[00:00:00] Jenna: I have read that I believe 34 is the age where you like your brain kind of passes the point of no return in terms of like wanting new things or liking new things. How old you are. Brendan
[00:00:14] Brendan: just turned 34
[00:00:15] Mark: I'm two years in. And all I listened to at the moment is Zac brown band. I mean, I like them, but I'm ready for the rest of my life.
[00:00:35] Brendan: Hey, Mark Steadman, of Podiant.
[00:00:36] Mark: Hello, Brendan Hutchins of the podcast advocate network.
[00:00:39] Brendan: And welcome Jenna Spinelle for from democracy works podcast.
[00:00:44] Jenna: Thanks for having me.
[00:00:45] Mark: It's an absolute. I could have said that with more enthusiasm could have said that within the, with the enthusiasm that I felt, which is, which is capacious.
[00:00:54] Uh, so I'll try that again. It is a great pleasure. I've been speaking all day, so I think I've lost all of my, uh, ability to exude any kind of emotion.
[00:01:03] Brendan: Are you burned out of speaking?
[00:01:06] Mark: I think, yes. Uh, what an interesting topic to do a run of podcasts on, um, do you want to tell us a bit about, uh, what you, what you do?
[00:01:15] Jenna: Um, sure. Uh, so as you guys mentioned, I work on a podcast called democracy works. It is produced by the McCourtney Institute for democracy at Penn state university. And in, um, in conjunction with WPSU Penn state, which is central Pennsylvania is NPR station. Um, as you might guess from the name, the shows about democracy, um, we, uh, every week we look at a different part of what it means to live in a democracy.
[00:01:41] So whether that's, you know, voting or gerrymandering or the free press, our most recent, uh, episode, at least as, as a, when we record this, it's about local governments and, um, how that's kind of the, the training wheels for democracy in, in some respects, um, economic inequality, um, all types of things. Um, I.
[00:02:01] Each episode starts off with my cohost, Michael Berkman and Chris beam. Um, they both have PhDs, so they kind of assume a bit of a, a professor like role. They explain the topic and kind of set the stage. Then I do an interview with the guest and then Michael and Chris come back in at the end to wrap things.
[00:02:21] Um, we started the show last spring, March of 2018, and we've been having a lot of fun with it so far. Um, we, we like to say that democracy is a growth industry right now. Um, if you've been in a bookstore lately or at the library, you probably see. Tons of books related to democracy. Um, and we thought that there was an opening in the podcast space to, to do the same thing.
[00:02:45] And it turns out there was, so we've been, we've been having a lot of fun with it so far and, and are pleased, um, with the traction it's picked up
[00:02:52] Mark: and the risk of asking the obvious question, uh, is any of this, a response to the current political climate call it that?
[00:03:01] Jenna: Sure. I mean, I think a lot of people, um, Maybe saw that, you know, institutions and know parts of, of government and democracy that they had taken for granted, maybe Warren as stable as, as they thought.
[00:03:16] Um, and we're not, we, we say at the front, we're not, we're not a partisan show. We don't do hot takes on the news. We're not trying to be pundants, we're really trying to get back to some of the more foundational elements and do so in kind of an educational. Um, so people kind of made me take in democracy and what it means to live in a democracy for granted.
[00:03:38] So in order to, to really understand it and be active and engaged, as it's helpful to understand some of those more foundational elements.
[00:03:45] Brendan: Absolutely. I think a really great, um, uh, example of that is a recent episode with Asher Taylor. Um, Uh, documentary, what is democracy? That was, yeah, that was a great primer into, I think, both your podcast and the idea of how you're trying to explain democracy.
[00:04:04] Yeah. And it's,
[00:04:05] Jenna: it's tough. You don't it. And I think one of the nice things is that there is no one common definition. So, um, that's, I think why we could keep doing episodes forever and ever, I think, because it's something that. You know, we, as you know, humanity has been wrestling with for 2000 plus years now, and we still haven't kind of entirely figured it out, but that struggle is what really makes for some great, interesting and engaging conversations.
[00:04:31] Mark: So who, who ultimately are you making the show for?
[00:04:35] Jenna: That's a great question. Um, We have. So we are based at, at a university, as I said, and I think at the start we thought that it would be, um, an alumni type of audience or, or using, you know, college graduates as are our demographic. You know, maybe someone who.
[00:04:53] Yo graduated from college and has a day job doing something that's not in government or politics or what have you, but they're concerned and engaged and maybe want to kind of keep up on, on what's happening. So that was our, our target, um, at the beginning. And we we've started. Um, have reached some of that.
