Pastime: streamlining the podcast app

Helping new listeners discover podcasts with the Audiosear.ch API

Software engineer Andrew Roper first got the idea to build Pastime — a “rigorously simplistic” audiobook and podcasting app — when a relative was diagnosed with macular degeneration.

With its large buttons and straightforward navigation, Pastime was made to suit the needs of visually impaired people. That challenge prompted Andrew to consider broader issues of accessibility.

“A non-technical, simplistic experience is crucial to drawing in new users. My aim is to declutter podcasting technology to make it as easy as possible for newcomers to consume and discover audio content,” Andrew says.

Building a sleek, minimalist interface and deep-linking content within the app, Andrew hopes to make streaming podcasts in Pastime as intuitive as turning on a radio.

“Overcast, Castro, and Apple’s native app all cater to podcast enthusiasts who already know their way around. I’m trying to reach people who aren’t quite sure what they’re doing,” he says.

But Pastime isn’t just your grandma’s app. Andrew is problem-solving basic user experience issues that prevent the majority of mobile users from giving on-demand audio a go.

In a recent Nieman Lab article, Panoply’s Jacob Weisberg bemoaned the medium’s consumer gap, saying, “It’s still much too hard to get podcasts. People who know how to do it do it quite easily. People who don’t know how to do it find it a little bit intimidating. There’s so much infrastructure that needs to be built and upgraded.”

Even for the podcast in-crowd, discovering and sharing new content is extremely problematic. After designing Pastime’s basic functionality, Andrew began tackling what he calls podcasting’s Netflix dilemma — how do consumers find anything amidst the overwhelming number of choices?

Andrew turned to the Audiosear.ch API, which he uses as the backend database for Pastime. Not only does Audiosear.ch allow users to search for content by show, network, category, people, or topic, it also lists top-rated shows and tastemaker audio picks.

Andrew hopes to further integrate Audiosear.ch into Pastime’s own curation feature — Shortlist — which lets users create and share streamable playlists of episodes.

“There is just so much good content out there, but it’s hard to know where to start,” Andrew says. “Pastime provides an entry point.”

Try Pastime

Case Study: How transcripts help branded podcasts

Telling great stories on a budget

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Punk rocker-turned-entrepreneur Brian Adoff has, of late, been trying his hand at podcasting. While considering marketing strategies for his software company, Swift Data Technology, Brian did what more and more companies are undertaking: he turned to on-demand audio to get the word out.

“From a business perspective, podcasts are an ideal format for content marketing because you can get right in someone’s ear. Instead of selling them something, you’re telling a story,” Brian says.

Owing to his DIY punk roots, Brian decided to produce the podcast himself. “I taught myself by listening to lots of podcasts about making podcasts,” he jokes. The end result was Campus Aux, a series of interviews with Swift Data users and industry experts.

Having discovered the PR benefits of his company’s podcast, which he shared with potential clients and partners, Brian founded Riveting FM, which pitches and produces series for other business-to-business companies. He sold his first client, door lock manufacturer Assa Abloy, on Unlocked, a six-episode podcast that gives first-person accounts of security-crisis situations like the recent UCLA shootings.

I used to start out by explaining to the sales team what exactly a podcast is. But now I think we’re hitting a tipping point as podcasting becomes an increasingly mainstream medium,” Brian says.

Panoply produces GE’s podcast The Message, which was #1 on the iTunes charts from November 21-25, 2015.

Unlocked is part of a rising trend of corporate podcasts, as Fortune recently reported (“Corporate America’s Love Affair With Podcasting”). GE, eBay, State Farm and the like are hiring powerhouse podcast networks like Gimlet and Panoply to oh-so-subtly use narrative content to promote their brands.

“I’m not Gimlet or Panoply. I’m not even a radio veteran,” says Brian, “but I taught myself how to produce a good story on a tight budget. That’s something business people can appreciate.”

Pop Up Archive helps Brian “run-and-gun” his one-person operation to stay on time and under cost. The timestamped transcripts, he explains, help him work as time-efficiently as possible and keep focused on producing new content.

