⚰️ Lincoln's cadaver, Billie Holliday, a hip-hop conspiracy theory, Oklahoma City 🎶 Endless Thread's Amory Sivertson 🧵
💌Podcast The Newsletter is your weekly love letter to podcasts and the people who make them.💌
This week we’re getting to peek into the podcast app and listening life of my friend Cory Zechmann, Content Strategy Lead at Himalaya and Founder of Silence Nogood. He is one of the only people I know as enthusiastic about podcasts as I am.
Pictured: In Machines We Trust, Industry Focus, Happier with Gretchen Rubin, VC:20, Creative Element, Daily Stoic, Business Casual, Podcast Junkies, The Knowledge Project, Music Ally, Robinhood Snacks, Twenty Thousand Hertz, more…
App I Use: Castro (previously Downcast.) But using Audible more so right now for audiobooks (binging books about subscriptions and memberships.)
Listening Time Per Week
Weekdays I get in at least 1-3 hours a day. I usually try to take one day out of a weekend to binge-listen.
When I Listen
Walking. One of my favorite combos.
How I Discover
- Promos on podcasts
- Research for work
- Google Alerts
- Instagram ads
ps If you are pleased with Podcast The Newsletter, please spread the word.
👋q & a & q & a & q & a👋
Endless Thread’s Amory Sivertson
Kindly introduce yourself and tell us what you do!
Hi! I'm Amory Sivertson, co-host and producer of Endless Thread, which is a podcast from WBUR (Boston's NPR) that brings stories from Reddit to life. I promise you don't need to know a thing about Reddit to enjoy the show -- we dig in to little-known histories, we solve quirky internet mysteries, we explore fascinating Reddit communities like r/childfree, r/widowers, r/UnsentLetters, etc., and we highlight unique personal stories that will help you understand your fellow humans in a new way.
Some of the episodes sound like a LOT of work was put into them. How do you decide if a story is worth the extra work? (Like traveling to a cave?)
I'm glad they sound that way because a lot of work was put into them! That being said, for the episodes that have required us to go the extra (often literal) mile, I don't think there was ever any question whether we would or not. Of COURSE we were going to drive to Pennsylvania to look for an abandoned mountain of dishware in the woods. Of COURSE we had to try caving if we were going to do whole episode about it. Of COURSE we were going to go to the glitter factory to try to find out who their secret biggest customer is. The conversation usually goes something like...
One of us: "I mean... we've gotta do THIS (insert crazy thing)..." or "We've gotta go HERE (insert crazy place).."
The other two of us: "HELL YES."
One of us: "Great, it's settled."
All of that is to say, we know when a story is worth going all out on because the idea of doing so makes us energized, not exhausted.
What is your favorite episode? Where should people start?
Geedis, forever and ever amen.
What do you hope the show does for people?
I hope it makes people feel less alone -- either because they relate to what they're hearing, or because they like spending time with us. I hope it makes them more curious about, and compassionate towards, their fellow humans. We've done our jobs right if you want to tell someone about what you've just heard soon after you finish listening to it.
Women in podcasting are constantly being criticized for their voices. What is your relationship with yours? How would you describe your voice?
How many chapters would you like this book to be? Kidding... half kidding. One of my dream jobs is to do voice-overs, actually. Animation voice acting, cleaning product commercials, nature documentaries -- you name it, lemme at it! My voice is my primary instrument and I can do some truly crazy shit with it. My relationship with it is playful, frustrating, rewarding, surprising. The only times I've really cringed at my voice are when I can hear myself trying too hard, or not being authentic, or letting my insecurities get the better of me. I have a noisy mouth, so that drives me crazy, and I haven't found the right combo of magic foods/potions to help with it (our sound designer has a special mouth noise plug-in just for me, which is equal parts great and gross!). But basically, I appreciate the voice I have, and I hope I have the opportunity to use it for music, podcasts, and side projects for decades to come.
Last thing I'll say is, to the men who criticize women's voices: hahahahahahaha are you hearing YOURSELF right now?
Should podcasters read their Apple Podcast reviews?
Yes, but mayyyyybe have a little whiskey first and do dramatic readings of them? You'll definitely see stuff that makes you go, "Nah, I'm good." But you'll probably also read something you hadn't considered before, and then you can choose to take it or leave it from there. It's pretty clear when someone is being a troll vs. when someone has taken a moment to leave sincere feedback. And given that reviews really do help MORE people find your show, you should have a sense of what people are saying.
