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Podcasts Servant of Pod with Nick Quah
A Brief Peek at Audio Erotica

Here’s something a little different. There’s this somewhat parodic but also very real assertion that pornography tends to be at the forefront of new technologies: high-speed internet video, virtual reality, that kind of thing. Podcasting isn’t a new technology at all, of course, but we were interested in the question: how does pornography — and erotica, which is different but related — intersect with the current boom in on-demand audio? This week, Nick spoke with three guests who come at this question from different angles: Caroline Spiegel, the CEO of Quinn, an audio erotica startup; Alex Klein, a representative from Pornhub, and Girl on the Net, an independent creator.

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SUMMARY KEYWORDS

porn, audio, pornhub, people, women, quinn, user, sex, content, laughter, creators, feel, erotic, masturbate, called, pay, bit, interesting, fun, site

SPEAKERS

Alex Klein, Girl On The Net, Excerpt, Pornhub Described Video, Excerpt from Anonyfun35, Caroline Spiegel, Excerpt, "Harry Eats You Out", Nick Quah, Excerpt from "Girl On The Net"

Nick Quah 00:01

Heads up: this episode contains a lot of sexually graphic content. So make arrangements.

Caroline Spiegel 00:09

Yeah, I think it was just an "aha" moment. I was masturbating one day, and it was just really exhausting. And it wasn't fun. It really wasn't what masturbation is supposed to be. And I felt like I was just misaligned. And I just wanted to create an option for young women that felt safe, and fun, and easygoing, and intimate. I don't think I really realized that then. But I think I just felt so frustrated in that moment that it was really lightbulb in some ways.

Nick Quah 00:34

Caroline Spiegel is the CEO of Quinn, a company that specializes in audio erotica.

Caroline Spiegel 00:40

It's all user-generated and people fall in love with characters, or personalities. So there's Harry, there's James, there's Anonyfun. And everyone has a different flavor and it's like an online boyfriend, kind of.

Nick Quah 00:52

From LAist Studios, this is Servant of Pod. I'm Nick Quah. Today: a peek into the world of audio erotica.

Caroline Spiegel 01:13

It's a little bit random. I was studying computer science at Stanford, and I dropped out my senior spring. So I was really so close and I dropped out. And the reason was, I had suffered from an eating disorder my junior year. It basically really messed with my sex life. Long story short, I wasn't able to get turned on or enjoy sex in the way I used to be able to. And so I started looking into other porn options. Visual porn wasn't working for me and even my doctors were like, you have to find something that just really gets you going. So I stumbled upon Literotica, and Reddit, and Soundgasm; all these really deep internet, amazing places for audio porn, and I fell in love with it. It worked for me immediately and I shared it with all my girlfriends at Stanford, my sorority. Everyone was obsessed with different creators and getting really into it. And I was like there is definitely something here; there needs to be an option that is totally devoted to women and their eroticism.

Nick Quah 02:13

What is it about this audio, the non-visual element of it, that opens up this experience in a different way? What do you gain if you don't see anything?

Caroline Spiegel 02:23

Right. So everyone's always like, the best thing about podcasts is you can turn them on and do random stuff, And you're just a little bit entertained, and it's like when you're cleaning your house or whatever.

Nick Quah 02:32

Yeah.

Caroline Spiegel 02:33

But the thing with Quinn is that you actually have to really listen for it to work. You have to be really locked in. So it's almost the opposite of that ambient listening argument for podcasting, which is really interesting. You really just want to close your eyes and imagine that you're with the person and it just becomes a sort of VR experience, obviously.

Nick Quah 02:52

Without the visual element.

Caroline Spiegel 02:53

Yeah, without the visual. But you really do feel transported. And so, I think one cool thing about audio is that it allows you to imagine that you're with whoever you want to be with, wherever you want to be, while still providing a level of tangible feeling to it, so that your imagination doesn't provide, because a lot of women I know masturbate just to their imaginations, which men are like, "What?" But I think maybe men, some men, do it too. But having an audio aid or something to take the legwork out is really helpful.

Nick Quah 03:25

I mean, I imagine that the reason why women mostly masturbate to imagination is because there's not a lot of porn made for them. It's a product that doesn't exist.

Caroline Spiegel 03:33

Exactly.

Nick Quah 03:33

I'm sure you've told this story a bunch when you've been interviewed before about Quinn, but could you walk me through when you started the company, and what the experience was like?

Caroline Spiegel 03:40

Yeah, so I dropped out of school. I moved to New York to be with my co-founder, Jackie. We met in college; she's three years older than I am, and she had graduated. And she was working in finance and decided to--she always says that she was working in special situations investing, but this was the most special situation she's ever seen. She quit her job, and we raised money, and started building our first iteration. And where we're at right now is: we've just been on the web, so we're just a website, and we've just been experimenting with a lot of different aesthetics and user flows, and just trying to find what really works before we make our app, which is coming out next year.

Nick Quah 04:18

Hmm. And what did you find has worked?

Caroline Spiegel 04:21

So at first, we had a really kind of girly aesthetic--bubblegum pink--just to really make it clear to everyone, "this is not Pornhub."

Nick Quah 04:30

Yeah.

Caroline Spiegel 04:30

And that was more of an editorial blog. And then we pivoted to a truly user-generated platform for audio porn. It was dark; it kind of looked like Pornhub and Spotify combined. And it was all user-generated. So that was--the big key learning there was user-generated is better than editorial, for this kind of content. We just immediately got an influx of incredible content, and people were interacting with their favorite creators, they were commenting, and liking, and it felt social. And then we were like, we're kinda missing that clean feeling that I think women really crave. There's that classic line, like a clean, bright, well-lit space, which is meant to evoke all these new sex toy companies, and just sex brands are really trying to evoke that clean, well-lit space for women.

Nick Quah 05:17

Hmm.

Caroline Spiegel 05:18

So now we're back to a more clean, girly aesthetic, a little toned down, and still keeping the user generated content thing. So it's a mix of both of our previous attempts.

Nick Quah 05:29

Why user-generated content? What was the finding? Were people not responding to editorially generated stuff, or did people--did the users respond more to the community aspect of it? What was the shift point there?

Caroline Spiegel 05:44

Yeah, I don't know if it was even that people were dying to comment on these audios and leave a ton of feedback, but what they really wanted was profiles or people, or more information on who they were listening to.

Nick Quah 05:56

Interesting.

Caroline Spiegel 05:57

So when we just we just posted like, "hot British man talking," they're like, "well, who's this British man?" And "what does he do for a living?" And "what does he eat for breakfast?" And "does he have a girlfriend?" Those are the questions that people were asking.

Nick Quah 06:07

Yeah.

