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Why Storytelling Might Just Save Us | Charlie Birney | The Lower Third

He is a lover of music, a real estate innovator, AND a well-known podcast producer. Charlie Birney always has a way of making things work out for the better good and we got the opportunity to understand where all of that came from.

Through his experiences, he has learned a lot from his failures and success and in this episode, he had tons of information that he gave that were gold, as he believes that information is power. His love for wanting all people’s voices to be heard regardless of age, gender, and color has led him to amplify voices for a better tomorrow.

Molly Ruland: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Lower Third Podcast, where we hope to introduce you to the people who are unstoppable and determined to make things work. I think right now especially it matters more than ever during this pandemic, when everything is a little bit wonky, to say the least. So the idea is that we introduce you to some people who are making it happen, maybe shift your perspective a little bit and just share a little bit of humanity.

I’m really excited this morning to welcome Charlie Birney to the podcast. Charlie I spent some time like researching you obviously, I know who you are, we’ve hung out a of couple times. But I wanted to really understand your background and where you came from, and it almost got a little bit awkward because I feel like I might be your unknown protégé. Our stories are so incredibly similar. It’s insane, honestly. So Charley’s spent 27 years in real estate. He is a lover of music and plays several instruments as you can see behind him there on the wall. And he formed Podcast Village about five years ago, and is still involved, I think a little bit in real estate or at least involved in the companies that started a co-working space, which is where his podcast video was. And so what’s crazy about that Charlie is I spent 13 years in real estate finance. I grew up playing musical instruments and used to be able to read music. At one point I played the tin whistle on the concertina like super Irish. My first podcast who was in a co-working space, as well, but my podcast company was formed a few years after yours, but I feel like I have followed along your path without even knowing you and so what a small world, like what are the odds?

Charlie Birney: I did not know that Molly, but I knew when I met you, and when I saw you online first probably and I think the first time we met face to face was at the Tessa’s Web Fest and we sat together and chatted and I knew right away that we were going to be good friends and happy people in the marketplace together. As you were saying, before we started, there is so much to go around and unending amount of potential good data, good content.

Molly Ruland: I agree. I think it’s really interesting, the background and just starting a podcast studio in a co-working space. It’s so crazy because, I owned a multimedia company for 20 years; One Love Massive so I’ve been very passionate about elevating and amplifying voices both through music, art and culture, because it’s all about storytelling and really feeling that passion, which I know you’re all about, like being able to hear the intention and the pain or the happiness or whatever it is in someone’s voice is unmatched and you and I are both like staunch on, “This audio is not good. I’m not having it.”

Charlie Birney: 100% I think Molly when I used to be talking about it — you and I don’t talk about the value of podcasting the way we had to five years ago, because people sort of get it some of the time. But what I would say is just what you’re working on is that you can’t get the intensity of your emotion or as Lucille Ball would say, the emphasis of your words in an article and that’s why audio and video are so huge and to be able to get the passion. That’s why I always tell people who are starting out, “Don’t work from notes.” I don’t know how you say it. But I say five words on a piece of paper. That’s all you get. Listen to your guests, think about what they’re saying and talk to them. Stephen Covey said something like that; listen first, if you want to be heard or something like that.

Molly Ruland: Brene Brown has a good one; she says, “Listen with the same passion in which you want to be heard.”

Charlie Birney: Exactly. I feel so strongly about that in any podcast.

Molly Ruland: For sure, and I know from listening to your previous interviews that you realize that podcasting was a great way to tell the stories of all these people in the co-working space. Have you done any podcasting type recordings before? Or was this just like you’re sitting in this office and you’re like, “There are some stories here?”

Charlie Birney: Yes, that is what happened. My friend Jeff Davis who didn’t work at my previous employer, but did some contract PR work and as you know already, I love to talk PR and marketing. It’s something that I’m not trained in, but I’m very fascinated by passionate about. I would always talk to Jeff and we were good friends. He showed up one day, I was just using the office trying to figure out what to do next, to be honest with you, Molly. I like to say a failed residential real estate agent because that was not for me. So I was in that office, tapping away trying to do something and there was Jeff.

[00:05:00]

Jeff was talking about the opening when they had the mayor of Gaithersburg or somebody in the county council person cut the ribbon and we were talking one day and I talked about social media, talked about Twitter. Yeah, I learned how to tweet from Jeff and another friend; talked about Instagram and QR codes. We did a whole thing with him at a golf tournament, like 15 years ago; nobody knew what the hell we were talking about. But I’d looked at him and he and I had listened to a show. I don’t know if you know this one called For Immediate Release?

Molly Ruland: No.

Charlie Birney: It’s a b2b Marketing Show by a guy in California and a guy in England Shel Holtz and Neville Hobson and it took me a few months before I understood really what they were saying. But Jeff and I had been listening to it for years and he was there one day and I literally said what you alluded to, there’s a different story in every one of these offices all around the office, it’s not an insurance company with cubicles; each one of these is trying to promote a small business. I thought, let’s do a podcast for the work for launch and they can use it in a digital newsletter and each week there would be an interview with a different tenant. That’s all the idea was at the beginning period and I thought I could do it.

