Annie Galvin – Writer, Producer, Host

Laura Perry:

Welcome, everyone to the Podcasting with Purpose Spring 2021 Series Kickoff event with Annie Galvin from Public Books. Thank you so much for joining. The Podcasting with Purpose Series is hosted by Humanities for the Public Good at University of Iowa and supported by the Obermann Center for Advanced Studies and the Mellon Foundation. As part of our goal to prepare graduate students for a wide range of careers serving the public good, Humanities for the Public Good is exploring new and innovative methods of interpretation, storytelling, and meaning-making. This Spring 2021 Podcasting with Purpose Series will bring together experienced podcasters, like Annie Galvin, to discuss their craft and how academics can connect their research, teaching, and advocacy with the wide world of podcasting.     

For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Laura Perry, I’m a post-doctoral fellow at the Humanities for the Public Good as part of the grant, and I’m formerly a managing editor at Edge Effects Magazine, and a radio show host at WSUM 91.7 FM, at University of Wisconsin, Madison. And I’m excited to be speaking today with Annie Galvin.

Annie is currently a Mellon/ACLS Public Fellow, and the associate editor and podcast producer at Public Books, which is an online magazine of ideas, scholarship, and the arts. She co-created, produced, and hosts the magazine’s new public scholarship podcast, Public Books 101. And her career has combined teaching, academic research, arts journalism, and now editing and podcasting. Her current work at Public Books is guided by her passion for spreading academic knowledge and expertise beyond the walls of a university, which is certainly a mission that we fully endorse and align ourselves with at Humanities for the Public Good.

I’ll ask a few questions to get us started, and then we’ll throw it open for questions from all of you joining us. So, Annie, thanks so much for joining us today. I was hoping you could start by telling us about your podcast and what was the brainstorming thought process like as you were designing and creating the first season? And why, just to begin, did Public Books even decide to start a podcast?

Annie Galvin:

Hi, everyone. First of all, thank you so much for having me. I just love what the Obermann Center and the Humanities for the Public Good initiative are doing, and it’s really such an honor to be here in your company. So thanks to Laura and thanks to all of you for taking an hour out of your Thursday afternoon.

The first question. Public Books, it’s an online magazine, and I think they’d been wanting to, or toying with the idea of starting a podcast for a while, but as I have learned, it takes a lot of time, and energy, and focus, and creativity to actually launch a project like that.

So the fellowship that I have, the public fellowship, basically, I worked for them for two years. And so whenever they get a public fellow, they try to give them a little project to work on. And I think that for this time they said, well, this is a great time to try to start that podcast project. So that was part of the job description that I applied for. And that’s how I came to it.

But, in terms of what we wanted to do, I was thinking about some of the other ideas about translating the scholarly training that we get into other types of work, like making a podcast. And I think that coming up with the idea was actually really similar to starting an academic project, like a dissertation, or a conference paper, or something where you first need to get a sense of the lay of the land, right? What everyone else has already done and said, and then you try to find your own niche, your own intervention, or whatever jargony word you want use.

In our case, because Public Books is a culture magazine, one thing that I researched was what are our sister publications doing in podcasting? Paris Review or New York Review of Books, New Republic, et cetera. And then, also, what are academics doing? In trying to explore those buckets, I was trying to come up with something that would feel a little bit different.

And so this all leads to what our show is. It’s called Public Books 101, and I think of it as an experiment in public scholarship. It is structured around really distinctive seasons, and each season explores a single topic from many angles. So it’s structured like a seminar in miniature.

Our first season was about the internet and we started by asking, what is the internet? I literally had to ask that question, because I didn’t know. Where did it come from? What are some of the more interesting and lesser known stories about the internet’s origins? And then we explored what is the internet doing to us as individuals, as societies. What kinds of new cultures is it producing?

