“What if I did an imitation of a butterfly at rest?”

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Zero Mostel and the truth of the absurd: Listen on SoundCloudiTunes, Stitcher, and Pop Up Archive.

When actor Zero Mostel was under trial by the House UnAmerican Activities Committee in 1955, the committee asked what he was doing at an anti-HUAC meeting. Mostel replied: “What if I did an imitation of a butterfly at rest? There is no crime in making anybody laugh.”

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What tastemakers are listening to: Podcasts hand-picked by people

Find recommendations from people you trust

The challenges of podcast discovery are well-documented. When the iTunes store lists over 250,000 podcasts (and counting!), how are listeners supposed to sift through it all to find their new favorite audio shows?

We’re collecting “Tastemaker” audio as part of our Audiosear.ch project to help listeners find the cream of the crop. It’s a way for you to see what different reputable sources have recommended over time, and what they have to say about those recommendations.

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Some listeners might go crazy for stories about design, while others might care more about technology and economics. Since the newsletter and Twitter sources we aggregate all come from real people with unique personalities, you can browse and find the recommenders that are most aligned with your own interests.

Audio picks from today or last month — with tastemaker commentary

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With all the longform interviews, storytelling, and educational podcasts being recorded these days, there are plenty of podcasts from months ago that still sound just as fresh today. Our new tastemaker page lists recommendations new and old.

We’ve also included short quotes about the picks from each source, so you can see not just what audio is interesting, but why it’s interesting.

Take a look at our new Tastemaker page. Your listening queue will fill up fast!

What does the next decade of podcasting look like?

Ten years ago, Apple dropped the first batch of 3,000 podcasts into the iTunes store. In honor of this anniversary, they’re celebrating #10YearsOfPodcasts.

In the past decade, podcasting has transformed from an obscure medium for hyper-tech insiders into a media format that even your grandma can tune in to. They’ve come a long way, but podcasts have even further to go. What’s in store for the next decade of podcasting and radio? Read our 10 predictions for the next 10 years of podcasting.


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Discovering audio through trends and tastemakers

Back in January we asked: What are the biggest challenges facing digital audio? Nick van Der Kolk, host of Radiotopia’s Love + Radio said: “The biggest vacuum right now is curatorial.” He wasn’t the only one: lots of people have noted the barriers that keep great audio from being discovered.

The conversation around audio storytelling can be diffuse. So how do you keep track of the threads? Through our project Audiosear.ch, we’ve been experimenting with new ways to discover audio.


Our “trending” feature takes podcast topics and matches them with what people are talking about on social media. The picks aren’t limited to new audio: by searching across Audiosear.ch content, we can find the whole audio history of a topic. For example, by identifying all the audio related to the release of the new Apple Music app, Audiosear.ch shows you the evolution of the conversation, from early discussions of its technology, to Taylor Swift’s game-changing tweets about Apple.


In an informal survey earlier this year, we asked how people discovered podcasts. We were unsurprised to see that good old “word of mouth” is still the most frequent way listeners get turned on to new audio shows. Our “tastemaker” feature captures that human judgement about what’s good by pairing audio stories with quotes from the people who recommend them.

So where are people recommending audio online? We’ve found that podcast power-listeners take to Twitter, Reddit, and email newsletters to talk about what they’ve been listening to.

By using trending topics to guide listeners to topical audio, and aggregating social recommendations into one place, we’re chipping away at the challenges of audio discovery. It’s a work in progress: check out trending and tastemaker audio on Audiosear.ch — and let us know what we’re missing!

The song banned by NASA

Astronauts don’t have days and nights like we do on earth, so they need some help regulating their sleep. Turns out, it takes a whole team of engineers down on earth to rouse NASA’s elite from their slumbers. In this Popcast, hear about the NASA tradition of “wake up songs” from Mission Control, including the one song that went too far.

Written and produced by Eliza Smith, narrated by Eliza Smith and Jacob Winik, with editorial help from Emily Saltz. Listen to more audio from the NASA Collection on Pop Up Archive, or read Terry Watson’s fan letter to “The Ledge.”

And of course, she was a Scorpio

Describing Sylvia Plath in a 1972 radio documentary from The Pacifica Radio Archives, Plath’s editor, Fran McCullough says that while re-reading The Bell Jar, she noticed that “instances of her bitchiness and snobbery [were] quite astonishing. And of course she was a Scorpio.” 

In the latest Popcast, host Eliza Smith uses the lens of astrology to understand Plath, asking Bay Area astrologer Jessica Lanyadoo to examine her birth chart. What follows is a tragic and insightful analysis of the life and work of Sylvia Plath.

Thanks again to astrologer Jessica Lanyadoo for her incredible interview. Also thanks to producers Eliza Smith and Emily Saltz, plus Avery Trufelman (99% Invisible) for editorial advisement. Find the transcript to this episode, plus Lanyadoo’s full interview, on Pop Up Archive.

See the birth chart she drew up for Sylvia Plath below: