Peter Day, podcast star

The BBC’s amazing Peter Day is the best reporter I know on the radio. As a story-teller, he stands alongside the U.S. radio icon, This American Life‘s Ira Glass. But his shows are entirely different; Peter reports on business and the world but with stories instead of numbers. He is a great interviewer and a genius at tying together his questions, answers, facts, and observations into a compelling narrative. I listen to his show on my iPod every week and play it for my students at CUNY as an example of both good interviewing and effective radio.

The Daily Mail is properly impressed that Peter’s In Business podcast is the top among BBC ‘casts, outdrawing even entertainment shows with big and expensive names: “More than 730,000 people downloaded Mr Day’s weekly podcast during September – 110,000 more than those who downloaded the second-placed show, Best of Chris Moyles, a weekly highlights compilation of his Radio 1 breakfast show. . . . Stephen Chilcott, the editor of In Business, said: ‘Peter may not be a household name but he’s an institution inside the BBC. People rave about him in their blogs and young entrepreneurs talk about him in hushed terms, saying he’s changed the way they think about business.’ ”

In the same edition, Peter writes with characteristic humility about how he does it and with characteristic eloquence about what radio really is:

Until now listeners have been remote: all we had was ratings to tell us who was listening, and a few appreciative or moaning letters. Now we have a new democracy of broadcasting: listening habits made manifest, ratings created by listeners making an active desision to download a particular programme.

Radio is music, chat and news but most of all it is ideas, and podcasting is going some way to redefine the ideas that interest our listeners. Podcasting is a new kind of listening, much more active and involved than merely sitting back to wait for what comes next.

It makes us broadcasters think much harder about who what and why we are talking to. It moves broadcasting much closer to conversation.

I wonder how many broadcasters in the U.S. would think that radio is about ideas but, of course, it is. If it’s only about sound, as too many of our stations are, it’s boring.

(Here is Peter’s show about blogs, featuring me talking so fast I scared even myself.)