Venturing ever deeper into the podcast realm, Brian is using the proceeds fromUnlocked and other contract jobs to produce Riveting FM’s first original series, “Drink Drank Drunk.” Sounding every bit as niche as his industry podcasts, though a good deal wackier, Brian describes the show as a heated discussion on grammar, featuring a heavy dose of alcohol and feminism.“Overall, I’m just trying to make shows that might not otherwise get made,” he says.

Learn more about Riveting FM

Take the Audiosear.ch clipmaker for a spin

Share your favorite audio clips on Twitter

Have you ever tried to describe a favorite podcast episode to a friend only to realize it’s more of a “guess you had to be there” situation? Ever wanted to share a zinger of a clip, but feel silly sending a podcast link and timecode? We’re right there with you.

Social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook are optimized for text, images, and video — but not audio. How do we make audio content flourish on our feeds just as much as photos, gifs, and videos? Let the words speak for themselves, we say. The Audiosear.ch clipmaker makes it easy for anyone to select a favorite podcast moment and share it on social media as a short auto-playing video. 

We’re pretty psyched and can’t wait to share it with the world. But first, we want your input. Sign up to be one of the first to test the Audiosear.ch clipmaker today! All you need is a Twitter account.

 

The Audiosear.ch clipmaker is the result of years of experience and observations in shareable audio. Segmenting audio files into snappy, quotable moments can help change the way people experience podcasts, taking them beyond the solitary work commute or dish-washing routine into more people’s daily lives and interactions.

Lots of people have lamented and examined the un-shareability of audio on the web, from Stan Alcorn’s 2014 piece “Why Audio Never Goes Viral” to various NPR experiments with social audio. Shareable audio was a popular topic at This American Life’s Audio Hackathon in the fall of 2015 and ultimately led to a Knight Foundation-funded prototype for shareable audio. Most recently, WNYC announced the open-sourcing of their producer-facing Audiogram Generator.

Our goal is for the clipmaker to be useable by anyone and embeddable anywhere on the web. The clipmaker will function for any of the 10,000s of podcasts indexed (and ultimately transcribed) by Audiosear.ch.

Click on any of the tweets in this email to see the clipmaker in action. Clipmaker tweets include words as they are spoken in the audio and links to subscribe in iTunes — or potentially other platforms.

Sign up to beta test the Audiosear.ch clipmaker!

National Federation of Community Broadcasters partners with Pop Up Archive 

Bringing audio search tools to local public media

Since 1978, the National Federation of Community Broadcasters has advocated for radio stations serving America’s heterogeneous neighborhoods and covering local stories. The over 200 public media member stations of the NFCB generate large quantities of audio and video that document diverse voices from across the United States — but these recordings are nearly impossible to search.

Today, we are excited to announce that the National Federation of Community Broadcasters is partnering with Pop Up Archive to offer discounted services to the NFCB network. NFCB member stations will be able to make it easier than ever before to find stories of interest and pinpoint exact search terms and phrases within public media audio and video files. Read more in the press release.

“Communities everywhere face the challenge of preserving their history,” said NFCB Membership Program Director Ernesto Aguilar. “Who tells it and how is where NFCB and Pop Up Archive come together for something far greater than just audio — we’re making sure community radio documents our cities and towns for youth, people of color and everyone wanting to be heard.”

Through new service offerings available exclusively to the NFCB’s 200+ member stations, Pop Up Archive will automatically transcribe, timestamp, and generate keywords for the stations’ audio collections — whether current news or decades of historic audio and video recordings.

“NFCB has long been committed to diversity, and this opportunity with Pop Up Archive gives so many voices, communities and constituencies a chance to finally be heard in a richer, more engaging way,” said NFCB Chief Executive Officer Sally Kane. “Community radio is best positioned to tell the stories, and we are enthusiastic about this opportunity for community radio to contribute to so many conversations.”

A search engine for election podcasts

As the U.S. presidential election ratchets up, political podcasts have seen a handsome spike in the iTunes charts. The Hillary Clinton campaign recently debuted its own show, With her, co-hosted by Clinton herself and Max Linsky of the Longform podcast.

