donnie betts (lowercase intentionally) is known for his theatrical and cinematic creativity, but these days he spends time in a studio producing audio files for a radio drama that recounts the Civil Rights Movement struggles, with an aim of reaching greater social and racial justice.
betts is also distributing his shows through podcasts that livestream on phones, tablets and computers, and he dedicates a portion of the show to interviewing “The Electric” who he describes as, “people who get sh*t done.”
Podcasting has become an essential part of the digital media landscape, and betts’ podcasts are now going to be shared through the new Expanding the Narrative Network (ETN). Denver Urban Spectrum is building the network specifically for BIPOC listeners in Colorado.
“We believe that by joining forces with local podcast creators and providing a network to amplify these experiences in one place, we can shape how we understand and address systemic issues of race, justice and equity,” explained DUS Associate Publisher and Network Manager Brittany Winkfield.
Winkfield is a long-time friend of the Spectrum, and has written several articles in the publication. As DUS was strategizing on how to transition to a stronger business structure and increase digital platforms in 2022, she stood out as someone who could assist Publisher Rosalind “Bee” Harris in taking the 36-year-old legacy media company to the next level.
With funding assistance from Colorado Media Project and the Rose Community Foundation, Winkfield was hired as associate publisher in February. She is leading the charge to integrate state-of-the-art technology into DUS operations, and support various grant and revenue-building activities.
She and DUS Social Media and Website Manager Melovy Melvin launched a membership and donation campaign through RevenueHub, with training funded by the Black Media Initiative. They are about to embark on transitioning the DUS website to a new platform called NewsPack, which will boost website visitors’ experiences and offer more ways to support and connect to DUS.
Winkfield also rebooted the creation of ETN Network, a project in the planning since late 2021. The podcast network will provide even more opportunities for DUS partners to maximize their reach in the areas of news, culture, business, youth, wellness, and more.
She has reached out to leading podcasters in the Denver metro area like betts, who will become the founding voices on ETN. His “Destination Freedom Black Radio Days,” which dramatized the lives of great figures to fight media stereotypes, was voted one of the Best Podcasts of 2022 by the Denver Post.
The show was originally written and produced by journalist and author Richard Durham, and began airing on WMAQ in Chicago in 1948. Each episode illuminates a largely unknown, but important chapter in the history of human rights and tells how radio played its part from the very beginning. Walking a daring line between reform and revolution, it was shut down by its network in 1950, as McCarthyism and anti-communism tightened its grip on American broadcasting.
Sharing stories and voices that are often marginalized is a foundational purpose of the new podcast network being launched by DUS. Winkfield described the design of the ETN Network as “an innovative digital newsroom, with episodic content available across several major streaming platforms in the form of audio podcasts. While the mainstream media narrowly focuses on problems in the Black community, our growing team focuses on actionable information to improve the health, wealth, and outcomes of our BIPOC communities.”
Maribel Quezada Smith, co-founder of BIPOC Podcast Creators, said, “My favorite part of podcasts as a listener is that they go everywhere I go! Once they’re downloaded to my device, I can listen anywhere and anytime, without having to plop down on a couch. As a creator, podcasting has opened up doors to a new way of making meaningful content. The medium is accessible and easy to navigate, but the challenge we have now as podcast creators is growing the listenership of the entire medium. The more people we invite to listen, the more we grow the industry.”
As both a podcast host and avid listener, Tennille Martinez of The Book Advantage podcast can attest to the convenience, personality, and engaging format that makes podcasts a beloved medium for millions of people around the world. From informative interviews to entertaining discussions, podcasts offer a unique listening experience that allows for a deeper connection with the content and the hosts than print can.
“Unlike print publications, podcasts require minimal effort and attention from the listener since they can be enjoyed while doing other activities. Additionally, podcasts are often available for free, making them a more accessible and affordable form of media for many people,” shared Tennille.
As the podcasting business continues to grow, creators have endless opportunities to create content that resonates with their audience.
Da’Janai Smith, a millennial mom from Denver, commented, “I enjoy listening to podcasts because it’s a fun way to get a different perspective on things or feel ‘seen’ on topics that I relate to. It’s almost like being a part of someone’s life without knowing them. Those who I listen to are my ‘friends’ in my mind, lol. I feel like it’s therapeutic to both listen and to share. I also feel like it’s an adventure of sorts and a super fun way to learn.”
Besides creating a platform to showcase relevant stories, create conversations, and uplift the voices that have been suppressed, ETN aims to demonstrate what DUS has been demonstrating for 36 years: Black voices are powerful.
“I like the feeling of honesty I get from podcasts,” proclaimed Marlina Hullum, a longtime friend of DUS and Harris as well as a podcast devotee. “I really enjoy the unfiltered and uncensored conversations and how the participants speak from their hearts and souls as opposed to the commercial television.”
Individual podcast creators can explore various monetization strategies to make their podcasting journey more profitable. Meanwhile, DUS is committed to understanding current trends and anticipating future developments.
“Most podcasts fail due to lack of promotion and engagement,” Winkfield noted. “But, the ETN Network has the strength of DUS behind it, including a monetization plan and a strong marketing strategy to reach targeted audiences. Additionally, this curation of podcast creators explores different topics and formats in order to keep listeners engaged.”
While the longevity and profitability of the podcast network are goals for DUS staff, they are most excited about continuing their mission of spreading news about people of color that educate, inspire and entertain.
“These podcasts are also meant to challenge and transform people, and we invite you to join us on this journey,” she concluded.