The idea is that, if you take six hours out of your life, it will feel like taking a little mini-seminar on the internet. Each episode is a host and two guests. That was a very purposeful decision. There are a lot of podcasts that are one-on-one interviews and… It was my instinct that to be able to put two scholars into conversation with each other would produce more new and interesting little sparks of ideas. So that’s something that we’re committed to as we keep making seasons.

Laura Perry:

I’m so curious how you landed on the internet. What’s in the reject pile? Or are those secret future seasons that you can’t tell us about?

Annie Galvin:

There might be some future seasons. There’s definitely a reject pile. I think that in our case, because we were starting the podcast as an extension of the magazine, we had a lot to work with in terms of information about what our readers are interested in. So one thing that I did was I went through our most-read articles from the last year and taxonomized them. People are really into digital technology stuff, stuff that has the internet in the title.

I came up with a bunch of different possibilities. We landed on the internet because we knew there was a lot of interest. There’s so much exciting scholarship on the internet. And, we’ll probably get into this in a bit, but we really did want to reach out to readers beyond the bubble of academia. And we felt like the internet was something that you could go to your mom, or your brother, or whatever, and say, “You use the internet a lot, if you want to think a little bit harder and learn a little bit about what we’re doing when we’re on the internet all the time,” then we could offer that to them.

Laura Perry:

Who did you imagine was the audience for this podcast? And do you have any sense of who is actually out there listening?

Annie Galvin:

The biggest challenge that we set ourselves in making this podcast, Public Books 101, is that we had from the very beginning three ideal listeners in mind. And it’s not one person, but a group. It’s really difficult to talk to three different people.

One would be other scholars, other experts in the field, so to keep working with the internet-seasoned. We wanted it to be able to speak to other scholars, professors, or grad students in media studies, communication. We wanted to be able to challenge them and give them something new and some food for thought. So that’s listener one.

Listener two would be students. People who are developing expertise, developing knowledge in the topic, but aren’t full experts yet. So to do that, obviously, you need to lower the bar of access a little bit in the way that you’re talking, the way that you’re introducing concepts.

And then the third listener is what I refer to as mom’s book club. My mom is in this really great book club with all these amazing women who are not professional academics, but are very curious, engaged members of the public who want to learn more about the world that they inhabit. To try to make a product that would give something to those three groups is really difficult. It’s constantly walking this tightrope. And I find that to be a really energizing and interesting challenge.

In terms of who’s listening, we do not have great demographic data, unfortunately, but one thing that has made me really happy is to hear that it’s being taught in classes and on a number of campuses across the country. We’ve gotten some feedback that really warms my heart about the podcast being used in classes. And that was a very intentional decision. We really built it with pedagogical purpose in mind.

And then sometimes I’ll hear from people who’ve discovered it through my networks. I heard from a wedding planner who was like, “I listened to this in the car and I learned something.” To have someone who has no relationship to the academy get something out of it, that really means a lot to me. I wish we had hardcore analytics, but those are very hard to get for podcasts actually.

Laura Perry:

Are those three imagined audiences the same for Public Books, the magazine, or were you deliberately jumping out into new territory with the podcast?

Annie Galvin:

Yeah. I think that it’s a little bit more of the latter. With the podcast, the hope is that we could reach outside of our existing readership and the existing bubble of people who know about Public Books. Podcasting can be in a lot of ways a more accessible, more welcoming, medium. And that’s something, again, that we’re always thinking about it, welcoming new people in.

Obviously, I’m a fan of Public Books, but I think our articles are a little bit more in that “higher brow academic-ish” discourse. And I think purposely with the podcast, we were trying to maintain that, but make it even more welcoming, frankly, to people. So ideally we would like to use the podcast to bring more people into our circle.

Laura Perry:

Well, I’ll ask this question later, but I’m very curious how tough it is to convince established academics to get on board with that when they’re talking about their research. If you’ve had to repeatedly during an interview say to them like, “Whoa, break that sentence down.” Or, “Stop reading from the back cover of your book or the introduction” or something like that. Because we’re so trained to use the vocabulary that these many years of schooling and research have instilled in us, that I am imagining that in some of your interviews, that that was a bit of a challenge to think through that.