It’s exciting to see the podcast medium take on a more expansive role in mainstream political discourse, where candidates’ words are replayed, parsed, and meticulously scrutinized, especially in the home stretch of the election.

But much of what is said in podcast interviews and discussions is completely invisible to web searches, making it difficult to find and share.

At Audiosear.ch, Pop Up Archive’s sister project, we’re helping to overcome that obstacle by generating full-text transcripts and descriptive tags that help identify and reference key moments of interest in podcasts. Here’s a sampling of quotes from Audiosear.ch transcripts that highlight recent developments as heard in 2016 presidential election podcasts.

With her: “Hi, Hillary”
Since the DNC convention, Hillary’s campaign (and podcast, by extension) has worked to portray her in a more personal light, with the hope that the beer-drinking, exercise-averse Hillary may resonate more with the average voter.

“I try to get exercise. Now I’m not going to pretend that I like it, because I don’t.” —Hillary Clinton

With her peaked at #1 on the iTunes charts on August 14, 2016. See more charts

The Savage Nation: 8-18
On the heels of his Milwaukee address to African American voters, Donald Trump discussed his “outreach efforts” on the right-wing Savage Nation.

Savage: “How would you help poor black people in this nation?”
Trump: “We need spirit. We don’t have spirit. We don’t have any spirit whatsoever. We need law and order. We have to have it. And that was my speech last night.”

The Run-Up: “Why She’s Distrusted”
Some commentators claim that Clinton’s growing margins in the polls are more of a referendum on Trump than a vote for Hillary.The Run-Up discusses persisting credibility issues that surround the Clinton campaign.

“Why wasn’t [Hillary] willing to have a government email account like every other employee of the State Department? That goes to the broader issue around the Clintons: that they simply don’t view themselves as being subject to the same regulations that the rest of the world has to comply with.” —Mark Landler, White House correspondent for the New York Times ​

The Run-Up peaked at #2 on the iTunes charts on August 16, 2016. See more charts

No One Knows Anything: “Trump’s Foreign Policy Is Foreign To The Republican Party”
Some top-ranking Republicans who have broken with party line to support Hillary say they find Clinton more reliable, especially on issues of national security.

“I wouldn’t trust Donald Trump to run the kitchen in a Wendy’s, much less our nuclear arsenal which is the largest and most capable nuclear force in the world.” —Republican National Security adviser John Noonan

FiveThirtyEight Elections: “Clinton Republicans”
Some say Republican support for Hillary isn’t that far of a stretch across the aisle, given her moderate-to-conservative foreign policy stance.

“The easiest Republicans who are able to reconcile with Clinton are the foreign policy establishment because she is pretty centrist…even a little bit hawkish, whereas on economic policy fairly liberal and social policy very liberal, which is kind of the way the institutional Democratic Party is going.” —political statistician Nate Silver

Rachel Maddow Show: 8/16
Restructuring in light of slipping poll numbers, Trump has hired Roger Ailes, the recently deposed head of Fox News, and Steve Bannon, CEO of Breitbart News — controversial picks that have added to the media circus surrounding his campaign.

“It’s a little odd that [Roger Ailes] the man at the center of the highest profile sexual harassment scandal since Bill Cosby would be brought on board by a presidential campaign while that sexual harassment scandal was still erupting… Of course, what’s expected about it is that if there’s anybody that doesn’t care about that kind of scandal, it’s Donald Trump.”

Glenn Beck: “Brad Thor: No Longer#Never Trump”

Glenn Beck, known for his incendiary right-wing politicking, calls Steve Bannon’s journalistic integrity into question now that he’s taken up with Trump.

“Steve Bannon, who is one of the worst people, now he’s become the CEO of the Trump campaign… Andrew Breitbart would be spinning in his grave.”

Search podcasts at Audiosear.ch

Archiving the pioneering voices of punk

Ramones_Toronto_1976

Punk broke in the summer of 1976 and spread like a heatwave as the Ramones made their eponymous debut and invaded England with their tough, no-frills rock. Long incubating in the post-hippie era, punk was named for the sonic deviance of bands like the Sex Pistols — who debuted Anarchy in the U.K. that same year — the Buzzcocks, Patti Smith, Television, the Clash, and countless others armed with noise-bearing instruments.