Caroline Spiegel 06:08

And actually, it reminds me of this story that one of my friends was saying: he was watching porn with his girlfriend, and it was like, a pizza man comes to the door. And she's like, they never show what kind of pizza it is. And he's like, why? Why are you thinking about that? And she's like, it matters. You want to know the context, and the details, and who you're watching.

Nick Quah 06:25

Let's dig into that a little more. When users say that they want to know more about these creators, what more do they want? What are they looking for, really?

Caroline Spiegel 06:34

You kind of want to know if you're compatible. I mean, I don't want to put all women in this bucket because it's only an interest to some.

Nick Quah 06:41

Sure, like Quinn users.

Caroline Spiegel 06:43

[Laughter] Quinn users, yeah. We've definitely found that women want to know, "is he single?" That's a big question. Or "where is he from?" Or, "does he actually got turned on when he makes these audios? Or is it just an act?" They just want to know the context. Yeah, it actually makes a lot of sense when you think about it. It's like, a mindful consumer.

Nick Quah 07:02

Yeah. To what extent do you feel like these design choices--like shifting away from the darker Pornhub-meets-Spotify aesthetic to something that's brighter--to what extent do you feel like that's an impulse to sort of normalize the content? Is that an impulse that's strong for you?

Caroline Spiegel 07:18

Yeah, I mean, like I mentioned before, people have a lot of shame associated with porn, and for good reason. So it's really important to make it clear that this is all consensual, safe, fun, fantasy-like playland, and not a dark place where you have to feel ashamed about yourself.

Nick Quah 07:35

And I see this differentiation, or separation, between porn and fantasy almost, like you're trying to sort of rescue the fantasy part of this, it seems like.

Caroline Spiegel 07:44

Right, exactly. Well, porn is just like anything that arouses people, right? A lot of people think that porn is people having sex. For most of the content on Quinn, no one's actually having sex or touching themselves. They're just engaging in fantasy, and fun, and dirty talk. You don't have to use your body if you don't want to.

Nick Quah 08:01

It may be fantasy and fun, but all content must follow Quinn's strict community guidelines for submitted work. So no incest, no rape, no minors. Caroline says that 70% of Quinn users are women. So what makes a certain Quinn track--she calls them "audios"--more popular than others?

Caroline Spiegel 08:21

The amount of energy that the person is giving and the audio, just the "oomph" of it, is so important. We have one creator named Anonyfun35 whose "oomph" is just there, time and time again, and users are obsessed with him. I think it's because it feels like you're having sex with someone who's really into you.

Excerpt from Anonyfun35 08:40

Everyone's quiet down there. They're watching TV, we've got a little bit of time. Come here. I need this, I need this. Okay. Take your clothes off.

Caroline Spiegel 08:56

And there's that line, that sex is about how the other person makes you feel about yourself, which is something I obviously believe, and I think you can tell with his audios he thinks you're really, really hot and that just feels so good. How often do you get that affirming message?

Nick Quah 09:11

Are the creators generally anonymous? Or are there splits between people who do that and use their real name, or something like that?

Caroline Spiegel 09:18

Yeah, it's--the majority of them are anonymous, but we do have a few who are--do this full time. We have a creator named Jim, "Feel-Good Filth", who does this as his main job, and he is not anonymous.

Nick Quah 09:30

Interesting. When you say main job, how does the compensation system work here?

Caroline Spiegel 09:33

He has a Patreon where he monetizes most of his content. And then we'll pay some of our top performing creators per audio.

Nick Quah 09:41

Sure.

Caroline Spiegel 09:41

So we pay him as well for his content because it performs really nicely.

Nick Quah 09:44

So from the creator's perspective here, it's like, "ah, this is a place where I can increase my brand, my exposure a little bit" and then sort of funnel them away to Patreons and stuff. Is that the general cycle?

Caroline Spiegel 09:54

Yeah, totally. I mean, we're really great if you want to reach that 18-to-10--18-to-10? Nope. [Laughter] 18-to-25-year-old woman who is new to porn, who is that mainstream woman. And then I do think that there's that other theory that you only need like 10 or 100 loyal fans to monetize your content, and, especially with erotic content, that is the case. I mean, there's whales, which is what they're called in theory.

Nick Quah 10:18

It's also casinos, I think. [Laughter]

Caroline Spiegel 10:20

Yeah, yeah. If you want to reach that larger audience, you might post your audios on Quinn and then funnel away your top fans.

Nick Quah 10:27

So let's talk a little bit about the actual material. You said that your favorite track is called "Harry Eats You Out." Here's some of that.

Excerpt, "Harry Eats You Out" 10:34

Put your back down. Come sit over here. Take the weight off your feet. Let me help you unwind. Let's get those heels off. I'm gonna rub your feet for you. How's that feel? You like the way I'm pushing my thumbs in, there? Good. Sit, baby. Let your hair down. Just relax. Let me take care of you.

Nick Quah 11:12

Tell us about this track. What about it makes it a, in your mind, a "good," quote-quote, contribution? Is it from a super-user? How is this representative of what you think is the best of Quinn?

Caroline Spiegel 11:22

Why I love Harry is because he takes it really slow. And he's very purposeful with his words. Another thing I really like about him is he always asks like, does that feel good? Do you like that? And you kind of just get used to answering him in your head as you're listening to him. So it's just incredibly immersive. But he just has an energy about him. You know, he has BDE. [Laughter] He just has a great energy and I mean, women absolutely adore him. And men, too. A few men adore him as well.

Nick Quah 11:54

What makes good erotic writing?

Caroline Spiegel 11:58

Obviously it has to be really descriptive. I've read quite a bit of erotic writing and there's some oral sex and there's some p-in-v sex and then it's like, "bada bing, bada boom," and you want something that has a little bit more spontaneity to it, a little more flow. You don't want it to feel mechanical, or like you're filling out a Mad Lib, which I think for regular consumers of erotic content that's written or audio based, that can get annoying when you feel like "oh, this is just gonna be the same tropes over and over again."

Nick Quah 12:27

Right, just like swap professions.

Caroline Spiegel 12:29

[Laughter] Right, exactly, yeah. Or like car sex, and then there's bathroom sex, and then there's--

Nick Quah 12:34

Yeah.

Caroline Spiegel 12:34

--we're in a movie theater. It's like, "okay, all right, okay."

Nick Quah 12:37

[Laughter] Yeah, it's interesting because the clip itself feels pretty representative. It's like the gaze is on you, the consumer, as opposed to conventional porn, in which is the gaze is outwards. It feels really revolutionary, in the sense that you are the center of attention, and that feels like a rare experience to get from the internet a lot of times

Caroline Spiegel 12:58

Isn't that true? I think that's a rare experience to get in life as well, just someone that's completely focused, and attentive, and interested in you. And it's one of the reasons why I think the audios are so powerful, because you do feel like, "I'm the star right now. It's about me." You know?

