PodCon Conference Explores Potential of Podcasting

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On April 27, Yale held its first podcasting and audio conference, called “PodCon.” Hosted by Nick Quah, Podcast & Digital Media Fellow at Tsai CITY, the conference began with breakfast and a keynote by Andy Bowers (’86), Chief Content Officer at Panoply Media. The morning sessions covered podcast and industry basics, with panels on “Night Vale Presents: Building a Podcast Business” and “Technological Opportunities and Challenges for Growth.”

After lunch, Kathy Doyle, VP of Podcasts at Macmillan Publishers, and Moses Soyoola (’10), General Manager at Endeavor Audio, participated in the “Crossover Talent: Podcasting and Non-Audio Native Creators” panel. They discussed the process of selecting talent and content that would thrive in the podcasting world. Soyoola pointed out that, with the resources of Endeavor behind him, his division could hand a podcast to any celebrity with a microphone, but such a strategy would simply dilute their brand.

“Is it something different?” Soyoola asked. “Fifty-five percent of people don’t listen to podcasts yet. Is it going to bring new people into the space?”

Content creators with experience bringing new people into the podcast space convened for the next session, “What It Takes: Creative Entrepreneurship in Podcasting.” Fran Tirado (co-host of Food 4 Thot), Lauren Shippen (creator of The Bright Sessions) Jeffrey Cranor (co-creator of Welcome to Night Vale), and Leila Day (co-host of The Stoop Podcast) discussed the challenges of being true to one’s vision rather than writing or speaking for a desired audience. Shippen and Cranor touched on the community of fiction-podcasters and the importance of collaboration over competition. Tirado and Day addressed the more honest or personal nature of their talk-podcasts. An audience member asked how queer people and people of color can maintain an authentic but accessible voice for podcasting audiences, which are largely white and straight. Tirado responded that while podcasters should never censor themselves, he feels free to provide context for the listeners who don’t share his experiences.

Leila Day discovered that while she began with a more reportorial style, her listeners craved her more personal stories and experiences. She shared some of these experiences in the last session of the day, a live taping of The Club House, hosted by Ariel Hudes (SOM ’18). She discussed her path to podcasting—taking twists and turns through international reporting, soft-pretzel making, and documentary school in Maine. Eventually, she co-created The Stoop Podcast, which chronicles personal stories from across the Black diaspora. She loves podcasts for the “driveway moments,” the moments when she’s arrived home but has to sit in her car because she simply must hear the end of the story.

Emma Chanen is the Digital Media Intern at Tsai CITY.

Emma Chanen