By Gil Shefler September 22, 2016
When Miriam Gottfried was asked to host a podcast version of the Heard on The Street business column she writes for The Wall Street Journal last year, she welcomed the challenge of translating the popular long-running series to audio. She and her co-hosts hunkered down, worked out a format, practiced at the newspaper’s studio, and six weeks later, they took the show live.
Gottfried said she tries to create shows that capture the spirit of natural conversations between investors. That means setting up a comfortable environment where people feel motivated to trade information freely and energetically. “A lot of it is material from our column, but for the podcast we try to take it to the next step using subjects that are more fun or focusing on the really important stuff,” she said. “If you want to get the details hammered out, the written word is always a better format. If you want to take the argument, talk it through and have a more natural thought process, then the podcast is a better fit.”
Gottfried has a background in radio and regularly listens to National Public Radio, so creating the podcast wasn’t that much of a leap. But for print journalists without that background, taking a swing at podcasting might be more of a challenge. As audio storytelling continues to proliferate on the web, drawing more listeners and generating greater profits, more print journalists covering business news are getting enlisted to take part.
Since podcasting emerged circa 2004, the number of listeners aged 12 and over in the U.S. who tune in at least once a month has gone from zero to 21 percent in 2016, according to Edison Research, a media analysis company. According to the same survey, listeners tend to be young, affluent and highly educated—a highly coveted audience for publications to reach.
Today there are about 2,300 podcasts that fall into the category “business news” on iTunes. Aside from programs like WSJ’s Heard On The Street and What’s News, popular business podcasts include NPR’s Planet Money and How I Built This, as well as Gimlet’s Startup and Mike Gazzola’s Easy Residual Income.
Marty Goldensohn, a radio and podcasting veteran who teaches audio storytelling to students at Columbia University’s Journalism School, has a list of tips for newcomers to the medium that cover both technique and form.
If you’re a business writer interested in audio storytelling, you don’t have to have access to a fancy studio or undergo training with an expert to launch your own podcast. Niv Elis picked up some tricks from multiple sources on the web like NPR and carefully listened to his favorite shows before launching The Jerusalem Post’s first podcast back in 2014.
“You really have to experiment with the equipment and software,” said Elis who was the Israeli newspaper’s senior business reporter until recently, when he took a position at The Asia Times, a media outlet based in Hong Kong. “There’s a cost question: Do you pay 700 dollars to make sure you have a great recorder and awesome headphones? Or do you use what’s built in to your computer or mobile? Along the way you learn what sounds okay and what doesn’t.”
For Elis, the podcast was a way to tell stories he couldn’t in print or just communicated better with spoken words. At first, his show took on the form of a news roundup. He interviewed politicians and diplomats, analyzed Middle Eastern politics with experts or spoke about whatever else was in the news with fellow reporters. He invited his colleagues to talk when a story he wanted to cover was on one of their beats. Over time, he began creating more offbeat, quirky stories.
Though he is not working on a podcast in his current position at the Asia Times op-ed page, Elis hopes to return the medium later in his career. “Whether I’m commuting, cycling or just cleaning and cooking, podcasting is a great medium that I love to listen to,” he said.
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