Ever wondered how popular podcasts like Radiolab or Serial got their addicting and informative style? Professor John Pavlik looks to provide a theoretical answer to what makes a radio show great in his new book, "Masterful Stories: Lessons from Golden Age Radio," being released by Routledge in March 2017.
According to Pavlik, his inspiration for the book came from the more than 10,000 early radio plays which have entered the public domain and become available for downloading and streaming over the past decade on The Internet Archive and elsewhere.
“I listened to literally thousands of radio plays and wound up picking 120 of them which I analyzed in depth and created a matrix of the storytelling techniques they used. I selected the 120 based on the awards they won and public acclaim,” said Pavlik regarding his inspiration for the book.
In the text, Pavlik provides a chronological history of the best pieces of radio storytelling and finds three main factors that the best radio plays need to have: engagement of audience emotionally, engagement of audience intellectually, and connection to something bigger and more wide-reaching than the specifics of the story. The volume then highlights a framework of how popular modern radio shows and podcasts might utilize techniques from radio stories of the past.
After listening to so many of these old programs, Pavlik realized the teaching value in these old broadcasts and thought, “There’s got to be a way to bring this wonderful storytelling into the classroom.”
He started by writing an article about the lessons contained in old-time radio programs but quickly realized there was far too much material to fit into one article. Two years later, Routledge is publishing his book regarding the theoretical framework of high-level old-time stories on the radio.
While Pavlik has no plans to make the book a required textbook in any of his classes, he has, and will continue to, use various pieces of the book in his teaching.
“Some people think radio is passé, but audio is often what makes media a powerful storytelling environment. Audio is often what really makes people feel like they’re there,” notes Pavlik on the importance of radio.
"Masterful Stories: Lessons from Golden Age Radio" can be pre-ordered on Routledge’s website.
Professor John Pavlik is in the Department of Journalism and Media Studies at The Rutgers School of Communication and a faculty associate at the Columbia Institute for Tele-Information (CITI).