On Serial – CraftLit Bonus


Mother, knitter, spinner, writer, wife, weaver, host...not necessarily in that order...

11 Responses

  1. Chase Perry says:

    I was poking around the new website and noticed this, and gave it a listen. I LOVE the idea of “procasts” vs. “podcasts,” and I love both and have for a long time. (I started listening to CraftLit way back when Woman in White was being released every week, then wandered off when my life stopped giving me time to listen to podcasts, and rediscovered you a couple of weeks ago when I was looking for stuff to listen to while I was working; I have mainlined North and South and Age of Innocence and I’m trying to decide what to hit next, but that’s neither here nor there.) My question is, where is the line drawn? Obviously shows like Serial and Stuff You Missed in History Class are firmly on the “procast” side of things, but there’s some fuzzy middle ground (semi-procasts?) in there somewhere. Similarly, or maybe there in that fuzzy middle ground, what about shows like The Memory Palace, which was an independent art project produced out of love that got picked up and brought into the Radiotopia fold? Radiotopia is made up of independent producers, but it ranges the gamut from obviously-procast shows like 99% Invisible, which has a staff and an office, to shows like Strangers, which is literally produced in Lea Thau’s closet?

    So where does the line get drawn? It can’t be quality – procasts are consistently high quality, but there are definitely high-quality podcasts (although I started listening to more procasts on my commute because I could consistently hear them above the ambient noise, and for-the-love podcasts were a little more hit-and-miss). Sponsorship might be a good place, but there’s a difference between getting enough sponsorship to cover prizes and shipping, or your Libsyn fees, and getting $6k per episode from MailChimp. (And even the types of sponsors aren’t a reliable way to judge – I’ve heard podcasts of all sizes being sponsored by Audible or Stamps.com.) I don’t really have an answer – it could be as simple as self-identifying when you sign up for iTunes (with the option to reclassify yourself later) but I was wondering if you had thoughts on that particular aspect.

    I love CraftLit and you have livened up many a dreary day at work!

    • Heather says:

      Hey! Welcome back!
      And yep, I think you’ve hit on the nub of the problem. I wound up where you did – self-identification is where I ended, too. For example, CraftLit has a Premium option – no craftiness, just annotated audiobooks. That stream is responsible for bringing in the money that keeps both shows going. I wouldn’t say that makes the show a procast, though, so I hesitate to say money is the defining point. And there are several ad hoc podcast networks that aren’t NPR/PRI-based and while their quality is excellent and there’s revenue-safety in numbers, I still wouldn’t put them in the same category as This American Life (which, again, I love).
      Were iTunes and Stitcher (as a kickoff) to have separate tracking systems for Pod and Pro, I think self-identification (with your caveat) would be the only way it could go.
      If CraftLit were picked up (e.g., by Radiotopia or Audible Audiobooks or… Maximum Fun???) but I still recorded here at home with no producer or editor, I’d be loathe to count my show as a ProCast. But if I recorded raw audio at home and then shipped it to an editor/producer team… I think I’d feel awkward not putting the show into a Pro-cast slot at that point.
      It’s one of the lovely sides of the podcast ecosystem. I just listened to a promo for a new podcast called “Podcast Movement Sessions“. Some of the audio the host played made me smile because I heard my words coming out of the mouths of Aishya Tyler and Marc Maron and other attendees. There’s something about Podcasters – the “just us guys” vibe or the “hey, my dad’s got a barn, let’s put on a show”-ness, I don’t know what it is specifically, but it’s definitely different from what it was like working in a pro-zone (i.e., Disney).

      CraftLIt has been sponsored off-and-on by Audible and it’s DEFINITELY not enough to pay rent with. It pays for hosting, sure, but a living it ain’t, so I agree that sponsorship (at “normal” levels) is definitely not a good qualifier. And when you consider that downloads-wise, CraftLit is in the top 10% of all podcasts—but the show still doesn’t come close to making a living… well…

      Even working (constantly) to improve audio quality and quality in general… it’s no Pro-cast.

      Which is fine. Just seems, as you acknowledged, that trying to keep above water while competing in the same marketplace as… well…MarketPlace is the definition of an unequal playing field.

      I suppose the real equity question is, if given a choice between appearing on a Pro-Cast page or a Podcast page on iTunes, would there be any benefit for a Pro-cast——an obvious one like, This American Life——to self-identify as a Podcast rather than a Pro? Or is there any benefit for a show like CraftLit to try to pose as a Pro rather than a Pod? I can’t think of any, but if self–identification is the deciding point, then would low-level abuse be an issue?

      Dunno, but I sure hope iTunes and Stitcher are wrestling with it as much as we are.

  2. Abby M says:

    So I think as you went through the history of the podcast medium it became clear to me that podcast is no longer a description of a type of program, but rather a means of distribution. As professional producers of audio content are looking to get their content out to as many ears as possible the podcast is now a means not a product. I feel like the producers of visual content (YouTubers) may have less to worry about in this respect. Since the professionals still wish to be paid for their content.

    While I would love to see your verbage ‘pro-cast’ vs ‘pod-cast’ being adopted I don’t know that it would be. Until I think that the pro-casts insist on being paid for their product you won’t get that distinction. Newsletter vs Newspaper, TV Channel Vs YouTube Channel. I don’t think the distribution channel is there yet.

  3. Janet K says:

    Well put. This does give me much to think about regarding podcasts vs. procasts. I prefer podcasts for a reason, and when I occasionally want to hear a radio progam I missed, I will look up their procast. Podcasts generally have a quirky quality that has more to do with the fact that they are expressing their opinions and research, not the opinions sanctified by an advertising body or corporate body. I don’t have a problem with radio or televison, but I am aware that the picture we get is often the one that follows the party line. I like to have a choice.

    • Heather says:

      And well-put, you!

      Quirky is the word I’d been looking for. And yes, it wasn’t until I was a tiny bit on the inside of an NPR story that I saw how insular (regulated?) it can be. Don’t know why I was surprised having worked in Hollywood, but there it is.

  4. Maia Daguerre says:

    Really interesting, and really well made point. I listened to Serial and enjoyed this but thought at the time this is a radio show. Perhaps it’s time to invent some new words for describing the different types of content.

    • Heather says:

      Yep. I’m a fan of ProCast.

      The ‘casts are only available digitally–and for free–which is important I think. But they are definitely Pro…with a support staff. (And access to great equipment!)

  5. Linda Scocca says:

    That was brilliant, Heather! What a great way to illustrate your point. You are so right – it really is hard to find a podcast on iTunes unless you know its exact name. I have subscribed to quite a few radio catch up shows (including Serial – loved it btw) but I agree they should be in a different category or called something else. I’d be I nterested to hear if just having Serial in the title of this Craftlit episode boosts your subscriptions!
    PS love your work – you and your fantastic podcast truly has changed my life 🙂