We Need Podcast Critics - with Keelin Peterson

We Need Podcast Critics - with Keelin Peterson
We Need Podcast Critics - with Keelin Peterson

Jun 23 2022 | 00:29:27

Episode June 23, 2022 00:29:27

Hosted By

Stuart Barefoot

Show Notes

Keelin Peterson runs the website Mentally a Magpie where she reviews podcasts. She joins Audience to discuss what she looks for in a podcast and how thoughtful, objective criticism can help podcasting. 



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Episode Transcript

Speaker 0 00:00:00 In a podcast series called gene and Roger Brian Rafferty makes the argument that back in the seventies and eighties, gene, Cisco, and Roger Ebert changed the idea of what it meant to be a film critic. There's simple method of thumbs up or down made film reviewing accessible while also providing insight into good film making. They even had their own show on PBS called sneak previews. That first aired in 1975 and before along was syndicated on hundreds of stations all over the country. They basically created a sub genre of entertainment that to this day influences how we think about art. So if two critics can do so much for filmmaking, what could critics do for podcasting? Speaker 2 00:00:42 Critiquing is how can this be improved on how can something get better? Speaker 0 00:00:51 Next, you'll hear from a podcast critic about what she looks for in a podcast and what critics can do to help podcasters my name's Stewart. And this is audience, a Casto original series. Speaking of helping podcasters there's Casto at Casto. We have integrative tools that make podcasting a bit simpler. Like with Stripe, for instance, you can create a private podcast through the Casto app and accept payments directly from your listeners. So no more clunky add algorithms that really don't generate that much income, no more middleman, take a 30% cut. It's a direct payment from your audience to you. Simple, learn more@casto.com or click on the link of the show notes. Speaker 2 00:01:42 I looked at apple podcasts and I'm like these aren't reviews when you're looking at an app and they're getting the five star reviews or the seven word reviews, those aren't reviews necessarily. They're not telling me why I should listen. They might say, oh, they're funny. Or, oh my gosh, I hate their voice. That's not telling me about the podcast. That's just telling me your surface level opinion. Speaker 0 00:02:09 That's Kelin Peterson. She runs a website called mentally at mag pie where she reviews podcasts. Sometimes she'll review an entire series like Malcolm. Gladwell's a legacy of speed. And other times she'll highlight specific episodes often from Lester known creators, Kean study theater, production, and college, and currently works in a theater administrative role, but like a lot of people, she found herself with some more downtime on her hands during the pandemic and used that downtime to begin writing book and podcast reviews. After a brief hiatus, Iran Ahed from great pods, encouraged her to write more reviews and she did Iran. Quest seems to be more in line with not so much a movement, but we'll call it maybe an increased interest in seeing more podcast reviewers, think about it. Other mediums like books, music, TV, and film, all have scores of reviewers. And when done thoughtfully and mostly objectively, they can help us gain a new perspective on the work we love. So as podcasting continues to distinguish itself as a legit medium critics, like Kelan are finding their footing. Speaker 2 00:03:17 I didn't start listening to podcasts ever with the intention of critiquing them. I started listening in college. It was kind of, I at one point had an about an hour and 15 minute commute across lots of farmland, which is kind of a boring commute. And I got sick of listening to music. And so I started listening to podcasts. I started with stuff you should know, stuff you missed in history class, that little egg of media that used to be how stuff works. And then I started also listening to welcome to Nightvale and it all just kinda hooked in really, really hard <laugh> and it was the thing that ended up aligning really well and continuing on with my life. And then my personal life. It turns out the person I now share my life with is a live audio engineer. So I think it was just kind of a perfect storm of it just clicked. I had always been a reader. I'd always been interested in art media in general. I'm not so much of a TV person, funnily enough, but podcasting is where everything just kinda landed and sunk and stuck. And then I was obsessed Speaker 4 00:04:48 Your degree in theater and Spanish literature and being trained by other professionals in the world of art and entertainment. What are you listening to when you listen to a, or what are you listening for rather when you listen to a podcast and I guess sort of, maybe this is kind of hard to, to pin down. So just try your best. So that I guess to you, what, what distinguishes a podcast that's done well, and one that maybe isn't Speaker 2 00:05:12 When it comes to podcasting there, in my opinion, there is a blend of obviously overall production. Whereas that's putting together the literal sound bites to tell a story or to achieve your objective or your goal, but there's inherently a writing aspect to it. There's the overall production writing where you're kinda looking at what some might call a storyboard of. We're gonna go from a, to B to C and then there's the more lined align, almost the script writing. So when I'm