Aaron Lammer

Aaron Lammer

Co-founder, Longform

THIS CHAT HAPPENED ON October 22, 2015

Discussion

Aaron Lammer
Aaron Lammer@aaronlammer · Co-founder, Longform
Hi, I'm of the host of the Longform Podcast. We interview non-fiction writers about how they do their jobs. We try to cover a broad swath of different kinds of writing happening on the internet, from the bigger magazine writers to editors and people building new publications. I'm curious as to what people would like to hear about from the writers they read online.
Corley
Corley@corleyh · COO @ Product Hunt
@aaronlammer thanks for joining. Given your focus on non-fiction who are your favorite authors? And what are a few of your favorite biographies? Finally, do you also use video as a source of inspiration for Longform? (Thinking of Ken Burns)
Aaron Lammer
Aaron Lammer@aaronlammer · Co-founder, Longform
@corleyh Wow, tough question. I'm not sure there is anyone alive who does magazine writing better than David Grann. I recently read a biography of Cortes called "Conquistador" that I would recommend. But I actually read so much non-fiction for work that I tilt more towards fiction in my civilian life. I watch a lot of documentaries (the Frontline piece "My Brother's Bomber, which I watched recently, is brilliant) and I would like to represent video more on Longform sometime. The divisions between telling stories with text, audio, and video are eroding. The same publishers are doing all three, and I expect artists of the future will be fluent in them all.
Aaron Lammer
Aaron Lammer@aaronlammer · Co-founder, Longform
How long do these things go? Do yal serve sandwiches?
Aaron Lammer
Aaron Lammer@aaronlammer · Co-founder, Longform
@aaronlammer Here's a link to the Longform Podcast for anyone now curious http://longform.org/podcast
Alex Carter
Alex Carter@alexcartaz · Operations @ 60dB. Ex-PH Podcasts 😻
@aaronlammer if you do the LIVE Chat from our HQ in San Fran! =)
Aaron Lammer
Aaron Lammer@aaronlammer · Co-founder, Longform
@alexcartaz fax me a sandwich Carter
Russ Frushtick
Russ Frushtick@russfrushtick
@aaronlammer Who was your most surprising interview?
Aaron Lammer
Aaron Lammer@aaronlammer · Co-founder, Longform
@russfrushtick Rukmini Callimachi, who covers ISIS for the New York Times https://longform.org/posts/longf... Her job is endlessly complex and brings up some of the most difficult ethical issues in reporting today. She's brilliant and has thought a lot about what she does for a living.
Will Roper
Will Roper@wwr228
@aaronlammer @russfrushtick Awesome. I am going to have to give this a listen. I heard her on Reply All and have been looking for more info.
Emily Snowdon (née Hodgins)
Emily Snowdon (née Hodgins)@emilyjsnowdon · Operations @ Product Hunt
Hi Aaron who would you most like to interview - that you haven't already and why?
Aaron Lammer
Aaron Lammer@aaronlammer · Co-founder, Longform
@ems_hodge Very curious about John McPhee. His Princeton writing seminar has turned out everyone from Tim Ferriss to John Seabrook. Whatever he teaches (or, taught) is the secret sauce.
Aaron Lammer
Aaron Lammer@aaronlammer · Co-founder, Longform
@ems_hodge John McPhee. His Princeton seminar churns out the best writers in America. He has (or had, before he retired) the special sauce.
Alex Carter
Alex Carter@alexcartaz · Operations @ 60dB. Ex-PH Podcasts 😻
@aaronlammer @ems_hodge is anything stopping you? I feel like there are a lot of fascinating people who haven't surfaced on podcast episodes who would make excellent guests, like John.
Aaron Lammer
Aaron Lammer@aaronlammer · Co-founder, Longform
@alexcartaz @ems_hodge We're working on it. He's in his late eighties so it's tricky.
Emily Snowdon (née Hodgins)
Emily Snowdon (née Hodgins)@emilyjsnowdon · Operations @ Product Hunt
What has been the best / funniest and most surprising moment for whilst hosting the Longform Podcast (they can be three separate incidences). Thanks!
Aaron Lammer
Aaron Lammer@aaronlammer · Co-founder, Longform
@ems_hodge Best moment: Post-taping dinner with Gay Talese Funniest moment: There is an episode where handjobs are being discussed and I spontaneously spilled a drink all over myself.
