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February 19 2014

November 12 2013

Discovery Problem: Why It's So Hard to Find New Podcasts

Postcasts have a serious discovery problem.

As a medium, it's hot right now. It’s building loyal and potentially lucrative communities around niche topics. Independent producers are finding success, fame and even a little money. But as a technology and an industry, podcasting has failed at connecting people with content in a dynamic and efficient way. There’s no Spotify for podcasting.

When it comes to podcasts, people are just lost. They don’t know where to start

Late this summer, a party-crashing podcast appeared. After about a year of modest growth, Welcome to Night Vale suddenly unseated This American Life from the No. 1 spot in iTunes’ Top 10 List. For a virtual unknown like Night Vale, this is a huge accomplishment Read more...

More about Podcast, Podcasting, Itunes, Podcasting Failure, and This American Life

October 31 2013

'Welcome to Night Vale' Is the Eerie Podcast You're Dying to Hear

"A friendly desert community where the sun is hot, the moon is beautiful, and mysterious lights pass overheard while we all pretend to sleep. Welcome to Night Vale."

That calm, soothing voice communicates everything you need to know about the weirdest little town in the middle of nowhere. The words greet listeners in the first episode Welcome to Night Vale, a bi-weekly podcast created by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor

The podcast presents a fictional radio broadcast from the desert town of Night Vale, emceed by its most popular radio host, Cecil Baldwin. Cecil discusses the daily occurrences of the town: news from the forbidden dog park, a new revelation from Old Woman Josie and her angels, or the mayoral race between The Faceless Old Woman Who Secretly Lives in Your Home (played by Mara Wilson) and the five-headed dragon fugitive Hiram McDaniels (played by Jackson Publick) Read more...

More about Entertainment, Podcast, Radio, Features, and Halloween

April 06 2011

Top 4 Tips for Creating a Podcast for Your Small Business

This post originally appeared on the American Express OPEN Forum, where Mashable regularly contributes articles about leveraging social media and technology in small business.

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Podcasts are an interesting challenge for small businesses. They require a little more know-how, energy and time than signing up for Twitter, Facebook or even Foursquare. But they’re not nearly as daunting as you might think, and they offer an excellent opportunity to build a unique audience and generate leads for your business.

The number one tip to starting a podcast is to really enjoy what you’re talking about. It sounds simple. But that passion and enthusiasm for your subject matter is what will capture your audience and launch your podcast above any minor technical shortcomings.

“Technical shortcomings,” you ask? Don’t worry, below we cover some basic tips and tools to get you up to speed. No one is expecting a small business podcast to be flawless out of the gate. They will, however, be looking for your voice, passion and know-how. Read on for four tips to creating a podcast for your own business and don’t forget to share your own experiences in the comments below.

Understanding Podcasts

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Podcasts are not extraordinarily difficult to understand. They are simply audio files released through the web on a — more or less — regular basis. While iTunes has become a sort of hub for podcasts, it is not the only way to package and distribute your podcast. Many successful podcasters post their shows on their own sites. This is a good alternative if you want to ramp up your exposure slowly while you get the hang of the format.

Like a YouTube video, podcasts don’t really have a set time limit. They can range from just a couple minutes to upwards of two hours. In the beginning, aim for shorter lengths as you hone your podcast format and presentation chops. You can always make your show longer as your audience asks for more.

But unlike YouTube videos, podcasts rely more heavily on subscriptions, meaning people actually sign up to receive your podcast whenever it comes out (though they can listen without subscribing).

Subscriptions are a blessing and a curse: It is more difficult to attract subscribers, but once you have them signed up, your podcast will have a more reliable fan base week over week.

It’s important to release your podcast on a regular basis. It can be one a day, one a week, one a month, or even longer. Establish a comfortable release schedule and stick to it — your fans will learn to look for your podcast and you’ll help build loyalty. Remember to create a schedule that will give you adequate time for your planned features. For example, if you’re doing an interview-based podcast, make sure you leave enough space between podcasts to find guests and interview them. While you can of course add or remove sections of your podcast, your fans will figure out when this is a planned change and when you simply ran out of time.

Talk About Your Passion

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This should be a bit of a no-brainer — talk about something you like to talk about. If that topic is already saturated with top-notch podcasts, try to find a content angle that is unique to you or mix up the format of the show. “People can speak well about the things they care about the most,” says Jesse Thorn, a host of several popular podcasts including The Sound of Young America. That enthusiasm and passion can compensate for inexperience as a presenter or podcast personality.

The most important thing is to give value to the listener, whether that is a laugh or useful information. Thorn acknowledges that it was hard to hit the sweet spot between entertaining your audience and giving them tips. But that balance often depends on more than just your skill in front of a mic. “If you’re in the middle of a tornado, your ‘tornado podcast’ can have the most boring host in the world,” Thorn says. “The more useful and valuable you can make your content, the more a listener will tolerate your relative skill or lack thereof as a presenter.”

Another option is to create two podcasts, one that is business-based and another one where you can be a little sillier and play around with format, says Peter Wells, host of film podcast FulltimeCasual and MacTalk. “For people who have never recorded before, the only way you’re going to get better is to constantly record yourself.” A silly side-project can be a good, stress-free way to hone your craft away from your business podcast.

Still, it all comes down to speaking about your passion. “Just find whatever it is,” Wells says. “If you’re making bottle caps as a business, and you think no one in their right mind is going to think about listening to a show on bottle caps, well, you’re probably right. But there’s probably something about what you do that can be interesting… find that idea and bring it to the table.”

The Right Equipment

The really good news is that you don’t have to break the bank on expensive gear. “The essential skills of podcasting are knowing that you have to have a microphone for everyone that’s talking and knowing the basics of using a microphone,” Thorn says. “Beyond that you can form a solution that could cost $20 to my recording set-up which probably costs, in total, $5,000.” It’s possible to spend five times that on top-notch mics, baffles, and other sound paraphernalia — but ultimately it’s the content that is king.

Wells says he records much of his show through Skype because it allows him and his friends to have better conversations, and it gives him more flexibility to find and record guests that may be further afield. Despite the drop in audio quality, Wells says his numbers have actually gone up since the switch to Skype last year. “Always record with the best quality upfront, but don’t kill yourself over it,” Well says. “If you can get a better guest by recording over the Internet (which you probably will be able to do), I’d say yeah, go for it.”