From being a very amateur musician, I had a big PA, that I bought one time and I thought, “Oh, I’ll just do it all with the mixing board on the PA.” Well, you can’t you can’t do that. You can just make loud noise. I bought a $100 Behringer mixer and I started to interview people not really knowing what I was doing. Well I’d listen to a lot of podcasts by Ray Ortega who I adore and Pat who does a lot of how to podcasting and I figured it out. I bought the board a few mics and started to interview people around the office and they loved it. It was a lot of fun. One of my favorite quotes Molly is from the Disney film Robots. Do you happen to know that one? And the Big Weld character who I think was a voice by Mel Brooks said, “See a need, fill a need.” And that’s what I always thought I was like this would make so much sense. And then to build on again, something you and I mentioned prior I thought, okay, this really does make sense. I think co-working places should have as an amenity for their clients. They don’t need Christmas dinners, they don’t need whatever, but amenity to their office experience, which is what we just talked about in my old job and these were my old employers. I said, “What a simple and inexpensive way to promote your clients because that’s what you’re trying to do in a co- working.” As a landlord, you want all of your clients to succeed and grow up and become lease holders right? So I started doing it and I couldn’t really infect them with the idea to do it, which I feel was very disappointed about until after I left and they put one in there Rockville studio and got my advice on what to buy, which was fine, because I want to help people communicate Molly. I think you and I both feel the same way. I always felt that whosoever else is being able to communicate the most efficiently our message, what we do, and our passions are going to be performing the most efficiently. So I’m happy to consult with them. I’ve got another friend Hector, who thinks he should sell this concept to make offices and I’m like, fine, the guys at the top don’t quite get that that’s an amenity that I think is inexpensive and would serve all of their tenants. But that’s why you and I are in business.

Molly Ruland: It’s so crazy, Charlie, because that’s exactly what happened with me. I went to Mindspace on K Street and I was super excited. I was like, this is an international partnership. I had my sights set on San Francisco. There was a lot of opportunity here. They were super excited about it. They were like 30% capacity and it’s in the Washington Post Building. I’m like, what kind of caches is this to have a podcast studio inside the Washington Post’s Building. It was a no brainer, right? We entered into a pilot program and three months in, they’re like, “Hey, we get it. You have a podcast, where’s the money?” And I’m like, “I don’t have a pod.” It was like two ships passing in the night on completely different longitudes and latitudes; they just didn’t get it. To this day, I don’t really understand and they never got past 30% capacity and so they started to tighten everything and there was less coffee available and less cleaning being done. Then all over sudden they started squeezing me for rent and I was like, it put me in the worst position possible because I had just started the business. I was just starting to get clients.

[00:10:00]

Because I started the business in October, which is a terrible time because nobody’s doing shit in November, December. Like every December, I’m like, “Do I have a business? What just happened? Is everything okay?” Because no one’s recording podcast at that time.

Charlie Birney: No, they’re shopping and they’re thinking.

Molly Ruland: It was a terrible time for me to like launch. So then I finally started ramping up. But then they started squeezing me for dollars and I was just like, if they never told it, I would meet people in the kitchen who didn’t realize there’s a podcast studio in the building. I mean, we couldn’t have gotten that partnership any more wrong and they kept squeezing me and squeezing me and kind of pulling me into signing new contracts. It ended very, very terribly. Which was unfortunate, because this is a brilliant idea; I don’t understand why these companies don’t understand and I was like, “Hey, I’ll build the studio. I’ll incur all the expense. I’ll give you a rev share and I’ll give your clients a discount,” which I totally screwed myself. Luckily, that never really happened.

But it was great, they had no risk. All they were doing is giving me real estate of which they had 70% of their inventory and I was on an empty row, and they’re like, “Where’s our money?” I’m like, “Where’s the people? This is not a viable relationship if there’s nobody in the building for me to sell my services to.” So anyway, long story short, and that’s when I moved to the Hierarchy house, which due to the pandemic, they claim they weren’t willing to work with us at all, or discount rent, so I had to leave, which is super unfortunate. I think that people’s true character really shines in time, when shit ain’t good; that’s how you find out what you’re really made of and I learned some lessons there.

But the good news is we were able to switch to fully remote. I think we’re doing a great job of that, we’ve maintained our clients, we’ve picked up new clients and ironically I’m actually in conversations with Nike Offices right now, ironically, through a mutual client to see if we can make something happen. But at the end of the day, who knows what’s going to happen shortly? If there was a word for 2020 would be uncertainty. We can put a studio in there, but we might be shutting it back down in three weeks. I don’t know anymore. So I think that pivoting to being as remote as possible is great. I want to touch on you said that you’re sending out like mics and headphones and stuff to people?

Charlie Birney: Yeah, we’ve been doing that prior. So a lot of our clients, let’s see if I could pick one in particular, we do a podcast for and this is non-political for the George and Barbara Bush foundation and it’s really not political. It’s about personal recollections and some of the letters that he wrote. My father wrote some pretty beautiful letters, George Bush wrote some really beautiful letters, guys in that generation wrote a lot. I don’t think my son has read a book in two years. I find that really beautiful and some of these are really touching. So in that case, we do, I was showing you this. We will send out a pretty decent headphone with a decent microphone that my guys have picked out. And so we’ll send that out, we’ll send out an HD webcam, if it’s a video interview, because a lot of times, Sam LebBlond, who’s the grandson, who’s the host, he can’t get them into the studio and this is a case with lots and lots of our clients prior to the quarantine. Obviously we’ve increased that and a few headsets that people had they weren’t using I grabbed because they all disappeared on Amazon immediate and we do that a lot. We send everybody home. I went home. But as my partner Oscar and his wife live in Georgetown near our Glover Park studio, so they sort of quarantine themselves from public and then could go to the office and work. They ran a lot of shows.

We do a lot of work for brand underneath ESPN called the Undefeated. So Domonique Foxworth who’s a friend of Oscars; we set up a studio in his home, so he wouldn’t actually even have to go anywhere and that’s basically a tiny little television studio because all that is for an early morning show called Get up. So he actually was very busy. We sent all of our staff home, Molly, and I think my concern and I’m pretty perfectly happy to talk about it. Both Oscar and I were worried; will people be efficient when they’re at home? Will they take naps? Will they drink on the job like me, I usually have a bottle of scotch right here. It’s over there. And truth to tell I have to say a huge shout out to everybody working for Podcast Village, that they’re all working, maybe more efficiently to be honest with you.

