📞Storytelling telephone 🗣️ hostiness 🕺🏾unexplainable torture sounds🦻riding the rails🚂
🍭 👂 TRUST ME! 🌈 🤸♀️
Today is Monday, January 23. There are 108 days until my next Disney cruise. In case this email is too long, what the fuck is that sound (here,) invisible true crime here, how to be a better podcast host here.
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Sequoia Holmes is the host of Black People Love Paramore. Follow her on Twitter here. Follow Black People Love Paramore on Twitter here.
If nobody has listened to Black People Love Paramore, where should they start?
Okay, so there are certain episode *topics* that really resonate with people – like the Tony Hawk episode, the Ariana Grande episode, and obviously, the Paramore episode. So those are good places to start, but then there are episodes that are just really well done – like the Twitter episode and the Phrases, Idioms, and Colloquialisms episode. I’d say any of those 5 are good places to dive in!
What’s your goal for the show?
In her TED Talk, Chimamanda Ngozi talks about the dangers of the single story. “The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they aren't true, but they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.” In mainstream media, Black people are often presented as one dimensional stereotypes. Only seeing people who look like you represented in incomplete tropes can be taxing on the psyche. I want to help complete the story and create a space for Black people to come and feel *scene* (get it?)
What do you do to grow your audience?
I try to go on other podcasts and I leverage TikTok! TikTok is an incredibly underrated marketing tool for podcasts. Because I don’t record video for my show (yet), I can’t just drop clips of it on TikTok, so instead, what I do is make TikToks about episode topics that I think will grab the interest of people who would fall within the podcast’s target audience. The Tony Hawk episode was so successful due largely to TikTok. Same with the Ariana Grande episode. TikTok is a place where niche topics thrive, and BPLP podcast is a niche topic goldmine. Humans love to feel seen so when you present them with niche topics that help them feel that way, especially Black people who have been starved of that type of representation for forever, they want to listen.
If you were going to start another podcast, don’t worry about the logistics or whether or not anyone would like it. Oh and your budget is $1M. What would it be?
Whew, good question. I’ve been wanting to start a self-help(ish) podcast aimed at Black women (and women generally) aged 17-24 just giving advice for stuff I wish I knew sooner. Stuff that I wish someone had told me at that age. Being the first person in your family to accomplish different things comes with a level of confusion that’s very uncomfortable. Lots of learning as you go which can – in some cases, not ALL – set you back a little when it feels like everyone else has help at their fingertips. I’d like to try to level the playing field a bit with regard to college admissions help, early career steps, money management, etc. I’m still learning too, but I’ve picked up some things along the way.
Do you listen to podcasts?
What’s a podcast you love that everyone else knows about?
The Read, of course.
What’s a podcast you love that not enough people know about?
Here’s three! Balanced Black Girl, Note To Self by Payton Sartain, and A Few Minutes Pod
🚨If u only have time for 1 thing🚨
Josie Duffy Rice is taking us to a place from our nightmarish past on Unreformed: The Story of the Alabama Industrial School for Negro Children, which chronicles the history of Mt. Meigs, an institution that began as a safe haven for black youth before mutating into a “modern-day slave plantation.” The show features the voices of the victims, which is painful to hear—it’s a kick in the stomach to realize that this is not our distant past. And if we’ve learned anything from all the podcasts coming out about Canada’s residential school system (Stolen and Kuper Island) we’ve learned about generational trauma, how the nightmares don’t stop with the people who experienced them first hand. I didn’t even know about Mt. Meigs. Did you? Once again, Mr. Haas, my 6th grade American History teacher: what the fuck were you teaching us? This is vital listening for the education, the need to be confronted with this. The reporting is blunt and captivating. It’s blowing one of America’s dirty secrets up.
✨[I didn’t think I’d have to say this but] this Lifehacker article about 13 podcasts that changed podcasting I wrote is a list of podcasts that changed the medium. It is not a list of the only podcast-changing podcasts, it is not the best or biggest. I left some out. No list pleases everyone, but this one seems to have pissed people off.
✨Shreya Sharma and I pulled together an issue of Podcast Marketing Magic about where to spend your money, honey, when it comes to your podcast. Read here.
✨Feed the Queue featured an episode of Skyline Drive. Listen here.
✨Great Pods, the rotten tomatoes for podcasts, released the top 12 critics that were clicked on for 2022. It includes the percentage each critic was clicked through and their publication. I’m in the top 20!
