We’re seeing more and more of this from former on-air hosts who’ve been fired from their jobs. Especially from hosts who’ve been in the business for years and have accumulated a loyal following. While PD’s and managers fire them for not delivering a few ratings points, some hosts are going out on their own, from the comfort of their own homes, taking their listeners with them, and pulling in podcasting ad dollars.
Jeff Dauler has an impressive radio resume. He’s been the producer for Baltzar & Pebbles in Boston, Mojo & Betsy in Tucson, Chico in The Morning in Philadelphia and The Bert Show in Atlanta.
In 2016 he took a co-hosting job at Star 94.1 in Atlanta as part of the Jeff and Jenn show. He knew moving to the other side of the mic would be a risk. Unfortunately, the ratings were not where they needed to be and he was let go.
Rather than looking through the trades for jobs or sending out tapes to PDs all over the country, Jeff decided to see if the audience he did have in Atlanta would stick with him. He decided to become a podcaster. With his wife Callie, Jeff launched The Upside podcast.
(This is part one of a two-part interview)
PBJ: Tell us about your career in radio and what happened?
Jeff: I have been in radio since I was 19 and have always worked in morning radio. Three years ago I had the opportunity to do my own show here in Atlanta. I had always been a co-host or producer. I went across the street but it didn’t work out the way I wanted it to. In December, they sat me down and said “look this isn’t going well for anybody. We have to get bigger ratings and more revenue. We need you to hit these ratings goals in the next six months.” Six months later, I didn’t hit the numbers, they called me in and said we should go our separate ways, which we did. Not too long after that my wife and I had a conversation about a podcast she was starting and she said you should do this with me. We asked the station as part of the separation agreement if I could be a part of the podcast and they said yes. We launched in July 2019 and ended up #7 on the Apple podcast chart for three days.
PBJ: What was it like to be fired from the industry you worked in for 25 years?
Jeff: It was the first time in radio I had been fired so it was disappointing not to succeed. The advantage I had being in radio for as long as I had is I wasn’t blind to the writing on the wall. The company and market manager came to me in December and gave me the game plan. I knew that when I came over to a headline role and put my name on a show it was a big risk. It wasn’t unexpected but it was disappointing. I would’ve liked it to work out differently but the upside was it opened my eyes to the whole podcasting thing. Prior to that I had only been looking at it through a radio lens. I look at it completely differently now. It was definitely humbling.
PBJ: Tall about how the podcast gets started?
Callie: Jeff brought it to me. I thought he was nuts.
Jeff: I brought her the solo idea.
Callie: He brought a solo show to me as an expansion of my Instagram account and blog. We thought we would mess around and see how it goes. When the writing was on the wall I said to him, what if we did a podcast together. You could have creative control and do all the things that you’ve wanted to do but were limited by radio. He was totally into it and we dove in. With his radio knowledge it has been amazing.
PBJ: When you say Instagram account and blog can you tell us about that?
Callie: When I started dating Jeff and we got engaged people started following on my social media accounts because I was with him. I got a lot of day-to-day questions about how do you handle this or that. He suggested giving these questions a home and it kind of took on a life of its own. It is rooted in positivity, more of lifestyle blog. It took off as a side hustle turned job. There are a lot of ways to do a fashion lifestyle blog once you establish yourself online. There has been a surge of what they are calling mega and micro influencers, which are people who have a little bit of an Instagram following with followers who are really invested in what’s going on. They have less than 50k followers. There are websites and monetization platforms for that. Most major retailers will pay bloggers and influencers to refer their followers over. If the followers make purchases I would see a commission on that. Brands will call and say we know you like our brands can we pay you to talk about it more. It is similar to ad revenue but it’s on static Instagram page or blog post.
Jeff: I realized she was onto something when she was sick a year ago and taking meds at night. One night I poured Nyquil into a champagne glass for her. She took a picture of it and posted it on Instagram. Nyquil then reached out and said if we can re-post your photo and if you will post it again we’ll pay you.
Callie: When Jeff saw the money coming in he said I’m going to need you to do this a little more.
Jeff: If somebody contacts her and asks her what sunscreen or jeans or any product she uses, before she responds she can go to a directory and see if that item is listed. If it is she writes back with that link. If for example it’s a pair of jeans anyone who clicks on it and buys them she gets money.
Callie: There are articles about huge bloggers in Forbes and it has become a thing for advertisers. They want you to tell a friend about their product. People are invested in people they follow on Instagram as friends and they take recommendations from them. It is basically tell-a-friend but on a mega scale.
Radio Ink: How did you get 50K followers?
Callie: It started from Jeff. People were interested in me because of him. I just started talking on Instagram telling stories and people started listening and telling their friends. So word of mouth.
Radio Ink: Jeff you come up with an idea for Callie to do a show but that morphs into something you started together. Take us through that.
Jeff: Watching the evolution of her social media growth was super impressive to see the loyalty and the community she built. I kept encouraging her to grow it and podcasting seemed to be the natural next step. She used to do Instagram live shows. She would tell her followers, set up her phone, and 2,000 people would watch her for 30-45 minutes. They would ask her questions. She is very humble about it. I don’t think she realizes from a radio perspective how gifted she is at engaging with people. I kept encouraging her to do the podcast, it is Instagram live without the visual. I finally broke her down at the beginning of the year to do a weekly pep talk podcast. I would record her Instagram live, edit them, and have her put those up as a podcast. That was how it started. When I got fired she said why don’t you do the podcast with me. My initial response was I don’t think that would be allowed, but it was. It was a pleasant surprise and I thank them for that.
