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Dearest Bellos,

I'm keeping it short today, as we have a packed newsletter, filled with recommendations, industry news, a brief just-the-jobs spotlight, and an ode to a podcast player.

If you haven't checked out our homepage lately, we did some reorganizing. You can now find all of our fiction debut lists from 2021 right at the top—that's 71 new shows to try out! Below that, you'll find the (Non)Fiction Issue and the Translation Issue, and, of course, all the rest of our stories.

I hope you're all staying safe and healthy out there. ♥


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How a Coyote Is Like a Podcast
10 new fiction podcasts and an encounter with the wild

Written by Amber Bulinski
I'm working my way through the first season of Human Resources, a podcast that draws a line from slavery to late-stage capitalism. It turns out it's a very short line indeed. For as much as slavery is America's original sin, this series also explores Britain's participation in the slave trade, the profits of which would trickle down for generations. (Ashley Lusk)

Elena Nicolaou has started a show with Kristen Evans and Rachel Mans McKenny—Blind Date with a Book. In each episode, they invite a guest on and prescribe books to them based on their reading preferences, habits, and histories. This show is very much my jam, and the recommended books are so on-point. It looks like that’s what you’ll get with this show—a list of books to add to your TBR list, plus a casual conversation that makes Blind Date with a Book extremely listenable.

The film The Bonfire of the Vanities is often cited as the worst movie remake of all time. But sometimes things are so bad they go past bad and back to good, or at least interesting. The Plot Thickens is a show from TCM, and the new season, "The Devil’s Candy," focuses on how that famously bad movie got made. You can’t help but feel a bit of schadenfreude listening to this series, but really it’s a cautionary tale that can teach us a lot about the movie industry, publishing, and storytelling. To quote another great podcast: how did this get made?

On Depresh Mode (formerly The Hilarious World of Depression) John Moe usually talks to funny people about dark moments they’ve had in the past, but Moe’s interview with with Joel Kim Booster is about the dark moment Booster is in right now. I know Booster as a comedian and actor, and the host of a very funny podcast, Urgent Care. But those things don’t accurately reflect Booster’s current state. Now, he is in a dark place, unable to create, in therapy and on medication—but positive that his current slump is permanent. Podcasts talk all the time about how they’re here to have “hard conversations” but rarely are. This was a truly hard conversation.

With Neutrinowatch. Martin Zaltz Austwick (Answer Me This, Maddie’s Sound Explorers, and Song by Song) and Jeff Emtman (Here Be Monsters) have created a podcast that uses computer code to gather the day’s headlines, the positions of the planets in the solar system, and new music, and form a podcast episode that is different every single day. This show is not made up of static episodes. Instead, it evolves with the listener, creating an incredible, dream-like experience. If you’re looking to push your listening to the next dimension, download and listen to Nautrinowatch, and then download and listen to it again.

The curated streaming service MUBI has a podcast (also called MUBI) that spotlights movies that were massive cultural phenomena in their home countries, but nowhere else. The host, Dinner Party Download’s Rico Gagliano, gets into the history of the films and talks to people who were involved with them to understand how they got made—and how they became hits. In one episode, Gagliano talks to the writer/producer and director of Living in Bondage, an independent direct-to-video film distributed on VHS cassettes that launched Nigeria’s “Nollywood” and cost only about $10K to make. Full of Nigerian history, this is the story of a movie that could have easily been forgotten forever, but instead, it struck a cord in the zeitgeist, got picked up, and changed the future of film. (Lauren Passell)

I’m happy to delude myself into thinking how great I am, but listening to Don’t Act Your Age's episode "They don't call it The Greatest Generation for nothing" put in my place very quickly. Indeed, it is people like guest Socrates Cretekos that make you understand what it means to actually be one of The Greatest Generation.

Creating a podcast is easy...unless of course, you’re the producer. But what does a podcast producer really do? In this episode of 3 Clips, we hear what Rebecca Sananes does for Pivot, and (in a meta turn), we also hear from fellow Bello Cherie Turner, who produces episodes for 3 Clips. (Paul Kondo)

As I mentioned last issue, Podcasters Declare recently delivered a petition for Apple to create a climate category. One reason this category would be so beneficial is that climate stories cut across subject matter and genre, encompassing politics, culture, science, history, and more. Three series currently mid-release prove that point.

The first is Guardians of the River, a collaboration between National Geographic, the Wild Bird Trust, and House of Pod. This series tells the story of the Okavango water system in southwest Africa and the many people who are working to protect it. As you might imagine, this story is complex and multifaceted, and each thread reminds me of a different podcast. The parts about colonial history and indigenous rights harken back to This Land. The dense, glowing sounds of the wilderness and the story of animal conservation remind me of Threshold. The tape of scientists expressing wonder and joy as they consider their study subjects make me think of classic Radiolab. This series just won an award for the best narrative nonfiction podcast at the Tribeca Film Festival, and it’s easy to see why. I look forward to hearing where the creators take it next.

The next show in my queue is "Windfall," a five-part series from Outside/In about wind power—plus, capitalism, local politics, technological advancement, and, of course, climate change. Before I listened, I knew about wind power in the abstract sense, but now, I know their history, and I have a real stake in their future. I passed a turbine on a drive last weekend, and I felt like it was my friend. My only complaint about the show is that they haven’t used the word “windustry” yet.

