Public Radio Story Private Pods: Now, Forever, and Yesterday
I’ve been reading an awful lot of essays lately about the future of public broadcasting and private podcasting and things of that nature such as that. And clarifying follow-up essays, plus reaction essays to those follow-ups. Everyone is furiously angry and scared and hopeful and confused and queasy all at the same time. And rightly so. What we need now is to have yet another essay and that’s where I come in. There is so much happening with NPR, APM, PRI, PRX, Midroll, Gimlet, Plampopy, Xbox, Google, Crisco, The New York Times, Wonder Woman, Boeing, Montgomery-Ward, the Orlando Magic, and others. And NPR.
I have come to the conclusion that before we get too far down the road, make a lot of changes, and generally freak out about the digital revolution happening in our industry, we must remember that everything is going to explode and we’re all going to die. This is because of the way things are going, the way things have always been, and the way things might have become if the way things are going had gone a different way than they did. Also blogs. So obviously what we all need is my thoughts in another essay that you might link to on social media and say is important but probably won’t finish yourself.
I’ll say right now that I do not know what is going on, either in terms of podcasts, terrestrial radio, vlogs, how I got into this abandoned building, who took my shoes, or digital content paradigm strategy. But let’s look at some basic facts and let’s use bullet points because they’re easier than paragraphs. And let’s also call them carrot points for our listeners who object to the violent imagery of bullets.
- NPR has several key strategic advantages including the way Terry Gross holds the vowel on “Air” for just an extra second when she says “Fresh Air.”
- NPR probably has Ira Flatow’s home telephone number, which is rad.
- Member stations exist all over the country. Thousands of these stations, maybe millions. There may be a public radio affiliate station in your attic right now and you don’t even know it. Don’t go check, though, because they might be in the middle of a funding drive and they all might be mice.
- The world of computers is growing and soon every home will have one.
- How do I get Ira Flatow’s home phone number? I have questions about science and about this building I ended up in. (Sorry: This building in which I up ended. Grammar matters.)
You can see my point, right? I mean, it’s obvious. But let me take it one step further. No one knows exactly what a podcast is. Oh, sure we can treat it like what they say about photography: I’ll know it when I see it. But let’s do better than that. What is a podcast? Anyway? Bullet-Carrot points.
- Is it a radio show inside a telephone? No. They can’t get a radio show inside a telephone. Where would the engineer sit? Don’t be stupid.
- Is it a computer program? That sounds like it makes sense. Yes, I bet that’s it.
- Is it a whole new thing that no one ever thought of? Like, I don’t know, electric pants?
- Where do I buy electric pants? (I’m thinking Flatow again here.)
- Is a podcast just like your standard radio show except you tape record it from the radio and then you put it on to an Internet using a funnel?
- Yes, that’s what a podcast is.
- But maybe something else too.
But why are we even here? Not just in public radio, not just in private podcast companies, not just in the weird back corners of newspaper offices but in life, man? I mean, what if we’re just some dream that an ant is having in another dimension and he’s a space ant? I do know this: there are some weird chemicals in this abandoned building and I need to go lie down. This might be a warehouse.
Also: listeners. Who are they? What are they doing? How can we make them give us money so that we can make things that they like so that they give us money again so we can make more things that they like so they’ll give us money? And do we also have to send them a present? And is it really us giving them a present when they’re the ones paying for it in the first place by giving us money? Who are these listeners? Can I stay at their house? No one knows. It is important that we never hear from them.
And here is a really important part of my essay because I am putting it in bold. Here is an even more important part because I’m putting it in bold italics. Oh no. ALL CAPS. Sorry, I just get very emotional about this.
So how do we survive in the futuristic world of podcasting and on-demand digital hoo-hah and thingy?
- As an industry, we must buy more Internets. And funnels because you can only use them to load one podcast and then the podcast residue is so sticky you have to throw the funnel out.
- We must hold regular meetings in different cities where we all tell ourselves what a good job we’re doing and remind ourselves how clever and forward thinking we are.
- We have to reach our listeners wherever they are. On the bus, in their home, on the beach, out for a bike ride, we must find those listeners and then RUN UP to them and throw podcasts at them. “Here! Have a Serial!”, “Take these Star Wars podcasts! TAKE THEM!”, “Here’s thousands of podcasts that no human has ever heard not even the people who made them! I’m going to dump them all over your head!”
- No one can be safe from people hurling podcast after podcast at them.
- And for free!
- We must hide under listeners’ beds at night and then wait until they’re almost asleep and then pop out and yell, “AHHH! PODCASTS!”
- Then they’ll be sorry.
- They’ll wish they’d never even heard of podcasts.
I hope everyone understands that I’m not writing this because I hate the people in my industry. The fact that I hate the people in my industry is completely beside the point. I’m doing it for all the things that public radio or private content distribution companies or — you know what, let’s just call the whole deal EAR THINGS. I’m doing it for all that EAR THINGS could be. If I’m making you cry here, I’m sorry, and maybe you should stop being such a diaper baby about these things.
And what about radio? Colon:
- It’s vitally important that in the face of seismic change, radio people should sit on the floor with their arms wrapped around their knees, rocking back and forth, promising themselves that everything will be okay.
- Do they still play Genesis on the radio? Keep doing that. Genesis is awesome.
- Maybe they could make a radio show about all the things that are happening on podcasts, which is a real idea I heard from a real person once.
In closing, we need more. But also different. And everything must change except the things that are so important and those things should be improved but never always different hooray. Please return tomorrow so I can tell you this again.
What a great and terrible time to be alive and not! The rats in this building are getting closer!