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 Sven Gustafson, a co-host of the podcast “Daily Detroit,” interviews local media guru Zach Lewis Sept. 10.

Sven Gustafson, a co-host of the podcast “Daily Detroit,” interviews local media guru Zach Lewis Sept. 10.

Photo provided by Jer Staes, of “Daily Detroit”

Drivers stuck in traffic have options beyond radio

By: Tiffany Esshaki | C&G Newspapers | Published September 18, 2019

METRO DETROIT — Reconstruction on Interstate 696 in Macomb County.

The Interstate 75 modernization project in Oakland County.

The Interstate 94 modernization project in Detroit.

Settle in, because there are a lot more road construction projects on this list.

Instead of rehashing all the headaches that drivers face around metro Detroit, let’s just all agree that progress can be a pain in the butt. When bumper-to-bumper traffic adds another 20 or 30 minutes to your daily commute, you might need something a little more potent than Billboard’s Top 40 hits.

Technology advances in vehicles are not only making rides safer — thank you, backup camera — they’re making them a little more pleasant. Audio options aren’t limited to radio, and downloadable audiobooks and podcasts are informing and entertaining drivers safely during construction delays.

Down at the historic Fisher Building in Detroit, Jer Staes and Sven Gustafson settle in in front of their mics every day to record new episodes of their podcast, “Daily Detroit,” a news show with interviews, a bit of personal analysis and “mini deep dives” into local topics.

Think of it as your top headlines broadcast, with a bit of unboxing.

“We’re committed to telling better stories,” Staes said. “And a way we can do that is through audio. People’s consumption habits are changing: They’re on the go, they’re sitting in traffic, so of course we catch people up on things that are happening. But we find that they want more than just headlines.”

That mix of flash news and deeper exploration is a winning formula, the guys at “Daily Detroit” said. Gustafson said the duo also try to change things up as far as the tone of the podcast with what he calls “palate cleansers,” topics with a little bit lighter fare between some of the more weighty issues.

“Podcast listeners are a little more intentional. They seek us out — unlike radio, which is a bit more passive and kind of habitual,” Staes said. “We have to keep people interested.”

There’s a similar vibe with audiobooks, because users need to download their choice of story or even make a trip to the local library to check out a book on CD.

“Audiobook CDs are still fairly popular with more mature patrons, but many cars no longer come with CD players installed,” said Brooke Hoskins, the assistant department head of adult services at the Bloomfield Township Public Library. “Digital audiobooks are incredibly popular for their ease of use and access.”

Apps like OverDrive and Hoopla are some of the more popular ways that patrons get their digital audiobooks, Hoskins said. The apps are free, and books can be downloaded anytime, anywhere. Just sign into the app with your library card and hook your device up to your car’s speaker system.

“We offer ‘download drop-ins’ the second Wednesday of every month from 1 to 3 p.m. to help people get connected,” she said. “And we’re always available to help at the adult services desk anytime the library is open.”

So, what kind of audiobooks are folks downloading? Hoskins said current fiction bestsellers are always a popular choice. But sometimes listeners take advantage of the downtime behind the wheel to expand their horizons a bit, with language-learning programs, self-help audiobooks, digital scientific magazines and lots of other nonfiction options.

“You can even listen to strategies to minimize stress,” she suggested. “As an added benefit, you could also improve your well-being. Listening to books has been shown to reduce anxiety and keep negative thoughts at bay.”

Now that the summer travel season is wrapping up, the audiobook section of the Bloomfield Township Public Library will slow down a bit, Hoskins said. But “Digital Detroit” has just started seeing a jump in listeners.

That’s not uncommon for podcasts, Staes said. Summer months lend themselves to more breaks in routine, and listeners make their way back during the school year, when families are back to the grind.

“We have two batches of listeners: one group that’s listening to us during drive time or in the evening. Maybe they’ll pick it back up in the morning and make us a part of their routine getting ready for the day,” he explained. “And there are batch listeners. They reserve us for the weekend when they’ve got some time. Maybe they’re mowing the lawn or something, and they’ll listen to a few episodes back to back.”

Comedy or tragedy?

This summer, the most popular podcasts on Apple Podcasts in iTunes — the most widely used podcast listening app — show us that audiences either want a good laugh or a good scare. Here are the top five:

• “Man in the Window: The Golden State Killer,” by the L.A. Times
• “The Shrink Next Door,” by Wondery/Bloomberg
• “Crime Junkie,” by audiochuck
• “The Joe Rogan Experience,” by Joe Rogan
• “This Land,” by Crooked Media