While the Guardian runs a weekly column selecting a few podcasts, there really isn’t much else, beyond recommendations from friends, to help you find new things. I’m sure there are hundreds of podcasts I might like to listen to, and I really would like to branch out sometimes. What we need is a Q Magazine for podcasts.
I was listening to this week’s Fortunately and guest Dan Snow mentioned (complained?) that Apple don’t give podcast producers any demographic information about who is listening. Not like Facebook would/do with other things. The comparison was, facebook would tell you who your listener is, how old they are, what soap powder they use, and so on. An advertiser’s dream, in other words. The great thing about Apple is that Apple isn’t really in the ad business, and so they neither collect nor distribute information.
This, in case, you were wondering, is why there are so many podcast apps and services out there: from Spotify and Audible to Acast, Stitcher, and even Google Podcasts. Some of them just want your data, and some of them are even more determined to grab you, offering exclusive content via subscription. My opinion is that if you want to protect both your privacy and the free-and-open market in podcasts, you should avoid these like the plague. Stick to the generic Apple podcasts app, and/or get Overcast, which is independent and doesn’t harvest data – at least for now. It also happens to be a really good app.
We need now to distinguish between these ‘walled garden’ subscription services (like Spotify) and podcasts you can freely download without needing to sign up for anything. So I think the term we should use now for the podcasts we listen to is follow. It’s not ideal, but at least it doesn’t carry the implication that you’re paying for anything.
Some new follows then
All About the Girl – I can’t believe I’m saying this, but this is yet another podcast about The Beatles – or in this case, “A podcast about the women in the Beatles story.” So, yeah. I subscribed. First episode was a bit of a challenge for me, because it’s about Yoko’s 1973 album Approximately Infinite Universe. I remain unconvinced about Yoko, for reasons I won’t rehearse again here, but this was an education because, well, I didn’t even know this album existed. And of course, it’s coming out around the time Lennon was exiled to L.A. with May Pang, a well-trodden tale which a million male writers have documented so exhaustively and comprehensively that I didn’t know about this record. Worth a listen then, to fill those gaps in your knowledge. Poor sound quality though.
The Harrowing – This is a fiction podcast in the horror genre. Not usually my kind of thing, unless it’s done really, really well. By coincidence (or is it?) I have some points of comparison to this. First of all, The Events at Black Tor, which is an old Radio 4 drama written by Roy Clarke of Last of the Summer Wine fame, and directed by Alan Ayckbourn in 1968. Currently on BBC Sounds. Remote location, satanic cult, etc. Quite good though. There’s more: Aliens in the Mind, a 1977 Radio 4 drama about post-humans on a remote Scottish island starring both Peter Cushing and Vincent Price. So far so Wicker Man. Also on BBC Sounds. Which brings us to The Harrowing, which is about supernatural events on a remote Scottish Island. And it compares quite well to those older classics. A bit too much screaming and roaring towards the end, but quite well done, and at 8 episodes not too much of a slog.
Max and Ivan: Fugitives – From the same stable, much less successful. A comedy espionage thriller which just doesn’t land for me. I’m probably just too old for it (and have heard way more radio drama than its target audience), but the jokes aren’t funny and the thriller plot isn’t thrilling. To be fair, Radio 4 is shit at this kind of thing, too. So maybe this kind of thing is just a really bad idea.