[00:05:10] We've, we've also seen a lot of interest, um, from other faculty at other universities who are using episodes in their classrooms. Um, yeah, the end, uh, about a week or so ago, I got the sweetest note from, uh, the. Um, activities coordinator at a senior center. Um, it's about two hours from, from where our campuses, um, she had heard a radio interview, my co-host and I did, um, back in the fall.
[00:05:38] And she, she wrote to me to say that. Playing our show for her residents who themselves are a lot of retired, uh, university professors and, you know, business people, things like that. Um, and she actually invited us to come down and speak to them, um, later this spring. So, um, you know, that was an audience I had never thought about at all, really, but, um, it, it, it makes sense.
[00:06:02] This is the generation that grew up listening to the radio. So. You know, once you kind of get past the technical barrier of how to listen to a podcast, the fact that they like, like the content and the format, I think really makes a lot of sense.
[00:06:14] Mark: That takes me back to. One of our early episodes that we had.
[00:06:19] And I was trying to remember who our lovely guest was, uh, that we, that we spoke to. Um, and w we were talking about sort of all of us gathering around the horn, um, to, to listen to a podcast area on this invite. Yes. There you go. Thank you. Um, and so it's lovely to know that, uh, There are still the, you know, there are very much pockets of people that do that and, uh, getting great enjoyment out of it.
[00:06:42] So, um, that's wonderful. Yeah. A bunch of people I'm getting, I mean, is it something that you, that people are gonna sort of shake their fist and why order at, at, at their, um, at their streaming device? Or I guess it's not because you're not trying to do. Divisive are you, you're trying to explain topics and explore them rather than get people's hackles.
[00:07:03] Jenna: Yeah. Yeah, exactly. Um, yeah, we're not trying, trying to be, be partisan or, you know, yell about Donald Trump. And in fact, you rarely comes up in, in our show. Um, yeah, I think mostly make people. Explore or, you know, kind of peak people's interests that they want to delve more into a topic. We may provide a refresher on something that you might have covered in a high school or a college class, but completely forgotten about, um, there's a lot of references to the Federalist papers and, uh, Alexis de Tocqueville and, um, those kinds of things that, um, people have probably heard of, but maybe haven't spent a lot of time kind of really thinking about.
[00:07:41] Brendan: Absolutely. So considering, you know, speaking of Donald Trump and, uh, since he is the, um, cartoon, uh, elephant in the room, considering the, the political parties, um, and the topic of burnout for the season, uh, How, how has producing a podcast that is political based in this climate right now? Or any climate?
[00:08:05] Uh, how does it affect any burnout that you feel as you're producing the podcast or working with your co-hosts?
[00:08:12] Jenna: Yeah, I mean, so at the beginning, you know, with the three of us would send around articles to each other, you know, every time a different headline broke like, oh, we should do something on this.
[00:08:21] We should do something on lists. And we quickly realized that was. At all sustainable. Um, so we, we decided to maybe look instead for trends among what's happening. Um, so, you know, for example, um, right in the months after the Parkland shooting, um, last year we started to see an increase in companies coming out in.
[00:08:46] Taking taking a stance in favor of gun control or, you know, things like that. And so, um, we kind of watched that for maybe a month or so, and then decided, okay, let's, let's do something on this. And we, we interviewed, uh, a professor in our college of business here at Penn state about kind of this increase in corporate activism and the increasing.
[00:09:08] Demands from consumers, especially younger consumers that, um, their, their companies take a political stance or kind of supporting companies that take a political stance, like Patagonia, for example, kind of coming out. Um, again, some of the things that the Trump administration wanted to do to national parks.
[00:09:25] Um, so, you know, kind of looking for those, those broader trends and then trying to connect it back to, okay. What does it mean. In a democracy if companies are increasingly becoming players in the field. So I'm trying to get like, above that, like day to day news grind and look for those kind of higher level trends is, is how, um, where we kind of settled.
[00:09:49] But to, to do that. And I think to, to bring it back to burnout, you know, you still have to wait through all of, you know, everything that's coming out all the time to be able to see those trends or. No, what, what might be salient or not? So, um, that's something that, you know, we all kind of struggle with. Um, I've been trying to read more books too.
[00:10:10] I know I've heard a couple of other, other people talk about this, um, as a burnout coping strategy. But, um, as I, as I said before, there's tons of books about democracy out there right now. And there's. Pull, you know, book, podcast, guest ecosystem, feedback loop, um, and not to do too, too much of that. Um, can we try to be more topic based as opposed to just having people on to talk about their books, but, um, I think there's some good kind of material in that, uh, particularly for Chris and Michael and their kind of analysis they can draw from.
