Home » Narrative Podcasting in an Age of Obsession Preview

Preface

Here’s something exciting and fresh for the site. University of Michigan Press was kind enough to give me an advanced reader digital copy of Neil Verma’s upcoming book called “Narrative Podcasting in an Age of Obsession (affiliate link)” Below is a Pre(View) of the book’s introduction and opening chapter. When the book comes out on June 3, 2024, I’ll post the second half of this article.

What is Narrative Podcasting?

If the book “Theatre in the Mind” took that initial step toward a bronze age of looking at podcasts as a scholarly subject — this book takes the second, larger leap toward a golden age of podcast and audio studies.

Author and scholar, Neil Verma has a way of both making something complex obvious and something obvious complex. His prose is an interesting blend of long-winding sentences and academic lingo that will go over the heads of those not actively engaging with the text. In his previous work “Theater of the Mind,” Verma’s knowledge and interest in audio drama is apparent. While his previous work dealt more with the history of audio as a storytelling medium, this book is much more modern in its approach.

“Narrative Podcasting in an Age of Obsessions” is 244 pages including footnotes at the end of each chapter. If I had to guess, without those pages, the book is 225 pages long. It’s a relatively short book that reads like an essay. In the introduction, he breaks what his argument is and how he plans to showcase it. In the world of scholarly papers and academia, it’s nice to have something so clear and concise to help focus the reader.  

From the beginning, the wealth of knowledge and interesting tidbits are abundant and constant. Even naming just a couple as examples proves difficult as often, they’re sometimes not even separated by more than a couple of sentences between them. One early example is his in-depth critique of the podcast “Serial.” He not only uses what is said, but how it’s said using state of the art technology.

A Breakdown of “Serial”

“The convention of serialized releases of episodes week after week, whose delays provide time for these questions through fan engagement on social media platforms…”

Verma 46

Verma’s analysis of “Serial” breaks down moments that one doesn’t think about when listening to a podcast. The nuances in the language and speech patterns, the inclusion or exclusion of certain moments that both help is argument. It’s something we don’t consciously think about unless someone brings it up. Verma does just that, but makes it understandable when reading. Like an epiphany that makes perfect sense in the moment, you get a sense your discovering new aspects of podcasting as you read the words. It’s a great blend of media studies and scientific data that I wish was around in my university days. The rest of the books first section titled “Obsession, From Map to Strategy” continuously drops knowledge and information to the reader. The introduction is a bit tongue and cheek, poking fun at the consistently shallow takes on news stories with headlines talking about the revival of audio drama. A lot has happened since writing this section. Audio drama is much more mainstream now. Before, one had to describe the medium as something like a radio drama from the 1930s-40s, but modernized to the older folks. For the younger generation, mentioning one of the many big studio audio dramas with IP like the DC comics audio dramas from Spotify is enough to make them understand what audio drama is. Even original stories with big name actors like QCODE’s “Ad Lucem” are usually enough for them to recognize the merits of the art form.

Narrative Podcasting: An Ending Sneak Preview

If the introduction and first part are so well articulated, the final two parts must be of great interest to audio drama creators and fans. At least, that’s the hope. You’ll have to wait until Spring when the book releases to find all that out. Once again thanks to the University of Michigan Press for the an advanced copy of the book.