the way, just listen to their hit podcast. It is hilarious. I listen to y’all on my long runs and I’ll just start laughing maniacally running down my street. And like partnering that with serial killer talk and my neighbors are like, “What the hell is going on?” But it’s funny and I love learning, which sounds kind of really weird. But I love learning about serial killers.

Rachel Brenke:
And you guys don’t even do just serial killers, it’s all crime stuff. I mean, we got cults and … What are some of the other topics that you guys touch on?

Heather:
We kind of try to cover anything that interests us. And usually it’s something that’s more of the macabre or it has legal issues or things like that. Like the last two we just did were about the #FreeBritney movement. So that’s not really true crime in the sense that you might think of Ted Bundy, who we’ve also covered, but it’s definitely crime possibly happening against her. We don’t know, we cover it in the show, but it’s something that’s in the news that people, a million people, it’s not even an exaggeration, DM’d us to talk about it, and so once we started looking into it, we’re like, “Oh, there’s something, a mystery here.”

Heather:
So it’s anything that kind of piques our interest as far as like Christie said, it’s a book club where we wanted to solve mysteries or solve crimes. So we’re kind of doing it. We’re like Scooby Doo without the van and instead of Scooby Doo, Christie has a pet pig.

Heather:
And we’re working on the van. We’re working on the van.

Rachel Brenke:
I love it. You mentioned a couple of times finding a format. How much work did you go into finding a format? Or do you … You both do improv and comedy, so was it just a natural thing together or did you really have to work on finding a format and a cadence?

Heather:
As far as cadence, I think we have always naturally played off each other pretty well and we perform together on stage and we’re really good friends before we started things. So just having that natural banter going into it, I think, helped us a lot. Regarding the format, in the beginning, if we go back and look at our notes for early episodes, I mean, we just laugh at how unusable they are at this point. Because we’re like, “What does this even mean?” It’s just bullet points of random words, we don’t even know what we were trying to say. Around episode 13 is when we really started fleshing out a script that we write together that is based on research that we each independently do. So we kind of have to tell this story that is pre-written, and then at breaks within the story is when we banter with each other, tell personal stories that relate to whatever topic we’re discussing and things like that. So I think probably around episode 13 is when we really started to figure that out.

Christie:
I think the most important thing is we both like hearing stories the same way. So we would get frustrated either hearing other, not necessarily just podcasts, but even certain documentaries or TV shows and they’re telling it out of order. And that works if you’re Quentin Tarantino, but sometimes for us, for a mystery, we’re like, “We want to start they were born this day, this is how they grew up,” especially with some of these more heinous criminals. Or a criminal like we covered Aaron Rodriguez, who is someone who seemingly has it all and then suddenly starts committing crimes. It’s like, “Well, if you start digging back in his childhood, it’s not so sudden.”

Christie:
So we liked that idea of saying, “Okay, let’s start at the beginning.” It makes me think of writing a brief for a law case that you’re going to do in law school where it’s like, “What are the facts? This started this day. This is what happened.” And the banter, kind of like she said, comes off of that.

Rachel Brenke:
Well, I have to admit something, I do cheat on y’all some week. I listen to other podcasts, but-

Heather:
That’s totally fine.

Rachel Brenke:
… same topics, but oftentimes … And actually, by the way, I have to say I get pissed, and probably it’s not justified, but I get so mad when I hear other podcasts go, “Oh yeah, we totally got this from Sinisterhood.” I’m like, “That’s their work, don’t take it from them.”

Rachel Brenke:
So I like listening, you’re talking about the format, I love the format that y’all have. I’m all about the background story, getting to know … Not just the legal aspects, Heather, like you like to dig into, but Christie, definitely when you bring in talking about psychological and history and how this all came about as opposed to just the morbid portion of everything. So I like listening to other podcasts, to supplement too, just to see what other people’s perspective might be. But I always start here just because the format is really good. It is a good, comprehensive way to look at that.

Rachel Brenke:
When you … Actually, you kind of mentioned it a little bit ago, about the working together on research, so I’m assuming you guys are 50/50 on each episode or do you tag team who does more work? What does that look like?

Christie:
Well, we tag team it, I would say. There are some episodes where Heather probably contributes more notes or there’s some episodes where I probably contribute more notes, but, in my opinion, it all evens out in the end. And it’s a team effort, so it doesn’t really matter who’s pulling the most work that week because we know it’ll balance out in the end.

