1. Over the last week or so, the conversation around podcasts turned to the question of ads and editorial integrity. I’ve stayed mostly out of it, but then I read Jaime Ryan’s impassioned piece from this weekend. In his own words:

    Much of the conversation centred around podcasts and whether or not the host(s) of a podcast would be able to freely discuss a topic that may potentially paint a sponsor in a bad light. As far as I’ve seen this is all still hypothetical because nobody actually has a solid example of where this has already happened.

    As he explains further, I don’t have any skin in the game insofar as Critically Speaking doesn’t run ads, but I do in the sense that I record a show every week, consider my audience, and hope some day to generate income from my online content creation efforts.1

    For me this argument is not, and never has been, about editorial integrity. Audiences are difficult to acquire, difficult to maintain, and extremely fragile. The trust a writer builds with his or her audience is possibly the most important factor in creating a successful online presence. Betraying that trust is very different from when similar conflicts happen in other media. Often in such cases, show hosts, reporters, and columnists have massive audiences maintained by the monolithic, old-media outlets for which they produce content. Unless the whole audience (or at least an enormous segment) is offended, these producers have little to worry about. This is not the case on the web, especially with podcasts.

    In podcasting, the audience shows up every week for the particular voice of the host(s). And not just in the physical sense. The best shows, the ones that not only make it onto my devices but those that actually get played, have a personality and connection to the audience unlike any other medium I’ve ever experienced. In addition, aside from a few massive shows, the audience numbers are much smaller overall with podcasts, so each individual is more present as an audience member than with other forms where the subscriber count is higher.

    So what does that mean for ad-driven podcasts vs. ad-free? It boils down to this. It is my opinion that some people simply hate ads. They spoil site designs, add elements of unpredictability from a user (and sometimes creator) perspective, are often repetitive or only loosely connected to the content of the show, and generally represent the established, click-obsessed web. The question of integrity is merely an additional item in this list, another reason for certain creators to keep ads at arms length—especially when they hate all of the others listed above.

    In the end we’re dealing with a question of user experience. As a content creator, podcaster or otherwise, do you want your audience to hear a handful of (sometimes overlong, sometimes repetitive) ads in return for a viable monetization strategy, or do you want to preserve the (perceived) cleanness and clarity of an ad-free production while somehow generating money through other avenues or by producing your show for free? Either way, the acceptance of ad revenue does not implicate any sort of editorial bias. It does create the possibility, just as it creates the possibility of a listener dropping the show on account of ad fatigue. And, it does not mean that the ad-free show chose to stay as such solely because the host is afraid of having their editorial voice placed in jeopardy (whether they claim it or not).

    The possibility of bad behavior does not guarantee its inevitability. Both models are design choices and, as long as the producer has the audience in mind (and the importance of audience trust only further ensures that it will), both can provide great material.

    1. All things I assume we have in common, though he is already generating revenue. 


  2. Matt Gemmell:

    You have to be able to open the creaking door to your own personal archive, fumble for the light switch, then stroll in and rummage around until you find something that helps illustrate a certain point, or drives a particular narrative. It’s a perverse, backwards process, because that’s not how our lives work. Those experiences are writing us.

    And then the author—a character himself—his story written by his own experience, pens a fictional entity, a representation of his feelings toward the events which started it all.

    It is here that we advance our understanding. Authors serve to filter a nonsensical reality into clarified commentary, producible only through the combination of experience and reflection.


  3. minimalmac:

    Nothing crazy about it though, the iPad and iPhone, seem to me to be the perfect writing machines. They are regularly always with you so they allow you to start writing almost anytime and anywhere. When one can let go of the fear and let built in tools like auto-correct help, you might be surprised how fast one can become on the built in keyboard. But, as explained, part of the benefit is that it also can slow one down just enough to be more intentional with the words they choose and careful about the accuracy of the typing. I actually find I make less typos and am more quick to catch those I do when doing so in this way. In short, the iPad and iPhone help me write more often, in more situations, and write better.

    I wish I could communicate this convincingly in my day job. The iPad often requires a reconsideration of one’s approach to a task, not a limitation to whether that task is possible. And as time goes on, more and more tools appear to do incredible things with computing devices that are light, friendly, and infinitely more accessible than their forebears.


  4. Kris Ligman writing for Critical Distance:

    Next week, Critical Distance will be running a special edition of This Week in Videogame Blogging in honor of Black History Month. Similar to how our Women’s History Month roundup worked last year, this special will exclusively feature work by and curation from black writers.

    We strongly encourage you to submit links for this roundup — including your own, if you have something you’d like to share.


  5. Matt Gemmell:

    Against all the advice for boosting page-views and amplifying social engagement, I refuse to stick to a single narrow topic, like tech (or like writing fiction). I just can’t do it, because – like you – I’m interested in so many damned other things.

    Matt is one of my favorite writers on the internet, no, just one of my favorite writers, period. For now, this post is my paltry contribution to his endeavor. As another writer with a passion for fiction and a novel in pursuit of a publisher, I have nothing but the best of wishes for him.

    Click through to his article if you haven’t yet read it. Like virtually all of his work, it’s worth reading all on its own. No life-changing decision necessary.