Bluffs, Brooks & Byways

Local podcast attracts over 1,000 listens and promotes Northeast Iowa

Earlier this year, Morgan Ewing launched a podcast to highlight the best of Northeast Iowa. Nearly six months later, Ewing, a communications and outreach specialist at Northeast Iowa Resource Conservation & Development, has recorded more than 30 episodes featuring personal stories of small business successes, preservation of historic sites and natural resources, and recreational opportunities in the Driftless region ­— and people are tuning in. 

“I’m incredibly happy with the overall interaction, and the response within the area has been outstanding,” says Ewing. “It’s amazing the people that reach out to me asking to be included or to say that they love listening.” To date, the podcast has nearly 1,100 listens. Each episode typically receives 20 to 30 listens. 

Ewing received a grant from the Clayton County Foundation for the Future’s Leroy and Colleen Darby Family endowed fund to support podcast production costs, including recording equipment and editing software. Funds from the Iowa Department of Transportation cover the cost of Ewing’s time, approximately eight hours per episode. 

The Foundation works with donors, nonprofits, and community partners to connect important community needs with resources to improve quality of life for the 17,000 residents of Clayton County. 

“The Foundation board understands that this project will have a positive impact on all of Clayton County,” says Foundation Coordinator Emily Sadewasser. “We were excited to see Morgan’s application for this unique project and be able to share the opportunity to make such a widespread impact with the Darby family.”

“Since the beginning, I’ve recorded 11 episodes that feature Clayton County. I have found that branching out among the four Eastern Iowa Byways has been a great way to tie everything together,” Ewing explains. About a third of the podcast episodes highlight Clayton County and the River Bluffs Scenic Byway. Another third promote Northeast Iowa — Clayton, Allamakee, Fayette and Winneshiek Counties — and the remainder showcase Jackson, Jones and Delaware Counties. “It’s a wonderful resource to pull all the counties together, because if someone is visiting one area, there’s a great chance that we could attract them to Clayton County in their travels.”

Episodes feature retail businesses, restaurants, breweries and wineries, outdoor recreation opportunities, farmers markets and events, museums and more. The most popular episode in Clayton County has been episode seven, “Getting to Know Motor Mill Historic Site with Larry & Dave.” 

“Larry and Dave present an abundance of history on the Motor Mill, and also describe what individuals would see if they came to visit today,” says Ewing. “If travelers wanted to come visit, but are unable to connect with someone for a tour, this episode would be a great option!”

Nonprofits and businesses are using the podcast as a marketing tool to share updates and oral histories, and as they share their own episodes, it directs listeners to other episodes that are of interest. Ewing recently recorded an episode with Travel Iowa and three Byway coordinators statewide. “After launching, I anticipate the listenership to increase and create a more widespread audience, ultimately bringing travelers back to Clayton County.”

In the coming months, the podcast will highlight Chamber of Commerce directors and towns in Clayton County and beyond. “I’m excited to see the podcast continue to grow and connect personally with incredible people in and around Clayton County,” says Ewing. 

Listeners can tune in (nearly) every Tuesday for a new episode – they are all uploaded to Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Anchor and Google Podcasts