Nick Quah 13:14

It reminds me a little bit of what they say about really good politicians, when they talk to you.

Caroline Spiegel 13:19

[Laughter] Like Bill Clinton, or whatever? Yeah.

Nick Quah 13:20

Yeah, like nobody else--well, Bill Clinton's a good example, right? Like nobody else in the world exists. [Laughter]

Caroline Spiegel 13:26

Yeah, totally.

Nick Quah 13:28

So to switch gears for a little bit, to what extent is diversity something that you think about?

Caroline Spiegel 13:34

It's been an interesting process working on creator diversity in the audio space. Because at first, it wasn't something we thought about because we were like, "it's just voices, right?" Which was idiotic, and almost immediately people were like, "all these guys are white." And I was like, "oh, but I never thought about that. How can you tell?" And people are just like, "I can just tell." And then we just started making a huge push to make sure that everyone's preferences were served, and we had different genders, and sexualities, and ethnicities, and ability levels represented because otherwise you're just not doing a good job of being an erotic content provider.

Nick Quah 14:14

Quinn is just one destination in the audio erotica universe, but there's a much larger mainstream porn industry. So let's talk to the 500-pound gorilla in that room. More in a minute. Pornhub is one of the largest producers of user-generated porn in the world. Around 1.36 million hours of content has been uploaded onto the platform. In 2019, they reported an average of 115 million daily visits. For scale, that's the population of Canada, Poland, Australia, and the Netherlands combined. It's a private company and hasn't publicly shared how much revenue it makes. But whatever it is, it's probably a heck of a lot. But Pornhub is predominantly video, as is the rest of what we can broadly call mainstream online pornography. So, is Pornhub thinking about audio at all?

Alex Klein 15:23

Yeah, I think it's definitely something that we've all been paying attention to, especially in the past two years or so, I would say.

Nick Quah 15:30

Alex Klein is a brand manager at Pornhub.

Alex Klein 15:34

As, obviously, there's been more and more offerings hitting the market, we've been paying attention to it in the sense that we do want to make sure that our audience is being served in terms of, "what's the latest technology that's available?" Porn kind of has this reputation for being at the the cutting edge of technology, so to speak, in terms of having really been at the forefront of development of things like video streaming. So obviously, audio is not necessarily the most cutting edge thing, but it's certainly a really interesting experience that I think more and more people are starting to be captivated by, and conversations we've been having internally as to "is this coming to rise at the same time as podcasting being something that's more interesting and more compelling to people as a form of storytelling and entertainment?" So yeah, we've we've been paying attention to it. All this to say is we don't have anything official on the site at this time, in terms of an official audio section or category.

Nick Quah 16:38

But you can find audio porn on Pornhub.

Alex Klein 16:41

We've seen that things like ASMR porn have been increasingly popular. We also, in the same vein, over the past couple of years have been focusing more on accessibility initiatives. So the first foray into that would have been with our described video category, which launched a couple of years ago now. We selected some of the most popular videos on the site at the time. And we kind of redid them, almost.

Excerpt, Pornhub Described Video 17:09

This is Pornhub's descriptive audio of the video, "Handy Tanner ****s Aunt ****y On Air Full Holes Parody Scene 1," by Pornhub Originals.

Alex Klein 17:20

We worked with a team of script writers who took up on the task of describing elements that are happening in the video that you wouldn't necessarily, just by listening to it, really know what's happening. So, things the setting, what the models look like, what they're wearing.

Excerpt, Pornhub Described Video 17:38

A white woman in a cheap-looking red power suit sits next to a tall, lanky white middle-aged man with brown hair, a white shirt, gray suit, and a red striped tie.

Alex Klein 17:49

We then added an audio track that we recorded with professional voice actors to help fill in those blanks.

Excerpt, Pornhub Described Video 17:56

They passionately grab each other and start making out, mouths wide and tongues exposed. Handy Tanner opens up ****y Donaldson's blazer, her big boobs held by a black lacy bra.

Alex Klein 18:09

And it was this really interesting challenge because obviously, the existing audio, we kept there as an important sort of underscore to what was happening in the scene. Because there's, of course, so many really interesting audio components that go into a sex scene or a porn scene. But we didn't want to overwhelm it also, at the same time, so it wasn't too much description, it was really just enough to help paint a more accurate visual image of the scene, and then just let the rest of it be carried out by what was happening organically.

Nick Quah 18:39

So at this point in time, it doesn't sound like there's any interest in building up a user-generated audio content component of Pornhub, right?

Alex Klein 18:48

It's something that I think we're definitely keeping an eye on to see if and when it would make sense to start introducing, but it's not something that's coming out tomorrow.

Nick Quah 18:58

So what do you think about the audio-specific porn that's out there now?

Alex Klein 19:02

I think for us, what's been interesting about what's been emerging so far is the branding of it, specifically. I think a lot of it has been obviously kind of skewed more towards women or female-identifying viewers. And I think a lot of--listeners, I guess, would make more sense to say, in this case--I think what's been interesting there, at least in some of the interviews that I've read, that have been coming out over the past couple of years about this kind of new trend is, I think, this idea that porn, like porn with a capital "P", is too gross for women. And that's why there's this need for audio porn, which is something that I think I have a little bit of difficulty with, because I think there's this problematic idea that porn for women is this really singular thing and it's all supposed to be really soft and really like the Harlequin romance vibe about it, and we've actually seen, just in terms of like our data, that that's not really what women are into.

Girl On The Net 20:10

Of the people who come to my site, roughly 65% are men and 35% are women. I know that's going to come as a shock, because audio porn is so frequently presented as something that is for women. It's not as visual--"men are more visual, women, you know, softer and more words-based." That is not true.

Nick Quah 20:32

So there's the startup, and there's the big platform. But what about the actual creators? Girl On The Net is an independent UK-based sex blogger who also posts audio porn on her site.

Excerpt from "Girl On The Net" 20:44

This is "I Want You To Destroy My ****."

Nick Quah 20:47

This is the voice of Girl On The Net. And that's how we will refer to her since she chooses to remain anonymous.

Girl On The Net 20:54

For a very long time. I've had the phrase "destroy my ****" sitting in my ideas bank. It's a phrase I used to utterly hate, but which I've softened on a bit in recent years, because I'm an eager pervert, who will usually fetishize almost every phrase eventually, like "monster ****," which, if you search my blog, you'll find another post on that's kind of similar. I know that for many people, this phrase "destroy my ****" is quite an aggressive-sounding turnoff. So if you're one of them, you probably won't enjoy this piece. If you're like me, though, and you've either enjoyed saying, "please destroy my ****," or "I'm going to destroy your ****," then you might like this random stream of consciousness porn.