Christie:
In addition to that, we do split up the tasks of responding to social media, managing our Patreon, managing our merch store, Gmail, all sorts of things. So we kind of have a whole other side of the podcast going on in addition to just producing the show each week. All in all we’ve figured out that independently we each spend about 30 to 35 hours working on the show, in addition to Heather being a full-time lawyer and me being a full-time mom. So it’s definitely for us become a transition into a more job and a nice source of income as well.

Rachel Brenke:
That was one of the key things I wanted to ask you ladies about. Because I feel like you’re pretty transparent in the beginning of podcasting, I feel like you alluded to, “Oh, we’re going to keep it as ad free as much as possible.” But then you transitioned to this monetized strategy. Which, by the way, I was super thrilled that you did because I know it’s a lot of work goes into it and you deserve to be compensated for your time. What made you decide to do that transition?

Heather:
Well, I think it’s like owning a billboard and not putting anything on it. Especially as the audience grew and then people started reaching out to us. I mean, our very first advertiser was a fan who created feminist kind of clothing and some of it was kind of spooky and it kind of dovetailed with what we were doing and so we look at each other and go, “How much do we sell an ad for? I don’t know.” And we start googling and trying to figure that out. And then from there we got approached by a larger … middleman ad company. Where they say, “We’re going to broker a deal. These are our clients. We think that they may like you.”

Heather:
So it was sort of was … not handed to us, but I mean, it sort of … They came knocking, and probably earlier, much earlier, we probably could have started pounding the pavement, but we were just plugging along, enjoying what we were doing. But the more it’s grown, and I think the more effort that we put into it … We’ve always put a ton of effort into the research, but then managing the Patreon, interacting with a much larger social media following, and especially with our Patreons, specifically, it is such a … Not a drain on the time, but it’s time it takes away from doing the podcast or, I don’t know, watching TV, sitting around, going for a walk. So it does feel much more fulfilling when not only are you doing something that you love, but that you can pay your student loans.

Christie:
Sure, yes.

Rachel Brenke:
Mm-hmm (affirmative). And just for some context for the audience, you guys launched Sinisterhood in May 2018, just seven months later the show broke an iTunes top 10 comedy podcast and also was a Spotify featured podcast. So seven, 10 months after launching you had hit one million downloads and now you’re at over 10 million. So for me, it’s not that this was just luck of the draw, obviously, you had the fan base and I agree with you. I think y’all could have done it sooner. Was there some internal resistance to being monetized sooner or was it just kind of like, “Well, let’s just see what happens?”

Christie:
I definitely do not recall a conversation where Heather and I said, “Let’s not make money.” I don’t think it was an internal resistance.

Heather:
Mm-mm (negative).

Christie:
With the ads, like she said, we kind of … I’m kind of a pessimist at times-

Heather:
No.

Christie:
… and I just assumed … Especially when podcasting as opposed to performing comedy live, like we were used to doing, it’s hard to gauge is people are really into what you’re doing. I mean, you have download numbers to look at, you can see how many people are following you on social media, although those numbers will never be as high as how many people are actually listening to you. So as Heather likes to say, “We kind of feel sometimes like we’re screaming into the void. Especially in the beginning, we didn’t know if people were super into it, so I think maybe in the beginning we just thought, “Oh, I don’t know if anybody would want to advertise on this.”

Christie:
When we broke into the top 10, I emailed our hosting site, because I thought the download numbers were wrong. Because I was convinced that there was no way we had done that yet, but we had and that’s super fulfilling. It’s just with a live comedy performance you have an audience right there giving you feedback. With podcasting, unless people start writing reviews or contacting you, you don’t really know how to feel about stuff. I do know with the Patreon, we had kind of toyed with that a bit, but then we really started thinking about doing that once people started reaching out to us, asking if we had one they could donate to. So when that happened we were like, “Okay, people want to give us money. We’re not going to say no. So let’s figure this out.” And we’ve really seen some growth with that over the past year and a half, too, that we’re really proud of. And we also do a lot of extra work for that, too.

