'It's about friendship': the viral podcast hit of Annabel Crabb and Leigh Sales

Chat 10 Looks 3, created by two of the ABC’s star presenters in their spare time, has gone ‘absolutely insane’ thanks to its unique hook

In 2015 ABC hosts Annabel Crabb and Leigh Sales got together to record a podcast on an iPhone. They uploaded their first episode to iTunes and hoped for the best.

Now, 105 episodes later, the podcast – Chat 10 Looks 3 – is eclipsing anything its creators thought possible. It regularly clocks 100,000 downloads a week.

This weekend they are doing a sell-out live podcast at the Odeon Theatre in Hobart. Their convention centre shows in Melbourne and Sydney, which sell thousands of tickets, are like a rock concert, one fan tells me.

People cheer and scream as Sales dances in the aisles, while Crabb (much less enamoured with show tunes) gives high fives. After the show, the signing queues last long into the night as people line up for photos, meet the pair, tell their stories and have special Chat 10 Looks 3 merchandise (such as aprons) signed.

The podcast – which is essentially just Crabb and Sales talking about what they have read, watched and thought about during the week – has spawned its own highly successful offshoots. There’s a community of more than 33,000 people on a private Facebook group (one must answer podcast-related questions to join), a range of merchandise and a company that employs several people to manage Facebook moderation and the newsletter.

They will sometimes only do one or two podcasts a month or ramp up to a couple a week if they have more time. Their audience is used to the irregularity.

In the genesis of the podcast, the pair’s greatest restriction (lack of time) became their greatest asset. It meant the show by necessity had an unrehearsed, banter-y vibe, and the snatched nature of it mimicked the lives of many listeners – who cram in catch-ups with their friends between work and school pickups or caring responsibilities.

“We just put it out there – I don’t even know how it found an audience,” says Crabb of the first episodes recorded in 2015. “It was entirely word of mouth – so much so that because neither of us could read the SquareSpace stats, every now and again Sales would ring up and say, ‘Crabb – it looks like 180,000 people have downloaded the episode!’”

Even now, the podcast doesn’t have any marketing except for the odd tweet.

“It’s absolutely insane,” says Sales. “We started realising the popularity of the podcast when randomly in a cafe people would come up and say ‘hi’ and it was not for me as the host of 7:30 – it was Chat 10 people who would say hi.”

While fans of 7.30 are more reserved, “podcast people are so friendly”, Sales says.

It’s also brought the pair a new audience, which is female and younger. (Stats show 80% are female and aged between 25 and 45).

As two of the highest-profile faces of the ABC, Sales and Crabb were careful to draw boundaries between their ABC hosting roles and the podcast (which the ABC must surely be kicking themselves about not creating in-house) and routinely informing the broadcaster of things such as the intention to do live shows and form the Facebook group.It also meant staying away from politics – both on the podcast and in the community group.

Instead the focus in the community group is explicitly on “kindness”. The threads are filled with “chatters” (as they are called in the group), giving each other advice and practical help. There are already many legendary acts of kindness that chatters have done for each other – such as helping a recently widowed woman glam up for a wedding, or returning an errant pigeon halfway across the country. In a world where social media is increasingly toxic, the pair are proud and protective of the group’s positive vibe.

Listeners are attracted to the podcast because of the friendship between the hosts, they say.

“We thought it was a podcast about books, culture and TV but actually it’s a podcast about friendship,” Sales says.

Crabb says: “We did an event at the Melbourne convention centre and this young man waited for ages in the queue so he could speak to the both of us. He said ‘I have autism and I listen to your podcast all the time because it teaches me how to model friendship.’”


Sales and Crabb own the podcast, with a 50/50 split, and the bulk of the company’s income generated is from the live show. There is a smaller amount raised by sales of merchandise and affiliate links with Booktopia.

“We put the profits from live shows and merch into paying people because there’s no way that we could do the moderation and social media – it’s become too big,” Sales says.

Right now the pair do their hugely popular live shows in their own time on the weekend, but that means they can then afford to avoid tasks like moderating their own social media. And they can keep the actual podcast free, and free of advertising.

“We’re never going to charge for the podcast because it’s a lovely little institution that brings joy to us and brings joy to other people who listen to it – it’s a really nice thing. Generosity is the central theme to the podcast and the group,” Crabb says.

But with one of the most successful Australian-made podcasts on the market, there is potential to make more money.

Crabb and Sales went to the Facebook group to ask if people were OK with advertising.

“People were saying it’s OK – do what you need to do to keep it going. We just have to be careful about who we would get as sponsors,” says Sales.

It’s clear doing the podcast brings both women enormous amounts of happiness. But if it got in the way of their friendship, the way that can sometimes happen when friends go into business, there’s no doubt what would come first.

“If I got to a point where I felt something about it was putting our friendship under strain I’d be more inclined to pull the pin on the podcast. It’s just not worth it,” Sales says.


Brigid Delaney

The GuardianTramp

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