Nick Quah 21:35

While Quinn audio is mostly user-generated, Girl On The Net writes and performs the majority of the audio porn on her site. That said, when she created the blog in 2011, audio was not on her mind.

Girl On The Net 21:48

As the blog grew, I had a couple of followers of the blog, one who's blind and one who has other visual impairments, saying basically, one of the problems with erotica is that if you're reading it via a screen reader, the screen reader reads it in a robot voice. And the robot voice is not very sexy. So unless you have a very particular kink for robots, it's not very sexy, and it's not very accessible. And I've always wanted to make sure that my website is accessible to as many people as possible. So one of them suggested I start recording the audio of the sexier posts. And it was quite fun, so I gave it a go. And that's sort of how I found out about audio porn. I don't think I really, I didn't realize it was a thing until I started making it. So it sort of started from an accessibility point of view and then launched into just being something that was quite fun and it's now one of the most popular sections of my website.

Nick Quah 22:45

Popular, in the case of Girl On The Net, with more men than women.

Girl On The Net 22:49

The reason that more women listen to audio porn is because audio porn is more often marketed at women, and made for women, and it does, generally, people who produce it do more of the kind of female gaze-type stuff. Whereas I tend to write more stuff which is designed for straight cis men to get off to because they're generally most of my readers. And so my demographics are different. I think broadly what I would say, is that audio is a medium, just like video is a medium. And so audio can be tailored to any person of any gender, any sexuality. Or it just depends on the words that you write in the story that you're telling.

Nick Quah 23:31

Girl On The Net is mostly supported through Patreon, and it's her full time job. She's very intentional about who she works with and she considers herself a member of what she calls the ethical porn movement.

Girl On The Net 23:42

Who was the studio? Were people paid to produce it? Was there good consent when it was being made? Were people paid fairly and treated fairly? All that kind of stuff. And all of that is definitely important when it comes to ethical porn. But there's a fantastic article by a porn performer called Jiz Lee called "Ethical Porn Starts When We Pay For It." And that's the thing that I would always highlight to pretty much any consumer, really. It doesn't necessarily mean that you have to pay individually for every single piece of porn you consume, because different people have different funding models. What it does mean is, when you're seeking out porn, you should always have the question, front of mind, who is making money off this? And is it fair to the people who are creating it? For instance, if you went to go and see a band in concert, and you learned that that band was being paid peanuts, but the management company was absolutely raking it in, then you might question whether you want to spend your money on tickets for that in future. And likewise with porn. I think there is plenty of incredibly brilliant free ethical porn out there. You know, there are sex bloggers who put their work up for free and fund, like I do, through advertising and Patreon. All of my work is free to access, I just ask people to chip in on Patreon if they want to.

Nick Quah 24:58

So have the pandemic lockdowns helped her business?

Girl On The Net 25:01

Yeah, right at the start of lockdown, there was a huge increase in traffic, and particularly people listening to audio. It started dying off a little bit, like maybe people got bored of masturbating partway through the pandemic, but yeah, it was very good to start off with because people are inside more, and they can take more breaks from work, and not spend too much time commuting, and really get stuck into the wanking. [Chuckles]

Nick Quah 25:26

It may seem like Pornhub isn't diving headfirst into the audio space, but that doesn't mean they don't influence the community.

Girl On The Net 25:32

I think one of the big challenges, and I don't know if Quinn would say this, but I would think this is a challenge for Quinn and any company that does user-generated content, is that the most popular content, because of the nature of the internet, is usually going to trend towards the sort of thing you would see on the homepage of Pornhub. Because Pornhub has defined how we see sex. So if you go to Quinn, you will find a lot of male-dom, fem-sub-type stuff often, and DDLG play; you will find a lot of that content because it is popular and it gets people clicks. Which brings me neatly onto what I'm trying to do with my site. Because obviously, a lot of my fantasies--my sexuality is incredibly boring when you really sort of cut it down to basics. I am a straight cis woman. I mostly like being a bit submissive and getting banged really hard in the way that you would see on the front page of Pornhub. I don't want people to think that that's what porn is like. And so my mission for the next few years is to expand the number of writers that I'm working with on my site, bring more attention to their work, without them having to do loads more work, and I can kind of shine a spotlight on other writers who are doing really incredible things.

Nick Quah 26:51

Girl On The Net. You can hear more at Girl On The Net dot com slash audio hyphen porn. There are links to all these sites in the episode description. Servant of Pod is written and hosted by me, Nick Quah. You can check out more episodes at LAist dot com slash Servant of Pod. The show is produced by Jessica Alpert, and John Parate, and Rococo Punch. Web design by Andy Cheatwood and the digital and marketing teams at Southern California Public Radio. Logo and branding by Leo G. Thanks to the team at LAist Studios, including Kristen Hayford, Taylor Coffman, Kristen Muller, and Leo G. Servant of Pod is a production of LAist Studios. What's the top performing accent?

Caroline Spiegel 28:01

British.

Nick Quah 28:02

Interesting.

Caroline Spiegel 28:03

Yeah.

Nick Quah 28:04

And I'm gonna guess that Quinn is largely American audiences?

Caroline Spiegel 28:07

Yeah, it is.

Nick Quah 28:08

What do you think is going on there?

Caroline Spiegel 28:11

Come on, everyone loves a British accent. [Laughter] I get so much more excited when I'm on a call with someone with a British accent, just in a non-erotic context, so I understand why. [Laughter]

