All of us pass by hundreds of small, local businesses on our daily commutes that we’ve never stopped at, shopped in, or even taken notice of. Overall, places like these employ 47 percent of workers and account for over 99 percent of businesses in this country. Main Street not only drives wide swaths of our economy but enjoys higher rates of ownership by women and minorities than their Wall Street counterparts. This led us to ask, who comprises their main customer base? How long have they been in business? How do they compete with big box stores, chains, and online services and retailers? What do they sell, offer, or make?
You Know The Place (YKTP), a podcast hosted by two local writers launched in March 2018 in order to answer those questions. The episodes feature a mix of both in-studio and field audio. Over the course of the five seasons produced as of 2020, YKTP has taken listeners to a diverse array of locations, including an Indian bodega, a naturist retreat on reclaimed mining land, a nonprofit acupuncture co-op, and a social club for gay men.
Many of the people and places we have featured have been historically underrepresented in public media, particularly in a largely rural state like Idaho. Additionally, our show puts the spotlight on local and small businesses at a time when brick-and-mortar storefronts are struggling to compete against Amazon, Walmart and other chains and online offerings. These challenges are compounded by the rising cost of prime real estate, health care, and other overhead expenses facing small businesses.
The show hinges entirely on community engagement. We encourage listeners to ask questions and they suggest the majority of the locations we visit. Our goal is to repay them by making them part of the experience. We’ve had a local food writer join us on a trip to a chicken shop, for example.
We’ve come to realize that YKTP is not only a catalyst for exploration and discovery, but a snapshot of a place and a time. The landscape of a city is always changing. New businesses have set up shop and been added to our list, while others we’ve visited have since closed.
Organizationally, this project has demonstrated to station leadership what can be accomplished if staff are allowed the time and space to experiment. It also stands as proof of concept that podcasts create important content that engages an audience (e.g. younger, diversified, digital natives, etc.) we may not otherwise be reaching with our broadcast programs.