Podcasts provide context

Listening to NPR’s 10-million play podcast, Invisibilia, there is one thing that stands out as to what plays one of the biggest roles in making an audio piece great or subpar.

It took just a few minutes to see that podcasts are not like a typical radio show, where one person could theoretically go on forever, boring the audience with their own voice. On the Feb. 13 episode, host Lulu Miller does not do that, but she helps move along a story.


In fact, Miller acted as wheels that kept a car, being the story, running. Whenever the clips from the interviewee were unrecognizable or did not completely make sense to someone unfamiliar with anything involved, the host jumped in with what seemed like a voiceover, in order to provide context for the situation.

Something that seems obvious now, but was not beforehand, was how similar in different ways a podcast is to a written story. In “How to Grow a Bully + Lullaby,” the hosts of Invisibilia introduce their discussion with a quick and attention-grabbing summary of what was to come.

A lede is a lede, no matter the medium that the material is published. It helped me to better understand that even though a podcast is not controlled by the boundaries of sentences and grafs, there is still structure involved.

The most intriguing podcast in terms of natural sound was without a doubt “Where We Are” from StartUp. The first thing that the host mentions is where the audio is being recorded– on the couch in front of a playing television. Indeed, within moments, random voices came spewing from what sounded like a few feet away. That gives the listeners a relaxed tone.


Would it be more enjoyable to listen to a host who is dead serious or relaxed, and more so having a conversation with anybody who is tuning in? The easy answer to that is that it is best to connect with the audience in someway, and believe it or not, listening to the podcast while on the couch as they do the same thing makes for a more comfortable atmosphere.

At the end of the day, a story is a story, from text to web, video to photos and in this case, audio. If it is all talk with no meaning or purpose, it will not succeed.


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