Welcome to Podcasting

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Welcome to Night Vale – Credit: Illustrator Kim Salt

Welcome to Nightvale was started in 2012, by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor, and is still being produced after six years. A fantasy/sci-fi series, the podcast is one of the first podcasts to work as a storytelling format set in a fictional world, presented as the radio-news reports from a fictional town’s radio station. In Richard Berry’s work, “Podcasting Considering the evolution of the medium and its association with the word ‘radio’,” Berry discusses how constantly linking the forums of radio and podcasting is an unproductive discussion. Though podcasting was born from the medium, Berry argues that through the growth of the medium, the two mediums now have inherent and clear differences. The podcast Welcome to Night Vale comes as a bridge between the mediums, taking facets of each and incorporating them into the essence of the show. 

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Welcome to Night Vale Logo

Within this concept, Berry point on both the differences and similarities of podcasting and radio are highlighted. While the podcast is designed around a classically formatted radio broadcast, yet is made for a very niche audience. Berry directly references this in his work, connecting Night Vale to the original radio dramas from radio’s Golden Age to the modern format of podcasting as a mode of storytelling. However, I find it closer to the experience of listening to a new brand of radio/podcasts drama which uses the traditional format of radio and adapting it into the new medium.

In the last four years, the show expanded due to popularity and tours around the country with live shows, as well as releasing the paired content of two novelizations of stories and in world content based off of the podcasts, both written by Fink and Cranor. As of November 1st, there are 137 episodes and 5 bonus episodes available for purchase on iTunes. Episodes are produced bi-monthly and live shows/bonus episodes are made available for sale once a year when the tour ends. A typical episode runs from 23-33 minutes long, in the first few years of the podcast each episode was a separate story arc, but in the last year, the episodes have generally been turned into three episode story arcs following Cecil, his boyfriend, and many townspeople and their stories in Night Vale.

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Joseph Fink, Cecil Baldwin, Jeffery Cranor – Credit: Irish Times

While the show started off as a hobby for Fink and Candor, the series gained popularity and a following in its second year of running, gaining 20,000 followers on Twitter. This popularity has often been attributed not only to the engaging and fantastical topics but also the representation of many cultures and identities in the storytelling.  In an interesting turn, as Barry hypothesized, a niche form of broadcasting attracts an audience. By presenting fiction as fact through an intricate world and relatable host and radio station, Nigh Vale builds a wide audience through referential material and bits along with extensive storytelling. Building off of this idea, Siobhán McHugh addresses niche demographics in “How Podcasting is Changing the Audio Storytelling Genre,” emphasizing podcaster’s ability to personalize the content to bring in the listener, creating an intimate relationship between listeners and hosts for deeper engagement (McHugh, 73). For example, when the host, Cecil informs the listener it is time for the weather report, at first, the listener may be surprised when instead of a weather report music is played for 1-2 minutes. This segment throughout the series makes a space for fan engagement as after the first three “weather reports” Fink and Cranor asked for listeners to send in their own music submissions to be included in the show during the weather. Using their platform, Fink and Cranor not only built of their own hobby but allow for fans to share their music and work with the larger fanbase.

Because of this following, to continue producing Fink and Cranor asked for donations and later started a membership program with different tiers and rewards for paying subscribers, as well as creating featured merchandise. They are occasionally sponsored, however, the “sponsors” featured within the show are generally not actual sponsors but a segment used for satirical humor critiquing consumerism. In this way, with fan support and live-shows, Fink and Cranor started a production company of their own, Night Vale Presents, and started making other podcasts and content. This move effectively moved them from an indie podcast to a professionally produced and recognized content creator, the show itself now recognized in North America as one of the top podcast with such podcasts.

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Leading Podcasts in Canada – 2017

Sources:

  • Roberts, Amelia (July 28, 2013). “10 Reasons to Listen to Welcome to Night Vale”. The Artifice. Retrieved August 8, 2013.
  • Mchugh, Siobhán. “How Podcasting Is Changing the Audio Storytelling Genre.” Radio Journal: International Studies in Broadcast & Audio Media, vol. 14, no. 1, 2016, pp. 65–82.
  • Berry, Richard. “Podcasting – Considering the evolution of the medium and its association with the word radio.” Radio Journal: International Studies in Broadcast & Audio Media, vol. 14, no. 1, 2016, pp 7-22.

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