EpisodesEPISODE 42Where We Are Now, AgainServant of Pod is coming to an end, and since this is the final episode, we figured we’d close out the show the same way we began: in a pandemic. (Kidding, but not really.) To send off the podcast, Nick is joined by The Verge’s Ashley Carman to build a (very) brief picture of where the podcast world is at the outset of 2021. This program is made possible in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people.EPISODE 42Sarah Marshall of You’re Wrong About and Why are Dads?Writer, podcaster, and cultural critic Sarah Marshall has a distinct expertise: diving deep into the messy backstories of widely known subjects that are often overlooked in their elemental details. This week, Nick speaks with Marshall about the way she approaches her topics, her various projects, and the larger enterprise of sitting, listening, and forging an emotional connection with larger than life figures. This program is made possible in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people.EPISODE 41The “Spectacle” of Reality TelevisionSome call it “guilty pleasure,” some call it trash, but whatever description you use, you can’t deny that reality television is now firmly baked into the firmament of American reality. The relationship between the genre and podcasting is also increasingly felt, as more reality stars are starting their own shows — and more podcasts are affecting what’s happening on the screen. This week, Nick speaks with Mariah Smith, a reality TV expert and the host of Spectacle, a new series about the history of reality television and what it all means. This program is made possible in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people.EPISODE 40True Crime and Through the CracksTrue crime podcasts are some of the most popular and profitable shows being made, despite (or perhaps because of) its occasional ethical queasiness. This week: a roundtable discussion with Crime Writers On…’s Rebecca Lavoie and WAMU’s Jonquilyn Hill about the appeal, pitfalls, and opportunities of the genre. They also talk about Hill’s new project, Through the Cracks, which both draws from — and challenges — the fundamental true crime mechanics. This program is made possible in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people.EPISODE 39What does a Podcast Producer do?The Podcast Producer: by and large, it is the atomic unit of labor in the podcast business, and it’s a role that means and involves many, many things depending on the specific situation. This week: a roundtable discussion with Chiquita Channel Paschal and Emmanuel Dzotsi about what it means to be a producer, the path to becoming a full-time producer these days, and the changes they’d make if they ruled the industry. This program is made possible in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people.EPISODE 38Travis McElroyThe Brothers McElroy — Travis, Justin, Griffin — are among the most prolific creators you’ll find in this community. Since launching the wildly popular My Brother, My Brother, and Me in 2010, the brothers have gone on to create an entire universe of McElroy-affiliated podcasts: The Adventure Zone, Schmanners, ‘Til Death Do Us Blart, and Sawbones, among them. This week, Nick talks to just one of them, Travis, about the nature of their popularity, what it’s like to do business as brothers, and their new book, “Everybody Has a Podcast (Except You).” This program is made possible in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people.EPISODE 37It’s Been a Minute with Sam SandersIt’s Been a Minute with Sam Sanders always feels as much of a surprise as it does a gift. Originally developed as a replacement for the time slot previously occupied by Car Talk, the podcast has emerged to become an endlessly interesting take on the generalist news magazine show, seamlessly tying together a blend of news, interviews, and cultural analysis that are routed through Sanders’ own universe of interests. This week, Nick talks to Sanders about his path to the mic, how he thinks about the show and his relationship to his listeners, and the whiteness of public radio. This program is made possible in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people.EPISODE 36Revisiting the Legacy of SerialIt’s been a little more than six years since Serial made its debut and became one of the most successful and influential podcasts in the history of the medium. Since then, so much has been said and written about that first season, which continues to carry a deep legacy not just for the nature of its phenomenon, but for how many people in podcasting feel about that phenomenon. This week, Nick is joined by the New Yorker’s Sarah Larson to unpack the long tail of Serial, and how it continues to shape podcasting today. This program is made possible in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people.TranscriptEPISODE 35Anything For SelenaSelena Quintanilla is a cultural icon for many, but for Maria Garcia, she's much more than that. For Maria, who was raised in El Paso, Texas, and lived and worked on the border for years, Selena was a figure that helped her — and many other young girls and women like her — find a place in a world where they didn't feel like they belonged. This week, Nick speaks with Maria about Anything for Selena, her new series from WBUR and Futuro Studios, which revisits the legacy of Selena, with an ear to trying to unpack how, exactly, she changed culture. This program is made possible in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people.TranscriptEPISODE 34Decoder RingWhy did the mullet become a thing? Why did everybody go crazy over Cabbage Patch dolls? And why would anybody ever go on a reality TV show? These are the typical questions you'd find asked in Slate's Decoder Ring, one for the smartest podcasts out there and one that more people should be checking out. In each episode, host Willa Paskin, usually the TV critic for Slate, picks up a different cultural object — a word, a phenomenon, a moment, a device — and subjects it to a simple question: why? This week, Nick talks to Willa about how she and her producer go about choosing the topics of their deep-dives, what makes her so interested in cultural histories and how they pulled together their epic two-part series on Jane Fonda. This program is made possible in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people.TranscriptEPISODE 33What Comes Next for Crooked Media?Crooked Media was founded by a group of former Obama staffers in the wake of Trump’s surprise win in the 2016 presidential election. Over the next four years, the media company built a strong listenership by essentially serving as a focal point for a certain kind of progressive voter that stands in opposition to the Trump presidency. Now that the United States is due to be led by Democrats, the obvious question abounds: what does this mean for Crooked Media? Nick talks to Tanya Somanader, Crooked Media’s Chief Content Officer, about what comes next. This program is made possible in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people.TranscriptEPISODE 32By The BookAs they say: new year, new you... Or is it? In time for the expected flood of New Year's resolutions, Nick talks to Jolenta Greenberg and Kristen Meinzer of By The Book, a fun reality-ish podcast that features the two hosts documenting their attempts to live by a different self-help book, down to the letter, every episode. Just how valuable are these books, anyway? And who are the people that write them? Have any of these books actually been life-changing? This program is made possible in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people.TranscriptEPISODE 31Podcasts for the End of the WorldForget doomsday prepping – are there podcasts that could help us through the end of the world? In this episode, Nick speaks with two women grappling with this topic in very different ways. First, Amy Westervelt, creator of Drilled and the Critical Frequency podcast network, tells Nick about her work as a climate crisis reporter and how she battles rampant misinformation campaigns in order to