Case study: searchable audio archives in action

Student research comes to life through Wisconsin oral histories

Foundry Workers at Fairbanks, Morse & Company, Beloit, WI, 1925 (Wisconsin Historical Society)

Established in 1846, the Wisconsin Historical Society hosts a rich multimedia archive that stretches back decades, and they are frequently asked questions about family genealogies in Wisconsin. Before they started using Pop Up Archive, WHS archivists might spend hours or days digging through media stacks in search of a record about someone’s long-lost relative.

Now, some people are answering their own questions simply by entering their relative’s names into a search bar. Emerging Technologies Archivist Paul Hedges cites one WHS patron who was able to hear his uncle’s voice for the first time after a search led him to a recording indexed by Pop Up Archive. That’s the power of searchable audio archives in action.

Continue reading

Podcast discovery: one hand-picked podcast at a time.

Get daily podcast picks from tastemakers!

There are so many sources for podcast recommendations these days, it’s hard to keep track of them all. If you subscribe to multiple podcast newsletters, like The Timbre or The Podcast Broadcast, chances are your inbox is continuously piling up with more and more new audio stories to listen to — not to mention one-off best-of listicles or sites like NPR’s

The proliferation of all these sources is thrilling, but can also be overwhelming for the new or casual listener trying to wade through it all. And older recommendations can quickly be forgotten as a barrage of new recommendations piles up.

Where to start? At Pop Up Archive’s, we collect recommendations from all over, with the goal of simplifying the podcast discovery process.

Continue reading

Building Charts

Taking a closer look at podcast performance

As Pop Up Archive builds Charts, we’re gathering more and more data points on podcast rankings over time. We’ve started with iTunes charts data (according to some sources, Apple’s podcast app accounts for 70% of podcast listening), and we’ll incorporate other sources from here. Using’s in-depth show statistics tool, you can examine podcast charts stats in multiple ways — and gain insight into the otherwise opaque algorithms that power the charts themselves.

Get the low-down on the current top 10 ranking podcasts — look at “Days on charts” to see if they’re newbies or top-10 veterans. In the top 10 chart for March 7, shown above, you can see that Alice Isn’t Dead and Pardon My Take have both spent less than a week on the iTunes charts.

Search for shows and compare rankings for any podcasts that have been on the iTunes top 100.  For example, see how Alice Isn’t Dead compares to the show that spawned it, Welcome to Night Vale:

Look at “peak rank” to compare current rankings to all-time podcast performance. Some comparisons may surprise you.  For example, take the comparison of Fresh Air, a public media mainstay, to WTF with Marc Maron, which is recorded in comic Maron’s garage. In spite of its rougher edges, WTF peaked in the #1 iTunes spot, whereas Fresh Air has only made it to #2.

See if a podcast is trending up or down on the charts using last month’s median rank. Looking to the example above, we can see that today WTF has fallen below its median rank from last month, whereas Fresh Air has remained right around last month’s median.

One thing to remember is that these podcast rankings put faith in the iTunes charts as an accurate measure of popularity. Of course, the charts would be more informative if they included number of subscribers or listens for each podcast. The iTunes charts seem to favor iTunes interactions (i.e. subscriptions, reviews) and upward momentum (more on that here) — what do you think?

Developers: build rankings into your app with the charts API endpoint

Until now, there has been no easy programmatic way to access podcast rankings, and iTunes offers no explicit way to pull podcast rank data from their API. By offering both current rankings and historical rankings going back to 2013 as structured data, the API provides developers with a new tool for building podcast popularity into their projects, apps, and podcast platforms.

Are you a developer? Try out’s Charts endpoint

Hungry for more stats? Let us know which podcast data points would be most useful to you. And stay tuned: we’ll be adding more data points to the API and the Charts page in the weeks and months to come.

Saving America’s radio heritage

Preserving at-risk archival radio broadcasts

Last week, librarians, archivists, and audio preservation enthusiasts from around the country joined forces in a mission to save America’s radio heritage at the first ever Radio Preservation Task Force (RPTF) Conference.

Josh Shepperd, National Research Director for the RPTF, writes: “It’s safe to anecdotally contend that we’ve certainly already lost over 75% of radio history, and perhaps as high as 90%. Why is this important? The short answer is that radio has held a unique and important position in U.S. cultural history. Radio has been a media industry that developed a mature art form through storytelling and entertainment, while acting as a communications technology that has been utilized for community building and public discourse.”

As historic audio recordings dating back to the beginning of the 20th century rapidly deteriorate, the race to digitize and preserve these recordings grows more urgent every day.  And digitization alone doesn’t ensure preservation: in fact, without proper care, digital recordings can be even more vulnerable to loss than physical formats.

At Pop Up Archive, one of our goals is to make recordings searchable for audiences in perpetuity. Check out some moments from 20th century radio history captured in our public archive.

Continue reading