The Pod Report Weekly – 8/8/20

Odd installment this week: I’ll make the podcast version in a few days but we’re going purely text today as I need to play some video games and go to bed before work. Yes, I have my priorities straight. 

Episode Spotlight

I want to try out possibly shouting out specific episodes, so for this first installment I’m going to play it safe and try it out on two large podcasts you’re already intimately aware of my listening to, just in case the segment has some unforeseen hurdles I need to overcome before running the risk of making really good indie shows sound meh.


We Hate Movies – Episode 498 – Dante’s Peak with Justin J. Case

A true old-school We Hate Movies disaster movie episode. Sometimes the WHM gang covers movies that almost beg you not to have seen the film beforehand just so you can live in blissful ignorance of what’s coming, and Dante’s Peak feels like a strong contender for best entry. 

Case is a welcome return guest and another small upshot of normally studio-based podcasts being forced to record remotely. The limitations of “we’d love to have X on but they won’t be in Y until later in the year” have been lifted and nobody can use “but it won’t sound the same” as an excuse anymore. Fuck the sound quality, make good episodes in spite of crippling existential threat.

#498 also features the accidental return of one of my favorite all-time WHM bits: Andrew Jupin realizing he accidentally started doing the voice of a completely different celebrity then commits to the bit for the rest of the episode. Now I’m going to feel let down when I don’t hear James Mason’s voice coming out of Pierce Brosnan when I watch Dante’s Peak for the first time in a few days.

Blank Check – Julie and Julia with Romilly Newman

A touching end to the Nora Ephron miniseries and another interesting adventure in listening to a review of a movie I’ve never seen. There’s only really one thing I felt missing in this mega-discussion and that’s outright namign the demon that is parasocial relationships. In discussing a film that’s half about an early blogger forming a larger-than-life interpretation of Julia Child in her head, actually dropping and defining the term “parasocial relationship” could’ve driven the conversation about the film’s ending in some great directions.

That said, the conversation goes in interesting directions anyway with Griffin Newman eventually voicing his morbid fascination in being a bystander watching the harsh light of day be cast on the house of cards that was the Bon Appetit test kitchen crew not paying its POC members fairly. Newman’s comments on BA become almost prophetic without attempting to be as the BA staff shrinks even moreso a week after this episode dropped.

This is also one of the best and worst episodes for a new listener of Blank Check to try out, as it features some beefy tangents following Romilly and Griffin’s memories from childhood. Tangents are the lifeblood of Blank Check, and this episode clocking in at 22 minutes longer than the already-long movie they’re discussing is a perfect do-or-die example of the podcast. Including a not-insubstantial meandering section that can be summarized by “Romilly is only getting to be on because we’re recording episodes remotely and thus aren’t tied to who’s available in New York to record.”

Which begs the question: will podcasts like Blank Check that’ve recorded excellent content during pandemic remain staunchly local-recording-only in a post-COVID world (we’re all pretending we’ll get to go back to someday)?


PodRevDay

Newcomers to the podcasting scene might not remember #On22Review, a heartfelt community attempt to get people to write iTunes reviews for podcasts on the 22nd of each month that appears to have fizzled out in late 2019. Fortunately this timing seems to line up with the creation of what’s now known as PodRevDay. 

Today, the eight, is #PodRevDay for August, and I invite you to join me in writing up some quick reviews of independently-produced podcasts you’ve been enjoying for the past few weeks and toss them up on various podcasting platforms. My Favorite Murder and the like have enough pull to fluff their numbers with five-star-bombs in exchange for special episodes, it’ll take actual community engagement to get the numbers up on smaller productions. 

While the official documentation on PodRevDay creator Stephanie Fuccio’s site only mentions posting reviews on Podchaser (a strong contender for The IMDB of Podcasts), the hashtag has grown in popularity beyond the Podchaser affiliation, frequently appearing in tweets with generic calls to action asking folks to simply “post a review” of a podcast. 

This podcast journo personally recommends writing up a 3-5 sentence review with some examples of what really grabbed one and made them care about the show. Writing the review’s the hard part, then comes the fun part: go hog wild copy-pasting it into Apple Podcasts, Podchaser, Obscure Podcast Host With Review Functionality Nobody Uses, whoever will take it. 

If you have the time and headspace, now’s a great time to go out and share the love!

Also, if you’re curious as to how reviews might factor into Apple’s algorithm in placing podcasts on lists (hint: it’s much like how references on a job application frequently don’t matter until after you’re basically hired) I recommend the Chartbreakers episode of Darknet Diaries in which Jack Rhysider does his best to crack open what makes podcasts chart on Apple. 

It’s downloads, obviously, but how he gets to making that educated guess is fascinating and involves a deep dive in New York Times Bestseller List-padding. 

The Pod Report Weekly – 7/31/20

A Spotify embed of the podcast version of this post, a direct link to which can be found here.

The below text is a highly-edited-for-readability version of the podcast episode.


News

Adhoc survey desktop banner
Image from the Amazon Music / Audible podcast submission form.

