Podcast to broadcast.
We kick around this notion all the time at PRX: can the stories and styles that work so well in the highly intimate podcast medium also work in the mass form of radio?
Some do, some really don’t, and I am skeptical of podcast-to-broadcast working in every case. But KUOW in Seattle is one of those daring stations that’s willing to try something at least once. A few weeks back Todd Mundt, managing producer at KUOW, reached out to PRX saying he’s a big fan of the Esquire Classic podcast that we produce with Esquire magazine.
Every two weeks, Esquire editor Tyler Cabot, host David Brancaccio (and anchor of the Marketplace Morning Report from APM), producer Curtis Fox and I select a nonfiction story from the Esquire archives. The Esquire Classic podcast then dissects the story and its background—the assignment, editing, twists and turns—and its newfound context in the 21st century. Cindy Katz, an actor, usually reads excerpts live and David interviews an expert: the article’s original author, editor, or someone else who really knows the material.
Todd suggested trying an episode for broadcast in Seattle. “The larger KUOW view is that we find, curate and present the most interesting content from wherever we can get it,“ he said. That mindset attracted him to an episode about a Tom Wolfe story profiling Silicon Valley pioneer Robert Noyce. Noyce was a major developer of the silicon chip, and helped create the entrepreneurial culture that we now associate with innovation. Brancaccio interviewed acclaimed tech reporter Kara Swisher of Re/code for the podcast.
“It was a moment to present a story the [Seattle] audience would find interesting,” said Todd. “This was a creation moment for Silicon Valley, the whole ethos of it, and Kara is in a unique position as a chronicler. With Brancaccio known to the audience, you have it all come together.”
The challenge was to take a 30-minute podcast and make it sound right on air. Todd worked with producers Caroline Chamberlain and Curtis Fox to break the podcast into four sections. Caroline had to craft tight and contextual host leads that really fit each excerpt. “We chose to serialize [the podcast], and that is harder. As you get deeper in, you get to parts two or three or four, and you have to do more backfilling of information in host intros, which we try to keep to no more than 25 seconds,” said Todd. He and Caroline went through many drafts. The Esquire Classic excerpts ran on consecutive days within a cutaway in All Things Considered (ATC). “It worked because I think of ATC as a bit of a step back from the day’s news. Plus our listening is high then.”
PRX is interested in working with other stations on this notion of podcast-to-broadcast. If you are station that’s game for surprising your audience with newly contextualized, original content, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can find all the Esquire Classic episodes on PRX.org.
Written by John Barth, chief content officer at PRX.