This Podcast Has Fleas... Will It Have Legs?

This Podcast Has Fleas logo

This Podcast Has Fleas logo

Once NPR and WHYY and WBUR and Gimlet threw their (porkpie?) hats into the kids' music ring, could fellow podcasting all-star WNYC be far behind?

Of course not.

This morning sees the official launch of their first podcast, This Podcast Has Fleas, with a whole bunch of star power, including Jay Pharaoh and Alec Baldwin.  What's it all about?  Well, the promo copy describes it succinctly:

What happens when rival pets have dueling podcasts? Find out as Jones (Jay Pharoah), a slick cat with a taste for auto tune, faces off with Waffles (Emily Lynne), a dog who can’t help chewing her microphone.

As you might guess from that copy and the promotional audio trailer below, it's a comedic (and fictional) podcast.

The first episode actually dropped on Saturday, with the second episode out this morning.  Entertainment Weekly reports that it's a limited-run series -- six episodes -- which strikes me as a perfect length for this concept, which could be wonderful, or could wear out its welcome by the sixth episode.  But based on the smartly-produced first episode, which quickly set up the setting and the stakes, and had its fair share of laughs (your local 7-year-old will go nuts), I don't think it'll have any problem keeping listener interest over the series length.

Now I will note that the concept of a canine with social media/entertainment savvy is not entirely original -- hi, Dog With a Blog!, hello, Fetch with Ruff Ruffman!  In fact, the announcer's voice in the trailer sounds suspiciously like Ruff's (though I think it's Eugene Mirman's, who's also on the show).  But it's the mid-2010s now, podcasting is the new blogging, doncha know?

Here's hoping that it does well and that its sister show, Pickle, which is an Americanized relaunch of Zooglobble favorite Short & Curly, made in partnership with some of the same Australian producers and talent from the original show, has a successful launch starting December 11.  I certainly wouldn't mind seeing a little friendly kids' network competition, though hopefully that competition's a little more cooperative than that of the dog and the cat are at the start of this series.

Top Kids and Family Podcasts (November 2017)

Squeaking this in juuuuust under the wire, it's my November list of the top-ranked podcasts for kids and families.  (For those of you interested, here is October's list of top-ranked kids and family podcasts.)

If you're looking for a podcast for kids, you could -- and should! -- of course look at my list of podcasts for kids (now above 125!), but if that's a bit overwhelming, try the podcasts listed below, or the official Kids Listen app, featuring shows from Kids Listen members.  Popularity isn't always synonymous with quality, but you could do much worse than dipping into the shows ranked below -- many of which are Kids Listen members -- to start out.

At 18 ranked shows, November continues to be just shy of June's all-time high of 19 ranked shows.  (That means 18 shows that appeared in the top 100 of both the iTunes and Stitcher "kids and family" charts when I checked it.)  The total number of podcasts listed below is 37, just 1 shy of October's new record.  While only one podcast hit the overall iTunes Top 200 (down from 4 in July and August), and the Top 200 Kids & Family chart featured 43 shows, down from August's 45-show record, the Stitcher total of 30 was 3 higher than the previous record.

As always: this is a blunt instrument, combining pure rankings from two fairly opaque charts, and for a variety of reasons has only marginal value as a measure of quality.  (Results compiled from Top 100 podcasts on United States iTunes and Stitcher "kids and family" charts on Thursday, November 30, 2017.  Podcasts that appear on both charts are ranked below; remaining podcasts only appeared on one list.  Of special note: Dream Big appeared on iTunes' overall Top 200 and is #1 on the Kids and Family chart, but not at all on Stitcher's family list, so for that podcast at least, this list certainly underplays its popularity.)  Anyway: grain of salt noted.

Two other reminders:

1.  If you're looking for a list that has most (or all) of these podcasts, check out my comprehensive list of podcasts for kids.

2. If you're interested in the future of podcasts for kids, you might be interested in Kids Listen, a grassroots organization of podcasters and folks like me interested in helping high-quality audio for children thrive.  We're looking for other interested folks -- producers or otherwise -- to join in!

With that out of the way, let's get to the chart.

