In January 2022, Ranieri & Co embarked on their first ever original podcast release - Motherlode. The series is a historical investigative podcast about early computer hacking in Australia and its evolution during the past three decades. The story was brought to life through our very talented host and production team, who were able to extract compelling anecdotes and insights from guests such as hackers Skeeve Stevens aka Optic Surfer, IT journalist and author Suelette Dreyfus and the ex-policeman who went underground in the hacker scene in the 80s, Bill Apro. Read on to find out how these guests provided consistently compelling moments that added depth and intrigue to the story.
Why go through the trouble of researching, organising and interviewing guests on a podcast? For us, it's all about listener experience.
The ability to tell a great story in a really compelling way comes down to the depth and quality of research. This is a painstaking task involving hundreds of hours trawling through articles, old interviews, court documents, archival audio/footage, and interviewing subject matter experts.
That's how you create depth and a truly immersive listener experience.
Bringing guests onto a podcast should enhance the story and add variety of opinion and experience. Allowing your audience to be informed from multiple perspectives gives them a well-rounded knowledge about the central story so they can make their own decisions about it and be more immersed. It also can be a great way to extend your podcast’s audience as the guests can bring in a new audience or network to the listening pool.
Researching and connecting talent to feature on Motherlode was particularly challenging, given its subject matter. Host Greg Millar (Gertie’s Law, The Wrong Skin) explains,
“I was surprised as to how much secrecy still surrounds these stories. I thought it was going to be a historical podcast, but sensitivities around these activities 30 years ago are still strong. From numerous Freedom of Information requests and going to court to overturn suppression orders - there was a surprising amount of information still hidden. And many people still are not prepared to go on the record about what was going on.”
Producer Lucy Kent (ABC) elaborates:
“My favourite part of working on the podcast has been chasing down fascinating interview talent, often from three decades ago. I have also loved going down “rabbit holes” to find them. Let’s just say there was never a dull day when we were making this podcast!”
A stand-out guest was Suelette Dreyfus, a technology researcher, journalist, and writer. She is the Author of Underground:Tales of Hacking, Madness and Obsession on the Electronic Frontier, co-authored by Julian Assange. The team knew that interviewing her would be integral to the podcast. When they first contacted her, lockdown made the interview tricky to organise. Once a date had been set post-lockdown, an earthquake struck Melbourne. On the third try, there was breaking news that the US planned to kidnap Julian Assange. Suelette texted host Greg:
“I think today is not going to be doable. I have to write to the White House.”
Greg finally was able to interview Suelette in Edinburgh Gardens, Fitzroy with a hot thermos of tea. They discussed why Melourne was the perfect location for the movement. You can listen to the full interview in episode 1.
Another integral guest who witnessed the movement first-hand was Bill Apro, an ex-policeman who joined the federal police in the 80s. He was an early computer adapter, one of the few in the service at that time. Bill is the author of Hackers: The Hunt For Australia’s Most Infamous Computer Cracker. He appeared on the podcast to offer unique insight into hackers from the legal perspective. Bill went underground to investigate the famous hacker “Phoenix”, who combined doggedness, arrogance and brilliant computer skills to evade Australian Federal Police for years. You can hear more from Bill’s perspective in episode 3 and throughout the series.
Adding a personal, family perspective to the story was John Shipton, Julian Assange's father. John runs a global campaign to free his son. He provides insight into the background and power of WikiLeaks and the potential for Assange being nominated for the Nobel Peace Price. It would be difficult to find anyone more personally affected by the story that Motherlode explores. John Shipton appears in episode 7.
We asked Lucy for her stand-out podcast guests:
“It’s so hard to choose just one! Some of the hackers we interviewed were fabulous story-tellers. Skeeve Stevens aka Optic Surfer and Andrew Bagwell aka Optimus Prime immediately come to mind. Other favourites include our international guests. NASA’s network security manager Ron Tencati from NASA and New York Times technology reporter John Markoff both gave unique insights into the early hackers and what systems they managed to break into.”
Greg Muller adds:
“Everyone has some idea of Wikileaks and the global disruption it has caused - but it didn't come out of nowhere.
The backstory is fascinating. People interested in politics, society and technology I think will find this series fascinating.”
It is testimony to the hard work of the production team in tracking down and interviewing the right people that the podcast has an average rating of 4.8 (from over 80 reviews) on Apple podcasts. One reviewer commented:
“Such a fascinating topic! A very well researched and well presented show. Love the inclusion of so many knowledgeable sources.”
To hear all of our favorite guest podcast moments from Motherlode, listen to the full episodes, on Apple, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts.
The podcast industry continues to evolve, as content becomes more diverse, varied and bold. 60% of audiences say they tune into podcasts to educate themselves, and two out of three podcast listeners give them their full attention (Spotify). It’s easier than ever to harness the power of this highly effective medium. Contact us anytime to learn more.
About Ranieri & Co
In Australia and New Zealand, Ranieri & Co. exclusively represents the world’s largest independent podcast publisher: Wondery. Ranieri & Co. also makes custom branded podcasts that hit the sweet spot between what brands want to talk about and what audiences are genuinely interested in. Stories that inspire, inform and entertain.
Ranieri & Co. represent leading local podcasts The Byron Cooke Show, The Mind Muscle Project, The Fitness and Lifestyle Podcast, Single Minded and The Junkees with Dave O'Neil and Kitty Flanagan.
Find out more at www.ranieriandco.com