Heather:
I was going to say initially we didn’t know what our downloads were, because we were on Squarespace and we didn’t have a third-party counter and we didn’t really … So Christie is an amazing researcher, as always, and was like, “Here’s all the podcast host companies, here’s their cost, here’s their benefits.” We ended up going with Fireside and they’ve been able to give us the accurate numbers and they’re compliant and everything that we could then reach out on our behalf once we decided we wanted to monetize. Then once we looked at some websites that said, “Oh, if you have X many downloads, you can get this many dollars for an ad.” We’re like, “Well, hell. What are we sitting on?”

Christie:
Yeah, and we reached out to some friends that also have other successful podcasts to kind of get their take on stuff. So it’s really been, I mean, completely self-taught. And I think that’s important for anyone starting a podcast is if you want to do it, just do it, because you learn so much as you go. And the podcast that you think you might want to create at the beginning might transition into something totally else, but we’ve learned so much over the past two years to get us where we are now. We still learn, all the time.

Rachel Brenke:
Do you visualize a specific type of listener when you’re creating these? Or are you really going based on your gut, how you feel, and put it out there?

Heather:
We only cover stuff that makes us interested and I only try to say stuff to make Christie laugh.

Christie:
Same, yeah. That’s a good question though as far as visualizing listeners. I know from our metrics that our listeners are primarily 18 to 34 and it’s, I believe, it’s 96% women. So that’s who I envision when I think of who listens. But yeah, from the beginning we’ve always kind of said, and I think we would both agree with this about anything, if you’re not passionate about it, then don’t bother doing it because it’s not going to sell. You know, we have to be interested in it for our audience to be interested in it. So we only cover topics that we would want to do.

Christie:
We get requests for stuff all the time, and we say, “We’re sorry, we just don’t cover that type of stuff, because it’s just not stuff we want to spend our time researching.” While we’re in to morbid stuff, we have lines that we don’t like to cross. We don’t want to stay up all night reading about the most horrific child crimes that the world’s ever seen. So you know, we don’t do that kind of stuff. But as long as we’re doing stuff we like, and we’re making each other laugh, then that’s all I’m too concerned about.

Heather:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Rachel Brenke:
So when you mentioned passion, I’ve noticed this on a few episodes, and I think I only noticed the editing because I do podcasting as well. But I can tell sometimes, and it’s not poorly done at all, so Tommy, bravo … But I could tell that maybe you went too far off the topic and you cut it out or wanted to shorten it. What does the post-production process look like? Or when you catch yourself going completely down a rabbit trail?

Christie:
So post-production, once we record I will go back and listen for edits and then I write down every time stamp of where we need to edit something out. I give it to Tommy and he goes in and does that for us. We really don’t edit out … It just might be, and I’ll talk to him about this, the way it’s clipped together-

Rachel Brenke:
I feel bad. Don’t tell him I said this.

Christie:
We really don’t edit out … I can’t think of any time we’ve cut a significant chunk of audio out or anything or like that. It’s usually because I stumble over the words I’m saying in the script a million times, or one of bumps a mic or a dog barks or something like that. Very rarely do we edit out actual content.

Heather:
No, we got to keep that banter in.

Christie:
Yeah, yeah.

Rachel Brenke:
Well, damn. I was like, “What jewels are they leaving out and cutting out?” Now the mystery’s gone.

Christie:
Really none, really none. Yeah.

Heather:
You get all the jewels.

Christie:
We were saying we should have a blooper reel though. Not to put you on blast that you had a little blooper and we had to restart this at the beginning, but I think Tommy does actually clip out things were we do mess up or make each other laugh that doesn’t make it into the show.

Heather:
Doesn’t he have a folder of us burping into the mic sometimes?

Christie:
He has that folder.

Rachel Brenke:
Just do a blooper reel. That would make my pandemic. That’s awesome. You mentioned a little bit ago, Christie, I believe, on reviews. How do y’all handle negative reviews? I mean, you both have the attitude of what the eff. I mean, is it really what the eff or how seriously do you take negative reviews?

Christie:
I don’t read reviews and I don’t believe Heather does either.

Rachel Brenke:
Oh really?

Christie:
In the very beginning when we were first starting out, we’d have 10 new iTunes reviews. I’d read those or whatever, but then it got to be … You know like with anything the bigger you get the more people are listening and the more opinions are out there. And I just don’t want to read all that. 98% of the time it’s good stuff that people say, but the negative stuff … Heather and I are both kind of under the opinion of why bother consuming negative information if we’re not going to change how we do things.

Heather:
I do try to avoid reading the iTunes reviews, although when we first started my mom would go, “Do you want to know what someone said about you?” It’s like, “No, I don’t.”