inform her audience in a direct and entertaining way. Then Nick chats with Sophie Townsend, whose podcast, Goodbye To All This, addresses her personal end of the world: the death of her husband. She tells us what it's like to make a podcast about grief and death, and what it's like when your world has ended but it keeps on spinning for everyone else. This program is made possible in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people.TranscriptEPISODE 30Dream Second SeasonWe’re taking Christmas week off, but we didn’t want to leave you out in the cold. Caroline Crampton joins Nick to talk about one-off podcasts that they wish would consider second seasons. This program is made possible in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people.TranscriptEPISODE 29Morra Aarons-Mele: The Anxious AchieverThe worlds of business, entrepreneurship, and startups can be wicked in what they don’t say about how their culture can negatively impact the mental health of their participants. In The Anxious Achiever, a podcast with Harvard Business Review, Morra Aarons-Mele takes that gap to task, using each episode to deliver a different conversation that seeks to bring realities about mental health in the business world to light. In this week’s episode, Nick talks to Morra about why she started the show, how it’s part of her broader efforts to spotlight these issues, and how her own personal relationship with mental health informs her work. This program is made possible in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people.TranscriptEPISODE 28The Best Podcasts of 2020It’s that time of year when the world is flooded with “best of” lists...so how about one more? Nick welcomes Sarah Larson, a staff writer at The New Yorker who writes about podcasts in her column Podcast Dept. and New Hampshire Public Radio’s Rebecca Lavoie, co-host of Crime Writers On to share their favorites – and not-so-favorites – of 2020. Floodlines Wind Of Change Lost Notes:1980 Unfinished: Short Creek Nice White Parents My Year In Mensa American Rehab Canary This program is made possible in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people.TranscriptEPISODE 27Las RarasIt's been a year of protest, not just in America but around the world. In Chile, citizens have spent well over the past twelve months — before the pandemic, and through it — demonstrating to demand change to their national constitution, originally established by the dictator Augusto Pinochet thirty years ago. It’s in this environment that Las Raras, a Spanish-language narrative podcast telling stories of freedom and liberation, launched its latest season, which in part focuses on documenting that movement. In this week's episode, Nick talks with the duo behind Las Raras, Catalina May and Martin Cruz, about the show's creation, why they focus on stories of outsiders, and the future of Spanish-language podcasts. Servant of Pod sponsors include: Visit my exclusive link ExpressVPN.com/SERVANT and you can get an extra 3 months FREE on a one-year package. Raycon - get 15-percent off your order at buyraycon.com/servantTranscriptEPISODE 26Home CookingAt the start of the pandemic lockdown, Samin Nosrat and Hrishikesh Hirway decided to collaborate on a four-episode podcast project to help people figure what to do with all the beans (among other foodstuffs) they bought in bulk to prepare for the unpredictabilities ahead. Almost a year later, they're still making new episodes, and thank goodness for Home Cooking: fun, joyful, and genuinely informative, the podcast turned out to be the best pop-up creation to come out of this moment. In this week's episode, Nick talks to Samin and Hrishikesh about the show, why they make it, and what they're doing this Thanksgiving. Servant of Pod sponsors include: Get a ONE HUNDRED DOLLAR advertising credit toward your first LinkedIn campaign. Visit LinkedIn.com/SERVANT Visit my exclusive link ExpressVPN.com/SERVANT and you can get an extra 3 months FREE on a one-year package. Raycon - get 15-percent off your order at buyraycon.com/servantTranscriptEPISODE 25Lauren Shippen: The Bright SessionsIn 2014, Lauren Shippen was an aspiring actor in Los Angeles: taking classes, booking intermittent gigs, waiting tables, the like. Four years later, she ended up becoming one of the busiest people in podcasting, all on the strength of an independent fiction podcast she had made on her own time: The Bright Sessions. In this week’s episode, Nick talks to Lauren about her steadily rising career in entertainment, which spans multiple podcasts, a multi-project book deal, and maybe more. Servant of Pod sponsors include: Get a ONE HUNDRED DOLLAR advertising credit toward your first LinkedIn campaign. Visit LinkedIn.com/SERVANT Visit my exclusive link ExpressVPN.com/SERVANT and you can get an extra 3 months FREE on a one-year package. Raycon - get 15-percent off your order at buyraycon.com/servant TranscriptEPISODE 24True Crime Pioneer Marc SmerlingIf you’ve spent any time thinking about the sprawling history of crime and politics in Providence, Rhode Island in recent years, it’s probably because you’re familiar with Crimetown ...or you’re from there. In this week’s episode, Nick speaks with Marc Smerling, the pioneer true crime documentarian who co-created Crimetown with Zac Stuart-Pontier, and whose wildly accomplished resume includes Capturing The Friedmans, Catfish, and The Jinx. Smerling’s latest projects are FX’s A Wilderness of Error and its companion podcast, Morally Indefensible. Servant of Pod sponsors include: Get a ONE HUNDRED DOLLAR advertising credit toward your first LinkedIn campaign. Visit LinkedIn.com/SERVANT Visit my exclusive link ExpressVPN.com/SERVANT and you can get an extra 3 months FREE on a one-year package. Raycon - get 15-percent off your order at buyraycon.com/servant TranscriptEPISODE 23Vann Newkirk II: FloodlinesWhat is Hurricane Katrina's long, complicated legacy? Nick speaks with Vann Newkirk II, the host and one of the creators of The Atlantic's Floodlines, which reflects on the Katrina crisis 15 years later. What do the federal responses to Katrina and Covid-19 have in common? Can the people of New Orleans ever really "recover" from the tragedy of Katrina? And how did the team make one of the best-sounding podcasts of the year? Servant of Pod sponsors include: Get a ONE HUNDRED DOLLAR advertising credit toward your first LinkedIn campaign. Visit LinkedIn.com/SERVANT Learn more about podcast attribution at podsights.com Visit my exclusive link ExpressVPN.com/SERVANT and you can get an extra 3 months FREE on a one-year package. Raycon - get 15-percent off your order at buyraycon.com/servantTranscriptEPISODE 22Halloween SpecialWhat makes a story…scary? You can cut this question a few different ways: through story structure, through sound design, through narrative mechanisms. In this week’s episode, Nick talks to Jeffrey Cranor, the co-creator of Welcome to Night Vale and co-writer of Within the Wires, about the ins and outs of building a scary, spooky, or creepy podcast experience. The episode also features notes from some great spooky pod creators — Unwell, Mabel, Here Be Monsters, Archive 81 — talking about the various ways they think about the nature of scary. Random Number Generator Horror Podcast No. 9 Servant of Pod sponsors include: Get a ONE HUNDRED DOLLAR advertising credit toward your first LinkedIn campaign. Visit LinkedIn.com/SERVANT Learn more about podcast attribution at podsights.com Visit my exclusive link ExpressVPN.com/SERVANT and you can get an extra 3 months FREE on a one-year package. Raycon - get 15-percent off your order at buyraycon.com/servantTranscriptEPISODE 21Hanif AbdurraqibThe latest season of Lost Notes, KCRW’s anthology podcast unearthing great stories from the music world that are generally lost to time, is distinct in two ways: first, all of its narratives are pulled from the relatively unlikely year of 1980, and second, it’s curated and hosted by the poet, essayist, and critic Hanif Abdurraqib. The end result is utterly gorgeous. In this week’s episode, Nick talks to Abdurraqib about focusing on 