Some Town

There’s a new podcast out from the makers of Serial. Seems like it’s going to be very interesting.

It’s called S-Town, which stands for “shit town,” but I guess they don’t want to put a swear in the title. They don’t bleep anything out in the show, though.

It’s about a guy from rural Alabama who contacts reporter Brian Reed to tell him about the corruption in his town. Supposedly the Sheriff’s department is so corrupt that a few years ago a son of a rich family murdered someone, and it was so thoroughly covered up that there’s no trace of it. That’s what John says, anyway.

Eventually Reed starts to look into it, and the story begins. I’m only an episode and a half in and it’s pretty compelling so far. There are seven episodes in total, and, Netflix-style, they’re all available now. Well worth a listen, I’d say.

Podcast Ads and Pricing

Podcast adverts are the least offensive of all types of advertising. Because even though they’re in your ears, they’re not in your face.

I’m talking, here, about the sponsorship kind, wherein the podcast host reads some ad copy in their own voice. Sometimes copy supplied by the company, sometimes their own words. Sometimes they just read plainly, sometimes it’s more entertaining.

But it’s always relevant and vetted. I’m more likely to look at the product or service mentioned in a podcast that I listen to regularly than any that’s advertised on a website. Especially if the website uses a popup.

And if you don’t want to listen to the sponsor’s message, podcast players make it vey easy to skip forward.1

One organisation that has been sponsoring a lot lately is Away Travel. They make a range of modern, four-wheel, hardshell suitcases. Their carry-on versions have the innovation of including a battery and a couple of USB ports, so you can charge your phone, iPad, etc, while you’re at the airport.2

They seem like they make a pretty good product. But the strange thing is that the podcast hosts all stress how inexpensive the cases are. But they’re not. The biggest one is nearly £300. John Lewis sells a similar Samsonite model for £179, for example.

It’s possible that the Away one is tougher, of course. Impossible to tell without seeing them side by side. But I don’t think Away should be trying to sell themselves on cheapness when they’re significantly more expensive than a high-end brand. Embrace the expense; go for the luxury market. Or something.

It works for Apple.


  1. Unless you’re using AirPods, I guess. []
  2. Or elsewhere, obviously. But airports, with the long time you spend waiting around in them, are notorious burners of batteries. []

The Return of SonoAir

Back in January I wrote about trying to play podcasts through the Sonos. As you’ll recall1 I had tried and failed to install AirSonos on my NAS, and was considering trying SonoAir on my Mac.

I did try it, but it never quite worked. The app launched, and found the Sonos network and the speaker. But it didn’t appear as an AirPlay device to my phone. I could make it work in one context: iTunes (on the same Mac) could see it and use it as a functional output device.But that wasn’t much use, as the Sonos already has access to my iTunes library from where it’s backed up on the NAS — and also to Apple Music. So being able to play from iTunes to the Sonos brought nothing new.

The added functionality I was looking for was to be able to play podcasts from Overcast, and switch to the speaker when I’m listening in the kitchen. For that my iPhone or iPad needs to be able to see the speaker.

So it all didn’t look too promising. But I was just having another go, and I noticed that the version on the website is 1.0 (BETA 6.1), while I had BETA 4. A quick download and we’re up and running: it works!

Now I just have to keep my MacBook running at all times. Oh well.


  1. I know, you probably won’t. []

Obama in Your Ears

I listen to a fair number of podcasts, but I only recently learned that David Axelrod has one now. Axelrod was Barack Obama’s chief strategist and then Senior Advisor.

On a recent episode of his podcast, The Axe Files, he interviewed Barack Obama, during his last few days as president.

They’re friends, so it’s not what you’d call hard-hitting. But it is interesting. Obama as always comes across as personable, thoughtful, and very, very smart.

Which only makes the current occupant of his erstwhile office seem even worse.

But I highly recommend giving the episode a listen.

On Djs, Beats 1, and Talking Over Songs

I hadn’t heard Zane Lowe, as I mentioned before. So when Apple Music launched, with its Beats 1 streaming radio service, for which Zane is the flagship DJ, I was interested to check him out.

A number of sources had led me to the belief that Zane, at Radio One, had effectively been the new John Peel. Nobody can live up to that claim, I suspect, but to me it meant that he must have a particular set of talents and abilities:

  • plays music of their own choice, free from playlists mandated by the station management;
  • actively seeks out new music;
  • communicates their enthusiasm to the listener;
  • plays the tracks in full, without talking over the beginning or end.

I’ve now heard Zane on Beats 1 a couple of times, and he certainly fulfils the first three of those criteria. But he fails dramatically on the fourth.

The thing with Peelie was, he played the track. He respected it, gave it space to succeed or fail on its own merit. Certainly he’d say, “This is the new one from so-and-so, and I think it’s great,” or whatever; but then he’d let you hear the record. The actual record. All of it. The whole thing.1

Zane does not do that.

No, I’m afraid he talks over the records. And not just over instrumental intros or “chasing the fade,” either. I’ve heard him popping up right in the middle of a song with a word or two.

One of the people who spoke highly of Zane was Myke Hurley of Relay FM, the podcast network. In particular I had heard him talking on the Upgrade podcast about what a good guy Zane was.

So when I heard Mr Lowe talking over the tracks, I tweeted with the #AskUpgrade tag, which is one of their feedback mechanisms:

They read out my question on the next episode, 45, I think. Make said I sounded “very angry”, which I wasn’t — just disappointed. And then we exchanged a few tweets:

And that’s about where we left it. I don’t think I got across my main point very well (140 characters is hard sometimes). But I’ve expressed it clearly enough up top there, I think.

Beats One is still interesting, and Apple Music has many interesting features. But I’m still looking for a DJ that knows how to treat records right.


  1. Sometimes that was true even when “record” equalled “album”. []