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Show HN: The Program – A fictional podcast inspired by Hacker News stories (programaudioseries.com)
162 points by I-M-S on June 29, 2018 | hide | past | favorite | 59 comments

Hello HN! I am a media producer and my side project for the last 6 months has been creating a scripted audio series called The Program. You can think of it as a historical podcast, but a one that’s set in the future and examines the present day. The world of the future is exactly like ours, except that Money, State, and God became fused into a single entity called the Program. This hardcore sci-fi premise however is just the backdrop, and the series focuses on ordinary people inhabiting this extraordinary world. Imagine “Black Mirror” as an audio series.

Every episode is a self-contained story, but all of them revolve around technological and societal themes that are close to the HN ethos. In fact, episode 3 was directly inspired by an HN story found at https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=15651510 and some of the comments from that thread have been incorporated into the story almost verbatim.

I thought the community might find it interesting how it inspired a dramatic work of art like this one, so I decided to share it here. You can find the first three episodes at www.programaudioseries.com - check it out during your next workout or commute (or code build ;)). If you are on the fence whether it's worth your time, check out the show bible which should help you decide: http://programaudioseries.com/program/TheProgramShowBible.pd...

If you do listen to any of the episodes, I'd be curious to hear your thoughts! I'd especially appreciate the following feedback: 1. Is this something you'd be interested in listening to? 2. Any suggestions how to gain initial traction and reach broader audiences


Please consider adding an RSS feed at minimum (if you don't want to fully launch in iTunes etc). It makes it a more realistic "proof of concept" test for me -- I can use my familiar tools and routines to let you know if I would actually listen to this show as part of my normal listening habits.

And then if you do move forward, we will already be subscribed so your listener base will continue to grow.

I'd be happy to listen to this on my drive home this evening, but downloading mp3s and getting them moved over to my phone and into my podcast player app is too much effort. Sorry, but that's the reality!

You've clearly spent time and energy to produce something worthwhile, but don't miss out on a small thing to make it easy for us to experience your content.

This is an absolute necessity. Without an RSS feed, there's no easy way to listen to this on a Podcast app. I for one do not bother with any podcast that doesn't have a feed.

http://programaudioseries.com/feed.xml - just added the RSS feed, so I hope you give the series a chance! :)

Thank you. :)

TIL, you could subscribe to podcasts via RSS on iPhone via the Podcasts app. For those who also didn't know, you go to Library and hit edit at the upper left to get an "Add podcast by URL..." button. Interested to check it out, thanks!

You should submit your podcast to itunes, stitcher, google music/podcasts. Otherwise it is troublesome for somebody with smartphone to follow your podcast.

Agreed, but I am not ready for a real launch just yet - I'm treating this as a proof of concept. If you'd download/stream the episodes and listened to them that way I'd love to hear your opinion!

Thing is its very difficult to integrate long form audio when the only available source is download or stream from a website. Many people will pass this on by just because it doesn't show up in their podcast app.

Added an RSS feed so hopefully that is going to make it a bit easier: http://programaudioseries.com/feed.xml

Let me know what you think if you listen to it! :)

100% agree with this comment. This concept interests me a ton and I'm tech-savvy, yet the second that I saw these were only available as a direct download I let out an internal groan and wondered if it was worth my trouble.

Is there any reason not to launch in all of the standard podcast spots (iTunes, Stitcher, etc.)? If you were there, I would have downloaded immediately.

I understand that this is just a proof of concept but see no real downside to capitalizing on the distribution. I think you're underestimating the friction/laziness of consumers here.

I had my reasons but then again perhaps my reasoning was unsound :D Hopefully I'll get to launching it officially soon so that will no longer be an issue. How fast that happens largely depends on the response I get here, so I would be super thankful if you could give it a listen no matter the extra hassle and provide your feedback ;)

> 1. Is this something you'd be interested in listening to?

I'm not sure, but my favorite thing in podcast form was Serial.

> 2. Any suggestions how to gain initial traction and reach broader audiences

For starters, I'd like to listen in my podcast app (PocketCasts). You have to be there to have a chance to appear in "Trending" etc.

I just realized you can import an RSS feed into PocketCasts by pasting the URL in the Search field.

Not the most intuitive UI, but it works.

Could you give more information on Serial? I find several podcasts that could be...

GP was probably referring to Serial from NPR[1]. Season 1 followed the story of a murder trial from the 1990s.

[1] https://serialpodcast.org/


But it is investigative podcast, very different genre to yours.

S-Town is also very good in a slightly similar vein.

S-town is hands down the best podcast I've ever listened to, it's incredible and I can't recommend it enough.

Wow I just listened to the first episode and I'm hooked. Great work!

Glad to hear that! Please fill out the short survey at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/85GJ7GT once you've listened to the episodes (and leave your email at the last question so I can notify you when episode #4 is out ;))

Listening to the first episode, very well done. Just subscribed via Overcast so thanks for that RSS feed URL. Will fill out the survey when I've gone through all the episodes. Nice work!

We just listened to ep #1 over dinner.

Great production quality, I was surprised. We both enjoyed it and sat to the end before going to do other stuff, will definitely be checking out the other two.

I'm interested to see how this develops.

That's a joy to hear! Please fill out the survey (https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/85GJ7GT) after you listen to the rest. Much obliged! :)

1. Is this something you'd be interested in listening to?

Very much. I voraciously consume Radio 4, radio plays and audiobooks, and a few podcasts.