Finally, I’ve been enjoying "Think African," a series from Sound Africa. Each episode features an interview with a leader who is addressing a global issue from an African perspective. This show isn’t explicitly climate related, but many of the conversations address impacts and needs of our changing climate from a number of angles. At around 20 minutes each, these episodes are tightly packed, informative, and thought provoking—a perfect companion for a morning walk. (Galen Beebe)

In three parts, a god observes and meddles in the lives of two humans studying magic and attempting to keep their friendship on an even keel. The God Who Went Insane is set within a world where the gods are powerful beings who not only interact with humans, but believe it is their right to rule over them and the world. But the city of Sayn is "deity-free," renowned for fusing magic and science and studying the gods. This is a work of mystery and secrets, which smoothly transitions from scene to scene as we witness, helpless, the deterioration of a friendship in favor of power and knowledge. (Elena Fernández Collins)
OPINION: Can podcast apps have fans?

Last week it was announced that Pocket Casts has been purchased by Automattic, the parent company of Since 2018, the podcast player has been owned by a consortium of public media groups, which included WNYC, NPR, This American Life, WBEZ (and, as of late, the BBC, according to Hot Pod).

To call oneself a fan of a podcast player seems a little silly, but, here we are. Before I found Pocket Casts, I was fairly platform agnostic, mostly because the experiences of podcast apps tend to be pretty uniform. With Pockets Casts, however, my app became my own. Features like starred episodes, an “up next” queue, and content filters made my listening more intentional and focused. The “discover page,” previously curated by the excellent Darian Muka (now at Vox), highlighted new and independent voices, and offered personal recommendations from industry experts (including this publication). For someone who finds even 1.5x speed too fast for comfort, Pocket Casts offers a more granular control (I position mine at 1.2x). Pocket Casts is also my memory; their “listening history” feature gives me the ability to look back at every episode I’ve ever played, and it is what makes the Bello 100 possible.

When I began working at WNYC in 2018, just as the consortium formalized their acquisition, I learned it would literally be my job to turn others into Pocket Casts fans, too. From where I sat, though, the app never seemed to become a point of focus for the consortium, and by the time I left a few years later, it had fallen into a kind of digital limbo.

As a podcast critic, I think the sale of Pocket Casts to a company well known for its digital ethos seems like a thoughtful one; as a fan, I’m not mad about it either. I’d love to see the app have a team of people dedicated to its improvement, but I’m just as happy to see it remain the stable, intuitive app it is today.

I have every major podcast platform on my phone, and I regularly put them through their paces to understand how they are evolving. Apple’s “discovery” page has become more robust in the last year; Overcast’s sharing features remain some of my favorites; and Spotify wins for seamless integration of all things audio—but I always come back to Pocket Casts for the personalization. For many of us, podcast listening is a personal and professional act, and Pocket Casts is the only app I’ve found that is flexible enough for both.

—Ashley Lusk

  • Apple exits pile up: James Boggs, head of editorial at Apple Podcasts, is leaving after 17 years. N'Jeri Eaton, Apple Podcast's head of content, has left Apple to join Netflix as its head of audio and podcast programming.
  • Radiolab's Latif Nassar shared that the subject of his podcast The Other Latif, Abdul Latif Nasser, has been released from Guantanamo.
  • Transom has announced that longtime contributors Samantha Broun and Rob Rosenthal will be leaving the program to work on other projects. Transom will also shutter its 9-week Woods Hole Story Workshop.
  • Spotify has released a report that looks at millennial and gen-Z audio consumption on their platform. Although the report also speaks to music consumption, it finds that 40% of participants from both generations have higher trust in podcasts than other forms of audio.
  • Axios reports that Substack will launch its first podcast network, Booksmart Studios. Includes a new show from former On the Media host Bob Garfield called...wait for it...Bully Pulpit. Garfield was recently fired from WNYC or violating its anti-bullying policy.
  • The big news coming out of last week's Latino Listening Report from Edison Research: 36% of surveyed adults 18 or older say they have listened to a podcast in the last month.
  • The Dart Center has published a style guide for trauma-informed journalism.
  • I know talking about parasocial relationships with your favorite podcasts are all the rage at the moment, but we refer you back to this OG piece from Wil Williams, which documented this phenomenon early on.
  • Bello writer Elena Fernández Collins offers a helpful guide to formatting your fiction podcast script.
  • And although this is not a just-the-jobs edition, we thought we'd point to a few that look pretty interesting. Dipsea is looking for head of content. Pushkin is hiring a development producer. Whetstone Magazine is building an audio division and hiring for a number of new positions. Latino USA is looking for a managing editor. BirdNote is hiring an executive producer. And Transmitter Media seeks a senior producer.
Reminder: We recently introduced an organizational tier of support that offers networks a consistent way to advertise new content or open positions. Advertise your work and support independent journalism at the same time. Neat, huh?

The Bello Collective is edited by Ashley and Galen.
Meet the amazing writers who make up the Collective.

Copyright © 2021 The Bello Collective, All rights reserved.

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