✨Growing a podcast from scratch is hard but doable. I wrote an article for Descript that might help you out. Read here.
✨I’m obsessed with Ausha, the podcast marketing platform with allllllll the tools a podcaster needs to launch and grow their show. It’s beautiful and there’s nothing like it. Sign up with my affiliate link here!
✨Arielle Nissenblatt spotlighted Playing Anne Frank in her newsletter and podcast.
✨Hark’s flagship franchise, “Hark Daily,” is now being co-hosted by top podcasters Avery Trufelman and Jody Avirgan.
✨Call 1-844-POD-AT-ME (1-844-763-2863) to hear a daily podcast recommendation, and leave your own recommendation at the beep! You can suggest your own show so this is a great way to market your show. Don’t worry, we won’t answer the phone! (We know calling random numbers can be terrifying.)
✨Two studies that will make you pump your fists in the air: Listening to podcasts may help satisfy our psychological need for social connection and Why people listen: Motivations and outcomes of podcast listening. They found that podcast listeners have higher educational needs, and that if you listen to more than one podcast, you likely feel a greater meaning for your life, especially if you’ve established a parasocial relationship with a host you love, or have become part of a community. My takeaways: my parasocial relationship with Jack O’Brian and Miles Gray isn’t embarrassing, it’s healthy. And if listening to one podcast gives me a greater meaning for life, what does listening to more than 900 days worth of podcasts in 2022 mean? (That was my Pocket Casts stat.)
✨Tink was working with the beautiful show Obsessions: Wild Chocolate, Rowan Jacobson quest through the rain forest to find the world’s most ancient and expensive cacao. You can buy the chocolate, and Erik Jones of Hurt Your Brain (subscribe!) got a taste. Here, a wild chocolate review. (Not for the podcast, but for the chocolate!
The chocolate discussed in Obsessions: Wild Chocolate is actually quite good. My mom surprised me for Christmas with this selection mentioned within the show after she saw me recommend the first episode in my newsletter. It’s not cheap but it is indeed way better than typical store bought dark chocolate. They are less sweet, have a much more interesting flavor profile, and all have a fantastic aftertaste. The chocolate from the show came with three different selections and a little booklet explaining their origin/story. Eating them with a good red wine is HIGHLY recommended (from me, not the booklet).
🎙️In 2016, US diplomats starting experiencing a debilitating and totally confusing illness that caused headaches, nausea, hearing loss, and problems with memory and vision. They all heard something…a buzzing, hissing, or grinding. As more and more people came down with it, it became known as Havana Syndrome, a phenomenon that nobody has been able to explain. It seems too unusual to chalk it up to a natural experience. Are officials under attack? Or are they just hearing loud crickets? Are they delusional? On THE SOUND: Mystery of Havana Syndrome, journalist Nicky Woolf interviews diplomats and spies, neurologists and physicists, skeptics and believers to get to the bottom of the mysterious sound wreaking havoc on officials, and what it says about international relationships and what diplomats in Cuba can expect to experience—being fucked with in subtle ways, to make them think they’re losing their mind. U.S. intelligence agencies say it’s nothing, but it’s hard to believe that when you hear the personal stories of the victims. Some of them haven’t spoken out before. This is a maddening mystery that feels too nuts to be true. Listen here.
🎙️Invisible Hate is a true crime podcast focused specifically on hate crimes, hosted by Saadia Khan (Immigrantly) and Asad Butt (King of the World and American Muslim Project.) They take us through stories that are underreported about cases to decipher whether they fall into the hate crime category, or just the good old fashioned crime crime one. Saadia and Asad are both seasoned reporters, and their personal experiences with racial discrimination seep into their storytelling in a really powerful way. They’re able to identify the micro-aggressions that exist in these cases that we might not notice if we’ve been safe from experiencing them. This is a place that pays special tribute to victims of calculated hate crimes whose stories have been glossed over. Each of these stories gives us insight into a specific kind of hate some people experience in America, and Saadia and Asad have set out to help us try to understand where that hate is coming from, and why so often they aren’t labeled hate crimes. Listen here.
