What does a "Head of Audio" actually do? An interview with Insider Inc.'s Dan Bobkoff

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Herbert Bauernebel

Originally published on AxelSpringer.com.

We live in a brave new world of new (job) titles: UX Designer, Frontend Developer, Community Manager — the digitization of many business models has new job titles suddenly sprouting up everywhere. In this issue of “What does a …. actually do?” Dan Bobkoff, Head of Audio at Insider Inc. shares a closer look at his day-to-day.

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It’s a hectic day at the office and the deadline for a script is approaching. A teleconference with sponsors is also on the day’s agenda. Before it gets underway, a quick team meeting about new productions has to be dealt with. Dan Bobkoff, dressed casually in a blue sweater, doesn’t let any of that disturb the calm in his sound studio.

It’s a cool job title, but what does a Head of Audio actually do? 

When we ask him, Bobkoff sits up with a determined look on his face and rests his elbows on the edge of his desk. He’s responsible for “all audio formats” the 36-year-old tells us. This includes the Business Insider podcast “Household Name.”

Bobkoff has been producing and hosting “Household Name” since July 2018. The podcast sheds light on the unconventional stories behind the world’s most well-known brands. It has become a hit and its growing success, which sees an average six-digit number of listeners per issue, has also brought an increase in advertising revenues.

Sarah Wyman (left), Dan Bobkoff, and Jennifer Sigl in the studio.

Sarah Wyman (left), Dan Bobkoff, and Jennifer Sigl in the studio.

Bobkoff’s job is wide-ranging and diverse. “I’m in charge of distribution, marketing, production budgets, look for new partners, but most of all, I take care of the journalistic core.” His main task is being a presenter, researching facts, and writing scripts for audio productions he says, “so I spend 80 percent of my time doing journalistic work.” This requires constant exchange with his colleagues Jennifer Sigl, Audio Fellow, and Sarah Wyman, Deputy Audio Producer, who pop by the sound studio briefly during our meeting to give Bobkoff short updates about upcoming productions.

The benchmark they have set themselves is high. “We want to offer our listeners something that surprises them every week, something they’ve never heard before,” Bobkoff adds. This requires meticulous preparation, with the script for a 35-minute podcast covering almost 20 pages. Boredom is a rare thing at work, Bobkoff says with a laugh. He is a graduate of Wesleyan University in Connecticut and gained experience working with American radio broadcaster NPR. “One day I meet up with a business partner, while the next day I might be interviewing someone like Steve Wozniak.”

One of the biggest challenges in production is the audio quality. Bobkoff says that, in every episode, the listeners “should be drawn in the way they are by a film.” To ensure a high sound quality, the interviews are carried out personally and on site. Telephone conversations are only used where absolutely necessary.

Why are podcasts so popular? One of the reasons is of a practical nature, Bobkoff says, talking about all the daily activities people do such as driving, jogging or cooking during which they can only listen. But he has another, perhaps more important explanation: “There’s something special about being told a story directly to the ear. It’s an intimate form of media that creates an immediate bond between the speaker and the listener,” he believes.

That’s why working on podcasts is his dream job. “I can still my curiosity and communicate something to the readers that broadens their horizons. At first there is only an abstract idea, and then we develop it into a finished product with a logo, a jingle and branding. That’s something I’m really proud of!” There is no ideal way to become an audio expert – every single experience you have in an editorial team is valuable.

Despite the enormous upheavals in the media industry at the present time, he looks optimistically to the future, especially in his area of work. “Audio finds itself on the brink of a potential breakthrough onto the mass market.” And when that happens, Bobkoff wants to be at the very forefront.