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Ep. 2 Transcript

[coffee beans grinding, then pouring played underneath the voice-over]

I love the sound of coffee beans being ground up. It’s like I’m addicted to it. There’s something about the way it starts off crackly and percussive as it breaks up the beans into a smaller chunks and then gradually levels out into a smooth, steady hum, signalling that it’s ready to become my first cup of the coffee for the day.
[pouring sound]Really great podcasts can activate a similar kind of sonic addiction. Check out this first line from Ira Glass on an episode of This American Life[General hum and murmur]
Podcast intros like that reach out into the humming mass of the media-saturated world and like that [murmuring stops suddenly]
hook their listenersTitle sequence
Today’s episode “Do I Have Your Attention?”
The average podcast is around 20 minutes. With so much media to consume out there, podcasters must have to work extra hard to engage listeners within the first 30 seconds, or people will take their ears elsewhere. As Martha Little points out in her article “How Podcasts get and keep your attention,” many podcasts do this by leaving “puzzle bait,” which she describes as starting off the show with “a question or strange postulation”
I mean, who doesn’t want to keep listening after an intro like that? I have so many questions: why did this guy getting beat up? How was the mayor involved? How is this person the mayor?
This kind of ‘puzzle bait” is unusual for something like radio, where interesting or ambiguous introductions are typically discarded in favor of simple, straightforward reporting.
Live news has a very different audience than a podcast. People turn to news for a quick rundown of what’s going on in the world. As a result, newscasters don’t always have time to for intriguing introductions.
Although podcast and radio are both audio media, podcasting is very different genre. For one thing, podcasts need to be much more engaging. For a live news broadcast, the greatest advantage is that it’s live. The information is new, so people want to hear it.
However, somebody doing a podcast about something like, I don’t know, an obscure crime that happened almost 20 years ago, you need to make the information salient for the listener, make it newsworthy
[intro to Serial, Ep. 1]
Of course, if you’ve ever taken a writing class, you’re probably familiar with the idea of the “introductory hook.” Your English teacher probably said something like “make sure to start your paper with something that engages the reader, like a question, strange fact, or a startling statistic.”
Not bad advice, but when it comes to introductions, the best thing to keep in mind is “keep it simple.” Get to the point. Don’t waste your reader’s time with pseudo-profound statements like “since the dawn of man.”
For example, Here’s the opening to an article by Ian Bogost for an article he wrote for the Atlantic: “I worry.”
That’s it. Not “Human have been worrying since the dawn of time” or “You know what people do a lot of? Worrying.” With this short (in this case, very short) sentence, Bogost is able to cut through to his main point and establish a bridge to his audience via a shared feeling: worry.
The rhetorician Kenneth Burke refers to this kind of “emotional bridge” as “identification.” In “A Rhetoric of Motives,” Burke describes how identification is primary to all forms of persuasion. When we try to convince someone to do or think something, Burke writes that we first have to identify with them. Identification is about finding and establishing shared interests.
For instance, if you were going to try to convince your boss to let you off work early, you would try to create identification with your boss. If you are both parents, you might appeal to your shared interests in raising a good family; Or maybe you leaving work early will allow you to do your job better, and thus ultimately benefit the company and your boss.
“Puzzle bait” podcast introductions are also a kind of identification. As we listen, we begin to identify with the speaker
[Planet money: professor blackjack intro]
In this intro from Planet Money, the host describes a scene in vivid detail, making the listeners feel as though they are sitting alongside him and having a shared experience.
It’s a simple concept, but it works. Identification can even be something as simple as identifying that the speaker is someone who (like you) enjoys the sound of coffee beans getting ground up.

[Coffee grinding then Outro music]

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