listening, there is a definite difference between someone who is either talented or knows what they're doing when it comes to speaking for audio or writing for audio, excuse me, writing for audio, because that is a very different thing than what you're sitting with, a book and reading, and then there's just the overall, how does this come together? And for me, what I'm looking for a lot of the time is ease of listening and how engaging something is. Speaker 2 00:06:19 So take, for example, something like hardcore history with it, six hour episodes, it's incredibly detailed research. It's good writing. Dan Carlin does excellent writing, but it's not necessarily the easiest podcast to listen to. If you're just kind of floating around and doing your Bob, Tobo, whatever you're doing versus something like stuff you missed in history class, they're easy to listen to. They're very talented at writing for themselves and their audio and to make something more accessible. So Dan Carlin isn't necessarily writing for everyone. And that's important to know because not everyone is going to listen to the six hours of his episodes. I have at least one season, but maybe more people are going to listen to something like stuffy missed in history class that has the shorter, more conversational tone to learn. And so both are, are achieving an objective, both have a more targeted audience. Speaker 2 00:07:29 And how successful are they at communicating to that audience? Both are very successful. It's just, who is it for? And determining who that is for is kind of just knowing, is it gonna be more technical writing? Is it more detailed writing stuff you missed in history class? They have a conversation with each other. They sound like friends over a coffee table who happen to be really knowledgeable about whatever they're talking about that day. Dan Carlin is more of narration and that at least in my opinion, that's not as easy to listen to all the time, or that's not as easy. It's harder to follow because it becomes very uniform. So those are kind of the things that, and just using those two somewhat bigger examples to talk about two podcasts that have a relatively similar objective in the history space, but also not for the same audience. And that's important to kind of distinguish who's your audience? What are we looking to do? Are we looking to just entertain? Just educate. Are we looking at making a 15 minute something or other, are we making something longer, that's over an hour and how do we achieve those goals within what we've set? Speaker 4 00:08:42 Just as someone who's again like a, a connoisseur of, of the arts in general, whether it's a podcast, whether it's music, whether it's, whether it's a book in your mind, you know, what does a reviewer do for you? In other words, you know, I'll, I'll give you an example, right? I, I listen to a lot of music. I watch a lot of TV shows. If the AV club does a good profile on an album, I'm gonna listen to that album. So that, that does a lot for me because I, I, I trust reviewers, you know, there's no way I think with everything that's out there, there's so much, there's so much entertainment out there. There's no way you're just gonna know about everything. So sometimes you do need that filter of all right. I trust this outlet. I trust this person. If they say it's good, it's gonna be worth my time to go check it out. So do you have a similar relationship to the criticism like that? And what, what, I guess, in other words in general, like what do you think like critics do for, for art? Speaker 2 00:09:34 I think critics have sort of two different roles in art, and this is something that I'm trying to figure out with my writing and what I'm doing. Cause I've only been doing this somewhat seriously for like a year. What I, I see obviously for the audience, the critic is for an audience to say, Hey, this is, this might be a really funny movie, but it's not maybe the best acted, but it's still funny and it's worth it. If you just wanna laugh and be entertained for an hour and a half. And then there's also for the artists where critiquing is, how can this be improved on how can something get better? And that's a more difficult thing in the podcasting world because there is such a lower barrier of entry to this medium, which I think is honestly, I think it's more of a boon than it is a curse, even though some people might honestly think the opposite. Speaker 2 00:10:29 I think it's more of a boon because it helps more voices get out there and to say things and people who maybe aren't gonna be able to get into the film industry or something, because it has such a high barrier of entry. They're still able to get something out in a sense of diversity and listening to everyone's voices because everyone has a voice. So the critic also is someone who can help someone get better by breaking it down into a more technical term, not necessarily as a producer, but as a listener, because a producer is gonna look at things very differently than a listener will, especially a more casual listener or the listener that you're just gonna, even if they, they are interested in it super into podcasting, you gotta be able to grab them. And the producer is thinking about those things, but I think the producer is thinking them about it from the standpoint of making the podcast, not listening to it. And so you have that separation even it's very fine and subtle separation, but it is there and it exists because it's a subtle separation because it's the perspective, it's