Tried episode 2 at lunch - ooh it's a bit long. Might have worked better as a 2 parter? We're very impressed with your level of quality for a new project. :)

> 2. Any suggestions how to gain initial traction and reach broader audiences

Random thought and perhaps not relevant or of interest as it's a bit of a tangent.

Have you thought of looking into submission requirements for BBC Radio4 Afternoon Drama? No idea what the rules are, but I know they feature new playwrights and experimental content fairly often. They also often make series of 5 linked daily plays exploring some SF theme or alternate reality. The Beeb are surprisingly easy to have email or social conversations with for an org their size.

Episode 1 honestly wouldn't have seemed out of place had I heard it in that slot. Audience is around 1m I believe. :)

http://www.bbc.co.uk/writersroom https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006qrzz

The Chico part of the episode 2 was originally envisioned to be a post-credits bonus segment, but people liked it so much I felt like I had to put it in the main episode (which also meant that it ballooned from standard 47 minutes to 68!)

Actually, I was considering submitting The Program to the BBC, but had no idea this specific programme existed - I'll now look into it! Thanks! :)

Great! Glad to help. There's a lot of audio drama on the Beeb, also on R3 (the classical music station) that far fewer know of, and R4 Extra the internet channel. Good luck, and have some more links. :)

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006tnwj R3 Drama Page

Two old multipart series I happen to remember, just to give an idea of past scope:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b03nv05z Listening to the Dead - 5 part series.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b07mxgxl Tracks - 9 part SciFi conspiracy thriller.

Just listened to eps 1 & 2 on a road trip and I'm completely hooked! Great production quality and premise. The format is reminiscent of the WWZ audiobook, which I also loved. Just thinking out loud but does Amazon/Audible support mini audiobooks like they do with epubs? Could be an interesting business model offering each episode as a single purchase. I'd definitely rather pay for this (purchase or subscription) than have ads that rip you Out of the fiction.

This needs an RSS feed.

1) Because listening to something in my browser is a pain.

2) Manually importing to my podcatcher is a pain.

3) I'm gonna forget about this by 5, and if more episodes come out, I'd like to know without having to rely on that announcement hitting HN front page during work hours when I'd see it.

http://programaudioseries.com/feed.xml - voila, the RSS feed, in time before 5 ;)

Your RSS feed doesn't seem to work with https://github.com/AntennaPod/AntennaPod/

It doesn't trigger the usual RSS subscription offer on Firefox either. Are you sure it's formatted correctly?

GP didn't specify timezone though ;)

I listened to the first episode yesterday and I was instantly hooked. I love the premise, the mystery, the characters theories and assumptions and so on. Just finished the third episode and I can't wait for more. Congrats, very good work.

I'd love to listen to this but I listen to podcasts exclusively on my phone in my podcast app (Overcast). I can't seem to find your podcast there (it needs to be in the iTunes podcast directory).

I'll do that once I am ready to go public! This is the first unveiling, so treat is as a sneak preview. If you'd download it manually to your device and listened to it that way I'd really appreciate your feedback! :)

Still many apps support RSS feeds for podcast, user can subscribe once, and see new updates, and listen in his favorite app.

http://programaudioseries.com/feed.xml - here's the RSS feed for your enjoyment ;)

Great, now consider to add link on your frontpage, there is no way somebody can discover this by himself..

It's on the second page where the episodes are. And it's only for HN crowd anyway, as I said, the proper launch of the show is still a bit off :)

The description in the first paragraph made me really excited. [in that robotic voice from the 80ies] Proceeding. To. Your. Site.

Just finished episode 1! I liked it :)

Thank you! Hope you plan to listen to the rest too (episode 2 is my favourite ;))

Same it was excellent!

This is the best thing I've listened to in a long time. Please let me give you money for this. EDIT: I'm also an audio guy (In pre-prod right now for a news podcast with a small outlet), and if you're looking, I'd be absolutely thrilled to help out.

Thank you for your supportive words! Not sure if I'd need any support in terms of audio (my set up is extremely basic: two microphones in a cheap recording deck), but I'll be sure to reach you if I have any questions in the future! ;)

Episode 3 filename has S01E08 instead of S01E03, which may be a typo. I look forward to listening!

Good catch - it's because it was the third one I made, but will actually be the eight one in the series! But it doesn't matter really, as all episodes are self contained and can be listened in any order (I would recommend starting with number 1 though as it's intended to be the gateway episode)

I can't find your feed url...

We just added one: http://programaudioseries.com/feed.xml

Let me know what you think of The Program! ;)

Listened to all 3. Nice job! Found it very engaging and well-produced, if perhaps slightly overdramatic in places. Looking forward to the rest of the series!

fantastic! subscribed and will listen during my workout. Thanks!

You had me at, "You had me at "Hello World"".

I-M-S, is there any chance to add transcripts for each episode? It would be great for people who aren't native English speaker.

The titles of the episodes (on the website) lead to transcripts! ;)

I had a similar idea for a series (future historical) with a different premise (post-apoc) - I'll be listening tonight!

Feel free to shot me an email if you want to discuss!

What voice synthesis backend are you using?

humans, if that's indeed what you're asking :)

Not really interesting to me. Most of the stuff here is self promotion, pretentious opinion pieces, and blind praise for finance industry. I stay for the few diamond in the rough articles about tech industry and idk how youd make good fictional storoes from that haha

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