Wells has a quick tip if you plan to record over the Internet: Have your group of speakers download and use the same recording program and have them all record the podcast and upload it to one source. You’ll get clearer sound and have a couple safety nets in case one Internet connection cuts out during the conversation. Wells recommends using Levelator, free software that helps balance your sound levels.

Perhaps the single best advice is to get up-to-speed with an audio editing program. You won’t have to do anything crazy, but just even basic knowledge like how to cut a track or remove awkward pauses can make a podcast sound infinitely more professional. There are classes and online tutorials for many of the available programs, but often the best way to learn is to download a copy and start playing around. Mac users can use Garageband for a bare-bones option or join PC users and download Audacity for a solid starting block.

Dos and Don’ts

Thorn and Wells offer some golden rules of podcasting — what to do and what to definitely avoid. Thorn says simple is often best. “Many of the most popular and useful podcasts are short, tight and simple. Generally speaking, the simpler the better, and often a part of that is making it shorter. You reduce the chance of trying your audience’s patience.”

Thorn also says to know why you’re making a podcast in the first place. He turns away from podcasts that don’t know who they’re for or are more about the presenter than their prospective audience. “Like any form of web publishing, you’ll be much more profitable talking about and recommending other people than recommending yourself. You don’t have to do a podcast about your business, you can do a podcast about your field of expertise … A PR podcast? No one wants to hear that.”

Well’s comes back to the fun factor — his golden rule is to do something you really want to do and can have fun talking about. He says to avoid direct confrontation during podcasts. “There are ways to argue with someone without attacking them.” The best podcasts are ones that express opinion without making their guests feel like idiots. Finally, if podcasting just isn’t in your blood, Wells suggests finding an existing show that fits into your field and consider sponsoring or pitching them to gain access to their established audience.

Podcasting is not the easiest thing in the world. It is, however, a lot easier than it first seems. It can establish you as an expert in your field and give you access to a whole new audience set. Let us know if you plan to jump into the podcasting deep-end and share your own experiences in the comments below.

Interested in more Business resources? Check out Mashable Explore, a new way to discover information on your favorite Mashable topics.

Image courtesy of Flickr, Rusty Sheriff, cybass

More About: business, MARKETING, podcast, small business, tips

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March 25 2011

7 Tips for Launching a Successful Podcast

Brian Casel is a web designer and co-host of Freelance Jam, the live web show for independent professionals who build the web. Connect with Brian on Twitter @CasJam.

Podcasts are among the oldest types of syndicated content on the web. Yet the format remains a popular choice among content producers looking to connect with a wide audience. Audio podcasts were the norm for many years, but video has taken the podcasting world to new heights.

In this article, I’ll to walk you through the steps necessary to ensure your video podcast gets off to a great start. We’ll cover everything from conception to technical set up, promotion, and monetization. Every podcast is different, but this guide should help you navigate your way through the process and hopefully spark some broadcasting inspiration.

1. Choose a Topic You’re Passionate About

Before you hit record, it’s a good idea to give serious thought to why you’re starting this podcast in the first place. And don’t take this step lightly! Starting a podcast takes a lot of hard work (maybe more than you think). Not everybody is cut out for it. But we’ll assume that you are.

A good starting point is to figure out which topic you can talk about naturally and endlessly. Your true passion. We all have one. What’s yours? A good measure is to do a test show with no notes or preparation whatsoever. Can you fill 30 to 60 minutes just talking about your topic off the top of your head and make it interesting? Good! You found your topic.

Now, search iTunes for other podcasts in your niche. Did you choose a crowded niche with many existing podcasts? Try to think of ways to differentiate your show from theirs. For example, you can choose a sub-niche with a more targeted audience.

2. Brand Your Podcast

Now that you’ve chosen your topic, it’s time to start crafting your podcast. Just like creating products or services, your podcast is its own brand. Branding your podcast starts with choosing a good name.

Pick something that is both memorable and speaks to your topic/audience. It’s my opinion that direct, descriptive names work better than abstract or overly creative names. Before you can hook your audience with your killer smile and groundbreaking content, you’ll need them to tune in. That’s why your podcast name needs to jump out and grab them. Remember that much of your audience will be discovering your podcast via iTunes or Google search. So it’s a good idea to include a keyword or two within your show’s name.

Next, you’ll need a logo. For a podcast, it’s important to come up with an attention grabbing logo and a show image for your iTunes listing. Again, it’s about crafting your brand to stand out in iTunes podcast search results.

3. Format and Structure

Will this be an audio or video podcast? It’s my belief that video podcasts have an easier time gaining traction with an audience simply because they are more personal. Aside from offering valuable content, you’re selling your personality, and video is the most effective and authentic way to do that. It’s a good idea to offer an audio-only version of the podcast for those who prefer to listen and don’t want to download bulky video files.

Now we need to structure the show. Let’s start with your schedule. Once a week? Once a month? Whatever schedule you choose, be sure to keep it consistent. A quick way to lose audience members is to release a show four weeks in a row, then go on hiatus for several months. People appreciate a regular schedule, and even a regular day of the week.

Finally, you need to choose your show length. Break it down into segments and allot a certain amount of time to each segment. I believe 30 to 50 minutes is a good length for an episode as it’s long enough to pack in quality, in-depth conversation, and short enough to fit within the typical work commute. Some prefer quick episodes of under 20 minutes each. Again, consistency is key. You don’t want to set your audience’s expectation for 45 minute episodes, then do a 15 minute episode.

4. Plan Your Content

Now it’s time to map out the most important aspect of your podcast, the content. Podcasts are no exception to the adage “content is king.” Your topics, conversation flow, personality, and overall engagement are what will ultimately determine the success of your podcast.

It’s a good idea to keep a running list of show topics. As soon as an idea strikes, note it down and plan it for an upcoming show. One way my co-host Dave and I come up with topics is to simply recognize when we stumble upon a great topic for a show. We’ll be having a spontaneous chat, talking shop about freelancing and web design, when suddenly it’s apparent we’ve hit on something interesting and relevant for the show. Write it down.

