Folder: Podcasts

Online ads are stuck in the ’90s

The Outline’s Josh Topolsky waxing eloquent on Recode Media podcast:

The TV ad works because it’s good for TV. The magazine ad works because it’s good for magazines. You know what Instagram and Snapchat and Facebook (to some degree) and Pinterest figured out? There’s an internet ad that works really well, it just isn’t the box that is on every website.

Figuring that out is the key to unlocking what advertising should be on the internet, and the key to unlocking what good advertising looks like, and very few people have done it well. Almost no one – I would say zero – publications have built a system that is holistically, like from the ground up, designed around the marriage of both interesting, digital-first content and interesting, digital-first advertising.

Nailed it.

The Outline isn’t for everyone, and that’s by design. Their content/ad strategy has been super fascinating to watch, especially in connection to the media manifesto Topolsky published in 2016. It appears to be going very well indeed.

It’s been doubly interesting to compare The Outline to the launch of The Ringer, Bill Simmons’ media company, which he spun up after breaking from ESPN. The Ringer launched on Medium first to minimise their launch runway, but moved to the Vox media stack less than a year later. The Ringer is a heavily staffed blog, and I think it can be safely argued that their written content is not particularly compelling or well presented, and there has certainly been very “bog-standard” approach to advertising (with Vox handling the ad sales after the move).

Now – all that said – in addition to the site, The Ringer has a hugely successful podcast network with Bill’s podcast alone estimated to be bringing in around $50,000 per episode. Simmons is clearly leaning heavily into podcasting (as well as experimenting with a variety of video stream/show formats), with the development of the site and it’s associated ad strategy taking a relative back seat.

None of this is zero-sum, of course. There’s room for a lot of ‘winners’ in the online media space. But watching it all unfold is a great spectator sport.


The Pod Pod is a selection of recommended single podcast episodes.

What happened to US diplomats in Cuba?

play_circle_outline Science Weekly [Podcast; 27 mins]

Ian Sample delves into a preliminary study of US embassy staff said to have been targeted by an energy source in Cuba. With no unifying explanation, what do scientists think happened?


Background:

In a story seemingly straight out of the X-Files, US embassy staff based in Cuba started to get sick at the same time and nobody knew what was causing it.

In August 2017 reports of the incident started hitting the web, with 16 embassy staff described as suffering from a variety of symptoms including loss of hearing, headaches and nausea.

Almost immediately the possibility that is was a “sonic attack” was bandied about, with the AP even posting the alleged sound from a tape they received.

In October, The Times spoke to some experts in acoustics who suggested the sonic weapon theory was “more appropriate to a James Bond movie”.

Stranger still, in December, doctors who were treating the US Embassy staff discovered abnormalities in the white matter of the victim’s brains. From The Associated Press:

Loud, mysterious sounds followed by hearing loss and ear-ringing had led investigators to suspect “sonic attacks.” But officials are now carefully avoiding that term. The sounds may have been the byproduct of something else that caused damage, said three US officials briefed on the investigation. They weren’t authorized to discuss it publicly and demanded anonymity.

Physicians, FBI investigators and US intelligence agencies have spent months trying to piece together the puzzle in Havana, where the US says 24 US government officials and spouses fell ill starting last year in homes and later in some hotels.

Doctors still don’t know how victims ended up with the white matter changes, nor how exactly those changes might relate to their symptoms. US officials wouldn’t say whether the changes were found in all 24 patients.

But acoustic waves have never been shown to alter the brain’s white matter tracts, said Elisa Konofagou, a biomedical engineering professor at Columbia University who is not involved in the government’s investigation.


The Pod Pod is a selection of recommended single podcast episodes.