PodScanning: NPR is building a podcast discovery tool

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In our regular PodScanning column, we look at the latest podcasts and podcasting news in public media. Send tips to tyler@current.org.

Boyer. (Photo: Flickr/Ramiro Chanes)

Boyer. (Photo: Flickr/Ramiro Chanes)

The NPR Visuals team is building a web app to help users discover podcasts, much as previous apps have highlighted books and music recommended by NPR staffers.

“There’s a tremendous amount of audio out there that you just can’t fathom and you can’t make sense of with something that’s a blunt instrument like the iTunes Store, which only lists the top 10 most popular podcasts,” said Brian Boyer, who leads the NPR Visuals team.

Boyer compares the podcast discovery tool, which will launch next month, to NPR’s Book Concierge, one of the Visuals team’s most popular apps. Developed as an alternative to year-end best-books lists, the Concierge allows users to browse by genre favorite books selected by critics and NPR staffers.

The podcast discovery tool will work in a similar manner, recommending podcasts that listeners might enjoy and gathering recommendations from NPR staff and others. Unlike NPR’s podcast directory, which was revamped in January, the app will also include podcasts from beyond public media.

“We are looking at this as a purely editorial project [having] nothing to do with NPR’s efforts at marketing its podcasts or public radio,” Boyer said.

Last week, NPR staffers started circulating a survey asking people to share their favorite podcasts. The recommendations they gather will be incorporated into the app.

“Over the next few weeks we’ll compile your suggestions, wrangle them into a sortable guide, and publish a tool that will help connect you with great listening,” the survey said.

NPR Visuals will not continue to update the one-time project, but Boyer would like to see a podcast platform updated more frequently. The Visuals team will first see how this app fares, however.

“My general philosophy on things like [this] is, build the one-off and see if it works,” Boyer said. “Don’t build the big thing first. Build the small thing first and see if people like it and then talk about making the big thing.” 

In other podcasting news: No more TLDR?

WNYC’s TLDR podcast is on hiatus after the station decided not to renew the contract of host Meredith Haggerty.

Haggerty and the station have shared conflicting accounts of the show’s fate. The former host tweeted March 16, “TLDR has been cancelled effective immediately.”

But a WNYC spokesperson told Current otherwise. “Meredith Haggerty was brought on for a three-month stint as guest host which just ended; producer Ethan Chiel will continue to blog under the TLDR brand,” wrote Jennifer Houlihan Roussel, WNYC spokesperson, in an March 16 email.

Four days later, Roussel wrote to say that Chiel actually won’t be writing the blog. “As we give ourselves time to explore and think out what we want to do with TLDR, we’ll be feeding some repeats into the stream,” she said. “In addition, Ethan Chiel is continuing to produce digital content, including social media content, for “On the Media,” but he won’t be active with TLDR.”

Produced by WNYC’s On the Media, TLDR started in 2013 with hosts PJ Vogt and Alex Goldman. The pair moved to podcasting startup Gimlet Media last year to start their own show, Reply All.

“For the last few months, since PJ and Alex moved on, we’ve been in an exploratory mode with TLDR, and that continues,” Roussel said.

In an interview with Capital New York, Haggerty said she had been told that the show was canceled and that WNYC’s statement that she had been brought on as a three-month guest host was “inaccurate.”

New podcasts

(Image: Kristin Regler/On The Media)

(Image: Kristin Regler/On The Media)

On House of Cards: WNYC may have sidelined one podcast, but it’s started another. Brooke Gladstone, host of On the Media, is hosting spinoff podcast On House of Cards, recapping Season 3 episodes of Netflix’s House of Cards with guests who discuss the show’s themes. The first episode was released March 11.

Recommended episode: You Have Just Been Served

Another Round and Internet Explorer: Buzzfeed launched new podcasts Tuesday. Though not public media, some members of Buzzfeed’s podcast team are public media alumni. The shows are produced by Jenna Weiss-Berman, director of audio at Buzzfeed, who previously worked for The Moth, NPR, StoryCorps and WNYC’s Death, Sex & Money podcast. Producer Julia Furlan worked as a producer and reporter for WNYC, and Eleanor Kagan, who will join as a producer next month, is now a producer for NPR’s Ask Me Another.

Another Round covers race, culture and pop culture (and the hosts are hilarious). Internet Explorer talks about weird things the hosts find on the Internet.

Recommended episode: Unlearning

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