(1) The appearance of Terms and Conditions, a podcast created as a marketing exercise by the bank Current, got me thinking this week. There are three episodes on the feed so far, and in each an unnamed narrator just reads the terms and conditions for overdrafts from other banks as a way of highlighting Current’s own product. Each one is about three minutes long, and not exactly thrilling to listen to. But that’s not the point — it’s a piece of stunt advertising, not actual content.
What it made me wonder, though, was how this approach diverges from the current conventions on branded audio. We talk so much about the “intimacy” and “highly engaged nature” of the relationship between host and listener, and sure, much of the podcast industry is built on this, hence all the host reads and big podcaster hires for corporate projects. But this Current show highlights a different dynamic altogether, I think.
It doesn’t matter that there’s really no meaningful podcast to listen to — just the premise and the episode titles are enough to convey the brand’s message about how their rates are much better than everyone else’s. It feels like the audio equivalent of one of those old print newspaper ads where a brand would buy an entire page but keep it almost completely empty, and then write something like “All great ideas start with a blank page, so hire us to be your accountants” or whatever in a small font near the bottom. I’d love to know if the audio version delivers new customers, and whether we might therefore see a bit more of this in the future.
(2) Time published a piece taking the temperature of various podcasters on the thorny issue of big money flowing into podcasting this week, entitled “Big Money Is Pouring Into Podcasting. Some Podcasters Love It — But Others Are Freaked Out.” It’s a fairly popular topic — and also an accurate reflection of the views I see every time there’s a new news story of a big acquisition or investment, some people are excited, others are freaked out — and though there isn’t much in the piece that’s new, it’s still well worth the skim. Personally, I found this perspective from Maximum Fun’s Jesse Thorn quite consoling:
“While it’s tough for indies, I think that for the most part, the rising tide raises all boats,” he says. “But hey, maybe this is just what I tell myself so I don’t cry myself to sleep at night, trying to figure out what I’m supposed to do to compete with people who have a quarter of a billion dollars.”
In many people’s eyes, Thorn is a pretty major player himself, so it’s reassuring for those with less to work with than he does to know that he’s also looking upwards and feeling anxious. No bigger point here, I’m afraid, but I just wanted to reiterate that the fraught relationship between money, work and art is something I’m always looking at, so if you have something you want to share about it, hit me up.
(3) Dan Taberski, host of the documentary anthology series Headlong (which has so far put out Missing Richard Simmons, Surviving Y2K and most recently Running From Cops), has written a piece for the New York Times highlighting some responses to the latter series. There is a small but growing pushback by counties against law enforcement working with reality TV shows, citing some of the ethical concerns revealed by his team’s investigation. Since his series about Cops went out in April, “Kalamazoo and Ingham County in Michigan have canceled their planned filmings of the show,” he writes.
(4) The Radio Television Digital News Association has announced the winners of the Edward R. Murrow Awards for excellence in “electronic journalism”. Plenty of podcasts are on the list, including the second series of Montana Public Radio’s Threshold, In The Dark Season 2, Serial Season Three, ABC News’s daily Start Here and Reveal (in the Excellence in Social Media category). Congrats to everyone involved.
(5) We can all take a joke, right? Which is good, because the New Yorker has published a Shouts and Murmurs piece gently ribbing those who love their podcasts a bit too much. Some of the shows they came up with sound pretty good, but I did laugh at the inclusion of “Why Do We Hiccup?: The Body’s Greatest Mystery and Its Unexpected Window Onto Religion”. Also, I would 100 percent listen to “Hot Pod: How Successful Things Got That Way” and I hope you would too.
(6) From Deadline: “‘Atlanta Monster’ Producer Tenderfoot TV Lines Up True Crime Podcast Series ‘Insomniac.'” The new show will be distributed through iHeartRadio, and UTA’s Grace Royer and Oren Rosenbaum reps Tenderfoot TV.