Brent Summers
Brent Summers@brentsum · Founder, Code-Free Startup
How do you approach the writing process personally?
Aaron Lammer
Aaron Lammer@aaronlammer · Co-founder, Longform
@brentsum Nude, if possible. I haven't written hardly anything since Longform started. And before that I was ghostwriting professionally, and in that context I mostly approached it as a way to pay my rent.
Alex Carter
Alex Carter@alexcartaz · Operations @ 60dB. Ex-PH Podcasts 😻
Thanks for joining us today Aaron! What is most exciting to you about podcasts right now? The most frustrating?
Aaron Lammer
Aaron Lammer@aaronlammer · Co-founder, Longform
@alexcartaz I think the most exciting part is how wide open the format is. It feels like the Wild West. There are so many things that haven't been done with audio yet. The most frustrating part for me is how poorly audio interacts with the rest of the web. Sharing is a drag, it's hard for it to exist socially. And it's hard for someone like my parents to even listen to my show. They can't figure it out. But maybe that's also what makes it special? That it's a bit of an island?
Alex Carter
Alex Carter@alexcartaz · Operations @ 60dB. Ex-PH Podcasts 😻
@aaronlammer totally agree, very well said!
Aaron Lammer
Aaron Lammer@aaronlammer · Co-founder, Longform
@alexcartaz that's what makes things like your podcast tab exciting
Alex Carter
Alex Carter@alexcartaz · Operations @ 60dB. Ex-PH Podcasts 😻
@aaronlammer absolutely! hoping to ramp up recommendations from podcast hosts soon too =)
Aaron Lammer
Aaron Lammer@aaronlammer · Co-founder, Longform
Hey everybody! I'm here!
Ben Tossell
Ben Tossell@bentossell · Makerpad.co
@aaronlammer Hey what would the you of 3 years ago think of you right now?
Aaron Lammer
Aaron Lammer@aaronlammer · Co-founder, Longform
@bentossell "You fat motherfucker"
Ben Tossell
Ben Tossell@bentossell · Makerpad.co
@aaronlammer @bentossell likewise :( haha
Melissa Joy Kong
Melissa Joy Kong@melissajoykong · Content, Product Hunt
If you could change any one thing to make the world a better place to live today, what would it be and why?
Aaron Lammer
Aaron Lammer@aaronlammer · Co-founder, Longform
@melissajoykong Awww shit I dunno.
Aaron Lammer
Aaron Lammer@aaronlammer · Co-founder, Longform
@melissajoykong I guess I'd shift the US to a more democratic socialist political framework?
Erik Torenberg
Erik Torenberg@eriktorenberg · Former Product Hunt
@aaronlammer @melissajoykong elaborate please!!!
Andrew Ettinger
Andrew Ettinger@ettinger · 👟 @wearAtoms // ex @Twitter @ProductHunt
@aaronlammer When my friends who don't listen to podcasts say they don't have time, I suggest they listen on their drive/walk to work/school. Generally speaking, this turns people into podcast listeners. When is your favorite time to listen to podcasts?
Andrew Ettinger
Andrew Ettinger@ettinger · 👟 @wearAtoms // ex @Twitter @ProductHunt
@andrewmettinger Also, favorite podcast that you can't get enough of?
Aaron Lammer
Aaron Lammer@aaronlammer · Co-founder, Longform
@andrewmettinger I love a good road trip listen where I can just fire through back to back episodes.
Aaron Lammer
Aaron Lammer@aaronlammer · Co-founder, Longform
@andrewmettinger How Did This Get Made.
Erik Torenberg
Erik Torenberg@eriktorenberg · Former Product Hunt
IF you were us right now, what question would you be asking yourself? What would be an interesting question to ask? or 5
Jacqueline von Tesmar
Jacqueline von Tesmar@jacqvon · Community at Product Hunt ⚡️
Where is one place you want to visit that you haven't been before?
Aaron Lammer
Aaron Lammer@aaronlammer · Co-founder, Longform
@jacqvon Hey Jacq. I like those flowers in your hair. Well I went to Japan for the first time this year and that was a huge one for me. I'd like to see Morocco next I think.
