Liveblogging the Podconf
by Doc Searls Saturday, April 15, 2017

Day 2 of Conference on the Podcast at Columbia, which I've just shortlinked as I'm live tweeting it through Little Pork Chop and live blogging it here. 

I think, rather than report on what people are saying, I'll say what I'm thinking as a result of what people on stage are saying. So here goes.

I like that there are things being discovered with podcasting that can't be done with radio. Or haven't been done, anyway.

I like calling podcasting an art form, sort of. But not sure something so broad can be called that. There are lots of art forms within television, radio, print and the rest. Should be in podcasting too.

I agree that criticism does help form a canon, and that there are downsides to that as well. One is premature formalism. Podcasting doesn't need that yet. Too early, too small, too non-standard (and that's a good thing).

The topic is poetry. "Is it an efficacious form?" My own answer is yes. See

The podcast playing is on GarageBand. The reason I haven't done more podcasting yet is that I haven't mastered either GarageBand or Audacity. Help welcome. Minimal results so far are at .

I have my doubts that podcasting and commercial sponsorship actually go together. I would rather give money to podcasters (as we do to Chris Lydon's Radio Open Source) than endure the personal hawking of products by podcasters, as I get (hate to say, but being frank here) from Mark Maron, Ben Walker and others.

Death is a topic now, via Rachel Zucker onstage. Too deep and close for me to liveblog about as an audience member, but admiring Rachel's raw courage talking about this.

"Then the election happened" has now been said, in various ways, a number of times at the conference. No denying how consequential that election was, and still is. Here are the Top 10 Most Consequential Events in my lifetime. 

Rachel: Is there something you can't write about? Something you can't say? After the election, answers changed. "How can I change the systems I am interested in changing?"

Me again: no form of writing has an economic model. To speak of any human capacity as something with an economic model is to reduce that capacity to something inhuman: a machine. This is a tendency relic of the machine age we still haven't left.

I am fasting today, and very hungry. Just saying.

Audience: we all need to be hearing each other and sharing each other. Also: we could use a Pulitzer for new media criticism.

Speaking of criticism, my thoughts about rating people. Rachel just noted it also yields gatekeeping.

One reason I don't publish poetry is that I don't welcome criticism. Not sure why. I have no problem with it toward my writing and photography.

Race has come up. It saddens me that race is such an huge and awful factor in human history and suffering. Human beings are all different from each other in countless ways. The countlessness of those ways is also what makes us human. Amidst that huge sum, race is so trivial. It's a human failing that we pull it out and make it such a giant thing. But.... there it is. And we have to deal with it.

Rachel: "I was some adjective I didn't know existed."

Lunchtime. Good side conversations. One is with Sovana Bailey McLain (@solartsnyc), whose podcast is also a radio show, State of the Arts. And she has a blog too. The station she's on is WBAI, which has gone through (says Wikipedia) turmoil and change for many decades. 

So I have an idea. It's one WBAI won't like, but it's a good one: Sell the broadcast license, keep everything else. WBAI's signal on 99.5fm is a commercial one, because it's on the commercial part of the FM band. This NY Times report says an equivalent station (WQXR when it was on 96.3fm) was worth $45 million, in 2009. I'm guessing that WBAI's licence would bring a bit less because the market isn't as strong. Simply put, radio listening is moving to new rectangles, and the competition is every other 'cast in the world. Even the "station" convention is antique. On the Net there are streams and files, stuff that's live and stuff that's not. From everywhere.

WBAI (or its parent, the Pacifica Foundation), should sell the license while the market is still there, and use the money to all kinds of next-generation radio, all kinds of new ways.  Keep calling it WBAI, but operate outside the constraints of limited signal range and FCC rules. There ya go.

Just tweeted these:

1/6 Lunch questions & observations

2/6 at The Unplugged Soul: A Conference on the #Podcast...

3/6 What are the best tools for #podcast production & consumption?

4/6 #Podcast production: Garageband? Audacity? Anything collaborative?

5/6 #Podcast consumption: iTunes, RadioPublic, Stitcher, Tunein. Which are best for controlling choices & listening offline?

6/6 Interesting how some podcasters onstage seem not to grok the need to hold the mic close, and not to pop every P.

Body language. Lots of people listening to a compelling podcast with a couple fingers over their mouths . What are they not saying?

What I just live tweeted: 

1/5 It is now clear to me how, compared to #podcasting, the conventions of radio in general, and public radio in particular, are limiting.

2/5 Radio production limits: the clock, segments, signposting. "The clock defines the work." —Jonathan Hirsch of ARRVLS.

3/5 "Need a nuanced, complex and more advanced view of what the public is (than we get from public radio)." News back, people front.

4/5 "We spend a lot of time advancing coverage, and not as much time advancing the people we cover." (Something like that.)

5/5 Ed McCabe: "I have no use for rules. They only rule out the possibility of brilliant exceptions."

I didn't connect The Kitchen Sisters to Lost & Found Sound:  The obvious was not apparent to me. Great stuff.

I have dozens of reel to reel tapes, hundreds of cassette tapes, hundreds more micro cassettes, Sony MiniDiscs, videotapes in many formats, MP3s, .MOVs, Skype calls... My only request to my heirs is that they not throw any of it away, but give it to somebody who can respect and make sense of it. Much of it is far from junk.

Just posted these through on Twitter via @dsearls:

1/5 Kitchen Sisters: "The future of listening is looking." #podcasting

2/5 It took 200 hours for the Kitchen Sisters to mix War and Peace and Coffee. #podcasting

3/5 "Radio can be such a theatrical medium"—Kitchen Sisters #Podcasting

4/5 "We try to collaborate with as many people we can... Who glues your community together through food? —Kitchen Sisters

5/5 "You have to be daring, and get up close... You like your listeners close. Keep closeness in mind."—Kitchen Sisters #podcasting


Ben Walker thanks the public radio bosses for helping make podcasting by pushing out and ignoring podcasting. "There are no bad dumb radio bosses." 

@emilybell tweet: podcast genres : 1. Men going on about things. 2. Whispery crime 3.Millennials talking over each other 4. Should be 20 minutes shorter

Just posted these:

1/11 "Nothing lights a fire like a dream deferred." — Langston Hughes, sourced by the Kitchen Sisters at the Pod Conf.

2/11 Q: What will happen to #podcasting as an archival medium?

3/11 Interesting concept: popup archive. @prx is one example of a gatherer.

4/11 Nobody saying: When Earth gets blown up like Alderan, will any of the archives matter?

5/11 Big props going out to @Radiotopia.

6/11 "Its par to the journey to get a lot of "No"s. But you can #podcast for not a lot of money, and get an audience. Not true with #radio.

7/11 Thought: When they edit my life down to a one hour show—or one of any length—what will be left? And lost? Nearly all, either way.

8/11 Kitchen Sisters giving props to @RadioPublic, whose librarian curates for you.

9/11 Q about what technology might obsolesce podcasting. Good one. I don't know. Makes me want to source McLuhan & formal cause (look it up)

10/11 Kitchen Sisters: earbuds put you there. Presence is strong. (I think was the point.)

11/11 FWIW, I don't think the phone is a radio dial. None of the apps do it for me. Except maybe the @BBC iPlayer, just for the BBC.

Q: How do you see podcasting changing broadcast radio? And vice versa.

Short answer: This American Life alone has been huge. The less formal presentation. Raising the quantity of music on NPR. Has the potential to "bust the clock." NPR said they thought listeners wanted short form. Turns out not to be the case.

  • Doc, thank you so much for liveblogging this event. I hope that there might be some recordings available, but if not, we have your account.