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The art of creating research-based podcast episodes with Olivia Brown

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Episode Summary

The podcast industry is expected to be worth 4 billion by 2024 and whatever your interests may be you are likely to find a show around them However not all shows receive the same attention or have the same audience base

In this episode we asked Olivia Brown the host of the Mountaintop History podcast to join us on this episode of Recorded Content to discuss history podcasts

Olivia and our host Justin Brown discuss what it is like to create such a show They also touch upon the difference between solo and narrative-style episodes episode length and how Olivia and her colleagues make history-inspired episodes interesting

Guest Profile

Name: Olivia Brown

What she does: Olivia is the host of the Mountaintop History podcast

Company: Monticello

Noteworthy: Aside from a podcast host Olivia is among other things a full-time tour guide at Monticello

Key Insights

  • We create content that provides additional information or inspires people to come to Monticello The audience of Olivias podcast are the visitors to Monticello She aims to create episodes that will add value to their visit or help them learn exciting facts before coming to the museum The overall goal is to present stories that maybe arent told on every tour or present things that people may not learn about when they come here on site and that tour guides probably wish they could tell but dont have enough time
  • The solo episodes are research-based Olivia and her colleagues create two types of content solo and narrative-style episodes differing in length and creation process Olivia shared how she prepares for solo episodes As a historian I have a lot of training in historical research So a lot goes into even just a short podcast These are not longer than 15 minutes but much research has to go into them So a lot of the research goes into my favorite website Founders Online which is a huge archive of thousands of letters written by founders like Jefferson and Washington and others from that era as well but I also use some historical books
  • Our goal is to bring specific historical events closer to the audience Creating a podcast in an industry such as marketing is challenging these days as many creators are vying for the same audiences attention As a result they use different styles and experiment with various approaches to differentiate them from competitors Still even creators making a history-based podcast cant solely rely on historical facts Considering the fact that many people consider history to be boring they must look for ways to make their content interesting People tend to find history boring because they think its just dates and names But those production elements add to that sense of storytelling And we use this word narrative style and thats what were doing presenting a narrative not a list of facts but rather the actual story of what happened And stories are more than words There are also sounds waves cannon fire and whatever might suit the story

Episode Highlights

The Story Behind Monticello Podcasts

One of my fellow tour guides Im also a full-time tour guide in addition to some of the other projects that I work on at Monticello his name is Kyle Chattleton He had this idea a little while back and has done some work with the University of Virginias radio

So this idea for Mountaintop History a short-form podcast started with Kyle And then I jumped in and said Hey do you need any help I love this idea I wanna be a part of it The idea developed and now we release new episodes every two weeks They range anywhere from about eight to 15 minutes

So theyre meant to be short bits of history that people can listen to on their way to visiting Monticello or something that can give them interesting facts without committing to an entire hour of a podcast

The Dynamics of Recording New Content and Reusing the Existing One

So we try to release some form of the podcast every Friday and every other week its gonna be new material So we consider our new material to be biweekly And then we re-release old material essentially until we get to the point where were at the modern podcast And then we wont be releasing the same modern podcast over again

There were podcast episodes recorded back in 2008 at Monticello but they were sparse and not recorded in the same way that modern podcasts are So were doing some backend work on that stuff as well

Whats It Like to Interview Historians

It is interesting because this is often the professional research and work that a historian is presenting on a podcast And so they do wanna be specific about what they say and how they say it to make sure that their argument is standing true to the things theyve studied and done their research on

So I find that sometimes writing it down is a big way that historians do that And Ive been to history conferences where someone stands in front takes the paper they wrote and reads it out loud It doesnt make for the most interesting history conference content but it is to stay true to that research that theyre doing

The Length of a Podcast Matters and Depends on the Audience You Are Addressing

The length of the episode speaks to who we want the audience to be So we have two separate and distinct podcasts I work on Mountaintop History the short form version We have one called In The Course of Human Events which is our longer form podcast usually between 20 and 30 minutes

We dont typically produce podcasts that are longer than 30 minutes And I think part of that is because of the audience Who listens to history podcasts longer than 30 minutes Historians! I get in a car drive and have my history podcast and Im like Oh yeah cant wait for an hour-long history podcast about George Washington But most people dont want that

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