More an attitude than a sound, punk began as a youthful distillation of anti-establishment politics, street grit, and even a dose of French surrealism (Richard Hell famously claims to have stolen his enfant terrible act from Arthur Rimbaud). It spawned various sub-genres, many still heard today, and contributed DIY (do it yourself) to the cultural lexicon, championing hyper-localism when it was still as alien as mohawks and fashionably ripped clothes. Today we celebrate 40 years of punk with audio artifacts of the shock heard around the world.

1. Interview with Penelope Spheeris (Bullseye)

Jesse Thorn interviews director Penelope Spheeris about Decline of Western Civilization, her 1979 documentary on the LA punk scene featuring candid interviews with teen punkers and live performances by the Germs, X, Black Flag, and others. The documentary captures the youthful exuberance of the scene as well as the nihilism and addiction problems that befell many.

2. Just Girls: The Hidden World of Patti Smith and Judy Linn (Kitchen Sisters)

The Kitchen Sisters share audio snapshots of punk icon Patti Smith, intimate and quotidian, as recorded by her friend Judy Linn in the ’70s. The vignettes capture the interior life and voice of the quirky and dreamy youth Patti writes about in her seminal biography Just Kids.

Patti_Smith_in_Rosengrten_1978

 

“To me, punk rock is the freedom to create, freedom to be successful, freedom to not be successful, freedom to be who you are. It’s freedom.” —Patti Smith

3. Maximum Rocknroll: Punk magazine, radio show, record label, and vinyl archive since 1977 (KALW)

KALW gives a tour of the Maximum Rocknroll house, ground zero of West Coast punk, headquarters of the fanzine, and home to the world’s largest archive of punk records. As punk arose in reaction to the excesses of ’70s rock and hippie idealism, fanzines were used to get the word out about underground shows and albums. In 1982, Jello Biafra of the Dead Kennedys and Maximum Rocknroll founder Tim Yohannan released a compilation of Northern California and Nevada punk rock; the album’s liner notes would be published as the first issue of MRR, which has stayed true to its austere form — black-and-white newsprint — well into the digital age.

4. The Stranger (Snap Judgement)

Musician Damien Jurado tells about his adolescent retreat into the cabalistic world of punk zines and records, and the shabby janitor who got him hooked (no spoilers, but Damien’s punk pusher would go on to revolutionize the genre).

5. Rocket To Russia (Sound Opinions)

Jim DeRogatis and Greg Kot talk to drummer Tommy Ramone, who lays down the origin story of punk and details from recording the Ramones’ first three records, including Rocket to Russia. Jim and Greg dissect the 1977 classic record and its punchy, two-minute anthems including “Sheena is a Punk Rocker” — the epitome of the genre, according to the rock doctors.

6. Carrie Brownstein on Punk Rock and ‘Portlandia’ (Forum)

Sleater Kinney guitarist Carrie Brownstein discusses her coming up through the Olympia punk and riot grrrl scenes, feminism, and her new memoir Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl.

How to use Pop Up Archive’s plugin for Adobe Audition

 Working with raw tape often means toggling from window to window in order to align transcripts with audio editing software. With Pop Up Archive’s extension for Adobe Audition, you can simplify this process by bringing audio and transcript editing into one workspace.

We’ll walk you through the steps of setting up and using the extension in Adobe Audition.

 Download the Pop Up Archive add-on and open it in your editor

Once you’ve downloaded the Pop Up Archive add-on from the add-on store, you can open up the Pop Up Archive panel from the “Windows” drop-down menu under “Extensions.

You can snap the Pop Up Archive window into place by clicking the upper left corner and dragging the “Editor” panel in the dock.

Sync a Pop Up Archive audio item with a file in Audition

Open an audio file in Audition and transcribe by dragging and dropping it into the Pop Up Archive panel.

Once the file has finished transcribing, you can sync the transcript with your audio but selecting the Audition file and then pressing play in Pop Up Archive. Jump to any moment of interest by clicking the Pop Up Archive waveform or transcript — the waveforms sync up!

