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Friday, June 24, 2022
Alex Blumberg

“This American Life” reporter Alex Blumberg tells students and community members the value of emotion in audio stories. 

Podcast entrepreneur tells story of starting a business

CEO and radio journalist Alex Blumberg explained his courageous decision to begin his podcast network as part of the Distinguished Lecture Series Tuesday at the Memorial Union.

Blumberg formerly reported for the National Public Radio program “This American Life.” He also co-produced the program, along with another show, “Planet Money.” He has won every major broadcast journalism award, including the George Polk Award in Radio Reporting.

Blumberg discussed his transition from being a journalist at a nonprofit radio station to developing his own for-profit business.

He left radio journalism to pursue his independent audio career with hopes to make more money, and launched Gimlet Media, a podcast business that hosts three narrative journalism shows: “StartUp,” “Reply All” and “Mystery Show.”

Blumberg realized there was a market for audio stories. With no business background or education, he partnered with Matt Lieber and began to pitch his company idea, documenting the journey in his series “StartUp.” The experience taught him to tell stories in innovative ways.

“Audio wraps you in a narrative that takes on a life of its own,” Blumberg said. “It pulls you in and it makes you want to hear what comes next.”

Audio is the most honest form of media, according to the entrepreneur. He said that there is distinct emotion in voices that are not apparent in television or print. Listeners can gain emotional understandings quickly. Blumberg shared several clips from the various shows he has worked on to exhibit this concept.

“As it’s happening on tape you hear them admit the truth, and it’s like a chord resolving,” Blumberg said. “There’s something incredibly satisfying about hearing it.”

Blumberg advised that recording conversations and anything else that will add to a story is important. He has taped numerous personal occurrences which have often been used in his work.

He spoke of how his podcast business has exceeded all expectations. He believes the company has taken podcasts and journalism in a whole different direction that he could have never predicted.

“That’s a reason to start something,” Blumberg said. “You have no idea where it’s going to take you.”

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