Christie:
No, no, please don’t tell us.

Heather:
Since I answer the social media, if someone tags us in something that’s nasty, like I’m going to see it. And I don’t respond, we don’t get into fights with people. If there’s 10 million podcasts, if you don’t like what I’m saying, turn it off. How about that? But this guy tweeted us, maybe three or four months ago, and he said, “I hate podcasts like My Favorite Murder and Sinisterhood because they talk too much.”

Rachel Brenke:
Oh my god.

Heather:
And I thought, “Oh, honey, if you don’t like talking, maybe a podcast isn’t for you.” But I couldn’t help myself, because it was such a bizarre thing to be pissed about. His whole entire page, he was yelling at Conan O’Brien, and Beyoncé, and the NFL, and Planet Fitness. He was mad at Comcast. And I thought, “Okay, this is just a person that that’s all they do. They’re a professional griper.”

Heather:
So a lot of times though, if I see something that’s nasty I’ll either block them or straight up ignore them except for this when I went down a rabbit trail of what is your life like? But for the most part it’s like you can’t … You’re not going to please everybody, so what are we going to … Like Christie said, “Even if it is a nice thing, we’re not going to do more of that.” We’re going to do what we’re going to do, as far as I’m concerned the two people that are most important to the show is me and Christie. Also, I mean, Tommy obviously because he’s like-

Christie:
And Tommy.

Heather:
But, I mean, as far as like content, we’re trying to make each other laugh. We’re the ones on the air. That’s my thing is if Christie’s happy, then I’m happy. And if someone wants to tweet us, just go to town, sir.

Rachel Brenke:
Okay, that’s [inaudible 00:21:55].

Christie:
Also, I think I’m personally thrilled to be on the same list as Beyoncé, Comcast, and Conan O’Brien.

Heather:
Yes, that’s what I said, he was yelling about the Popeye’s chicken sandwich. I was like, “Everybody’s talking about the Popeye’s chicken sandwich. We have made it you guys.”

Christie:
Yeah.

Heather:
I wrote a whole blog post about, I was so excited.

Christie:
You’re never going to please everyone, but if you’re pleasing the majority, then I say keep doing what you’re doing. Because if you start letting those negative few and far between comments get to you … And if we tweaked our show based on those, then there are got be diehard listeners that have listened from the beginning that are like, “I don’t like this changes they’ve made, so.”

Christie:
If the majority of the people like what you’re doing, then if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Heather:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Rachel Brenke:
And I agree. I think the same thing for when it comes to advertisers. Kind of scooping back to what we talked about earlier, that was one of my apprehensions in the beginning of taking advertisers. Because I’d had a bad taste from dealing with a publisher. I get it, different formats, but I just was afraid of being censored, first of all. But of having my scope of my conversation or how I presented myself being completely different. I love this. I hope y’all listening that are going to podcasting or any other content creation, that you go check out Sinisterhood. Listen to how … Obviously, their passion about the topics and it has resulted in … And I think that’s my thing, I’m asking you questions and coaching you ladies down, like, “What are these things on this imaginary business checklist that you’ve done,” but you’re not subscribing to a specific checklist. What is shining through is the commitment, and the passion, and the obviously talent to execute this.

Rachel Brenke:
Which brings me to, Heather, I have to know, attorney to attorney, how much additional legal research are you doing for these different podcasts? Have you done criminal work? I remember there was an episode about space law at one point.

Heather:
I did an internship at NASA. No, I’m kidding. I’ve never done space law. I studied aviation law a little bit in law school because I worked for a pilot at the time. So it was actually just happenstance that I was familiar with that. But I do, for the notes I give to Christie, I’ll sometimes put in parentheses. Like with all the conservatorship stuff with Britney Spears, I mean, I could have put paragraphs and paragraphs, and I just put parentheses, “I’ll talk about conservatorship out loud.”

Heather:
There was another one that we did, I can’t remember what it was, but it was something to do with evidence that was being excluded in a trial and, maybe it was Amanda Knox, and I typed a whole long thing out and Christie just said, “Can you just summarize this verbally?” Because it doesn’t really make sense if she’s reading the script, she reads it out loud and then I talk about it. So she’ll just be like, mention it, and kind of throw it to me. So I do, in addition to the notes that I type in and I’ll put a little side note to her, like “I can talk about X issue,” then I’ll go on on my own and I don’t take notes on it that I put in the show outline, I just keep a little note for myself of stuff that I want to talk about.

