Eric Nuzum, formerly of NPR, and currently of Audible, has helped to create the most successful narrative documentary-style shows out there, including Invisibilia and the Ted Radio Hour. In a talk he gave at the Third Coast Festival last year, he says that the thing that separates successful shows from unsuccessful shows is that successful shows can describe their show in 10 words or less. The description must give the mission of the show in such a way that everyone can understand it in one sentence, the particular niche of listeners you’re after will recognize that the show is for them immediately, and you can use the statement as a guide to the stories and episodes you will produce for your show. For instance, Invisibilia’s is “a narrative journey through the invisible forces that affect our lives.” (okay that was 11 words). Although there is some reason to be skeptical about this as a universal rule (have you seen This American Life’s tagline? Then again, they were rejected by NPR!), it gives me a really good guide as to how the kingmakers of digital audio think about shows and whether to pick them up.
It got me thinking about Hi-Phi Nation’s tagline “a show about philosophy that turns stories into ideas.” This tagline is very much how I constrained myself in my selection of topics and stories for the first season. But after listening to Eric’s talk, it makes me wonder whether it is the best description for these other purposes, which is to get people to know immediately what the show is like, differentiates it from other shows, and attract listeners of your niche immediately. “Philosophy through sound and stories” is another tagline I use, but again, are they too vague? Now that the show has a healthy number of listeners, I wanted to invite you to help me out. Can you do your best to give a one-line description of the show in about 10 words that you think describes it perfectly for all the purposes that Nuzum says? You can leave it here on the iTunes review page for the show. You can leave it as a review on our Facebook page. Or you can contact me here on the website.