‘This American Life’ Host Ira Glass’ Clues To Podcast Power.

The key to podcast success? It’s all about storytelling. That’s one of the key messages from the host of “This American Life,” the top-ranked podcast in the nation. Ira Glass offered that perspective and other notes as a featured speaker during the Cannes Lions Festival on Monday.

“If you give people narratives that is the same quality as TV, they will come to radio in TV numbers,” he said, adding that storytelling is fundamental to developing relationships with consumers.

The weekly public radio show has been the No. 1 national podcast since research firm Podtrac began tracking podcasts in May 2016, as Inside Radio reported June 20. On its website, “This American Life” says the radio show is heard by 2.2 million people on more than 500 stations, while it fosters about 2.5 million podcast downloads.

Glass offered a number of insights for brands seeking to create compelling narratives, according to a report from MediaPost. That included incorporating humor even in serious stories; talking like a person instead of a journalist; and not illustrating what has already been said. Instead, Glass said, use images to tell a second story that “riffs on the dialogue.” Don’t be afraid to work with kids. Amuse yourself. And there is, he reminded, a special power in not seeing.

The host also shared that “This American Life” operates on a cutthroat production cycle. Staff work on 10-11 stories, with six eventually entering production. All but three will be killed to make it to the air.

Despite its widespread reach, Glass said that reeling in advertisers remains a challenge. So far, the show has only attracted direct-response brands, with no mainstream ads from top traditional radio categories such as automotive, credit card, airlines, travel or alcohol. “Some brand could come in and own this space,” he noted.


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