Secret Societies on How to Go Global with a Multilingual Launch

The head researcher behind Parcast Network’s new show Secret Societies talks about the opportunities in podcasting outside the English-speaking world.

If you're based in the United States, your podcasting world is probably mostly (or exclusively) English-speaking. But both podcast creation and listenership is growing across the globe as well as the talent that's available for creation and production. Parcast, a company owned by Spotify, is a podcast network with a focus on storytelling and an international scope. Its new show, Secret Societies, launched simultaneously in the U.S., Brazil, and Mexico, complete with translations in Portugese and Spanish upon its launch.

Released every Thursday, Secret Societies is a deep-dive podcast looking into the history, practices, and cultures of secret societies from around the world--everything from the Skull and Bones to the Knights Templar. Each secret society is discussed over two episodes, with each episode running for just about 40 minutes. The secret societies covered are, like the show itself, international in scope, with roots around the world. Secret Societies invites listeners to not just marvel at how these societies work, but also ask bigger questions about who's behind the events, companies, and industries we encounter every day.

Parcast head researcher Julian Boireau, a native of the United States who speaks English and French explains how Parcast accomplished the show’s multilingual, international release, and what podcasts stand to gain by looking beyond borders.

Spotify for Podcasters: How and when was the choice made to launch Secret Societies in Brazil and Mexico? What opportunities were you looking to tap into?

Julian Boireau: Secret Societies was our fifth adaptation, but our first in Latin America. In deciding to enter the market, we really wanted to do something special. At the end of 2019, we landed on the idea of producing a show to launch simultaneously in three languages (English, Portuguese, and Spanish). Secret Societies launched in all three languages on January 9, 2020, on a simultaneous schedule where the same episode debuts every week domestically and internationally. The content lent itself beautifully to adaptation, as Secret Societies dissects covert groups and organizations around the world.

When you adapt a podcast, you open the door to vocal talent, sound designers, audio engineers, and other professionals who may not have seen podcasting as a viable career. As a result, you empower local audio producers who will in turn educate their professional networks about the opportunities present in podcasting.

From a business perspective, adapting a show is a way to [make] high-quality content [available] quickly, to satisfy the podcast listenership in a given market. We adapted Secret Societies for the same reason we launch any show: to inform and entertain listeners.

What makes multilingual podcasting so important?

It is meaningful for us because we love podcasts. We want to grow listenership around the world by offering high-quality content that will establish listener trust in the medium. It is meaningful for me personally because I can finally share my work with friends and family around the world, in their native languages.

We believe that high-quality podcasts should be available for everyone. When you produce a high-quality adaptation, you show storytellers around the world what is possible.

What were the challenges in launching in multiple languages and territories at once? How did that change the production process?

The main challenge had to do with providing the scripts in advance for translation and recording in both Portuguese and Spanish. This endeavor could not have been possible without the hard work of the writing and fact-checking teams at Parcast, who accelerated their production cycles to build in more time for the adaptation process. The same should be said for the [local] market teams, who sourced local talent to translate, record, and produce the audio within the time allotted.

The benefits largely outweigh these challenges as we become exposed to more potential episode topics, and more nuanced feedback as the diversity of the production team and listenership grows.

What would you share with other teams looking to do a launch like this?

Our main takeaway within Parcast is that innovation is critical to growth and success; our advice for other teams looking to launch internationally would be to embrace the innovation and work together to craft a product that is right for a particular listenership. This perspective is a key factor within the decision making vision expressed by Max Cutler, Parcast’s founder and managing director, and the entire Parcast leadership team.

What was it specifically about Secret Societies that made it a great fit for Parcast's first international launch?

Secret Societies was our fifth adaptation, but our first simultaneous launch. We now have eight adaptations, five of which release new episodes at the same time as the english language version.

Secret Societies is great because it features a large number of international groups and intersects with themes that have wide ranging appeal. We discuss the history of these groups, the intricacies of their rituals, prominent individuals who may have been members, and world events these groups may have played a part in orchestrating. In turn this show delves into dark history, mystery, crime, conspiracy, and the occult; it really has it all!

— Wil Williams