1980, the nature of legacy and fandom, and how to love things critically. SIXTYEIGHT2OHFIVE Servant of Pod sponsors include: Get a ONE HUNDRED DOLLAR advertising credit toward your first LinkedIn campaign. Visit LinkedIn.com/SERVANT Learn more about podcast attribution at podsights.com Visit my exclusive link ExpressVPN.com/SERVANT and you can get an extra 3 months FREE on a one-year package. Raycon - get 15-percent off your order at buyraycon.com/servantTranscriptEPISODE 20Kara SwisherKara Swisher is a journalism powerhouse known for cutting through the nonsense talking points and asking the tough questions to some of the most powerful people on the planet. She’s been doing this for nearly 30 years, and after launching two successful podcasts – Recode Decode and Pivot with Scott Galloway – she’s taking on her third: Sway with New York Times Opinion. In this week’s episode, Nick talks to Swisher about her new show’s focus – who has power and how they use it – the surprising place she found inspiration for seeking the truth, and her ultimate dream podcast guest. Servant of Pod sponsors include: Get a ONE HUNDRED DOLLAR advertising credit toward your first LinkedIn campaign. Visit LinkedIn.com/SERVANT Learn more about podcast attribution at podsights.com Visit my exclusive link ExpressVPN.com/SERVANT and you can get an extra 3 months FREE on a one-year package. Raycon - get 15-percent off your order at buyraycon.com/servantTranscriptEPISODE 19Roman MarsLast month marked ten whole years of 99% Invisible, Roman Mars’ podcast about design, architecture, and things that quietly shape our world. That’s a long time to be making the same show, even if it’s one that’s recognized and beloved by millions. On this episode, Nick talks to Mars about the origins of 99% Invisible, the grind of making a weekly show for a decade, and how he thinks about the legacy of the podcast, and himself. They also talk about the 99% Invisible book, The 99% Invisible City, which Mars wrote with Kurt Kohlstedt, that’s coming out this month. Servant of Pod sponsors include: Get a ONE HUNDRED DOLLAR advertising credit toward your first LinkedIn campaign. Visit LinkedIn.com/SERVANT Learn more about podcast attribution at podsights.com Visit my exclusive link ExpressVPN.com/SERVANT and you can get an extra 3 months FREE on a one-year package. Raycon - get 15-percent off your order atbubuyraycon.com/servantTranscriptEPISODE 18Podcast PicksNick offers a pair of podcast picks this week. You’re Wrong About and The Ringer’s The Cam Chronicles. Servant of Pod sponsors include: Learn more about podcast attribution at podsights.com UCLA Extension Fall Quarter starts September 28. Enroll now at https://www.uclaextension.edu/TranscriptEPISODE 17Forever35’s Self-Care RevolutionIn these really rough times — and things sure do seem to get rougher by the day — it’s important to take care of yourself. However, the concept of “self-care” has become an increasingly complicated one in recent years, as it’s drifted further into the territory of rampant consumerism and corporate branding. Sometimes, what's needed is a really good guide that helps you find the right balance with retail therapy; to engage with it in a way that actually feels good to you. Forever35 happens to be one of those really good guides. Created in 2018 by the writers Doree Shafrir and Kate Spencer, the podcast quickly grew a strong following for its comfy, thoughtful approach to self-care. This week, Nick talks to the Forever35 hosts about starting the show, watching its community grow, and what's bringing them peace right now. Servant of Pod sponsors include: Raycon - get 15-percent off your order at buyraycon.com/servant Learn more about podcast attribution at podsights.com Visit my exclusive link ExpressVPN.com/SERVANT and you can get an extra 3 months FREE on a one-year package. UCLA Extension Fall Quarter starts September 28. Enroll now at https://www.uclaextension.edu/TranscriptEPISODE 16How Happy is Gretchen Rubin?Gretchen Rubin’s been keeping it positive, despite the circumstances. Then again, that’s probably what you’d expect from one of the most prominent voices on the subject of happiness. Rubin is the best-selling author behind books like “The Happiness Project” and “The Four Tendencies,” and she has the distinction of being one of the earliest author-to-podcaster crossovers in the business with her podcast, Happier with Gretchen Rubin, launching back in 2015. Nick talks to Rubin about her interest in the subject of happiness and human nature, her podcasting work and the concept of “self-help” as a genre. Servant of Pod sponsors include: Raycon - get 15-percent off your order at buyraycon.com/servant Learn more about podcast attribution at podsights.com Visit my exclusive link ExpressVPN.com/SERVANT and you can get an extra 3 months FREE on a one-year package. UCLA Extension Fall Quarter starts September 28. Enroll now at https://www.uclaextension.edu/TranscriptEPISODE 15Chenjerai KumanyikaChenjerai Kumanyika is a man of many roles: academic, artist, organizer, journalist. He’s also a maker of podcasts, most notable for his work as the co-host of the Peabody award-winning Uncivil along with two acclaimed seasons of Scene on Radio, “Seeing White” and “The Land That Has Never Been Yet.” All three projects are united by a radical sensibility: to fundamentally rethink a core aspect of American society. This week, Nick talks to Chenjerai about how — and why — he has come to integrate podcasting as part of his larger intellectual output. Servant of Pod sponsors include: Raycon - get 15-percent off your order at buyraycon.com/servant Learn more about podcast attribution at podsights.com Visit my exclusive link ExpressVPN.com/SERVANT and you can get an extra 3 months FREE on a one-year package. UCLA Extension Fall Quarter starts September 28. Enroll now at https://www.uclaextension.edu/TranscriptEPISODE 14Paul BaePaul Bae is one of the more prominent creators of fiction podcasts. Since 2015, he co-created The Black Tapes (with Terry Miles), created the anthology series The Big Loop, directed a podcast project from Marvel, and has two shows in development for Spotify. Paul is also part of a growing cadre of podcast creators that’s finding work in Hollywood, with a few television opportunities bubbling up on the horizon. A lot is happening for him, and he’s come a long way to get to this point. This week, Nick talks to Paul — a former actor, stand-up comedian, and preacher — about how he made his way into podcasting… and back into the entertainment business. Servant of Pod sponsors include: Raycon - get 15-percent off your order at buyraycon.com/servant Visit my exclusive link ExpressVPN.com/SERVANT and you can get an extra 3 months FREE on a one-year package. Learn more about podcast attribution at podsights.com UCLA Extension Fall Quarter starts September 28. Enroll now at https://www.uclaextension.edu/TranscriptEPISODE 13Richard’s Famous Food PodcastRichard’s Famous Food Podcast is pretty hard to describe. It’s technically a podcast that deals in food documentaries, but it’s also a cartoonish acid trip that rarely follows a straight line. Genuinely one of the most bizarre things you’ll ever hear, the show is also distinct for the fact that it’s all the creation of one person: Richard Parks III, a food writer, documentarian, filmmaker, and audio producer. This week, Nick asks Parks to walk through a single episode of the show – “Cornichon’s Quest” – as a way to figure out how the podcast works. A Woman’s Smile Have You Heard George’s Podcast? Servant of Pod sponsors include: Raycon - get 15-percent off your order at buyraycon.com/servant Visit my exclusive link ExpressVPN.com/SERVANT and you can get an extra 3 months FREE on a one-year package. UCLA Extension Fall Quarter starts September 28. Enroll now at https://www.uclaextension.edu/TranscriptEPISODE 12ESPN Daily: Sports Coverage Without the SportsCollege football and Major League Baseball are hanging by a thread. A Floridian bubble is home to multiple sports leagues, all playing out experimental seasons. Stadiums and arenas are largely