If you just want to read recommendations for a few great podcasts, skip to the bottom of this post J
I hate commercials. The noise, the racing images, the insult of our intelligence, the violent push to make us feel inadequate and to buy more, more, more. After all, that’s their job—to get you to turn off your critical thinking long enough to appeal to your lizard brain so you will make decisions with your emotions. I’ll look terrible in my short shorts if my legs aren’t absolutely hairless—how horrifying! I must run out and buy some Nair.
Some years ago we cancelled our cable when I became enamored of Netflix and Hulu’s experience. At the time, Hulu was fairly new, and its commercials were 15-30 seconds, still a tolerable level. When I cancelled last fall, the spots had grown to 2-3 minutes each. Mostly, I used Hulu to watch network shows without commercials. I cancelled because I reasoned that I can get 2 or 3 minutes of commercials, many times an hour, for free with our digital antenna. Why pay for them? Though in truth, I almost always watch Netflix, not broadcast television—you guessed it, because I can’t stand the commercials.
I’ve begun using Pandora for my music—$4/mo to eliminate the ads—and downloading podcasts for educational and entertaining talk. The only time I listen to my car radio is when I forget my 5 year old iPod—a hand-me-down from the Professor—for which my Mini Cooper has a built-in port. The only ads my podcasts have are short announcements of innocuous things like stamps.com or some organic gift basket concern. (See how well ads work? I don’t remember the name after hearing of that concern several times.) Some public radio podcasts make appeals for donations once or twice a year. Not assaultive-feeling marathons, by the way—just an announcement—and I do donate. They make it easy with a “text xxx to ### to give a $10 donation” approach. Being on the phone with a volunteer and spelling my name three times feels like the Stone Age. (In fairness, NPR stations have web pages where you get to fill in all the info yourself.)
OK, that’s the rant. But the point I was getting to—in a clear demonstration of the fact that I should have breakfast before blogging—is that all forms of media are undergoing changes in the way they distribute content. They want to reach their intended audiences in ways that work for the listeners/viewers. In my case, that just happens to be in a commercial free (or light) way, even if I need to pay for it directly.
I was interested to read in the paper this morning, then, that This American Life, my number one favorite podcast, has decided to forego distribution through NPR and to market itself directly to radio stations. It wants more control over everything—marketing, time of airing, and other arrangements. Host and Executive Producer Ira Glass said, “It seemed like at this point in our show’s development there was nothing a distributor could do for us that we couldn’t do for ourselves.”
More and more, we are hearing of digital distribution of different types, but all of which make end runs around traditional broadcasting media. This ship has almost sailed in print media—many authors sell books directly to come out on Kindle and Nook, rather than going through a publisher. News sites have nearly obliterated print newspaper. For that matter, I’m making an end run as I write this—I’m not going to have to go out to find a paper or magazine to print this blog as a column (good thing). Some feel this reduces the quality of information in the marketplace, because there is so little editorial oversight. Others think that removing the requirement of that same editorial oversight allows a proliferation of topics, opinions, and styles that we would never see otherwise. What do you think?
As a bonus, a list of some of my favorite podcasts. Below are links to their webpages. I believe all are distributed through the iTunes store, speaking of end runs.
This American Life
A description from their website: “There’s a theme to each episode, and a variety of stories on that theme. It’s mostly true stories of everyday people, though not always. There’s lots more to the show, but it’s sort of hard to describe.”
Recordings of true stories told at live storytelling events around the country. They will make you laugh and cry in your car.
Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me
Their website simply terms it, “NPR’s weekly hour-long quiz program,” but it is so much more. Three clever and well-informed panelists will crack you up clowning around with a host and scorekeeper. (The points matter only slightly more than on Drew Carey’s Whose Line Is It Anyway?)
A This American Life-style show en español. Based in the U.S., but covers stories from around the Spanish-speaking world. Some shows available in both languages. If you need convincing, listen to this chilling episode about a Peruvian game show contestant who suffered the consequences of her participation.
Un idioma sin fronteras
A show en español about language and literature. From Spain.
Lesbian/Gay Law Notes
Once a month, Professor Arthur Leonard—editor of the print version of Law Notes and generally recognized as the foremost authority on LGBT legal issues around the globe—sits around and chats about a few developments with the Executive Director of the LGBT Bar Association of Greater New York. These days, waiting a month to report on things is a long time.
Stuff You Should Know
A show where two guys sit around and chat about the (sometimes spotty) research they’ve done about a topic. Themes are as wide-ranging as stuff you should know about avalanches, gypsies, the ACLU, amputation, and the Spanish inquisition. If you know much about the topic, don’t listen. It will just piss you off. I use this one mostly as a soporific. The content is a little bit interesting, but not enough to keep you from drifting off to the hosts’ mellow voices.
I also read books.