Stanford Storytelling Project moves from radio broadcasting to online podcasts


During the previous two quarters, the Stanford Storytelling Project (SSP) shifted the focus of its “State of the Human” show from a radio segment on KZSU to an online podcast format in an effort to reach more Internet users.

SSP explores how the tradition of storytelling has shaped human history and how the stories themselves enrich human life. In 2012, SSP founded “State of the Human” as a way to share stories via broadcast audio. Since then, SSP has aired hour-long episodes of the show every week on KZSU. However, as online podcasts gained momentum, SSP began to move away from KZSU, instead of offering podcasts to a growing online audience.

“Most people listen online because KZSU [has] a very specific audience, ”said“ State of the Human ”producer Sienna White ’19. “We are able to reach a lot more people on the web. It just goes beyond longwave radio [today]. ”

Editor-in-chief Jake Warga explained that in this booming technological age, podcasts uploaded to SSPs SoundCloud reach far more students than those broadcast through KZSU, which is why it supports the focus on online podcasts.

Students listen to a lot of podcasts, ”said Warga. “The technology is connected to our phones, to which we are always connected. When we commute it’s a big [opportunity to reach] the public there. We don’t give much importance to KZSU broadcasting. Those [episodes] are not archived for download, compared to SoundCloud, where [the podcasts] are all there permanently.

Student producer Cameron Tenner ’20 said he also attributed SSP’s gradual gravitation to online podcasts to an ongoing cultural shift. He believes that listening to podcasts online gives listeners an element of choice, which is why listening to the radio has declined.

In general, most people consume their podcasts through the Apple podcast app or SoundCloud, ”Tenner said. “[Listening to podcasts online] gives you the flexibility to choose what you want to listen to when. I think the shift to online podcasts is making podcasts more accessible to everyone. “

When airing on KZSU, the SSP is limited to 60 minute episodes, as they must fit into KZSU’s airing schedule. However, as SSP moved away from the traditional radio format, the organization stopped compressing the length of its podcasts, allowing the nature of each story to shape the length of each episode.

When i joined [SSP], we’ve moved to a podcast model, ”Warga said. “It’s fun going down to the radio station, but my focus is on podcasts, where the duration is determined by the stories and the people who produce them, rather than by the hour window.”

Producer Yue Li ’19 explained that removing the one-hour time constraint has given SSP more artistic freedom and the ability to tell their stories in a more organic and creative way.

“We have become more like a podcast in the sense that the duration [isn’t controlled]”Li said.” We have a lot of freedom now, because we are not limited in time. A lot of our recent episodes have been longer, like 90 minutes, [or shorter, like] 20 minutes.”

On the other hand, Tenner believes that SSP will always have an invisible time restriction, as listeners’ attention is rapidly diminishing. He hasn’t noticed any change in podcast production due to the removal of the one-hour time constraint.

The episodes are typically about an hour long, ”Tenner said. “Even though we don’t have a restriction on airtime, we still have a restriction. It’s hard to get people to listen to something longer than an hour. Even more than half an hour can be difficult. I think we’ll always be limited by people’s attention span and interest.

“State of the Human” was created primarily to convey shared human experiences and feelings in the form of an audio story. Each episode consists of individual stories which all relate to a general theme, such as survival Where speculation. According to Li, “State of the Human” aims to showcase diverse human experiences, which has increased his ability to sympathize with people from all walks of life.

“I realized how important it is to hear other people tell stories,” Li said. “When you walk down the street, you don’t realize how different other people’s experiences are. I think “State of the Human” is essential for SSP because one of our biggest missions is to be able to tell a story about common human experiences and to be able to tie all those human experiences together. ”

Tenner believes that the purpose of the SSP is twofold. Not only does it allow students to hone their story-making skills, it also provides a platform for hard-hitting stories.

“A really important part of the storytelling is that you are the facilitator,” Tenner said. “You are the intermediary between someone’s story [and the audience]. [SSP] gives Stanford students the space to learn more about the art of history, but also provides a platform for incredible and valuable stories. ”

Whenever Warga helps his colleagues at SSP create a story, he asks them two basic questions: “What is the story about?” “And” What is the story really By the way? ”Warga believes that any good story should focus on an experience or anecdote, but shed light on something deeper about the human condition. According to him, a well-crafted story not only educates the listener on the subject, but also convinces him to take an interest in the subject.

“The facts have no emotion,” Warga said. “Facts have no feeling. But when you combine facts with a story, enlisting someone to give a voice to a phenomenon, that’s when we can care about something. When we can both know and feel.

Likewise, producer Claudia Heymach ’19 said she was always touched and influenced by a touching story. She believes a story can impact someone in a way that bland facts and research never can.

“I think the stories are really powerful,” Heymach said. “It’s that intimate experience where you hear someone else’s voice. It’s not just the statistics, which seem cold and distant. The narration is humanizing.

For White, storytelling is a force that exposes him to the myriad of emotions that encapsulate the human experience. She said she joined SSP because she wanted to bring storytelling back to modern society. White is committed to expanding the scale of SSP, which is why she supports the program’s move to online podcasts.

“[In storytelling,] there is a connection capacity between two people, ”White said. “It’s that feeling you get when someone tells a story and you get chills or find yourself thinking about things that you haven’t thought about for a very long time. The way a story resonates with you [is] a beautiful and inexplicable thing. I never want to be able to explain it.

Contact Swara Tewari at tewariswara ‘at’ gmail.com.