Podcasting finally starts to pay off

I know some people were upset when they heard ads in their CBC podcasts. I’m no communist but I admit it was strange to see The Hour brought to me by Bud Lite.

Bud Lite was careful to say that it supports the delivery of the podcast. I’m assuming this means bandwidth. I wonder how much that costs? Ira Glass of the wildly inexplicably popular This American Life radio show explained that 300,000 people download his podcast every week, and the bandwidth cost $152,000 for 2007.

That’s not a lot of money. And I doubt that all of our podcasts put together are downloaded even 30,000 times a week.

And I wonder why CBC radio sacrosanct, while the same content on podcasts is fair game for ads? Is it because the people who listen to these things are used to being marketed to?

Maybe we deserve to make a few dollars off this stuff. If you go to iTunes and look at the top 20 podcasts, we make the majority of them. Similarly, we’re all over iTunes’ top podcasts for 2007.

We’re the ones driving the medium forward in this country. I really wish there were a lot more better, non-corporate, non- professional podcasts out there. But there aren’t. The best blogs are independent, but the best podcasts are almost always made by professionals.

When it comes to the new media, the CBC struggles with blogs. We wrestle with our websites. But with podcasting we walk hand in hand on the beach.

And if there’s a sleeper hit for podcasting at the CBC, it has to be Search Engine. We heavily promoted the similarly-themed Spark in the hopes of getting another Definitely Not the Opera, but both shows have been extended so let’s not quibble over who “won.”

In a fascinating example of Gonzo Journalism 2.0, Search Engine was both embroiled in and chasing a story earlier this month involving some new copyright legislation that was to be tabled before Christmas.

There were rumours that it was going to be strict. Search Engine wanted an interview with Industry Minister Jim Prentice and solicited questions from listeners. Hundreds answered. Jim Prentice refused the interview. By this point, University of Ottawa professor Michael Geist was involved. He started a Facebook group called “Fair Copyright for Canada” and thousands of people joined it. It all started to look like a movement.

And when Jim Prentice had an open house Christmas party in Calgary, who should meet him there but regular CBC blog commenter and Dragons’ Den superfan Kempton Lam, bringing 60 of his closest friends. All of them with questions.

The next day Jim Prentice said the bill would not be introduced until the new year.

The National Post called Search Engine and Kempton part of the “influential blogosphere” that “rallied the troops” in a move that will likely change the law in this country. The Globe asked “when did copyright law become sexy?” Google’s lawyers pointed to the movement as a model the rest of the world should follow. Suddenly, the notion that Kempton might get laid out of all this became a stark possibility.

Then the backlash started, with the Financial Post today impressively calling them the Telecom Trotskyites.

Now, you might think this all has nothing to do with anything, but I’ve got a personal stake in this so I’ve been keeping my eye on it. Regular readers might remember a clip I posted last year from Dayjob Orchestra featuring Robert Rabinovitch in the House of Commons, that was later taken down by YouTube for copyright violations. Apparently, to use cpac clips for parody you need the express prior written approval of the Speaker of the House of Commons.

As I wrote at the time, I’m a strong supporter of copyright but I’m a much stronger supporter of making fun of people.

And if these nerds make it legal to do so, they will have my unwavering support and eternal gratitude.

As far as I’m concerned, this stuff is paying off in spades.


  1. Hugh
    Posted December 29, 2007 at 3:22 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    last i checked Radio3 gets 30k downloads per episode…so all together, CBC should be doing not so badly.

    one of the reasons pros make better podcasts is this the amount of work that goes into a good radio show. nora’s 27 min show takes about 60 person*hours to produce.

    a typical diy podcast is much much much less.

    but i bet your typical columnist spends as much time on their columns as the typical thoughtful blogger spends on good posts.

    in short, it’s all in the sweat.

  2. Dwight Williams
    Posted December 21, 2007 at 8:23 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    And “good ecological health = ICU wards for Big Business”. Harper was trumpeting that line in an interview yesterday, wasn’t he?

  3. Anonymous
    Posted December 21, 2007 at 7:21 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Careful Ouimet, Itunes is closely associated with the wrong coffee chain.

  4. Russell McOrmond
    Posted December 21, 2007 at 7:15 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    The neat thing about the debate which Search Engine and the Facebook group are bringing forward is that different people are there with a wide variety of positions.

    For me it is mostly about protecting IT property rights. While I have opinions on the general direction that Copyright should go, none of the proposed directions justify revoking IT property rights which is in fact what recent governments have been proposing.

    The Telecom Trotskyites article was funny, as this reporter got the idea entirely backwards. Then again, “War is Peace; Freedom is Slavery; Ignorance is Strength.”

  5. Dwight Williams
    Posted December 21, 2007 at 6:44 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Yep. Long live both the right and the duty to commit parody at need!

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