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Author Topic: Would the EA story make a good NPR podcast?  (Read 1463 times)
Tango Alpha Delta
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« on: January 18, 2016, 11:45:03 PM »

I've been idly thinking about this in the car as I listen through my Podcast Addict playlists, and I thought I'd bring it up here to see what y'all think.

This American Life is, of course, a long-running radio show on NPR, was briefly a cable TV series, and is (naturally) a podcast, as well. If I recall, it has been the Number One podcast on iTunes for various stretches of time, depending on genres.

Quote
Most weeks This American Life is the most popular podcast in the country, with around one million people downloading each episode.

If you're not familiar with the show, they do about an hour-long broadcast in which they produce three to five pieces all related to a "theme." Sometimes the themes are a bit of a stretch, sometimes they can be very profound. Depending on how we tell it, I think the Escape Artists story has a lot of elements that would appeal to the TAL audience:

-Labor of Love
-New media
-Sustained Success
-Dramatic flirtations with disaster
-Charming hosts (and a lot of them!)
-A lot of awards, a growing audience, and a bright future.

There is a Submissions page for the show with some general guidelines and examples of what they're looking for. I should think with the number of seasoned editors we have in the forum, we could come up with an attractive pitch.

So, what do you all think? How would we want TAL to tell the story of Escape Artists?
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danooli
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« Reply #1 on: January 19, 2016, 12:25:49 PM »

Absolutely. I 100% think this is a great story that would interest a lot of people AND tap a potential new market of listeners. If you will allow me to make assumptions, I think the type of people that listen to TAL are right in line with the type of people who enjoy the EA 'casts.
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matweller
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« Reply #2 on: January 20, 2016, 08:27:16 AM »

I think if you wanted to approach this, the way to go would be to think of  the theme or the moral of the EA story, then think about how you would produce it, then pitch the all-but-produced package to TAL, 99% Invisible, Radiolab, Note to Self, Invisibilia, The Stanford Storytelling Project, possibly even Fugitive Waves, Snap Judgement, etc.

You have a couple roadblocks to consider...

  • EA isn't one office or building where someone could send a correspondent to get most or all of the story in one bite. We're 100+ owners, editors, producers, writers, slushers, etc. spread around the globe, all with different resources, all with different personal visions for how EA or our show fits into our lives, all with different thought about where we want it to go.
  • There's a strong possibility that radio shows that do podcasts would have their own biases about what podcasting is and how interesting of a story it might make. A lot of them would be predisposed to think that it's a tool for them that just floundered before they adopted it sometime after 2010. They don't know what it's like to podcast as a labor of love; to fight with iTunes to be fair with your promotion and distribution; to spend your own money and effort produce things you know will never have a chance to pay back; to have your main source of validation being 'net folk who can be the most fickle and default-negative population in world history. I'm not entirely sure most of them would be able to recognize that as valid without there being a spunky 10-year-old or a disabled veteran with dementia at the center of the story.
  • There's little obvious inherent value to them to promote their competition. New media is threatening traditional media at every turn. They might not think it's in their best interest to do so.

That said, I think it could be done, and I very much hope you do it. The trick is going to be finding a compelling enough hook. Focusing on Alisdare might work. Listen to his commentary at the end of PseudoPod 472: Self Portrait With Embellishments, I think you might see the kernel of something there. Or maybe you hit it from the perspective of an author, and just make EA the side story in that drama.
« Last Edit: January 20, 2016, 09:05:19 AM by matweller » Logged
eytanz
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« Reply #3 on: January 20, 2016, 08:45:41 AM »

That said, I think it could be done, and I very much hope you do it. The trick is going to be finding a compelling enough hook. Focusing on Alisdare might work. Listen to his commentary at the end of PseudoPod 472: Self Portrait With Embellishments, I think you might see the kernel of something there.

While it wouldn't surprise me at all if in 30 years someone wins an oscar by playing the lead role in an Alasdair Stuart biopic, isn't This American Life devoted mostly to telling the story of Americans? I'm not sure that making the EA story be about a British man will be a good angle to take.
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Tango Alpha Delta
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« Reply #4 on: January 21, 2016, 08:50:25 AM »

That said, I think it could be done, and I very much hope you do it. The trick is going to be finding a compelling enough hook. Focusing on Alisdare might work. Listen to his commentary at the end of PseudoPod 472: Self Portrait With Embellishments, I think you might see the kernel of something there.

