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Podcasts Servant of Pod with Nick Quah
Kid’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

SERVANT OF POD WITH NICK QUAH
Episode 7 Transcript: Kid’s Podcasts: A True Alternative to Screen Time?

Season 1, Episode 7

Sun, 8/23 9:36PM • 36:04

SUMMARY KEYWORDS

podcast, kids, episodes, people, creators, listening, media, big, audience, brains, questions, molly, called, host, parents, thinking, camille, feel, gilly, intellectual property

SPEAKERS

Podcast Excerpt, Excerpt from Tumble, Lindsay Patterson, Nick Quah, Priyanka Mattoo, Camille Stanley, Molly Bloom, Excerpt from Brains On

Nick Quah 00:01

What are you listening to right now?

Priyanka Mattoo 00:02

So much Story Pirates, I can't even tell you.

Nick Quah 00:06

Yeah.

Priyanka Mattoo 00:07

So much Story Pirates.

Nick Quah 00:08

Has that podcast been a big part of your parenting experience?

Priyanka Mattoo 00:11

It has now. It's really interesting because I'm trying to keep my son busy, he's got a very active mind and I have a personal--I detest screens. That's just a thing.

Nick Quah 00:22

That's Priyanka Mattoo, the co-founder of the podcast company Earios. She was on the very first episode of this show. And she's not alone in what she's describing here. The fight against screentime is very real. From LAist Studios, this is Servant of Pod. I'm Nick Quah. Today, a closer look at kids' podcasts. Are they the answer to screentime? But first, let's talk about intellectual property and creators of color. More in a minute. The subject of intellectual property ownership and creators of color has become a real hot button issue in recent weeks. When the hosts of The Knot and Another Round took to Twitter to draw attention to the fact that they didn't own their respective shows. This is an issue that highlights greater inequalities in the media business--inequalities that have historically and disproportionately affected creators of color. Camille Stanley wrote a lengthy piece for Hotpod recently exploring this subject; specifically, how creators of color are grappling with a system that puts them in a structural disadvantage, even in the relatively new context of podcasting. Camille, welcome to the show.

Camille Stanley 01:50

Hi.

Nick Quah 01:51

Alright, so walk me through what you found.

Camille Stanley 01:54

So, the first thing I found was that everyone wanted to talk about this, which is not surprising because it's a conversation that has been going on, I think, for producers and creators of color, not just in the context of podcasting, but just in the context of living. But I think there was definitely something that seemed to be a nerve that was struck after the hosts of The Knot and Another Round really just bared what they've been going through, which is making very successful shows, very meaningful shows, with strong attachments from their audiences, and then their audiences finding out that they don't own them, and then, to varying degrees, going public with like, what their fights are. The second thing that I found was that although podcasting is very small, relative to other mediums, and maybe bigger media structures, that there are definitely people who are watching this space and seeing what is going on. And podcasting seems to be kind of at a--I don't know if it would be an inflection point, but certainly kind of a reckoning that gels with what, really, the whole country is going through.

Nick Quah 03:04

Right. So a big part of my understanding of the story is that the sort of intellectual property and ownership arrangements that we've seen have largely been carried over from sort of these older, larger media structures. And there's a feeling that with podcasting, there's an opportunity to sort of rebuild this. And the fact that we're seeing this replicated again, is sort of, kind of feels like a--almost like a loss of opportunity or betrayal.

Camille Stanley 03:26

Totally.

Nick Quah 03:27

And you've had some experience with this yourself, is that right?

Camille Stanley 03:29

Yeah. I'm a black woman and I have been in podcasting about five years. During that time, I was making a show for other people. So I totally understand the idea of pouring yourself into something and then having a realization that you don't own it.

Nick Quah 03:46

Right. And so one of the bigger sort of counter arguments I've heard so far has been sort of like, well, sort of, what do you expect from these arrangements from these larger companies? They are the ones that's putting in resources and they are the ones that sort of taking on the risk in these arrangements. What's your sense of the validity of that counter argument?

Camille Stanley 04:05

So I think there's definitely a validity to, for a certain class of podcast, it does take resources, it does take money to produce them, to make them happen, to market them, to get them to big audiences, right? That is the fact of that. Like, it's a seductive thing to conflate the kind of little-D democratization that happens in podcasting, because people can make it easily and it can be distributed easily. It's easy to confuse that with like, that making content is easy. Making content has never been easy, right? Or necessarily inexpensive.

