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Shana Naomi Krochmal

Shana Naomi Krochmal

· Time to read: ~6 min

This interview was first in the Podcast Business Journal newsletter, with the latest podcast news and data. Subscribe free today.

Shana Naomi Krochmal is the VP of podcasting at LAist Studios. — this interview has been lightly edited for style and readability

Shana Krochmal: I’ve been at LAist Studios for a little over a year and a half now, and I’ll say that Imperfect Paradise was a big part of the reason that I wanted to come here. It was originally limited series storytelling — reported narrative features — and they had done two seasons when I got here.

To me, I felt like it was the platonic ideal of a podcast: you get to dig in with some reporting by some amazing journalists. The storytelling was amazing, and beautiful, and rich, and serialized. I loved it.

We really believed in the storytelling and we were really excited by it. I got to come in and work with an amazing team who were already here and really thinking carefully about how to take some of the lessons they had learned at other places across the NPR ecosphere, and other independent podcasts and documentary making, and tell these stories that were richly about characters in California, but felt full of messy contradictions.

We wondered - could we make it a weekly show? The data was telling us that our audience was most interested in sticking around for reported storytelling. But could we make it four times as often? So, we started looking at what it would mean to take the stories that we were telling in Imperfect Paradise and condense them a little bit - to try to get them down to three or four episodes at a time, and try to figure out how you do that without feeling like you’ve sacrificed the complexity of what you’re doing.

And at the end of that, we went from having a more traditional once or twice a year limited series, to having an always-on weekly series that is the flagship show for LAist Studios, and represents our ability to combine strong journalistic storytelling with the beautiful audio story craft that you can do in podcasting.

JC: So, you inherited an occasional show that would appear and then would go away again, and moved from that to a to a produced show that’s produced every single week. And you’re essentially making lots of stories of four shows a length. What are the benefits of doing a show which is always on?

SK: From a traditional programming perspective, there’s just the reliability - an audience knows you’re there every week, they have something to look forward to.

I really wanted to figure out how to set the show up to be something that isn’t an occasional surprise and delight, amazing as it was, but instead was something that could become the foundation of what we did, and creating that weekly environment. It’s the consistency and the creativity that comes when you have just enough of a formula and just enough of a structure that your producers know what they’re aiming for - but can experimental little within that.

JC: How does it work from a production standpoint? Do you essentially have two or three different story teams working on stories? How are you avoiding burnout?

SK: We have a relatively small team at LAist Studios overall.

With Imperfect Paradise, we have an EP, we have Antonia, who’s the host - the moral compass of the show, because she was so involved with creating it and helping figure out what the voice of it was and who it was about and who it was for - and then we have two parallel teams who are overlapping and working on things at the same time. In our case, the launch of this was also a great opportunity to test that, and allow both producers and reporters to step into the main reporter role. We have usually 2 to 4 stories kind of going at the same time with overlapping timelines and production schedules.

JC: So how has this worked in terms of downloads? Have you seen an improvement?

SK: Yes. Our average monthly downloads grew more than 370% since we became a weekly - that’s almost four times as much. Some of that came out of the gate with an exclusive news story that really drew a lot of attention; but we’re seeing really strong and consistent performance in our main feed. Average downloads for the first 30 days of each season or story cycle, or whatever you want to call it, grew 76%. So we’re seeing a strong number we can put in front of potential sponsors. And then we’re seeing some good signs that people are going back and listening to some of the catalog as well.

JC: Is it easier to sell to advertisers now because it’s an always on show?

SK: I don’t know anyone who would say it is easy to sell narrative podcasting, to be fair. But our underwriting team were able to go back out to clients and have a different kind of conversation with those looking for a weekly presence.

JC: And you broadcast this as well?

SK: We do. You know, for me, one of the most amazing assets that we have in our arsenal of how we can help support a podcast is we own and operate a broadcast radio station in the second largest media market in the country. We drop new episodes of Imperfect Paradise on Wednesdays as a podcast, and then it airs in its own regular timeslot on Sunday nights on LAist 89.3.

We’ve also been working to distribute the podcast through APMG, which is Southern California Public Radio’s parent company. The way I think about our podcasts is they are premium programming. They’re among the highest resource and most expensive and most time consuming programming that we as a media company make. So we should be doing everything we can as stewards of the donations and support that we get from our members to put it as far as we can in as many places as we can in front of as many listeners as possible.

JC: You’ve just released the content slate for some of the new stories coming out. What finally what are your highlights?

SK: I’m really excited about all of this - we have a lot of really great things coming this spring and summer. I’m excited about all of them.

We are our correspondent Emily Guerin, who you may have heard in our series People versus Karen. She has been spending a lot of time with the negotiators around what’s going to happen with the Colorado River, and the water and conservation efforts across the entirety of the West.

We have an amazing story that we’re telling, along with an independent journalist who’s based in Mexico, about the real lived experience of people who immigrated to America, usually from Mexico. And what their experience was when they had to return to Mexico.

And, a story later in the year about the encroachment of predators here in Los Angeles, but something that we know is happening across the country too. Here in Southern California, a kind of mix of encroachment and climate concerns that has led to, for example, in Sierra Madre, bears essentially walking into people’s kitchens and going through their refrigerator. So we’ll be taking a look at that.

JC: Shana thank you so much for your time today. I really appreciate it.

SK: Absolutely. Thank you for having me.

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