While it wouldn't surprise me at all if in 30 years someone wins an oscar by playing the lead role in an Alasdair Stuart biopic, isn't This American Life devoted mostly to telling the story of Americans? I'm not sure that making the EA story be about a British man will be a good angle to take.

I don't think the international aspect of this story would be a downside; especially if it were more of a Radiolab story (which might even be a better fit, in the long run). After all, the whole colossal juggernaut was started by an American in Georgia. Representing England and Australia the way we do just elevates the enterprise, in my mind.

My initial thought for the narrative flow of the story would be to focus on that "labor of love" aspect (Mat - would you be willing to have a reporter interview you for your perspective?), and show how the different shows developed their own character. I wouldn't want to put Serah Eley on the spot, but I definitely think you can't tell this story without her input. At some point, someone should find out what she would think of this, and whether she would want to be interviewed, too.

I think there is a definite story arc here of going from "small labor of love" to "professional production company" - and ironically enough, I think the producers might actually be intrigued if we make the points Mat listed as roadblocks part of the story. That last point about promoting competition is something I see as a Core Value of what we do - Alasdair repeated that several times during the MetaCast, and all of the EA shows go out of their way to promote the "competition" - I only know about Lightspeed, Toasted Cake, and Cast of Wonders because of Escape Pod and Drabblecast. (And you know DC will be wrapped up in this story, too...fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly, DC tentacles gotta wriggle in your eye.)

We have a couple of philosophically profound characteristics that a NPR audience might connect with. I think remaining a listener-supported labor of love (and the success of the recent push to save the company) makes a great "economic" story, and we should definitely emphasize the way EA has gone about bringing diverse voices to the genres while also featuring some classic authors and public domain works. That's certainly something that public radio audiences seem to relate to.

I haven't read much of the discussion here on the forums about the events at last year's Hugos, but I personally see EA's existence and editorial practices as a testament to which side of that mess we are on. And while that isn't what I want our whole story to be about, that might be a solid hook for a show like TAL. If I'm judging production timelines right, they might even be able to feature us around the same time as the Hugo's in August.

But like Mat said, there are a lot of us. If we want to pitch a story arc with these themes, who would we need to bring to the mic to tell that story?

-Serah Eley (founder)
-Norm Sherman (Escape Pod voice)
-Mur Lafferty (Escape Pod and Mothership Zeta)
-Alasdair Stuart (Pseudopod's voice)
-Ann Leckie (EA family made big!)
-Dave Thompson (PodCastle's voice)
-Graeme Dunlop (PodCastle & Cast of Wonders voice)
-Marguerite Kenner (Cast of Wonders)

I would hesitate to include this in the pitch, but I'm willing to bet a reporter will pick up on the Alasdair/Marguerite international romance - after all, that's in the Metacast! Smiley Maybe they can be our "spunky 10-year-old" or "disabled veteran with dementia" at the center of the story? 


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matweller
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« Reply #5 on: January 21, 2016, 10:11:06 AM »

My initial thought for the narrative flow of the story would be to focus on that "labor of love" aspect (Mat - would you be willing to have a reporter interview you for your perspective?)...
Asking me to talk lovingly about podcasting is as dangerous as asking an old man what he's learned in life. Better have a comfy chair.

That last point about promoting competition is something I see as a Core Value of what we do - Alasdair repeated that several times during the MetaCast, and all of the EA shows go out of their way to promote the "competition" - I only know about Lightspeed, Toasted Cake, and Cast of Wonders because of Escape Pod and Drabblecast. (And you know DC will be wrapped up in this story, too...fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly, DC tentacles gotta wriggle in your eye.)
It's a core value of what we do. But you're trying to sell this to traditional media outlets that happen to have podcasts. Their thinking (TAL more than most of the other shows I've listed) would likely be the exact opposite of ours in that respect.

We have a couple of philosophically profound characteristics that a NPR audience might connect with. I think remaining a listener-supported labor of love (and the success of the recent push to save the company) makes a great "economic" story...
It's an interesting detail of the larger story, but it is not in itself a compelling hook. You need a central character to wrap around. Think about documentaries. They have expansive themes, but the best ones are centered around one character. That might be Alasdair. You should pitch to him.

-Serah Eley (founder)

Side note, forgive my ignorance, but is "Steve" now "Serah?" I knew from his intros that there was something under the surface there, but I'd never heard more information on that or sought it out. I only ask now to see if we're talking about the same person.
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Sgarre1
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« Reply #6 on: January 21, 2016, 10:12:30 AM »

Quote
especially if it were more of a Radiolab story (which might even be a better fit, in the long run).