Corley
Corley@corleyh · COO @ Product Hunt
@aaronlammer @jacqvon Morocco is amazing!
Alex Carter
Alex Carter@alexcartaz · Operations @ 60dB. Ex-PH Podcasts 😻
It seems like you're really busy. What do you do for entertainment? Do you have a cable subscription? What are you favorite shows?
Aaron Lammer
Aaron Lammer@aaronlammer · Co-founder, Longform
@alexcartaz Nah, I'm a lazy stoner. I'm in the band Francis and the Lights so I spend a bit of my year writing songs for that. I don't have cable but I have a buffet of streaming options and a 12 foot projector screen in my apartment, so I watch a lot of serial TV. Recently I enjoyed "Show Me A Hero" quite a bit, I watch "Empire", been watching "Project Greenlight" and of course "South Park" has been a part of my life for many years. I watch "Game of Thrones" and just about anything HBO puts out I'll give a shot. I think multi-season serial TV writing is incredibly difficult and when someone lands it, I bow to them.
Aaron Lammer
Aaron Lammer@aaronlammer · Co-founder, Longform
@aaronlammer @alexcartaz This is a Francis and the Lights song I co-wrote if anyone is curious
Aaron Lammer
Aaron Lammer@aaronlammer · Co-founder, Longform
@aaronlammer @alexcartaz I also did a sorta anonymous solo EP this year that I wrote and recorded entirely on an iPhone 6 https://soundcloud.com/herrobes
Alex Carter
Alex Carter@alexcartaz · Operations @ 60dB. Ex-PH Podcasts 😻
@aaronlammer @alexcartaz very cool, will check it out!
Adam Muller
Adam Muller@muller_adam · Co-founder ADHD Collective, MullerCast
@aaronlammer @alexcartaz Man this is great. Some of those lines are just fantastic. Video also grabs attention. Really liked the plane (and the crop-dusting?)... Thanks Aaron!
Corley
Corley@corleyh · COO @ Product Hunt
@aaronlammer what is one of the unintended consequences you think society will face as a result of the increase rate of technological change?
Aaron Lammer
Aaron Lammer@aaronlammer · Co-founder, Longform
@corleyh I think that generations are going to be increasingly distant from each other. It's gonna be wild.
Nicholas Quah
Nicholas Quah@nwquah · some guy
Hey Aaron, what are your feelings on pumpkin spice latte
Aaron Lammer
Aaron Lammer@aaronlammer · Co-founder, Longform
@nwquah Well, I know my co-host Evan Ratliff is partial to Brooklyn Roasting Company's 'Maple Shay-Shay' when he is stressed out. I have never had a pumpkin latte. I had some pumpkin pancakes on my cheat day from my diet and they were bomb.
Nicholas Quah
Nicholas Quah@nwquah · some guy
@aaronlammer @nwquah MAPLE SHAY SHAY
Alex Carter
Alex Carter@alexcartaz · Operations @ 60dB. Ex-PH Podcasts 😻
@aaronlammer thanks for joining us today! This was a whirlwind of awesomeness. Maybe we can do another in the future! =)
Aaron Lammer
Aaron Lammer@aaronlammer · Co-founder, Longform
@alexcartaz ANY TIME
Aaron Lammer
Aaron Lammer@aaronlammer · Co-founder, Longform
Thanks everyone. This was cool, I love all the attention. You're the best.
Aaron Lammer
Aaron Lammer@aaronlammer · Co-founder, Longform
@aaronlammer I love Product Hunt. I go on this damn website every day.
Aaron Lammer
Aaron Lammer@aaronlammer · Co-founder, Longform
@aaronlammer I'm seriously a total p-hunt Stan. I have a bookmarks folder of like 900 products that I want to remember to go back to.
Erik Torenberg
Erik Torenberg@eriktorenberg · Former Product Hunt
@aaronlammer and we love longform + the podcast!!!!
Tim Cigelske
Tim Cigelske@teecycletim · Social Media Director, Marquette Unive…
@aaronlammer I'm curious about where writers are building their following online these days. It seemed like Twitter was such an important platform for building new audiences, but today it might not be where you start. Is it Medium? Tinyletter? Facebook? Product Hunt??