Nick Quah 04:42

Yeah.

Camille Stanley 04:43

How--

Nick Quah 04:43

I can relate, I can relate.

Camille Stanley 04:45

Exactly. However, I think it's a little bit of people questioning right now, for the big boys, for the big media companies, for them to think like, well, we have to do all these things and it costs so much money, therefore we hold all the power. So I think that's where the push and pull is, so to speak, specifically in the medium of podcasting. Hosts in particular, they are not just as "switch-out-able". It's not a word, but it's what I'm going to say here. You know, like, people get attached because podcasting is such an intimate medium, right? It is much less easy for a media company to just say, well, this show, we'll just take this person out because they're, you know, maybe getting a little uppity, and put someone else in. Like that doesn't work. The audience doesn't accept that. They attach much more strongly the creator to the show, which means that, whether or not media companies want to acknowledge it or not, there is power there. And IP ownership is a form of power and it should come as no surprise, I think that this is bubbling right now in podcasting. Also because I mean, people are just like, it doesn't have to be this way. We don't have to go the way of the music industry. We don't have to go the way of big legacy news organizations.

Nick Quah 06:11

Right.

Camille Stanley 06:12

Why?

Nick Quah 06:13

That kind of leads up to this little larger question, which is, you know, if it doesn't have to be this way, what should it look like? And in your piece, you talked to a couple of intellectual property lawyers about this, who's thinking really hard about equitable arrangements? What did you find? And what do you feel is a productive way moving forward to restructure these intellectual property agreements?

Camille Stanley 06:33

So there's kind of like this parallel work that needs to be done, right? On the structural level, producers themselves, creators flexing their business muscle, that means like paying attention just as much to their business--and they are a business--as they do the creative part of it.

Nick Quah 06:51

Stay vigilant.

Camille Stanley 06:52

Yes.

Nick Quah 06:53

The whole context, yeah.

Camille Stanley 06:54

Yes, yes. On the industry side, it will require them giving up some stuff; giving up some power, recognizing that, hey, if we're making this pie together, I don't automatically have to get the biggest slice. Or, I can give a bigger slice to a creator. But in the context of all of this, because, again, none of this is happening in a vacuum, there will be pushback and there'll be resistance, because there's a lot of work that just has to be done like, on the on the people level, right? So if the industry is largely white, largely has shut out these groups, then there will have to be structural changes that happened before, like the hard work begins, so to speak. Like, there's some hard work and some head work and some policy work that has to be done on both individuals' and industry sides. So like, everybody needs to get to work. But specifically, they really think that this is a moment where producers themselves, creators themselves, should feel emboldened to flex. And that's even if you are making a podcast for a company now, there's no reason why you can't say, hey, I'm making the show. Can we talk about, after the season, us rethinking our relationship?

Nick Quah 08:12

Yeah. So, essentially the permission structure is open now to have these conversations as an opportunity and a window here to really, really push forward into some real concessions on the industry's part.

Camille Stanley 08:22

Totally.

Nick Quah 08:24

So in your reporting, did you find any models of arrangements that people have generally felt good about?

Camille Stanley 08:31

You know, I found people who felt like they have come to a good compromise. Kristen Meinzer from By The Book talked about how she doesn't own her show outright, even though she tried to buy it, but the home that she landed with, Stitcher, she does feel like they're investing in the show and that they have given them a seat at--her and her co-host--a seat at the table when it comes to kind of future uses of their IP. Rebecca Nagle, of the This Land podcast, talked about working out IP with Crooked Media and how she was able to come to a place where she shared IP with them. Many creators would love to own it outright, but there are some people who are coming to kind of a compromise. And that's actually--it supports what the experts told me, which is, you have to decide kind of like, within your own heart and mind like, what's most important to you, and maybe giving a little bit away to have a little bit more freedom might be okay with you, but maybe holding on to that ownership 100% is so important, and that's how you kind of want to move through the world.

Nick Quah 09:32

Last question from me. Does this feel like a hopeful moment for you?

Camille Stanley 09:36

Oof. Oh, man. In the world? No. [Laughter]

Nick Quah 09:40

No, I mean, specifically for this issue, like, I too have mixed feelings about hope in our world right now, but I mean, specifically, do you feel like there is room to actually make headway here? Like we can actually see something change?