Some podcasts break each episode into segments. If your niche is somehow tied to current events, it may be a good idea to cover news topics as part of your show. Perhaps a guest interview is a main component in your format. Plan for each of these segments and keep in mind the timing and flow of each.

Finally, it’s beneficial to think about some kind of script for your show. This will be different for everyone. My preference is to have a few sentences written out beforehand to use as the introduction to the show; something to get it off to a strong start and introduce the topic and guest properly. The rest of the show’s topics are planned using short bullet lists indicating which points I want to hit on.

The idea is to make sure I’m covering what I want to cover, while keeping the delivery natural and somewhat improvised. Again, it’s up to you to find the right balance.

5. Record, Broadcast, and Edit Your Podcast

Now on to some of the technical aspects for creating a video podcast. Surprisingly, there are quite a few tools needed to piece together a working podcast. Here are the ones we use:

Blue Yeti USB Condensor Microphone — I strongly recommend investing in a quality microphone. It will drastically improve the audio quality of your show. The Yeti USB mic is reasonably priced and it delivers great sound.

Skype — All of our shows start with a Skype video chat. Now that Skype 5 includes the ability to have video conference calls, it’s a perfect choice for having a three-way conversation. Plus, the sheer popularity of Skype makes it easy on our guests who are already comfortable using the platform for online conversation.

ScreenFlow — This is a great app for recording and editing screencasts. It’s easy to use and packs in powerful editing features.

Blip.tv — With the finished recording edited and exported, it’s time to put it up on the web and submit it to the iTunes podcast directory. Luckily, Blip.tv makes all of this very easy. Plus it’s got great reporting tools to check the popularity and reach of your podcast.

BoinxTV — BoinxTV serves as our virtual control room, allowing us to produce a live web broadcast for our show. It has features to allow for quick switching between cameras and screens and other visual effects like captions and transitions.

Justin.tv or UStream — Both are viable options for when you want to broadcast live on the web. We feed our output from BoinxTV into one of these services to fire up the live show. We then embed the video and chat room right on our website for the audience to participate live.

CamTwist — This little utility allows us to route the video feed between BoinxTV and Justin.tv or UStream.

Audio Hijack Pro — This fun little app is used to route the audio from Skype into BoinxTV. Be sure to check out the psychedelic sound effects you can apply in the process!

Skype Call Recorder — This plugin for Skype adds functionality to let you record a Skype call. This can be useful if you’re only interested in making a recorded podcast (not broadcasting live). Plus, it comes packaged with handy utilities for splitting a conversation into individual movie files, and stripping an MP3 audio file from your movie file.

6. Grow Your Audience

With your podcast created and released to the world, now comes the hard part: promoting your podcast and growing your audience.

I’m a believer that if you focus your efforts on creating the most interesting and engaging content possible, you will naturally attract an audience and grow a community around your work. But there are a few things you can do to help move things forward:

  • Have a solid website. Something professional, clean and simple. The focus is your podcast, so let the design of your site support that. I recommend going with a quality, premium WordPress theme to get up and running quickly.
  • Build community around your podcast. Encourage your audience to participate in your live chat (if you have one). Ask for feedback, conduct surveys and polls, keep a close eye on your podcast’s analytics (via blip.tv). Know which topics garner the most interest from your audience and let your audience help shape the direction of your podcast.
  • Sharing is great. Ratings are better. As with any web content, social media integration is a must for your podcast to help your audience spread the word faster. If your podcast is largely distributed via iTunes, you’ll want to encourage subscribers to rate and review your podcast to help boost its standing within the iTunes directory. This is one of the best ways for your audience to help you get discovered.

7. Monetize Your Podcast

Just like starting a blog, starting a podcast should be about quality, authentic content first and monetization second. You can’t have the latter without the former. That said, there are several methods to monetize your podcast which are worth considering:

  • Try to sell advertising placements on your show. Just like advertising on a blog, this requires a significant audience in order to bring in real revenue. It also runs the risk of turning off your audience who may not want to hear plugs in between quality content.
  • A more viable approach, and one that may be more lucrative, is to simply build your personal brand using your podcast as the medium. Hosting a podcast — particularly a video podcast — is a great way share your personality and let your ideas shine. Today’s wisdom dictates that promoting your personal brand can translate into building a prosperous business. Just watch any video by Gary Vaynerchuk and I think you’ll agree.

Have Fun!

I hope you find this guide helpful as you plan your video podcast. No matter what niche you’re in — live or recorded, video or audio — the key is to have fun with it and let your passion for the topic shine through. Now press record and start podcasting!

Interested in more Podcasting resources? Check out Mashable Explore, a new way to discover information on your favorite Mashable topics.

Images courtesy of iStockphoto, Graffizone, and Flickr, borman818.

More About: audio, List, Lists, podcast, social media, tips, video, video podcast

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November 23 2010

7 Essential Podcasts You Should Add to Your Playlist

The Digital Entertainment Series is supported by the Sony Ericsson Xperia™ X10, the seriously entertaining smartphone that knows how to have fun. Check it out here.

podcast globe image

There are more podcasts out there than any person could ever listen to. Just as media organizations and celebrities have shuffled over to social networks, blogs and podcasts have also grown in popularity and mainstream acceptance.

Now, however, there are a zillion of them, and it’s difficult to know which ones are a worthwhile source of quality content. We’ve gathered a list of seven podcasts to get you started across a range of different genres. Need new music? Social commentary? Some poetry? Ever wanted to know how something works? These seven podcasts can help you get something new in your digital library, no matter what you’re into.

Check out our finds and let us know in the comments what podcasts you use to discover awesome content.

1. Stuff You Should Know

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Stuff You Should Know, or SYSK, is a podcast from the people over at HowStuffWorks.com. True to its name, it’s a great source for learning all sorts of stuff you may not know, but probably should.

The normally 30-minute shows cover everything from how sleep walking works, to pirates, food cravings, Christmas, and corporate personhood. It’s an eclectic mix delivered with just enough levity by hosts Josh Clark and Charles Bryant.

2. Build & Analyze

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For the more tech-minded, Build & Analyze is a great choice from podcast giant 5by5. Dan Benjamin and Marco Arment host the show, and the podcast definitely skews more to mobile Apple products like the iPad, iPhone, iOS and mobile web development.