Heather:
Like with the Britney Spears conservatorship stuff, I had cites to the probate code and things like that and different names of the different forms that they filled out to get conservatorship over her. Stuff like that didn’t really need to be in the outline, but if we were talking about, “Well, why would they say that she had dementia?” And I’m like, “Oh, on this form it asks this question, and that form does this.” So I do a lot of legal research that doesn’t make it into the script part of it. Because early on, I would kind of do the bare minimum of research for the script and Christie would ask me a question and I’d go, “Well, damn it, I got to pause and look it up. I don’t know.” Because I don’t know laws of every jurisdiction.

Heather:
I don’t know quite when this will air, but in the future we are doing one that’s an international law case and so I turned my notes into Christie and now I’m reading law review articles about kind of how the criminal justice system works in this other country just so I’m more familiar with it and not having to pause and Google while we’re in the middle of a show.

Rachel Brenke:
I know for me, I don’t do criminal law, I’m all business.

Heather:
Same.

Rachel Brenke:
So I enjoyed having the nuggets of business law. I’m sorry, criminal law in episodes. Because that really helps me as the lawyer brain to have some context of really what’s going on. And I love the way that y’all explain the different things, especially when you go into evidence, and talking about how maybe police departments have botched certain things because they would never do that. But it’s nice to have that kind of context, not just the facts of the case, but the interpretation. So do you have kind of a line of how far you’ll go? I mean, you talk about making it a brief understanding. Is it just more of a natural inclination, I feel like you’re just a natural teacher of this stuff, or do you kind of have to rein yourself in as an attorney not to go too legal out of the box?

Heather:
Well, I did. I was an assistant professor at the law school for about two years. And you can kind of tell when people get a glazed look in their eye and it’s great to record with another person, because if it were just me I would probably just go and go and go. Whereas Christie will ask really great, thoughtful, juicy questions that’ll get me going then bring it back to the topic at hand. So she’s very good at reining me in if I start going.

Heather:
But to answer your earlier question though, I don’t have any criminal law experience, except for interning for a federal judge that did a federal criminal docket, but that’s way different crimes than the crimes we cover.

Christie:
Well Heather does a fantastic job of explaining all the legal stuff in a way that’s really understandable to people that aren’t lawyers like myself. So I think it’s helpful that I don’t have that background, because the questions I ask are hopefully also questions that listeners might be having while they’re listening. But she explains the legalese in a really unpretentious, understandable way that I think … That and the research that we do, I think, really sets our podcast apart from others. Because true crime genre is saturated if you didn’t know.

Rachel Brenke:
100%. I think that is one of the things is that when you’re looking around, trying to create a podcast, especially in a niche, like you said, that is so saturated. It’s identifying what makes you happy, like y’all talked about. What makes you passionate, so you enjoy the 30, 40 hours per week. But also how do you set yourselves apart?

Rachel Brenke:
I feel like y’all have probably naturally set yourselves apart just with the comedy, with the crime and mystery, but also having the experience and the … I don’t want to say uncensored, it’s not like you guys are uncouth in your thing, but you let it all out. What you think and what you feel about the different topics. And I think that’s really refreshing when there’s so many similar podcasts … Well, podcasts in a similar field, but they’re very cut and dry. Cut to the facts and that’s kind of it.

Christie:
Yeah, I think we pride ourselves on, and it’s just a natural thing because that’s both how we are, being very sensitive to victims and stories and everything. We hear a lot from listeners that they really appreciate that, too. Because occasionally in true crime podcasts people can get kind of amped up by the juicy details and stuff and forget that this was a person with a family and we should show some sensitivity to it. So I think that sets us apart.

Christie:
But like you said, too, just kind of being friends and having natural comedic banter and we’re both researchers who really enjoy well-thought out planned sequential stories. So kind of just all came together that we produce something that we’re proud of.

Rachel Brenke:
I’m glad you mentioned that about being honoring and vigilant in how you showcase it because of the victims. Because I’ve had people say to me, probably when I’ve shared about your podcast or other crime podcasts, they’re like, “That’s so morbid. Why would you use someone’s worst day for your enjoyment?” And I’ve always stopped and go, “Oh, damn. They kind of have a point.”

