JCL Blog

10 Reasons to Listen to This American Life 9/10/2010

Sorry to be tardy to the party, but I just today listened to the 9/10/2010 episode of This American Life, titled Right to Remain Silent.  Here are 10 reasons you should listen too.


  1. If you have ever had a bad customer experience at an Apple store.
  2. If you are looking for real life examples of the impact of the Patriot Act on average Americans.
  3. If you are wondering if you can be arrested for posting a joke on Facebook (that you thought was private).
  4. If you want to know if you should fear the police.
  5. If you need some good examples on how performance measures induce the wrong behavior.
  6. If you are wondering if there is anyone left that is trying to do the right thing.
  7. If you think crime is really going up in NYC -- despite the "statistics".
  8. If you think the decline in investigative reporting is important.
  9. If you want to restore your faith in America (because WBEZ and Ira Glass were able to produce this show without fear of going to jail).
  10. If you are looking for a reason to support public radio.


I could go on and on, just listen to it and let me know what you think.

An American Story

Ira Glass did it again, as he has so many times, and created a must listen program about what ails the US auto makers -- particularly GM.  Anyone interested in how labor and management can conspire to create spectacular failure should invest the hour and listen.

The thing that struck me was how the union created an environment that their members did not like and that was clearly not good for the company -- all because they had the power to do so.  

A striking contrast can be found from 80 years ago during the construction of the Empire State Building.  Over 3,400 people built the iconic structure in just 410 days in a heroic but unfortunately futile race against the clock as the country spiraled into what would become the depression.  Anyone with Netflix can rent this amazing story in the PBS series on New York.  DVD number five contains the story of the Empire State Building.

I found myself standing on the top of this most famous of our American buildings this week and even though it was a weekday it was packed full of people who were willing to pay a fair amount to do the same.  It made me proud to be an American and it reassured me that the American dream is alive and well here in New York.  This city at the center of our universe was true to its heritage as the most incredible melting pot on the observation deck deck that day as the English speakers were in a distinct minority.


Resisting Overproduction

Everyone with a DVR knows that there are only 40 minutes of content in every hour of TV.   When you hear the host say "Stay with us" or "We will be right back" or "We are taking a break" what comes to mind? These and other conventions from radio and TV, fade in and fade out music for example, are often viewed as signs of professionalism.  I propose they are overproduction and reduce the value of the experience.  Begging the viewer/listener to endure a commercial is a dead giveaway to old media does not seem fit our new media reality.

Here are three podcasts that I listen to that range from new media to old media.  How much content do you think there is in each one of these podcasts?  

The Advertising Show

Cranky Geeks

Rebooting the News

I admit, this is not really fair because Rebooting the News does not have any advertising at all -- so it is 100% content (and an amazing podcast).  Cranky Geeks would be next -- 3 short breaks for ads at one minute each -- but they are not that intrusive and I don't even hit the 2X button on my iPod.  27 minutes of content out of 30.  I am a big fan of John Dvorak.  I was following him before there even was a world wide web and I am still not tired of him.  I suspect that all of us are more than happy to sit through the adds -- just for John.  The advertising on Cranky Geeks works -- I use both Go Daddy, and SquareSpace because I want to do my part to keep Cranky Geeks going.  On The Advertising Show -- well you make your own determination, but I leave my iPod on 2x for as long as I can last -- and even then I rarely make it through the whole thing.  It has to be at least half filler and advertisements.

So if you are going to put ads in your podcast -- pick advertisers that will resonate with your audience -- and resist the pull of overproduction.

PS:  Ira Glass says "Stay with us" on This American Life -- and I just don't get that.  His content and production quality are legendary and he holds my attention the whole way through -- not sure why he says it.