Hillary Clinton added yet another first to her résumé on Friday, becoming the first presidential candidate to have a campaign podcast.
The first episode of the free audio broadcast, titled With Her, is a conversation between Clinton and Longform cofounder Max Linsky, though it won’t always feature the candidate herself. Future episodes will include interviews with other higher-ups in the campaign and, the podcasters hope, some staffers and even volunteers out in the states. The next episode, with a “very important” campaign staffer, is tentatively scheduled to tape next week.
Don’t look for that next episode next Friday, though. “We’re sort of bucking one of the traditional rules of podcasting, which is that you come out at the same time every week,” said Linsky. “But with a presidential campaign, that’s not always possible.”
Clinton’s is the first podcast launched by startup Pineapple Street Media, a collaboration between Linsky and longtime public radio producer and recent BuzzFeed podcaster Jenna Weiss-Berman that only opened in May 2016.
Linsky and Weiss-Berman are both supporters of Clinton – Linsky told the Guardian she was “a big fan” and Weiss-Berman said: “I really like Hillary Clinton and want her to win” – but the podcast isn’t a labor of love. It’s produced for and with the campaign, which had been considering doing a podcast for nearly a year before Weiss-Berman approached them.
“It’s not journalism, but that doesn’t mean it’s not true,” said Linsky – possibly in response to criticisms that the podcast was more like an advertisement for Clinton’s candidacy than a more critical exploration of it. “We’re just trying to get a sense of what it really feels like to run for president, in every sense.”
Laura Olin, who consults with the Clinton digital team and was the social media director for Barack Obama’s 2012 campaign, says that using social media is an important way for candidates not just to connect with potential voters but to activate supporters to donate money – especially in small dollar donations – and eventually make phone calls and knock on doors.
“The way to get people engaged and interested and then take small actions on behalf of the campaign is to build relationships with people,” she said. “And you have to go to where they are, and connect with them on that level.”
For the 2012 campaign, which pioneered the use of Tumblr, Instagram, Pinterest and even Spotify to connect directly with voters, Olin said organizers had to be very strategic in which social media they chose to use, because there were only 14 staffers involved in the effort. “It was looking at the demographics of each platform, and how it would reach the target audiences for the campaign.”
“Podcasts have huge young audiences, and it’s pretty important to the campaign, I think, for young people to hear from her as much as possible, so we’re psyched that we can help with that,” Weiss-Berman said.
Still, only 21% of Americans 12 and over have listened to a podcast in the last year, according to Edison Research, and only about half of Americans of those ages have even heard of podcasting. Weiss-Berman is right about her audience, though: 35% of Americans aged 18-34 are podcast consumers, according to 2015 Edison data. And, like likely Clinton voters, podcast consumers tend to be wealthy compared to the population at large and are more likely to have college or graduate degrees.
Clinton is frequently criticized for failing to connect emotionally with large audiences – despite the fact that friends and staffers describe her as warm and a great listener. Supporters hope the podcast can help bridge the gap between the woman that people find so personable one-on-one and the politician who manages to rub a lot of people the wrong way onstage.
“What I was so excited about with this show, I feel like podcasts are such an intimate medium,” said Weiss-Berman. “It was a great way to let people in on this intimate conversation [between Clinton and Linsky].”
Olin said: “Part of the digital team’s job is to show that [personal] side of her … It’s a bit of a longitudinal look at what it really takes to run for the most difficult job in the world.”