Giving new voice to Studs Terkel radio recordings

Rediscovering audio from the Studs Terkel Radio Archive


Broadcaster and oral historian Studs Terkel was one of the best interviewers in the history of radio. As Ira Glass puts it: “when Studs did an interview, it was history, and it was character study, and it was dramatic storytelling, and it was entertainment all rolled up into one. We all stand in his shadow, all of us who pull out tape recorders and talk to people who aren’t famous or powerful or newsworthy in the normal sense.”

Pop Up Archive houses hundreds of Studs interviews, including conversations with cultural icons like Maya Angelou and everyday people like London cabbies. Last week, the Studs Terkel Radio Archive announced their goal to make 1,000 more Studs Terkel interviews available to the public over the next two years.

To do this, they need some help, which is why they’re raising $75,000 in a Kickstarter campaign.
Studs’ interviews are intermittently engaging, informative, and provocative — and many of them are as relevant today as when they first aired. The Studs Archive is a veritable treasure trove of audio to be rediscovered and reused.

See how people are repurposing Studs Terkel audio:

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Making audio accessible to everyone

Accessing spoken word across the web

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Stories about deafness from NYPL’s Visible Lives oral history project

Accessible audio is transcribed audio. When audio creators don’t provide transcripts of their stories, they lose out on a sizable audience that is deaf or hard of hearing. According to the World Health Organization, more than five percent of the world’s population has disabling hearing loss. While evolving FCC standards for online video result in more captions now than ever for video content, captions for audio remain rare.

Until recently, few technological solutions existed to sync text with audio. And audio creators and collectors don’t always have resources to transcribe their own audio. At Pop Up Archive, we leverage automatic, machine-generated transcripts to help many organizations — like CUNY TV, CBC’s Spark, and the New York Public Library — generate and share captioned media, expanding the reach of their content to hearing-disabled audiences.


CUNY TV uses Pop Up Archive to caption videos

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Day at Night: Ray Bradbury (1974), re-broadcast on CUNY TV

CUNY TV uses Pop Up Archive’s transcripts for audio and video alike. The CUNY team uploads a subset of their audio to Pop Up Archive, cleans up the transcripts, and adds them as timestamped caption text to their YouTube videos. Pop Up Archive also offers an array of transcript download options including SRT, a standard subtitle format that provides line-by-line timestamped text that can be easily uploaded to video platforms like YouTube and Vimeo.


CBC Radio’s Spark addresses the accessibility of audio on the web


Spark: How to make websites more accessible for people who are deaf

Spark is a show on CBC’s Radio One that covers trends in technology. In a recent episode, they addressed the challenges of digital audio accessibility on the web, using Pop Up Archive to make their own web presence more accessible. The team uploaded Spark recordings to Pop Up Archive, cleaned up their automatic transcripts, and grabbed the HTML embed codes for their audio — a workflow available to anyone who uses the Pop Up Archive’s service.

See our three-step instructions for using the Pop Up Archive embeddable player.


The New York Public Library transcribes an oral history project

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Annmarie Antenucci’s story in NYPL’s Visible Lives

Last year, we profiled the innovative way NYPL is combining automatic transcripts from Pop Up Archive and crowd-correction tools for over 100 oral history recordings about disability. NYPL made the content of these recordings instantly searchable through automatic transcripts, and are now galvanizing NYPL community members to make the transcripts more accurate and readable for hearing-disabled audiences. If you’ve been following our newsletters, you might have already read about how Pop Up Archive is partnering with The New York Public Library and The Moth to build a new model for accessible audio.

The search power of transcripts

Transcripts drive search traffic to audio

Pop Up Archive has generated tens of thousands of audio transcripts, from archival content to popular podcasts on Audiosear.ch. Transcripts make spoken word audio more discoverable not just to people searching at popuparchive.com, but to anyone using a search engine, creating new traffic for audio stories.

Here are some examples of search terms that brought new listeners to Pop Up Archive and Audiosear.ch because of the words indexed in their transcripts. Some searches were for parts of audio stories that weren’t captured in a title or description. Others were for specific topics that happened to come up within the transcript of an audio file.

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The sorry state of podcast charts

Where are the Billboard Charts for podcasts?

When it comes to measuring top performers, podcasts lag behind other media types.

Podcast charts — where they do exist — are fragmented across different apps and often measure different things. It’s hard to answer questions about which new podcasts were popular last week, let alone last year. This lack of transparent data isn’t just a loss to listeners, but also to creators, since advertisers have a hard time pinpointing what’s really popular.

So what makes it so hard to talk about the most popular podcasts?

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