Third Coast dispatch: audio challenges and opportunities

Image: Chicago shoreline. Source: Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

We spent the weekend at the Third Coast International Audio Festival soaking up inspiration, ideas, and tools for making inclusive audio that reaches big audiences. Here are some of the concerns and challenges we heard.

Listening with empathy

Many attendees and panelists talked about the need to “listen with empathy” to the voices of all Americans. Much of audio storytelling is still dominated by white people who listen to NPR — people who hear stories and experiences a certain way. We need to move beyond that to new stories, and to listening that goes beyond a specific circumstance or detail of someone else’s life.

Telling the right story

There has been a lot of discussion, particularly over the past year, about the need for more diversity in audio. The recent presidential election has made this issue particularly urgent for many people.

LaToya Tooles from Youth Radio commented, “As a black woman, my state of emergency has existed for a long time. I’d call it a state of life. And in that way I’m weirdly thankful to Donald Trump because maybe now people will actually pay attention to this, and get America talking to each other rather than listening to us.”

Reaching a bigger audience

Podcast audiences are growing every year. What are the best ways of connecting with those audiences? What platforms do we use, and what type of content should we be creating?

Kerri Hoffman, CEO of PRX, knows we can’t lose sight of that goal. “As Jay Allison said in his provocation, we need to strengthen public media because it won’t be rebuilt.  Podcasting is an exciting part of the solution but currently it is subscribable media. The question is: how do we make digital audio that is meaningful and reaches a mainstream audience?”

It was a great and exhausting weekend! We can’t wait until next year.See you in the archive,
The Pop Up Archive team