the perspective thing. And where is your main perspective coming from? And the critic is coming as a listener. Yes. Some of them might end up producers or might produce their own podcasts. But I do think it's different when your foot isn't in the door as the person creating it, versus the outside perspective. Speaker 4 00:12:04 I'm a big believer in, we should be treating podcasting similar to how we do other mediums. Uh, I don't think collectively we do a great job of that necessarily. And so I think having, you know, I think having critics be a part of the conversation should be more normal. Speaker 2 00:12:20 Yeah. That's actually why I started reviewing podcasts a little bit. I did start off trying to do book reviews and kind of the book Instagram world. And then I was like, why isn't anyone doing this for podcasts? And it was never my intention to like, become an influencer, anything like that. Like that's not the goal here. The goal is literally because I looked at apple podcasts and I'm like, these aren't reviews when you're looking at an app and they're getting the five star reviews or the seven word reviews, those aren't reviews necessarily. They're not telling me why I should listen. They might say, oh, they're funny. Or, oh my gosh, I hate their voice. That's not telling me about the podcast. That's just telling me your surface level opinion, which when you're having a conversation with your friend over a coffee table, your surface level opinion can get somewhere. But a lot of people underestimate what it takes to be able to say why something is good or why even why they like something, why they like, or why they dislike something, they just kind of have that surface level. And it's harder for them to go deeper just because they haven't had the exposure or the training. Like I have, Speaker 4 00:13:40 I've never once actually read an apple review and taken it to heart. And I think a lot of it and here, I mean, here's a little, you know, insider, not even like an insider secret, sometimes people are just very, very blunt about this. You know, I've seen podcasters before say, Hey, if you go and leave us a five star review, send us a screenshot of that. We'll send you access, like to our free ebook or something like that. That's not an objective review. And it's also very algorithmic, right? I mean, if you have more five star reviews on apple podcast, you're going to, to get boosted. And so a lot of times you have like listeners and, and fans of the show who, you know, with good intentions are trying to help out because we've all heard that host say before RA interview on apple podcast so we can help spread the word. So it's not something really that, you know, I I've ever put much stock in. So do you feel like podcast criticism and, and critics, I think reviewing, you know, different types of podcasts, do you think that helps solve for like what I'll call the discoverability problem? Speaker 2 00:14:37 I think it might. I mean, that also is on the Podcaster's side for how they're going to do their, uh, the term that we started kind of using was gorilla marketing, how you're going to do that gorilla marketing in the sense of like, when I tweet out, Hey, I'm looking for a podcast this long, that was one of the ones I did. I was looking for podcast 15 minutes or less just to kinda see what was out there. And also I needed to address my listening with my career change in my life changing. And some people would just send me a link and that's it. And so how you work that around, I think a critic can be a help, especially as you know, I feel like we're slowly becoming more and more known. Cause that's the other thing we're not, we're barely known at this point. Speaker 2 00:15:36 Um, as we're getting more and more known, reaching out to us will help you, but also how you reach out to anyone to get a review or to just listen, don't just drop a link, say a few words, even say, hello. I think you might like my podcast. It's about X, Y, or Z. Give me a format, give me something other than just the link and give your listeners that too. The people who you're targeting, give them a, I saw you were talking about this podcast. My podcast is similar or different in this way. And I think you might like it. It's a lot of work, but give something <laugh> because the critics, we can only do so much. We can only help so much. And that's something that I've been seeing that I wanted to touch on when I'm, as I'm talking to more and more people is how do the small podcasters reach out and get noticed? You get noticed by doing more than just dropping a link. Speaker 4 00:16:32 All right. So here's a good example of when someone did that for you. So this is a podcast you reviewed, it's good Nicks, uh, a podcast that you yeah. And, and that really, I think, you know, you, you mentioned, you know, a podcast being, you know, a little bit shorter in length, these ones are pretty short and length. And you mentioned that, you know, you, you had a message from tin media pop up in your inbox one day, introducing you to the concept of good Nicks. So we're gonna listen to a clip. I'll give you a little bit of context first. Uh, good Nicks is a podcast, uh, by Anna Lisa, a she's a social worker who decided to make a podcast. That's exploring people who are doing good in the world, a pretty broad topic, but they do a really good job of narrowing it down. This comes from episode two, a 14 minute episode where the subject of the story where the subjects of the story, AKA known