Camille Stanley 09:55

I do think there is room. I do think there is room and I think there's headway, if only because--I mean, I'm not necessarily thinking on the institution side or industry side--but I think you will see creators of color, and creators, not of color, just everyone, like, I think, flexing a little bit, and I think they should, and I think they should feel empowered to do that. Because their work proves that like, they do hold inherent power, whether or not that's being recognized right now by the industry yet or not.

Nick Quah 10:27

So, Camille, usually I like to ask people what they're listening to these days. Do you have something that you'd like to share?

Camille Stanley 10:33

Okay, I'm just gonna tell you guys what I was listening to this morning.

Nick Quah 10:36

Oh, go for it.

Camille Stanley 10:36

I think we can all use a little Zen in our life. So um, I was listening to the 10% Happier podcast--

Nick Quah 10:43

With Dan Harris, right?

Camille Stanley 10:44

Yes, with Dan Harris. And it was an episode about kind of the foundations of meditation. It was just really nice because it wasn't--if you whether you meditate or not, whether you're like super deep into it or not--like, it was just laid out like really, for like foundational things for kind of any practice, so I found it like, as a good reset and something that I think we could all, in today's world, like use. Just like, take a second.

Nick Quah 11:09

Are you a big meditator?

Camille Stanley 11:12

I practice daily. I don't know that I'm big, but I, I believe in it. And I try to practice it. I'm not always so great at it. But yeah.

Nick Quah 11:20

I'm envious. I tried meditating. I fell off the wagon a couple of months ago.

Camille Stanley 11:23

That's part of it. That's part of it.

Nick Quah 11:26

Thank you so much for your time.

Camille Stanley 11:27

Thank you.

Nick Quah 11:35

When I was a kid, all I wanted to do was sit in front of a screen. Television, early 2000s Internet, video games, video games, video games. I fried my eyeballs by the time I reached high school. If you have a young child, you might have anxieties about that whole screen time thing. How much is too much? What is it doing to your brains? Surely something that addictive is inherently bad. I imagined these anxieties are even worse during the pandemic. You know, you're trying to deal with work while trying to deal with your kids. And a lot of those dealings involve negotiation of screen time. Now, I personally don't have kids--I have a cat--so I'm only going from anecdotes here. But I imagine it's been hell for parents everywhere. So if you're worried about the whole screentime thing, and if you're worried about your kids' eyeballs, I think I know something that might help.

Podcast Excerpt 12:33

That's I'm talking about! High fives all around! Welcome to The Music Box. This is the story about Thomas the Tank Engine. I'm Julie Andrews, and this is my library. It's Two Whats?! and a Wow!

Nick Quah 12:50

Now, kids' podcasts have been around for a while, but over the past few years, they really blew up. And as you would expect, they've seen a real bump since schools everywhere started closing down. And now it's summer, and schools are still closed. So are podcasts the answer to too much screentime? And if they are, why aren't more people making them?

Molly Bloom 13:15

You know, when we first started--we started Brains On like, we're like, one of the granddaddies of kids podcasting. We started back in 2012.

Nick Quah 13:23

Molly Bloom is a key member of the creative team behind Julie Andrews's new podcast for kids: Julie's Library. She's also the host and co-creator of American Public Media's Brains On and its spinoff, Smash Boom Best. Brains On is a science show for kids. And it's also one of the longest running kids' podcasts.

Molly Bloom 13:40

And back then, like, a lot of what we heard from people was like, kids would never listen to anything without a screen. Like, they like to look at stuff. Kids listen to stories all the time. Like, they're always listening to what people are saying to them. They love to listen to stories. I mean, kids back in the 30s listened to radio shows, so there's no reason they wouldn't want to do that now, too.

Nick Quah 13:58

This has been especially true for the past few months, with schools out indefinitely because of the pandemic. Molly's dealing with this issue herself, self-isolating with her husband and four-year-old daughter. We spoke back in April.

Molly Bloom 14:10

She thought it was hilarious when I recorded an episode in our closet. She was telling everybody we FaceTimed with about it like, "Mommy recorded Brains On in the closet!" But you know, and so, she is around a lot--like, she was near me when we were doing a script readthrough for our episode we did about social distancing.

Excerpt from Brains On 14:29

People are being extra careful. They're not going out much. They're avoiding crowds. A lot of schools and restaurants and stores are closed for a while. Lots of events and parties have been canceled. And everyone is washing their hands.