With the amount of buzz (and the insane lines) at every Apple release, the introductions of Apple’s mobile devices are certainly becoming cultural moments for the tech crowd. Although this podcast is just one-show-old, it can help give context to what everyone’s getting so excited about while providing some sharp insights on what’s going on under the hood. Anyone looking to branch out should check out 5by5’s other podcasts, including Briefly Awesome, featuring Mashable’s very own Christina Warren.

3. IndieFeed


When someone says “discover new content through podcasts,” he or she usually means a new band or some hidden musical gems. While Bob Dylan’s podcast might be perfect for discovering deep cuts, there are also a slew of shows dedicated to the indie music crowd.

IndieFeed boasts the “Best new tracks, free, from humans who love music.” The IndieFeed DJs regularly throw together stellar soundtracks highlighting new musical talent. Unlike other podcasts, IndieFeed is not hipster-centric, and showcases a range of styles and band stories that draw you in via different podcast channels. Anyone interested in indie music north of the border should check out the CBC’s Radio 3 podcast for some (admittedly more hipster-centric) Canadian bands.

4. The Sound of Young America

young america

The Sound of Young America is housed at MaximumFun.org, a site that claims to be “Your home on the Internet for things that are awesome.” Fair enough.

The Sound of Young America is a public radio show featuring interviews with celebrities and entertainment stars, as hosted by Jesse Thorn. Quite unlike the Actor’s Studio, The Sound of Young America skews to a younger set and seems to, accordingly, have much more fun and humor to share.

5. Lunch Poems

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Poetry can be a little hit or miss, and frankly, it’s usually “miss” if you’re new to the genre. Lunch Poems, a podcast run out of UC Berkeley and directed by professor Robert Hass, makes the leap a little easier with noontime poetry readings from both established and rising stars of the poetry world.

It’s tough to decide when poetry is “good,” and even harder to make sense of the many names that are out there. Lunch Poems is a great way to get some lunch-time sophistication straight from the horse’s mouth.

6. TEDTalks

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TED is an unsurprising but absolutely wonderful addition to this list. The TEDTalks podcast regularly brings in a mix of top celebrities, entrepreneurs and more obscure leaders of social thought to give short lectures. It is, essentially, a G20 summit but for thought leaders across every imaginable genre.

Malcolm Gladwell talking about pasta sauce? The LXD talking about dance? Bill Gates? Irrational thought in the medical world? Every talk is quick enough to burn through on the subway, and nearly all of them provide a new way of looking at things.

7. Invisible Walls

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If you like video games, don’t mind some swear words, and want a comical insider look at how the gaming industry functions, Invisible Walls might just be your thing. Run from GameTrailers.com, helmed by Shane Satterfield and featuring most of the major editors and commentators, Invisible Walls looks at major game releases, news pieces and game conferences with some really nice insights and more than a touch of humor.

Although the podcasts run a little long (usually 30 to 60 minutes), they have the feel of chatting about games with a group of your sometimes-too-honest friends.

Other Great Finds

If that still wasn’t enough to keep you busy for weeks, you can check out these other great picks for discovering new content. At this point, these podcasts have been featured so many times they are more of a “hall of fame” than a proper “honorable mention.” Still, it’s hard to argue with great hosts, great topics, and a laugh or two along the way.

  • Planet Money: This podcast runs twice a week and features “high rollers, brainy economists and regular folks — all trying to make sense of our rapidly changing global economy.”
  • StoryCorps: This weekly podcast showcases the stories of everyday Americans recorded in StoryCorps booths across the country.
  • This American Life: A free, weekly podcast, This American Life is one of the most popular podcasts in the United States and is based on the weekly public radio show hosted by Ira Glass.
  • Slate’s “Cultural Gabfests”: A weekly debate over culture with Stephen Metcalf, Dana Stevens and Julia Turner.
  • WNYC’s Radiolab: Hosted by Jad Abumrad, Radiolab is a bi-weekly podcast where “a patchwork of people, sounds, stories and experiences [center] around One Big Idea.”
  • The New Yorker’s “Fiction Podcast”: A monthly reading and conversation with The New Yorker’s fiction editor, Deborah Treisman.

What Are You Listening To?

Did any of the above podcasts make you smile, or better yet, teach you something new? Are there podcasts that you listen to and want to show some love? Let us know in the comments below.

Series Supported by Sony Ericsson Xperia™ X10

The Digital Entertainment Series is supported by the Sony Ericsson Xperia™ X10, the seriously entertaining smartphone that knows how to have fun. Check it out here.

More Tech Resources from Mashable:

- 15 Essential Back to School Podcasts
- 5 Marvelous Mobile Apps for Music Discovery
- Mobile Music: Top 4 Streaming Services Compared
- 5 Great Ways to Find Music That Suits Your Mood
- 5 Free Ways to Identify that Song Stuck in Your Head

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, Norebbo

More About: build & analyze, Digital Entertainment Series, gametrailers, indiefeed, invisible walls, List, Lists, lunch poems, podcast, podcasts, stuff you should know, tech, TED, TED Talks, the sound of young america

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November 09 2010

HOW TO: Become a YouTube Sensation

The Digital Influencers Series is supported by Waggener Edstrom Worldwide (WE). To learn how to measure influence, visit http://waggeneredstrom.com/driveinfluence.

destorm youtube imageBecoming a hit on YouTube is no easy task. Actually, correction: Becoming a hit on YouTube on purpose is no easy task. The popular video platform is loaded with viral videos of people doing silly or embarrassing things. But how do you get millions of followers like NigaHiga or RayWilliamJohnson? How do you become a YouTube sensation?

There are some easy tips like, “do the best work you can,” and “keep at it,” but we decided to chat with a rising YouTube star, DeStorm Powers, to figure out just how he did it and what tricks you can put into practice.

DeStorm, a multi-talented one-man band, runs the channel DeStorm with more than half a million subscribers. Offering a mix of rap, R&B, talk show, art and some pretty slick editing, DeStorm is part of a first generation of “YouTubers” who managed to monetize their videos. Read on for DeStorm’s story and his tips on becoming a YouTube star.