[00:10:44] From what other, other scholars and other people who are writing are saying
[00:10:51] Brendan: as, as listeners of this, uh, series will well know I've been, um, sort of planning kind of burnout, not really able to start a political podcast of my own and it between the previous episode. And this one has. Pretty much, uh, all the doubt have died out.
[00:11:10] Um, actually, no, I shouldn't even say that it is, it is completely dead, um, at the, the prospect of, of finding topics and, and being on point for the position, um, debate. Depending the politics with my fellow co-hosts and it was just the, the, I, the idea of it alone, um, in preparing this podcast for a year and a half.
[00:11:33] And I just, the whole time has just been as it had been too much. So I admire that. You've been, I think you said you're you're on season three.
[00:11:42] Jenna: Yeah. So we, we kind of follow the academic calendar. So, you know, every semester we'll, we'll, we, we, we've been calling a season, take a couple of weeks off in between, but no, I, I hear you man, about the, you know, kind of trying to come up with these opinions, you know, I, I, I do watch cable news and other things, and I'm always amazed at how these people can just kind of do this stuff on demand.
[00:12:06] You know, people writing. Takes and in the Atlantic and Vox and all these other places, like how do they just come up with this stuff, like on command and on the fly. And it's, it's definitely a, a unique skill set. And one that I don't know that I'll
[00:12:20] Mark: ever, it's going to be a big book of takes somewhere.
[00:12:25] Jenna: Just, yeah. Pull some from here. Some from there, put, putting together like a.
[00:12:33] Mark: Um, on that topic actually, like how do you, so do you listen to the audience at all? When it, when it comes time to, to think about what topics to discuss, are people reaching out to you and saying, you should be
[00:12:44] Jenna: talking about this. We have heard from a few people actually. Um, our, our suggestions have, have mostly come well, two areas.
[00:12:52] So one, we have a lot of international listeners, um, state of democracy around the world is not super great right now in, in, in a lot of places. So, um, we've heard from people in other countries, um, saying, Hey, you should really talk about what's going on here. Our first. There are all of our episodes that have been released to date thus far have been very us focused.
[00:13:14] So we're getting ready to launch a series, looking at the state of democracy in Brazil and Hungary and France and the UK. Maybe we'll add some others onto that as we go forward. But, um, that's really been a learning experience for all of us. Um, Michael and Chris are both kind of using. Politics scholars.
[00:13:37] So, um, we, as, as they say, we've been learning along with our, with our guests. Um, so that's one area that we've, we've heard feedback. The other is that there's a. Uh, a whole ecosystem of what's known as deliberative democracy. Um, so you know, ways to give citizens direct impact into their government. So, um, you know, ballot initiatives, um, are, are one example of this.
[00:14:05] There's an organization called participatory budgeting. Um, works with cities and towns to give people who live in those places control over some portion of how that, that municipalities budget is spent. And so there's all types of, of experiments and, and groups that are working on these types of things.
[00:14:25] Um, kind of taking a lot of the. Machinery of politics and the parties out of things and putting, putting control directly in the hands of the people. So, um, we've had a couple people write to us, um, with suggestions of different variations of these things that are happening throughout the country. Um, and, and that's maybe another series where we're going to look at doing is, you know, what are these different experiments?
[00:14:50] How are they working? Um, what are people saying about them? What is. Tie into democracy more broadly. Um, so that's something that I had no idea about before I started this role and started working on this the show. So it's been great to see, um, all these little pockets of, of activity that are happening, that you don't often hear about because everything gets drown out by the takes and the punditry and, and all of that, that kind of crowds our feed.
[00:15:19] Mark: So you talked about, um, obviously getting, uh, listener feedback. How, how, how has that gathered, um, you know, are you, uh, is this a Facebook group, Twitter email? How, how are people getting in touch?
[00:15:31] Jenna: Mostly, it's been through the contact form on our website. Um, I mean, if we have had a few people reach out to us through, through Facebook and Twitter as well, but, um, we, we try to be good at the end of every show about directing people to, to contact us through the site.
[00:15:48] And so, um, that that's mostly been where it's come, where it's come from. Okay.
[00:15:52] Mark: Cause that, then, you know, that that's means you haven't so much got a community that you've got to then police, it's not like a, you know, a subreddit that you've got to keep people in line or anything.
[00:16:03] Jenna: I mean, we've, we've thought about that.
[00:16:05] I mean, I'm in a lot of podcasting communities and that's one of the like perpetual questions. I feel like I see come up daily almost is, Hey, do you have a separate community, a separate page, a separate whatever for your show. Um, and, and we don't right now. Um, it's something I've thought about starting.