Radio Ink: Do you think where you are right now would have been possible without the build-up of the radio audience you had?
Jeff: No, it wouldn’t have been possible. I have been in Atlanta since 2001 so I have had a great and loyal following. They were excited to hear me somewhere else. What’s interesting is, when we launched, 88% of the audience was from Georgia. The rest of the audience was scattered. Now we are down to 65% Georgia — as people tell their friends, our audience outside Georgia grows. That is remarkable to me. We have a voicemail system so listeners can engage with the show. I check it everyday and 25% of the phone calls are from places like Florida, California, Canada, and Oregon.
Radio Ink: When you agreed to do a podcast together, how did you prepare, what did you think the content would be?
Jeff: We decided we were going to launch on August 8 which was an arbitrary date. That was the first day of our daily show. I wanted to put a few episodes out first so I knew how the technology worked and how it sounded. At the end of July we put out an episode without a big production but promoted it on social media. We asked people to listen and subscribe just to see what happened. I think everyone who followed us did and it snowballed and ended up propelling us to the top of the Apple charts. Once that happened we decided to pump out episodes immediately. Our first two or three episodes were just us talking about how unprepared we are to be doing the episodes. And how blown away we are at the response. We talked about the experience of doing a podcast, the technology etc. Starting on August 8 we ran it like a radio show. We had a rundown of what we were going to talk about, a five-minute pre-show, and we talk about who’s going to lead each topic. As long as it doesn’t go off the rails we try to stick with that. The advantage I have with working in radio so long is it is definitely planned out. It’s balanced. The content is filtered. It’s not just a few people sitting around talking.
Radio Ink: Callie, what is it like doing a daily radio show with your husband?
Callie: It has been super fun. There is no one else I would do this with. I have lived my life behind the scenes. His knowledge is so extensive and he not only has been a personality but produced every role in radio. He knows what it takes to put on a show. He knows the audience from a listener standpoint. What do they want or not want to hear. Jeff is super creative. He has a book of radio ideas that has never fit into a schedule of his show and we are able to go for it now. I’m not doing half as much as he is. He’s a great coach. In the past two months he has taught me how to speak, condense stories, etc. It has been really fun.
Radio Ink: Where do you come up with the topics?
Jeff: The umbrella everything falls under for the show is gratitude and finding the upside in any situation. We try to frame everything under that. We don’t want to be one of those preachy “here is how to live your best life” shows. We’re talking about our experiences. An episode about anxiety came up because we have both been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. The week we were recording that we were both plagued with anxiety for no reason. I have long felt and battled many people in radio on this, that if the talent and host feel passionate about what they are discussing then the audience will be invested. Even if the audience can’t totally relate. For example, I’m not a big sports fan. I will watch the last 15 minutes of any sporting event. If you show me somebody who is passionately describing a game or the announcer is whispering the last hole of the Masters, I’m totally vested in that. That’s my filter. If we feel passionately about something, or make each other laugh, then we’re going to talk about it.
Callie: We’re on social media all day. We’re interacting with people and seeing many things. Sometimes the inspiration comes from other people. There are a lot more content options because there is so much out there that’s interesting.
Radio Ink: When you recorded that first show, did you know how to record it and upload, all the technical stuff you need to know as a podcaster?
Jeff: I knew enough about myself that I didn’t want the first episode to be the one on August 8. I knew I would screw something up. I had a hosting account with Libsyn, I had uploaded Callie’s weekly podcast for a few weeks prior. Because I like gadgets and technology — last year I purchased Rodecaster. I went to Podcast Movement in Orlando. That ended up being a week after our launch. I knew enough people in radio so I sent them stuff to get feedback on how it sounded. I knew enough about the technology but I’m learning every day. Today I feel the same feeling I did when I was a promotions kid at 19 and they said to me, hey do you want to come in and board-op on Sunday. It is an awesome feeling.
Radio Ink: You start seeing the numbers and you are on the Apple charts. What was your reaction?
Callie: It far exceeded our expectations. When we were talking about the business part we were expecting to do a daily podcast through December and then figure out how to monetize it. That happened so quickly we’re playing catch-up. All of a sudden advertisers want to run ads, agents are calling. We are figuring it out as we go.
Jeff: When the momentum started to build it was exciting and validating that we were doing something good. For me it was sustaining it and growing it four weeks later. Like anything new, people come in and check it out and then there is some attrition, but we have been able to maintain and grow. That to me has been the most exciting part.
Callie: There are two things which are different from radio. One, we can see instant data and make changes quickly if we see people are not happy with what we’re doing. If people don’t like what we did yesterday, we can change it the next day. That does not happen in radio. Secondly, we don’t have bosses. If listeners want us to do something we can make it their show. We have extreme flexibility. Jeff has not had that before.
Tomorrow, in part two of our interview: How many downloads are they getting? How are they managing inventory? What is the perfect length of their show?
To listen to Jeff and Callie’s podcast called The Upside go HERE.