[00:15:00]

We have one staff person back Maddie Masiello who is coming back, everybody is segregated. We have a lot of luxury there Molly; I can’t remember if you’ve been to that studio, I don’t think so.

Molly Ruland: No I haven’t.

Charlie Birney: There are three audio studios on the fourth floor on Wisconsin Avenue in Glover Park and we’re able now with some Teleprompters that we’ve installed so I can have you in Studio A and me in Studio B. We could be talking face to face basically. So we’re trying all sorts of, we’ve added a temperature scanner, you walk up to this pedestal and it takes your temperature when you walk in. If it’s too high, we ask you to just go home. So, we’re doing all that everybody’s got their own foam cover, that is just there and we did that about a few weeks before the quarantine. So it’s been a long road; nerve racking road, a lot of business in the second or third month, Molly, that’s when some of our clients went, Holy Moly. We don’t know what’s going on. Some of the budgets were being yanked, because nobody knew where we were. We’re seeing a resurgence now. But as you mentioned a minute or two ago, I don’t know what’s going to happen. My daughter wants to go back to college. I don’t want her to go. But she is going to live in an off campus apartment and I don’t know what’s going to happen to her. My wife works at BCC and I don’t really know what is going to happen yet. So we’re just crossing our fingers. I’m wearing a mask, when I go out, and I’m perfectly happy to do so. But it’s been a wild pivot for us and we’re still making some changes that you’ll hear about in the next month or two to sort of further insulate our clients and our staff.

Molly Ruland: For sure, sure. The first month of the pandemic, I was like, okay, super quiet because I think everybody was just like trying to get back up again and to adjust, and then things started to pick up. I feel like it’s kind of like the ocean right now there’s like a real ebb and flow of business and it’s like it started to pick back up and then the protests happened, things started to reel back and now they’re leveling up. I really kind of dialed in on working with larger like news organizations and public health organizations because I’m really passionate about that and especially right now, I just feel like the media is doing all Americans a really great disservice. It’s just terrible and that’s like putting it lightly and that’s on both sides. I’m not championing one side or the other. They’re both equally guilty. Like there’s that chart that’s been going around on Facebook of like the most neutral and of course, like the weather channel, is like the most neutral news on and I’m like, that’s not good. That is not good when like the weather channel is more trustworthy than news organizations because at least they’re not lying about the weather.

Charlie Birney: That’s right; I called my brother up in the first month after I started to come out from under the covers and I said, “What do I do if I watch the news and I start shaking? “Because I was watching a lot of news and he said, “Stop watching the news.” And then he said, “What I do is I just watch BBC in small increments,” and I said, “Oh, yeah, that’s very interesting.” At least it’s a little fresh. I’m sort of tired of each side’s editorializing on it. I just don’t give a shit anymore. Excuse me.

Molly Ruland: It’s okay.

Charlie Birney: I’ve got children; we’ve got friends and family. Don’t we all want to get out of this? It’s very upsetting. One of our clients is civilrights.org and one of their first moves to be honest with you was we don’t know what we’re doing. But we need to talk more, because there are more things that need to be said now and they’ve started several additional pieces to supplement because of the discussion about racism that we have to have now. So we’re very lucky to have them as a client as well.

Molly Ruland: Yeah, for sure.

Charlie Birney: But it’s been a real question mark.

Molly Ruland: It has and I think you touched on a really good point. I think that we have to double down like even if you don’t know what you’re doing, like, one of my clients is Miller and Chevalier, the law firm downtown and, and we do a tax podcast and a sanctions podcast, and now we’re doing another one in Spanish. The sanctions podcast- Embargoed, with Timothy O’Toole and Brian Fleming. They are amazing people and they’re hilarious. Who would have known that sanctions attorneys would be so much fun. They’re great and they have great banter. But during the protests, they were the first ones to jump up and put a statement out and they did an entire podcast.

[00:20:00]

An hour long podcast about what was going on and like, when I’m feeling a little down, I kind of think of that. I was chatting with Tim on LinkedIn. I said, “Dude, I’m so impressed with you guys.” And he’s like, “Molly, we just made the decision that if this was going to upset our clients, then they didn’t need to be our clients anyway.” And I feel like that’s the kind of leadership that like, 100 year old law firm, the largest law firm in DC needs to take and I was just so like, I’m getting Goosebumps right now because it’s like, yeah, man, we got to talk about this shit.

And then Black Lives Matters, it’s literally in front of their building. But I’m just so grateful — who knew, like the sanctions guys would get that involved. They could have totally just stayed in the sanctions lane and not touch that and they didn’t. And so, I think that it’s really important. So I’m really encouraging. Like, we’re getting ready to ramp up the Atlantic Council, which I’m super stoked about. They have all these different departments and just getting information out, getting it done in a digestible way.

For me, I think one of the hardest things about the pandemic is the uncertainty, the one of the things I’m most proud of is I was able to keep all of my staff and that came with some sacrifice, right? That’s not easy. It’s not easy to maintain rent and staff and everything else when you’re losing clients or clients are just like, pause. And that’s really, really tough. But who knows what’s going to happen? Honestly, Charlie, I feel like it’s really important that we do what we do because we provide that platform for other people, we elevate and amplify other people’s voices and that’s, I think, what’s going to save us frankly.