Christie:
Yeah, I agree. That is a good point. And that’s one that we don’t take lightly. So when we are talking about someone’s … The worst thing that’s ever happened to someone’s family or in their life, we always make sure to stay really compassionate about everything that they went through and never victim blame. Any time we’re making … Because people hear true crime comedy, they’re like, “How can you be funny about true crime?”

Christie:
We’re not being funny about the crimes, we’re being funny about ourselves and making fun of ourselves. So whatever the topic may be, it may remind us of something and kind of we springboard to a personal story from our childhood. Like when Heather talked about her mom hitting her with the car. But it was just to teach her a lesson, so it was fine. So we’re not making fun of the story we’re telling, or the people in the story, we’re making fun of ourselves.

Heather:
I think there is also a tendency, not with all true crime podcasts, but sort of in that area of true crime, it starts to bend towards almost fandom for the perpetrators. And we are far away from that and I think really try to break down the stuff that they did, and who they were and why they did what they did. But never say, “Oh, I love Ted Bundy. I’d love to have a T-shirt with his face.” It’s really more into being respectful of the victims and then also acknowledging the monstrosities these people did and that the victims didn’t do anything to deserve it.

Rachel Brenke:
One of my takeaways as a listener, I’m not in this field, is I can look for things that would be red flags when I get into situations or help teach my children or even my girlfriends, you know, when you go to bars and this and that sort of thing. Looking for those types of red flags. But also, and we’re going down a really serious path, but recognizing the trauma that others experience and just kind of adding that humanistic point of it. And like you said, less about the fandom and more about connection with how the family’s feeling and what we can do … And this is the lawyer part of me, what can we do as a society to not have these sort of tragedies occur? What is something we can do in our communities.

Rachel Brenke:
Yeah, for me, those are the heavy takeaways that I get. I mean, I love the comedy. Especially, one of my favorite stories is the diarrhea in the-

Heather:
Oh god.

Rachel Brenke:
… Albertson’s parking lot.

Heather:
Yeah. That’s a classic. That’s episode 13, that’s where it all starts.

Rachel Brenke:
Where it all starts. If y’all need a good one to start with to know what we’re talking about with that would be a perfect episode. So all right, ladies this has been fabulous. Before we wrap up, if there’s an aspiring podcaster listening, what is maybe a mistake or a change that you would make from the beginning? Maybe from the first 13 episodes to now that you would have changed?

Christie:
Good question. Heather, I’m going to throw that to you while I think about it.

Heather:
Well, don’t try to record in a very echo-y conference room.

Christie:
That’s true.

Heather:
No, I would say just do what … I would say, don’t reinvent the wheel. What we did, I literally say I googled, “What equipment does Last Podcast on the Left use?” And there was some article that they got written about, talking about different microphones. I googled, “What does Marc Maron’s garage look like?” Because the Last Podcast guys are recording in the studio, I’m like, “We don’t have that.” For a while we’ve recorded in a studio, just with a friend, but now we’re going to have to do it in our house, what does Marc Maron do to soundproof his garage?

Heather:
So we were googling what other successful kind of things worked for do-it-yourselfers like us, but we’re not going to go be in a professional studio. And so we didn’t reinvent the wheel. But we did our own research. I didn’t email Marc Maron and go, “Hey man, what does your studio look like?” I googled it, because here’s the thing, you just ask a question on the internet and then it tells you. I would say do that, kind of find people that are doing something similar to you, like where he was doing it at home and go down that path and research that. Because that helped us, although we started looking a little too late, it was after about 20 episodes.

Christie:
Stand on the shoulders of giants. Yeah, I would say that from a technical standpoint with your audio, do as much as you can beforehand to make your audio sound good. So you have very little to do in post. Soundproofing the room you’re going to be in. And you don’t have to go out and spend thousands of dollars on microphones and mixers and stuff like that. And now they even have podcast kits that are very easy to set up and come in different price points. So just spend a little bit of time researching that and trying to get your audio to sound as good as possible before you record, so you have less to do after.

Christie:
In addition, people always ask us like, “What is the secret to doing this?” And we’re always like, “If we knew we would tell you.”

Heather:
We would have done it earlier.

Christie:
Yeah. I think for us, and what we always tell everyone is, “Put out good consistent content.” And that’s what we really try to do. Remain consistent, so you’re not falling off of people’s radar. But also have it be something you’re proud of and have it be something that people are going to want to listen to.

