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The Audio Revolution: The Rise of The Podcast

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“You need tension, character, chronology, drama and a big idea. It needs to drive somewhere and land. It needs, most importantly, sound.” — Michael Barbaro, Host, The Daily, on the important elements of an effective podcast.

“Nobody gets into newspaper journalism to start a podcast,” Michael Barbaro, Host at The Daily said during a #SMWNYC panel alongside Global head of Advertising and Marketing Solutions at The New York Times, Sebastian Tomich, and Critic-at-Large, Wesley Morris, that explored how podcasts are made.

He’s spent almost 20 years in traditional newspaper journalism before additionally trial running a podcast which was to evolve to become The Daily. “The newsroom was an unknowable group of black and white bylines. The Daily became the glass that you could see through into it.”

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When Morris moved to The New York Times from an ESPN run sports website, he asked whether he could do a podcast, too.

The misconception

It is a misconception that podcasts are easy to make. You have to pre-plan and anticipate how the conversation you wish to have is going to go.

Barbaro explained, “to be a good episode of the Daily you need many elements of a story. You need tension, character, chronology and drama and a big idea. It needs to drive somewhere and land. It needs, most importantly, sound.”

They introduce the sound in the form of archival tape, music or the reporter talking will have collected the sound themselves – 89 percent of the content that crosses Barbaro and Morris’s field of vision doesn’t immediately contain these elements.

On an episode like the edition where the 1989 Oscars were discussed, seven to eight people touched the audio.

Google documents, Dropbox and Pro Tools are the devices used to curate The Daily and audio is often pulled during the storyboard session.

The audio revolution

Barbaro stressed how it is often forgotten how long it takes to edit a podcast, notably one as thorough and thought through as The Daily. Imagine how much time it takes to listen to a 90-minute interview and edit that. Cutting it, laying it out, adding external audio. Maybe you had a great idea that someone didn’t say so you’ve to ask them to come back to the studio. Towards the end of the night, scoring has to come in and then the editing begins. It can take two or three passes to make sure it’s coherent and to make sure the music is right.

The response to the podcast is an order of magnitude different to the paper – audiences are simple with their reaction to audio as opposed to more thoughtful with print.

The level of reach a podcast can achieve is outstanding because of the versatility of where it can be listened to: the shower, the kitchen, the car, and the streets.

Tomich mentioned that he’s read a prediction that 400,000 new podcasts are going to be made this year and Barbaro believes this to be good as a “let 1,000 flowers bloom” model is the approach of the audio world. “Some shows are worth listening to – audiences gravitate and the industry is growing up.”

“The bar is what shows I would pay to listen to,” Morris confirmed.

Podcasts are without a doubt here to stay – the audio revolution is only going to grow stronger.

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