Charlie Birney: I couldn’t possibly agree with you more and I’ll tell you I have a discussion. One of our clients is a wonderful lady named Anne Pasternak. She does a show called Power Station, and she’s been doing community development for years and knows so many of these players. I have been listening to her show since she started it with us. She’s over 100 episodes or 150 now, I forget. And I’ve learned more Molly in my adult life from this program about my community, the Indians, the poor, the lawyers for people who have no money, the people being evicted so many things she’s brought in, that it has moved me. I often say I wish that every college student and every high school senior would have to listen to any three episodes of that show, because it would change their mindset about what community need really is. To get to what I’m referring to, you’re absolutely right; it’s those voices that you and I are trying to amplify. We talk every week now during the quarantine, about how to create more democratization of content; how can we create? An auxiliary on one little story and I think I told this on my podcast, but I was looking at Twitter one day, Molly and I follow Patton Oswalt. He’s been in the studio once and he knows the guys from the Micro Mirror show. He tweeted a video of a young black woman standing in front of; may have been one of the Halls of Fame and there were boards up there and spray paint and she was on a rant.

Molly Ruland: Emily Jones…

Charlie Birney: Was it?

Molly Ruland: Yes.

Charlie Birney: It was the most articulate. She talked about monopoly. Is that the one? You saw that?

Molly Ruland: Yeah.

Charlie Birney: I cried and I thought this person, people like her need to be able to have the opportunity to be heard, whether that’s on a podcast or whether that’s in an article or an interview, whatever. So I think we have a purpose here Molly.

Molly Ruland: I agree.

Charlie Birney: It’s not just my high end clients, but it’s everybody trying to be able. This is a time when we’re all entitled to have our own say, and I think very profoundly believe in that for her and for you and for me and to my children.

Molly Ruland: Well, exactly. And it’s so crazy that you bring that up Charlie because I have a meeting with her today at like four o’clock.

Charlie Birney: You’re kidding?

Molly Ruland: I swear to God because I saw that video and the first thing I did was figure out who she was and then I went to her Patreon page and I became a Patreon because she had like nobody on there. So you should do that. I’ll send you the link; I’ll put it in the description. I want to give that woman like five bucks a month or 10 bucks a month or 20 bucks a month, like what is that? It’s a cup of coffee in DC. I was like, this is great just going viral, but like put some money in the thing, man, like, let’s help her pay some bills and I noticed that one of her things was like when I get to this many Patreon members, I want to have a podcast and so it kind of stuck with me for a couple of weeks. And I hit up her on Instagram and I got connected with her agent and I want to produce your podcast because she needs to be heard. That woman needs to be heard and I want to do a good job of it. So she’s taken seriously and I want to take that off of her plate even if it costs me money. I don’t care because I want more people… We could go on forever. But there are some like talking heads that are like people of color who are representing really white supremacist views.

[00:25:00]

Who are being touted by Rocky racist white people were like, “Look why people are saying that. So it’s okay if I say it too.” And I’m like, “No, no, it’s still super racist.” That’s because the person of color is saying it, does not mean like, it’s just there’s so many problems with what’s going on.

Charlie Birney: That’s true. It’s quite a rabbit hole there that we can run down. I’m so disappointed with a number of organizations that are so lame that it’s counterproductive just so they’re pathetic efforts, and I could name a few, but I’m not. But I want to go back to this young lady. What’s her name?

Molly Ruland: Kimberly Jones.

Charlie Birney: So please send me the link. I’m so proud of you Molly. It’s just like you to do that because that’s what Anna and I were saying is this woman, people like this woman and honestly, if you can do that, I will support the show and I will talk about that show and push it as much as possible because that’s exactly what I’m excited; that’s what gets me out of bed. How can we make it possible for Kimberly Jones’ and many more people in many topics to really have the opportunity to say their say; whether it’s heard by just you and me or 20,000 people, that’s kind of a thing.

Molly Ruland: I think about this a lot, whether it’s getting clients or you’re messaging, sometimes you don’t need a million people. I don’t need a million new clients. I don’t need 1000 new clients; quite frankly, I couldn’t handle them. I don’t need a million people to hear something. But like last year, I read 28 books. I realized that I was really had dumbed myself down quite a bit from being an internet person for the last 15 years and I just realized, like, hey, I want to level up and I want to read a book a week, which is a really high fluting goal. I do everything on Audible, but I was like, I’m sick of scrolling. I’m sick of that. I want to replace that time with something more productive. So car rides, Uber rides, or whatever bike rides while I’m in the shower, just walking the dog I listen to podcasts. I was like, let me listen to audiobooks and so I listened to 28 books and at the end of that year, I didn’t hit 56. But I read 28, which is 28 that I didn’t read the year before. That’s a win. It might be more books than I read the last. It’s definitely more books than I read the last five years, and it was all business and personal development. And sometimes it was one fucking sentence in that book that changed everything about my perspective. I kind of want to touch on what you said about your kids and like, I wish kids had to listen to some of these podcasts. But like Charlie, that’s the future man, like online learning modules. If we like, first of all, all this shit needed to be refigured out anyway, because it was inherently racist with redlining and gerrymandering, and there’s just so many problems with the education system and the digital divide. We could have a whole podcast just on that.