Molly Bloom 14:44

And she was listening to it, and it was really interesting, because she like, stopped and asked me some questions. She's like, wait, so even this is closed, and this? And so, she was tracking and listening, which was interesting for me because she is on that younger end of the spectrum. But I think it just goes to show like how much this is impacting all of us. And kids understand so much more than we think, I think, sometimes, so like, it's important for a show like ours to really address all of these things head on. So we've done you know, three episodes about Coronavirus now. And we have more on the way.

Nick Quah 15:16

Has this sort of experience of thinking about what the acute needs are of kids right now sort of altering the way you're thinking about episodes in general? Like, I think the most recent one that just came out--and we're recording this around mid-April--was one about laughter.

Molly Bloom 15:29

Mm-hmm.

Nick Quah 15:29

Did I get it right?

Molly Bloom 15:30

Yeah, it was about tickles and cuteness. Yeah.

Nick Quah 15:33

Has the sort of like, the approach sort of different with any sort of increased awareness of what, what kids are feeling right now?

Molly Bloom 15:39

Yeah, I think generally, we do evergreen episodes. So like everything that we do, are things you know--they're all inspired by questions we get from our audience, which is awesome. We get you know, hundreds and hundreds of emails and letters from our audience every week with the questions they want answered. So we always pick from that big pool of questions for our editorial calendar and we plan far out, but with this happening, basically we've been doing, every other week, episodes about Coronavirus and then more like our normal episodes because we want to provide counterprogramming as well, because kids have a lot of questions about Coronavirus, but they also need some relief. And so the episodes that we are doing in sort of rotation with our Coronavirus episodes are ones that we're trying to make, you know, very fun and very engaging in a way that's very different than our Coronavirus episodes.

Nick Quah 16:28

How has sort of like, the listenership, or the audience, for Brains On change since schools started closing? Have you seen sort of a market bump? Has there been sort of a 20% increase? How's it look like for you?

Molly Bloom 16:38

It's grown a lot. Over the past month, we saw, I think, a little over 60% increase. And then just compared to like a year ago, at the same time, I think it was 100% increase over that time. Yeah, it's been kind of incredible to see how many people, I think, are just discovering that kids podcast exist for the first time, because that's sort of been something that, you know, I think, our little genre has always struggled with is that people don't necessarily think about it as an option for their kids, even if they do listen themselves. It doesn't occur to them that there actually are podcasts for kids out there. And so now I think as people are home, and looking for alternatives to screentime, but also something that they can kind of put on and like have their kid entertained while they do something else, because everyone's you know, trying to do that: get work done, or get the dishes done, or whatever, while entertaining your kids. And so it's exciting for us that people are discovering kids podcasts.

Nick Quah 17:33

Do you have a, like a recommended way to slot it into your routine?

Molly Bloom 17:37

I mean, I think like, you know, while eating or coloring, like, I think a lot of kids like to color or kind of like, build Legos or something while they listen, or just kind of like, how I used to listen to podcasts; back when I first started listening, I would like put on a podcast and knit because it's just like a really nice thing to like, do something with your hands and also listen to a podcast, and I think for a lot of kids, they kind of let their imaginations wander and like, make cool drawings while they're listening, and we get like, sent a ton of drawings from our audience, which we love. Like, we have these two characters we created for our Coronavirus episodes called Kara and Gilly, who are viruses who host a podcast called "Going Viral," sort of based on My Favorite Murder, very loosely.

Excerpt from Brains On 18:18

Hit it, Gilly! I'm Kara. And I'm Gilly! And this is "Going Viral with Kara and Gilly!" Sup Kara? How's things? Good, good, yeah, I've been infecting a new friend. It's going well, but I hope they don't get sick of me. Ugh, Kara.

Molly Bloom 18:38

And so we've had a ton of giants of carrying Gilly in a Kleenex on the floor of a closet recording their podcast.

Nick Quah 18:45

For the record, I too doodle and draw when I listen to podcasts.

Molly Bloom 18:48

Yeah!

Nick Quah 18:49

Actually, I've always been curious about this. So, I am a childless adult. So I haven't had been privy, or had the privilege of watching, consuming a lot of children's media, and I'm curious as to when you create one of these episodes, and when you sort of think through the experience of it, how much are you writing and producing for the kid? And how much are you writing and producing for the parents that you know would be, or might be, listening with the kid?