Amazon wants your podcasts and they’re not stealing them! No, for real, they make a point of clarifying their new podcast distribution methods will not re-host content, and they’re going through the effort of asking podcasters for RSS feeds instead of scraping iTunes like other podcatchers.

Earlier this week I received an email from my podcast hosting provider linking to a submission page where podcasters can submit their RSS feeds to Amazon for a future rollout of podcast support on the monolithic corporation’s music and audiobook platforms.

“Amazon Music and Audible are adding podcasts and invite you to add yours by adding your podcast. You will have the opportunity to reach over 55 million Amazon Music and Audible customers. ”

Amazon’s copy on the podcast submission page.

The first question addressed in the short FAQ is “why should I add my podcast,” and they sweeten the deal by mentioning how both apps are integrated with Alexa. I’m not sure if this is implying there’s a wider Alexa userbase out of the 55 million they’re claiming for Audible and Amazon Music.

Smart speaker functionality is cool, but I’ve also had the ability to tick a single box in Pinecast for ages that optimizes my feeds for smart speakers, so the idea Amazon will work some behind-the-scenes magic to optimize a feed for me doesn’t land as a big deal.

For content creators, enabling your content to be distributed on Amazon Music and Audible helps you to grow your audience by reaching these customers, many of whom will be new to podcasting.

Amazon’s copy on the podcast submission page.

This is absolutely true. People who listen to Audible exclusively could be people who don’t listen to podcasts. If you’re one of the five people who only listens to music on Amazon Music, welcome. I’ve never met one of you in the real world.

My interest is piqued by the fact the pre-big-public-announcement Q&A bothers to even address the issue of re-hosting content. My hunch is whoever’s steering the podcasting ship at Amazon knows enough about the podcasting world to remember Stitcher and Luminary both receiving backlash for re-hosting scandals at launch.*

Currently visitors can submit up to 20 RSS feeds for Amazon through the signup page. Anyone with a bigger batch can email directly to have those processed, which is a nice and wholly unexpected human touch.

There’s no mention as to what Amazon is particularly looking for in podcast submissions, including no mentions of topics or themes that won’t be allowed. Instead the FAQ suggests searching your podcasts’ name in Amazon Music or Audible to see if it got accepted whenever this project comes to fruition.

Will anticapitalist podcasts that regularly dunk on Bezos make it through? Erotica audio fiction? Kink-forward chat shows? Why are they adding podcasts to both Amazon Music and Audible? Are they just putting fiction podcasts on Audible? Are they going to address the fact adding free podcasts to Audible after axing their own in-house podcast production feels weird?

The answer to all of these currently sits at “we’ll find out eventually.”

Amazon wants your stuff, you can submit it, they won’t repost it, and they have 55 million customers (which comes out to half the downloads an episode of The Joe Rogan Experience gets on launch week) waiting for you.

*Yes, there was an argument made on Luminary’s part that it wasn’t technically rehosting on their part but every breakdown I read during The Worst Podcatcher Launch In Recent Memory explained the temporary issue as being re-hosting with extra steps.


Podcast Recommendation

A Spotify player embed of The London Necropolis Railway – Part 1, a direct link to which can be found here.

The London Necropolis Railway is an original, full cast audio drama podcast that premiered in fall 2018. The story takes place in London’s underground system where an organisation called The London Necropolis Railway moves the souls of the dead out of London to avoid the city getting overrun with hauntings… The (podcast) is an original full-cast audio drama podcast that premiered in Fall 2018.

LNR’s description.

I feel the quickest way to sum up the LNR is to say it hits the same general story beats of a curmudgeon-forced-to-adventure a ‘la The Hobbit but better and a train is involved.

The LNR is an example of one of my favorite things you can do in fiction: take a real life thing that not a lot of people know about and make it cooler. In the 1800s London ran out of cemetery plots and had to start moving bodies out of the city to a distant, massive cemetery in the countryside, necessitating the creation of the brilliantly-named London Necropolis Railway. A tiny railway commuting the dead (and living mourners for an extra fee) out of London up until the 1941. I cannot stress this enough: this was a real thing.

Barney is a ghoul bored of his eternal existence working as a glorified ticket-taker for the LNR. The show picks up when one of the souls doesn’t get on the train, eventually exposing Barney to a mystery.

I also really enjoy that the LNR is a podcast produced from a project based in Sweden that “uses fiction to tackle difficult themes such as death, suicide, and existential questions in a way that makes them approachable for young people. The goal is to create platforms online that can both encourage young people to share their thoughts and emotions around the subject and to show them that they are not alone in their experiences.”

Also, the full cast is listed in the show description, not just the show notes, the show description. The acting is great, the sound design is solid as hell. There’s some Ace trains sound effects in there, and it’s a really satisfying seven episode art. If that all sounds interesting to you, please consider checking out The London Necropolis Railway


A Call to Action

In this final segment I’m announcing my intentions to start including press releases and fundraising campaigns in future weekly editions! If you have any news, fundraising campaigns, or anything of that sort, feel free to use the Contact Me page. I do have some press releases already that are still under embargo, so while I can’t use them quite yet I’m very appreciative for those who’ve taken the time to submit things they think fit the Pod Report’s whole deal. I would like to get into the habit of copying and pasting things, because it’s the least I can do and it will help get eyeballs on your stuff, which is good.


