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Inside Podcasting (Jul 7th, 2017)

Vulture talks to the creators of the new podcast musical, "36 Questions." Indie studio Two-Up Productions was responsible for the hit 2015 audio drama "Limetown," oft described as "The X-Files meets Serial." But for their follow-up, Two-Up's foundersSkip Bronkie and Zack Akers chose something even more ambitious. They decided to do a musical based on the popular 2015 "Modern Love" essay from the New York Times, which discussed the so-called 36 questions that can generate "interpersonal closeness between people." The musical version centers on a couple (Jonathan Groff and Jessie Shelton) trying to save their marriage: “We wanted to create a situation where the stakes would be so high that the questions would be the only way out — the only way to bring these people back together,” says Ellen Winter, co-author of the show. – VULTURE

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Nick Quah, founder of the "Hot Pod" podcast industry newsletter, is featured on the newest episode of "Recode Media with Peter Kafka." Quah discusses "who wins and who loses" with the news that Apple is set to start sharing more podcast data with show creators. For years, Apple offered only a "downloads" number, which Quah calls "a black box that scares away a lot of advertisers" who are used to more detailed analytics: “It’s the equivalent of ‘I sent out a magazine today.’ You don’t even know if people looked at page four, which is where your spread is." Quah says the new info Apple will offer should be the kind that will embolden advertisers to bite. However, those who have relied on the vague "downloads" number to sell ads in the past may be in for a rude awakening. “There’s going to be a lot of podcasts realizing that they didn’t have audiences as big as they [thought]." – RECODE

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Seung Tae Oh, an artist pursuing his MA at London's Royal College of Art, has "reimagined" a few popular podcasts as physical objects. Namely, he turned them into books and loaded them with tactile items that bring the shows to life. For his take on "Serial," Oh filled the package with crime scene photos and information on the victim. Each episode is packed in a separate envelope, and each can be played back via a speaker built into the sleeve. For "99 Percent Invisible," a podcast focusing on oft-overlooked design details, each episode gets an individual packet filled with correlating artwork. – NEXT WEB

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Trucker and memoirist Finn Murphy sits for the new episode of the Baltimore Sun's "Roughly Speaking" podcast. W.W. Norton & Co. have just published Murphy's memoir, "The Long Haul: A Trucker's Tale of Life on the Road," about his life as a "long-time, long-haul driver." Specifically, Murphy drives families moving long distances in his 18-wheeler, which the author thinks is as good a job as one could have: He meets interesting people, enjoys the sights on the long drives between Florida and British Columbia, and beds down on a feather duvet in his cab when it's time for a rest. The book is "full of trucker jargon and amusing stories," and it sounds like a fun read. – BALTIMORE SUN

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Dave Nadelberg, host and creator of the "Mortified" podcast, says he was inspired to come up with the idea when he came across an old love letter he had never sent. “I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, the kid who wrote this was sort of an idiot. But I like that idiot.’ I started to show it to people," he says. "Mortified" began life as an L.A.-based stage show before developing into a podcast a few years ago. On the show, which offers a mixture of curated and live recordings, volunteers offer to tell stories about "excruciating early embarrassment."  “It’s a comedy show, but a comedy show with a community component," Nadelberg says. – STL TODAY

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PODCAST SPOTLIGHT

If love is a universal language, so is heartbreak. Some people prefer to talk through their feelings, no matter how raw or painful they may be, and now, there’s a podcast for it – Dear Sugar Radio.

A production of WBUR, Dear Sugar Radio is well into 100 episodes. It originally debuted in late 2014, and it’s still going strong. Hosts Cheryl Strayed and Steve Almond are lovingly referred to as the “Sugars” (or hosts) of the show, and the concept is simple: listeners send Strayed and Almond stories of love, sex, relationships, and everything in between. Think of it as “Dear Abby” for your ears.

While stories of heartbreak, infidelity, and marriage may seem mushy, and it’s true, they can be, that doesn’t make them any less engrossing. The anonymous writers to the Sugars omit no details as they explain their experiences in love, and yes, some of them are pretty juicy.

Take the story of a wife and mother who begins sleeping with her married neighbor across the street, for example. Or the happily wedded woman who begins texting her high school sweetheart after 20 years, only to begin emotionally cheating on her spouse.

But the Sugars don’t let their writers down. A good portion of each episode is dedicated to providing applicable advice to the torn, tortured writers who are desperate for answers. Almond and Strayed admittedly have experience in everything from infidelity to marriage themselves, giving them the authority to provide advice – or at least enough credibility to satisfy podcast listeners.

Each episode ranges from 30 minutes to an hour, and it never fails to leave listeners yearning for more. There’s a certain satisfaction that comes with feeling like you’re being trusted with someone’s deepest, darkest secrets. Does it matter if the writers take the Sugars’ advice? Not really – we all have our own secrets, after all. It’s just comforting to know the person next to you at the grocery store can relate to you in more ways than one.

– @kavermes

THE BASICS Title: "Dear Sugar Radio" Episodes Available: 107 Episode Length: 30-60 mins Where to Download: iTunes Host: Cheryl Strayed and Steve Almond

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