[00:16:23] Um, you know, frankly just haven't had the time to really, you know, make the show and do all these other things kind of related to it. So, um, you know, maybe, maybe we'll get there one day. I think it would be great to have a place where people could have discussions, for example, or, you know, maybe we have some type of like back-channel conversation.
[00:16:42] Um, after each episode airs, um, I didn't know if you guys are involved in the, the podcast brunch club at all, or, or have heard of that group. Um, yeah, I'm actually a moderator or a kind of a cold lead on an online chapter of that group. That's just kind of getting off the ground and I've really enjoyed that experience.
[00:17:01] Just talking about podcasts when with other other people, you know, in this case, it's, it's around the world because we're just, we meet online. Um, you know, I really liked that and I think that there could be potential for that with, with our show, um, just to kind of figure out the best way to make it happen.
[00:17:18] Brendan: Yeah. That makes a lot of sense. It makes a lot of sense that you direct people to a contact form on your website because you also have more control over that in terms of like what fields they fill out. And, um, I think the information that you'd want to get from. As well, starting your own community. Uh, I've done a few of them.
[00:17:36] Like I, I have, uh, my own slack for the podcast advocate network. Um, I've done some, you know, different Facebook groups and other stuff, and obviously, you know, Facebook accounts and Twitter accounts and all the rest. Um, they're all, they all have their unique challenges and they're all, uh, uh, Difficult to get, you know, off the ground and get going.
[00:17:58] If you're, if you're not like really diving into it and spending a lot of time, really trying to build it up, then it, um, it can get to this point where it doesn't feel like it goes anywhere and kind of feel almost like depressing and sad. Uh, yeah.
[00:18:12] Jenna: And I, and I mean to talk about burnout, I feel like I get burned out on all that stuff too.
[00:18:18] Sometimes, you know, it's just, it's, it's really hard to kind of keep. Keep up with what everybody's saying and always looking for opportunities to promote your show, but not being that person. That's like, Hey, look at this thing I'm doing. Why don't you come listen to it? You know?
[00:18:35] Brendan: Um, that's a great point.
[00:18:37] I'm in a couple I'm in like probably a dozen different, um, podcasts directly related slacks. And there's a few of them that have like the promotions, uh, channel. And inevitably in each of the different ones, there's one person that keeps hanging on and like, yeah, I'll keep posting my, my episode every week.
[00:18:58] And it's just the channel of their books and exactly,
[00:19:03] Mark: exactly.
[00:19:05] Brendan: Nope. It's, it's
[00:19:06] Mark: really true. I am still. I think we've had this discussion before, but I think it's worth repeating. Yeah. They get set up because if they didn't, someone would say you should have a section to promote your stuff. That's the only reason they exist.
[00:19:24] If it's to stop someone saying, where can I promote my stuff? And then if you're on the, you know, the podcast to support group, you've seen. Paul. Helen's got to be there a couple of times a week and said, please wait until Friday when you can post about your specific episode.
[00:19:38] Jenna: Right. And then 355 people do.
[00:19:42] And I mean more power to anybody that looks through all of those, those threads, but
[00:19:48] Mark: any of them, there's probably some hidden gems in there, but yeah, no, one's looking
[00:19:52] Brendan: to be fair. I have, I have gone through some of them here and there and listening to some episodes, uh, Usually they're there, they're smaller threads that are more, more niche and specific.
[00:20:05] Like I'm in, um, a podcast, Portland, uh, Facebook group. And so there's like half dozen of us that are really active at any given time. And so I'll check out some of the local podcasts around here sometimes. Um, that's a, that's a fun way to find out what's near you when it's not. Easy to find that one just searching around online, because location, isn't really a big factor in, uh, what somebody's talking about within their, about their podcast.
[00:20:34] And so I'm trying to, yeah. But that's about it. Like all those other slacks, all the Reddits, all the Facebooks. Yeah.
[00:20:44] Jenna: No, the other thing I'll do sometimes is, um, on, on Reddit in particular, I'll just do on those big threads. I'll just do a search or, you know, control F. Government politics just to see if anybody else is out there doing something similar than that, that I might want to collaborate with.
[00:21:03] And I have actually found a few kind of like-minded shows that way. So yeah, that's one, one tip, I think for, you know, to, to the point of building community too, I think just finding other people that are trying to do the same thing and. You know, I feel like every, not every day, maybe once a week, I find a, a different show out there about civics or about government or about policy or something.
[00:21:25] That's kind of in our general orbit or a show that's produced at another college or university, um, that we can start doing promo swaps or other trades or things like that. Um, I think that's much more effective. Um, then just, yeah, trying to like continually get on these like big threads or, you know, kind of the, the, the larger level things.