Molly Bloom 19:14

That's a great question. Yeah. So for us like one of the things--we have sort of like, some like, core principles, I guess you could call them, when we first started making it and those have like, really stayed in place the whole time, which is like, we didn't want to talk down to kids, we felt very strongly about that. We wanted to feature a ton of kids voices in the show. And we wanted to make something that would not annoy their parents. So those are sort of our like, three main things. And so when we set out to answer these questions, we're learning a ton. And so we figured the parents listening are also probably learning a lot about those topics. And also, we try to make ourselves laugh a lot too. So like, we kind of look at it like sort of like Looney Tunes where there's like, a ton of jokes in there, or like a Pixar movie where like, there's a lot for kids to hang on to but there's also some jokes that probably only the parents will get. Like we did an extended skit about lobsters that involved lobsters in a conference call and there was a lot of great conference call humor.

Excerpt from Brains On 20:12

Okay, lobsters Okay, everybody, it's time. Let's get this meeting started. Let's get it going. So, we should say who's here--I think you all know me. I am Lenny Lobster, of course. Head of Marketing. Lily. Thanks, Lenny. Hi, Lily Lobster, deputy of public relations. Oh, hi, I guess I'm next. Hi, I'm Lucy Lobster. Creative Director. Hey, Lucy. Alright. And I know we have some lobsters on the phone, who's on the phone with us? It's just Rock from the Mid Atlantic office. Hi, everyone. Hi, Rock!

Molly Bloom 20:43

You know, the cool thing about doing an audio product for kids, rather than like, a book, is that kids are able to do listening comprehension sort of above their reading comprehension level. So you can introduce more complicated words and ideas than you would be able to in text.

Nick Quah 21:02

Would it--is it a fair assessment to sort of like think that--aren't children just like little adults, when you sort of like, think about them in that way? They are asking exactly the same questions that we are. There's just like a little bit of a difference in prior knowledge. Is that sort of how you think about when you're writing for kids?

Molly Bloom 21:19

Like, a little bit, yeah, like, I mean, they want to know the same things we want to know. But I think it's sort of like, you know, if there is a scary side of something, presenting that in a way where you can also talk about the good parts of it, like, so I think, you know, we don't do a lot of things that relate to death and dying. We have, but when we talk about it, we do it in this very, very sensitive way that we would not do if we were talking about it with adults.

Nick Quah 21:46

Molly says that the podcast was born out of boredom. Molly and her co-producers, Sanden Totten and Mark Sanchez, were antsy in their day jobs and they were looking for a side project. At the time, the world of kids' podcasts was still really small. It felt like an opportunity.

Molly Bloom 22:04

I think, at that--when we started Brains On there were no active kids' podcasts in the iTunes Store. We were kind of the only one who was posting episodes for a while. And it was interesting. It was cool because like, there was no template. Until like, when we made our first four pilot episodes, it took us a really, really long time to make those episodes, just because I think we were trying to figure out what that sounded like. So I think that sort of just shows like, how long we spent thinking about what we wanted to be in the show and what we wanted to show it to do. But back then, like when we were booking guests, we always had to explain what a podcast was. Or just like, say radio show, because it was just easier a lot of times, but now we don't have to do that anymore, which is awesome.

Nick Quah 22:46

The team started releasing episodes in 2015. But it didn't really become a full-time job until 2017, with help from a National Science Foundation grant. Now it's all they do. The kids' podcast world has changed quite a bit since 2015. There's a lot more of them now, and it's beginning to fill up with bigger and bigger names. So I wondered if Molly missed "the good old days?"

Molly Bloom 23:12

No, I mean, like, I mean, I think, you know, it was helpful to us in growing our audience in the beginning, because when people were looking for our kids' podcasts, search for kids' podcasts, they found us. Even though we had like, no marketing money to spend, we built an audience pretty quickly because people were looking for it and hungry for it. As the number of podcasts has grown, so has the audience. So like, as there's more and more audience, that's great, because there's more audience for everybody.

Nick Quah 23:42

There may be more shows, and there may be more audience for everybody. But one thing that will always set Brains On apart is one of the more intriguing segments: The Mystery Sound. It's exactly what it sounds like: a kid sends in a mystery sound and listeners have to guess what it is. I couldn't let her go without taking a shot at one.