Rachel Brenke:
And I actually have one question to dovetail off of this, and I’m not calling any other crime podcast out, but there was a hullabaloo in the last few years about copyright infringement, plagiarism, failure to attribute things, and as an intellectual property attorney and [inaudible 00:35:15] I was like, “What?” And listening to that podcast, what is your line for inspiration or quoting of sources, how do y’all package and present that?

Heather:
Well, I always say that Christie’s tougher than any law review professor or any partner I’ve worked with at a big law firm. She’s always like, “Where did this come from? Let’s source it.” Nothing, nothing, nothing that goes into the show is not our own language unless it’s literally quoted. And then it’s highlighted in yellow and I do a dumb voice. That’s how you know we didn’t write it.

Heather:
So my undergrad degree is in creative non-fiction writing, so this is right up my alley to write this type of stuff and Christie’s an amazing researcher and puts it into our own words. So I don’t know the path of others, I, as a lawyer and a person who is aware of lawsuits, I just cannot fathom putting something on the air that I, myself, did not write. But don’t fall into that trap. I know some shows just straight up read off of Wikipedia, which I don’t think … You’re the IP lawyer, I don’t think that’s illegal, but I don’t think you could then publish the transcript and say it’s something you did.

Heather:
Everything that goes in, I mean, I’ll send my notes in and if I haven’t clearly said, “According to blah, blah, blah source,” and then summarizing it, I’ll literally get an all caps note from Christie that says, “Source?” question mark. And then I go through and source it or whatever. Everything is sourced and footnoted and we upload it to our website where there’s a button that says Show Notes and you can see all of our sources.

Rachel Brenke:
Fantastic. Not that I know of any other large podcast that has done that, just hypothetical question.

Heather:
Hypothetically though, is that … If someone started a podcast, this is me genuinely putting you on the spot-

Rachel Brenke:
What?

Heather:
… can you just read Wikipedia? What’s the deal with that? It doesn’t seem …

Rachel Brenke:
The problem with Wikipedia, it’s like crowdsource, so who really owns it? And I honestly wouldn’t rely on the legitimacy of Wikipedia. I’d probably use it as an off-the-cuff at a bar type conversation to look at, like a quick answer. But I wouldn’t rep the content of my podcast or anything else. Maybe as a starting point, because oftentimes it has footnotes and that sort of stuff that you can click through, but I would not solely rely upon it. And it’s really not protectable at that point, because it’s not your original work.

Heather:
That’s what I was going to say, I don’t mean like if it’s legit, but I mean if someone just read it off and presented it as their own. Are you able to sell that podcast? Who owns it? I don’t know. Interesting questions.

Rachel Brenke:
Nobody. I just don’t think it’d be protectable at all. I don’t know. That’s a good question. Damn it, Heather.

Heather:
I’m sorry, I stumped you. That’s the worst thing. Lawyer to lawyer, that’s the meanest thing I could have did. But I thought it’d be an odd … That’ll be a follow-up episode we’ll do.

Rachel Brenke:
I mean, it’s a-

Christie:
Yeah, or a mini-sode.

Rachel Brenke:
… gray area. I think the bottom line is knowing the source, where it comes from, and getting inspiration. Even listening to other podcasts, I know y’all mentioned have you seen the Netflix documentary, and you even talk about the stuff that happens in the documentary and you reference the director or the person being interviews and that sort of stuff. I think that is really good, it gives me context, too, because then I’m like, “Ooh, I have a documentary to watch tonight.” It provides the audience a way to know that that’s not your direct quotes, it gives a good fun attribution without necessarily having to be like, “Then the sheriff said …” quote, “Blah, blah, blah.” End quote.

Rachel Brenke:
I mean, you guys read really well, and I know this is a huge thing when it comes to reporters, definitely. And that was part of what that big issue last year was and I’m starting to see a lot more podcasters and YouTubers that are just reading off, like you said, articles. It’s popping up everywhere. So bottom line, if you’re creating content, you can be inspired, but create it yourself. Don’t simply read off of an article and then try to claim it as your own.

Heather:
Well, I think we kind of … We don’t fall into that because we do a lot of primary source research, like I go to court filings and I’ll read … For the Britney Spears stuff, I was reading the motions and reading the files. So it’s me summarizing a court document and so you don’t fall into that versus reading somebody else’s article.

