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Today we dropped a new episode of the Inside Podcasting podcast, in which I interview Ear Hustle hosts (and Pulitzer Prize finalists!!) Nigel Poor and Earlonne Woods. If you're just joining us, Ear Hustle tells stories about daily life in San Quentin Prison. It's hosted by visual artist and San Quentin volunteer Nigel Poor and former prison inmate Earlonne Woods (Antwan Williams, who also helped found the podcast, is the show's sound designer). In an incredible turn of events, former Governor Jerry Brown commuted Earlonne's sentence in 2018, crediting Earlonne's work on the podcast as a factor in the decision. Since Earlonne's release, the Ear Hustle team has brought on new producers to tell stories from the inside, while exploring new narratives on the outside.

Here are a couple of brief excerpts from my interview with Nigel and Earlonne (edited for clarity):

On Earlonne's Release

Skye: While it was obviously amazing and euphoric when Earlonne was released, did either of you have any concerns or anxiety about like, this is a new show, we have to find a new rhythm?

Nigel: Of course I wanted Earlonne to get out but I had a ton of anxiety about it. He’d been in prison for 21 years! So it's like, when he gets out, this might not be what he wants to do. He's got a lot of life to catch up on. I also had a creative concern, which was the stories we do on the inside are so interesting. It's a closed world that most people can't get into. And we had a way to tell stories that other people couldn't tell on the outside. Anybody can do a re-entry story. I wondered if it was going to be as interesting and as creatively challenging to do stories on the outside. And the biggest thing was mourning the loss of going in there and seeing Earlonne. But I really want to make it clear that that didn't stop me from wanting — in every fiber of my body — for Earlonne to get out of prison.

Earlonne: When it was looking good for me to [leave prison]— or just in case it happened — we already had a system in place. We started interviewing guys. We sent out job applications, with descriptions of what we were looking for and looking to hire guys for, to replace me. We put an application out to everybody in the prison. We had a gang of people that sent stuff in and we went through and picked like maybe the top six or something and started doing interviews with them — we did to them what we had to do with [Radiotopia podcast competition] Podquest! 

Nigel: [laughter] That’s true! There have been challenges, but we always say to each other, we're going to figure it out. Like whatever happens, we are going to figure it out. And it was just another thing to figure out.

On Finding New Narratives

Skye: This past season you focused on some really heavy stuff — addiction, stories about death row, violent crime. Can you talk about how you made the decision to tackle these kinds of stories this season? 

Earlonne: Before every season, while we're still in the prior season, we all have production meetings with everybody who's involved. We throw out ideas on the whiteboard. We start eliminating ones that don't work or whatever the case may be. We'll have maybe ten to thirteen that may work.

Nigel: And for season four, I wanted to have people that everyone wasn't going to be like, oh, I love that guy, I love that person. I wanted it to be more complex and tell stories that made people think differently about issues that they may have a knee-jerk reaction to. That's one of our challenges for the coming seasons, too — to have stories that are maybe a little bit harder to process. So there's never one emotional tone to a story. I love that challenge. 

Skye: You also did something wonderful that I loved, which is that you featured a lot of women's voices — or more than you had before, and I loved hearing their voices and their stories. I have to think that that was an intentional move.

Earlonne: Definitely. That's the one thing that we've been lacking and we've always tried to implement it in some way. And that's what we're currently actually doing — getting out and trying to get the women involved. 

Nigel: When Earlonne got out [of prison], that's when we knew we could start bringing more women's voices into the show in a meaningful way. 

The full interview is here. Next week we'll drop a post-show episode, in which a special guest will speak with me about what it was like to interview Earlonne and Nigel. (Hint: he also writes a newsletter about podcasts.) 

In today's newsletter, I'm handing the proverbial mic over to power podcast listener Kavein Thran. He'll share what it's like to consume podcasts as a blind person, and what podcasters and organizations can do to make their audio content more inclusive.

This week's prompt:

Please help a sister out by hitting reply on this email (right now, do it now) and sharing your story. I need an update on how things are going, friends.

Stay safe and healthy,



My name is Kavein Thran. I am a 26-year-old blind Malaysian and polymath. As a Malaysian, I live a multiracial life. I speak Tamil, Malay, and the English language. I am fascinated by technology, science, life, sound, design, and many more. Podcasts are a great medium for me to quench my thirst for knowledge and to better understand life, stories, and the world.

Due to a lack of oxygen inside my incubator, I became blind before I realized I was a form of life. My primary mode of learning is through touching and listening experiences. I learned braille writing and I love talking about braille and its influence on my language understanding.