Molly Bloom 24:00

I was hoping you'd ask. [Laughter]

Nick Quah 24:03

[Laughter] I haven't played a kids' game since I was a child, so let's see how this goes.

Molly Bloom 24:08

This one is very difficult.

Nick Quah 24:11

All right.

Molly Bloom 24:11

So here it is.

Nick Quah 24:26

It's a horn, or at least somebody making a horn-like sound with their hands.

Molly Bloom 24:32

You are--hmm. Yes, that is definitely happening. Do you have any idea what they're making that sound with?

Nick Quah 24:42

Sounds like sheets of plastic? I have no idea.

Molly Bloom 24:44

Okay. Well, you are like 50% of the way there, which is really great. The answer is, that is one of our listeners blowing through bull kelp.

Excerpt from Brains On 24:56

My name is Otis, from Victoria, and I'm six years old. That was the sound of bull kelp horn. Bull kelp is a plant that grows in the ocean. It looks like a cow's tail.

Nick Quah 25:09

Wait, like, kelp? Like the underwater plant?

Molly Bloom 25:13

Yes. And it's so big that it's like, basically the size of a hose. And you can blow through it and make that noise. And--

Nick Quah 25:20

How did it--?

Molly Bloom 25:20

--he just happened to find this near his house.

Nick Quah 25:23

Is it edible? Like, what's the deal with this kelp? Molly, thank you so much, and keep safe out there.

Molly Bloom 25:32

Yeah, you too. Thanks for having me.

Nick Quah 25:39

Molly Bloom is one of the creators of Brains On and Smash Boom Best from American Public Media. The team's latest project is a storytelling podcast from Julie Andrews called Julie's Library, and that's out now. Okay, so, kids' podcasts are big now. But it wasn't always that way. More after the break. It's a little crude to say it, but making stuff for kids is still a business. The people doing the making need to put food on the table, you know? But there's an uneasiness to selling ads on something made for kids to make it all work. Sure, maybe we're a little numb to all of that, with kids' YouTube channels and Saturday morning cartoons, but still, when it comes to something like a kids' podcast, which does feel a little different from all that, there is something uneasy about the whole affair. So I thought I'd call up Lindsay Patterson. She's the co-creator of Tumble Media, which makes another science podcast for kids called Tumble.

Excerpt from Tumble 26:52

Hi, I'm Lindsay. And I'm Marshall. Welcome to Tumble: the show where we explore stories of science discovery. Today, we have the story of the first alien visitor to our solar system. Alien visitors like Mr. Spock--?

Nick Quah 27:05

Like Brains On, Tumble has seemed quite a bump since the start of the global lockdown. Even if the show doesn't resonate with everyone--

Lindsay Patterson 27:13

He is not our biggest listener. [Laughter]

Nick Quah 27:17

--like her own son.

Lindsay Patterson 27:19

His favorite show is Circle Round. And we listened to the new episode twice in a row today.

Nick Quah 27:24

In addition to Tumble Media, Lindsay is the co-founder of Kids Listen, where she advocates for better-quality audio shows aimed at children. She's been a champion for kids' shows for a long time, going back to the years when it was really hard to get any of them off the ground. She said that the genre has a serious numbers problem.

Lindsay Patterson 27:43

What I discovered is, basically, there's been a general narrative, in at least public media, which is the world that I come from, that data is not collected on kids under the age of 12, and therefore, you know, the radio consultants that said, "yes, this is good," or "no, this is not worth spending money on," kind of always were keen to cut the kids' shows. So time after time, efforts to make kids' shows were killed off. It just wasn't something that radio was ever able to support. And I sort of have the theory that as a result of the lack of models for, you know, up-and-coming producers to follow, they just didn't have the idea that you could make audio content for kids, which is why when we started Tumble, the most common question we got was, are kids even going to listen to a story without pictures? But--

Nick Quah 28:45

Wait, who was like, asking that question?

Lindsay Patterson 28:48

I mean, just like people, we would tell the idea to, like, friends, family; everybody was really skeptical. And so it was just, I think, a lack of the tradition of audio for kids, at least in the world of public media and commercial radio, that sort of led to the idea that this is going to be a really difficult sell. I did a story on this, because I just couldn't let it go, digging into the history of public radio shows for kids. And there was a show called Kids America, produced by WNYC, that ran for four years and they had incredible level of engagements. But, you know, when it comes along to radio consultants, deciding what can you spend money on for the next year, people just really did not see the value in children's programming because there weren't really the numbers there to support it, because the numbers simply were not being collected. You know, there was definitely proof, but I really felt like the number one thing that we had to do when proving to the larger podcast ecosystem that kids are an audience, that they are listeners, and that they're a valuable audience, is get data to substantiate what we were hearing in emails from kids, from teachers, from parents, saying that their kids were really engaged in it. So that's sort of how we started Kids Listen.