But we’ll get to that in a bit, because I want to play a clip of the podcast for those people who haven’t had the chance to hear season one yet, what it sounds like, and the production quality, which is very impressive. And also I hope that after we play this clip you can talk a bit about the many things that go into it, all of the puzzle pieces that come together. This is a clip from the fourth episode, out of five episodes, with Lauren Michele Jackson and Richard Jean So. I wanted to play this one because it’s actually the first one that I ever listened to of this podcast, mostly because I love following Lauren Michele Jackson on Twitter.

[To hear this clip and read a transcript of the episode, visit the Public Books site]

Okay, that was just a taste of what is an excellent conversation. I was hoping you could break down what sounds like a very organic conversation —you’re laughing, you sound like you’re getting along well— but I know from firsthand experience that it’s really hard to create a conversation that actually sounds lively and that is accomplishing all the things that you want this podcast to accomplish. So take us through all the puzzle pieces of that moment, from the sound to the interview prep that you did, you can tell that you sent them the questions ahead of time, the software that you used, the people behind it too, if you’re working with an assistant, if you have a thought partner that you always talk them out with.

Annie Galvin:

I did jot down some notes about this because I was like, “Wow, there’s so many little puzzle pieces even in that tiny clip that I want to make sure I don’t forget.” I will start… Because I saw some questions in the chat, we can start with the technical stuff just to get that out of the way. But it’s kind of interesting because back when we were all working in our office in New York before the pandemic we had… So we have 10 guests on the season and we had worked on basically booking studio space for all of them all over the country, even in Canada. And we were going to use this really nice studio at the NYU Journalism School. And we were even going to pay X hundreds of dollars because some studios made us pay.

So we had this whole thing set up, and then obviously the pandemic happened. And I moved out of New York and nobody’s going to any studios. It was interesting for us because it just forced us to really come up with ad hoc solution. I tested so many different things. The thing that works best for sound is just, you have a smartphone and just open your voice memos app and talk to it like you’re talking on phone. Or set up a tower of books about the height of your mouth and put the phone on the top of the books at a 45 degree angle. That’s what Lauren was doing and I was holding it up to my head.

We recorded it all on smartphones. And I can get into more technical stuff about this, it’s boring, but we did it as a tape sync. We have three individual files and we sync them up, as opposed to just recording it into Zoom. I would suggest always doing a backup recording on Zoom in case you lose those files, but you can… Yeah, we made it all on smartphones. And then I use a software called Hindenburg to edit which I think costs about $95. It’s what I think a lot of public radio people use. It’s pretty user-friendly. Don’t pay for studios. That’s what we’ve discovered.

That clip, I wanted to pick something from the beginning because I think they’re just a lot of the pieces in there. First would be booking the guests. Two, something you said a little bit earlier, Laura, about academics and how academics talk. I will say that when we reach out to guests for our podcasts, I do do a lot of vetting of prior audio experience. And that’s not because I have some idea of what is good and what is bad podcast speaking, but it’s more that, as you said, as when we get our academic training, where we’re really trained to speak to other academics. And it takes practice and experience, I think, to get outside that bubble. So someone like Lauren Jackson, she does podcasts all the time. She’s now a staff writer for the New Yorker. Richard, he writes for The New York Times, The New Republic. So these are people who are very comfortable in my favorite place, which is right on the border between the academy and the public.

On that clip, what I was trying to do there is set up the theme of the episode, obviously, let listeners know what we’re going to be talking about. But I would also say that, for me, as someone who knows their work really well, now having researched and read a lot of stuff by them, and knowing the field of media studies a little bit and the field of English very well, which is what both of them are coming from, what I was trying to do in that introduction was speak to the listener and say, this is what is interesting about what these two people do in their field. Not just, “Oh, there are these two professors at these prestigious universities.” But rather, “They’re English professors, but they study the internet. And both of them speak about struggling to do that.” Right?