🎙️Memory Wars is a podcast about mining America’s uncomfortable history in slavery, taking notes from what German has done in the wake of the holocaust, to see if we can reckon with our own horrific past. The holocaust and the transatlantic slave trade both represents systematic dehumanization, a society that not only looks the other way in the face of murder and slave labor, but creates systems that legalize and support and justify it. Germany and the US are faced with the undoing of that. How do the people respond? Memory Wars is a step in the undoing. Through a year of in-depth reporting featuring a wide range of characters, Mallory Noe-Payne looks at how Germany is handling this (of course there is a german word for this…vergangenheitsbewältigung, which means “coping with the past.”) The US has really held up a mirror to the German people for what happened in the holocaust. But how do we hold the mirror up to ourselves? It’s hard, important work. This podcast is hard and important. And so well reported. Mallory takes the listener to Germany to meet the people who are working on the undoing to see what we can learn from them. Listen here.
🎙️Feel like getting a bit uncomfortable? Listen to this episode of Love + Radio, where journalist Ana Adlersteil speaks with border security guard Art Del Cueto for one of the most confrontational interviews I’ve ever heard on a podcast before. Art sees people crossing the border as criminal aliens and defends the horrific acts of some of his colleagues and allows himself to be totally called out, then bites right back. The episode centers around the case of agent Lonnie Schwartz, who was found not guilty for shooting 16-year-old Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez 10 times in the back and head in 2012, to illustrate the two perspectives of the story. The piece allows us into the head of Ana, who opens up in a whisper on mic about how much it sucks to talk to Art, though he seems to love every second of the interview, and feels that he’s made a new best friend. (She’s his favorite “far right journalist.”) But she doesn’t back down and the result is a battle of philosophies that leaves you in a kind of discomfort we all need to spend time in every so often. Listen here.
🎙️I think for many mothers, if their daughters disappeared they would claim they’d go to any lengths to find them. But what if that included living in train yards, sleeping in train cars and living in fear of being caught? This is what investigative journalist Danelle Morton is doing to find and better understand her daughter Ruby, who ran away on her high school graduation day, to join a group of hobos who live life on the rails. On City of the Rails, she shares the railroad’s historical roots within the labor movement and homelessness, and the dangers of the railroad yard. It’s a very cool adventure slash mother-daughter story about a young woman who is very cool (Ruby was always cool) searching for something only the rails can offer her, and the mom who wants to know why. Danelle has this easy breezy storytelling style that makes her sound cool, too. She is telling an emotional story rather stoically, while keeping her eye on the prize, her daughter. The writing is great (some of this train stuff is hard to explain yet I feel like I’m riding the rails too) and we get to hear the voices of fascinating riders and railroad engineers and conductors we might otherwise not get to hear from. Listen here.
🎙️Storytellers will delight in Please Tell Me a Story, a podcast that’s one big, festive game of telephone. Six comedians are given the chance to tell a story and pass it around to each other, everyone is trying to push the story down the chain without fucking it up. Each story is funny and so full of details that get absolutely twisted. The final story is never quite the one you started with. This is a fun display about silly stories and the art of how we tell them—what we remember, what we tend to skip over, and how we fill in gaps—that will make you think about how stories, one of the most long-lasting and powerful things of society, are made, delivered, and remembered. Listening, it feels like several comedy skits are rotating through your ears. Listen here.
🎙️Elaine Appleton Grant kicked off a season of Sound Judgment with an interview with Glynn Washington, who shares how he went from growing up in a cult to being the one of the most recognizable voices in podcasting, hosting Snap Judgment. This is a great conversation about something you can’t put your finger on but you know it when you hear it—perfect hostiness. Glynn and Elaine use an episode of Snap Judgment hand-picked by Glynn, “Zoo Nebraska,” to illustrate storytelling technics you’ll want to steal from: taking your listener on a journey, being animated by a question, highlighting characters that make mistakes, knowing that you don’t have to be Batman to have a good story to tell, and keeping the tiny details in. Tell a big story by thinking small. Listen here.
🎙️Over the weekend, Disney World’s racist ride Splash Mountain closed down (“time to be movin’ along”) to make way for a ride that will replace it, one that revolves around the story Princess and the Frog. It’s a great time to revisit one of my favorites series from You Must Remember This about the history of what inspired the ride, the 1946 film Song of the South. Listen to that here. Disney at Work and Play also gave a tribute to the ride as an imagineering masterpiece, with the story of how Disney stole the idea from a ride at Knott’s Berry Farm, the interesting reason they had to change the structure of the logs, and the brilliance of everything about it, including what you experience in the lines to the interesting way it looks like it goes down into the ground. (It doesn’t. You can only build up in Disney World.) Listen to that here.