1. Wow in the World

2. Stories Podcast

3. Brains On!

4. Story Pirates

5. Storynory

6. Circle Round

7. Story Time

8.  Tumble

9. The Alien Adventures of Finn Caspian

10. The Unexplainable Disappearance of Mars Patel

11. Eleanor Amplified

12. The Radio Adventures of Dr. Floyd

13. Little Stories for Tiny People

14. Peace Out

15. What If World

16. Ear Snacks

17.  Short and Curly

18. Bedtime Stories Cozy Corner Podcast

Others (listed alphabetically): 1001 Classic Short Stories & Tales, Activated Stories, Bedtime History, Book Club for Kids, But Why, By Kids For Kids Story Time, Children Stories and Joyful Podcast, The Cramazingly Incredifun Sugarcrash Kids, Disney Story Central, Dream Big, Family Folk Tales, Mick Munster Monster Hunter, Official Adventures in Odyssey, Podcast Kid, Spare the Rock Spoil the Child, Sparkle Stories, Summer Reading, That Story Show, This Podcast Has Fleas

Story Pirates Set for World Domination!

Story Pirates logo from Gimlet

Story Pirates logo from Gimlet

Let's get it out of the way: I think the Story Pirates are great.  Just as we all have our kids' music artists we listen to without the kids around -- don't front, you know you do it -- there are some podcasts whose primary audience is kids but adults can (and do) listen to it unreservedly, regardless of whether their kids are in earshot.

The Story Pirates podcast, for me, is definitely in that camp.  The concept of the podcast is fairly simple -- kids write stories and send them into the group.  The group creates a play/musical out of the story, filled with a lot enthusiasm, no small amount of heart, and a good week's worth of humor.  I reviewed the show about 18 months ago, and my appreciation of the weekly podcast has only grown since then.

And I'm not the only one whose appreciation of the Story Pirates has grown, because Season 2 of the podcast started yesterday, and it's being presented by Gimlet Media, the podcasting powerhouse home to a variety of shows for adults including one of my faves, Reply All, another one of my faves, Heavyweight, along with The Nod, the late great Mystery Show (pours one out), and many more.  The fact that Story Pirates, the show, which got its recorded audio start on Sirius-XM's Kids Place Live, is now the first kids show on a major podcasting network, says a lot about both the Story Pirates and Gimlet.  (Though, yo, Gimlet, get the Story Pirates up on your Shows drop-down menu!)

Anyway, I encourage you to subscribe to Story Pirates on your favorite podcatcher and head over to their podcast page, where you can also sign up to receive cool stuff (like coloring pages tied to the episodes).

The Story Pirates in studio

The Story Pirates in studio

Top Kids and Family Podcasts (October 2017)

It's been couple months since the last time I looked at ranking podcasts for kids, and things continue to look positive for the world of kids' podcasting.  (For those of you interested, here is August's list of top-ranked kids and family podcasts.)

If you're looking for a podcast for kids, you could -- and should! -- of course look at my list of podcasts for kids (now above 120!), but if that's a bit overwhelming, try the podcasts listed below.   Popularity isn't always synonymous with quality, but you could do much worse than dipping into the shows ranked below to start out.

At 18 ranked shows, October is just shy of June's all-time high of 19 ranked shows.  (That means 18 shows that appeared in the top 100 of both the iTunes and Stitcher "kids and family" charts when I checked it.)  The total number of podcasts listed below is 38, however, up 2 from August and another new record.  While only one podcast hit the overall iTunes Top 200 (down from 4 in July and August), and the Top 200 Kids & Family chart featured 40 shows, down from August's 45-show record, the Stitcher total of 27 was up 6 from August and matched its record.

There's lots of general excitement, too -- the arrival of Pinna, Panoply's "walled-garden" podcast app (and which has its own podcast which lets non-subscribers get a taste of the exclusive content), and of course the official Kids Listen app, featuring shows from Kids Listen members.  There are also a couple of brand new shows below -- Circle Round and Mick Munter Monster Hunter.

Interview: Key Wilde and Dean Jones ("Doug the Digger")

I'm a big fan of musician/illustrator Key Wilde and musician/kindie uber-producer Dean Jones, so when I got word that the two had teamed up for a new project, I was super-excited.

Especially when I heard it was, unexpectedly, not a musical pairing, but a podcast pairing.

The podcast is called Doug the Digger, and it's the story of a resourceful groundhog named Doug and a couple of humans, Nick and Una who make his acquaintance.  You can listen to the first four episodes now (here's an iTunes link to make it easy for ya), and while you're waiting for the episodes to download to your family's favorite podcast app, you can look at this brief video interlude.  It's silent, but the gentle pace of the video matches that of the podcast itself.