And so I wanted to underscore that for the listener. And then also frame the main inquiry, the main question, right? This idea that culture on the internet is absolutely infinite and it is literally changing every millisecond. So if you’re going to try to understand that and study that, how do you do it? What is internet culture? So to tee the listener up with those questions.

You also heard a little tiny bit of our theme music, which I’m really proud of. There’s a lot of free music that you can find online, but for me, it was really important to have original music. And I’m a music writer, a music critic. So I had a really clear sense of what I wanted the music to sound like. And luckily, I live with someone who knows how to use Pro Tools. So kind of we composed it together. I mean, he composed it, but I gave a lot of input. Our theme music, you heard a little tiny chunk there, but it’s basically four tracks. So it’s a beat, a subbase, arpeggiated sync, and these horn syncs. If you have that original music, you can use the little stems. We use the beat to punctuate different segments, and we can use parts of it to underscore. So if there’s any way to get original music, it can be really useful, you can do a lot with a little bit.

And the last thing I’ll say about that clip is that, like I was saying with trying to reach those three listeners, the tone was so important to me to try to get right. I’d never spoken to Lauren or Richard before. They actually knew each other, but I didn’t know that they knew each other. And so I think just to set it just to laugh, to LOL, and to be self-deprecating.

We ask that question at the beginning of every episode, what does being on the internet feel like to you? In part, because that’s a question that I think anyone who’s used the internet could answer, right? If we all gave it like two minutes of thought, we could come up with something. And so I wanted to start with a question that all listeners would be able to think about. I didn’t want to dive super deep into their scholarship right away.

Laura Perry:

I have some follow up questions, getting even more into the so-called boring details, which is what we’re here for. We’re here for the boring detail.

Annie Galvin:

Oh, totally. Happy to do that.

Laura Perry:

I’m wondering how much editing you do of the actual conversation that you’re having. So that clip that we listened to, are there hidden oceans of longer answer behind that? Or did you just happen to find the rare academic who can speak in short sentences?

Annie Galvin:

I don’t think anyone can fully do that perfectly. For most of those episodes, we would end up talking for anywhere from an hour and 15 to an hour and 30 minutes. And then it was really important to me to try to get them down below an hour. I think all of them, except one, is below an hour. We just couldn’t get the first one down. But, yeah, we do edit fairly extensively, both in terms of longer chunks, like, let’s say I ask a question and someone gives an answer, and you listen to it back and you’re just like, it’s dragging, it’s not really adding anything…. at times we’ll cut out a number of minutes.

But we also did do a fair amount of fine-tuned, taking out some um, and uh, and like, just kind of clipping and polishing. I really enjoyed doing that. And for this season, we did have an assistant who has a lot of experience in public radio. So it was a huge blessing to have her. But the second season I’m doing all the editing myself and I’m sort of embodying her spirit. She was just really good at doing those small snips to just keep the pace flow.

Laura Perry:

Is it mostly the pace that is guiding your editorial decisions or are there other more content-related decisions that you’re making in the editing process?

Annie Galvin:

Yeah. I think pacing, keeping it snappy, is one thing. In the other part of my job, I edit print pieces too, and I’ve been really lucky to be trained by my colleague, Ben Platt. And when we publish interviews on Public Books, print interviews, Ben will always say, “We want it to be useful.” And I think that’s a really interesting word when it comes to this thing, because I think our aspirations are often, we want it to be stylish or beautiful or smart and impressive, but I think that word useful is really interesting. It really makes you edit differently, because, I think in the case of the podcast, I took that ethos. I want those three ideal listeners to listen and get something really clear out of it.

And in order to highlight the best and most useful parts, and let them shine through, you do have to trim out some of the stuff that isn’t working as well. Because, as we all know, our attention is a finite resource.

