‘Modern Love’ Column brought to life in WBUR podcast

Citizens of this modern world constantly redefine love. They probe not only what love should mean in today’s fluid society, but also how people across the globe talk about the oftentimes elusive and messy feeling. This week, on Jan. 21st, WBUR, Boston’s largest public radio station, will enter the conversation head on through a collaboration with the New York Times. WBUR plans to bring the Times’ ever-popular ‘Modern Love’ column to life through its much-anticipated Modern Love: The Podcast.

Modern Love: The Podcast is the brainchild of WBUR’s Idea Lab (iLab), a space where members of WBUR explore and invent new content that resonate with modern listeners, and take advantage of today’s advanced technologies.

In an interview with Current, WBUR general manager Charles Kravetz said that the WBUR iLab is currently working on multiple projects, with a total of $1.5 million set aside to fund the projects. Although Kravetz declined to reveal the cost of Modern Love: The Podcast, he did highlight the content of the upcoming podcast through a quick preview on the WBUR website.

Each episode of the soon-to-be weekly podcast will center around an essay that was originally published as one of ‘Modern Love’ columns in the Times. The columns, which have grown in popularity since their first appearance in 2006, are a weekly staple in the Sunday Style section of the Times. Each column runs between 1,500 and 1,700 words, and is chosen from a large pool of reader submissions before being edited by Daniel Jones.

Jones revealed in an interview with Times Insider that he can receive upwards of 7,000 submissions as year, though the paper only publishes 52. The rules for submission are very strict and require that the writer maintain a high level of integrity—names cannot be changed, characters must appear as they did in reality, and events cannot be invented or elaborated. In the past, successful columns have resulted in many full-length books, as well as eventually abandoned attempts at television shows and musicals.

Although the column’s theme of love in the modern world might seem straightforward, the stories that result from it are anything but. They range from heartbreaking to uplifting, covering everything from foot fetishes, glimpses from a florist’s perspective, to the scientific possibility of forcing oneself to fall in love.

For Modern Love: The Podcast, standout essays were selected from the large the pool of published columns to be featured in each episode. An introduction on the WBUR website reveals that during the first part of the episode, the chosen essay will be read aloud by well-known figures such as January Jones, Judd Apatow, Jason Alexander, Joshua Jackson, and America Ferrera. The stories, however, will not end there. After each column is brought to life, the original author will be interviewed by ‘Modern Love’ editor Jones, and Meghna Chakrabarti, the host of WBUR’s own Here & Now.

Kravetz also revealed to Current his high hopes for the podcast’s success, as the project is entirely funded by WBUR, with the Times providing support through marketing. If the show does reach its desired success, it will continue into the next year.
Given the current fame that certain podcasts—such as This American Life and the true-crime investigation Serial—have achieved over the past couple of years, and the overall rise in the popularity of podcasts as entertainment, Kravetz’s aspirations may not be so ludicrous.

Recent data collected by Edison Research and PEW Research Center clearly highlights the growing presence of podcasts in the world of media entertainment. By 2015, 49 percent of Americans over the age of 12 were aware of the existence of podcasts, and 33 percent had listened to at least one podcast in their lifetime, both numbers more than double what they were a decade ago.

In an interview with BetaBoston, Jones mentioned the high readership the column attracts, with the most popular receiving 10 million online views. By harnessing both the loyalty of the Times readers and the rapidly-growing community of podcast listeners, Modern Love: The Podcast has the potential for great success. A success that is already becoming apparent as Modern Love: The Podcast already holds the 43rd place in the top charts of the iTunes podcast after only releasing a tantalizing preview that lasts a grand total of 99 seconds.

Featured Image by Abby Paulson/ Heights Editor

January 20, 2016