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I entered into the world of podcasts by listening to blind-related podcasts such as Eyes on Success, Tech Doctor, and FSCast, a podcast done by a popular screen reading assistive tech company. Around 2019, I found Sara DaSilva’s Audible Feast, got addicted to podcasts, and discovered (and attended) Podcast Brunch Club (PBC). I love its virtual global chapter meetups. Since I discovered PBC, I have gotten really into podcasts, podcasters, podcasts newsletters, podcasts critics, and everything in between! I love listening to narrative podcasts and audio fiction. Great sound design and fantastic storytelling enhance my understanding of life and the world. Some of my favorite podcasts include The Moth, This is Actually Happening, FlashForward, and an audio fiction podcast called The Program Audio Series. I also listen to many blind-related podcasts such as Mosen At Large, Life After Blindness, Blind Bargains, Hadley Presents, and Blind Abilities.


I experience podcasts through my iPhone and my PC. For smartphones that come with Android and iOS, there are many accessibility solutions built into the operating systems, and anyone can access those in the accessibility settings. My blind friends and I use screen readers, an application on PC or smartphone that translates information into speech. We interact with phones through touch gestures depending on the feedback given by the screen reader's text-to-speech voice. There are no specific podcast apps for the blind, and in my opinion, it should be a collective effort to let everyone use the same apps and services. 

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Accessibility is a design principle. In practice, it ensures that your service and content are accessible to all regardless of disability, geography, and social status. Accessibility should be as important as visual layout and workability. We are fortunate that the RSS standard is a platform-agnostic protocol, meaning we can put it into any application which supports the standard, and it becomes accessible to a screenreader. However, the rise of podcasts has triggered many new innovations and experiments, and it's critical that accessibility not be left out.

Many podcasters are already familiar with the idea of making transcripts available. This is crucial for those who can't experience audio as well as curators, researchers, and AI services. When you implement accessibility, it makes the whole world better — it's not specific to any one community. 


Embed a culture of design and usability into your organization. New features shouldn't be rolled out until they can be accessed and used by everyone. It's not a "bug fix" — it is a design principle. When audio platforms fail to make their content accessible, the company is excluding 285 million screen reader users as well as disabled people who are dependent on accessible design. Example: some podcast platforms don't require podcasters to include descriptions of their artwork. This results in a blank image for screen reader users. Design with accessibility in mind.

For listening, I use Castro, Pocketcast, and Overcast, which have all invested time into making their services accessible. As a super-listener, I also use ListenNotes and Podyssey to curate and search for episodes. I hope these companies will continue to make accessibility a major priority.

Online recording and mixing platforms, conferencing tools, and other podcast services should also adopt accessibility into their development cycle. Every line of software code and every single design decision — conscious and unconscious — can make a difference to millions of users.


Ensure everything on your website is accessible, including your RSS feed, subscription options, and embedded podcast players. Pay attention to your marketing and distribution. When you share podcast titles on Twitter as images-only, you are excluding screenreader users (it's poor SEO practice as well). Show promos and trailer videos should include audio descriptions for the blind, and captions for the hard of hearing. 


Journalists, podcast critics, podcast event organizers, and other influencers can help. They can feature more disabled, LGTBQ, and POC, who have fresh and new perspectives. We can all come together to create an inclusive podcasting standard, just like the web content accessibility guidelines and IAB standards. It's a lot of work, but it's the highest happiness when you know that your creation can be accessed by everyone.


This newsletter was written and curated by podcast junkie and recovered publicist, Skye Pillsbury. Over the years, Skye has crafted digital media strategies for brands like Yahoo! and Microsoft and worked regularly with media outlets such as the New York Times, Rolling Stone and NPR. Skye was famous for 49 minutes when she and her son were featured in an episode of Gimlet Media’s Heavyweight podcast. 

We're at work on Season 2 of the Inside Podcasting podcast and hope to have more to share soon. In the meantime, you can catch up on the first season which included interviews with:

Ian Chillag, the creator of Everything is Alive 

Jessi Hempel, who hosts Linked In’s podcast Hello Monday

Martine Powers, who hosts Post Reports from the Washington Post 

Leon Neyfakh, the co-creator of Slow Burn, who is now the host of Fiasco 

Madeleine Baran, the investigative reporter behind In the Dark

and Inside CEO Jason Calacanis, who hosts This Week in Startups

You can find the show wherever you get your podcasts. Let us know what you think!


Sheena Vasani is a journalist and UC Berkeley, Dev Bootcamp, and Thinkful alumna who writes Inside Dev and Inside NoCode.

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