Pod Report Highlights

Welcome to the part of the weekly report where you can support me by checking out articles I’ve recently published, hit up my Patreon page, or send a Ko-fi my way.

This week my newest piece over on DiscoverPods dropped and I’m thrilled you can finally read it:

7 Overused Royalty-Free Songs (and how to use them)

I spent a lot of time whittling down a list of some of the most often-used royalty-free tracks I’ve ever encountered and crammed them into a piece about eating your authorial vegetables when using older (and more importantly: free) music in your podcasts.

The Pod Report Weekly – 7/24/20

A Spotify embed for the podcast episode this post is based on. A direct link can be found here.

The below text is a highly-edited-for-readability version of the podcast episode. For a more direct transcript of the audio, see this Google Drive folder for the downloadable document.

My solo podcast-discussion-podcast Stuff I’ve Listened To is no more. Well, in name, at least. I’ve enjoyed making SILT all these weeks but the name sucked both as an intitialism and a thing someone has to type into a search bar.

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Chill YouTube for When You Just Need a Bit of a Break

Yes, this isn’t podcast-related, but I argue always-online podcasters/freelancers/content creators in particular are probably in need of some good things to distract from the world outside. There’s many phenomenal lists written by phenomenal people showcasing hopepunk, comedy, and general escapist podcasts, this list covers things that do that for me when my brain isn’t in the mood for audio alone. 

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Critical Bits host Joel Ruiz talks Spider Day, roleplay

It all started with a box of toy plastic spiders.

Today Critical Bits, an actual play podcast using the Masks system, celebrates its one-year anniversary. 12 months of the three unlikely teen heros Gene (Paul Byron), Kim (Shannon Strucci), and Ace (Shelby Lee) blundering their way across Heavendale in an attempt to thwart evil. Things go well… sometimes.

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Here There Be Gerblins: Episode One | Pod to Page

Welcome to my listen/read-through series of the first arc of The Adventure Zone! Each installment of this series I will listen to an episode of the first arc of TAZ: Balance, then the accompanying pages of the graphic novel adaptation. We’ll compare, contrast, and see what the McElroys have done to retroactively massage a fully-formed narrative into a Dungeons & Dragons starter kit.

It’s here, the beginning of the adventure. I’m thrilled to be taking on this quest with you, dear reader. Let’s get tucked in.

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6 Killer We Hate Movies Spooktacular Episodes

It’s October, which means it’s time for one of my favorite seasonal podcast events: The We Hate Movies Spooktacular! For the uninitiated, throughout October the WHM gang only cover horror movies. From the biggest franchises to deep cut obscure flicks you’ve never heard of; the Spooktacular always delivers. You know you’re in for a good time when the fantastic Spooktacular theme song kicks in.

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Fan Wars delivers delightful nerdy rom-com storytelling

A Pinecast embed to the narrated audio version of this post, with a direct link to the file here.

Fan Wars: The Empire Claps Back is a romantic comedy about two massive Star Wars nerds bickering about The Last Jedi on Skype. Or, at least, it starts off this way, metamorphising into a frenemies-becoming-friends tale through snippets of conversation.

I don’t normally ship characters. I really like characters and it’d be cool if they end up dating, but few elevate me to that special level of commitment where any scrap of implication they’re falling for each other makes me want to craft a Twitter thread

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It’s time to get back in the zone | Pod to Page

As The Adventure Zone begins wrapping up season two’s Amnesty plot with one final arc I find myself nostalgic for the first season. This is surprising to no one; the three constants of the universe are death, taxes, and the inevitability I’ll re-listen to old episodes of Adventure Zone instead of the 14,000 new episodes in my podcast queue. 

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Luminary Launches App Lacking Features, Content

Luminary image advertising at least one podcast that isn’t available on launch day.

[This review has been edited to incorporate new information that has come to light re: Luminary. Edited/added content will be appropriately tagged.]

The venture-capitalist funded podcast company Luminary launched their app this morning, capping weeks of hype and controversy with a podcasting app sporting fewer features than its free competitors. Launching two months earlier than originally proposed, Luminary lacks some basic quality-of-life functions one has come to expect from a podcatcher after years of just having these features for free. It feels like Luminary the Company put all of their power into establishing themselves as The Company With 40 Exclusive Podcasts You Have to Pay For they never stopped to ask the question “how do we also make Luminary a good podcast app.”

Luminary is the only place you can go to listen to certain shows, namely Lauren Shippen’s The AM Archives, set in the Bright Sessions universe. While the boutique content is a large selling point of the app, this review will specifically focus on the app itself. Plenty of Twitter debate and column inches have already been dedicated to how much Content the company has promised to deliver (and failed, as of this writing, but we’ll get to that) but it seems nobody wants to dig into discussing the fact Luminary’s app is, first and foremost, a podcatcher. It has a gated-off community of paid shows exclusive to the app, but it also can listen to freely available podcasts.

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