Podcast management apps have made listening much easier and the match of a good podcast with a commute has caused their popularity to rise. Most fill niches, but produced series, often from public broadcasting companies, are becoming something of NPR 2.0.
Invisibilia is one of the latest offerings. I listen to reduce the boredom during my morning exercises and caught it yesterday for the first time. It is influenced by The American Life, Radiolab and 99% Invisible with production values that compete with the best.
Ten minutes in and I was ready to give up given the subject matter of the first segment. My rowing was going too well and I didn't want to take a break to move to another podcast, so I continued listening. The segment became fascinating. At the 35 minute mark the show pivoted to a second segment that was just excellent - what does it feel like to be trapped in a body given up as brain dead and how do you escape? I added the podcast to my subscription list.
I'm a big fan of spoken word storytelling - This American Life by Ira Glass and others, Selected Shorts and so on.. I followed and enjoyed Serial - the 12 podcast spinoff from TAL that finished last week. The main message was what does reasonable doubt mean?, but many missed the point that it was really just a serial series of podcasts and not something deeper.
Saturday Night Live had a parody - it misses the point of Serial, but that is its intention and it is on point in style and extremely funny.
Terri remembers her dad had two phones on his desk, including a red one. "Only a four-star general at the Pentagon and my dad had the number," she says.
"This was the '50s, this was the Cold War, and he would have been the first one to know if there was an attack on the United States," Rick says.
The red phone rang one day in December 1955, and Shoup answered it, Pam says. "And then there was a small voice that just asked, 'Is this Santa Claus?' "
His children remember Shoup as straight-laced and disciplined, and he was annoyed and upset by the call and thought it was a joke — but then, Terri says, the little voice started crying.
"And Dad realized that it wasn't a joke," her sister says. "So he talked to him, ho-ho-ho'd and asked if he had been a good boy and, 'May I talk to your mother?' And the mother got on and said, 'You haven't seen the paper yet? There's a phone number to call Santa. It's in the Sears ad.' Dad looked it up, and there it was, his red phone number
My sister Corinne is an artist with an unusual sense of quirk. She's putting together a show of her work and poetic descriptions and has a contest for folks who can turn a phrase. Winners will get prints of the piece they describe.
Podcasts are finallly becoming popular as a few great storytelling shows see success. The amount of investment money is small - much of it is through Kickstarter these days - but it is real growth. The New York Times on efforts by PRX. Public radio is changing.
I listen to a number of podcasts to get me through the otherwise mind-numbing boredom of exercising. The medium is going through a huge growth phase and people learn to make a living and regular audiences materialize. If you have an interest in various techniques this piece by Alix Spiegel is wonderful. But she goes beyond technique ...
Which brings me to the real point of this manifesto. My firm belief that all of us – all of us dorky dork radio producers and reporters – should spend time playing with all the potential techniques available to us as story tellers – not just This American Life and Radiolab and NPR techniques, but Snap Judgment and Love + Radio techniques and Fresh Air and The Moth techniques. There are all kinds of people out there who have come up with all kinds of solutions to the problems of audio story telling. See if you can’t figure out what they are doing… and then create new solutions. Recruit other dorky radio friends and get together and analyze stuff and share ideas, and then watch YouTube videos and movies and anything else you can think of, and see if there is some small production technique in them that you can steal for yourself and your public radio brethren.
Which brings me to one more thing that I feel compelled to say. Innovation in radio is not just about production techniques. There are lots of ways to innovate. You can leave your production techniques untouched and take a new intellectual approach (we are taking a new intellectual approach with Invisibilia I think). You can bring in new kinds of voices to the system – which is profoundly valuable (though it’s not the only thing they do well, Snap Judgment does this incredibly effectively I think – they have amazing producers who bring voices to the system I don’t usually hear).