Note: Audition will sync with whatever file is open in Pop Up Archive, so make sure you have the same file open in both windows.

Search your transcript and mark key moments

Waveform syncing enables you to search for moments of interest in your Pop Up Archive transcript and mark that same moment in Premiere.

Find key moments of interest using the search toolbar. Type in a keyword and press the play button to the left of the line of text. Now toggle over to your Audition editing panel. Create markers by pressing hotkey M to indicate the beginning and end points of your clip. Copy to new and then rename this segment.

Upload more audio

Got more audio? Drag and drop audio into the extension window. Remember to select the new file in the Audition panel and press play in Pop Up Archive to sync the files. 

Transcribing the “ingenuously boring” world of Sleep With Me

Drew Ackerman is anything but boring, but he has a certain knack for putting people to sleep.

His popular “Sleep With Me” podcast, a series of absurdist ramblings that swirl around your brain before dropping you off in dreamland, originated out of his own lifelong struggles with insomnia.

“When I was a kid, I couldn’t sleep because I would get terrible anxiety about school. One day I discovered Dr. Demento’s radio show and it would make me laugh and put me at ease enough to be able to fall asleep.”

Drew, who narrates the show as the persona Dearest Scooter, bears more than a few resemblances to his zany radio idol, but adds a dose of mumblecore and bedtime storytelling to Dr. Demento’s schtick.

My show is for people who aren’t interested in guided meditation and who don’t want to feel guilty about falling asleep to Roman Mars,” he jokes. “People can fall asleep to me guilt-free, because they won’t miss out on anything important.”

Like improv comedy, Drew riffs off of prompts — song titles generated by iPod Shuffle, Twitter trends, Reddit topics, Venmo payments — to spin plot lines on the fly and see where they land. The trick, he says, is not being too funny or entertaining, because he doesn’t want to keep people up past their bedtime. At 420 episodes, “Sleep With Me” is a vast ecosystem of free-association sleep-inducing prolix that the New Yorker calls “ingeniously boring.”


Drew uses Pop Up Archive to transcribe episodes and create a written record of his improvised storytelling, mapping out the bizarro world he’s created. He aims to revisit certain stories and develop jokes and plot lines, just in case some listeners are actually paying attention. Plus, some people prefer to read before going to bed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Before using Pop Up Archive, the only written record of “Sleep With Me” were these show notes written by Drew in an illegible fit of profound inspiration.


 Drew is also thinking about translating the transcripts to create foreign language spinoffs of the show, because why not?

“I got into podcasts because I love how they provide a window into other people’s worlds,” Drew says. Through “Sleep With Me,” he’s created his own fantastically mundane world — one shared with a legion of well-rested listeners.

Hear and read Sleep With Me

Turning to the past to understand race in America today

“If we talk about the past decade, if we talk about the past century, if we talk about the past two centuries… what we ought to seek in discussing black history are lessons on how to struggle today,” said Dr. Angela Davis during a lecture at Occidental College.

The frequency and impunity with which police use deadly force against people of color shatter any notion that racial inequity ended in the ’60s.

#BlackLivesMatter has sparked a national dialogue similar to that of the Civil Rights era, when Angela Davis, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Stokely Carmichael, and countless others combined grassroots activism with the media pulpit to speak out against racial injustice. Their words, despite the intervening decades, describe our own times to eerie effect.

Archival recordings from Pop Up Archive’s public collections speak volumes on race and racism in America and the legacy of black activism:

 The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee talks and sings with Studs Terkel (1961)—WFMT

Students describe how the violence they incur during sit-ins and freedom rides strengthens their resolve in the fight against segregation and voter suppression.

Sometimes when the person next to us was being pulled off the line and being beaten and knocked to the ground, we’d still sing and hold our heads high and walk in unity and strength.” —SNCC member Bernard Lafayette, 1961

 Martin Luther King speaks (1968)—Ethnic Studies Library

This audio recording is a dense archaeological treasure. In addition to Martin Luther King, Jr.’s rousing speech to a union calling for racial equity in the labor movement and a jail cell news interview with Black Panther leader Huey Newton, this recording contains a KPFA reporter’s interview with Mr. and Mrs. Smith about the “common experience of many families in the black ghetto.” The Oakland couple describes police hostility aimed at their family and community and how officers’ racially motivated violence is inspiring the rise of armed self-defense groups, like the Black Panthers, in their neighborhood.

