(Above, the cover art for my podcast – Hey, you talk funny!)
October 9th, 2016
Yes, I do listen to podcasts – in fact I consider myself to be a total ‘podhead’. While I’ve been listening to podcasts for a while, my ‘podhead’ obsessiveness began quite recently. I had previously listened to a few basketball-related podcasts: The Lowe Post, and The Bill Simmons Podcast. They filled my need for in-depth and timely analysis of Basketball news, as well as insightful interviews with players and front office staff. This summer, I began repainting a metal gate in my parents backyard. The job was boring, tiresome and repetitive. With my hands covered in dirt, rust and paint, I had to be quite hands-off with my iPhone and found long-form podcast more better suited to this restriction then music.
What really changed things for me – and the reason I now am closely considering a career in podcasting, was the Gimlet produced podcast Startup. It chronicles Alex Blumberg’s entrepreneurial story of launching his podcasting network/company, Gimlet Media. Startup had been given as assigned listening in my CRI 400 Entrepreneurship class. I had certainly enjoyed listening to the episodes at the time, but since they were ‘assigned’, my mentality was to ‘complete the task’ rather than to enjoy the show. I revisited Startup this summer during my fence saga, and binged like it was Stranger Things. I cannot tell you how hooked I was on the show. I actually looked forward to the long hours of paint-stripping and sanding, as they provided me with uninterrupted blocks of time to listen to Startup. I loved some many aspects of the show: Blumberg’s storytelling and narration, the entrepreneurial story itself, and the meta-perfection of a podcast about launching a podcast company.
Since listening to Startup, I have become a Gimlet fanboy, and listen to Mystery Show (which has recently been cancelled unfortunately), Sampler, and Heavyweight. I also have become a listener of WTF with Marc Maron, Revisionist History, and both HowSound and Homemade Stories by Shannon Cason which I discovered through this class!
Welcome to Night Vale: #1 – Pilot
Welcome to Night Vale is a storytelling podcast about a desert community in a bizarro United States, in which strange and inexplicable things occur. The show seems to be set in a dystopian future, and is distinctly satirical in it’s humour. It is a companion to the Welcome to Night Vale book series available in stores. Having only listened to the pilot episode, I surmise that the story is primarily or completely narrated by a radio station host.
The writing is of Welcome to Night Vale is very clever, and incredibly imaginative. It successfully weaves the routine (ex. an Arby’s restaurant) with the supernatural (UFO’s floating above the sign) and executes a delightful tongue-in-cheek style. I was certainly entertained by some of the news items, and caught off guard somewhat by the wit.
I took issue with the format of the podcast, as well as the use of music. Firstly, the episode began with advertisement right out of the gate, which turned me off as a listener. I want to be fed a little bite of content before getting force-fed 2 minutes of ads. Secondly, the podcast does not ease you in or provide you with any kind of context with which to situate yourself as a listener. You are just thrown in to the beginning of this weird radio show, and while I respect that this was a stylistic choice, it also deterred me as a first time listener. As for the music, I didn’t like the fact that there was a constant soundtrack in the background, and that the songs were robust compositions. While it was effective in setting the eery, dystopian vibe of the podcast, it also distracted from the narrator and made it easier to lose focus. As well, when the radio host announces the weather report, some semi-professional acoustic song is played alone for several minutes. I cannot seem to connect the lyrics of the song to the episodes, and don’t understand what it’s purpose was – not in a curious way but in a confused and unimpressed way.
Surprisingly Awesome: #5 – Interest Rates
Surprisingly Awesome has very simple premise that is well encapsulated by it’s title – to reveal the awesome side of topics that might seem boring. This episode explored the topic of interest rates: their importance in history, the utility loans and credit provide, and the role of the fed in setting interest rates.
I thought that the podcast did an excellent job in briefly detailing interest rates from a historical perspective. I found it surprisingly awesome that the earliest examples of writing mentioned interest rates, and that Dutch expansion from a Spanish colony to an empire of its own was fuelled by loans. Then one of the hosts detailed his own personal experience with massive credit card debt, which was another interesting angle. Finally, they brought it home for a discussion of modern day interest rates and what affects them.
I do think that it took way too long to start discussing the topic. It isn’t until roughly 6 minutes in that the host begins to explain interest rates. Prior to this, they were validating the idea that interest rates are perceived as boring, by asking a 15 year old and 10 year old about the topic. While it was cute and the kids were very clever, it felt like a waste of time to me. I would have preferred that they start off with an interesting story, or something sticky to keep me as the listener engaged and committed.
Welcome to Nightvale. “Pilot.” Audio blog post. Commonplace Books, 15 June 2012. Web. 9 Oct. 2015.
Surprisingly Awesome. “Interest Rates.” Audio blog post. Gimlet Media, 15 Dec. 2015. Web. 9 Oct. 2016.