The Power of Podcasting: Telling Stories Through Sound

Here are some highlights from this 2022 book:

* One of the signature tropes in podcasting is the centrality of the host, as a character in their own right. Radio presenters have historically been popular figures with dedicated followings, but podcast hosts do not have to abide by the proprieties of broadcasting – they can reveal themselves as real people, with foibles, fears, strengths and weaknesses. Even the term podcast ‘host’ versus radio ‘presenter’ is a giveaway. A host is someone who invites you to their home, or some personal part of their life; a ‘presenter’ is a professional communicator.

* Pre – podcasting, a radio documentary presenter would normally stick closely to the topic in question, with tightly honed narration flowing into interview excerpts or layered over relevant sounds. But in a narrative podcast, where show duration is not a constraint, there is room for meta – scenes that allow listeners to peek into the host’s life and ‘witness’ the production procedure.

* “In radio, everything is held within the confines of the broadcasting clock. Ideas are explored in blocks of 15, 30, 45 minutes precisely. But in podcasting time is fluid, unconstrained. On Field Recordings , for example, episodes range from 30 seconds to 54 minutes long – the space expanding or contracting as the idea demands. When I’m editing for radio I can almost sense the timings in my body without looking as I pace something out, knowing what that duration feels like, thinking about how to hold the feeling whilst expanding or contracting work to fit the parameters of the time frame.”

* Audio has always been the most intimate of mediums. It’s a lot to do with the connecting power of voice, which allows us to hear so much more than words. We can detect how someone feels as well as what they say: their tone, their timbre, their delivery all provide clues that help us develop a sense of who is speaking. Accent can build character, as can idiom and rhythm: all provide sensory information that is missing on the page.
Sound adds its own magic: it’s porous and enveloping. You don’t have ‘earlids’ that can switch it off, as the Canadian composer R Murray Schafer points out. He memorably wrote that ‘hearing is a way of touching at a distance’.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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