But I do think that online learning is going to be the move. I’m working with the Department of Health right now on online learning modules, because even just onboarding employees, we’re going to need to have more digital resources available and so I do think that we will shift and I do think that tomorrow’s professors will be podcasters. Look at Malcolm Gladwell revisionist history; I think people learned more about history from him than anybody has ever put in one place before. So I think it’s entirely relevant and I think what I really love about what you do is just like making things accessible, and I love that you have personality shows, but then you also have just information shows. To be honest, when I see your personality shows and your sets and stuff, I’m like, “Oh, man, he’s a better man than I.” because I’m a broad strokes kind of girl and after dealing with artists for 20 years in the music business, I’m like, nah! I’m not saying any of your clients are bad. I’m just saying it’s a higher level of expectation that puts you in that level of assurance and so I’ve always been, like, wholly impressed with your ability to have that vision. I just think that all the stuff that you do and the people that you employ, it really says a lot about who you are and what you’re interested in and yeah, man, it’s a whole new wave, Charlie, and I think that…

Charlie Birney: It’s a whole new wave, Molly; I’ve had a lot of fun. I’ve been very lucky. My partner Oscar has been a really great pairing for me. We’ll be working together for the rest of our lives. My dad had a law partner who was his best friend and they did deals, little tiny real estate deals is what those guys did forever and then he just passed away. So I appreciate it. You know what’s different Molly and you probably will appreciate this. You never got to see it. I’ve got some pictures. But in our second floor space in Glover park where we just had admin, whatever you want to call it, that’s where we had a big room. It had been a passport office and there was a big room, and we had tables along the wall and you could have 10 people working in that room. And that was a childhood dream of mine as a frustrated cartoonist was to have what used to be called the bullpen where men were writing articles and people were doing this that, I thought, that just sounds so wonderful. 

[00:30:12]

And for the entire last year, we bought lunch every day for everybody and we had so much fun. And guess what? We’re never going to be able to do that again. And it’s not really a point to go back to it now because there as you said, we have to change the way we move forward. And we have to be able to work from home. I kind of like it. My dog loves it, because he’s getting old and he’s tired, and he doesn’t want to be alone and he gets anxious when my kids are rumbling around. So he lives down here with me but going forward, we do have to change it, the bullpen will be missed. But we’ve moved on to something different. We sort of have an editing Bay there with enormous television, and we can literally FaceTime each other in and work together in different ways than we really hadn’t imagined before. We had Molly always talked about the ability to run a studio from a beach. So theoretically, we can run. In fact, on the Mike O’Meara Show, Matt Blum runs the audio from his apartment now in Northern Virginia. And then Oscar’s in the studio, Mike’s in Maine, and Rob’s also in Northern Virginia. So they’re all spread out. And he runs the board via remote control. Those are the kinds of things we got to do. 

Molly Ruland: Well, and honestly, it’s just smarter, like the amount of money I’m saving not having to park and DuPont every day, like that’s just money. I was like, see you later colonial parking, suck it. I’m glad they existed, but not a great company. But anyway, my mental health like not having to drive home which was three and a half miles but like 45 minutes, and just getting home and being like, so fucking angry and you’re like, “Oh my God!” And like if that wears on you like that, really. And I would have a great day at the studio and leave and like put music on and like five minutes in my drive. I’m like, “What the fuck is wrong with you people?” And I’m like, “God, what is wrong with me that I keep getting so angry.” But yeah, and then I used to ride my bike but then that got so dangerous in DC like I literally almost died every time, and then riding from Union Station to DuPont at rush hour…

 Charlie Birney: Not really the best route. But you’re so funny. It’s another way you and I are like, at my tender age I find driving to be awful. I hate doing it now. I don’t like it. I live about three or four miles from Glover park in Bethesda. And it takes me forever to drive it and I just hate it. And so, we’re open. We’ve been open the whole time but I do want Association Show still Molly, a Golf Association Show from a million years ago when I was involved in the industry. So I’ll go in, if nothing else is going on, and I’m not unnecessarily adding another set of lungs to an actual other client, then I go in. But other than that, I’m just going to click away here and give Sam wise a walk once in a while, and try to maintain. I’m working on some new stuff.

Molly Ruland: I think that’s the best thing that we can do. And I think like, accessibility is a big thing. And I think its open the doors. I mean, I talk to a lot of my clients or when I teach podcast classes, it’s like, “Listen, man, anybody you want is accessible now because they’re at home too. And so you might get that interview that you never would have gotten before.” 

Charlie Birney: You are so right.

Molly Ruland: And so lean in on that and if you’re the one that has a consistent show, you’re going to stand out because quite frankly, everybody else kind of freaking out and don’t get me wrong. I might crash like two interviews today and like a good meeting and then I might like a little teary eyed on my couch drinking gin by four o’clock because shit is fucked up, Charlie, I don’t know if this is about the world. Hour to hour it varies. But I agree, I appreciate being home. I have a little dog. She’s 17, she just had most of her teeth pulled off out. And so being able to be at home with her has been really nice. And we walk on the beach and I ride my bike without worrying about dying other than the obvious reasons. I’m just appreciating the fact that like, I can work when I feel good. And if I don’t, then I take the afternoon off and you know what, that’s totally okay. It’s okay. And so I expect the same of my staff, if they’re just like, “Yow, not it today.” I’m like, “Not a problem, man.” And some of our clients are responding two to four weeks later than they normally would. And we just understand that everybody is doing the best that they can, but I think it’s up to us to be like the innovators and to just continue to figure out how to do this remotely, how to make this content more accessible because we definitely have a accessibility issue in this country with privilege. 

[00:35:12]

And I know that you love YouTube, which I’m a big fan of YouTube. 

Charlie Birney: I do. Did you catch those Edison reports last few weeks, one was on YouTube, one was on music discovery, and one was on Latino podcasting.

Molly Ruland: I saw the Latino Podcast; I was like, “Yeah, my people.”

Charlie Birney: Yeah, that’s great. I want to key on that for just for a second. That’s another thing that I tried to do early on, and I think you’ve done more effectively. I don’t speak Spanish. I wish I had taken Spanish in high school because I wasted two years of French for no reason. But it didn’t matter. I should have taken Latin because my mom was a Latin teacher. But early on, even before I’d met Oscar, I felt that the market, this is five years ago, Molly and I think you probably agree the market for Spanish spoken content would be, should be and will be huge, like effing huge. And so I encouraged all of my people to think about it and I think Hilda who does wise traditions does do episodes occasionally in Spanish. And I just feel there was a huge thing. The only thing I was able to pull off was a local lady named Dina Potter. I forgot how we met and I pushed them each year, Molly at Christmas time. I would speak a line in English and she would speak a line in Spanish and we did three Christmas stories like if you take a mouse to the movies and the night before Christmas. I think there’s an enormous so I was glad to hear you mention that earlier. I think that’s just a vast, vast potential market. And that Edison report did show some of the things that I think you and I were thinking about. So I’m glad to have someone to talk to who saw that one as well. 