as the good KNS, uh, share the moment said inspire them to start doing, uh, good in the world. So here's Emily say she's gonna be chatting with a neonatal nurse named Jennifer. Uh, and this is the moment that inspired her to start doing good Speaker 5 00:17:31 Nursing school is nothing but nerves in competition. And so everybody's pacing and I'm sitting on the floor, <laugh> that floor I'm sitting on the ground, outside the building crying and the professor Dr. Jack Pennington <laugh>. He comes out and he sees me crying. And he looks at me and emotions for me to come with him. And this was, this was one of those just, oh, amazing professors, unapproachable and emotions for me to come with him. And I stopped crying cuz I'm in so much shock. And he walked with me and we walked across the street and you know, he's a doctor and he's got his white coat on and he pulls a pipe out of his pocket and he starts smoking a pipe and walking with me through this parking garage and it's a deep cherry tobacco and I can still smell it. And he basically asked me why I was doing this, which was one of the first assignments he ever gave us was to write why we wanted to be a nurse. And maybe that's why he picked me to walk with him. But he started walking with me and he talked me off a ledge and I to this day will never understand what he saw in me or why he picked me, but he became my mentor and he carried me through nursing school. And it was so full of so many ups and downs and dramas. Speaker 4 00:18:49 So let's ignore that this person got inspired by a, a doctor who smokes a pipe and <laugh> seems counterintuitive. But uh, well tell me what you liked about it. I, I have a lot of thoughts on this clip. In this, this episode, in this podcast, Speaker 2 00:19:02 There are two reasons why I decided to review Goodnights. Well, probably three. One is that I feel like everyone is on this hyper hyper awareness of how much the world can suck right now. And in our current timeframe, we're in that like, wow, the world really has the capacity to suck. And dream scrolling is a thing that I think all of us do and all of us get stuck in at some point. And I wanted to highlight something that was not doom scrolling that was still giving us a day to day idea of no they're still good in the world. And the good in the world are going, are sometimes gonna be the people that are the ones that you don't necessarily realize are the good ones. Even though they're kind of the supposed to be like the nurses, the doctors, the teachers, you know, these are all like everyday people who are still on the ground doing great things and good things and trying to make the world a better place. Speaker 2 00:20:07 Even when it sucks. Two is that I wanted and I still do to a certain extent, want to highlight shorter podcasts because I want to help people start listening to podcasts that aren't the serials or, you know, those big podcasts, because most people only listen to two or three. Really not everyone is a super listener like I am. And I wanted to say, Hey, there's some other things that might be out there that are also doses of positivity and good. Another one that I really like that's short is calm it down pod with Chad Lawson, that one's like five minutes. And then I also thought the production quality itself was good. It's easy to listen to they're good storytellers. They picked people who could talk well. And they were able to put it together in a small little package of, Hey, let's, let's have this reminder, let's have this good thing. And I think that's, what's important. And sometimes we need to highlight not only what we think is good, but also what we think people might need. Speaker 4 00:21:22 You know, you mentioned the format. When I was working with Evo Tara to produce three clips, he made a really brilliant comment once about the difference between people who are making a podcast or replicating a podcast they've heard and the people who are making radio or making audio and what he was getting at was, you know, a lot of people without much experience will record an entire conversation, put an intro at the beginning, an outro at the end. And that's the podcast. They very easily could have done this for good Nicks. They obviously talked, looks like the dozens and dozens of people they had on that episode alone. I think five different, good Nicks represented. Uh, but they didn't do that. You know, they, they took the best of each conversation. They narrowed it down to the bare bones. What's the most important and then presented it almost as a montage and a collection. Speaker 4 00:22:09 I know you mentioned in your review, there's part of you that wished maybe they could have gotten a little bit deeper into each character, but at the same time, I think it's a very effective way to present this. And it's again, it's, it's a very it's I think it hits the need for good structure within a podcast. Uh, this was an idea that could have been executed very poorly, could have been really clunky, but a little bit of structure and formatting I think really turned what was just kind of a nice sweet idea and into a really, really good, very well produced podcast. Speaker 0 00:22:41 So talking with a podcast critic, I figured it would be worth asking for some podcast recommendations. Speaker 2 00:22:48 I will always kind of go back home to stuff you missed in history class. That was one of the first podcasts that I really got into. And now I don't listen to it regularly, but I find in intense moments of life