SJ30 – The Business of Narrative Podcasting with Wolf 359

This week, we’re pleased to welcome Gabriel Urbina and Zach Valenti from Wolf 359, a podcast about the advantages of floating, tiny and alone, in the middle of nowhere. A drama in the tradition of the Golden Age of Radio, Wolf 359’s bi-monthly episodes tell the story of Doug Eiffel, the communications officer for the U.S.S. Hephaestus Research Station, currently on Day 448 of its orbit around red dwarf star Wolf 359.

Join hosts Teague Hopkins and Jason Nellis to talk about how Gabriel and Zach bootstrapped a successful radio show, the art and science of narrative podcasting, and life in isolated, zero gravity conditions.

Links and Highlights

EPISODE 30. This podcast is no longer a spring chicken, folks.

Gabriel dreamed up a character who was monitoring a radio on a space station, and made the “fatal error” of sharing his idea on Facebook. Zach (a voice-over actor) saw on Facebook that a voice-over actor was needed for a one-man radio show. The rest is destiny.

Listen to the first three seasons of Wolf 359 here.

  • “We were both attracted to the idea of doing something together and getting it out there quickly.
  • “What’s great about the first season, when it was basically our moms listening, it gave us a lot of freedom… It took us about 10 episodes to figure out what worked and what the show wanted to be.”
  • “Our philosophy was, let’s put things out there, let’s see if it works, and then let’s polish… [but] it needs to be a certain level of quality.”
  • “A lot of the first few episodes were built on, ‘Hey, I did this guy a solid once.'”
  • “From day one, we wanted to put something out in the universe that people could look at, and so we could really establish ourselves [in our respective careers].”

Zach does “sensual voice-overs” for, which, according to Gabriel, is “exceedingly mature and tasteful and well thought-out.” We say, go try it and find out for yourself (and happy belated Valentine’s Day!).

  • “The biggest technical challenge is making it work when people are recording in different spaces and different rooms with different sound qualities… We eventually solved that by deciding that the people who are remote will always be heard through a kind of filter, an ‘in-universe’ reason for their voices to sound noticeably different than everyone else’s. It was a moment of, ‘we’re going to try to turn this bug into a feature.'”
  • “We are fearless about the weird things that we do… but we rarely, if ever, have the next move planned.”
  • “There are critical times where it’s like, ‘Zach, it is now time to turn the “make shit up” button on’ (or off).”
  • “There have been times when it’s been a choice between having a 13-episode second season and get our merchandise together, and it’s always felt better to focus on making more and better shows.”
  • “Focus on making something that YOU love. The one thing we found in our nerdy, off-center taste is that we’re not alone, so in making something that we love, we inadvertently made something that other people love. Focus on that, because you can control that.”
  • In the beginning, “we tried all kinds of guerrilla marketing tactics when it was just our best friends and their cat listening to us… We tried to do the stereotypical ‘growth hacking’ to create our online presence, and the effect that had was… nil.”

View replay on

This episode previously aired on Wednesday, 4/17/16, at 3:30pm ET

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