I downloaded my first podcast in 2011. I was in the car with our youngest driving somewhere on maternity leave. Our youngest was a little baby–maybe less than two months old and while I had friends with babies to meet up with, I found times when I felt kind of alone.
My first podcast was The Joy the Baker podcast with Joy Wilson and Tracy Benjamin, food bloggers and best friends. I fell in love with them. Their conversations felt like chats I would have with my sister. They kept me company weekly while I did the dishes or took a walk with the baby.
I used to voice memo my daughters. I took photos and videos, too, but voice memos have proved to be my favorite medium for documentation. Something about the sound of their voices, the little baby sighs, giggles, the confused lyrics and jumbled words sung and spoken as toddlers. My mom recorded us a few times and I always loved hearing our teeny, tiny voices echo back to us. The girls and I still listen to voice memos and smile and laugh. And unlike photos or videos, where I’m not part of the action, in a recording, I felt like I was part of the memory. And my voice was not so terrible.
So when a friend asked if I wanted to take the book project we’d be dawdling about on and turn it into a podcast, I said yes. I did not pass go, did not collect two hundred dollars. I was in, full stop.
On the night we made a beta recording to test out equipment and get used to the format, when it was time to start recording, we looked at each other blankly.
“Who is going to do the opening stuff?” I asked.
“You can do it,” he replied.
I paused, took a breath, and started, “It’s a Tuesday in New England…”
The opening patter rolled right out of my mouth.
“Where did that come from?” he asked.
I shrugged, saying, “I guess I’ve just been waiting a long time for someone to ask me to podcast.”
That first recording was 18 months ago.
Truth be told, I’m a born talker. Ask my parents and they will tell you that my little sister didn’t start speaking until she was almost three because I took up all of the air time.
There is something about the podcast medium for me. Many podcast devotees will say that they love hearing a story–that was what drew people to Serial when it aired a few years ago. The packaged radio show is nothing new, but now access to technology has unleashed this flood of content. And for someone who loves to talk AND loves to listen, I’m hooked. I learn by listening and seem to retain more of what I’ve learned by listening.
Our podcast, Boy vs. Girl, has an archive of over 60 episodes. We have been podcasting weekly for over a year and we’re experimenting with new ways to tackle the same material. But the year and a half of learning about how to capture voices and stories, it’s not limited to Boy vs. Girl for me.
I created a sample podcast for a contest last year. I didn’t win, but I worked on my submission harder than I worked on any term paper in college (or graduate school). And I saw an opportunity to create something for a higher ed audience and have been working on that for a while, too. And I set a goal for myself in 2017 to capture voices from my family and start working on an oral history.
The medium is limitless.
In podcasting, I have found a definitive voice and viewpoint, something I have always struggled with in writing and in advocacy. I learned to be more forceful with the case I was making, with the evidence I provide, with the drama I use to convey my ideas. I have learned to be less measured and more passionate. Podcasting is a special medium–you can’t rely on body language or facial expressions to reach an audience. It’s just you, the microphone, and your voice.
Every week I fall in love with another new voice. This month, podcasts and their hosts are encouraging listeners to tell their friends and loved ones about podcasts in a social media campaign #trypod. I thought I’d document what’s in my earbuds and encourage others to do the same.
- Code Switch
- Hidden Brain
- The Longest Shortest Time
- Another Round
- Call Your Girlfriend
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I seriously subscribe to all of these shows. And I listen to all of them. Ask my husband. In my free moments, I have one going while I do the dishes, fold the laundry, drive in the car. I look to these hosts and personalities for news and perspectives and information and ideas. And I am constantly inspired, overtaken, arrested, and surprised by the content they create.
I wonder, sometimes, how the little podcasts like ours survive in this wide sea of content. And then I think about how voices and ideas bring us together. And more than blog essays that touch us, voices feel like they are our friends. They fill our spaces and keep us company. To think I could do that for someone else in the world is humbling and exciting.
And I know we’re doing that even if we’re nowhere as big as the big time podcasts like This American Life. Just this week, when our latest episode wouldn’t download, we heard from a listener in South Africa who said she was disappointed not to receive this week’s episode because Matt and I have become standbys in her life.
It’s all I could hope for.