After they let me up, they were still beating my son and blood was running every which way and I asked the police department, ‘Please don’t kill him.’
—Oakland resident Luther Smith, 1968


Alabama State troopers attack demonstrators outside Selma, Alabama,
on Bloody Sunday, March 7, 1965.

 Dick Gregory talks with Studs Terkel (1961)—WMFT

Comedian and social critic Dick Gregory describes the historical connections between American foreign conflict and racial turmoil, describing how wars exacerbate the “us” vs “them” mentality. After fighting to “liberate” Vietnam, black soldiers returned home to find their own freedoms restricted by increasingly militarized racial boundaries, he explains.

The speeches that black folks are making today are straight out of the pages of Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine.” —Dick Gregory, 1964

 H. Rap Brown and Stokely Carmichael address the Black Panthers (1968)—Pacifica Archives

Hearing this clip of H. Rap Brown speak at a “Free Huey” Black Panthers rally in Cleveland, there is no question where he got his name. The crowd roars as Rap waxes political with equal parts fire and wit. He and Stokely speak to the rise of black militarism, saying Vietnam has taught black soldiers how to go to war. It’s time, they rally, to fight for their own freedom.

We are the vanguard of the revolution because we are the most dispossessed.”—Black Panther H. Rap Brown, 1968

 Angela Davis at Occidental College (1985)—Pacifica Archives

Speaking at a Black History Month event at Occidental College, Angela Davis describes the prison system as a tool of enslavement, recounting her own imprisonment (on charges of kidnapping and murder, for which she was later acquitted) as an attempt to suppress her political outspokenness.

Each time black people have won victories, this has meant the extension of rights and liberties for the vast majority of the population in America.”
—activist/scholar Angela Davis, 1985

Explore more archival audio

Transcribing sacred speech with Pop Up Archive

With rousing sermon titles like “Spin City Jesus,” “Healing by Eating Cold Grease,” and “Hell Is for Accountants,” Duke University’s Chapel Recordings Collection proves that church sanctity need not come at the expense of grade-A entertainment.

The purpose of the collection is to aid would-be preachers in the field of homiletics — a new word to us, too, that means the art of writing and delivering sermons — explains Molly Bragg, Duke’s Digital Collections Program Manager.

In 2014, Molly and University Archivist Valerie Gillespie set about digitizing the Duke Chapel recordings in response to divinity students’ requests to access the collection’s sermons, which date from 1946 to 2002. Since then, their team has digitized and made available 1,400 audio/video items and 1,300 printed manuscripts.


The Duke Chapel Recordings web archive allows students to analyze sermons for theological and rhetorical components. It also serves as a historical resource, documenting Duke campus life and world events surrounding the sermons.


Students protest apartheid outside of the Duke Chapel, May 4, 1985.

“An archive of sermons offers [students] a relational time-machine, a gateway to the past where a preacher’s words reach out in a handshake, introducing their time, and place,” says Adrienne Koch, Project Director at Duke Divinity School.

South African activist Desmond Tutu’s 1986 sermon at Duke is a standout example of global and local history converging at the pulpit. Tutu addressed the congregation during worldwide protests against apartheid (including one on Duke’s campus) and thanked students for their prayers and support.


Duke is using Pop Up Archive to transcribe sermons like Tutu’s with the goal of tagging and making them searchable by speaker, themes, and Biblical references. The university is also using the transcripts to create closed captioning files for hearing-disabled people. After revising transcripts with Pop Up Archive’s editor, student workers export the time-stamped transcripts as WebVTT files, which display as captions on Duke’s web video player.

“Duke Chapel is welcoming to all, and the goal of this project is to provide access for as many people who would not otherwise experience the collection’s historical documents and audiovisual content,” says Molly. “Having multiple formats enables us to do that.”

Hear and Read Duke Chapel Recordings