By Leah Vann
Melissa Plaskoff never thought her “Carpool Talk” show would lead to her being a local podcast sensation. But now, she’s helping others like her dip their feet into podcast media.
“I never thought it was possible,” Plaskoff said. “I’ve tried a lot of things and this is definitely my path, and if I were to go back and talk to myself 20 years ago, I would’ve said, ‘It’s OK, you got this.’”
Plaskoff, a lifelong Dallasite, grew tired of looking for something entertaining to listen to in her endless carpool commute as a mom with three kids, so she started “Carpool Talk” in 2015 as something all parents could listen to while waiting for their kids in what seemed like a monotonous daily routine.
Plaskoff’s podcast grew in both popularity and guest appearances. With that, networks came calling, but she wanted the freedom to dictate the direction of her podcast. She had meet Chris Jagger, former 102.1 The Edge host with experience in both radio and film industry through CBS and Warner Bros.
Both found out that the only way they could foster their own and others’ creativity was to start their own media company, On-Air Media.
On-Air Media would find its permanent home in a 12,000-square-foot facility outside the Dallas design district this summer, complete with two studios professionally equipped with four part-time production and sound engineers with editing experience.
The studios are soundproof with green screens, professional microphones and cameras. One has a 4K camera, while the other features an HD camera. There’s even a lounge with Kombucha on tap, where professionals can collaborate freely with people looking for ideas.
“We’re creating this environment where everyone is in it together, we can all win,” Plaskoff said. “We won’t have to charge a fortune and have our hands in everyone’s pocket.”
On-Air Media offers monthly memberships that include a package of four shows a month. The company keeps costs down with only three full-time employees and four part-timers. It streams every show live on Facebook, YouTube and On-Air Media’s website simultaneously, enabling it to keep the space affordable. Livestreaming cuts post-production costs, and all shows are stored away to stream on-demand via iTunes. The company is also leasing extra space in the building to other companies.
“We wanted to keep in mind there’s a number of different types of people that use it,” Jagger said. “Hobbyists, they have an idea for a show, want to do something that is interesting and entertaining, looks good and sounds good and has sound elements, that looks like it’s not embarrassing shooting out of your home somewhere. We also knew that professionals would want to come in.”
When new clients come in with an idea for a show, they first meet with Plaskoff and Jagger to find direction before launching. They can also schedule additional consultations. Jagger said that while it’s a freely creative environment, they’re able to balance the guidance.
“There’s a lot more freedom here,” Jagger said. “One of the things I ran into later in my career, at iHeartMedia, CBS Radio, you had program directors who tried to control everything because they were trying to be told what to do. Radio started to contract, eliminating a lot of jobs, fewer people involved in making decisions; it turned out to be a bad thing because they were just handing down edits. It became so restrictive, it was ridiculous; it continues to be that way. With what we do, anything goes at this point.”
And he adds that Plaskoff is a natural talent at pointing people in the right direction when starting or struggling with a show.
“She’s a natural-born producer,” Jagger said. “I tell her, ‘You should’ve been working for Oprah.’ She has the natural instincts. Had she been in that circle of people, she would’ve. You can’t teach that. I was like, ‘OK, you have a lot to learn, but you have great instincts, and if I’m not with you at some point down the road, you’ll fully understand what’s going on here.’”
Some of those instincts include which ideas resonate with an audience and how to execute those ideas in the best way possible.
“The way we structure the onboard of a new show is highly organized,” Plaskoff said. “Everyone knows their role and everyone knows their part.”
On-Air Media has produced an array of successful shows, including “The Benet Embry Show,” an unbiased progressive podcast that talks about today’s current issues while also promoting local artists in the R&B, neo-soul and hip-hop genres.
All podcast shows own their own content and can monetize if they choose. Sometimes, if a podcast needs help getting its feet off the ground, On-Air Media has professional co-hosts waiting in the wings with years of experience for consulting. They include former WFAA anchor Alexa Conomos, Dallas Observer and Pressboxdfw journalist Richie Whitt, KSCS voice Jasmine Sadry and Dallas blogger Julie Fisk.
It also provides an avenue for city business owners to try to get their messages out. Plaskoff and Jagger often meet with companies on how they can produce video and content professionally and how to spread it on social media.
Whatever the goal is, Plaskoff hopes that she’s providing a platform that helps people pursue their media dreams the way that she and Jagger have.
“It gives me so much energy,” Plaskoff said. “I love hearing the different stories people come in and tell me every day. No two are alike.”