How Betches went from meme machine to burgeoning podcast business.
On a random weeknight in 2011, college roommates Aleen Dreksler, Jordana Abraham, and Samantha Sage were doing what second-semester seniors do best: procrastinating. Specifically, they were discussing how “bro” culture was everywhere around them, but there wasn’t a term for the female equivalent. That’s when they came up with “betch.” Dreksler, Abraham, and Sage knew there were other millennial betches like them out there — they just needed their own space. And that’s how Betches was born.
It took just one Facebook post to make Betches a viral sensation. And for good reason. Betches offered the unfiltered female experience, from hilarious memes to snarky commentary that had every group chat saying, “OMG, this is so us.” The internet ate it up. Within a year, the original “betches” not only had a book deal but millions of followers on social media and a burgeoning media business.
The secret to Betches’ growth was simple: They went where other betches went. Whatever platforms millennial women were using, Betches used too. In 2016, they followed their audience right into podcasts. When their first podcast was a hit, they tried another. And another. And another. Today, @Betches is one of the fastest-growing brands on Apple Podcasts, with 12 shows and millions of plays. In October 2021, their hit show U Up? ranked in the Top 10 for Apple subscriptions.
Apple Podcasts caught up with Betches cofounder Jordana Abraham about how Betches built a rapidly growing community around unfiltered conversation.
Apple Podcasts: What inspired you to bring Betches to podcasts?
Jordana: The first five years of Betches were all about building up our social presence and our blog readership. Then, in 2016, we went on this podcast with comedian Jared Freid. It caught fire. And it was the perfect outlet for our kind of company. So we thought, maybe we could do this ourselves? We experimented for a while with our first podcast. When we moved into a real office, we built out a recording studio and hired a full-time producer. A year later, we launched another one. From there, we started podcasts in other verticals that we knew our audience would be interested in.
AP: Did you learn new approaches for growing and understanding your podcast audience?
Jordana: It definitely helped that we had a large social arm by the time we launched podcasts, because it was a great way to get new content out there. But we also found that word of mouth is key. That and having a high-quality product. The best shows were spreading because people were sharing them with their friends. Podcasts work like memes in that way. You can promote something all you want, but the best are the ones where everyone’s tagging their friends because they capture this intangible feeling or moment so perfectly.
AP: What are some challenges that you face as you grow?
Jordana: We’ve built Betches from the ground up using only the money we’ve earned as a company. So that’s limited us in terms of the risks we can take. We don’t just try anything to see if it sticks. Every risk is very calculated. We do our research and make sure our content is high quality and has a lot of potential before we invest in it. The nice thing about podcasting is that the barrier to entry is relatively low. If you have something interesting to say, it’s anyone’s game. So we can experiment without having to take on a ton of risk as a business.
AP: What made you decide to launch a podcast subscription? And what have you learned from the experience?
Jordana: Subscriptions gave us another outlet to have more intimate conversations with the hosts — and more content for our diehard fans. When a host knows someone’s paying for their content, it’s easier for them to get a little more vulnerable because they know you care. So launching a podcast subscription was a win-win for us and our audience. These days, there are so many different things competing for your attention and time. Which is why Apple Podcasts Subscriptions is great. People can pay in the app right away and they can have all of their content in one place. We love that there’s also a free option, so we can have the freedom to charge people only for the additional content. It’s up to them.
AP: How have you used your channel to grow your audience?
Jordana: The channel creates a feed for all our content — which makes it easy for people to follow or subscribe to each of our shows. If you like one Betches show, it groups together other Betches shows you might also like and exposes people to more of our content organically.
AP: What have you learned about subscriptions? What kinds of benefits are people responding to?
Jordana: We wanted to make our subscriptions accessible. But we also had to figure out the right price point for the benefits we were offering. So if we were going to ask people to pay, it had to be worth it. That really informed our decisions about the benefits. Ultimately, we decided to give subscribers early access, ad-free episodes that felt more intimate, more vulnerable, more behind the scenes. Which we ended up creating with our two biggest shows, U Up? and Diet Starts Tomorrow.
AP: Are you using any of the analytics or subscription data to guide next steps for the business?
Jordana: The data has been really helpful, especially for marketing purposes. We’ve been lucky enough to grow most of our content organically, but in the past year we’ve started experimenting with paid media. Just thinking about risk, the analytics are so important to help us decide what to invest in. Whether we’re marketing the subscriber benefits or paying to promote a podcast on a different podcast, we want to know what the return is.
AP: Have you found certain promotional tactics are more successful than others?
Jordana: One thing we’ve found that works is content sharing between two podcasts. Going on someone else’s podcast or having them on yours is a great way to expand your audience, especially if there’s a lot of audience overlap or similar sensibilities.
AP: What has been the best part of this podcasting journey?
Jordana: I think the coolest thing is seeing people come together because they love this podcast or they love this topic and they’re having fun. Podcasting is similar to stand-up comedy in that you’re creating community around conversation. And we’ve been able to do that with Betches. Two years ago, we turned our U Up? podcast into a 21-city tour and sold out a 1,500-person venue in New York. Growing this kind of community around conversation has been really amazing to see.