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A Q&A with Megaphone Partner, Noiser
15 July 2020 20:29pm
In this interview, Megaphone sat down with Noiser founder and CEO, Pascal Hughes, to talk about podcasting and its unique ability to captivate listeners through storytelling.
For those who don’t know, tell us a little bit about your program(s).
Noiser specialises in modern, immersive podcast documentaries and dramas for audiences who enjoy watching high quality TV shows on demand. Our podcasts are based on real events. The drama is intercut with interviews with the real people who found themselves at the heart of the real stories. For example, if one of our episodes is following a DEA agent capturing the drug lord, Pablo Escobar, we intercut the drama with interviews with the real agents who were there on the ground at the time. We don’t want Hollywood versions of events; we want our podcasts to capture the real stories and the real emotions.
Since April of this year, we’ve released two podcast series: Real Narcos and Real Dictators.
Real Narcos takes you undercover with the DEA agents who hunted down the world's most infamous narco-terrorists. As an audience member, you feel like you’re right there alongside the agents as they kick down doors, narrowly avoid assassination and dismantle international drug cartels. Season One follows the hunt for the king of cocaine, Pablo Escobar, and the woman known as the Cocaine Godmother, Griselda Blanco. Season 2 will follow the hunt for El Chapo.
Real Dictators, hosted by actor Paul McGann (Dr Who, Luther, Withnail and I), explores the hidden lives of history’s tyrants. There’s Kim Jong-il, the man who developed nuclear warheads alongside blockbuster movies. There’s Mao Zedong – the peasant’s son who transformed China, presiding over the catastrophic Great Chinese Famine and the bloody Cultural Revolution. And Joseph Stalin, the former exile who turned Russia into a superpower and set the stage for the Cold War, while upending and destroying the lives and livelihoods of millions of his own people. Real Dictators features interviews with world-renowned experts and regime insiders such as Jang Jin-sung – a former psychological warfare officer for Kim Jong-il – and François Benoit, a survivor of "Papa Doc" Duvalier’s reign of terror in the Caribbean nation of Haiti.
Tell us the origin story of your podcast, how it all came together.
I used to be a TV director at the BBC and the Discovery Channel where I would make history documentaries and true crime shows. I loved directing access-driven TV programmes exploring real events. But I found that due to the nature of TV shows being quite short, I often had to leave a lot of amazing stories on the cutting room floor. Seeing the podcast industry begin to boom, I quickly came to see podcasts as a more versatile medium where producers are free to tell stories in the ways they want, and in the ways the material itself dictates. This story-driven editorial approach really appealed to me.
Back in 2018, I wrote a couple of true crime podcast series based on access I had to some American police detectives. Somewhat to my surprise, my first podcast was downloaded tens of millions of times. After a brief spell back in TV, in 2020 I decided to totally commit to creating podcasts. I started Noiser and haven’t looked back.
Noiser’s first show, Real Narcos, was inspired by one little story that was a window into the world of the drugs trade and organised crime. I read about how Pablo Escobar had started his life of crime as a teenager by stealing gravestones in his home town of Medellín, Colombia. He made money by shaving the names off the gravestones and reselling them on the black market. This kind of detail fascinated me - I wanted to find out more about Escobar's early life and learn how he ended up becoming the world’s most wanted criminal. After Escobar fell, the cocaine trade didn’t simply vanish. I wanted to explore the lives of other high-profile traffickers who worked alongside him and followed in his wake - such as the Cocaine Godmother, Griselda Blanco, and the world’s most powerful drug baron of recent years, El Chapo.
Our second show, Real Dictators, was released very recently. It delves into the hidden stories of history’s tyrants. The series was inspired by reading accounts from a North Korean defector who was once high up in Kim Jong-il’s regime. He recounted how the dictator would eat fine foods imported from all over the world with gold chopsticks, whilst at the same time his own people starved. These accounts of what happened in North Korea were so shocking, I felt it was important to uncover what life was really like for people living in North Korea, and what’s it like in the country today. We thought the show might satisfy a niche interest in the podcast landscape, but we’re delighted it has debuted top of the charts in 17 countries.
At what point did you start thinking of this as a business?
Podcasting began as a passion project I did alongside my TV work. But once I committed to the industry, and especially when we started being contacted by brands who wanted to advertise across our network, I began to think of it as something I could do professionally and full-time. I launched Noiser Podcasts in April 2020 and have assembled a small team of producers, writers and editors who are doing an amazing job. Most importantly we all love producing podcasts and have a lot of fun making them.
What’s your audience? Who are trying to reach?
Our main target audience is a generation used to high quality video on demand. They expect audio content to be developed and polished to the same high standards. We want to make shows that stand the test of time - that aren’t just forgotten after a week. Our ambition is to create premium, high quality series that entertain, surprise and inform successive audiences for years to come.
Talk through the creative process for how you choose your topics and themes for your programming.
Stories require emotion, and as a result at Noiser we orient our podcasts around real people with real stories to tell.
Although many of our podcasts focus on famous people in history, I always try and tease out the underdog stories. Normal people who put their lives and reputations on the line and in doing so changed the world.
What’s next for you and your podcast?
Season Two of both Real Narcos and Real Dictators will be out in the not too distant future. Also, we have a number of other shows in the pipeline – across crime and history. Using my previous experience as a TV director, our current development slate includes podcast ideas that we'd love to develop into TV shows.
Name a podcast you love.
Slow Burn. Also, our up-coming show Secret History Of… is sounding pretty good!
Noiser is a network of premium podcasts that are distributed internationally via all major podcast apps. Noiser launched in April 2020 with two podcasts, “Real Narcos” and “Real Dictators”, both of which topped multiple download charts throughout the world. Noiser’s aim is to entertain and inform our audiences, wherever they listen.
For more information about our shows visit www.noiser.com