[00:21:47] Mark: I'm interested in the mechanics. How you go about approaching someone to do, uh, some kind of collaboration with whether it, whether it be a promo swap or a, uh, you know, just a mention or, you know, them, them guesting on, like how, how do you reach out? How does that conversation actually happen?
[00:22:04] Jenna: Yeah. So I'm usually, I'll just kind of try to go on, go on the, the, the website for the show.
[00:22:10] Um, send them an email. I try to tailor what I'm asking based on the kind of level of. Popularity of their show in relationship to ours. Right. So, um, you know, if it's somebody that seems like it's, you know, kind of at the same level, maybe it's an even like, you know, we air an episode of their show. They are an episode of ours.
[00:22:32] Um, there's, there's a podcast called Trump on. Um, I actually met, met the producer there, um, at, at podcast movement last year, but, um, they're in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, which isn't far from us. Um, so we ended up doing an episode swap. Um, they talk about environmental issues and the, and the Trump administration.
[00:22:52] Um, but again, not in like a, a partisan kind of way. Um, there I wrote. Yeah, no, they, they, they do a great job of it and I would encourage anybody to, to check out, um, Trump on earth. Um, I found, uh, through one of our guests, I found, um, her Alma mater at, at American university. They do. Uh, show kind of in the same vein as democracy works, but looking at global issues, it's called big worlds produced by American university.
[00:23:25] Um, so I recorded a 45 second clip to put at the end of their episode. That's out now, they're going to send me a clip. Um, there've been some other like bigger type of shows where, um, so this, this exam, this the episode you mentioned, um, before Brendan about local government. Um, there's a couple of other podcasts that specifically talk about local government.
[00:23:49] So I sent them the link to our episode and I was like, Hey guys, I'm going to link to you in our show notes under like other local government podcasts. You might enjoy an exchange for that. Could you maybe like tweet our episode or something? And they did, um, So just kind of depends on, on what the situation is, but I think everybody's kind of in the same boat in terms of like, we're all looking to build an audience.
[00:24:16] Um, and you know, I think for listeners to, if they can, it's so overwhelming to try to go. On to, you know, whatever your podcast, app of choices and way through everything. And, you know, the algorithms are good, but they're not going to get everything. So, um, you know, anything that, that we can do to kind of help each other out and getting, getting a captive audience, um, people who are already listening to shows, um, Uh, you know, I think I'm also pretty lucky in that I am at a fairly large university, um, that has, you know, half a million alumni and 50,000 students.
[00:24:53] Um, so we're just really starting to scratch the surface of trying to get into that kind of market as well.
[00:25:00] Brendan: Yeah. Do you do any like, um, on boots on the ground, try to activism, trying to get people to listen, like handing out flyers or cards or
[00:25:09] Jenna: stickers or, yeah. So, um, we have, we have flyers up, um, all around campus and it's cards as well.
[00:25:16] We've done a couple of alumni events, um, you know, tailgates and things like that. We'll go in and you'll pass out cards. Um, you know, networking type of events. Um, we've met with some alumni in other cities like Washington and Philadelphia and New York. Um, but that, again, that's, we're just really at the kind of beginning stages of that.
[00:25:40] And, and I think too, Um, I'm really excited about the ways that universities can leverage their students and their alumni to bring new people into podcasting as a whole, you know, as a, as I'm sure you guys know, like only a quarter of the population or so listens to podcasts regularly. Um, so you know, maybe a podcast produced by your Alma mater is like your foot in the door, you know, and who knows where you'll go from there.
[00:26:10] So. Um, you know, I remember hearing some of those, those stats at, at podcast movement last year and thinking about, you know, oh wow. We, we really might be able to like, move the needle on some of this. It's just, um, like a lot of things, universities are big complex bureaucracies and kind of figuring out how to actually make that happen.
[00:26:30] Brendan: Yeah. W that makes a lot of sense. It wouldn't when you were talking about doing your, um, promo swaps and getting. You know, tweets in exchange for show notes and that kind of stuff. It reminded me of, uh, previous guests, Dan Meissner's, um, uh, newsletter that just talked about a, uh, they just released an article about how those promo swaps really work and really help engagement.
[00:26:54] I haven't read the article yet, but I don't have the details on
[00:26:57] Jenna: it. Yeah, it was. Was it about like, like hacker shows or something? Was that
[00:27:00] Brendan: one? Yeah. And so we'll link to that. It is linked in the show notes. Um, but, uh, but what I also always come back to, even though that that can help and, and cross promote and get more listeners between those two shows and, and, and grow the audience a little bit more.