Aaron Lammer
Aaron Lammer@aaronlammer · Co-founder, Longform
@teecycletim I think it's all of those places in aggregate. The best way to build an audience seems to be writing things that spread. Medium certainly can facilitate that, but so can a personal blog or literary journal. People find stuff that's interesting. I haven't found a lot of great stuff that stays undiscovered.
Harry Stebbings
Harry Stebbings@harrystebbings · Podcast Host @ The Twenty Minute VC
@aaronlammer thanks so much for joining us today. When marketing new podcast episodes, what are the fundamentals to you? What is your most effective platform for marketing and spreading the word on new episodes? Also, what are your fave interview questions to ask? Love to hear your thoughts!
Aaron Lammer
Aaron Lammer@aaronlammer · Co-founder, Longform
@harrystebbings I think the best place to find a podcast audience is... on another podcast. Gimlet has done a great job of spreading the love amongst their various shows. When Max and I were on Reply All, a lot of their fans came and checked out the Longform Podcast.
Tim Cigelske
Tim Cigelske@teecycletim · Social Media Director, Marquette Unive…
@aaronlammer @harrystebbings Wait, didn't know you were on ReplyAll. Will have to check it out!
Melissa Joy Kong
Melissa Joy Kong@melissajoykong · Content, Product Hunt
Hi Aaron! There's an ever-evolving debate around whether people care about long-form content on the internet. Many publications are going for higher volume, shorter/lower quality pieces (advertising play). Very few have invested significantly in high-quality, long-form content. What are your thoughts on the value of long-form content in the digital landscape?
Aaron Lammer
Aaron Lammer@aaronlammer · Co-founder, Longform
@melissajoykong Some would say that there is actually a trend of publications that didn't previously do longform stuff investing in the last couple years: The Intercept, Buzzfeed, Vice, etc. I think what is now called longform used to be called "the article"—and people like it. It has a future. The economics are all pretty wacky, I don't know that short stuff is all the profitable either, it's just cheaper to make.
Emily Snowdon (née Hodgins)
Emily Snowdon (née Hodgins)@emilyjsnowdon · Operations @ Product Hunt
What do you see as the future for podcasting in general?
Aaron Lammer
Aaron Lammer@aaronlammer · Co-founder, Longform
@ems_hodge A lot of experimentation. We have a few templates: This American Life style storytelling, Maron-style interviews (which is what I do), but there are so many other places to take the medium.
Ryan Hoover
Ryan Hoover@rrhoover · Founder, Product Hunt
Aaron! What's on your "podcast homescreen"? I.e., what are you listening to right now? 😊
Aaron Lammer
Aaron Lammer@aaronlammer · Co-founder, Longform
@rrhoover I'm actually not a podcast fanatic. I live in New York but commute to Longform offices on a bike, which has cut into my listening time a bit. So I like to have 4-5 shows in rotation at a given time. I think this is a user pattern we're likely to see in podcasting that should be considered as the market grows—one can easily read 40-50 publications in a given week scattered across the web, but I can't listen to such a diverse array of podcasts regularly. And I think there is a trust factor: I'll read an article recommended to me more or less sight unseen, I'm far less likely to invest an hour listening without a lot of confidence. I probably only "discover" 2-3 new shows a year. It's something that I like about Serial actually—I don't have to listen to it all year so it frees up space during the offseason. That said: "How Did This Get Made" "Reply All" "WTF w/ Marc Maron" "whatever that newest Bill Simmons reboot is called" "Another Round" "This American Life" "Mystery Show" "You Must Remember This"
Will Roper
Will Roper@wwr228
@aaronlammer @rrhoover "Reply All," "TAL," and "Mystery Show" are some of the best. "StartUp" and "Radio Lab" are also up there.
Ben Tossell
Ben Tossell@bentossell · Makerpad.co
@aaronlammer Hey! Are you interested/what interests you in the tech scene?
Aaron Lammer
Aaron Lammer@aaronlammer · Co-founder, Longform
@bentossell Oh god, the unknown future! The huge number of people around the world coming online for the first time on a smartphone feels like one of the biggest opportunities in human history. I'd love to travel the world just talking to people about their phones. Anyone want to sponsor that?