🎙️Blank Check has a celebration of When Harry Met Sally with host Dana Stevens that made me fall in love even harder with the film than I ever thought I could be. This conversation was able to pinpoint everything, into perfect words, why I love this movie and point out reasons it’s so great that I didn’t notice before, like the way Rob Reiner spices up potentially bland conversation with interesting scene action (doing the wave at a sports game,) using New York City as a prop, the evolution of Sally’s hairstyles, and the big dick energy of Billy Crystal. If you have a friend who still doesn’t love When Harry Met Sally, force this episode upon them and dare them to say they the film isn’t brilliant to your face. This episode was so much fun. Listen here. h/t Devin in Podstack
🎙️Story Worthy’s Christine Blackburn has launched My Life in 3 Songs, a place where comedians share three songs that have impacted their lives. I love this angle because it’s not their favorite songs, it’s songs that have, for one reason or another, marked an important time or place in their memories. Now how do I describe Christine as a podcast host? A pure blast? All of her episodes sound like a party you want to go to, and the combo of these funny guests, her storytelling skills, and a twist on the music podcast leads to great listening. On Spotify only, so you get to hear the songs! Listen here.
🎙️Crime Writers On…(the best but also only true-crime review show) reviewed Alabama Astronaut. If you haven’t listened to Alabama Astronaut, I think it’ll get you intrigued as fuck. It’s a great conversation. (THANK YOU, TOBY!) Listen here. Today they reviewed Crooked City: The Emerald Triangle, and it was just what I needed to hear after spending the entire weekend complaining about how bad it was. Listen to that here.
🎙️I love you!
From the Archives
The most recent episode of Bizarre Albums, Chipmunk Punk, was my absolute favorite. The story of The Chipmunks as musicians is expertly told, and (like it or hate it) The Chipmunks's hits are woven throughout. If you're like me this will be a comforting escape to your childhood. But even if not, the episode highlights how ridiculous the idea of producing albums of songs sung by cartoon animals with literally the most annoying voices ever is. How did that hula-hoop song top the charts? Who was buying Chipmunk Punk? How did this happen? Why did The Chipmunks cover so many songs by The Knack? (We learned on an episode of Punch Up The Jam just how gross those boys are.) Why did The Chipmunks NEVER cover Pharoahe Monch's Simon Says? It would have been perfect, it was also my wedding song. Are these simply songs we just love so much we will listen to anyone sing them? (I absolutely and shamelessly love the song Diamond Dolls sung by The Chipettes, but I would prefer to hear Sleater-Kinney singing it, or someone else. Anyone else.)
This week we’re getting to peek into the listening life of Amanda McLoughlin, CEO of Multitude and the co-host of Spirits.
The app you use to listen: PocketCasts, forever and always!
What speed do you listen to podcasts? 1.2 for most shows, and always with Trim Silences on.
How do you discover new shows? Recommendations from friends, period. More and more podcast apps are turning their features into pay-to-play ad slots, and nothing annoys me more than a show doing a feed drop for something else on their network in place of a new episode. So when I'm looking for new shows, I turn to people I trust.
One show you love that everybody loves. Who Weekly seems to be the only conversational podcast that podcast professionals feel comfortable recommending. And it's great! But I wish people were less afraid to loudly recommend podcasts outside the public radio sphere. The beating heart of podcasting is intimate conversations between people who like and respect each other, aka a conversational podcast. Dismissing these shows as 'lowbrow,' 'unserious,' or—worst of all!—'chat shows' completely misses the point of what makes podcasting special.
One show you love that most people don't know about. Hey Riddle Riddle is a hilarious podcast whose Patreon episodes are even better than the main feed. Lots of comedians have podcasts, but these comedians bring incredibly creative formats to their bonus episodes. My favorites are the Review Crew episodes, at the highest tier of the Patreon, which began with the crew reviewing mystery novels and TV shows but has ballooned into reviewing Outback Steakhouse and every flavor of orange soda.
Hot take: Fears of a podcasting bubble are greatly exaggerated. Unless you're QCODE or Pushkin, trying and failing to get millions from Amazon and Spotify, the rest of us will be just fine. Tech companies that rushed into the space will realize that podcasting isn't a cure-all for the difficulties of making a living in digital media. I'll keep growing my communities and making a sustainable living from Patreon and ads we sell ourselves in 2023.
Self-care tip: Plants are the absolute best. If I'm feeling overwhelmed, there's nothing like pruning, repotting, or just admiring a new leaf to clear my head. #leafwatch
Thanks for the shoutout and for letting me try a “different” kind of review!