Podcastology episode eight: Box sets

In this episode Eli Sessions looks at those beautifully crafted podcasts which tell dramatic stories in depth. He speaks to Rami Tzabar, the editor behind 13 Minutes to the Moon – which told the story of the moon landing in intimate detail – and the commissioner who made it happen, Jon Manel, the BBC World Service’s commissioning editor for podcasts.

Podcastology Episode 8

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13 Minutes to the Moon takes a story many of us think we know well – that moment in July 1969 when a human first landed on the moon – and tells it in a way we've never heard before. Over 12 episodes, we learn about the extraordinary decisions and inspirational men and women who made the moon landing possible. It all leads up to those final 13 minutes, and by the time we hear the audio in full, we know the meaning of every second.

It’s all fact – but it feels like drama. Editor Rami Tzabar says that the team approached the story differently from traditional radio documentaries, scripting and structuring it with an eye to jeopardy and cliff hangers.

Commissioning editor Jon Manel says that highly produced storytelling podcasts have things to learn from TV drama.

"If we’re talking about the ‘box set’ approach… I think learning from television and taking those tips from our visual colleagues is something that’s really useful." – Jon Manel, BBC World Service commissioning editor for podcasts

Rami agrees that moments of high tension were deliberately contrasted with periods of calm in 13 Minutes to the Moon.

"There were episodes we wanted to put in, that you sometimes get in great TV dramas, where they decide to focus on something completely different from the main story just for one episode. It’s about the pacing." – Rami Tzabar, story editor, 13 Minutes to the Moon

Jon says that podcasts are now telling stories in a way other media can’t – it’s a new style of storytelling.

Jon and Rami also mention:

  • Slow Burn - a podcast made by Slate
  • Wondery - one of the largest podcast publishers in the United States
  • Death in Ice Valley - a BBC World Service and NRK original podcast

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