[00:27:18] It's really like you were saying, getting new people into podcasting in general, because there's three quarters of the world that doesn't, uh, it doesn't leave in. Listen
[00:27:28] Mark: at all. Yeah. And, and, um, listeners who have been with us for the last few episodes will know that I, I was gently, um, bullied into, um, exploring a podcast idea last, uh, last week and, um, or last week when we recorded and.
[00:27:45] In doing some of the research for that, I was really surprised at what an absolute state, some of the, um, apple podcasts categories, uh, that the charts are in right now. Um, for example, you know, specifically the kids and family section I was looking at, I mean, I started with Spotify because I just happened to have the Spotify.
[00:28:03] In my hand at the time. Um, and then I thought, well, I should, I should go to the grownup. You know, that like the, the big boys and see what the master list, you know, says, this is what, all the apps you is, this the oh good grief. Certainly in the UK, it was a, it was an absolute mess. Um, there were almost no kids for no podcasts for actual kids.
[00:28:22] Um, it was all podcasts about kids and. What the chart is for. And so in that age where discovery is actually getting even harder, especially if you're, you know, um, I would say independent, but I don't strictly necessarily mean, um, you know, solo or small groups of people. But if you're not backed by a, a, you know, a, a large network with advertising funding and all the rest of it.
[00:28:49] Using those boots on the ground, grassroots ways of marketing your show, regardless of whether you are, um, a university which has access to hundreds of thousands of listeners, you've still got to do that, that boots on the ground work to, um, to, to get people in and, you know, effectively that kind of word of mouth stuff that, that promo exchange stuff that he's as old as the internet itself.
[00:29:14] Still works. It's web rings all the way down. I'm obsessed with web rings. I've brought them up before. I'm going to bring the web ring back. It's definitely going to be a thing. Pod rings. I wholeheartedly endorsed the idea anyway, get
[00:29:28] Brendan: the domain.
[00:29:30] Jenna: So park that Twitter account right now.
[00:29:33] Brendan: That's another one.
[00:29:36] Mark: At some point, my password managers go to say, dude, you've got too many Twitter accounts. Stop it at once.
[00:29:43] Brendan: Do you have any hang ups in like podcasting as a whole as like, is there something about podcasting that you wish was different or improved? So on the
[00:29:52] Jenna: one hand you, I, I mentioned the kind of book podcast feedback loop before.
[00:29:59] On the, on the one hand I, I do, I have found books. I like that way, but on the other hand, I feel like it's really easy for interviews just to become really roped and, you know, people just to like, okay, well, tell me, you know, you talk about this in your book. Can you explain that? Oh, and then you make this point.
[00:30:16] Can you explain that? Um, I feel like it's just an easy kind of trope to fall into as, as an interviewer. That's a pet peeve sometimes. And maybe it's I also acknowledge it's it's maybe just the circles I travel in and it's, I've listened to a lot of really wonky podcasts. So, um, maybe that's, that's not, not the case so much.
[00:30:35] And, and other genre
[00:30:37] Mark: you bringing it up has just made me think. Actually, I feel like I've heard that a lot. Um, and, um, I may have just edited someone's podcast that, that did exactly that. But, um, no like, Ooh, uh, but no, like that, that definitely in things I've just listened to. Um, that is very much a trend.
[00:30:56] It is. I suspect because it's a very easy formula. Probably very easy to get on a list of people who need to promote their book. And they're obviously going to be happy to sit and talk. Yeah.
[00:31:06] Jenna: Yeah. They're, they're motivated to do it. And for if your show doesn't have that major backing behind it, it's a good way to get a guest that you might not get otherwise, you know, as, as I think about it, I, I love, I love Venn diagrams.
[00:31:20] My co-host made fun of me for it all the time, but I think that the best podcast episodes are when there's a nice overlap between. The goal of the show and the goal of the guests, you know, when that like sweet spot in the middle is, is really what, what makes for a good episode and a good conversation.
[00:31:38] Um, and that's that that's, that's hard to do, um, because you know, everybody has an agenda and trying to figure out where, where those things aligned. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn't,
[00:31:49] Mark: it makes no sense. Because we've just been talking about formulas and, and this kind of a conversation that we had, uh, with, with Dan, um, when, when we chatted to him, do you, do you work to a fault, you know, a formula and I don't mean to be too sort of, um, de you know, diminish the, the show, but do you have sort of, um, a structure that each episode is, um, gonna abide by to make the.
