Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Cast Away

The podcast came of age in 2015. Possibly released from the perception that it was edited radio without the music, people realised that the concept was so much more and that the format was awash with great stories.

Serial was the tipping-point, part murder-mystery with elements including a potential miscarriage of justice, you could forgive the occasional irritation caused by the presentation style because you were gripped by the story. It opened a gateway to a world of information and a marketplace for would-be broadcasters everywhere.

I was an early-adopter, having worked in radio that was probably to be expected. Long before the internet took hold I used to harass people to record stuff on cassette tape so that I could hear presenters like Howard Stern, Chris Tarrant and Christian O’Connell. As podcasting launched it enabled me to catch-up with great talent like Geoff Lloyd, Andy Bush, Frank Skinner and Dave Gorman. A period working at Absolute Radio had given me an insight into their genius whilst making me slightly playlist-phobic, hearing them without the music could be a bonus! As a qualifier I should note that there’s few better music stations, I was just over-exposed.

2016 and finding an easy way to listen to more podcasts in my car has greatly broadened my horizons. Spurred by a suggestion that you’re likely to be more intelligent if you listen to stimulating audio in the morning, I immersed myself in the world of podcasts. This immersion allows me to share the following ‘insights’ which could help if you’re looking for similar inspiration.

The first thing I discovered was no great surprise. There’s a lot of crap out there. The reason radio is, in the main, so good is that they have trained and talented broadcasters and producers. They also have decent facilities and production values. That is clearly not the case for a lot of podcasts and podcasters. A huge amount of subject matter that I may have been interested in hearing about was ruined by the presenter or the production.

I suspect I’m a snob but I’m sure the home-technology is there to ensure that the basics are adhered to – stuff like varying levels of audibility, interviews where the interviewer is loud and the interviewee is so quiet that you can’t get the balance right when you’re listening. More common still is that you’ll find a level for the speech only to get a musical stab part-way through the ‘cast that practically bursts your eardrums.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Bully, for you

Simplicity is king. We’re so used to sound-bite, short-form, headline-hungry, click-bait that we don’t seem able to deal with stuff if it goes beyond 140 characters. If there’s no image, vid or gif you can forget it.

 Never have we had so much access to information and so little use for it. In my kindlier moments I think we’re paralysed by choice but generally I fear that everyone’s too lazy to dig beneath the surface.

We’re time-poor and overburdened with options, only the attention-grabbing and emotion-stirring manages to cut through. If we’re not provoked into rage that stirs an angry ‘click and share’ moment, then we just move onto the next outrage or pacifier. I’d like to be more involved but LOOK there’s a cat with huge eyes.

In these conditions the loudest and brashest thrive. Keep the message simple and shout it with enough confidence and you can’t fail. It’s an ecosphere that positively encourages the bully. In the home of the brave and the land of the free they’re proving this point so emphatically that few of us can have failed to notice.