A number of years ago I thought that a good hook for Radiolab would be the science (brain activity, processing, etc.) that goes on in the difference between listening to audio drama and listening to fiction being read (I;m presuming there is a difference, as they are two very different things in my experience).
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eytanz
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« Reply #7 on: January 21, 2016, 10:28:24 AM »

Side note, forgive my ignorance, but is "Steve" now "Serah?" I knew from his intros that there was something under the surface there, but I'd never heard more information on that or sought it out. I only ask now to see if we're talking about the same person.

It's the same person. For anyone who is interested in the story of her transition - and indeed, of her life post Escape Artists -  she gave an interview on Starshipsofa a few months back where she discusses some of it (linked here).
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Sir Postsalot
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« Reply #8 on: January 22, 2016, 09:59:28 AM »

Quote
I haven't read much of the discussion here on the forums about the events at last year's Hugos, but I personally see EA's existence and editorial practices as a testament to which side of that mess we are on. And while that isn't what I want our whole story to be about, that might be a solid hook for a show like TAL. If I'm judging production timelines right, they might even be able to feature us around the same time as the Hugo's in August.

IMO, if last year's Hugo debacle is the only way to hook them, it would be better to just not hook them.  It's very hard to get on the topic without it verging into mudslinging, and there are a lot of people who had their names attached to the mess who did not consent to have their names attached to the mess so it's very easy for that mud to get slung onto people who really had no choice in the matter.

(And after reading so many opinion pieces on it last year, I think most people are already very tired of hearing about it, and it's probable that this year won't be any different than last year)
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matweller
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« Reply #9 on: January 22, 2016, 10:23:30 AM »

It's the same person. For anyone who is interested in the story of her transition - and indeed, of her life post Escape Artists -  she gave an interview on Starshipsofa a few months back where she discusses some of it (linked here).
Thanks, I'll check it out.

Quote
I haven't read much of the discussion here on the forums about the events at last year's Hugos, but I personally see EA's existence and editorial practices as a testament to which side of that mess we are on. And while that isn't what I want our whole story to be about, that might be a solid hook for a show like TAL. If I'm judging production timelines right, they might even be able to feature us around the same time as the Hugo's in August.

IMO, if last year's Hugo debacle is the only way to hook them, it would be better to just not hook them.  It's very hard to get on the topic without it verging into mudslinging, and there are a lot of people who had their names attached to the mess who did not consent to have their names attached to the mess so it's very easy for that mud to get slung onto people who really had no choice in the matter.

(And after reading so many opinion pieces on it last year, I think most people are already very tired of hearing about it, and it's probable that this year won't be any different than last year)

Agreed. We don't need to be anywhere near that mess. We retreated last year, and I hope we never go back. There was once a good reason to support the Hugos, and I don't think that exists anymore. I suggested that we just make our own award and let that lead us where it may. Regardless, there's nothing gained by inserting ourselves where we don't belong there, and I could be wrong, but I thought I recall TAL or Radiolab already mentioning the whole fiasco.
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Sir Postsalot
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« Reply #10 on: January 22, 2016, 12:02:50 PM »

Agreed. We don't need to be anywhere near that mess. We retreated last year, and I hope we never go back. There was once a good reason to support the Hugos, and I don't think that exists anymore. I suggested that we just make our own award and let that lead us where it may. Regardless, there's nothing gained by inserting ourselves where we don't belong there, and I could be wrong, but I thought I recall TAL or Radiolab already mentioning the whole fiasco.

I'm not giving up on the Hugos yet, though I certainly might in the future.  I'm especially interested in some possible vote-counting rule changes that were passed last year and would need to be ratified this year to go into effect next year, intended to  limit the effect of voter collusion.

I'm going to participate this year in nominating and voting, but I fully expect this year to not be much different than last year.  I'll be watching the results of the WSFS meetings to see if the rule changes get ratified--if those pass, that will give me much more hope that the Hugos can recover.

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Tango Alpha Delta
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« Reply #11 on: January 24, 2016, 10:16:14 PM »

Hmm...objectively, I can see what you're both saying. I imagine the connection will occur to a reporter, but it certainly doesn't need to be part of the pitch. (Honestly, I've never been a huge "competition" fan, outside of the flash fiction contest, so seeing the Hugo hijacked just meant that the anthologies are going to suck for a few years...until the hijackers get bored and go away.)

