Entrepreneurs: Amy Wilson and Margaret Ables

Biz: What Fresh Hell: Laughing in the Face of Motherhood

Tilt: Sticky bits of parenting

Channel: Podcast (4M downloads)

Marketing mix: Facebook (30.2K) TikTok (7.8K) Instagram (4.8K) Twitter (1.1K) YouTube (511)

Rev streams: Dynamic ads in podcast catalog, sponsorships, affiliate marketing 

Our Favorite Actionable Advice

  • Make new money on old content: This duo can insert dynamic ads into any of the over 300 episodes created since 2016.
  • React to your audience’s needs: They added a toddler-focused podcast based on listener requests and they expanded their content to help families adapt during the pandemic, accelerating their growth.
  • Get to the point: Parents don’t have time to sit through the chitchat often heard in podcast intros. Amy and Margaret still do that, but listeners never hear it because it’s edited out. 

The Story

When they launched the parenting podcast What Fresh Hell: Laughing in the Face of Motherhood in 2016, Amy Wilson and Margaret Ables often had to explain what a podcast even was. At the time, just 36% of Americans had ever listened to a podcast.

Amy Wilson and Margaret Ables What Fresh Hell parenting podcasters.

“When we started talking about having a podcast, people were like, ‘It’s like a radio show, but it’s on your phone?’” Margaret says. “People were still figuring it out.”

But by 2019, half of Americans had listened to a podcast and What Fresh Hell’s listener numbers climbed too. Today, as global demand for podcasts skyrockets, What Fresh Hell boasts more than 4 million downloads.

In May, Amy and Margaret launched a new podcast, Toddler Purgatory, which covers the toddler years and debuted at No. 4 on the Apple podcasts parenting chart.

Five years ago, the duo saw What Fresh Hell as simply another version of blogging, an entry point to communicate about what they call the sticky bits of parenting. Today, it’s the center of their business.

In 2016, @whatfreshmedia launched a podcast about the sticky bits of parenting as a blog alternative. Today it is the center of their #contentbusiness. #contententrepreneurs Click To Tweet

“The opportunity to start to develop, under our brand, women-based content that is helpful to other women, especially moms, is really meaningful to us,” Margaret says. “And it feels great to be in a position to expand our company to a place where we are really helping moms, giving them good information and helping other content creators get their voice out in the world.”

Making advertising dynamic

When Amy and Margaret launched What Fresh Hall, they knew how to build an audience for other venues. Amy is the author of a bestselling parenting book, toured the country with a one-woman show called Mother Load, and has been a series regular in several sitcoms. Margaret was a standup comedian, wrote for PBS Kids and MTV, and was the senior writer for Nickelodeon’s Nick Mom.

They also understood how to monetize an entertainment business through advertising.

“Some people use Patreon; some people have subscribers,” Margaret says. “We always approached it from an advertising model.” 

In the beginning, revenue came through affiliate marketing. The duo would get a cut when a listener used a show-specific code to purchase a product. By 2018, they started working with sponsors. And in 2019, they transformed their revenue model when they began building the show for dynamic insertion advertising.

Now they can add new ads to old episodes, whether they debuted five weeks or three years ago. “Ads get dropped in, sometimes different ads, depending on who is listening,” Amy says. “We still work with sponsors. We still record the ads. It’s always our voices on the ads. But we can insert them across our entire catalog.”

Dynamic ads let podcasters drop in fresh ads to old episodes based on the listener's interests. @whatfreshmedia uses them and found big success. #podcasting #creatoreconomy Click To Tweet

Parenting topics are evergreen. A fresh crop of parents who are struggling with potty training or homework hang-ups always exists. And Amy and Margaret offer content that appeals to parents across the child-raising journey. That tactic has paid off, especially once advertising became dynamic.

“Every month, about half of listeners to the podcast come to us through episodes that are more than a month old,” Amy says. “We find that once a listener gets really interested in a show, they might go back and listen from the very beginning, which is 300 episodes at this point. Once we were able to monetize the entire catalog, that’s when things started to grow very quickly for us.”

Turning fans into super fans

COVID only accelerated that growth as they began helping listeners navigate the challenges of pandemic family life. Thanks in large part to that programming shift, their yearly download number (1M) now has happened in six months.

“It turned our fans into super fans, and they never missed an episode because they are on this journey with us,” Amy says.

Toddler Purgatory, hosted by Blaire Brooks and Molly Lloyd, who are actresses and parents of toddlers, is a response to listeners’ requests. While the podcast isn’t about the hosts’ kids, listeners appreciate knowing that they’re in the thick of it. “It is nice to have somebody who is still in it,” Margaret says. (Amy and Margaret’s kids are now tweens and teens.)

To get the word out about Toddler Purgatory, Amy and Margaret have fallen back on marketing tactics they used to grow What Fresh Hell – collaborating with other podcasts, promoting it on their Facebook page, and buying banner ads on a podcast app. 

More advice for content entrepreneurs

Amy and Margaret share these additional tips to help grow your podcast:

Make the show you were meant to make

Some podcasters tend to chase certain themes. For example, if you want to do a funny true-crime podcast, make sure to offer a unique take, Margaret says. “What is the show that you’re not seeing that you wish you were listening to? What is the show you are uniquely suited to be the voice to create?”

What is the #podcast you’re not seeing that you wish you were listening to? What show are you uniquely suited to create? #podcast questions from @whatfreshmedia founders. #advice #contententrepreneurs Click To Tweet

Create social media content around those partnerships that make it easy for your counterpart to share details within their network. Often, the best way to gather more podcast listeners is to get the word directly to people who already love the medium. “It’s very connection-centric,” Margaret says. “And those connections raise all the people in them.”

Focus on sound, editing

In 2016, podcasters could rely on low-tech microphones and just start talking. That’s not an option anymore. Invest in a good microphone setup, which Amy says shouldn’t cost more than $300. And be thoughtful about your finished product. A listener recently complimented the show for diving straight into the topic at hand in each episode. When you start recording, Amy recommends having a little small talk to warm up with a co-host or guest but edit it out. “That makes for a more interesting show with more staying power,” she says.

Reach out to others

Find other podcasts in your space. Be a guest on each other’s show.

About the author

Sarah Lindenfeld Hall is a longtime journalist, freelance writer, and founding editor of two popular parenting websites in North Carolina. She frequently writes about parenting, aging, education, business management, and interesting people doing remarkable things.