Ear Snacks Season 2! Read (Hear) All (A Little Bit) About It!

Ear Snacks logo

Ear Snacks logo

I know that saying that a creative endeavor is unlike anything else that's out there sounds like hyperbole, but Ear Snacks fits the bill.  There are lots of great podcasts for kids, but in its absurdist and often non-story-based style (not to mention its greater though not exclusive emphasis on preschool listeners), the labor of love from Los Angeles-area musical duo Andrew and Polly is unique.

And it's back for Season 2!

Now what exactly is Ear Snacks? Well, why don't you let a few kids tell you...

(I love that, by the way.)

In any case, with Season 2 starting TOMORROW!, I went straight to the source, Andrew Barkan and Polly Hall themselves (OK, just Polly), to find out more about Season 2 and how it's more of the same, but also different, from Season 1.  (Also, on a related note, make sure you check out "How Does This Get Made?," a discussion on, well, how the podcast gets made.  It's not geared towards kids, but totally kid-friendly, if they happen to pull it up on your podcast player.)

Zooglobble: Is there a theme to season 2, or is it more or less random like season 1?

Polly Hall: It's more or less random, though this season we are being much more intentional about how the episodes tie into developmental milestones.

Can you give a sneak preview of some of the episode topics?  How about just the first letters of each topic?

What's happening this season on Ear Snacks?  Hands!  Puzzles!  Bad Guys!  And much more.  We'll keep the rest top super secret secret, but we are lining up some really fun guests to help us investigate science, music, art and culture in absurd & awesome ways.  Kindie music friends will be making regular appearances, starting with Jazzy Ash & TMBG's Danny Weinkauf and some podcast pals like Wow in the World's Mindy Thomas.  And to answer a question no one was asking -- yes, we are going to try to talk to conceptual artist John Baldessari.  Because stickers.

What are you doing to be more intentional about developmental milestones?

Ear Snacks Season 2 will still be built around super-fun topics for kids to explore, but each episode is also intentionally tied to an important milestone central to childhood and growing up.  We've met and sung with thousands of kids at this point and that "data set" really informs our work - but we're also weaving in our personal life, too.  As parents (to a 4-month old and 3.5 year-old), we're learning first hand from playdates, pre-school and the playground.  We know all about the big feelings that come while starting to make sense of the world - and this season we're trying to support kids as they're experiencing new situations, tackling new challenges and starting to connect with each other.  Don't worry, there aren't any lectures in these episodes!  Instead we take a sideways approach to topics like hitting, biting, differences and feeling confused that we think will equip kids to move through critical moments in an empowered way.

How has kids podcasting changed since you started Season 1?

The world of kids podcasts has changed A LOT since we started doing this in 2015.   Personally, we know that parents are seeking out and discovering podcasts for their kids way more now than they were a couple of years ago - proof we've seen from our audience growth alone.  We published our first episode of Ear Snacks in July 2015 and two years later we guess our weekly audience to be about 5,000 families and growing.  That feels like a lot of people to be talking to, since our own research - and research published by the non-profit organization Kids Listen, of which we are proudly founding members [Ed. note: As am I!] - indicates that kids in our audience range are almost always listening with at least one adult.  That's a lot of moms, dads, big brothers and sisters and lil' ones rocking out to our music, cracking jokes, knowing facts about seahorses and being curious about the world. 

There's generally more awareness now about this kind of content - perhaps partly because more attention is being paid to the medium by the press (see recent Common Sense and New York Times articles), or partly because more creators are entering the space including NPR, Panoply, and Peabody-winning Gen-Z Media - even Nickelodeon & Disney have podcasts for kids now.  Or a little bit chicken and egg?  We're excited to see more advertising and grant money (see Brains On! and Book Club for Kids) is becoming available to support the work we're all doing.  

There are even some podcast apps exclusively with kids content on the App Store now - Kids Listen, Leela and Panoply [Pinna] - and those are all great discovery tools for parents who are wondering, what should my kid be listening to?  

There's so much great audio out there right now for kids and it's even a little easier to find - but still not necessarily the first idea a parent of a pre-schooler might have when reaching for an activity.  A podcast for my pre-schooler?  Yup, there is one, and it's called Ear Snacks.