Ultimately though, you have to believe in what you're making, and you have to remind yourself WHY you're making it and why you're making it the way that you're making it. Is your podcast primarily a creative outlet for you and you don't actually care who listens or likes it and who doesn't? Great! Don't read the reviews. Are you making the podcast for an audience to really get something out of it? Give the reviews an occasional scroll to see if you're succeeding at that. But as long as you're solid on what you love about your show, you'll have an easier time accepting the constructive feedback for what it is and saying "Haters gonna hate! (hair flip)" to the rest of it.
Is there anything I didn’t ask you that you’d like to talk about?
Climate change is real, elephants > humans, go for a walk, and dessert is worth it.
🚨If u only have time for 1 thing🚨
I was all ready on Sunday morning to listen to a 2 hour, 12 minute conversation about Disney’s Twilight Zone Tower of Terror on Podcast The Ride, it was all queued up. But last minute I started Buried Truths, a show that documents the history of racial injustice in coastal Georgia. I started with season three, which tells the story of Ahmaud Arbery. I thought I’d just listen to one episode and then move onto Podcast The Ride, but once I started Buried Truths I could not stop. It was the best thing I listened to this week, but also the most difficult. This show does a beautiful job telling us about Ahmaud the man, and the shameful history of racism in Georgia, which is such important context when we think about Ahmaud’s life. At one point, Ahmaud’s Auntie is interviewed, and she remembers that every time they parted, Ahmaud would say, “I’ll be careful, Auntie. I love you.” He knew his life was in danger, being a Black man in Georgia. I knew this story was terrible but hearing the full background of Ahmaud’s murderers, Gregory McMichael and his son Travis, was shocking. Gregory had been a cop, one of those “bad apple” cops we keep hearing about—he had continuously failed to complete important police training sessions about community relations and anti-racism. (But always made sure to catch the training sessions about shooting guns and nazis.) The McMichaels were not arrested until 74 days after the killing, after the video of Ahmaud’s murder went viral. How could this possibly have happened? Is this Georgia 2020, or Georgia 1950? Seasons one and two tell the stories of Isaiah Nixon, who was killed for voting in 1948, and A.C. Hall, who police shot in the back in 1962 because they mistakenly thought he was a thief. I haven’t listened to them yet but can’t wait.
🎙️I’m speaking at Podcast Movement on Thursday, October 27 with my business partner Kate Hutchison about Growing Your Podcast with Marketing and PR Magic. Please register and watch so that Kate and I look popular and cool.
🎙️Don’t worry I still ended up listening to Podcast The Ride’s 2.5 hour episode about The Tower of Terror, and it was everything I wanted and hoped for and needed.
🎙️The first episode of Louder Than a Riot presents a conspiracy theory I’ve never heard of: In 2012, an unsigned letter began circulating on popular hip-hop blogs, describing a letter that was supposedly written in the 90s to music industry execs asking them to market hip-hop that glorified criminal behavior in exchange for stock in the private prison business. It sounds wild, but as host Sidney Madden points out, “if the conspiracy theory is really fabricated, then where is the lie?” Sidney and Rodney Carmichael are investigating the criminal justice through the experiences of rap artists like Bobby Shmurda, Nipsey Hussle, Killer Mike, Noname, Yo Gotti, DJ Drama and more. This episode leave you dying for the rest of the story.
🎙️Days Like These is a podcast from Australia that collects vignettes from a mix of ordinary and high-profile Australians describing the strangest days of their lives. They’re funny and touching. The first episode drops Wednesday. I absolutely loved what I heard, an audio diary and interview with Spencer, a trans man who meets the love of his life on a San Francisco dance floor and documents their journey of having a baby together. Another episode features an opal miner who kind of accidentally discovers a completely new dinosaur species. (You know how I feel about dinosaur content, I will always listen.)
🎙️Rose Eveleth and TK Dutes dropped Open World, which uses fiction stories to help us find hope in science and tech to help us imagine a better future. It always starts with an audio drama from an artist, and is followed up with a conversation with the artist. The first episode features a reading by 3-time Hugo Award Winner NK Jemisin from The City We Became, and a conversation with her and Glitch CEO Anil Dash. The story, about New York’s human avatar depicted as a queer Black homeless young man fighting to save itself, is tense and dramatic. But in it there is hope. TK calls it “a love letter to a NYC we haven’t seen in a long time…” and it’s a love letter to the good and the bad of the city pre-COVID, one we might never see again. The best part of the conversation is when NK and Anil talk about tech leaders who love sci-fi, but not necessarily the kind of sci-fi that offers solutions and the optimism we need, and is driven by people. “Tech CEOs read lots of science-fiction, but not the science-fiction we want them to read. They’re reading the stuff that’s horribly wrong with the future.” This episode opens us to a new genre of sci-fi and makes clear the power it can have on people who think hard about its messages. Episode two, 60 Minutes Through Space, was the best conversations I’ve ever heard about race and science-fiction (although admittedly and unfortunately there aren’t many to choose from.) Hosts from the fiction podcast Obsidian Adetola Abdulkadir and Safiyah Cheatam talk about hope in science-fiction and Afofuturism, and why Black science-fiction is so important and rare.
