On this month’s edition of Inside the Podcast Studio, we sit down with Jean Chatzky, financial editor at NBC’s TODAY Show and creator of the HerMoney with Jean Chatzky podcast. Learn more about how Jean got into podcasting, and why her longtime television format has translated so well.
On the Show
Tell us about how the podcast came to be.
It came up in a brainstorming session with some terrific women I’ve been working with at Fidelity Investments. We were talking about ways to get more women talking about money, not just on special occasions, but on a regular basis. Someone (not me!) said podcast. And off we went.
What is your team like? How do you work together?
My internal team consists of a very small but dedicated and collaborative group of women. We get together to brainstorm show ideas, guests we want to book, topics we need to cover, then divide and conquer to make sure that we cross off every item on our lists. What I love most about my team is that every person is willing to dive in and do whatever is needed to get the work done! This is important because the podcast is just one of the things we do together—we produce a monthly in-school magazine called Your $ for two million fourth through sixth graders, research and write segments and stories for TODAY and Forbes.com, and created educational financial content for our corporate partners including Fidelity Investments and Pepsi-Co. On the podcast side, we’re highly supported by (and grateful to) our colleagues at PRX.
Where do you find stories for the show?
Life. Friends. Other media. The Internet. Seriously—I learned a long time ago to always have my ears tuned to that frequency. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been out to dinner with friends telling stories about their older parents, or insurance woes, or college tuition challenges or the fabulous TED Talk they saw, and I think: Story!
Tell us about your show and what makes it unique. Why are you so passionate about your subject matter?
HerMoney with Jean Chatzky is a continuing conversation to learn about money. Asking the questions I had to in-the-know people put me (as a woman) in the driver’s seat of my own financial life. It made me feel more confident, comfortable and in control. I want to help our listeners through the exact same experience. What I’ve also learned is that money is like a thread that winds through pretty much all aspects of life. So we won’t just talk about 12B-1 mutual fund fees and other boring minutia—we talk about relationships, kids, parents, work, life, fun, fear, challenging situations and using money as a tool to get what you want.
We love the fan questions section of the podcast. What questions do you get asked most often? What worries people the most?
I get a lot of common questions. Some of them include:
Do I have enough for retirement, college, emergencies, my first home (fill in the blank(?
Who can I trust to help me? And how can I find that person?
What’s the smart way to repay my student loan, mortgage, credit card bills (again, fill in the blank)?
Women are most worried about running out of money before they run out of time.
How do you think the podcast episodes can complement your presence on the TODAY Show?
I love the fact that I have more time! The wonderful thing about podcasting is that although we try to stick to a clock, we aren’t slaves to it. We can give our interviews time to breathe. In addition to answering the questions, I get to ask them. I’m a very good interviewer (three decades of practice will do that), but you don’t get to see that on TODAY!
What makes your show ideal for the podcast format?
The podcasting format gives us freedom to keep asking questions until we actually get a satisfactory answer—that’s very important in the world of money. Also, we’re featuring fascinating women—Arianna Huffington, Gretchen Rubin, Joanna Coles—we want to hear their stories, and we have plenty of time to do that.
On the Space
Where do you literally do your work? Can you walk us through that space?
I’m laughing because I work wherever I am. My most important tool is my MacBook Air. I bought my first one—when Apple launched it—because it enabled me to replace the six-pound laptop I was never without with a three-pound laptop. It saved my shoulder. I do a lot of different things, but they all involve writing: books, scripts, etc.
Do you have a thinking or reflection space—somewhere you go outside the studio to gather creative inspiration?
I like to tell people I get my best ideas when I’m on a run or in the shower. Interestingly, I learned from this week’s episode that there’s science behind the fact that people get great ideas in the shower. Linda Kaplan-Thaler and Robin Koval, authors of the new book Grit to Great (and inventors of the “Aflac duck” among other campaigns) explained that when there is hot running water hitting your head, the blood vessels in your brain open up and you get creative. That was the inspiration behind their commercial for Herbal Essences where the woman stood under the shower saying, “Yes, yes, yes”. (Well, that and other things).
How do you record your show? What type of equipment does your team use for in-studio or at home recording vs. in the field?
We record in CDM Sound Studios in Hell’s Kitchen—unless our guest needs us to come to them. Charles de Montebello of CDM does our editing. We’ve been in the studio at AOL on lower Broadway with Arianna Huffington, a WeWork conference room with a freelance producer to interview Giada DeLaurentiis, and at Milkboy The Studio in Philly with Jennifer Weiner.
What can the podcast medium achieve that other media forms like broadcasts cannot?
Intimacy. It’s just me and you (and my guest) in your car, or in your ears, while you’re walking the dog (or swimming, or running). That’s very helpful when you’re talking about an intimate subject… and money is nothing if not intimate.
What do you think makes a great podcast host? Tell us more about what makes you unique as a podcast host?
A great podcast host is someone you want to jump out of the headphones and sit down with you for a cup of coffee. I think people see me that way — they feel like they know me from 20 years on TV. This is our opportunity to take our relationship to the next level.
How do you envision the future of podcasting landscape?
I think the future of podcasting is so exciting because it’s one more step in the democratization of content. My father ran network affiliated television stations during my childhood and there was such limited capacity that there were always terrific programs either never making it on the air or being cancelled too quickly. Today, there are so many more homes for content that good programming has a greater opportunity to make it on the air initially and find its audience. I am hopeful that we’re headed toward a rise in quality content that is more meaningful to the people who tune in.