Recap: 2019 Audio Thought Leader Summit

The second Audio Thought Leader Summit provided a forum for leaders in podcasting, voice-driven interactive experiences, and other audio-based digital ecosystems to interact and explore the next wave of audio storytelling and technology.
Audio Thought Leader Summit

On Friday, June 14th, the second annual Audio Thought Leader Summit connected aspiring audio-based creators with established producers, platforms, and other outlets/companies at the Made in NY Media Center by IFP. A day full of panels, talks, and Q&As was followed by a reception in the cafe and lounge.

Borrowing a successful model from the Independent Filmmaker Project’s IFP Week, the Audio Talent Marketplace showcased an informal networking session where aspiring creators in podcasting and audio-based storytelling will have 10 to 15 minute one-on-one meetings with established members of the audio community.

Kicking off the morning sessions was Creating for Audio-First: Audiences, Development, and Production with Audible’s Editor-in-Chief David Blum, moderated by IFP Executive Director Jeff Sharp. The lively discussion included Blum’s thoughts on the psychological affects of listening. “We don’t often know how our thoughts are being manipulated,” Blum noted toward the end of his discussion.

Next up was Voice on the Move with Cara Meverden, founder of Scout FM, which creates talk radio stations with the latest, highest quality radio shows and podcasts, and then personalizes each station for each listener. With bated breath, Cara gave the first live, onstage demonstration of Scout FM’s product and it went as smoothly and seamlessly as one could have hoped.

After a quick break, The Audio Talent Marketplace took place in the afternoon. Attendees shared their expertise in short, rotating meetings in the Media Center lounge. Talent participants were encouraged to discuss their projects and ambitions, or seek advice and insight while company participants had an opportunity to talk about their projects, platforms, and/or opportunities for those who aspire to create in audio.

During the afternoon session, Journalist Leah Fessler gave a compelling talk entitled The Ethical Implications of Gender in UX Voice Design. She discussed a varied range of topics including her own research into her theory that women have become “digital servants” (she posited: “why, if [Amazon’s] Alexa was named after the library of Alexandria, was it not called Alex?”) to the first genderless voice assistant (Meet Q). Her research revealed that people generally want to be the “boss” of their technology, which reveals (mostly male) users’ deep-seated biases.

The final keynote, entitled Reimagining What’s Possible: Narrative Audio at the New York Times was given by Larissa Anderson, Managing Producer of New York Times Audio. Her talk discussed how the New York Times is currently reimagining audio and what its bold plans are for the future of the medium.