The 'wireless' is more wire-less than ever

Mark McKenna, Executive Producer, New York, explores audio podcasting.

I may be married to film, but I'm definitely having an affair with audio podcasting.

As a filmmaker I am always trying to streamline, be reductive, grab attention with the shortest, most perfect, soundbite. I’m inadvertently pushing contributors towards management speak, buzz words that don't mean enough.

You could tell us your story in simple terms, plain spoken words that convince me you're a real person with real ideas. But... that may take too long, and attention spans are waning these days. We live in an age of acceleration, after all, and the viewer will likely get bored.

This is why audio podcasts are my bit on the side. Because they remind me of public radio, and I love the nostalgia of that.

The 'wireless' was what my grandparents used to call it. I remember Saturday afternoons spent listening to the football commentary with them, the results from all the games would stream in and then at 530pm, the public ‘phone-in’ - where people would discuss the events of the day for hours.

Audio podcasting ignores the trappings of look and feel. Contributors can speak clearly and concentrate on content. They’re not forced to be minimalist. They can be intimate. As a listener I am truly inviting the subject matter (and the interviewee) into my life. Russell Brand and I can hit the gym, Bill Simmons can travel with me, I’ll grab lunch with the crew from the MMA Beat or hang out at my desk and write with Stone Cold Steve Austin. I’m oversharing now.

My job, as a creative in corporate comms, is to communicate what my clients are doing in ways that are easily palatable to the audience. I'm supposed to make it effortless and enjoyable to learn about you.

As a listener I don't have to compromise to fit a podcast into my life. Your story can be told in long form and I don't mind. In fact, that's actually what I’m looking for. My attention strapped generation thinks nothing of devoting three hours to a single episode of the Joe Rogan Experience which, if you really think about it, makes no sense. I think a good podcast becomes part of you, it's like hanging out with friends or joining a conversation. Podcasting doesn't require lead time to comment on current affairs. You can go live in seconds. And production cost is minimal.

The question is, do you have the guts to do it?

Because all these pros come with cons corporate lawyers are terrified of. Yes, you can go live and unfiltered in seconds - uh oh. Yes, it is long form - so someone is bound to slip up. And once it's out there, it's out there... forever.

Does Elon Musk regret dipping his toe in the water? Or was the temporary hit on share price, as a result of an on-air ‘hit’, worth the attention of 17.5m sets of eyes and ears on his broader message? Yes, more than 17 million people (on Youtube alone) tuned in to the JRE episode of Sept 6, 2018.[1]

My job comes with a responsibility to educate people (your workforce, your customers, your investors) about what you are actually doing in the world. And personally, I advise against canned narratives about dynamic, engaging, agile experiences that don't present something new.

Public radio was designed to promote a better, and better-informed, society. Podcasting has superseded talk radio, so feel free to use it to better inform society about what you are doing that's important in the world.

“If you care about being thought credible and intelligent, do not use complex language where simpler language will do.” [2]

Which, to me, suggests sometimes communicating on a platform where you can afford to take your time.

For more information, please contact Mark McKenna, Executive Producer, MerchantCantos.

1. JRE #1169 Elon Musk -

2. Daniel Kahneman. Thinking, Fast and Slow

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