stress, I revert back to that podcast, which I think is I realize that recently and I was like, oh, I'm stressed. I'm listening to stuffy missed in history class. That says something to me. One of the podcasts that I wish had more of a following that I'm realizing doesn't is 20,000 Hertz, which 20,000 Hertz is produced by Dallas Taylor who has his own audio company de facto sound. He runs de factacto sound Dallas Taylor. And so he does have that edge on, you know, anyone who just kind of pops in and throws a microphone in front of their face. He has an edge, but 20,000 Hertz, what is one of the most fascinating podcasts to me? Speaker 2 00:23:55 Because I remember I was working building a summer stage. This was right when I was starting college, I was working, building a stage outdoors that had to be, uh, taken down and put up every summer because the hill that they, uh, used as their amphitheater, they also liked to use for sledding in the winter <laugh>. And I was talking to an, a guy who was dabbling in audio engineering and okay. He wasn't dabbling, he did audio engineering too. And he said, if you go and sit in a room and you just listen, you will hear so much more than silence. You don't hear silence. Silence really doesn't exist, even though we like to think it does, but you're gonna start hearing what they call kind of the ambient noise. You're gonna hear the birds outside, maybe the fan running the air conditioner, running sounds of the, just the building itself. Speaker 2 00:24:58 And what I like about 20,000 her is that it takes and talks about sound in a very loving way. But also the sounds that we don't necessarily think about like the AC running. Now, he obviously doesn't talk about the AC sound, but it's that idea of, he talks about the Netflix did, um, um, one of my favorite episodes was the train station or the subway station announcer voices. And so I like that podcast a lot because of that and the, because of the simplicity of what he's kind of talking about and how it's not simple at the same time and just how well it's put together, it just blew me away. And I really wish that more people would kind of take a second, maybe listen to one or two episodes, podcasters and non podcaster and just listeners alike, take a couple seconds and listen to that pod and kind of learn what audio storytelling can be in a different way, because yes, we have audio drama, especially as the spacial audio, 3d audio, whatever you wanna call it, there are way more technical terms for that. But as that becomes more accessible and popular to use in podcasting were getting somewhere different with audio drama, but storytelling can still be in a docu style conversation can still be this absolutely beautiful thing. And that's what I think 20,000 Herz kind of brings to the table is that it's. So at least to me, beautiful the way he puts his audio together. I also wanna say it's important to me that the people backstage sometimes get, get a voice too. So I wanted to throw that one in there. Speaker 4 00:26:48 So we're at the point of the conversation where now I just, uh, like to ask, is there anything that you feel like I should have asked that I haven't, or as you've thought about our conversation for the past week or so that you were hoping to get to share that you haven't yet I'd like to turn the floor back over to you to give you that opportunity. Speaker 2 00:27:03 I guess what I wanna say is I would like to say is give everything a chance every once in a while, just try and give something a chance that you may not. Yes, I'm talking about podcasting in this instant, but I also think that that's anywhere in life, give a TV show, give a podcast, give something a movie or a new restaurant, a chance, try it once and try it for a decent amount of time. You know, you have, I think it's Spotify that now doesn't let you review the podcast unless you've listened to at least like 45 seconds of it or something, give something new, a chance as this medium is growing, especially because you really don't know what you're gonna find. And I think that's kind of the beauty of podcasting is just, there are so many different types of things that you can do and you can learn and you can get out of podcasting that I don't think this industry even knows the extent of what that is yet. And the only way that any of us can start figuring out where we're gonna go or listeners can figure out that they really like this too, is just giving something a chance Speaker 4 00:28:17 To read four reviews by Kean, check out mentally@magpie.com. You could learn more about Casto by clicking on the link of the show notes. Speaker 6 00:28:31 Hey there, listener it's Matt, before you go, I want to offer you the aspiring podcaster two special items. Number one, if you haven't started a podcast yet, or you want to find a better podcast hosting company, start here at casts. Use our coupon code audience 20 that's audience two zero. When you sign up for a new account@casts.com, start a podcast like the one you just heard or about gluten free muffins, whatever it is will help you get your podcast out into the world. Number two, did you know that our academy is free enrolled today for free@academydotcasto.com. Get access to our courses, videos and templates all for free. Thanks for listening to the audience podcast today. We hope we're helping you become a better podcaster. All that's left for you to do is share this episode on social media buy for now.

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