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Category: How we listen

Metabolizing culture and history through storytelling

Kerning Cultures is a podcast whose mission is to dissect the more complex narratives of the Middle East through stories. I spoke with one of the show’s co-founders, Hebah Fisher, about podcasting in the Middle East — how listening behaviors vary, the different types of stories that get told, and the role of the Western perspective. This interview has been edited and condensed.

 

Why did you and your co-founder, Razan Alzayani, decide to focus your show on narratives of the Middle East?

Audio storytelling pulls on the long tradition of oral history that we have in the Middle East. Many years ago, storytellers (called hakawaty) would gather people in a circle in the streets and tell long narrative, often historical  stories of heroes and legends to entertain and educate them. That tradition hasn’t been completely lost, per se, but it’s no longer common. We wanted to modernize it and bring it to the current day to explore topics like society, culture, history, entrepreneurship, and current affairs through personal stories.

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Libraries: Frontiers in podcast awareness

It started with a post in the New York Times Podcast Club Facebook group from a librarian looking for podcast recommendations to share with her students.

As the suggestions from other group members started rolling in, I began thinking about the relationship between libraries and podcasts more generally. Public libraries are these amazing social resources, providing everything from internet access, to books, movies, music, and community programming — all for free. Were they doing anything to formally incorporate podcasts into this media lineup? You can’t stock podcasts on shelves, but were there example of libraries that made podcast recommendations through newsletters, did shared listening events, or otherwise actively embraced this form of storytelling?

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Behind the scenes of the New York Times Podcast Club Facebook group

Phoebe Lett is a self-proclaimed podcast nerd. She tries to listen to two to three new podcasts every single day, keeping a list of them in a notebook. She jots down short reactions and summaries for each, and stars the ones that make her want to try another episode or recommend it to someone else.

Phoebe isn’t just a dedicated hobbyist; she’s one of three moderators of the recently-launched New York Times Podcast Club Facebook group. The Facebook group started a few months ago when Samantha Henig, the Times’s editorial director for audio, approached Phoebe about creating a virtual version of their in-real-life podcast club, one that would be open to the public and a place to foster conversation and connection among podcast enthusiasts of all types. But how to create a social media community that achieved the best of their weekly in-person gatherings?

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“I find it really enjoyable to learn about things that are mind boggling”

“I feel like podcasts are kind of personal, and I have yet to find someone else who listens to the same ones I do.”

Meet Nick Gottlieb, a 19-year-old student at University of Michigan-Ann Arbor. When he’s not studying, Nick keeps his interests varied — he trades stocks, goes to the record store, paints, and devotes time to entrepreneurial endeavors. This is how Nick listens. 

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The secret life of a podcast curator

By day, Sara Weber is a professional writer, covering technology and startups. By night, she’s the creator and author of Sara’s Podcast Newsletter, a collection of curated podcast recommendations and thoughtful takes on the on-demand audio industry with thousands of subscribers.

The newsletter, which has now been publishing for over two years, started the way many great personal projects do: in a moment of idleness. Sara, who lives in Munich but has dual U.S. and German citizenship, was visiting her dad in Ohio in 2015. It was winter and she wasn’t feeling well, and in her words, “There isn’t much to do when you’re sick and bored in Ohio, and it’s freezing outside.” She’d been listening to a lot of podcasts and friends had taken to asking her for recommendations. She sat in her bedroom and thought, why not put this in a newsletter rather than just sharing my thoughts with one person at a time?

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Audio alive: new forms of social listening

Probably the most famous story about the cultural impact of radio is the 1938 broadcast adaptation of War of the Worlds, a science fiction novel about alien invasion by H.G. Wells. Narrated by Orson Welles, the 60-minute broadcast was presented as a news bulletin and purportedly generated utter panic in a million listeners (this number is the subject of some dispute).

At that time, listening to the radio was often a shared experience. Along with newspapers and books, radio was a dominant form of media delivery and consumption. From Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s fireside chats in 1933 to Neville Chamberlain’s declaration of war with Germany in 1939, people gathered around radios, together, to hear news and stories.  

The role of radio in our daily lives has changed substantially since then. On-demand audio has made many listening experiences solitary: just one person and their earbuds. But new forms of social listening are emerging even in an on-demand world, offering opportunities for human connection and discussion that call back to ways we used to listen to the radio — while also taking the experience in new directions.

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How I listen: Lucy Carnaghi

Meet Lucy Carnaghi. Lucy is the co-owner of a restaurant in Detroit called Rose’s Fine Food (“The Ultimate Diner”). In her free time, she enjoy foods and entertaining, reading and writing, exercise, horses, and making things. This is how Lucy listens.

When did you start listening to podcasts? Did someone teach you how to subscribe, and have you taught anyone else how to listen?

I started listening about five years ago because I wanted to catch up on This American Life episodes I was missing on regular radio. My interest in other podcasts grew from there. I tried to teach my dad, but I’m not sure if it really stuck for him.

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Which podcast app is right for you?

Podcast discovery has long been limited to recommendations from friends or the hosts of shows listeners already know and love — but podcast apps are starting to integrate smarter discovery features into their offerings. We’re building the Audiosear.ch API to help podcast apps delight listeners with serendipitous discovery — in particular by using our podcast intelligence to surface specific episodes based on content, tone, and quality.

How to sort through all the choices and find the ones you’ll love? Here’s a roundup of how seven popular podcast apps handle discovery.

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