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    Whatever happened to Josh Szeps? He’s doing very nicely, thank you

    Josh Szeps surprised his Sydney ABC Radio audience in November last year when he quit live on air. “I’m an ABC presenter but I don’t like kale,” was one of his memorable lines at the time.

    In explaining he didn’t feel comfortable continuing at the broadcaster, he added: “I’m a misfit. I’m a child of refugees, but I’m a white Australian. I’m a gay guy, but I hate Mardi Gras. I have holocaust surviving grandparents but I’m conflicted about Zionism.

    “I am a riddle wrapped in a bloody enigma. If you think that being a team player is the highest virtue, good for you. But don’t pretend to be a journalist. Journalism needs more contrarians, not fewer. More risk takers, not fewer.”

    See also:
    Josh Szeps quits live on air, promotes new venture
    Complete exit broadcast: ABC Radio Sydney loses Josh Szeps

    Whatever happened to Josh Szeps? He’s doing very nicely, thank you

    Josh Szeps at the ABC

    Risk-taking venture

    As Szeps announced his departure, he also mentioned his then-new side hustle.

    He indicated his Uncomfortable Conversations business was already performing well financially.

    His Substack homepage now indicates he has 19,000+ subscribers. Some of them are not paying, but others are on deals costing either $110 annually, or $375 for the “Hero of Sanity” package.

    The numbers spiked after Szeps left the ABC and are growing at close to 40% monthly. He attributes part of that growth to friends in the US who have Szeps as a podcast guest.

    In 2022, Szeps was a memorable guest on Joe Rogan. There was an argument about vaccinations that many people heard. More recently, Szeps co-hosted the Sam Harris podcast Making Sense twice in the past couple of months.

    He’s also been a guest on other established shows – Chris Williamson’s podcast, Modern Wisdom, and TRIGGERnometry, a British YouTube show and podcast.

    See also: Josh Szeps on being on the biggest podcast in the world

    What happened to Szeps at the ABC?

    Several years ago, you couldn’t turn on the ABC without catching Szeps. He co-hosted ABC Breakfast on weekend mornings. He was the fill-in announcer for all of ABC Sydney timeslots ranging from breakfast to mornings to where he eventually ended up in afternoons: traditionally the toughest slot at any talk radio station.

    Szeps seemed the natural choice for Sydney breakfast after Robbie Buck and Wendy Harmer departed. Instead, James Valentine got that gig for two years until it was handed over to talk radio newcomer Craig Reucassel.

    Szeps doesn’t want to discuss the past. He told Mediaweek he’s moved on, very successfully it seems. We met the broadcaster at one of his new meeting rooms – a table at an inner-west café.

    Seizing the opportunity

    “Before I was offered the afternoon slot on ABC Radio Sydney, I identified a gap in the market for conversations that were a bit more real than the kinds of conversations that we tend to hear on radio and TV,” Szeps told Mediaweek.

    “I thought, we really need to find a way to have conversations that may not necessarily be uncomfortable in their own right, but that are about subjects that make people uncomfortable when they come up at a lunch or a barbie or a dinner party or at the pub.

    I’d got a sense that it’s becoming increasingly hard to speak in ways that are free from bullshit, and that are free from pegging oneself as a member of a particular tribe.”

    First Uncomfortable Conversation: Stan Grant

    Szeps helped create HuffPost Live, an ambitious live audio streaming platform based out of New York a decade ago. Now he’s launched something for himself.

    “I came out of the gate in 2021 with an episode with Stan Grant, where the two of us wrestled in really honest ways about race.

    “That project has continued with a series of successes beyond my wildest dreams. We’re now past 10 million downloads, it’s one of the most listened-to Australian interview shows in the world.

    “I’ve been able to retain and expand my American audience, which is about 40% of the audience.

    “Last year, when it became clear that my relationship with the ABC was falling apart, I doubled down on the podcast, and launched a YouTube channel.”

    He didn’t share just how many people pay. But Szeps did say when asked if the subscription money was paying the bills: “It’s paying the bills better than the ABC did. Significantly better.

    What are the podcasts about?

    It says it on the tin – Uncomfortable Conversations.

    To survive in the 21st century, we all have to grow up a bit and have conversations that are hard to have. [We should stop] being hunkered down in our opposing tribal camps, demonising views we disagree with, and virtue signalling to people on our side of the aisle that we’re on the right team, and we’re on the right side of history.”

    Referring to “legacy media”, Szeps said: “If you read certain publications or turn on certain channels, you can pretty much jot on the back of a napkin before you turn on roughly what their take is going to be on the budget, or the climate, or energy policy, or corporate tax cuts.

    “It’s surreal that if you tell me what you think about corporate tax cuts, I can predict with some certainty what you think about climate change. The two have nothing to do with each other.

    “We’ve fallen into this lazy habit of aligning ourselves with a set of checkboxes and ticking the correct positions on trends, on the gender wage gap, on acknowledgements of Country, on immigration, on nuclear power, where you can pretty much safely guess where an individual or a media outlet is going to align.

    “My goal is just to scramble the checkboxes and pursue the most reasonable outcomes as I see them. And my audience doesn’t necessarily need to agree with me.”

    The subscriber package

    Without paying, Uncomfortable Conversation subscribers get the flagship podcast for free, or most of it. Close to the end of most episodes, the audio cuts out with a message about subscribing. That audio is available on all podcast platforms.

    There are also video podcasts available on Szeps’ YouTube page. He has a number he filmed on a recent trip to New York that will be released shortly.

    Paying subscribers will get an ad-free environment for the audio and video. There is also the complete flagship podcast plus a bonus podcast episode every week, plus a regular email newsletter that goes out to subscribers.

    Josh Szeps

    Talkback TV

    The latest initiative is Uncomfortable Conversations Live, a talkback TV program. The first episode was earlier this month, the second is this week on 23 May. The shows are timed at 9am in eastern Australia, a time that also works for the considerable audience Szeps has listening in the US.

    “I love talkback, I love talking to the audience. I want to create a forum where the audience can chat with me about the big issues of the day, rather than it always being one-on-one with experts.”

    Clips from the videos go up on Instagram, X, and TikTok. “We’ve only just started on TikTok. We just got a video that had over a million views. It was from the Jimmy Carr episode.”

    Team Szeps

    There is a small team helping out on Uncomfortable Conversations. The podcast sits on the DM Podcasts network, a platform that is also home to podcasters ranging from The Betoota Advocate to Leigh Sales and Annabel Crabb (Chat 10 Looks 3) to Gideon Haigh and Pete Lalor (Cricket Et Al).

    Live shows

    Szeps also hosts live podcast shows around Australia, in partnership with TEG Dainty. That live tour circuit has already seen him on the road with Douglas Murray this year. “I want to get to a point in the next few years where audiences will come out and see an Uncomfortable Conversations live show because of the branding. They’ll know that I’ll be having a really interesting conversation with someone who’s going to be stimulating and unusual and saying things they haven’t heard a million times before.”

    The post Whatever happened to Josh Szeps? He’s doing very nicely, thank you appeared first on Mediaweek.

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