Audience data and love stories go hand in hand for Meet Cute.
A love of rom-coms, a fascination with storytelling, and a background in start-up investments inspired Naomi Shah to launch her own podcast company. Enter Meet Cute, audio rom-coms that break the mold. By focusing on user needs, diverse stories, and listener behavior, Meet Cute has become the go-to source for stories of love in all its forms. We sat down with Naomi to talk strategy, analytics, and how Meet Cute is pushing narrative storytelling forward.
Apple Podcasts: Your background is in finance and venture capital. How did that shape your journey into podcasting?
Naomi: I’ve always been obsessed with stories. Even in school I would throw in creative writing and storytelling classes because there was part of me that wanted to use both sides of my brain. Audio and podcasts struck me as an incredible opportunity because of how nascent that market was and because of the way that people consume audio in their daily behavior. What I love about audio and the narrative space is that you’re not served the visuals. Every single person listening has the opportunity to become the storyteller, to become the director, so to speak. I was obsessed with that.
AP: You started Meet Cute on Valentine’s Day 2020 — weeks before the COVID-19 national shutdown. What were those beginning months like?
Naomi: What was amazing about that period, to see the silver lining in it, was that entertainment and media had dropped off because people couldn’t create movies and TV shows in person. We spent most of our energy in the beginning developing our audience, asking who is our community? How are we reaching them? Are we solving a problem for them? At that point, there was a lack of feel-good content but a massive need for it. And so it felt really good to be a company that could provide that for people during that time and do it really consistently. The resiliency of the medium is part of the reason that we could continue to deliver for our audiences during that really tough time.
AP: That ties into your mission statement, “to create feel-good stories and inspire the full spectrum of love.”
Naomi: Absolutely. The word “spectrum” is really important in that mission statement because diversity and representation is baked into our business model — from writers, directors, and producers, to actors, sound engineers, and everyone else that works on our stories with us. We try to have representation in our stories, different geographies, different socioeconomic statuses, different abilities, so that everyone coming to Meet Cute, no matter what their background is, or what their stories are, can find something in our library that feels like it was made for them. Most of our audience is Gen Z and Millennial. It’s important to us and to our audience that we are building the future of rom-coms — and storytelling — that reflects the diversity in the world.
AP: How does all of that factor into the business of Meet Cute?
Naomi: We think that those values truly build trust with our brand. People come to Meet Cute because of our consistency. We always offer a 15-minute story in audio, and every time you come to Meet Cute, you’re surprised and delighted by new characters and new settings that you wouldn’t expect in a romantic comedy.
AP: Can you talk about some lessons you’ve learned from running this type of business?
Naomi: The learnings are immense because we’re allowing ourselves to test rapidly with a bunch of different storylines and characters and settings to see how certain stories are going to perform. We’re constantly looking to see what people are reacting to and how we can use that to create really amazing stories the next time around.
So part of the challenge is really understanding how people are going to be consuming this. And that’s something we’re figuring out — how people can engage with our content in a more evergreen way rather than just in the way that they engage with news or more topical content.
AP: How does that listener engagement data factor into your content strategy for Apple Podcasts Subscriptions?
Naomi: We want to offer people the right experience for them, whether it’s “I only have 15 minutes today,” or “I want to binge an entire series at once and treat it like a movie experience.”
So you can listen to our stories on Apple Podcasts for free, and you get these stories dripped out over the course of a month. And we drop our entire series the week before the episodes start going out on our main channel for subscribers.
Through the platforms that we’re on, through our distribution cadence, what we’re trying to get at is there’s no one right way to engage with Meet Cute and our stories. Let’s offer people the options so they can make the decision.
AP: Are there other trends or areas of opportunity you’ve tapped into when it comes to consumption and how your followers use your platform?
Naomi: Because we have over 400 rom-coms in our library — which is a massive amount of storytelling — we tried experimenting with something a little more intangible, like a feeling or an emotion, and categorized our stories that way. It’s another way to experience the stories in our library. We’re learning a lot from what feelings people are clicking into more often than not. And how that signals to us what we can spend more time on.
AP: How do you know when to pivot instead of doubling down?
Naomi: I think that there is a delicate balance between continuing to work at something because you have a ton of conviction, but also taking a beat every now and then to actually listen to what your audience wants.
AP: Any advice for up-and-coming podcasters or people who want to jump into this space?
Naomi: I would say having conviction around the content that you’re creating. So for us, it was having a really strong viewpoint on what types of stories we were going to tell, and doing that over and over and over again. If your niche is in something else, stick with it and continue to deliver that consistently, because that I think is where you can really build trust with people. Once you find something that you’re really excited about, stick with it and stick with it in a consistent way.