Alex Carter
Alex Carter@alexcartaz · Operations @ 60dB. Ex-PH Podcasts 😻
@aaronlammer @bentossell sounds like something WNYC might want in their new podcast arm =)
Jonathan Glick
Jonathan Glick@jonathanglick
Why have so many curation-focused startups struggled?
Aaron Lammer
Aaron Lammer@aaronlammer · Co-founder, Longform
@jonathanglick The very idea of curation suggests diversity and broadness. Startups are based on a winner take all premise, and this might be a space where there are 1000 tiny winners and no big winner.
Alex Carter
Alex Carter@alexcartaz · Operations @ 60dB. Ex-PH Podcasts 😻
@aaronlammer @jonathanglick some startups try to offload curation to social networks, which seems to broaden the appeal. Do you think 'Twitter for Podcasts' could work?
Ben Tossell
Ben Tossell@bentossell · Makerpad.co
@aaronlammer What would you do with $1billion? :)
Aaron Lammer
Aaron Lammer@aaronlammer · Co-founder, Longform
@bentossell I'd be tempted to go the Megan Ellison route and just start funding auteurs to make great shit regardless of its place in the market.
Will Roper
Will Roper@wwr228
Hey Aaron, do you have a specific episode (are they called episodes?) of a specific podcast that you recommend everyone should listen to?
Aaron Lammer
Aaron Lammer@aaronlammer · Co-founder, Longform
@wwr228 For some reason this episode of This American Life about a teenager's drug exploits being eavesdropped on by his parents has always stuck with me. "When The Wall Came Tumbling Down." http://www.thisamericanlife.org/...
Aaron Lammer
Aaron Lammer@aaronlammer · Co-founder, Longform
@wwr228 And one of my favorite humanists Norm McDonald on Marc Maron http://www.wtfpod.com/podcast/ep...
Will Roper
Will Roper@wwr228
@aaronlammer @wwr228 thanks for the recommendations! I'll give them a listen. "60 Words" by Radio Lab, which examines one sentence that brought the US into war post 9/11, and "Notes on Camp" by TAL, which is about summer camp, have always stuck with me. These are the ones that I know the name of by heart; there are a few more, but I'd struggle to find them. http://www.radiolab.org/story/60... http://www.thisamericanlife.org/...
Aaron Lammer
Aaron Lammer@aaronlammer · Co-founder, Longform
@wwr228 right on bruh
Alex Carter
Alex Carter@alexcartaz · Operations @ 60dB. Ex-PH Podcasts 😻
Personally, I feel like I've seen a lot of digital media shift to more standalone, bite-sized pieces (tweets, Medium posts, GIFs, etc.). How do you think this bodes for longform content generally? Podcasts may be a bit of an outlier, but for written content, do you think we are rapidly moving to a social internet where brevity is king?
Aaron Lammer
Aaron Lammer@aaronlammer · Co-founder, Longform
@alexcartaz I think that different use cases push certain formats. The desktop web was TERRIBLE for long articles. No one wants to spend an hour reading their computer screen across 19 pages. Then the phone came out and it's a great reader! All of a sudden you see stuff like Pocket and Instapaper flourish and people start reading books on their phone. It has been great for podcasts too. I don't think any length or format is essentially superior, but the content follows the audience (and money.) Everyone has a reader/listener in their pocket, so I'm heartened right now for both in-depth articles and podcasts.
Erik Torenberg
Erik Torenberg@eriktorenberg · Former Product Hunt
You're one of the few people with both literary/cultural taste and technical chops/understanding of the ecosystem. What is the most striking difference about these two worlds? Jobs is known as someone who merged both the humanities/tech but but something still seems off about that. What do you think of all this? Tell me something interesting.
Aaron Lammer
Aaron Lammer@aaronlammer · Co-founder, Longform
@eriktorenberg I think the biggest divide between those two worlds is that people in the cultural world are more willing to do things for their own sake. Some writers are writing for fame or compensation, but there is a stubbornly personal strain of expression that persists. To put it in cliche terms, there are lots of people chopping down trees in the forest with no one listening. The world of technology is obsessed with changing their world and as a result a lot is judged in terms of pageviews, unique eyeballs, venture dollars, exit payouts, IPOs. I don't see as many people pursuing work on its own terms.