Molly Ruland: Yeah, I tweeted about it this morning, actually, because I was like, “Oh, okay. All right. Let’s get it.” I mean, well, yeah, we should totally talk about this Spotify thing, because they’re just out here spending money like they just got their allowance and they have no financial literacy and —

Charlie Birney: Reminds you of the WeWork, doesn’t it a little bit.

Molly Ruland: A little bit. But I just also want to say that Spotify if you want to buy me, I am totally for sale.

Charlie Birney: Yeah, actually, I’m going to raise my hand.

Molly Ruland: I’m going to raise too for good measure. Although, that’s kind of always been the plan is like, build this business hope to get bought out by a bigger company. But at the end of that transaction, I always felt that I would still be involved because at the end of the day, I love this stuff. Like I didn’t just look at what was viable in the marketplace and what do people want to buy and that’s why I started a podcast. In fact, when I started doing the podcast, I formed Archives Media in October of 2018. But I had been doing podcasts for two or three years before that everyone loved doing podcasts about weed and graffiti and all kinds of ridiculous stuff. But that’s really where I cut my teeth on it kind of figured it out. And then we were doing live streams of music. We were doing Tiny Desk concerts on steroids, through Facebook Live using multiple cameras, lower thirds, and no post production. And ultimately, like, it was kind of after just wearing thin on being involved in the music industry, and like, I’m 44, I was 42 at the time, and I’m just like, I don’t really want to stay in another parking lot for 26 hours. Those days, they were lovely. I love them. I traveled around a graffiti bus around the continent. I had an awesome cool life, but then I’m just like, “Yow, I want to go home.”

And so I realized, “Hey, I could take this and sell this to businesses as a sustainable method of doing video podcasting content creation in a way that’s not super expensive.” So it’s actually feasible for small businesses to do it. And so that’s what made my pivot. But yeah, I mean, it’ll be really interesting to see what happens next. Like I started the business because I was passionate about it and I think I always want to be involved on some level, but it’s really crazy to see how much money Spotify is buying. And then now the next thing is happening: where who bought Stitcher Pandora? Somebody just bought Stitcher for like $350 million, of which 280 was cash.

Charlie Birney: That shocked me a lot because I don’t look into Stitcher much, but I just think that was a huge buy to me. 

Molly Ruland: In all fairness, Stitcher is like, a lot of people are on Android or iTunes, or Apple. They get all their podcasts on Stitcher. It’s an agnostic platform. And so I think it has a leg up there. And I’m guessing it’s the data that they have that’s really valuable. 

[00:40:00]

I predicted this. I said Spotify is out here buying everybody up left and right. And all these other media companies are having meetings going, “Shit, man, we better buy some podcast companies.” Because they’re going to have to otherwise, Spotify becomes a clear channel who owns 57% of media, every single billboard, etcetera.

Charlie Birney: Let me tell you the Spotify story that I relate to talking to my daughter. My daughter is a wonderful young lady. She’s given a zoom clarinet lesson right now in the other room to kids trying to get into clarinet and she and I used to do a podcast together when she was in high school. She read so many books, if you want to talk about books for a second, I love her so much. If she doesn’t have an hour or more a day reading books, she gets cranky. So she’s Rita Hall, like we actually built a library inside of her room, closets. She has a secret library, the light and we carpeted the closet floor and she goes in there when you can’t find her. So we did a podcast called Isabel’s Bookcase real quick. I had said, “Isabel, you’ve got to do a podcast, because then you can go to college saying I’ve done a podcast.” And she said, “Well, I’ll do it, dad.” I said she should write a blog. She’s like, I’m not going to write anything. I’m going to high school dad. Finally she said, “Well, if you do all the work, I will do a podcast with you.” I can tell you of the, I don’t know, Molly. How many hundreds or thousands of hours have we done this? Those hours with my daughter are the best ones. They’re probably the least listen to podcasts because we didn’t really promote them. We just threw them up there. 

I did about 14 or 15 episodes. We did no prep. She would come in and tell me about the book she just finished. And we would talk about it and those are times that I cherish, but to get to the point of Isabel. So Isabel is the girl who understood it. She was on Ray Ortega’s Podcasters Roundtable; they did a special on kid podcasters. And I was sitting next because I’m the ray Ortega fan going, I can’t believe Ray’s talking to my daughter. I didn’t get on the show at all. It’s so much fun. But I said to her, I said, “Isabel, I would love it.” She’s so smart. If you listen to a few of our podcasts from time to time, I think they’re really important. Some of these are really talking about important things. And she said, “Well, I will dad, but only if I can listen to them on Spotify.” She wasn’t about to add one more app to her phone. So the movers for that 20 to 30 market in my opinion, listening to a lot of these Edison reports that you and I listen to is Spotify is the lowest common denominator. Now YouTube is still the number one sound discovery tool, SoundCloud is not far behind it. I was surprised to see.

Molly Ruland: Yeah, SoundCloud rappers man. That’s the whole thing. 