Nick Quah 30:25

Lindsay teamed up with a few other kids' podcast creators to pull together a survey. They needed more data to support their work. And what they found was supremely helpful.

Lindsay Patterson 30:33

The one that I return to over and over again, because it surprised me so much, is that 80% of parents reported that their kids listened to an episode more than once, their favorite episode more than once. And of that 80%, 20% reported listening 10 or more times.

Nick Quah 30:56

I feel like any household with a Frozen or Frozen 2 DVD would probably be familiar with this.

Lindsay Patterson 31:02

Yeah, it was so surprising for me, but then, thinking about it, I was like, this makes complete sense. And so I think it was really easy to then express to people; this is what we're seeing, and it's consistent with just how kids consume their favorite kinds of media in general. And then people are like, "yeah, oh, yeah, I can totally see that." I think that kids find a lot of comfort in repetition. And once they find something they're into, they're really, really into it. So it's a combination of like, you know, I'm cuddling up with the thing that I like most. And also, I like this routine. I like this episode. These are just a few of my favorite things, basically.

Nick Quah 31:49

All right, so you you sent out a survey that was the sort of major findings and, since then, my understanding is that the genre has definitely sort of taken a leap, or grown steadily and quietly over the past few years. How do you think the kids' podcast community has changed since you co-founded Kids Listen?

Lindsay Patterson 32:04

You know, when we started, it was all people who were independent, even if they were working from a station, you know, they were kind of going rogue and coming up with their own ideas. And that definitely still exists. But I think there's a lot more support for people to get funding off the bat, to get large distribution deals off the bat. And more people coming in from other areas, whether it's like, TV, film, other corners of the podcasting universe and say, okay, yeah, I've--this looks interesting. Like, why don't I try my hand at this? So I think that we're at the point where it is much more mature, but I think it's, I think it's always sort of two years behind the adults' podcast ecosystem.

Nick Quah 32:54

Let's switch gears a little bit and talk about the numbers bump we've been seeing under the quarantine conditions. What are the specific roles that kids' podcasting can play in these times? Can you walk me through your thinking on that?

Lindsay Patterson 33:05

In the Kids Listen survey, we saw that 70% of parents had searched out podcasts as a screen free option for entertainment and education for their kids. So, you know, it's something that parents can put on to take a little break, to give their kids a bit of rest, and not feel bad about it. You know, so often as parents, we feel guilty about the kinds of distractions we provide our kids with, but when I put a podcast on for my son, I feel like I'm doing something good for him. You know, the pandemic and its effects are going to last a very long time. So I think we're gonna continue to see audience growth and then, fingers crossed, once it's over and people return to their normal routines, podcasts are going to be a part of their media diet.

Nick Quah 34:05

Before we go, what are you listening to right now?

Lindsay Patterson 34:08

I'm actually listening to Audm, the app that just reads articles.

Nick Quah 34:13

The New York Times has acquired--yeah.

Lindsay Patterson 34:15

I find it really comforting just to have like, the simple voice reading to me. So I'm just, you know, finding enjoyable articles about pop culture to be read in a calming voice.

Nick Quah 34:28

Do you feel like it's a kind of a return to being a kid when somebody reads a story out loud to you? Like there's a bit of a comfort there?

Lindsay Patterson 34:35

Yeah, I think so. And I mean, I think that circles back to the power of communicating to kids. It's like, when times are hard, you want to go back to what you really enjoyed on like, a very basic level. That kind of like, comforting storytelling really taps into like, things are going to be okay, I can be calm, like, I can get through this. Those patterns that you start developing when you're a kid. They last a really long time.

Nick Quah 35:05

Lindsay, thanks so much for taking time to talk to us. I really appreciate this conversation.

Lindsay Patterson 35:09

Thank you so much for having me. It's been a joy.

Nick Quah 35:23

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. Web design by Andy Cheatwood and the digital marketing team 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.

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