🎙️I cannot believe that Lifetime hasn’t made a movie covering the shit that went down in the 12 years that FDR was in the White House. But Very Presidential has an episode about it. Between trying to pull the country out of the Great Depression, The New Deal, and all those fireside chats, he was carrying on some wild affairs (the Princess of Norway and his daughter-in-law) and not just outside the White House. His lovers were living inside. Don’t feel too bad for Eleanor, she had lovers living in the White House, too. Maybe this isn’t the plot of a Lifetime movie, maybe it’s sitcom.
🎙️In the mid-1800s, Harvard Medical School was known for being a “den of body snatchers.” Coming up with cadavers to study wasn’t easy, and the lengths Harvard went to were definitely not ethical. But professor John Webster went too far when he murdered the school’s most prominent supporter, Dr. George Parkman, in 1849, who was last seen walking inside the medical school building. Criminal’s story of how Webster was caught, and how he tried to frame a janitor for his crime, is eerie and feels like the most-fun kind of spooky story for Halloween. You feel like you are in nineteenth-century Boston, smack in the middle of a gruesome murder investigation.
🎙️I’m just going to say this again for I think the third time: everyone should be watching HBO’s Lovecraft Country, but nobody should watch the show without listening to the companion podcast Lovecraft Country Radio. I always watch the TV episode but never consider my experience complete until I tune in to hear Ashley Ford and Lovecraft Country writer Shannon Houston explain the depth of what I just saw. Ashley and Shannon point out things that I don’t always notice on my own, things that make me realize that the Lovecraft isn’t just great, it’s a masterpiece. The latest episode, Jig-A-Bobo, was one of my favorites, and the companion episode was the best podcast episode, too. It offers us a conversation with film scholar and producer Tananarive Due about Black horror, why Black children are almost completely absent from horror films, and what makes Black horror different. If you’re watching the show, you’ll love the exploration of Dee’s character, which stands as a lesson in the trauma Black girls face when they aren’t supported by adults and how their trauma manifests. Ashley and Shannon unpack so many points about this show that are directly tied to the world and our real lives. At one point the brilliant Ashley Ford says that “rationalization is the closest human beings come to divining magic because of how good we are at convincing ourselves that what we want to be true is true.” Chills. Chills from the terrifying twins Topsy and Bopsy (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, check out the twins and start watching the show,) and also the cold, hard truth Lovecraft forces us to grapple with.
🎙️Brandon Kyle Goodman is hosting Do The Work, a show that brings two people together to have real (awkward) conversations about race. Brandon brings friendliness to these prickly issues, and the result is a little like Dylan Maron’s Conversations With People Who Hate Me. The show is a tool for us to learn anti-racism but I also admit it’s somewhat thrilling to listen to people put themselves out there like this. In the first episode, we go back to an incident a few years ago, when Jason admitted on Facebook not understanding that he had white privilege, tagging some of his Black friends, including Lori, who is also on the show, asking for help. 🤦🏼♀️ This was a big issue in the aftermath of George Floyd, white people not interested in…ahem…doing the work…and instead asking their Black friends to do it for them.
🎙️I binged Canary over the weekend, which on its surface seems to be a story about a woman coping with a sexual assault she endured in the 70s. But the story’s opening sets it on quite a different track. Journalist Amy Britton was reporting on a younger woman, Lauren, who was sexually assaulted in DC in 2019, and the assaulter received a slap on the wrist from the judge, Truman A. Morrison III. This story made its way to another woman in the south, Carole Griffin, with a story of her own, that explains why Morrison may have gone so easy on the DC attacker—he had sexually assaulted Carole when she was young. These women’s lives are connected by their trauma and Morrison, and their refusal to be silent about what happened to them. It’s a difficult story with excellent reporting. Amy is a shining character in it, and she puts blood, sweat, and tears into tracking down evidence that would corroborate Carole’s account..(She even flies down for the Anniversary party of Carole’s parents.) And just when you think the story is over, Carole finds an “apology” letter from Morrison that turns the whole incident on its head.