Christie:
Yeah, I’d like to … We kind of have different styles of how we like to consume information. Heather likes to listen to a lot of audio books and stuff. I prefer documentaries and reading articles, so unless I had transcript of the documentary, it’s going to be summarized in my own words, because that’s how we’re consuming the information. But we also, like she said, we cite every single source. With this most recent Britney Spears one, there’s probably 85 links-

Rachel Brenke:
Wow.

Christie:
… of different things in our show notes that we use to gather all of our information. And that’s published on our website as well. So anybody can go to that and see where we’ve pulled our information to make sure it’s factual.

Heather:
We’re both just very anal retentives.

Christie:
That’s true, yes. And also Heather does not want us to get sued. So we-

Heather:
And I personally don’t want to get disbarred. So …

Christie:
… so we make a point to say, “These are our opinions,” you can’t sue someone for having an opinion. And then anything that is more in the script that is factual, we’re getting from other resources that have vetted where they got that from.

Rachel Brenke:
And it’s all about credibility. This even circles back to talking about having advertisers and building an audience base. Like I said, I’ll listen on one topic three or four different podcasts within the same time period as well as the documentary, and I’ll hear conflicting information. And I’ll go, “Who was right?” Of course, I’ll rely on you ladies as my primary source, but I’ll go, “Wait a minute, they said four witnesses and that one said two witnesses.”

Rachel Brenke:
And so I think it’s also about being consistent in the credibility and once you lose that maybe your audience so much may not necessarily care … I don’t know what happened with that other major podcast, I fell off, but then I’m an IP lawyer. I’m not all about supporting someone that does that, but advertisers are definitely not going to be doling out cash to support someone that has that type of controversy.

Heather:
Yeah, I would just worry about liability, or like you said, reputational problems, but I don’t know. Some people are juggernauts, something may not take them down. So it could work out.

Christie:
We also, because we research stuff independently, and there are times where Heather’s notes will say, “There were four witnesses, blah, blah, blah.” And then I’ll read something where it was there are two. And I don’t know which one of us … I’m not going to say she’s wrong and I’m right, so we’ll just put in the outline, “Conflicting reports, some say there are four, some say there are two.” And we’ll cite the sources, because like you said, it’s hard to know who’s right and it’s not really up to us to make that call.

Rachel Brenke:
I love that. Well ladies, thank you so much for taking your time. I know, extremely busy, putting out great content, dealing and interacting with everyone that you need to get the information to. I appreciate this so much. All y’all listening, if you are interested in podcasting, this is an episode to re-listen to, good nuggets out of it.

Rachel Brenke:
As always, hope in to the Business Bites Facebook group. We will have a dedicated thread to this and you can share about your podcast or other content creation sources and any tips, tricks, or any advisements that you may have for the other members of the group. Be fabulous and I will talk to you guys next week.

Speaker 2:
Thanks for joining Rachel on this episode of the Business Bites. For show notes, a list of recommended tools, or referenced episodes, you can find them at businessbitespodcast.com. Until next time.

Sinisterhood Heather headshot
Sinisterhood Christie headshot

Meet Heather and Christie

Dallas-based comedians and friends, Christie Wallace and Heather McKinney focus on a different true crime, cult, or creepy topic each week “and chat all things sinister in this funny and well-researched podcast.” (Marie Claire, 2020).

With a burning passion and desire to share their love of all things creepy, crime, and comedy with others, Christie and Heather launched Sinisterhood in May 2018. Just seven months later, the show broke into the iTunes Top 10 Comedy Podcasts and appeared as a Spotify Featured Podcast. Three months after that, an impressive milestone occurred with 1 million downloads. Now, two years after the show’s inception, Sinisterhood has been downloaded over 10,000,000 times. The show has been featured in Marie Claire, Vulture, AV Club, and Women’s Health and consistently appears on the Apple Podcasts Top Comedy chart.

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Hi, I’m Rachel Brenke

Rachel Brenke

As a mom, team USA athlete and cancer-survivor, I want a real life while I have a real business.  This is why my resources don’t promote hustle-culture, rather tough-love and no-holds-barred tips to achieving both.  In addition to this website, I have a top-ranked business podcast, been featured in places like Forbes and work 1:1 with so many of you.

Enough about me though. I am proud of you for pursuing entrepreneurship. It is rewarding and amazing.  Keep at it!

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