The Podcasting Paradox; censorship and the journey to mass appeal.

In 399 BC Greek philosopher Socrates was executed for corrupting the youth and failing to reference certain gods in some of his teaching. It seems that for as long as people have had something to say there has always been an opposing group trying to silence them in a vain attempt to protect the moral decency of the common folk.

I have never understood censorship and I think everything is fine as long as it is in context.

As a child my favourite movie was Terminator 2, a very violent movie with a couple of naughty words here and there. I was allowed to watch it because even as a child I understood that the story was fiction and that there wasn’t really a T-1000 on the loose, stabbing lazy security guards in the eye and stealing their likeness. There are people I’m sure that would argue that the violence in the movie is gratuitous and unnecessary but I believe it’s critical to establishing the story’s high stakes and without it the character’s motivations would be questionable.

Now, if I was watching an episode of the Brady bunch and Mr Brady decided to choke little Peter to death with his belt while his family watched on in horror, I would probably find this disturbing. Not because I’ve never seen someone choked with a belt in a movie but because the violence has no place in the context of The Brady Bunch. If the writers of The Brady Bunch did want to start introducing more mature and complex storylines with teenage pregnancy and drug use that’s fine as well because if I find that offensive I can always decide not to watch. Unfortunately for me and you and anyone who has ever been apart of an organised society the choice to watch or not to watch the extreme version of The Brady Bunch has been made for you because the groups facilitating our enjoyment of art often impose their own moral agenda.

The reason I love podcasting so much is because of the artistic freedom given to the podcaster. There are no publishers to appease, no gatekeepers with agendas forcing their morality down the creators throat. There is pure freedom and it’s gathering momentum as a legitimate form of entertainment, occasionally art. Last night I searched the internet for articles on podcasts and censorship and was horrified to see blog post after blog post about people asking if they should censor their podcasts to eliminate swearing and adult themes. I just couldn’t comprehend why these people would ask. Then it became apparent; mass appeal. A podcaster was so concerned that his niche podcast about growing sunflowers in southern California might alienate one potential listener that he decided to remove an interview to ensure no one was offended. He said it was a shame because the interview was amazing.

This is at the heart of the podcasting paradox. A podcast is successful because of it’s niche focus but due to the popularity of certain shows mass appeal is becoming just as important as content and if this trend continues it’s only a matter of time before the community decides to self regulate. Podcast networks are already beginning to emerge with shows of similar styles banding together to share advertising money and improve listenership. It makes me wonder if eventually podcasting will be mostly experienced in a similar fashion to television and streaming services are today, through large network. Sadly, just like television networks, Podcast networks may eventually allow the advertisers to influence content through advertising revenue and consequently externally imposed censorship will find podcasting. If I could say anything to the podcasters asking if they should censor their podcast I would say this; Be true to your vision and don’t be so quick to conform for mass appeal, it’s a niche product and that’s ok.

I’m not saying the every podcast should be the Howard Stern show or that clean podcasts aren’t worthwhile. In fact, one of my favorite podcasts, Gavin Webber’s The Greening of Gavin, is completely family friendly. I just want the podcasting community to slow down and appreciate what we have; one of the last bastions of unrated entertainment.

I’m a podcast guy

I’m a podcast guy

I’m a podcast guy. After being a part of this industry for the last five years and over six different podcasts I can’t see it stopping soon. It’s in my blood.

It’s no wonder I’ve been fascinated with spoken work. Talk back radio was an such an integral part of life growing up. Lunch at Nan’s house always brings up the same memories – blue linoleum floors, multi-grain bread in the middle of the table, and the sounds of 4BC Talk Radio. Breakfast was porridge, copious amounts of tea, and ABC radio. When John Laws came on, it was time to wash dishes.

My brother and I had our childhood differences – he loved Star Wars with it’s by the hip action whereas I was that Star Trek guy already trying to live pragmatically. But we both were in love with Radio. The family radio, a white Casio tape deck, became our radio studio. The same tape rewritten time after time with our best radio voices and pushing of agendas, thoughts, and comedy.

The thoughts of a young boy dreaming about hosting his own radio program and talking to the people about their points of view on all things grand or small faded in time. They weren’t realistic for anyone from a working class family from the North of Brisbane. Those jobs were for the lords of radio, the men in pinstripe suits who came from money. I started listening to FM radio aware that it didn’t stir my heart like talk-back.

In 1997, I was scanning through the channels after another dreadful talk break, and ran into something which would ignite the creative passion again. It was on the car trip home from school when heard the voices of Tony Martin and Mick Molloy and couldn’t stop listening. The family went inside and I sat in the car until the show was over.

Martin Molloy was talking from the other end of society, there was no suit wearing in their studio. They were black jean, beanie wearing subversives who were self-aware, self-referential, razor sharp, and delightfully low-brow. Mick was my attitude inspiration and Tony inspired my search of wit in the ordinary.
And that inspiration still continues today. When I spent minutes discussing the architecture of the Hoke house in a Twilight review on Netflix Queue, I was channeling these two.

And that’s why I’m in love with the audio only form. Ideas and inspiration have lasted me a lifetime. If one person remembers something I’ve done or said in a podcast and it stays with them, podcasting has been a worthwhile pursuit.

Thank You All

Reaction Podcast was always going to be the passion project. Beau and I would talk about podcasts for hours on end and it was a natural progression to start recording. It wasn’t our first rodeo – listeners to the show are aware of the mythology behind both Diegan Squared and Film In A Pod. But producing the show felt fresh. It made podcasting feel new again.

The podcast was more for us than anybody else and that’s probably what has led us to our current position. The truth is that our passion for podcasts hasn’t changed a bit, but our desire to share our thoughts on them through audio is a different story. Making RP has become a chore. And that’s not the way it should be.

Is this in part because of what we’re doing over at Netflix Queue? Perhaps. It’s a nicer experience when you’re not concerned about filtering your thoughts, even if they do come from a good place. We had a few people frustrated by our one criticism while ignoring all the good in what we had to say otherwise. It threw off their game, and in turn, ours.

And we always have been (and always will be) about celebrating podcasts. We love the two-guys-and-a-mic, the indie meta podcast, and leviathans like Maron, and even the radio with a little something extra.

What does this all mean? We’re gracefully removing ourselves from the audio component of Reaction Podcast. We have our back catalogue if we ever want to use it, but for the moment, it won’t be accessible. From here, we’re going to make a few blog posts here and there. There’s no guaranteed schedule and we like it that way.

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