[00:32:16] Production process a little bit
[00:32:17] Jenna: easier. Yeah, we do. I mean, every, every episode is, is broken down into three segments. Um, interviews that I do that are book-ended by my co-hosts, um, you know, I don't, but the, the interviews don't really have a specific format. Um, Other than there's, there's four questions that I always ask at the end that are tied back to something else that our Institute does.
[00:32:41] But, um, you know, beyond that, I, I try to always keep that kind of democracy angle in mind and, um, you know, I had never done. Uh, broadcast like a live on air interview before we started our show, I can vividly remember sitting down in the, in the chair and the studio for the first time, putting the headphones on thinking I have never done this before.
[00:33:03] I've, I've, I'm a journalist, I've done interviews for years, but it's always been for like a written piece or where or where, you know, something on camera that was going to be cut later or nothing where like my voice was going to be a central role in it. So that's something that I'm really still kind of struggling with.
[00:33:20] Um, I don't know if you guys, if you guys have any inner, like pro interview tips, I'll gladly take them, um,
[00:33:26] Mark: iPad a great one. Um, which is, which is great for Skype. Cause you, you speak in there. Got me thinking about one of the early, um, interviews that I did. It wasn't exactly an interview, but it had a sort of an interview segment.
[00:33:38] Uh, and it was a live show and I'd have a guest on each week. And the first time I had. Someone on the, I sort of new often kind of admired a bat and, you know, I'd emailed them weeks almost months ago. And, um, as the call began, I just felt my nervous energy increase more and more. And I'm someone who's very, very prone to that.
[00:33:59] I'm very given over to that nervous energy and, um, a piece of advice from a book I think is called the Chimp brain. I think it's, I think it's called that. Uh, and that's certainly the, the characterization is that the part of your brain, that's like a champion. You've got to find ways to distract it. And so I've found that, um, either writing notes or doodling, whilst talking to a guest, which is something you can almost only do on a Skype call, having something that can distract the brain a little bit from spinning out from going, oh my God, this person's talking about.
[00:34:31] Haven't thought of a question yet. Can can help. When, you know, when you asked, been spinning your wheels and I, I found that writing notes is good because you can write down key words of what they're saying. And so you're S you're still keeping the brain active whilst also engaging in what they're saying, a bit of active listening.
[00:34:48] Um, that that's one of the things that I picked up fairly early on that, um, you know, I still got. Um, with me now and, and find useful,
[00:34:56] Jenna: oh, I'll have to try that. I would make, as you were describing. And my thought was that, oh, I would get so focused on, not that I wouldn't pay attention to what they were saying.
[00:35:04] Um, and I I've had that moment too, where someone finishes talking and then like, um, there
[00:35:10] Brendan: was like,
[00:35:14] My other real advice for, uh, for interviewing is something that I haven't actually tried, but it seems like it worked really well for mark is, uh, uh, improv lessons.
[00:35:25] Jenna: Uh, I, yeah, I've, I've had other people suggest that to me too,
[00:35:28] Mark: if you, if you need, um, I think a particular, obviously there's a very different types of interviews.
[00:35:34] That people do, and it depends how, how dry you're going to be or how sort of, um, just, you know, by that, by the numbers, I've got some questions and they need, and I demand answers. Um, the, the, the sort of shuck and jive probably doesn't matter as much, but certainly, yeah, if you, if you want to have that really engaging thing where you can have a bit of play with, with the conversation, um, and, and even just explore ideas, explore premises for a little bit then.
[00:35:59] Yeah. I mean, you know, Um, or eight week improv course is not going to cost you that much. You'll meet some people and you'll pick up some skills. I mean, um, I I think has, has helped me, um, as I think, like anything, it's something that you want to try and exercise, um, fairly regularly, if you can, but yeah, it does help.
[00:36:23] I think
[00:36:28] Jenna: we launched our show fairly quickly. I mean, so I, I was hired into my role in. Uh, late October of 2017, we had our first meeting with the radio station in, um, December. And then we recorded our first couple of episodes, January, February, 2018. And we launched in March, 2018. Um, so there wasn't a lot of time to come do a lot of that.
[00:36:53] Is this right? Is it not? You just kind of said, oh, let's just jump in. And yeah. Um, and in hindsight, I wish we would have done a little bit more of that. Um, it's just kind of been like, uh, like, uh, you know, guns blazing full speed ahead, um, ever since, but yeah, and, and if you know anything about colleges or universities, things don't tend to happen very quickly.
[00:37:13] So it was like really lightening speed.
[00:37:15] Mark: And that, that brings on, um, uh, sort of a whole slew of questioning that I'd love to go down. And it's, it's stuff that we we've talked about before and, and I've categorized it as the treadmill of, okay. Well, At that week's episode is done. We only had a few. Between editing it or recording it.
