Why the recent podcast revival?

Over the holidays my daughter spent hours sitting in an armchair, headphones clamped to her ears, staring at the window at the bird feeders, listening intently to her iPhone. She was addicted to “Serial” — the 12-episode tale of a 1999 murder of a high school student in Baltimore and the detailed investigation by public radio reporter Sarah Koenig. Each episode is about an hour long and so last night, during my evening commute I listed to all of the first installment and most of the second. It’s pretty compelling stuff and apparently has become the most downloaded podcast in history on iTunes.

I despise wasted commute time and as far back as 2000 listened to stuff like the history of opera on cassettes sold by The Great Courses. When I was making a weekly four hour commute from the Cape to Manhattan I listened to Audible books from my android phone Bluetoothed into the car’s FM radio, finishing Gibbon’s The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire over the course of countless drives through Rhode Island and Connecticut.  Over the past few months I’ve switched to more contemporary fare ranging from books on IT and the cloud to the pearls of wisdom of Peter Thiel, Chris Anderson at Wired, and others. I also use the time to listen to Acquia’s (my current company) podcast, hosted and produced by the inimitable Jeffrey A. McGuire, better known as “JAM.”

I was really into iTunes enabled podcasts ten years ago when I was working at IDG. I was a big fan of Christopher Lydon’s OpenSource podcast as well as the Gillmor Gang hosted by Steve Gillmor. But, overtime I lost interest in the medium. They felt like a pain in the ass to produce, I have never felt the urge to do one myself because I’m a writer and not a talker.

Anyway, I’m back into podcasts now. Mostly thanks to a great Android app called PocketCast. I subscribe to the JAM/Acquia podcast, Lydon’s OpenSource, O’Reilly Radar and of course the Serial. I don’t think I’d listen to one in an idle moment of leisure, but as a way to salvage some value from the brain dead purgatory of a commute it does make me feel a bit like Doctor Evil’s father, the “relentlessly self improving” baker given to outlandish claims such as the invention of the question mark.

Cover art

Frozen Harbor

I’ve had to do this and it is not fun. The way it works is this: you leave the boat in the water through January expecting to do some clamming, then one night the temperatures dip into the teens and you realize your beloved watercraft is about to get locked into the ice. So what to do but don those waders and find some friends and do a little ice breaking?

IMAG0340

At random…

I know. I suck. I’ve been ignoring this poor blog and that’s not right. So, in no particular order, here’s a dump:

  • Boston Olympic Bid: As an Olympic junkie I’m all in favor. We have the infrastructure with all the collegiate venues available. We’re a big sports town. And I want to see Olympic Rowing on the basin of the Charles. These things aren’t that disruptive to the population. Trust me. Yes there will be a lot of athletes and their families in town. Lots of big brand hospitality programs, but it didn’t kill Beijing, it won’t kill us.
  • Daily Constitutional: I went FitBit before the holidays and also installed a Withings digital scale. I’m trying not to be obsessed with the “quantified self” thing, but I do weird things (like march to Loop Beach in the dark after work) to hit my daily quota of 10K steps. This is all a preliminary phase before getting back on the erg. And no, no CRASH-B’s this year. Paired with a new set of awesome Asolo trekking boots (the Ferrari’s of footware), I am a walking machine. These things are amazing. Got mine under the Christmas tree (that tree is now in the burn pile ready to spark off the annual spring burning of the brush) and I would wear them to bed if I could. They are that comfortable. Walking is the most underrated thing in the world and I prefer to refer to it in 19th century terms as my “constitutional.
  • Banned words: I am repulsed by the following corporate words:
    • Pivot: VC-speak for “your business is failing, now figure out plan B before you run out of cash.”
    • Impactful: shut the fuck up please
    • Content: “content” is dead and makes a book commit suicide every time it is uttered. Engineers who can’t write call whatever their systems “ingest” (another despised word) “content”
    • KPI: they are not key, they don’t perform, and they are noise indicating nothing.
    • and many many more. “omnichannel” needs to be buried. “Inbound marketing” is hooey.
  • Good words: 2015 is the Year of Empathy and doing unto others, etc. Is also the year of getting shit done.
  • Reading list:  I’m going back in time to the marketing wisdom of Regis McKenna and reading his “Relationship Marketing” which merely proves the more things change, the more they remain the same. I am also delighted that Doc Searls and David Weinberger have come back to the Cluetrain Manifesto with some “New Clues.” Their pronouncements on “content” and “native advertising” are worth the read. Son gave me a volume of Rilke poetry which is up next.
  • Movies: saw the Interview on the xBox over the holidays and was ashamed to say it felt like a pretty weak blow for freedom of speech and democracy. Personally I find North Korea to be a good source of entertainment in itself. I know people are starving and there are nukes, but still…… if the best they can do is hack some Hollywood emails then bring it on.
  • Consumer Electronics:  other than the Fitbit, no new toys in my life worth talking about. And no, I don’t miss going to Vegas for CES.
  • Cooking:  I’m teaching myself to cook a decent Tom Kha Gai (Thai coconut chicken soup) thanks to a great cookbook and the tutelage of Acquia’s CEO, Tom Erickson.
  • Boozing: messing around with different single malts. Highland Park is scoring high. Also the Balvenie scotch that ages in old rum barrels is way too sweet. I’m totally a peat freak and keep coming back to good old Talisker.
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