Maybe it's better to focus on the general "underdog story" -

Steve's* labor of love, how it expanded, how he handed it off to the right people, and how it has grown. It looks like they will accept links to things like the Metacasts and the EP500 special (with the call-in comments that were aired). If we make our pitch about the quality of the stories, the steady growth of listenership (IIRC, we went from 20K downloads a week in 2008 to about 250K/week mentioned in the last Metacasts), the people doing the work because they want to, and the people who have launched their own careers through the medium; with the climax of the story being the call for help and Alasdair buying the company...

That has a beginning/middle/end (with a happy, optimistic ending!), and there are definitely interesting subplots.

*I don't want to make this more of a thing than it is. Based on the Starshipsofa interview, I don't really know how to judge how Serah would feel about being interviewed for another show - especially one that has an NPR-sized audience. If she wants her privacy, I want to respect that, but at the same time, she truly gave us this amazing thing - and in a world that is just waking up to the idea of even admitting that transgendered people are a real thing that exists, even referring to "Steve Eley" without addressing that she is Serah now seems wrong. Yet, everything Serah did, she did as Steve, and even she talked about how that identity is still part of her.

Anyway - it will be important to keep to subject the company to this is for the attention from what I would hope to be a sympathetic audience. I mean, Jonathan Coulton shares our business model (to a degree) and they put him on Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me!
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Tango Alpha Delta
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« Reply #12 on: January 30, 2016, 09:32:48 PM »

Heh - I'm just going to leave this here:

http://skepchick.org/2016/01/quantifying-podcast-diversity-bonus-podcast-recs/

(Note the familiar links in the comment section.)
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Not-a-Robot
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« Reply #13 on: January 31, 2016, 09:18:18 AM »

Agreed. We don't need to be anywhere near that mess. We retreated last year, and I hope we never go back. There was once a good reason to support the Hugos, and I don't think that exists anymore. I suggested that we just make our own award and let that lead us where it may. Regardless, there's nothing gained by inserting ourselves where we don't belong there, and I could be wrong, but I thought I recall TAL or Radiolab already mentioning the whole fiasco.

I'm not giving up on the Hugos yet, though I certainly might in the future.  I'm especially interested in some possible vote-counting rule changes that were passed last year and would need to be ratified this year to go into effect next year, intended to  limit the effect of voter collusion.

I'm going to participate this year in nominating and voting, but I fully expect this year to not be much different than last year.  I'll be watching the results of the WSFS meetings to see if the rule changes get ratified--if those pass, that will give me much more hope that the Hugos can recover.



Holy moly.  I'm not a big fan of award shows and such, so I was ignorant to the Hugo stuff.  I just read some of the stuff on blog.sadpuppies.org and wow.  Really?  Is that serious or is that like a Steven Colbert-type joke site to lampoon sad puppies?  It's like 12 year old hormone-rage-disenchanted boy who can't get laid + Senator MacCarthy.  

Crazy stuff.  I was wondering (here in my sheltered world) about all of the diversity advertising in genre fiction.  Apparently, I've somehow missed all of these puppies people.

So, now I see why some post here get the (over) reactions they do.  That was a real eye-opener.  

I can't believe people like that still exist.

P.S. Sorry to sidetrack, but I was just really surprised.
« Last Edit: January 31, 2016, 09:25:02 AM by Not-a-Robot » Logged
matweller
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« Reply #14 on: February 01, 2016, 08:15:59 AM »

Side note, forgive my ignorance, but is "Steve" now "Serah?" I knew from his intros that there was something under the surface there, but I'd never heard more information on that or sought it out. I only ask now to see if we're talking about the same person.

It's the same person. For anyone who is interested in the story of her transition - and indeed, of her life post Escape Artists -  she gave an interview on Starshipsofa a few months back where she discusses some of it (linked here).
Side note (again): Because of your help bringing me up to speed, Serah will be reading one of our Artemis Rising stories this month. I'm very excited as I couldn't think of anything more fitting.
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Tango Alpha Delta
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« Reply #15 on: February 05, 2016, 11:12:55 PM »

Side note, forgive my ignorance, but is "Steve" now "Serah?" I knew from his intros that there was something under the surface there, but I'd never heard more information on that or sought it out. I only ask now to see if we're talking about the same person.

It's the same person. For anyone who is interested in the story of her transition - and indeed, of her life post Escape Artists -  she gave an interview on Starshipsofa a few months back where she discusses some of it (linked here).
Side note (again): Because of your help bringing me up to speed, Serah will be reading one of our Artemis Rising stories this month. I'm very excited as I couldn't think of anything more fitting.

I just hugged my monitor. Thank you, Mat.
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