empty, filled in with artificial crowd noises and, in some cases, papered over with digital fans. Persisting within a pandemic, the sports world has never been stranger. So what is it like to make a daily sports podcast? This week, Nick spoke with Pablo Torre and Eve Troeh, the host and senior editorial producer of ESPN Daily, about the delicate balance involved in sports coverage during a most irregular time. Servant of Pod sponsors include: Raycon - get 15-percent off your order at buyraycon.com/servant Visit my exclusive link ExpressVPN.com/SERVANT and you can get an extra 3 months FREE on a one-year package. UCLA Extension Fall Quarter starts September 28. Enroll now at https://www.uclaextension.edu/TranscriptEPISODE 11A Brief Peek at Audio EroticaHere’s something a little different. There’s this somewhat parodic but also very real assertion that pornography tends to be at the forefront of new technologies: high-speed internet video, virtual reality, that kind of thing. Podcasting isn’t a new technology at all, of course, but we were interested in the question: how does pornography — and erotica, which is different but related — intersect with the current boom in on-demand audio? This week, Nick spoke with three guests who come at this question from different angles: Caroline Spiegel, the CEO of Quinn, an audio erotica startup; Alex Klein, a representative from Pornhub, and Girl on the Net, an independent creator. Raycon - get 15-percent off your order at buyraycon.com/servant Learn more about podcast attribution at podsights.com Visit my exclusive link ExpressVPN.com/SERVANT and you can get an extra 3 months FREE on a one-year package. UCLA Extension Fall Quarter starts September 28. Enroll now at https://www.uclaextension.edu/TranscriptEPISODE 10What Does a Podcast Editor Do?The job of a podcast editor can be hard to efficiently explain, because they do many little things in the service of one big thing: to make the show better for more people. They think about structure, emphasize tension, tighten language, and consider how the presentation of the story comes across to different types of people. Podcast editors — particularly for narrative nonfiction shows — used to be really hard to find, but this has changed a little bit over the past few years as the podcast industry grew in complexity. Nick talks with Catherine Saint Louis, who works at Neon Hum Media, about the role of the podcast editor, how she became one, and its increasing importance to the business. This Land Murder on the Towpath Bear Brook Servant of Pod sponsors include: Raycon - get 15-percent off your order at buyraycon.com/servant Learn more about podcast attribution at podsights.com Visit my exclusive link ExpressVPN.com/SERVANT and you can get an extra 3 months FREE on a one-year package.TranscriptEPISODE 9Jody Avirgan: The Ghosts of the 2016 ElectionsThe 2016 presidential election cycle left a deep mark on the podcast world. Few know this better than Jody Avirgan, who produced the popular FiveThirtyEight podcast through that cycle. Though he’s sitting the 2020 cycle out, opting instead to make This Day In Esoteric Political History with the Radiotopia network, Avirgan still has a lot to say about the way podcasts cover the elections. In this episode, Nick and Jody look back on the 2016 politics podcast explosion. Chapo Trap House Keepin’ it 1600 Pod Save America Slate Political Gabfest Another Round On The Media California Love TranscriptEPISODE 8Josh Levin: Slow BurnSlate's Slow Burn is one of the best podcast documentary series around, with each season driven forward by a simple framework: what was it like to live through a prominent historical event? For its fourth season, the team examines the rise of David Duke in the late '80s and early '90s, centering its attention on a major recent effort by a white supremacist to gain formal political power. Nick talks with Josh Levin, who hosts the season, and for whom the story of David Duke is a personal one. Floodlines TranscriptEPISODE 7Kid’s Podcasts: A True Alternative to Screen Time?The numbers for kid’s podcasts have risen noticeably during lockdown. Nick talks to Molly Bloom, of American Public Media’s Brains On and its spin-off Smash Boom Best, and Lindsay Patterson, co-creator of Tumble Media and co-chair of Kids Listen, about the genre’s appeal, history, and power. Plus, Kameel Stanley joins Nick to dive deeper into the recent industry conversations involving creators of color and intellectual property. Podcasting can realize its promise — if it meets the challenge for creators of color By the Book This Land Ten Percent Happier Podcast with Dan Harris Audm TranscriptEPISODE 6Hank Green on Big Money in PodcastingAs a veteran YouTuber, Hank Green is familiar with what happens when a quirky community starts seeing serious money, and grows up to become something else. This week, Nick talks to Green, who also makes podcasts, about whether he sees the same thing happening to podcasting. Hank’s opinion piece for The Washington Post Podcasts from Hank and John Green Vlogbrothers Crash Course Meddling Adults Dr. Gameshow TranscriptEPISODE 5Stitcher SoldLast night, we learned that Stitcher is being sold to SiriusXM in what is now the largest podcast deal to date. Hot Pod’s UK writer Caroline Crampton joins Nick to talk through the ramifications of that news, plus what’s been going on at WNYC. The New York Times: “WNYC Employees Demanded Diversity. They Got Another White Boss.” TranscriptEPISODE 4Making Music for PodcastsComposers Ramtin Arablouei of NPR and Gimlet’s Haley Shaw join Nick to talk about scoring podcasts, their favorite podcast music, and how they got where they are in this relatively new field. And to go over the week’s big news stories, Nick calls up Caroline Crampton, Hot Pod’s UK writer. Anthems / Stitcher for sale? / Serial / The Daily / Run To Your Mama / Snap Judgement / S-Town / Drop Electric / Ted Radio Hour / Throughline / Mogul / The Ballad of Billy Balls / The Habitat / 10 Things That Scare Me / Moonface Transcript
Meet The TeamNick QuahNick Quah is the host of "Servant of Pod," LAist Studios' weekly podcast that explores the culture and business of podcasting. He also publishes and edits Hot Pod, the preeminent podcast industry newsletter, which also appears as a regular weekly column on Harvard University's Nieman Lab. In addition, he produces and hosts the Hot Pod Summit, a twice-a-year conference that brings together key decision-makers, operators, and creators for a day-long discussion of trends, problems, and opportunities in the podcast industry. Based on a combination of luck, opportunity, and curiosity, Nick has carved out a strong niche covering and analyzing the podcast ecosystem — how it continues to grow, how it has changed and evolved, and how it relates to the wider media universe. He is also a contributing writer for New York Magazine's Vulture, where he reviews podcasts, interviews podcast creators, and writes occasional columns about the business. Prior to creating Hot Pod in 2014, Nick has worked at Business Insider, BuzzFeed, and Panoply Media. Born in Malaysia, Nick now lives in Boise, Idaho. When not thinking about podcasts, media, and the internet, he thinks about television, movies, sports, books, politics, Asia, and, of course, food.
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LA is the heart and soul of the new America, a city driven by its diversity, its work ethic, and its obsession with what’s next. But it’s also a state of mind, the creator of global culture, and the place where the idea of the future often begins.LAist Studios exists to reflect those values, and the incredible diversity of people who live them. We create world-class podcasts and on-demand audio news, information and storytelling that moves people emotionally and socially. And we do it by identifying creators with new voices and fresh ideas, young people of color often locked out of mainstream media.LAist Studios is a creative home for what’s next and who’s next. We exist to tell LA stories to the world.

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