Making Music Pleasing to the Eye

DeStorm came to New York by way of Baltimore to be an intern and ghost writer for established record labels. He spent most of his time helping write songs while producing instrumentals, writing jingles, and trying to hustle his own music. After limited success, he saw YouTube as a way to set himself apart. “I was just using [YouTube] as a storage space and then I read an article or two about a few YouTubers and found out that people were actually using YouTube to post videos… I thought, ‘Ok, this is a way I can get my voice heard,’ ” DeStorm said.

But the platform brought it’s own challenges: “YouTube is a video site, not just an audio site. If people wanted to hear you, they would just turn on the radio. I think people come to YouTube not just for the ear, but the eyes… If I find a way to make the music pleasurable for the eye, that would be something worth doing on the site,” DeStorm said.

It’s an Investment

Visuals matter, but beautiful visuals won’t appear on their own. High quality YouTube videos require an investment of both money and time. DeStorm suggested picking up a decent camera that can shoot in HD and the proper mics if you have the cash. That investment helped DeStorm get extra subscribers. “I got a better camera, I shot in HD. Even if you don’t like it, you can sit through it: ‘I may not like the music, but he did entertain me for a while.’ ”

Aim to push out at least two videos a week, though the sweet spot is probably closer to three or four in order to keep your numbers up. Although DeStorm is at a point where he can be a full-time YouTuber (given the sponsorships and guest stars, it’s safe to assume he’s doing alright), he admits it takes a long time to get there.

DeStorm quit his job as a personal trainer in order to devote himself to YouTube, to make the videos and edit them as professionally as he could. Despite eating instant noodles and missing bill payments, DeStorm remembers thinking, “If I can just grind it out, I can get to a place where I can live.” Now he gets upset if he gets less than 2,000 followers in one day. The grinding is paying off.

Promote Via Other Networks

If you want to make it on YouTube, you are probably familiar with social media and probably have Twitter and Facebook accounts (who doesn’t, right?). “Everything has to funnel to one direction, you can’t be all over the place,” DeStorm said. “When I’m on Facebook, I’m using that for YouTube. When I’m on Twitter, I’m using that for YouTube.” That kind of focus can help consolidate your identity to just one platform and make sure your fans are thinking of you as a YouTuber first and foremost.

DeStorm sees YouTube as as subculture to Facebook, which has a much more diverse, dedicated user base. By branching out on popular social networks, you can grab viewers that might not otherwise find you through YouTube itself. DeStorm’s Facebook following also means that when he posts a new video, he has a better shot of hitting YouTube’s front page. The time spent on other networks can directly help your channel.

Find New Audiences With Different Content

While social networks can help you find new audiences you wouldn’t necessarily reach otherwise, make sure you’re using those sites to reach out with your videos. When DeStorm wanted to reach an older crowd, he did music videos based on funk, soul, or with nostalgic references to old Sonic the Hedgehog games or Double Dragon. Some of his recent art-based, storytelling videos are geared toward a younger crowd. “It helps to have variety,” DeStorm said. “People can pick and choose. I can give different tools to people, depending on what they like.”

It’s also possible to grow by gaming the system: “The easy way, especially for a musician, is to spoof something really popular,” DeStorm said. “Or you can go the route to drop a music video before that music video [actually] drops.” This means that people looking for the actual video will stumble upon your fake version. If you put in the time, as in the “Power Hour” example below, it can really boost your presence.

But while gaming the system can build numbers quickly, it can ultimately hurt your channel in the long run. “I thought about it a lot of times because it’s easy to do that and blow up, but you really don’t get any respect for that,” DeStorm said.

Stop, Collaborate and Listen

Yup, that’s Vanilla Ice and the lyric actually applies to figuring out a general game plan for YouTube success. Stop: “Your main goal is to become a YouTube partner,” DeStorm said. “You have to do your research, know what those limits are.” Before you post, look up what is required to become a partner and make some money off of your videos. The requirements usually aren’t too strenuous and should give a good metric of where you should be to start.

Collaborations are an important way to boost your followers. DeStorm advised finding other YouTubers with similar amounts of subscribers and collaborating on videos: “Keep moving up, have good ideas and keep growing that way, pulling yourself through the charts.” If you’re not a musician, find people who you can write comedy skits with, or bring them on to chat about events that fit with your channel.

Put extra time into any video you’re pitching to collaborate: “You only got one shot, you can’t just say this is a skeleton [idea]. You need to shoot it, hardcore.”

Listen for topics that are trending on the Internet and find unique, creative ways to cover them. That’s part of the success of the Gregory Brothers (the YouTubers behind Auto-Tune the News). By parodying current events they were able to approach trending topics in a new, often hilarious way. “I used to look at trending topics, and as soon as I [saw] them I would run home and write about it,” DeStorm said, “because people wanted to see what you’re doing, and they’ll click on that and go to your channel.”

Basic tips still also apply: Make sure to provide links in your videos so viewers can keep watching, make sure you put your face and name somewhere in the video so viewers can recognize you, and make sure you look at the camera — viewers like to think you’re talking to them rather than reading off a script.

What’s Next

DeStorm’s channel continues to grow at a rapid pace and he hopes to keep that going. Now in L.A., he’s hoping to eventually break into television while keeping his channel alive. He was able to hint at some major guest collaborations in the coming weeks that should hopefully put into practice all the tips he shared with us.

While YouTube may still be considered a Wild West of the digital world, that also means it’s full of possibility. “I think that the Internet is the new world of media,” DeStorm said. “People should definitely try to get involved, because it’s not too late. In some years, it’s going to be impossible to blow up on YouTube, so you might want to get your camera now.”

What do you think of DeStorm’s advice and his path to gaining more than half a million subscribers? What has worked for you or what would you do differently? Let us know in the comments below.

Series Supported by Waggener Edstrom Worldwide

The Digital Influencers Series is supported by Waggener Edstrom Worldwide (WE). How do you measure your brand’s influence in fast-moving online mediums? Winning and maintaining social influence demands ongoing measurement of conversations, trends and responses. Waggener Edstrom Worldwide finds the most influential voices that have the biggest impact on campaigns. To learn how to measure influence, visit http://waggeneredstrom.com/driveinfluence.

