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You would be hard-pressed to find a busier person in the podcasting world than Zibby Owens. The award-winning founder of Zibby Audio and multi-hyphenate creator behind Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books as well as its many offshoots, has built nothing short of a podcasting empire through her tireless creativity and consistent output. Owens first found her way to podcasting because she wanted to write a book, but quickly found herself taking to the medium as its own outlet. “I started a podcast based on interviewing authors I’ve always loved to read,” she explains. “So I just did it and, in order to grow the podcast, I started experimenting and trying all these new things.” This combination of curiosity, passion, and tireless effort led Zibby to where she is now – a published author with four books, audiobooks, two anthologies, a children’s book, a memoir, as well as a publishing company and a bookstore. While Owens has had immense success in many fields beyond podcasting, she still considers herself a podcaster first. To learn a bit more about how she has built a career beyond her daily show, we caught up with her for a conversation in her apartment in the Upper East Side of Manhattan.
One conversation in particular that stands out was with best-selling author Charles Duhig. “He told me that whenever he picks up a book,” she says, “before he would read it, he would flip through and try to figure out the whole structure of it. He would read the book and then go back and dissect how the author had built the book…that’s what started getting me thinking about how you could use a book in a tangible way to learn and dissect meaning from it.” Conversations about the writing process and writing life like this one would ultimately create the backbone for Owens’ prowess in the literary world.
When starting her podcast, Zibby realized that if she wanted her dreams of self-publishing a book to come true, there was no better place to start than with her favorite authors. “First of all,” she says, “I got the encouragement I needed to not give up. Second, I learned so much about books themselves. I do a daily podcast so every single day I am in a book. I’m analyzing it, reading it, and talking to the author – so I’ve become a much better writer because of the podcast.” Starting with something she was passionate about gave Zibby the drive to continue to create and publish her podcast every single day – while also gaining valuable knowledge and writing tips from her favorite authors.
“It’s a whole ecosystem,” says Zibby when asked about overlap between the audience for her podcast and the audience for her book. “There are so many people who listen to the podcast and then go follow me on social media or send me messages.” She identifies most of the people who are interested in her podcast are the same people who are interested in her other products. However, she considers herself a purist when it comes to cross-promoting her content on her show as it’s important to her to not come off as too self-centered. “I wouldn’t want to spend my whole podcast talking about my products,” she explains. “ Though a lot of it does come up, because I’m talking to authors about books, so sometimes it happens organically. I do bring it up a little bit, but mostly just in the intro. To be honest, I could probably be doing a better job, but I don’t want to take away any attention from the other author.” Striking this balance of tasteful self-promotion is key to keeping your audience informed about your output, while also making sure to center your subjects.
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Zibby produces an episode of her show Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books every single day. With 365 new episodes per year, plus the multiple other podcasts which she hosts on her network, she has a lot of content under her belt. With some much to parse through, the question then becomes, is there anything else she can do with it? “In terms of IP, it’s funny, I literally had someone start yesterday,” she explains. “I just sent her my whole file of video footage and I was like ‘can you help me figure out what to do with this?’ I have hours and hours of interviews with amazing authors.” The herculean task of transcribing hundreds of hours of interviews can seem like a daunting task, but Owens is sure that creating this archive will be ultimately beneficial in the long run. “It’s a big question I ask myself a lot, like, what am I going to do with all of this? I have a website where you can now search by author. It’s something I’d like to build out to the point where someone could use it at the bookstore.” She also explains that this archive helps her when referencing her show in her books as well as when promoting her show on social media. In keeping an extensive archive of her show, she prepares for the many moments in her life in which she might need to call upon and reference a moment in her show.
Zibby plans to continue to build her brand both in and outside of the podcasting world. “I have been pitching the idea of a TV show version (of the podcast) for a while. I think some sort of visual element could be cool. I think there is something about the intimacy of an author and me on Zoom in my office – people just spill their guts. It would be nice to experiment with something more video focused.” While Zibby’s ambitions extend across the media landscape, her home will always be with podcasting. “I love podcasting. I love talking to authors. Everybody keeps telling me to scale it back or, like ‘do you really still have to do that podcast?’ I love it. I consider myself a podcaster first and foremost.”
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