Charlie Birney: Exactly. And I started using SoundCloud when I was first podcasting because it was free and nobody checked to see if I was using a piece of Frank Sinatra music perhaps on a ramp, which I did all the time back then. And my clients were just trying to put it out in their sphere of influence. My first client, a wonderful guy named Jeff Miller. He said to me one day, “I’m tired of writing a blog, Charlie.” I said, “Matt, come in here and we’ll shoot the breeze half an hour.” And we did that for two years. And he still uses it. It’s still on his website. And he wasn’t concerned with hundred thousand downloads. He was just thinking about his mailing list, his emailing list, and that’s when it makes sense. You’re not trying to how many times have you had a client go to you Molly and say, “Okay, how do I monetize this?” And they’ve got three listeners, and imagine that you or I can’t speak for you, but they always imagine that I was a marketing company and I would get them 10,000 hits several clients back in the $60 an hour days in Gaithersburg where they said, “Now how can you get me to 10,000 hits?” I said, “Hire a marketing company because I’m not that guy. I produced content for you.” But I don’t know if that ever happened to you. It happens to me all the time.

Molly Ruland: For sure. And I tell people listen, “I source the ingredients. I baked the cake, it is on the table, how you divvy it up is on you.” I spent 20 years marketing my own business when love massive and I built a whole thing on the grassroots marketing. And every single picture on the Instagram account I took and edited and wrote the caption for, I manage the website for seven years. I mean, that’s all me. Like, I’m a bit of an artist myself, I really enjoy it, but not anymore. Honestly, I just recently got Sprout Social because I can like, post stuff in advance. I found it to be really simple. 

Charlie Birney: I haven’t tried that one. 

Molly Ruland: It’s great, Charlie, because you can just build your little calendar and it’s really easy. And then you put this little plugin on the desktop. So when you’re on a page, you just hit the little green leap and it creates a post and you just type in what you want. 

[00:45:00]

And then you can queue it up. And so when I’m on all these podcasts Listservs and stuff in the morning, I’m just re-sharing. So that way I like I have content through the rest of the month and like that makes my life feel a little bit better because then it’s like one less thing I have to do every day. But yeah, no, I hear you. I mean, that’s one of the things like, you know, I teach that podcast class, I’ve taught a bunch of times to turn it into a course. And at the very end, I reluctantly put a little bit about monetization because, like, don’t worry about that shit, man. You got to have a successful product. First, you got to have a podcast first instead of trying to make money off it. And sometimes just getting one client, we’ll make, so you don’t you don’t need 10,000 downloads. It’s a misnomer. It’s just bad information.

Charlie Birney: Absolutely. I want to tell you my David Williamson story, my oldest and dearest friend and harshest critic. I met in fourth grade and David is always the one to say that I’m an idiot and doing something silly. And I remember. So this just takes a second, but it’s very illustrative of what you just said. So David is an absolute dinosaur, just totally in the last century. And I’ve been saying to him for years he does strategic nonprofit planning that you should get your clients doing podcasting, doing video. I think I said once to them, this was five years ago, I said, “You should tell this organization too, can the newsletter, send each of them out an iPad that was formatted for the digital newsletter, and you will get on the front page of The Wall Street Journal as being the first company that ever did that.” And he was like, “No, I’m never going to do that.” So, the David Williamson story, and then I’ll get to my something I’m going to show you that you’ll get a big chuckle out of. 

I finally got him into my office. And he looked at the table. He said, “Oh.” And then he put the earphones on. He said, “I get it.” We did a sample I uploaded it. I played it from the computer. He said, “I get it. I want five.” So we did five individual interviews. They have never been uploaded to the internet anywhere. He has them as resident inside of his website. So when you go to burnoose, and Williamson, shout out to Dave. It says, click here for our podcasts, and it’s got five podcasts. And I’ve asked him this question many times, does he care that I talked about this? No. Does he care that he has no idea if anyone has ever listened to it? He says, No. He only cares in his case. God bless you, Dave, it is a complete impression that has paid off for itself time and time and time again. He gets feedback on a weekly basis. I’m so impressed to see you have a podcast. And that content was evergreen, so there’s nothing really wrong with it. Now, I never ended up doing this, Molly but back in and I learned a lesson about T-shirts. Back in 2016 I was going to do summer camp and this is where I learned it didn’t actually happen because I started really late. That was my logo, but this is where I learned never put the date on your T-shirt because I could have used this for a long time but I couldn’t use that. So I still have some if you’d like a PODCAMP T-shirt for 2016.

Molly Ruland: Those are the good old days, we should share them at this point. 2016 we were full of hope and we had no idea.

Charlie Birney: Yeah, I wanted to do summer camp and over here under a table I have an indoor fireplace which means this guy created a indoor fire where you had two fans from an IBM computer and stage lights, the those bright lights that you use to work with, and it’s in this thing about this big and then it’s got a silk screen. Cut out like flames. And so you turn it on, and it looks like there’s a fireplace. And so we were going to have campfire at the end of the day where we would all sit in the circle and we could get them podcasting in a day. You know that as well as I do. We could do a quick and dirty thing. And I thought that would be fun. But everything’s just started moving so fast. And I started to get actual clients that would pay me some money. I think my first rate was $60. And you’ll love this, launch workplaces in the early days. Hope they don’t listen. I gave them a launch podcasts and I did launch financial with Brad Sherman shout out to Brad and I got paid 50 bucks to do launch financial. And when they said, “We’re not going to pay you for that anymore. We think Brad should pay you for that.” That’s when the podcast stopped. He got a hold of me about a year ago and said, “Why did I stopped doing that?”

[00:50:00]

He had a first mover advantage now. He’s very good, shout out to Sherman Wealth on Instagram. Brad’s doing a really good job of getting his message out, but all these stories we can share, I could go on for a lot longer. I’m ready to just get started. Molly, when are we going to start the podcast?