More Video Resources from Mashable:

- HOW TO: Start Your Own Internet Talk Show
- 4 People Who Let the Crowd Control Their Destiny
- 3 Things Any Video Needs to Go Viral
- 10 Memorable Viral Videos of 2010
- 10 Killer Tips for Creating a Branded YouTube Channel

More About: channel, destorm, destorm powers, Digital Influencers Series, how to, most subscribed, video, web video, youtube

For more Web Video coverage:

November 04 2010

HOW TO: Start Your Own Internet Talk Show

mic image

Shane Snow, a Mashable contributor and infographic designer, is the founder of Printing Choice and Visual Economics.

The accessibility of video is a big reason why Internet talk shows are trending. Though talk shows hail from the muscle-car-and-milkshake days of the 1950s, our modern explosion of computer and Internet technology hasn’t rendered them old-fashioned. In fact, 2010’s man-of-the-Internet himself is a talk show host. (We’re with you, Coco!).

Twitter has created a culture in which people expect two-way dialog between everyone: friends, strangers, and even celebrities. Video is the ultimate online two-way interaction, and every day computer scientists are making bits and bytes travel faster and faster, and video is becoming more accessible.

Do you fancy yourself a budding talk show personality? With a few inexpensive tools and a bit of planning, you can launch your own web show. Here’s how to get it done (no orange hair dye required).

Select a Topic

Passion is the most important ingredient in a good talk show. Brainstorm ideas you are fanatical about. Even if you’re not going to be the host, you won’t want to produce a show week after week about something you don’t care about. You’ll get burnt out.

That’s why Gary Vaynerchuk, probably the web’s biggest talk show celebrity, is so successful with WineLibrary.tv. The guy loves wine.

The Internet will one day eclipse television, and old media is notoriously bad at making tech transfers. So don’t worry if a similar program exists in the “real world.” You can establish an Internet audience in as big or small of a niche as you want. There’s no way A&E will put a Sword Swallowers Weekly talk show on cable, but you can collect all the knife-eating carnies on the web together with relatively little effort and hopefully make a name for yourself while you’re at it.

Select Your Tech

You don’t need a camera crew, boom mics, or backdrop curtains that look like New York City to host a show. You can start small with what’s built in to nearly every new computer: a webcam. A popular way to do this is through a free video streaming platform like Ustream.tv.

One of the best platforms I’ve seen for hosting a webcam-based talk show is Vokle.com. It allows you to host a one-way show like Ustream, but it also lets you host webcam “callers” with video questions, split the screen between two speakers, and throw questions up on the screen alongside a speaker; this is perfect for interviewing guests and letting viewers interact with them.

“You can take live video questions from the audience and keep them engaged vs. becoming background noise in a sea of browser tabs,” says Vokle CEO Robert Kiraz. “Hosts and co-hosts can easily click to broadcast callers from a queue of submitted video questions. When they’re done with the caller, all they do is click again to drop it. The video caller then returns to the text chat ether.”

Here’s an edited recap of a Vokle show I recently appeared on, called TechBuzz:

Yes, that’s my kitchen, and yes, those are ferrets.

Perhaps the biggest up-and-comer in talk shows is ThisWeekIn. Entrepreneur and investor Jason Calacanis, founder of Mahalo, started the show ThisWeekInStartups in 2009 and subsequently grew it to a network of 20 shows, with topics ranging from YouTube to Mad Men. Calacanis’ format includes news, interviews and audience interactive segments, and he broadcasts through Ustream.

ThisWeekIn is an example of a show that has ramped up its tech as its audience and aspirations have grown. Whereas you can always run your show with free software and a webcam, you can work your way up to a nice studio for a pretty light budget.

From Sony XR-500V cameras to a NewTek Tricaster video switcher, ThisWeekIn has a professional studio setup that could be easy to duplicate if you have a budget. Here’s a full breakdown on their equipment.

Select Your Guests

Don’t be afraid to shoot for the stars as far as guests go. These days, you can contact anyone via Twitter, and you’d be surprised how easy it is to get in touch with a celebrity in any industry.

Choose people who are compelling and spontaneous. Your talk show should feature interesting people who your viewers would like to meet. Also, notable guests will bring their fans along with them.

One important note: Practice with your guests before you go on the show. This can help both with questions and important tech considerations. When I appeared on TechBuzz, we determined in practice that I needed to switch from Wi-Fi to a plugged in ethernet cord in order to cut my lag down from eight seconds to one. The show would have been ruined otherwise.


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Ping.fm and TubeMogul are your best friends when it comes to blasting your video across the web. These and similar sites can publish your talk show immediately across all the big video destinations.

But remember: Embed a watermark or mention your site URL frequently so the audience comes back to you, not just to video providers like YouTube.

Kiraz says, “It’s important for hosts to embed their show on as many third-party sites as possible. Since each site has its own unique community, embedding a figurative ‘doorway’ to an event can enable the host to see their viewer count increase, meet new audience members, and expand their fanbase.”

He continues: “Form relationships with a network of relevant blogs that are looking for content, and simply ask them to embed your show! It’s a great way to form relationships with other bloggers and their communities, and [it] provides the blogger with live content on a recurring basis.”

For a good step-by-step on how to market your talk show, it’s worth buying a copy of Vaynerchuk’s book, Crush It. Skip to the last few pages for a useful checklist.

Cash In

This is the part where you become instantly rich and get invited to host the MTV Awards.

In seriousness, unless you’re living off of a giant inheritance, you’ll eventually need to monetize your show in order to keep it going. If you have an audience, you’ll be able to turn your time — and your show — into money.

ThisWeekIn announces its sponsors several times a show, in a way that’s not annoying but that also sticks in your head. (I sometimes go to bed with Jason’s voice chanting “DNAMail, DNAMail, everyone loves DNAMail.”) If on-air sponsors aren’t your thing, integrate your show with a destination site where you can host post-show interaction and make money from display advertisements.

Go, Go, Go!

If you’re passionate about something and want to make a web talk show about it, the best thing you can do is stop putting it off and do it. It can be free, and now you have the instructions. Grow that beard, part that orange hair, and make it happen!

