I interviewed three different core users for more project, one in her 20s, one in his 40s, and one is his 60s. All three were interested in the history of musical theater and African-American culture and all three were podcast listeners. I was hoping to test some ideas about what would be most appealing to them in a podcast on the history of Shuffle Along.
It was interesting to find that—despite their interest in musical theater—each person interviewed followed different types of podcasts. The youngest interviewee mostly listened to self-help and interview shows; the 40-year-old subject used podcasts to build his German language skills (listening only to shows in that foreign language); and the 60 plus year old listened to podcasts as they were recommended to him on very specific subjects of interest to him. The 20 year old primarily listened to podcasts through streams on Spotify while driving or working out; the 40 year listened on his iPod while cooking or by “binge listening” a series like “Dolly Parton’s America”; the 60 plus year old only listened on his computer.
When asked what was most appealing to them, all emphasized that they were interested in learning more about how I had researched the history of Shuffle Along as a point of entry. There are several popular podcasts that emphasize the process of discovery—how did the narrator uncover a story. This wasn’t something I initially thought of as an organizing principle, but it does seem to be one that would appeal to my core audience, so I’m now thinking in terms of framing the story as the “hunt” for information about this 100-year-old show.
They all valued hearing original source material—recordings from the period; interviews from the show’s creators—over “talking heads” (current historians) although they emphasized the need for commentary. They emphasized the importance of “setting up” the historical material so it could be understood in terms of today’s cultural norms. They also said that the narrator didn’t have to be a “name” person to interest them.
Finally, my interviews convinced me of the need to focus the series on a single theme. For class, I propose creating a “proof of concept” podcast that would outline the themes, include interviews, recordings, and source materials that would be part of the series, and outline how the theme would be used to shape the content of a 6-8 episode series.