Aaron Lammer
Aaron Lammer@aaronlammer · Co-founder, Longform
@eriktorenberg I am very much like Steve Jobs, except for my lack of fortune, fame, and coordinated outfits.
Erik Torenberg
Erik Torenberg@eriktorenberg · Former Product Hunt
@aaronlammer @eriktorenberg in this vein, what was your follow up thoughts* from your podcast episode with Tim Ferriss? I initially said "takeaway" which may be a meta point on the question.
Erik Torenberg
Erik Torenberg@eriktorenberg · Former Product Hunt
@aaronlammer Any broad capitalist critques in general?
Erik Torenberg
Erik Torenberg@eriktorenberg · Former Product Hunt
@aaronlammer how do you remain cool and funny and smart while also not being a dick or too self-deprecating? perfect balance
Justin Ouellette
Justin Ouellette@jstn · JSTN
How's Sonos working out?
Aaron Lammer
Aaron Lammer@aaronlammer · Co-founder, Longform
@jstn wattup man — mixed bag. it has some very cool features that I coulda used years ago: you can offset the timing of the sound to match up with lips, it has good EQ settings for late night viewing that doesnt disturb a sleeper downstairs. ultimately it has just made me wish Airplay was more like Sonos. it feels like a halfway step in the evolution of networked sound.
Justin Ouellette
Justin Ouellette@jstn · JSTN
@aaronlammer @jstn Followup question: why does everything suck?
Aaron Lammer
Aaron Lammer@aaronlammer · Co-founder, Longform
@jstn real talk
Qiana Patterson
Qiana Patterson@q_i_a_n_a · Co-Founder of C-Tech, BentoBoxSchools
When you're not reading what are you listening to? Are you a fan of things like Snap Judgement?
Aaron Lammer
Aaron Lammer@aaronlammer · Co-founder, Longform
@q_i_a_n_a Never heard it. People recommend shows to me all the time and I instantly forget them. This is a problem in the world of podcasting now. I have no idea what others are listening to.
Erik Torenberg
Erik Torenberg@eriktorenberg · Former Product Hunt
Ideal podcast guests you haven't yet had on?
Niv Dror
Niv Dror@nivo0o0 · VC at Shrug Capital
@aaronlammer have you found an interesting format for podcast highlights? Or is it all about the description, and listeners having to commit for the whole episode?
Aaron Lammer
Aaron Lammer@aaronlammer · Co-founder, Longform
@nivo0o0 Great question. I also produce a show for the Cleveland Browns with Max Linsky hosting and he calls out 3 key moments in the interview during the introduction. I think it's a smart way to hook people in. Getting people past the first 2 minutes of an episode is clearly a key struggle.
Chloe Walker
Chloe Walker@chloewrites · Freelance writer
I always find it weird to see what podcasters and radio presenters actually look like after I've been listening to them for months or years. Have you ever had that kind of experience when meeting a writer you've read for a long time?
Aaron Lammer
Aaron Lammer@aaronlammer · Co-founder, Longform
@chloewrites I thought Ashlee Vance was a woman.
Alex Carter
Alex Carter@alexcartaz · Operations @ 60dB. Ex-PH Podcasts 😻
You've involved with a lot of really cool projects. How did you get your start? Did it seem to one day happen suddenly? I guess what advice would you give to young writers, producers, and creatives out there trying to find their way in the world and follow their passions?
Aaron Lammer
Aaron Lammer@aaronlammer · Co-founder, Longform
@alexcartaz I still don't know if I have gotten my start. I haven't had a full time job in about 6 or 7 years but I also haven't done zero hours of work for a full week during that same period. I guess my advice would be not to wait til you can commit full time to a project to start on it. I've always done better in starting small and building from there, freeing up all 40 hours of your week can be terrifying. I find the 5-10/hours a week zone on a project can deliver results. Paid work is good training for art work. Art work leads to paid work. Work is work.
Erik Torenberg
Erik Torenberg@eriktorenberg · Former Product Hunt
what would you tell yourself 5 yrs ago if you could go back in time
Aaron Lammer
Aaron Lammer@aaronlammer · Co-founder, Longform
@eriktorenberg Lotta time travel questions on here. I'm not a big time or space travel guy. I'd probably encourage myself to pursue bigger projects more aggressively.