More Video Resources from Mashable:

- 4 People Who Let the Crowd Control Their Destiny
- 3 Things Any Video Needs to Go Viral
- 10 Memorable Viral Videos of 2010
- 10 Killer Tips for Creating a Branded YouTube Channel
- 5 Indie Films that Couldn’t Be Made Without Social Media

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, Graffizone

More About: business, internet, interview, Live Stream, monetization, ping.fm, small business, talk show, talkshow, techbuzz, tubemogul, ustream, video, video ads, vokle, web video, youtube

For more Web Video coverage:

September 21 2010

Dan Savage Creates YouTube Channel to Help Gay Teens

Sex advice columnist and gay rights activist Dan Savage has launched a YouTube channel called “It Gets Better.” He’s soliciting videos from fans who want to provide support and encouragement to gay teens who face adversity, discrimination and bullying in high school.

Savage announced the new channel today in episode 205 of his podcast. He’s also hinted on his blog that further explanation will come in the next issue of his sex advice column “Savage Love.” The channel was created after Indiana teenager Billy Lucas committed suicide in response to bullying from his classmates, who assaulted him with epithets and told him to go home and kill himself because he was gay.

Each video will feature a role model sharing personal experiences that illustrate that life for gays and lesbians improves beyond high school. That’s a theme that has come up in Savage’s columns and podcasts with regularity. Gay teens have written or called Savage in distress, saying they feel isolated and discriminated against by their peers — especially in rural schools. Savage has generally responded that they just need to stay strong and hopeful because when they become adults they’ll have the option of moving to more progressive communities and joining more accepting social groups.

Since not every teenager facing these challenges is going to write in for advice, and since many rural schools don’t offer programs to support gay and lesbian teens, Savage launched the channel to reach more people in need of support. He and his husband made the first video (embedded below), and future videos will be picked from user submissions.

It Gets Better Debut Video

More About: channel, dan savage, homosexuality, it gets better, it gets better project, LGBT, podcast, savage love, savage lovecast, sex, sex columnist, social good, teens, the stranger, video, web video, youtube

For more Social Good coverage:

September 02 2010

15 Essential Back to School Podcasts

Podcast Books

Alexander Hotz is a freelance multimedia journalist and public radio junkie based in New York City. Currently he teaches digital media at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. Follow Alex on Twitter at @hotzington.

With another long hot American summer coming to a close, many students are scrambling to get back into “learning mode” before school starts. One of the simplest ways to ease that transition is with podcasts. Whether your passion is American History or Algebra, there’s probably an educational podcast out there for you.

While these programs probably won’t mirror your lesson plan, they will explore topics covered in class. Below is a sampling of some of the exceptional podcasts that both teach and entertain. Best of all – they’re free. Read on for your “2010 Downloading Curriculum.”


radiolab image

Radiolab investigates some of world’s most intriguing scientific questions in a unique conversational format. Recent episodes have examined the importance of words in human development and time. First time listeners will probably notice that the show also just sounds different.

Before becoming a radio producer, Jab Abumrad, one of Radiolab’s creators, was as an experimental musician. Abumrad’s passion for ProTools is apparent in the show’s textured soundscape, which is layered with a variety of sound effects and quick edits. Perhaps the show’s only downside is its frequency. There are only a handful of episodes every season because one Radiolab episode requires months to produce.

Outlet: WNYC, New York City’s Public Radio Station
Time: An Hour
Frequency: 5-6 every season

Additional Listening: The Naked Scientists Podcast


dan carlin image

In Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History, Carlin, a veteran journalist turned podcaster, dissects the textbook version of events. In shows that often run over an hour, the host passionately retells some of history’s best stories.

Hardcore History has become one of the most downloaded podcasts on iTunes, and Carlin’s widespread appeal can also be attributed to his insight. One podcast asked, “Could widespread child abuse in earlier eras explain some of history’s brutality?” Another show was based off the question, “Does the toughness of peoples play any role in history?” Don’t let the name fool you; all material is appropriate for younger listeners.

Outlet: Dan Carlin
Time: 1 – 1 1/2 hours
Frequency: 5-6 every year

Additional Listening: Stuff You Missed in History Class


planet money image

Planet Money is NPR’s podcast on global economics and business. Initially created by veteran public radio reporters Alex Blumberg and Adam Davidson to explain the recent financial crisis, the show quickly became one of the most popular and praised podcasts available.

Planet Money’s success lies in how it tackles complex subjects with great storytelling. A financial instrument like a Collateralized Debt Obligation (CDO) may sound impossibly boring, but Planet Money routinely makes these types of things the heart of a thrilling narrative. The team continues to explore the financial collapse, but they’ve expanded their scope to include all aspects of the global economy.

Outlet: NPR
Time: 15-30 minutes
Frequency: Twice a week

Additional Listening: Freakanomics Radio

Disclosure: The author interned at NPR.


cliff notes image

For those of us who couldn’t make it through Wuthering Heights, Cliff Notes Cramcast would have been a lifesaver. This free podcast reviews some of the stuff you need to know for the big test and does it in three to four minutes. Of course, these podcasts can’t cover every detail. To do that, you would — you know — need to read the book.

Outlet: Cliff Notes
Time: 15-30 minutes
Frequency: Twice a week

Additional Listening: Grammar Girl Quick and Dirty Tips

Foreign Language

radio lingua image

The Internet is full of podcasts that cater to students learning foreign languages. For those interested in the major European languages, Radio Lingua is a good bet. Another reliable hub is Open University, which in addition to the European languages also has a set of Mandarin podcasts. These outlets are mainly for beginners or students who need a quick review. Both are rated highly on iTunes by users.

Outlets: Radio Lingua and Open University
Time: 15-30 minutes
Frequency: Lesson plan

Additional Listening: Other reliable podcasts include Discover Spanish and Learn French.


math dude image

For those of us who struggle to calculate a 15% tip, The Math Dude’s podcast is a must-listen. Every week, affable nerd Jason Marshall explains basic concepts like how to calculate the area of an object or how to add faster. When Marshall isn’t podcasting, he researches “infrared light emitted by starburst galaxies and quasars” at Caltech, which just means his left-brain knows what’s up.

Outlet: Quick and Dirty Tips
Time: About 7 minutes
Frequency: Weekly

Additional Listening: Mathgrad.

