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Entertainment & Arts

Play Next: Lessons from a first podcast, where the rubber meets the road

Good morning, I’m Paige Hymson, a podcast producer here at The Times. We have two big episode updates to share with you. Episode 4 of “Room 20” is out now. Listen here and subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.

Plus, the final episode of “Larger Than Life” was just released today. This week, I spoke with the host, Daniel Miller, about his first experience creating a podcast and what he’s learned now that the full series has been released. You can listen to the podcast here and, if you haven’t had a chance to hear the full series, subscribe and start from the beginning with Episode 1.

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Top 3

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As we wrap up the “Larger Than Life” podcast season, host Daniel Miller reflects on the top three things he learned from creating his first podcast.

Reporter Daniel Miller raced his Datson 240Z down the eighth-mile strip at Irwindale Speedway.
Reporter Daniel Miller raced his Datson 240Z down the eighth-mile strip at Irwindale Speedway.
(Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

1. Authentic audio matters: When we set out to make “Larger Than Life,” one thing we knew we wanted was authentic audio of cars. We didn’t want to use stock sounds of revving or racing, because we wanted to be as true to the story as possible. So, when an episode called for the roar of a 1969 Dodge Charger Daytona with a Hemi V-8, that meant we had to go find one. Luckily, we tracked one down deep in Orange County, and the car’s very gracious owner invited me to come for a visit. Positioned inches from the gleaming exhaust pipe with microphone in hand, I finally got what we needed. (And a fume-induced headache.) You can hear the rumble of the Daytona in Episodes 2 and 3.

2. Embrace collaboration: Writing and reporting a print story oftentimes is a solitary pursuit. You research a subject, conduct interviews, write a draft and refine it, and hand it over to your editor. There’s collaboration, sure, but typically much of the process is a solo endeavor. That’s not the case with podcasting, at least in my experience. You have to collaborate successfully. That’s partly due to the nature of the medium — producers, engineers, sound designers, editors and others all have unique skill sets that are integral to the process. And it’s also due to the nature of audio storytelling itself — the shaping and reshaping of an episode often requires creating multiple audio drafts. I can’t imagine doing that alone. With our production partner, Neon Hum Media, we were able to create a work environment that nurtured the best of our ideas.

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3. “Kill your darlings”: OK, so this one is something I am still learning. Most writers know the phrase “kill your darlings,” which means that you should be willing to ax a phrase, sentence or paragraph that you may love — if it isn’t in service of advancing the story you’re telling. It applies to podcasting in spades, because audio storytelling requires real velocity. So, it’s of paramount importance that excess fat is trimmed from a script. While making “Larger Than Life,” we wrestled over whether to include several scenes — not because they weren’t good or interesting but because they didn’t necessarily propel the narrative forward. In telling Big Willie’s story, this was tough, because over the many months of reporting, we collected a lot of great anecdotes. For example, for Episode 3, I had collected some fascinating backstory on Terminal Island, which was the site of Willie’s racetrack. But, ultimately, a deep dive into the history of the island was a diversion from the story at hand in the episode, which is Willie’s fight to open his track.

Questions? Email us at podcasts@latimes.com.

ICYMI
There’s a lot going on in the audio industry and it can be tough to keep up. Check out these industry-related stories that cover some of the latest news in podcasting.

  • “Podcast analytics company Podtrac released its rankings for July’s top podcasting publishers in the U.S., and NPR came out on top with a unique monthly audience in the U.S. of 20,775,000 and global downloads or streams of 141,376,000 across 60 shows. iHeartRadio came in second, with 18,419,000 uniques and 127,873,000 downloads/streams across 244 shows.” (Fast Company)
  • East Tennessee native Dolly Parton is the subject of a new podcast from former Nashville resident Jad Abumrad, who co-hosts the popular public radio series Radiolab with Robert Krulwich. “Titled Dolly Parton’s America, the nine-part series looks at what Parton’s storybook life reveals about the country itself.” (Rolling Stone)
  • NPR released some of its best student podcasts about immigration. “Stories of students struggling with adapting to life in the U.S., or their journeys to get here, or, in some cases, reaching back a generation or two to learn about where they came from. Here are some of the standout student podcasts about immigration.” (NPR)
  • The hosts of “Last Podcast on the Left” have been covering conspiracy-theory culture on their show for about a decade. Now, “the fringe culture the podcast has documented for years is more salient than ever.” (Los Angeles Times)
  • “Apple Inc. plans to fund original podcasts that would be exclusive to its audio service, according to people familiar with the matter, increasing its investment in the industry to keep competitors Spotify and Stitcher at bay.” (Bloomberg)
  • Luminary Media and New York magazine have released a new podcast, “Tabloid: The Making of Ivanka Trump.” The eight-episode season is hosted by journalist Vanessa Grigoriadis and Episode 1 debuted on Aug. 5. (Business Wire)
  • “Spotify’s podcast audience is experiencing huge growth. ... The company reports that its podcast audience has grown by over 50 percent since the last quarter, and that it has almost doubled since the start of the year.” (The Verge)
  • iHeartRadio has teamed with a South Florida-based charity sock company founded by two brothers, ages 11 and 13, “to launch a new kid-hosted podcast, ‘Are You Kidding Podcast,’ aimed to inspire kids to help other kids by finding creative ways to give back and benefit Stand Up to Cancer.” (Yahoo Finance)

Picks of the Week

Each week, different Times staff members will share their personal podcast recommendations with you. Here’s what Henry C.J. Jackson, director of editorial events at The Times, is listening to now.

Mom and Dad Are Fighting,” Slate Podcasts: Not exactly headline news, but parenting is complex. As the father of a 7-year-old, some part of me always wonders if I’m screwing up royally or my experiences are more universal. This podcast is pretty brilliant because it mixes commiseration, humor and life experience and makes parenting stuff normal and fulfilling. Hearing other people’s foibles makes your own seem more reasonable, in general, but especially so with parenting.

The Totally Football Show,” Muddy Knees Media: Nope, not that kind of football. This podcast is a twice-weekly deep dive into the world of European soccer, told with the mix of jokes, whimsy and tactical analysis that I crave as a fan. For fans of the English Premier League, it’s totally a must-listen. I am particularly obsessed with Arsenal, an English team, and so sometimes get sad listening, but it is such a neat and fun wrap-up of the beautiful game.

Moonrise,” the Washington Post: This is a newer narrative podcast from the Washington Post about the real origin story of the U.S. space program and the race to get to the moon. It frames the backdrop for why this became a priority of President Kennedy and presents a far grittier portrait of the hows and whys of one of America’s defining sagas. Totally addictive.

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Coming Up:

Next time on “Room 20”: Faryon travels to Ohio to learn what led Garage to the California desert in the summer of 1999. Read more from Faryon in her written piece here.

Plus, have you seen the latest installment of the “Fast and Furious” franchise? Listen to our entertainment podcast “The Reel,” released every Friday morning. On the most recent episode, host Mark Olsen talked with super-fans and an L.A. Times film critic to discuss the evolution of the franchise in its first spinoff, “Hobbs & Shaw.” Listen here and subscribe now.

Have a smart home device? Ask your smart speakers to “play the top news from The Los Angeles Times” every day. Here’s how.


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