Molly Ruland: I know, man, I’m saying we should do something, Charlie, well, I have such a tremendous amount of respect for you. And it’s interesting, because there’s not too many podcast companies out there. And so people quite often called us call you, and I always say, “Charlie Bernie’s the nicest guy in DC.” I really, I really do think that you’re like, absolutely lovely. And I just really am impressed with everything that you’ve done.

Charlie Birney: Well, you’re very sweet.

Molly Ruland: I mean I’m serious. I’m not just gassing, I’m not wanting to gas people up unnecessarily. That’s not my jam. But like I said, I it was really crazy to see how similar our stories are. I think there’s something there honestly. Like, just a real estate background and taking up space and then filling that space with sound through music and the connection that we feel and I feel like it was a natural pivot. Like, I mean, it’s all kind of cool. Honestly, no idea that our stories are so similar. And like I said, if anybody was researching, as I say, to be like, “Is this Molly lady like stalking him or what?” Because I literally have like, mirrored your life just a few years behind it. But I really appreciate you taking the time to chat with me. I’m always available. And I think that maybe doing some more stuff together more roundtables just to talk about what does podcasting looks like and how do we cross the digital divide? And how do we help solve some problems with our content? Actually, I just launched something called the content for Change Creator Academy with Gary Vee, actually.

Charlie Birney: Oh, I saw some about that. I did. I did. 

Molly Ruland: Yeah. And so I would love for you to be a mentor in that where you just teach them your skill set that you’re the most passionate about the young content creators because I feel like if we can get, the best way to change the narrative is to replace it. Like that, Kimberly Jones. Like, we need more people like her with a voice. And I think that so many, quite often people say up, marginalized communities that don’t have a voice, like that’s hell of an insult, like they have a voice, we’ve just been ignoring it, they’re not lacking a voice, they’re lacking vacation. And so I think it’s our responsibility to be a part of fixing that.

Charlie Birney: All right, two things; one, I’m happy to look into that. You let me know I’d love to do that with you and two, Jeff and I are doing our old show we sort of brought it back about a month ago practically social which he and I we’re just Bs in about social media. So I’d love to have you on as a guest sometime. We’ve had our first guest, and wouldn’t talk about that online later this week. But I’d love to have you on and we had so much fun, we would always just sort of Bs back and forth the two of us, but we thought, it’s about voices. And then I have a secret project and I’ll need to talk to you about it sometime. I can’t talk about it live right now, but it’s directly something Anna and I are working on directly about that democratization of content, how can we get those people to have an opportunity to say something, and that’s what I’d love to continue to work with you on as much as almost anything because I think now, I’m just going to say it out loud as a white guy, a child of white privilege, I’m going to go ahead and be honest with you. I want to use whatever I’ve got, with my time to see if I can make that happen. Make the Kimberly Jones and more have the ability to say what they would like to say. I feel very passionate about that.

Molly Ruland: That’s awesome. I’m really glad to hear that. I wouldn’t expect any less to be honest, but it’s really nice to hear that. And you’re right as white people, we have to acknowledge the privilege that we have, no matter how hard our roads may have been or not, that doesn’t matter, there’s still incredible amount of privilege that we have every day. And I think that those are the voice should use it. Like, that’s one of my favorite things to say. And, and if we have a platform, which both of us do, and I think that, even though business is tight, some days are better than others, some months are better than others, but I still have some bandwidth to contribute and amplify some voices, I can’t afford anything. And that shouldn’t be the mark of whether or not they’re heard. It should be the quality of their content. And so it’s kind of like democratization of education. And if everybody had a fair shake, if everybody got the same, we would be judging people based on merit and not on opportunity. And we would have a much more intelligent, a much more equitable and pleasant country to live in. And so I think democratization of information and content is the first step and then we’ll work towards education because that’s a bigger fish that I don’t know how to fry. 

[00:55:05]

Charlie Birney: Well, let’s continue our dialogue then Molly, this has been the most pleasurable, a bit of time I’ve had in many moon. And I like talking to you about this. So let’s continue. And maybe I can talk to you offline about my secret project. And then we are talking as a company, when can we establish a nonprofit part of it where we’re doing that, where we’re training or giving studio time to people or making it accessible in neighborhoods where they cannot. It’s not everybody who could come to my studio,

Molly Ruland: Even just getting to Georgetown, there’s no public transportation. 

Charlie Birney: It’s brutal. 

Molly Ruland: DuPont I mean, the Metro is right there. But still, it’s not easy. I’m 100% on board. I’m excited to talk to you offline and yeah, that’s part of the, we talked about like collateral benefits of podcasting. It’s not just a 10,000 people, it could be, 10 people, but it’s the impression it makes and for me, the reason why I really wanted to jump this podcast off again is because quite frankly, I need the interaction, this conversation is going to give me so much live and just make the rest of my week better because it’s hard, it’s really hard all this bad news and information. And so this is life. This is oxygen for someone like me. And so I really can’t thank you enough for the, I knew it was going to be a great conversation. I had no idea we were going to really, of course, we would align on all these things. I’ve literally been following you, like that. But I’m really excited. So thank you and I would love to be your guest and talk to you real soon.

Charlie Birney: Okay, thanks so much.

Molly Ruland: Thank you. So thank you all for tuning in to The Lower Third. This was an amazing conversation. I hope it gave you as much energy in life as it gave me. Looking forward to the next one. If you found this content refreshing or enjoyable or valuable at all, please consider sharing this with your network. Posting this on LinkedIn goes a long way, tag me in it. If you’d like to be a guest on the podcast, hit me up, if you want to be a mentor or contribute to the betterment, the democratization of information and content, hit me up, me and Charlie got some ideas. And other than that, I hope you guys all have a great day. Remember, cut yourself a little slack. We’re all doing the best we can wear a mask, stay safe and be cool to your neighbors. All right.


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