Eager for new listening material while making your daily commute? Two Milton podcast teams are hoping you’ll give the fast-developing new medium a try.
In fact, Milton Administrative Services Director Inga Cushman said, the length of podcasts she creates with teammate and Milton City Administrator Al Hulick was decided based on information included within the last national census, which noted that the average commute time for a Milton resident is 20 minutes, and while the first podcast the two made ran long, at 38 minutes, they have been honing their skills, they said, to hit that 20-minute sweet spot.
A second team, Milton Public Library Director Ashlee Kunkel and her teammate, Assistant Library Director Jayme Anderson, have also adopted the 20-minute format. Describing themselves as working associates, but also friends outside of work, the two began discussing the concept of developing library-related podcasts while listening to similar transmissions as they traveled together to “fun runs” and other leisure time events.
Both teams described podcasts as similar to old radio shows, featuring audio entertainment, but also with purpose, and information related to, in Ashlee and Jayme’s case, programming at the library, and in Inga and Al’s case, the workings of city government.
Ashlee and Jayme
“We have a lot in common,” Ashlee said. “We both like Marvel Superheroes.”
Also on the list: bike riding and racing, running and cats. Both also enjoy working with youth, they said, but each prefers a different age group: Ashlee enjoys working with teens, while Jayme prefers elementary school-aged children.
While both say they listen to podcasts, Jayme said it was Ashlee who got her started. Describing herself as a “big football fan,” Ashlee said she began listening to a podcast hosted by retired football player Pat McAfee, and then Jayme introduced her to another called: Stuff You Should Know.
As their mutual interest in podcasts grew, Ashlee said, they began viewing the format as yet another way to bring information about the library to the public.
Stuff You Should Know was inspirational, Jayme said, because it featured two people that were funny. It was a model the two thought they could imitate. Also intriguing, Jayme said, each episode could stand on its own, as compared to others that were part of a series.
After attending a social media workshop in Madison, the women said they learned more about how best to reach audiences, and about the added value podcasts could bring by complementing platforms already in use like Facebook and Twitter.
At the workshop, Jayme said, they learned podcasts should be “educational, inspirational and entertaining.”
“This gives us another element we can put on Facebook,” Ashlee said.
With the purchase of an electronic box called an audio interface, two microphones and a subscription to an audio platform called SoundCloud, used to distribute podcasts to platforms like iTunes and Google Play, the two were ready to start. A goal is to make one podcast each week, they said.
Ashlee and Jayme record their podcast in Ashlee’s office in the library. They rely on the gregarious and spontaneous nature of their friendship to bring personality to each episode, they said.
So far, the team has produced 12 episodes in a series called: Check Out MPL. To listen to the podcasts one can download an Apple or Google app, or find a link on the library’s Facebook page.
Topics explored thus far have included: collection development policies, staff personalities, library programming, favorite books, personal library stories, and cats.
Inga and Al
Inga and Al said Inga initially proposed the podcast idea as a way to further spotlight the city.
“I liked the concept,” Al said, adding: “They have a purpose, and they focus on discussions from the city hall perspective.”
Describing the podcasting process, Inga said: “I work very well when something is planned out; I’m more comfortable with that.”
“I don’t write anything out; I work off the cuff in this format,” Al said.
Both Inga and Al admit they have some background that helps shape their productions: Inga holds an undergraduate degree earned in 2008 from UW-Whitewater in broadcast journalism and political science.
Al said he began playing live music in 2005, performing as a solo act and as the lead singer and guitar player in a band called: “Kind of a Big Deal,” which he described as an homage to the 2004-released movie: “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy.”
He retired from his professional music career in 2014, he said, but continues to perform at community functions and family events.
“I’ve been listening to myself talk for a long time,” Al said.
While traffic on social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram were driving interest in city initiatives and programming, Al said, he’d also heard people talking about podcasts they found interesting, and while he was more of a Spotify fan, a platform focusing on music, he decided to give podcasting a try. He listened to episodes from Joe Rogan and Dan Patrick, he said.
Inga enjoys listening to a podcast called: Pop Culture Happy Hour, produced by NPR, she said.
“Doing them is not for everybody, and we are not the Manitowoc Minute. They are beneficial for us to do, and we hope people get something out of it,” Al said.
Three episodes of the city’s podcast, called: We are Milton, have been completed and the team plans to make a new episode every two weeks. Topics covered have included: the council/mayoral form of government, economic development and a discussion about tax incremental financing.
“People are interested in community growth, tax rates, and development, so we saw it as a natural segue,” Al said.
Getting started required figuring out what was needed in equipment, Inga said, adding that Ashlee and Jayme did most of the legwork. Milton resident Steve Jensen, whom Inga described as a “tech guru,” working with area plays and productions, was tapped for his expertise. Technical help came also from members of the Milton school district, Ashlee said.
While Inga and Al spend podcast time talking with each other, they also invite guests and have interviewed Milton Historical Society Executive Director Kari Klebba, who shared interesting stories about Milton History, Inga said.
This month, the team plans to invite Klebba back to tell historical “weird Milton stories,” she added.
Plans also include an interview with Milton Police Chief Scott Marquardt, who will talk about Halloween trick-or-treating tips, a representative from John’s Disposal and Recycling, and an interview with Dave Bendlin, a retired high school biology and environmental studies teacher who will talk about cultivating prairies.
Inga and Al also have branched out into making YouTube videos, which feature the two, and invited guests, making the podcast, along with visuals, such as photographs and maps, or information from websites, that Inga electronically inserts.
The hope is to make something more visually appealing, she said, adding: “That way, it’s not just a video of me and Al talking.”
The team makes their podcasts in a small conference room in the city hall where they can take advantage of a blank wall. That space is later filled with graphic enhancements, Inga said.
As the team’s skill sets increase, ideas expand. Over Halloween, Inga said, she has more visual ideas planned.
According to Inga, the easiest way to access both audio and YouTube video versions of the podcasts is to go to the city’s Facebook page and click on the posted links. Audio versions can also be accessed using apps downloaded through the Google Play Store, for Android devices, or the Apple Store.
Both podcasting teams said they were eager for community feedback, and hope community members will offer suggestions about topics they’d like to see covered. Comments can be left on social media links or by contacting the teams by phone or email at the library or city hall.
For more information about the library’s podcast, Check Out MPL, or to reach Ashlee and Jayme: https://www.facebook.com/MiltonPublicLibraryWisconsin/.
For more information about the City of Milton podcast, We are Milton, or to reach Inga and Al: https://www.facebook.com/MiltonWI.