How Zara McDonald And Michelle Andrews Built Podcast Juggernaught Shameless

The Shameless Podcast centres itself around the things that smart people are told they shouldn’t care about, but they do anyway! We’re talking about the fun stuff: pop culture, Hollywood, influencers and Reality TV.

The Weekend Briefing’s Jamila Rizvi sits down with the notoriously private masterminds, Zara McDonald and Michelle Andrews, at the helm of this behemoth media company to chat about Shameless’ beginning, its rapid success and how our obsession with celebrity culture has evolved over the years.

Jamila: 

You pitch the idea when you were both working at Mamamia, they didn’t love it. You made the leap. My question is what gave you the confidence because you were quite young, that meant you could walk away from great jobs in media, to start your own thing?

Zara McDonald:

I probably had a much easier scenario than Michelle did, who was just freshly living out of home with her partner. Like, living at home and having the protection to be like, well, I’m not going to end up on the streets.

Michelle Andrews:

We also had people around us who were just super supportive. Like, my partner, Mitch never once questioned me leaving my job in order to pursue Shameless and also I think we had both had experiences dabbling and going out on our own like I had done blogging for years before I was at Mamamia. 

Their decision paid off. With more than 32 million podcast downloads, 250,000 social media followers and 40,000 newsletter subscribers since its conception in early 2018, the Shameless Podcast has become a leading voice for Gen Z and Millennial Aussies. 

Jamila:

One of the problems of the media and the arts industry is how often we’re asked to work for free. You’re promised exposure and opportunity, but you’re not promised money. If you were struggling in that situation were you also a bit indignant or were you kind of happy to be given the opportunity in the first place? 

Michelle Andrews: 

Truthfully, if I was on my own, yes, I would probably put out content I was really proud of and that people enjoyed, but I would make relatively no money for it. Zara is very good at putting the same amount of content out there that I would anyway, but doing it in a way where we don’t sacrifice ourselves in the process. 

Jamila:

The juggernaut that is Shameless can look like this incredible success with no moment of hesitation or error, could you share an example of when you have made a call and later been like Uh, I don’t know about this?

Zara McDonald:

There are the obvious ones where it’s like, we’ve covered stories in a way that perhaps we wouldn’t cover them today. But I think that is just part of growing up on a microphone. We started this when we were 23. Michelle’s nearly 28?

Michelle Andrews: 

So are you!!! (laughs)

Zara McDonald: 

We’ve definitely done that with a podcast series or two in the past, where we just haven’t given ourselves the time to really think through the concept. But it’s for that reason today that we’re working on a show at the moment to put out with our Producer Annabel Lee at the helm and I kept saying to everyone, like if this takes six months for us to make it…that’s what it’s going to take because I want it to be perfect.

Listen to the full conversation now below!