🎙️It must be hard to make a podcast that sounds completely different than anything else out there. So many shows have adapted the same tone, cadence, and arc. It’s easy to fill in the blanks and give people what they expect. That is not what Sharon Mashihi has done with her show Appearances, a fiction/non-fiction audio memoir mind trip about an Iranian-American woman reflecting on her family and future, and whether or not she want to be a mom. (=have a child with a boyfriend she says she doesn’t want to be with.) The episode Vida gives space to Melanie’s mother and it’s so good it feels like it could stand alone. In depicting Melanie’s mother, Sharon seems to have entered her body and mind. It’s funny and so specific, the character comes to life. This series is such a treat.
🎙️On Podcast But Outside, comedians Cole Hersch and Andrew Michaan drag their recording equipment outside and interview anyone who cares to speak, offering them $1 in exchange for their stories. The latest episode is special–Cole and Andrew are at a Trump rally, pretending to be die-hard Trump supporters. They meet some colorful characters (one man shows off the fact that he’s lost a tooth for Trump) and hey! It’s good to get to know these people whom I am constantly wondering about.
🎙️Before it returned for another season, Femlore had a two-part episode on Mulan that was so fantastic, I urge you to go listen to it now. The latest episode does a similar treatment of Pocahontas, walking us through this story and complicated nature in which its been told, primarily the Disney-fied version. Nicholet of Redstreak Girl walks us through what Disney got right (not much) and wrong and most wrong, and what the wrong stuff can teach us about what we’re talking about when we talk about Native Americans. This conversation made me realize we should all go back and watch Pocahontas, but not without listening to this episode along with it.
🎙️On The Truth’s Married Alive, a couple is trapped in an avalanche with a “spiritual healer and professional listener” who tries to mend the couple’s relationship. It’s emotional and original, but most of all funny. The Truth is always so well-produced, heartfelt, and funny. I don’t know how they do it all so well.
🎙️On Other Men Need Help, host Mark Pagán travels to Cleveland to help Mark, who doesn’t seem to have a friend other than his wife. It’s a beautiful story, the style of Mark’s very human journalism reminds me a bit of Jonathan Goldstein’s Heavyweight—Mark handles these questions of masculinity with humor, openness, kindness, and optimism. The episode is about why it’s important to have friends other than your partner—who do we go to when we want to talk about them? Mark seems to be saying that it takes a village to grow a successful couple. These extra friendships are important. And men are less likely than women to have then.
🎙️The final episode in Imaginary Advice’s 6-part series The Golden House dropped, which means the story is over, and I’m dying to talk to Ross about it. The Golden House is corporate-conspiracy fiction that’s also a branded podcast within a podcast, brought to us by a tech company that’s trying to cover something up with some creepily-friendly PR messaging. It ends not with a resolution, but instead leaves the listener with many questions. I have plans to go back and listen to the whole thing again so that I can try to pick out all the audio clues and figure out what the narrator is trying to really tell us. This was one of my favorite audio adventures of the year—it’s not a linear story Ross is telling you, it’s a funny as hell and cryptic game he’s asking you to play. I would love to have a podcast club so that I could hear what conclusions people came to. (If you listened, let me know.)
🎙️The latest episode of 70 Million opens with the sounds of crying children—children who had just been separated from their parents by immigration authorities. This is a tiny part of the story of the asylum crisis in America, where the Trump administration is making it almost impossible for asylum seekers to find refuge. Reporters Valeria Fernández and Jude Joffe-Block follow two asylum seekers from Guatemala—a 22-year old woman named María and her 5-year-old child. The story is really heart-breaking and the whole time I was waiting for a happy ending that never came. I opened up my notes app and just wrote “SOOO inhumane!!!” I don’t know what else to say. This is excellent journalism mixed with powerful storytelling.
🎙️My parents’ friend Van came to the United States in the early 70s fleeing communist Vietnam, and it troubles me that I never asked her to tell me the full story. I only know bits. Each of these people who were children when they came over from Vietnam are known as 1.5 generation, and each of them has a harrowing story. Vietnamese Boat People is collecting these stories, and on Snow in Vietnam, we hear from Amy Le, who fled through the jungles in Vietnam through AK-47 gunfire, to come to the United States. It was not until her Mother’s Death that she fully came to appreciate the story, a story we get to hear about on Vietnamese Boat People.
🎙️American Shadows focuses on the dark sides of American history, and Body of Truth is about the journey of Abraham Lincoln’s body after he was assassinated. After it was set on a nation-wide tour and after narrowly escaping a grave-robbing plot by a gang of Chicago Irish counterfeiters, it was quite a long time before Lincoln was laid to rest. In this episode, we hear about Lincoln’s son, a figure I knew little about, and I’m begging you to listen to this short story about him—there is a crazy twist at the end that makes the listening experience worth it.
🎙️I love you!