Laura Perry:

I like that. I have not thought about my editing in terms of usefulness and utility. So, you got into this a little bit by talking about your vetting process and that you look for academics who have already jumped that line, jumped that fence, into more public scholarship. But since we might have some academics on the call who are looking to be on podcasts or some academics who are in the midst of creating podcasts, I was hoping you could talk a bit about how academics encounter the podcast form. What are academics like to interview? How could academics be better at being interviewed?

Annie Galvin:

As an academic, it’s worth, first of all, just having confidence that you really have something to contribute. What you do as an academic is develop a deep and wide-ranging and extensive body of knowledge and expertise about a topic. And that is so valuable. And there are a lot of people who take up space in public discourse about stuff who have something to contribute but don’t really have that deep, studied knowledge that you all have as academics. We need more of these voices, I think, reaching more people.

But in terms of what could be done better, I do think that if you want to reach a public, whether through written scholarship or through podcasting, it’s really about learning how to read the room, by which, I mean, think of who who’s going to be the audience for this, and then honor the distinctiveness of that audience, and then realize that you might have to make some changes in the vocabulary you use, or the way that you translate jargon or concepts. Maybe the tone and the energy that you bring to a conversation versus how you might talk on a conference panel to a room full of people who are already bought into the topic. Right?

If you go on NPR, that’s a different audience than someone’s specific podcast, and so each of those endeavors is going to demand a little bit of thinking about who’s listening to NPR right now, and how do I need to tweak the way that I speak in order to really connect with that person. That’s my advice: audience, audience, audience. And serve your audience. Be comfortable changing your own M.O. a little bit to connect with them.

Laura Perry:

You mentioned that you’re doing all of the audio editing for the second season. Feel free to keep the theme under wraps if it’s still top secret. But what is coming next for the Public Books podcasts, in as much detail as you can give us? And then also, what’s next for you, in terms of your Mellon/ACLS Fellowship, or in terms of what is on the horizon after that?

Annie Galvin:

Our second season is about the 21st century novel, the contemporary novel. So it’s a bit of a swerve from the first season, although surprisingly related in a lot of ways. Our readers are really interested in a lot of the fiction reviews that we do. Making a season about the novel is challenging. I personally don’t listen to any books podcasts. I just find it difficult. It’s like if you haven’t read the book they’re talking about, then it’s kind of hard to access the conversation.

For this one, I have a really intense collaborator in my boss, Nicholas Dames, who is a professor at Columbia. And he’s going to be hosting that season. But what we wanted to do was ask the question: “Why do people still read novels?” Right? I can pick up my phone and go onto TikTok, or YouTube, or I can open Netflix, why would I sit down and still spend hours and hours slogging through these big doorstop brick books?”

Every episode is a working novelist and a scholar talking to each other with Nick. So we have Teju Cole, Elif Batuman, Garth Greenwell, Heidi Julavits. And then we have an episode with two doctors who both use novels in their teaching and in their medical practice. So that question is: how do they help you be a better doctor? They’re both ER doctors involved in a lot of COVID stuff. So that one’s really interesting.

Then we have another season after that in development. And down the line, we would love for Public Books 101 to be a place where a scholar or a small group of scholars could come and be the guest editor, the season editor, and the season host. Let’s say you want to do a season about the history of pandemics, then you could take over the editorial reigns, and we would basically do the production in house. We would obviously collaborate with you on the editorial ideas, but outsource a little bit.

And then for me, I don’t know, we’ll see. My fellowship is up over the summer, so I’m exploring the next chapter, but I definitely really have enjoyed doing the podcast. And I think there’s a lot more to be explored, specifically in the academic podcasting space. There’s a lot of exciting possibilities there.

Laura Perry:

Well, I am excited to see what you do after this.

So we had a question in chat: what are some examples of moments where you had trouble  successfully appealing to all three ideal listeners? Especially in terms of scholars and Mom’s book club listeners. Are there any rookie mistakes in doing that?

