Podcasts, Authenticity and Old Media

Modern times seem to opt more for authenticity and rejecting the overly refined, polished, and fake. You see this in the popularity of Reality TV and social media, both have the appeal of non-scripted and authentic content.

I also see this desire in podcasts. I’m a bit of a podcast junkie, I’ve been listening for years on my runs, walking the dog, and previously when I commuted to work. My favorite podcast once was This American Life, a highly polished professional podcast. Now, I’m less interested and even took it out of my rotation entirely.

I’d rather listen to Revisionist History by Malcolm Gladwell, equally high production value, but Malcolm interjects with his own opinions and personality. His podcast feels a lot more real and authentic and less formulaic.

An even better example is Bill Simmons whose podcasts are more off the cuff, filled with swearing, his buddies, and more just hanging out with him then a professional broadcast. They are great to listen to, he conducts better interviews of athletes with real questions and answers you would never get from a “professional” organization like ESPN or Fox Sports. Listen to his interviews with Kevin Durant, networks would never get that real.

To illustrate the point, ESPN just suspended one of their stars for saying something barely controversial. Oh, they are also the network that fired Bill Simmons for speaking his mind.

Another podcast example, the interview podcasts WTF Podcast with Marc Maron, a more casual podcast that takes place in his garage outranks the long running NPR podcast Fresh Air with Terry Gross and all its formality.

The last example, NPR’s daily news summary podcast Up First has the intent as a short quick catch up with the day’s news. They fall victim to the same overly formal formulas. They start each podcast by giving an intro and outline of the news summary they are going to tell you. For pete’s sake, just jump right into it.

Also, for the love of god, please stop the format of two reporters asking each other incredulous questions. It’s just weird fake conversation.

Here’s a sample:

Beginning intro to the podcast

“More protests in the NFL, Donald Trump weighs in on what he thinks should happen”

Reporter #1: “There are more protests happening in the NFL this week. Now with more on the story, we go to Reporter #2. Reporter #2, so what is going on there?”

Reporter #2: “That’s right, there are more protests happening in the NFL this week. Even Donald Trump weighs in on what he thinks should happen”

(Plays soundbite of Donald Trump )

FFS, you could just play the Donald Trump soundbite and everyone would get what’s going on.

This is one of the reason old media suffers, they are repetitive and boring. Most of it is filler from an age when they were people’s only source of information, so they include every detail and not assume anyone has heard anything before. Now, I can get the original video they are reporting on faster than it is even reported.

I remember when to get a sports score I had to turn on ESPN’s Sportscenter and wait for the crawl on the bottom, or for them to cover the game. Those days are long gone, you need to provide something fresh or people will tune you out, which is happening. How about an authentic person who can speak their mind? People seem to like that.

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