The audio impact of a podcast hosted by a subject matter expert

There is an audio alchemy about Gary Jubelin, the podcast host of I Catch Killers with Gary Jubelin and his new six-episode series Breaking Badness, which takes him inside the maximum security Macquarie Correctional Centre.

He’s not from a media background, if you discount making statements for news bulletins during his 34 years as a cop. He’s not a presenter or host, if you don’t include the many police interviews he will have conducted during 25 years in homicide. He’s especially not trained for embellishment. It’s facts, times, dates and evidence.

Yet as I listened to him talking with the families of victims of the Bowraville murders, in Bowraville as it happens, where he’s far more than “just a police officer”, he’s got all of those skills and more.

The “more” that Gary brings to his podcasts can be distilled into authenticity, empathy, open-mindedness, a fully functioning bullshit reader, persistence, subject matter expertise and skin in the game.

I think Gary would agree with me on all the above now but feel certain that when he began I Catch Killers his description would have been “ex-cop interviews cops and crims” with no idea that podcasting would make him a highly invested spokesperson for victim’s families and communities, prison reform and, possibly most surprisingly, why people should consider policing as a vocation.

It wasn’t part of my plan five years ago, but I feel I too have become a subject matter expert on podcasting. Since leaving my on-air role in radio I’ve had many opportunities to approach the audio format from all different angles and ride the waves of momentum and technology advances.

This year, as life truly returned to normal post Covid, I wondered for the first time how much more mileage was in podcast’s legs before the fad died down.

Most of the new podcasts that gain traction are from a recognised identity or influencer who can build their product off an already established platform. As an example I’ll use Hamish Blake’s How Other Dad’s Dad which debuted in the top 20 of the Australian Podcast Ranker last month.

Also, while they are relatively cost effective to make, podcasts are difficult to sustain without the backing of a producer, sponsor or supporting platform. Research and production take more time than you ever anticipate, so time overall is the biggest reason why students of mine abandon their concept, not money.

I am aware, in fact I asked Gary, what his former colleagues’ response was to his starting a police/true crime podcast. Initially they were happy as he was telling good cop stories. It was when he decided to look at a bigger picture of crime in Australia that the podcast took off, and that is what heartens me towards people who’ve always wanted to start a passion podcast but feel they can’t compete in a saturated market.

I Catch Killers had 200,000 listeners last month, and a quarter of a million downloads of episodes. Jubelin has authentically moved beyond an audience of police colleagues to become an excellent storyteller appealling to a true crime audience, but also to people who want to hear about Australian policing, crime and the prison system from subject matter experts (SMEs).

It is SME driven podcasts that I do feel there is still a market for, but again to use Gary as an example, these podcasts can’t just be about the latest thing you are trying to sell, you have to have skin in the game.

It’s ironic the impact that Gary has had on keeping cases he’s worked on (like Bowraville and William Tyrrell’s disappearance) in the public eye. And on reforms that he genuinely believes have impact in our prison system.

More impact with a podcast than three decades in the police.

The skin in the game was demonstrated by Gary catching up with Billy, father of four-year-old Evelyn who was murdered in Bowraville in 1990 by a killer still unknown. Gary has been returning to Bowraville for more than two decades, attending weddings, funerals and community events acknowledging their loss and future. It didn’t start with trust, but it’s present now in the recorded interaction where this former cop consoles Billy with a hug.

Most of you won’t consider yourself a SME, because someone always knows more than you. But that shouldn’t stop you from being a voice to your passion hobby, work or topic. When you love something, or it’s your vocation, you’ll soak up new information like a sponge. And will embrace research, learning and the likeminded community you will discover.

An example is a woman who came to me wanting to start a ukulele podcast. Ukulele is the New Black did four seasons and build a community of friends and overseas audience who shared host Meredith’s love for the instrument.

My favourite story of why a SME has to have skin in the game were three financial planners / accountants who came to learn how to make a podcast for the business they worked at together. Their interviews initially were about rates, accounts and great deals you could only get by being a client of the firm.

One of the three, Ray, was very reluctantly involved with proceedings.

I paired him up with another man and tasked them with finding something in common for a interview together. I can’t remember what the “in common” thing was, but I’ve never forgotten the interview.

Ray talked about how one year a couple didn’t come in for their prebooked EOFY tax appointment. He’d been seeing the couple for more than two decades and was now the accountant for the couple’s children too.

They’d never missed an appointment, so he rang the house and talked to the couple’s daughter, who he knew too.

“Oh Ray,” she said, “Dad died last week, and we just forgot in the grief of funeral preparations. We’re so sorry.”

Ray hung up and thought about the many interactions he’d had with the family over the years. He said he was just too upset to do anymore constructive work. He got up, walked to his car and just drove aimlessly for a while.

It was around this point that Ray returned to the present, and I watched him feel something akin to shame for such an intimate revelation in front of a group of mostly strangers.

I asked the group who would have chosen X financial firm based on the initial conversations about products.

None would have.

I asked them who would choose Ray’s firm after hearing that story?

Everyone, even his colleagues, raised their hands.

He had skin in the game.

A final comment for anyone reading this who has found obstacles to prevent starting a podcast. I had builders at my place last week who were drilling in and around while I was recording this interview. It turns out that my builder is a passionate advocate for radio and podcasting.

I told him I had chatted to Gary Jubelin and his initial response, was,

“Oh, the I Catch Killers podcast host?”

Not the former cop, although my builder knew that too, the podcast host. That’s a remarkable and well deserved outcome for a person with no media, broadcasting or storytelling background.

It’s also a win for Australian podcasting and future podcasters.

Jen Seyderhelm is a writer, editor and podcaster for Radioinfo
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Photo of Gary Jubelin by Sam Ruttyn/Newscorp Australia

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