Annie Galvin:

Oh, that’s a great question. I think we were so lucky that literally all 10 of the people on the first season were just so good at doing this kind of thing that… my job was frankly kind of easy. I don’t want to speak too much about the second season because it’s not out yet, but I think it was a little bit more challenging with that. Because in part of the episodes, they are actually talking about a novel. So each episode, for part of it, they’re using a novel as sort of a case study. And I think it’s really easy for, and I count myself among this, literary scholars to treat it like a grad seminar, right? So we’ve all read the same book, we’re all coming in hot with all our ideas about this one book. And it’s very easy in that type of a conversation to forget about the listener who maybe hasn’t read the book or is not a graduate student, doesn’t have a PhD.

And so actually for that, just to give a practical tip… now that I’m producing this season and not hosting it, we set up the conversation on Zoom, and I message the host in the Chat. I would send him messages that would say, “Consider asking a follow up to Teju.” Or, “Can you ask Tara…” I would even literally write the question. So, “Tara, can you say more… When you talk about the market for fiction in the 19th century, what do you mean by that?” So actually having another person, a producer there, helping you advocate for the listener, can be a really helpful thing. Someone told me that’s what they do on The Daily with Michael Barbaro. They have a Google Doc and his producer will just literally write questions into it and he’ll ask them. So that was a little podcast hack that I learned from that.

Laura Perry:

What that speaks to is how, even if it’s only three people in conversation, that’s just the top level of the iceberg that you see. Another question from the chat: what service do you use to transcribe your podcast?

Annie Galvin:

We have a service that we just use for Public Books for our print interviews. I don’t know what it’s called, but that is something that we pay for. But, especially in the second season, what we’ve started doing is a big first pass of the edits so that the transcription is more manageable and that we’re not spending time transcribing stuff that’s going to be cut.

Laura Perry:

How many hours do you think you spend on one 45 to 60-minute podcast episode?

Annie Galvin:

Gosh. It’s really hard for me to estimate, but I would say it’s more than I thought it would be. But I think the great thing about podcasting is there’s just so much range and possibility for what you can do. You don’t have to do what we do, right? We put this much work into it because Public Books is already sort of a brand. A lot of the work is making sure that the podcast jives with the print magazines brand and stuff. But I think you can make a podcast with less effort than we do.

For the first season, especially in terms of the hosting, I did a lot of preparation. It felt a lot like preparing to teach a seminar, where you really have to read what everyone’s reading and come up with all these great questions and think about how to sequence them. So I spent a lot of time doing that. But for the second and third seasons that we’re doing, we’ve made it more skeletal, have more of a common list of questions that we’re asking in all the episodes. We’ve been thinking about how much is actually lost if the host doesn’t spend hours reading someone’s whole book. Depending on how much bandwidth, and time, and money you have, you can do a lot with a little. That’s what we’re learning.

Laura Perry:

I also was surprised by how much time it took to create an hour-long podcast episode when I first started audio editing. I think it’s a common experience. You realize, wow, what I thought just happened does not just happen… and is actually a lot of work.

Annie Galvin:

Podcasting is one of those really frustrating things where it sounds so easy. If it’s made well, it sounds like something that you could just sit down and throw it together, but it’s actually a lot harder. It’s like watching Olympic athletes do something that they make look really easy, and then you try it and you’re like, wow. So it’s just one of those frustrating things. But it’s also very fun.

Laura Perry:

Another great question in the chat: how do you define a podcast season? And I can tell from, A, the way you’re talking about seasons two and three, and B, from the trailer for season one, where you have clips from all the upcoming interviews, that you don’t barrel into them and publish them as you create them, that you really put them out as a package. So other than the topic, are there other elements that help you think about it as a season?

