ORLANDO — The stars of the ESPN podcast, His & Hers with Michael Smith and Jemele Hill, took their show to the people Thursday night at the National Association of Black Journalists Convention and Career Fair. For over an hour inside a Gaylord Palms Resort ballroom, Smith and Hill provided hundreds of conventioneers a look inside the production of their podcast — now premiering episodes every Monday and Thursday.
Afterward, Smith was happy how this experiment — the pair’s first podcast before a live audience — with their “passion project” unfolded.
“I hope people got some inspiration out of it,” Smith said, “because I know how much this means to us. It’s a dream job when you get to do a television show and a podcast with your best friend.”
Joined by producer Drew Brooks and Vice President, Digital Audio, Charita Johnson, Smith and Hill regaled the crowd with how His & Hers’ episodes evolve.
A sports-related topic might be just a starting point for Smith and Hill, who along with Hugh Douglas co-host ESPN2’s Numbers Never Lie.
Instead of merely debating how a certain Heisman Trophy winner’s nightlife might affect his pro prospects, the His & Hers hosts used the controversy to share their own collegiate skeletons.
“We did a Johnny Manziel podcast and we used it as an excuse to talk about the wild stuff we did in college. Well, me, not you,” Hill said in reference to her mild-mannered podcast partner.
“I live vicariously through Johnny Manziel,” Smith said.
“We went into this [with the idea it] is a “sports culture” podcast,” said Hill, who credits Brooks and Johnson with helping refine the show. “Sports is sort of the ‘headline’ that gets us into other areas.”
The topics run the gamut from serious to silly. Smith ahd Hill’s sobering takes on the Steubenville, Ohio rape case involving high school football players elicited passionate audience response.
By the same token, a running joke about which host wears the more unique T-shirt has evolved into an expensive, time-consuming contest that provides plenty of podcast fodder as this tweet indicates:
— Jemele Hill (@jemelehill) August 1, 2013
Brooks said downloads of the His & Hers podcast has increased 25 percent since its February 2013 debut.
“One of the hardest things about doing a podcast twice a week is building an audience,” Brooks said. “The more we do, the better the numbers are.”
Note: Visit ESPN’s PodCenter to hear the podcast from NABJ on Monday, Aug. 5. The next day, Smith and Hill will fill in for Colin Cowherd on ESPN Radio from 10 a.m.-1 p.m.