[00:37:33] And the time that it actually had to go out, um, is what you're doing at all time sensitive. Um, or because obviously you're not necessarily doing the hot button topics, but you can use those things to talk about wider issues. So is there a time crunch either because of topicality or just because of the nature of having to put the show together that, you know, you're, you're, you're chasing the calendar or chasing the clock to hit the deadline.
[00:37:59] Are you able to work a few weeks in advance?
[00:38:01] Jenna: Yeah, so, um, we are in a place deliberately, so where we work a few weeks in advance, um, usually two to three weeks and I've found that's a good balance for like keeping everyone sanity and not having to like rush through things. Yeah. Um, but also still being able to not have things sit around on the shelf and get stale.
[00:38:22] Um, so we, we usually record about one episode a week, sometimes two, depending on what's happening. Um, And some of the topics are of course, more evergreen than others. Like I have a few that we recorded probably six months ago that haven't aired yet. I'm just kind of waiting for if there ever is a time where something happens or, um, where we find ourselves in need of something for one reason or another, um, we can kind of slot in, um, things that are.
[00:38:51] No, there's one on, on music and democracy, for example, um, that's not really tied to anything current and we don't, there's not a lot of current examples. It's more of like a, a higher level discussion. So there's a couple of things like in the can, so to speak, um, that, that we can come to. But, um, there have been a, I don't know, a camp full of times, or it's been like, You know, the show was supposed to go up on Monday and I'm like writing the show notes on Saturday night or Sunday afternoon.
[00:39:19] Um, and I don't like to be in that place. So I've tried to, to structure things and sometimes that's where like promo swaps and things can help to, um, you know, if there is someone that wants to do something and I have an open week just slot something in there
[00:39:36] Mark: to that, then. Organize your shows. Are you a to do list person, spreadsheet person, for example, we, um, I put the company on a service called monday.com and we use it for keeping track of issues with the website and then other things as well.
[00:39:52] And one of those is that all the podcasts that I professionally produce, including this one are in a, a board. And so all of the. Um, all of the episodes have, have a row each where I can put in my audio, the guests audio Brendan's audio, separate files. So I know they're all somewhere safe and, you know, put all the dates of when they're recording the dates that they're going to go out and all that kind of stuff to try and keep everything sane.
[00:40:17] Um, do you have an approach like that? Um,
[00:40:21] Jenna: I use Trello. Um, and so, yeah, and you know, every episode has a card. I have a workflow that. Maybe eight or 10 different columns and it from like ideas. So if we're talking and there's, you know, we have, uh, a nugget of an idea or someone sends a link to an article, I can just make a card and kind of throw notes in there.
[00:40:41] Then it goes through our scheduling and booking the guest and. Um, our, our production process with the radio station, um, you can attach files to cards from box or from Google drive. Um, Penn state has a, a university wide box license. So, um, we tend to use box for our file storage and then link the cards, um, back to Trello for, for audio and for, for final episodes and things like that.
[00:41:09] Um, so that's, that's worked well for us.
[00:41:18] Mark: Well, thank you very much for joining us, Jenna, where can people find you and your work online?
[00:41:22] Jenna: So, um, democracy works is that democracy works podcast.com or search democracy works in your favorite podcast app. Um, so this, this was a lot of fun guys. I, I really appreciate the opportunity to chat with you.
[00:41:37] Brendan: Mark. What's your, what's your podcast week ahead. Look like,
[00:41:39] Mark: Ooh, I'm going to continue figuring out what the hell I'm going to do in 10 weeks, uh, when, but one of the leopard finishes. Um, and whether I do count down. Oh yeah, very much. Um, so yeah, that's the estimated time given there, the number of topics that we've got left in the last year.
[00:41:56] Uh, and so we're going to have some sorts of special event to, uh, fun, uh, to, to, to, you know, as a final episode. Uh, and then after that, I've got to figure out whether I'm going to interview a bunch of kids authors and just create a bunch of ideas off of them. Um, or I'm going to share my, uh, writing work each week in a.
[00:42:16] Chapter form and put it out that way. Uh, cause I can only choose one, so I better choose wisely. Yeah. You're
[00:42:22] Brendan: probably not going to want to do both on the same
[00:42:24] Mark: feed. I don't think the kids would. No, no, no, certainly not certainly enough. Uh, so yeah. Uh, well what about yourself?
[00:42:32] Brendan: dot com. That's a podcast librarian and you can look forward to all the different lists of curated podcasts on there.
[00:42:39] Um, I'm also at podcast advocate. If you want to just reach out for some personalized recommendations,