Current Events

the bugle image

Every Sunday, comedians Andy Zaltzman and John Oliver recap the week’s events in The Bugle, a satirical podcast that is easily one of the funniest listens on the Internet. Think an audio version of The Daily Show, where Oliver is also a regular. The Bugle’s focus tends to be on the biggest international news, but the duo’s separate locations – Zaltzman in London and Oliver in New York City – ensure a focus on the English-speaking world’s antics. Although the pair has a leftward slant, there are no sacred cows. The Bugle even takes aim at itself in its tagline: “An audio newspaper for a visual world.”

Outlet: The Times (UK)
Time: 30 minutes
Frequency: Weekly

Additional Listening: NPR News, BBC World Service

More Educational Resources from Mashable:

- 10 iPhone Apps to Get You Back to School
- Why Online Education Needs to Get Social
- 5 Innovative Tech Camps for Kids and Teens
- 5 Organizations Helping Women Get Ahead in Tech
- 5 Fun Ways to Help Your Kids Learn Math Online

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, mattjeacock

Reviews: Internet, iStockphoto, iTunes

More About: back to school, cliff notes cramcast, current events, dan carlin, economics, education, english, foreign language, history, itunes, math, planet money, podcast, podcasts, radio lingua, radiolab, Science, the bugle, the math dude

For more Tech coverage:

July 26 2010

7 Superb Podcasts for Summer Listening

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Alexander Hotz is a freelance multimedia journalist and public radio junkie based in New York City. Currently he teaches digital media at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. Follow Alex on Twitter at @hotzington.

Along with SPF and sunglasses, a captivating story can be essential for a trip to the beach. But this summer, beach goers should expand their narrative appetite beyond the written word. Podcasts, unbeknownst to many a bibliophile, are increasingly an excellent (and free) source of stories.

Whether you’re looking for fiction, non-fiction, comedy, tragedy or just a good yarn, these seven podcasts (in no particular order) are required listening for anyone under a beach umbrella this summer.

1. This American Life

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The undisputed granddaddy of the podcast world, “TAL,” as its devotees know it, is arguably the best source for contemporary storytelling online. TAL boasts half a million downloads every week and is consistently ranked as the first or second most downloaded podcast on iTunes.

In addition to an impressive array of non-fiction stories, TAL features investigative journalism, fiction, essays and experimental story telling. The show helped launch the literary careers of David Sedaris, Sarah Vowell and David Rakoff. To date it’s the only podcast to have spawned a TV spinoff.

Length: About an hour

Frequency: Weekly

2. The Moth

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Although The New York Times described it as a “farm league” for This American Life, The Moth is by no means an also-ran. Every month the podcast attracts about 70,000 subscribers and one million downloads. Notable storytellers have included Margaret Cho, Ethan Hawke, Malcolm Gladwell, Darryl “DMC” McDaniels, George Plimpton, Gay Talese, Moby, and Sam Shepard. Stories are recorded live and without scripts or notes at packed venues across the country. Like TAL, The Moth’s stories run the gamut from deeply moving to hilarious.

Length: About 5-17 minutes

Frequency: Weekly

3. Risk!

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Risk! is similar in style to The Moth. The stories are all true and typically recorded at live shows in New York City. What sets Risk! apart is its subject matter. Generally, stories are outlandish and brimming with uncensored content. The show’s tagline, “Where people share true tales they never thought they’d dare share!” tends to be an understatement.

Despite its R-rated nature, Risk! has a healthy supply of talent. Many of the show’s contributors are actors, writers, directors, comedians and musicians. The first season, which recently wrapped up, included big names like Janeane Garofalo and Rachel Dratch.

Length: About an hour

Frequency: Weekly

4. WireTap

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WireTap is the creation of former This American Life producer Jonathan Goldstein. Although iTunes classifies the podcast as a comedy, the Canadian public radio show is difficult to pin down. Most of the program revolves around the hapless day-to-day existence of Goldstein’s dysfunctional alter ego, an exaggerated form of Goldstein himself. Like Jerry Seinfeld and Woody Allen before him, Goldstein’s self-deprecating humor delves into the minutiae of daily life.

When Goldstein isn’t wrapped up in one of his misadventures, WireTap also features short stories, which can be both humorous and sincere.

Length: About 30 minutes

Frequency: Weekly

5. StoryCorps

storycorps image

Like The Moth, StoryCorps’ podcast is produced by a non-profit devoted to storytelling. However, where The Moth’s focus is on the art of storytelling, StoryCorps’ mission is to record and preserve narratives for future generations.

Begun in 2003 by radio producer Dave Isay, StoryCorps is similar to the oral history projects undertaken by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) of the 1930s. Recording booths are set up in public places across the country and Americans — no matter what their background — are invited to come and tell their stories. Thousands of these recorded stories are stored at the Library of Congress, but the highlights are available online thanks to the podcast.

Length: About 4-10 minutes

Frequency: Weekly

6. Selected Shorts

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If you’d prefer more of an audio book experience, one of your best bets is Selected Shorts, a podcast produced by New York City’s Public Radio Station WNYC. Each week this podcast features classic and new short fiction stories read by stage, screen and television actors. Depending on the length of the stories, the podcast can have 2-5 narratives. Like The Moth and Risk!, Selected Shorts is recorded in front of a live audience.

Length: One hour

Frequency: Weekly

7. The New Yorker Fiction Podcast

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For the recovering English major, The New Yorker’s Fiction podcast may be the Holy Grail of online audio. Authors both prominent and up-and-coming read short stories they’ve picked by their favorite authors. Think Orhan Pamuk reading Vladimir Nabokov or Tobias Wolff reading Denis Johnson. If you know who those authors are, this podcast might be right up your alley.

Length: 20-50 minutes

Frequency: Monthly

More Entertainment Resources from Mashable:

- 5 Great Ways to Find Music That Suits Your Mood
- 7 Unique Sites for Discovering New Music
- Top 10 Facebook Applications for Music Lovers
- Social Music: Top 5 Sites to Build a Playlist

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, PeskyMonkey

More About: audio, book, music, National Public Radio, new yorker fiction, NPR, podcast, reading, risk!, selected shorts, storycorps, the moth, this american life, wiretap

For more Entertainment coverage:

February 02 2010

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