The United Nations of Storytelling
How Studio Ochenta is reaching the world through its multilingual podcasts.
Lory Martinez speaks French, Spanish, and English, so when she started making podcasts, she knew she wanted to release them in all three languages. Studio Ochenta, the company she founded in Paris in 2019, does just that, releasing a slate of shows including the adventurers’ guide How Not To Travel, oenophile favorite Wine School Dropout, and the fictional Mija, in multiple languages simultaneously, allowing them to better reach and serve listeners who may speak different languages than the official one of their country.
The concept of the podcast shop came naturally to Martinez. “I'm from New York, I grew up in Queens. I studied in upstate New York and worked in public radio there,” Martinez says. “I had a Bachelor's in French linguistics and journalism, so I decided to use it and apply for a master's program in Paris.” She was accepted into a master's program in Paris in 2015 and, as the podcasting boom hit the country, she started producing series as a freelancer, working on the French food program A Poêle.
During this time, Martinez built a reputation as someone who people could turn to for help learning the relatively new medium. “Because I spoke French, it kind of gave me a natural international angle, if you will,” she explains from her Paris home. She worked with organizations in Spain, France, the US, and UK that were trying to access the audio market before striking out on her own in 2019. That’s when she launched Studio Ochenta. The company now has two branches, Ochenta Originals and Ochenta Productions, which offers consulting and production services to brands and businesses in the European market.
The latest addition to their slate of originals is Ochenta Stories, which recounts tales from around the world about life during the coronavirus pandemic and were gathered after the studio’s first global call for pitches. “I thought we would get stories in Spanish, English, French, and Italian because we're in Europe, but then I started getting Korean and Chinese pitches, too,” says Martinez. While she hadn’t planned for it, she was excited to broaden her audience to include Asian listeners, even if it meant paying to bring in new translators. “If you want to make podcasts for the world,” she says, “you have to show as much of the world as you can.” In that spirit, the new season of Mija will also be released in Mandarin, as it’s about the daughter of a Chinese immigrant living in France.
To be able to consistently release her original shows in three languages, Martinez limits the series to eight episodes a season, each one clocking in at ten minutes. She sees the short length as the perfect amount of time to adapt shows and translate them affordably. “If you have ten minutes, you can really go far, thinking of all the different versions of the same thing,” she says. “Whereas, if you did a show that's forty minutes, it would be really complicated logistically to get that translated or changed and adapted to different languages.”
Nowadays, multilingual podcasts are skyrocketing in popularity. Around the same time that Martinez launched Studio Ochenta, other companies started translating their hit English-language shows—for instance, you can now listen to Dr. Death in spanish (Dr. Muerte) and french (Dr LaMort). Though Martinez loves American true crime stories, she wants to shine her company’s spotlight elsewhere. “My vision is different in the sense that I'm trying to kind of focus on the stories that are coming from other parts of the world,” she says.
While Martinez and her team would happily take on more work, she also wants to capitalize on the movement’s momentum and share her advice for other podcast companies looking to mimic Ochenta’s strategy. “People around the world are probably already listening to your show, so look at your stats,” she says. She also points out that you don’t need to translate an entire show, but could adapt a single episode or interview, especially when you have a guest who speaks another language. “Having a recording of that interview in a second language could be beneficial for that community and you could expand your message,” Martinez says.
Her main point, though, is that while translation might add an expensive line item to a podcasters’ budget, being able to spread your message in as many languages as possible is an invaluable step to breaking down barriers in storytelling. After all, the goal is to be heard.