Annie Galvin:

Yeah, that’s a really good question. It’s definitely the topic because each season pivots considerably from the last one, but, as I think I mentioned earlier, we’ve always thought about the podcast as a pedagogical tool. So we do publish each season with a reading list, kind of a syllabus, and a set of discussion questions. We want it to be something where if you’re teaching a class about the internet or about digital culture in some way, you can get some ideas for stuff to put on your syllabus there. You could assign an episode or more. And I went through and wrote five discussion questions for each episode. So if you wanted to assign it in the class, just copy and paste that onto your syllabus, assign it as a blog post, or reading response, or whatever. From the beginning, the way that I wanted the show to go, I really did want each one to be kind of a little bundle. You can digest one episode, but if you make it through, it would feel like having taken a little mini class on the topic.

Laura Perry:

Another great question in the chat that really gets at that fence line, jumping that boundary between public and scholarship that you were saying is your favorite place, your favorite kind of scholar: what is gained by podcasting that isn’t usually a part of a traditional scholarly work like monographs?

Annie Galvin:

I’ve been thinking about this a lot, the question of podcasting as a scholarly genre. I have a little theory on it, so I’ll share that with you. But if we think about, podcasts were basically invented in 2005, right? Obviously, podcasts share a lot with radio, which is much older, but prior to 2005, you could sort of lump scholarly genres into two buckets, right? On the one hand, you have your live events. So a lecture with a Q&A, a conference panel, et cetera. And then in the other bucket you have print. So you have your peer review journal article, your edited collection, your monograph, et cetera.

And what’s really interesting about podcasting is that it’s kind of right in the middle of both of those. Obviously, it’s kind of a live event. It’s a conversation that’s happening in real-time. It’s scholarship as something that’s dialogic, as opposed to just one person sitting and typing. But like printed work, you have post-production, you can edit as we’re just talking about. You have more control over what ultimately gets into the podcast than you do when you’re speaking in public, I guess like we are right now.

Because it kind of lives in that middle space, there’s so much possibility for what you can do. And scholars should feel very confident that they have done a lot of the stuff already in their professional lives that takes to make a podcast. You do need to learn some new technical stuff, and you need to do a lot of creative thinking about what you’re offering. But I think when you start, I really felt like it was just kind of like hopping on a very familiar training, talking to people on a conference panel, teaching, et cetera. It really feels like there’s a lot in common with those activities.

Laura Perry:

And a timely question from the chat asking about the ideal length of a podcast episode. And I know you said you tried to keep it under an hour, so it’s not to lose people’s attention, which we are also going to do with this conversation. We are rapidly approaching that hour. So I’m just wondering about an ideal length. Like if you had your complete druthers, and you could control it, would you want them to be 20 minutes long, if the editing was possible, if people could deliver their info in those bite-size chunks? Or is there something about settling in for a 45-minute conversation that you find is useful?

Annie Galvin:

For our show in particular, the ideal time would be like 52 minutes. Something in double digits. We don’t want to get into that third digit, but we sometimes do. But it’s interesting because I think the average length of a podcast episode now is something like… We would need to fact-check this, but it’s something like 26 minutes, and it’s getting shorter. In aggregate, podcasts are getting shorter. And I think it’s pretty obvious why. I think because there are just so many podcasts out there.

I don’t think there’s an ideal length. Another podcast, I’ve gotten to know the creators of, is How to Read. It’s also based at Columbia. And they’re these really interesting rich conversations with scholars about reading… that sounds really basic, but you can fit so much under that framework. But they keep their episodes under 20 minutes now. It’s really interesting to see just a bite-sized chunk.

But because we’re trying to approximate the very rich and somewhat loose quality of being in a seminar, ours is always going to be a little bit longer. I would love the challenge of trying to make a short one, but I would be very bad at it. I’m a very wordy writer. But it’s a discipline, it’s something we’re actively trying to work on, to make them as concise as we can without losing too much.

Laura Perry:

Thank you. Please join me in thanking Annie!

Annie Galvin:

Thank you all so much.